Tuesday, 26 December 2017

A Christmas Update!

I haven't posted on here in quite some time due to sheer complete and utter busy-bee-ness; there are a few very good reasons for this, which I will now explain!

The first and probably most significant is that I've been working on a huge Textile commission with artist Lisa Earley about the Bankes Family of Dorset in conjunction with Walford Mill Crafts and the Dorset History Centre. So most of my spare time has been spent researching in the archives, handling documents from as early as the 1200s, interpreting these documents into craft pieces and all the various admin that goes along with such a project. We've also been working with our local communities; making work with local school and college students as well as independent craft groups to involve the public and raise awareness of the archive. The results of this commission will be in an exhibition called 'Threads of Narrative', opening in March 2018. In the meantime you can follow our progress on Instagram: Threads of Narrative. I've never worked on a commission of this scale before, nor with such an established artist, however I'm learning a lot as I go and working with Lisa, who is infinitely patient and extremely organised, has been a real pleasure.

Another reason why you have not been hearing as much from me is that I have a new 'real job', working in the Education department of Walford Mill Crafts. I'm really enjoying it and all the various challenges that come along with the role!

Aaand in between doing those other things I have also been updating my Etsy shop with a few new things. When I looked back at my blog post from the beginning of this year, I had a sort of vague plan of refining the brand of 'me' and I'm very happy to say that I think I've followed this vague plan rather determinedly and that my style is coming along in a way I'm pleased with.
I've definitely stayed true to my weird and wonderful and completely unique aesthetic, and I'm building up a stock of work that I'm really proud of. I try to play to my strengths when I am designing my work; these are my illustrative and imaginative drawing style, my love of colour and not taking myself too seriously.

That's all for now, I have a busy start to 2018 but hopefully I'll be updating again soon. Until then, goodbye!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Summer Sparkle!

Over the past month I've been teaching and assisting with quite a few kids craft classes as part of the summer spark program, so this post is to show off a few of the things we've been up to. A lot of these are sea themed to coincide with our current 'By The Sea' exhibition at Walford Mill Crafts. One of the first was this 'jumpin' jellyfish' workshop that I led:
These were made from the plastic dome lids of fancy smoothie cups, decorated with coloured tissue and glitter, with scraps of fabric, ribbon and yarn for tentacles and strung onto a decorative stick with elastic to make them jump up n down!
Another workshop I ran was a hand sewing workshop for 8+ year olds. Although I'd never done this before and had some reservations about how it would work, it went really well, the kids were fantastic and really enjoyed it and also made some fabulous felt sea creatures:

I gave them stencils to cut the patterns out from, but the rest of the work was all theirs! I was really proud of them because they worked hard and had great ideas, like using the buttons to decorate the turtle shell and mermaid's tail. This was definitely one of my more successful classes and I hope to run some more of these soon with a different theme.
One of the classes I ran last week was 'Painted Nautical Pebbles and Shells', for which the idea was to paint a tiny scene onto a pebble or shell and create a mini work of art. Some of the kids 'got' this idea more than others:

But even the lesser-decorated versions came away looking pretty nice:

So all in all it was another successful class! Kids can sometimes do really cool looking arty things without even trying too, like this mixed up paint pallet:
Another little activity I set up for our exhibition was this kid's corner:
 I painted / collaged the under sea scene and put together some materials for visiting kids to add fish and other creatures to it. So far there's been a few contributions:
I'll try and remember to take another photo when the exhibition ends in september. Although I'm enjoying all the different crafty activities I've been doing, teaching is very tiring and I've got a newfound respect for anyone who can manage it full time! 'Real' teachers must be made of steel!
That's it for now, more updates soon!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Nutty Appley Parrotts?!

Yesterday I had a day's takeover at the Nutty Parrott Studio at Walford Mill Crafts. The studio is the shared space of Caroline Parrott and Wendy Nutt, who are both lovely and extremely talented ladies!
During my takeover, I (wo)manned the shop for them and was able to use the space to create some of my own work too. Here's me outside the studio:
Nutty Appley Parrott?
And here's the bug brooches that I was working on whilst I was there:
These will be available to buy soon from my Etsy store, or directly from me. They are designed from one of my original illustrative drawings, then laser cut onto specially chosen materials (wood and acrylic) in a fabulous colour pallet, then the bug brooches are hand finished with a hand painted, handmade bead and a handmade tassel all made by me! I also 'embroider' them a bit with patterns through holes in their bodies. These are really fun, oversized statement jewellery, not intended for the faint of heart!
But back to Nutty Parrott - it's a really great space to work in; calm and decorated by Caroline and Wendy with inspiring bits and bobs and all their gorgeous work. I had a few visitors who came to browse and chat, so that was nice. I'm scheduled for some more shifts there, which I will look forward to very much!

In other news I have also come across a very fabulous picture of me from Mardi Gras last weekend in which you can see my full outfit including the elusive feathered leg cuffs!
Photo by Graham Reading

Monday, 3 July 2017

Working at the New Carnival Company: Final Chapter: Carnival Time!

My time at the New Carnival Company has come to an end. I'm now back home in Dorset, feeling a little discombobulated after the Mardi Gras yesterday but very grateful and happy to have been involved in this incredible event!
On Friday we focussed on finishing Gina's elephant. When I arrived in the morning she had already made him tusks and eyelids:
Gina and George / Ellie / Bob
I started the day by making heck loads of ruffles from sequinned fabric:
We also had a make-up artist come in and test out face painting ideas on us for the next day. It was nice to have a mini pamper after we'd been working such long hours! Then Gina and I draped a headdress for him which was upcycled from a duvet cover:
And I used my sewing skills to sew that and the ruffles together while Gina finished the details and decorated him beautifully:
Later I finished a few little touches for my peacock costume (leg cuffs and final headdress adjustments) and was very surprised to be presented with a card and beautiful elephant necklace from the NCC staff:

I was even more surprised that they sang the happy birthday song since it wasn't my birthday! Heh heh! They did a lovely presentation and said very kind words and I'm very pleased and grateful that I'll have a treasure to always remember my time there.
Later we checked our to-do list for anything we had missed (nothing):
All finished!
So we had a little celebration with wine and a disco! We were joined by Zach who is a carnival regular and also currently doing some work with the NCC.
The next morning was the big day that we'd all been working so hard towards! When I arrived in the morning Gina had been at it again and created the most beautiful eyes for Ellie:
These were only made from a coppery foil and sequins, but what an incredible effect that totally brought the elephant to life! Next we loaded up the truck with all the costumes that we needed, along with tables, chairs, tools, equipment, gazebos and decorations for the site at Ryde school. Then Gina, Zach and I went in the carnival truck to set up, along with all the other staff and volunteers:
Carnival Truck!
When we arrived we had to prepare the site for everyone to arrive. This is the site beforehand, basically just a fabulous field with amazing views:
It was also the day of the Round the Island Race and we could see some of the boats sailing past as we worked.
We were split up into teams and my first team job was to erect the VIP tent. This was no mean feat as we were faced with a pile of poles that all looked very similar, but no instructions! The poles were numbered so eventually we figured it out with logic and process of elimination:
The next job was to unpack all the costumes from the big truck and lay them out ready for dressing up! Here's some of them ready to go!
Colour and Chaos!
After that it was lunch time and I must say the NCC's Alison put on a lovely feast for us, thanks Alison!
I don't really have any more photos of the event unfortunately, as I had to put my belongings in a safe place for later on... but I do have a photo of how my outfit turned out:
Photo by NCC
This was more or less it minus a few details. There's more great pics over at the Island Echo website, including one of Mary in the finished elephant and another of me in the distance accompanying the peachicks from Lanesend School! They didn't know I'd be walking with them until they turned up on the day and they were all very chuffed and excited and kept asking me if the feathers were real and how much they weighed and that sort of thing. These photos (and video) are great because if you've never been it really shows you the scale of the whole event, how many people from all walks of life took part and came to watch and all the costumes, colours, textures, excitement and fabulousness of it all.
I also had my face painted like a peacock princess by Lisa of the face painting team:
This photo was taken after the event so some of the make up has worn off including my blue lips, but you get the general gist, right? I loved it and felt very glam!
The actual parade part was very fun, I tried to put in lots of energy and dance moves and keep people entertained, casting a voodoo princess peacock spell on the crowd, letting people take pictures of me if they wanted to and waving to all the doggies and kids. Afterwards it was a quick de-robe, then loading all the costumes back into the big truck. Here's Coral and me inside the big truck:
Look at all the sparkle!
Then after loading all the gear back into Carnival HQ it was a quick goodbye and off I popped onto a ferry and home! I've had the most incredible time, been burnt (hotel incident with kettle), bitten (bugs) and bruised (clumsy) and am still exhausted and drained, but it was so worth it for everything I learnt and the great new friends I've made. If you'd asked me a couple of weeks ago whether I could design and make my own costume, dance in a parade and help other people do those things then I probably would have had doubts... but as it turns out I totally can do those things! Another big thank you to the New Carnival Company for having me and making me feel part of the team and an extra big thank you to Gina who took me under her wing, showed me the way of the carnival and was a great teacher, always taking the time to explain how and why to do things, even when we were sooo busy! How, where and when I'll use the skills I've learnt remains to be seen but as I'll be teaching quite a lot over the summer I'm sure I'll put my new knowledge to good use!

To find out more about The New Carnival Company you can go to their website or Facebook.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Working at the New Carnival Company: Part Five!

We've been pulling some early mornings and late nights at the New Carnival Company to get ready for Mardi Gras on Saturday. I've been making very good progress on my peacock costume, which is great as it means I won't be naked during the parade!!! Ooh er!

On tuesday we were all very happy and excited in the morning because the NCC were granted their creative programme funding from the Arts Council! Congratulations NCC! Here's Gina pouring out our celebratory breakfast:
Aw yisss!
Here's me enjoying it:
I worked on my headpiece, arranging the various feathers out carefully before the final Gluing:
Here's a rare photo of me enjoying the feathered headpiece:
In the end I trimmed down that very tall middle feather slightly as it was a bit obnoxiously long(!) and added an extra blue piece in the middle of the base structure. This is what they (in carnival-land) refer to as the 'Rio' style headpiece; e.g. an explosion of feathers!
Here it is finished:
Meanwhile Gina inspected Queen Vic's innards! Here's the giant Queen Victoria puppet lying on her operating table:
I love this picture because you can see all the detail that was put into the puppet - the eyes, inside the mouth and the trimmings and trinkets! Truly beautiful. This is what Queenie looks like inside:
A spider's web of tape, willow, wire and metal! While this was happening I finished off the peacock's 'wings' or backpack (as it's known in carnival-land). Here's a before picture:
And after:
Generally it looks a little more healthy and plumped out. It's hard to see because of all the background noise, so you'll have to take my word for it until I'm able to get a good shot of the full outfit that it looks great!
We also had a visitor on Tuesday in the form of this fella:
A baby pigeon that didn't seem to want to leave us all day!

Wednesday was mostly taken up with the refurbishment of the African Queen costume. Here she is looking a little sad before we started:
I worked with lovely Coral re-vamping her ears and hat. Here's some work-in-progress shots:
We used lovely sequins fabric and fresh foam shapes to replace the tired and tarnished old ones. It's amazing what a difference it made as you can see in the photo above - the old one being on the left and the new on  the right. And this is the African Queen when we'd more or less finished with her:
She looks a bit perkier and more colourful I think. Later on I made a waterfall style skirt out of this fabric:
Pictures to come!

Today (Thursday) I worked on my peacock while Gina and the Equals ladies worked hard on their elephant. First I worked on my codpiece and belt which I made from scratch:
And I also made a feathery tail to go with it (it's upside down in this picture for storage!):
Gina and the gang made fantastic progress with the elephant:
From this...
To this!
That's Mary modelling it who will be wearing it on the day. And all those decorations on either side were hand made today by the team; he's going to look absolutely incredible when he's finished. We'll be working on him tomorrow to finish bits and bobs including his facial features. Here's another picture of him from a different angle:
I can't wait to see him all finished and will be very proud to say that I was there when he was born and that I had a teeny part in making him! (I cut out some of those white and yellow shapes you see there!) I especially like the texture of his skin, the pink lotus flowers and the yellow feathery twiddles coming out of his sides. And his ears. His ears are fab.
That's it for now. I'm still very much enjoying my time at the NCC and want to put in as much work as I can to get the most out of my trip. I'm learning lots about costumes, carnival and Indian culture... did you know that chess originated in India? I didn't!