A Life in the Week

This week has had its highs and lows and serves to remind me, yet again, how fortunate I am. Life is fleeting and precious and it’s important to enjoy what every day has to offer, no matter how insignificant it may seem.

 On Tuesday I went to visit a new exhibition called Graphic Nature at Sheffield Museum’s Millennium gallery.  The collection of modern and traditional pieces of art and craft have been influenced by nature and the natural environment and every single thing, to my mind, was just beautiful. I’m writing a review for  Crafts magazine which you can read in the next issue but suffice it to say, I highly recommend! And while you’re there, you can enjoy all the other fab, free displays at this excellent gallery.

While I was there I also snapped a few interesting examples of architecture.

The last shot shows the Sheffield Hallam University building that proudly displays a poem called What if? by Andrew Motion. It was a great place to sit and think in the sunshine for five minutes, which I don’t often get the chance to do.

Like many people, I arrived home that night to enjoy some yummy pancakes with my family. Now that we’ve had Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday to give it its proper name, and we’ve all had our fill of sugary, lemony goodness (nutella, jam, maple syrup – delete as appropriate) what’s next? This is my son’s usual question too. What’s the next big event we can all look forward to on the calendar? Erm, well that would be Easter and all that yummy, chocolately fun. Until then though, one or two of us may be heard saying, “I’ve given up chocolate for Lent”. It got me thinking: what does this actually mean and why are they really doing it anyway? I’m writing an article on this very topic – more details to follow soon!

I also want to mention the lovely Gemma Leak, a talented Harrogate photographer who has just celebrated six years in business with an exhibition of her wonderful work. It was a great night catching up with some local peeps and I also discovered another side to Gemma. I already knew her family portraits were fantastic but also on display was some of her travel photography, which was simply stunning!

Finally, I just wanted to show you this adorable hand-beaded bee brooch that Sarah Fitton of Ditsy Bird Designs sent to me. I challenged her to come up with a bee design because, believe it or not, I love bees slightly more than teapots. Didn’t she do well? Thanks Sarah!


Something for the Weekend

Yes, dear friends, you will definitely know when it’s time for tea with this hilariously cute teapot ring by Purple Shmurple (love that name).

Purple Shmurple makes individual jewellery with a natural theme and a vintage feel from materials such as wood, acrylic and glass. Trust me, there are some strange and wonderful items to be found in the folksy shop. Have a gander!


A Life in the Week

This week my son Charlie had his plaster cast removed and he returned to school, albeit part time until he fully recovers. He walks with a temporary limp, which is heartbreaking and comical in equal measure. After his first day back, he was sent home with some artwork he had created before his accident, including a Valentine’s Day card for me.

This is probably the most belated Valentine’s I have ever received but it was lovely nonetheless as in a funny way it felt like Charlie was saying thank you for looking after him these last few weeks. And, it just goes to prove that some things are worth the wait and are appreciated all the more for it.

As you know, I’m all for blogging and love reading other people’s too. So I was really pleased when a friend of mine lent me a book all about it.

Circus is a book or ‘Bookazine’ as the compiler terms it, showcasing some of the most interesting blogs from around the world. This first edition focused on fashion so it was right up my street. The content is quite diverse and while I’ve been perusing it this week, it has occurred to me that it’s perhaps odd to be reading a book about blogs. I’m quite clear about whether I’m reading a hard copy of something or a digital version, both of which I like for different reasons. I still love to snuggle down with a book or magazine in all the places I can’t with a computer but I also love the variety and immediacy of reading stuff online. Anyway, take a look at a few sample pages and see what you think.

This week I decided I needed a bit of a change so I went to the hairdressers and had a good few inches chopped. It’s amazing how it can literally lighten the way you feel (and your wallet) but it was worth it I guess. An even quicker and far more affordable pick-me-up was gained at my local charity shop (which is fast becoming my second home). Sometimes you can wander round and not spy a thing that you fancy, other days it feels like you’re on a winning streak. Friday was one of those days. Within five minutes I had spotted a pair of Topshop shorts, an M&S wool jumper and a Per Una scarf; a new outfit in the bag and all for the princely sum of £8!!

And here’s the ‘new’ me, feeling rather pleased with myself.

Oh, and in case you think it’s been a whirl of self-indulgence this week (fat chance) then here’s a link to the new Spring issue of UK Handmade magazine, where you can read an article I wrote all about guerilla gardening.


Something for the Weekend

Twitter is a wonderful thing isn’t it? Well in case you’re in any doubt, here’s one example of why I love tweeting anyway. I follow all sorts of people on twitter, many of whom are crafty or creative types. Above all I like to follow people who are interesting, inspiring and (importantly) chatty.
One such tweeter is Sarah Fitton aka Ditsy Bird Designs who paints bold, fun canvases for children. But I didn’t know that Sarah is also an all-round crafter or as she puts it, “likes messing about with paper, fabric, beads and thread”. So one night I was casually scanning through my twitter timeline when a particular tweet of hers jumped out at me. She mentioned the word ‘teapot’ and well you can imagine the rest. 
 But really, how cute is little hand-beaded teapot brooch?

There are lots more like this in different colourways plus handmade cards, stitched items as well as bright, bold canvases.You can also read about what’s happening in the Ditsy Bird nest on Sarah’s blog.


Children’s book illustration

I recently posted about a fab children’s book called Spot it!

This got me thinking about other books on my kids’ bookshelf that I really enjoy, purely and simply because they have been illustrated so well. So here’s my round-up of the best illustrated children’s story books. There are some classics in there that I’m sure you’re already aware of (but deserve a shout out) and maybe some less familiar. The list is by no means exhaustive, so please feel free to add to it by telling me about your own personal favourites. I’m always on the look out for beautiful and fun books for my kids to enjoy myself.

First up is the wonderful Eric Carle of The Hungry Caterpillar fame, which is a great classic. Look out for other books by him such as this poetry book I picked up at a car boot sale. Some of the poems are really bonkers but I just love the illustrations!

Next up is The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr. Another classic from the seventies, Ive always found the story a little odd, but again the illustrations are gloriously retro and anyway it has a tiger in it so my son Charlie loves it.

Next is a book called Little Beauty by Anthony Browne. It’s about the special friendship between a gorilla and a kitten (another slightly odd premise) but we were gifted this book for Charlie and it was a nice surprise to find such unusual illustrations in it. Again, there’s quite a seventies vibe going on here with the crazy wallpaper!

My next favourite is a real classic. Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins is often used in primary schools because the simple, repetitive story is really clear for little kids. I just think the style of illustration is amazing and is redolent of some of the best graphic design from the last century. Oh and the fact that the fox gets completely trounced by the wonderfully oblivious chicken is great.

The story of the old woman who swallowed a fly and then continues to eat more animals until she dies is really a quite scary and disgusting idea for a children’s story, which is probably why it appeals to them so much. As for me, well the bold, colourful, retro illustrations speak for themselves.

But what about the classics of tomorrow? One book I discovered in a charity shop recently was a real find and I bought it mainly because of the graphic design style. It’s called Mythical Monsters by Sara Fanelli and Charlie loves it! It’s not a story as such, more of an educational book that brings the likes of Cyclops and the Minotaur to life with brief descriptions. I love the collage style of the illustrations that makes the monsters scary yet friendly at the same time.

And I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning Lauren Child’s wonderful creation of Charlie and Lola. I think this brother and sister duo are brilliant but are now so ubiquitous on TV and spin-off merchandising it’s easy to forget how new and exciting the original books were. Lauren Child’s style is fun yet offbeat and I love the textures and colours she uses. More recent examples include her lovely illustration of the Pippi Longstocking stories.

What are your favourite illustrated children’s books and which do you think are modern classics?