Wednesday 31 December 2014

My Month in Numbers 2014: December

Hello hello.

Just after Christmas is a tricky time of year to be documenting your days with numbers ... after all, you may not feel much like totalling up how much you spent on gifts, how many calories you consumed ... or how many days you had flu after being perfectly healthy the rest of the year!![For the record it was: 7 days feeling awful ... plus a few more feeling vaguely less awful!].

So I've tried to steer clear of all those statistics and instead focussed on the fun stuff that involved daleks and dolls and getting to see your heroes ... stuff like this ...

2 = the  number of Daleks that followed me around at the start of the month.
 Just after I finished work on campus on the 1st December I tweeted: "Just gone past an office which had 2 Daleks inside. ‪#‎Truestory".

And it was a true story. And a very confusing one.

"Maybe it was just a broken fan or something" my student had said when, after we'd walked past the office I told him what I'd seen. But no, as unlikely as it sounded, I knew what I'd seen!  Then, after we'd walked back that way again later on my student turned and said "Julie, I don't know much about Dr.Who ... but those are definitely Daleks".  Which was a relief really ... at least I hadn't been imagining things.

And then ...

3 days later I had cause to tweet again: "You know how I saw 2 Dalek heads in an office last week? Well now there are two dalek bodies in the stairwell!"

So far, so strange don't you think? I mean ... it's not as if there was any good reason that the campus should be over run with Daleks. Then a day later, with all thoughts of Daleks gone from my mind, 4 of us travelled 20 miles to Carmel College in Darlington where we had tickets to see Mark Gatiss.

Oh, yes, have I mentioned that we went to see Mark Gatiss, co-creator of Sherlock [where he also stars as Mycroft] and writer for Dr.Who etc, yes, that Mark Gatiss live, in the flesh? - well ...

... and yes, I did just mention that he's a writer for Dr.Who ... and yes, I already know what you're thinking ...

4 = the number of Daleks who were in attendance at the Mark Gatiss event!
They included these two in the foyer, which moved and spoke ... 
And then ... once we were inside the auditorium there they were! The two that had been following me all week! It turned out that the event planner at University [where I work] had also planned this event. Which is a rather mundane explanation really ... it's more fun to have thought, as my sister did, that I might just be the new Doctor ...

But, as interesting as all the Dalek sightings were ... this was the really exciting part:
It was a charity event for the local mayor's charities and, seemingly it doesn't matter if you're a famous writer and actor, when the mayor knows your Dad and asks 'Would your Mark come and do something for us?' ... you apparently come and do something! Hurrah!!

2 x very excited fan-girls:
Mark chatted with the editor of the local paper for around 1.5 hours about all kinds of things including, of course, Sherlock. At which point I had to do everything in my power to prevent me from squeaking with awe / standing up and telling him how I've watched all 9 episodes around a billion times. Give or take a few.

After the formal interview part there was an Q&A with the audience [no, I didn't ask anything ... I would have shown myself up!] and then  ... then there was this ...

Mark Gatiss reading out prize-winning raffle numbers = now there's something I never thought I'd hear.
Who would? As the event was in aid of charity there was also a raffle and he got to pick and call out the winning numbers.

A moment which is going on my 'Well, I've seen everything now' list.

£5 = my pay-out in a cake-related bet.
In case we got peckish in the car on the way home from seeing Mark Gatiss [did I mention that we saw Mark Gatiss? We saw Mark Gatiss. Yep, we did.] I took with me, in my bag, some slices of Christmas cake. And when James had asked why I was cutting so many slices of cake he bet me £5 that there was no need for me to bother as my sister wouldn't want any.

In amongst the Mark Gatiss excitement I told my sister I had cake in my bag ... yet I didn't mention the bet. But on the way home, she said unprompted: "Where's the cake? I was promised bag cake!" ... and I let out a cheer knowing that that £5 was now mine!!

Considering how many Christmases I've spent with my sister ... and how many slices of Christmas cake I've witnessed her eating ... James was a fool, a fool I say! to have made the bet!

3 = the number of vintage dolls who came to live with me this festive season:
One is called 'The World's Smallest Baby' which I haven't taken a photo of yet .. you'll just have to imagine it. If you're trying to imagine its scale ... there's a clue in the name!

Then there was this one who, like James said when I opened her, is in need of some TLC [But aren't we all?]:
Her stringing elastic has gone, her hair's been chopped off and her jumper's unravelling ... and yes, of course, I cried when I saw her! It's what I do!
Meanwhile I bought this festive fairy for myself from a box of vintage decorations. She's currently having a pose-off with the little ceramic figure on my sideboard:
 And that's where I'm going to leave my numbers for this month and for this year! and, if I'm honest, it was almost forever ...

I wasn't sure if I was going to continue documenting my Month in Numbers in 2015, after all I've been doing it for 5 years now! 5 years month in, month out, without fail! But. it's hard to let go ... so I'm going to keep going ... and see where my statistics lead me in 2015.

As always ... you're welcome to join me, if not this month [goodness knows there's enough to fit in already!] ... but next year? Maybe? What do you think? New Year, new start, new number-crunching adventure?

Trust me, if you do, in 365 days time, you'll have a whole host of stories and moments to look back on. And if you keep going for 5 years like I have well ... that's ... erm ... 5 times 365 which is ... now ... did anyone get a calculator for Christmas ...

But, whether or not you decide to count your moments... here's to 2015 bringing you moments that count!

Julie x

Saturday 20 December 2014

Bang! Crafting with Christmas Cracker novelties: a round-up of ideas

Hello you.

Consider this your 5 day warning ...
Every time I've blogged a project I've made using the plasticky nonsense you get inside novelty Christmas crackers someone says they'll try to remember to save some of the novelty gifts 'next Christmas'.

So I thought I'd remind you again so that on Thursday you can make sure to hunt beneath the discarded paper hats, wipe off the gravy and brandy sauce, and rescue all that odd tat from your crackers!

And as if that wasn't an enticing enough prospect ... here's a re-cap of the projects I've made with them over the last few years:
Things like pens and small toys make unique, fun embellishments on cards:
And then there's all those mend-bending maybe-if-I-hadn't-had-so-much-Sherry-I-could-manage-this  puzzles you get; just divide up the pieces and you've got yourself a set of intriguing focal features:
Find out more about these puzzling cards here, here and here.

And, finally, here are a few ideas for putting those mini tape-measures to use as a trimming:

See more images of the tape-measure cards are here, here and here.

So, remember: Christmas Day, grab all the discarded novelty gifts, secrete them into your crafty stash and use them to create some cracking good cards in 2015! [I know ... bad pun ... but not as bad as some of those cracker 'jokes' ... surely?]

Oh yes ... for those of you who haven't experienced the joy of the Christmas cracker then here's the Wiki on them ... and here's the description I came with up last year when asked what they were:

'They're something like a party favour ... but with added gunpowder'.

And who wouldn't want to celebrate the season with one of those?!

Merry merry festivities to you all!

Julie :-)

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Warm Wishes: my 2014 Christmas cards using 'Precious Remembrance' stamps

Well, hello there, season's greetings to you, your hair's looking great today, here, have a mince pie.

Forgive me. But, alas, there are no mince pies here. I'm actually just buttering you up because ... chances are ... I haven't sent you a Christmas card this year.

Don't be offended ... I've actually only sent 1 card so far, and I've only written out 4 more. And so, if you haven't got one from me ... you're not alone ... and it's nothing personal!

How about - as a way for me to wish you all the joys of the season - you take one of these [virtual] warm wishes instead?
The focal point of my cards this year is the fun take-out coffee cup - from the 'Coffee Love' stamp set by Precious Remembrance:
It's not actually a Christmas themed stamp set [you know me .... I'm  not a big Christmas crafter once my magazine commissions are out of the way by August!]. I bought the set, back in October, as it had some nice general sentiments and, of course, that fabulous cup design.

Then it was while I was trying out stamping it on different papers that it dawned on me ... if I just used Christmassy papers ... then it could easily look like one of the festive style of cups the big coffee shop chains use at this time of year. And suddenly, I had myself something rather festive and cosy:
The look is really easy to achieve - it's just a simple stamping/paper-piecing technique -  but just in case you're wondering, let me show you how to recreate the look:
  1. First ink up all of the cup design and stamp it on to a festive patterned paper.
  2. Next just ink up the middle-section, the cup-holder shape, and stamp it on to kraft cardstock.
  3. Better still, stamp it on to ribbed card to mirror the corrugated card that's often used for cup holders. [The ribbed kraft cardstock I used is by Woodware].
  4. Cut around this mid-section and glue it to the patterned base.
  5. Finally, ink up just the top of the stamp, the lid section, and stamp it on to white paper/card. Trim around it and glue on to the cup base.
Precious Remembrance is an American brand of stamps but if, like me, you'd like to get your hands on them in the UK then try the Sprinkle Twinkle shop. That's where I found the 'Coffee Love' set while I was hunting down a UK supplier. [I don't know about you but, as a first port of call, I prefer to trawl around for UK suppliers rather than risk customs fees ordering direct from the US!]

[Product disclaimer: None of the links in this post are sponsored. All products were bought and paid for by the contents of my own bank account!].

Once I'd made all my festive cups I decided to keep the rest of the card fairly simple, to not detract from the main feature. So the backgrounds consist of just a few strips of paper, a tag shape, some twine and the occasional charm.
I found that, despite the stamp set not being intended to be Christmassy its 'Warm Wishes' sentiment translated perfectly on to a festive card:
 As for my papers the majority came from 'Fa La La' the 2012 Christmas range by Lawn Fawnbut I've also made a few with different splashes of colour. Such as blue and black:
And not to mention yellow:
And unlike many festive stamps sets at least this one will come in useful year-round for more general greetings cards.

But for now those are my 2014 Christmas cards. And while I can't make and send one to everyone who's stopped by to visit me here this year ... I really do appreciate your companionship and comments and so ...

... please consider this post me sending you the same sentiment.

Warm wishes to all!

Julie x

Friday 12 December 2014

Experimenting with abstract collage [while playing with your favourite papers!]: Part 6 of the collage adventure 'Fortune & Geese Favour the Bold'

Me again. Hi.

As this is really the second half of our discussion about filling up those altered book pages [the first half is here] how about we dispense with introductions and dive straight back in between those book leaves?
These were the collage styles I identified from my own book:
  1. The figurative or narrative aspect of the page. These are the parts of it which feature a figure / a character / a clear theme which a viewer could connect with; it's the parts which tell some sort of story or which at the very least a viewer will attempt to interpret into a 'meaning'.
  2. A more abstract form which is more concerned about creating a general mood rather than a specific 'meaning'. And also a form which simply celebrates and puts centre-stage your favourite scraps of paper. [Because it is possible to have favourite scraps of paper isn't it? We've all been there ...].
So let's leap straight to part 2 ...

2. Experimenting with abstract forms, layering and colour to create a general mood.
What? No, hang on ... if this all sounds a bit too 'arty' for you, a bit too highfalutin, pretentious or not something you feel that you should be dabbling in ... then let me stop you right there!!

For one thing ... there's nothing wrong with indulging your inner pretentious artiste occasionally, just stop worrying, get your smock and beret on, and just enjoy the moment why don't you?
And for another thing ... but don't tell anyone this part OK? OK. For another thing this method really boils down to doing nothing fancier than chopping up bits of paper, rearranging the snippets, and gluing them back down again. Seriously; so don't discount it just yet.

And, do you know what? As basic as that method might sound at first it can actually lead you to produce pages which are not only aesthetically pleasing to others, but which are also extremely satisfying to construct too!

Chopping up, rearranging and gluing is effectively all that really happened here:
And, far from feeling basic, childlike or too simple to bother with ... I find this style of working really enjoyable, freeing and inspiring. Let me explain why ...

Using your favourites & killing your darlings:  
Throughout this series we've been discussing having a PURPOSE in mind when sitting down to being a project like this and, in the previous post, I talked about how using figures in your collage can help if your purpose was to tell a story, to document an emotion or to pin down a feeling and so on.

Yet, equally, your purpose may be nothing more than to spend time playing with beautiful papers and creatively arranging some of your favourite supplies.

That's really all it need be; enjoying the materials you're using and seeing how you can show them off on the page.

And here's where I believe that, as you're focussing solely on the loveliness of the materials in front of you, you might as well use your favourite of favourite supplies. Like how a chef can make a really simple dish taste delicious by using only the best of ingredients!
  • Just because this style might use lots of small scraps and snippets it's not the same thing as saying you should be using the old papers in the back of the cupboard which you don't like! No!
  • Use up all those scraps which you've saved, cosseted, protected, called 'Best' and stroked like a lover's hair. [Don't lie to me ... we all have scraps we love a little too much ... ].
  • This is the time to use your favourites, your 'one-day-I'll-find-the-perfect-project-for-that' items. Why not make your next project that project!
  • And don't worry about using lots of them in one project because when you keep them all together in one book [like the altered book I've used to house all these collages] then all those precious scraps will take on an accumulative power.
  • They'll build into something with impact rather than have then spread thinly across lots of different projects where their effect will be diluted.
  • Many of the papers I used in this project were gorgeous bookbinding off-cuts gifted to me by a lovely friend, and although I initially thought they were that ridiculous thing of being 'too nice to use' ... I came round to the idea that I'd really be serving them better if I turned them into a nice project I'd be proud of!
Plus, cutting into those favourite of items can be good therapy: it's a great cure for preciousness!

A lecturer on my English degree once repeated the old writers' phrase that says to do the work justice sometimes you need to "kill your darlings" when you're writing. Meaning you shouldn't get overly precious about any of your personal favourite lines in the text. Sometimes the text as a whole might benefit from you editing that line ... or getting rid of it altogether, no matter how much you think it's perfect!

Which is something I try to keep in mind while convincing myself to take the scissors to a 'best' piece of paper: let go of the favouritism, don't waste time trying to protect your 'darling' just cut it up and make something better from it!!

OK then, now that we've manoeuvred your darlings over to the chopping block ... what are you going to do with the bits you slice off?

[Wow ... this collage-adventure has taken an unexpectedly dark turn hasn't it?].

Combining simple abstract scraps + snippets.
Some of those scraps, strips and images you've collected can be combined on a page purely to look good; they don't need to 'mean' anything or refer to any theme or overall story at all.

Take this page for example, the journaling at the bottom refers back to something I'd thought about after watching a film ... but the items on the page don't necessarily reflect that.  For a start ... the film wasn't about a flying coconut:
Instead I chose the individual items as they worked together.
  • The shape of the coconut balances with the ovals on the gelli-plate printed paper;
  • which matches the colours in the old stamp
  • and the thin strips of paper along the bottom / side simply mirror the colours used elsewhere on the page.
It doesn't all 'mean' something; but together it works - think of it this way ...

Have you ever heard a song and, because it was so catchy, or feel-good, or it gives you goose-bumps or whatever, and you just fell for it? No questions asked. It just gets to you.

And then, one day, you actually make a point of really listening to the words ... and you realise ... it doesn't make any sense! You just can't fathom the meaning. Or else the lyrics don't say anything at all! And yet ... the overall effect, the finished piece, still somehow works.

[Case in point:  'I drew a line, I drew a line for you. Oh what a thing to do. And it was all yellow' from Coldplay's Yellow. I love the song; I've never been able to work out what it means - Why's everything yellow? And why does it sound like it must mean something deep and moving ... yet it was just yellow? But I don't care: I like the overall effect!]

Well, that's how I think of this style of collage. You just play around with materials until it just feels 'right'.

There are no rules to abide by but here are a few ideas to guide you when you're combining these abstract shapes to create a mood with no particular meaning!

  • Look for interesting combinations of colour, texture, print, surface pattern.
  • If you've chosen a colour palette for your altered book, then that will narrow down your focus and you can experiment with just those shades and prints which fit the theme. 
Example: The key to pulling this page together was finding more than one scrap of red, and more than one scrap of green to create some balance and harmony between the quite random elements:
  • Try mixing old and new supplies to create contrasts of fresh modern prints and old images and treasures!
Example: The page contains: scraps of fairly recent scrapbooking paper; a snippet from a vintage children's book and a vintage encyclopaedia page about semaphore - both of which I had indeed been saving for one of those 'special' projects!
Example: Here I combined a paper I made at a gelli-plate printing class [with Kate Crane] with a bright pink tractor illustration from a 1960s children's' encyclopaedia:
3. Composition:
  • In your composition think about using a mix of harmonies [where things flow, line up, match, coordinate] and tensions [where something might overlap, float off on its own, hang over an edge, look awkward or out of place ... for me .. this is where the magic happens!]
Example: Here I overlapped several layers and didn't line up any of the edges. Then I stapled that tiny little scrap on the right 'just because'!
Example: As I had 30 collages to make to fill the book I was trying to push myself to change things up a little occasionally - so this page [below] was me trying something new with my composition! I arranged the elements in the four corners of the page, which I don't thing I've tried before:
It's a bit odd, and even I'm not entirely sure what story I had in mind when I was making it [I don't think it was to do with a windmill, a cow, and a tomato though ... I'd have remembered that.] ... but, to maintain some sort of harmony while experimenting with the form ... I worked with a simple and harmonious colour scheme.

Finally for today ...

As you can probably tell by now:
  • this style is very loose and free ...
  • and it's full of wonky lines and higgledy-piggledy edges!  
  • and these collages have never been near a cutting mat, a ruler or paper trimmer ... everything is just hacked into with big scissors or torn to size!
  • then it's glued down with any old glue ...
  • using a plastic glue-spreader as I never want to clean out a brush. So there.
If you're a perfectionist this will either set you free ... or make you ill. I can't anticipate which ... you know your proclivities better than I!

But, if you're someone without such exacting standards, someone who can bear to be parted from straight lines, symmetry and measuring ... someone who just wants to give something new a try ... then go for it!

Example: Here's part of the negative / outer surround of a shape I'd die-cut with my Bigshot ...
And I used it because no leftover or scrap is safe no matter how uneven or odd! And it helped to make what became one of my favourite pages in the book:


So, what can you take away from today's collage adventure?

How about ...
  • If your pages don't have a particular purpose as such, if they're not meant to tell a particular tale ... then just allow the process of playing with paper to be your purpose.
  • Just cut, rearrange and stick down for its own sake. To relax, to practise your craft, to feel creative, to nurture yourself ... to avoid housework. [Find me a better reason!]
  • Treat it like a meditation. Only ... treat it like a meditation you do with your eyes open. Because you'll have scissors in your hands. And using them with your eyes shut is just asking for trouble and probably won't relax you at all.
  • And use your favourite supplies and scraps!
  • Treat those papers less like hoarded treasures locked in a vault and more like seasonal vegetables. Use them while they're at their best, while you love them ... before they go off! Or rather ... before you go off them!
  • And when you're shuffling them around the page have fun experiment with the composition. Most of the time just go with your gut instinct, trust your own eye and make what looks good to you. Then, occasionally, push yourself a little and try something new, something which at first you think won't work. And glue it down!!
  • If you hate it - no problem - nothing's going to go to waste.. Just chop up the entire page and re-use the scraps!
  • But equally ... you might just stumble across your new favourite way of working!
If you're enjoying the collage journey please do consider:
  • leaving a comment to let me know
  • sharing any work you make based on an idea you picked up en route
  • pinning one of my pages to Pinterest
  • or sharing a link to the series via your 'go to' social media.
I love offering tips and ideas here on my blog ... but it's even better to know when they've made their way to someone who finds them worthwhile!

Julie :-)


'Fortune & Geese Favour the Bold' is an altered book and collage adventure which you can catch up on [for free] in the following posts:
  • Part 1: Prep notes and supplies list
  • Part 2: Introducing a themed focus into your altered book / journal
  • Part 3: Turning an old book into a new home for your collage
  • Part 4: 101 alternative crafty supplies ... and where to find them
  • Part 5: Using figures to create a narrative in your collage

  • Wednesday 10 December 2014

    Using figures to create a narrative in your collage : 'Fortune & Geese Favour the Bold' Part 5


    If you followed my tutorial for creating an altered book earlier in the series I do hope it's not been sitting empty waiting for this follow-up instalment! But, just in case, let's get started filling up those pages ...

    The 'Fortune & Geese Favour the Bold' collage adventure itinerary ... so far:
  • Part 1: Prep notes and supplies list 
  • Part 2: Introducing a themed focus into your altered book / journal [looking at having a theme and a purpose before you begin]
  • Part 3: Turning an old book into a new home for your collage [a step-by-step tutorial]
  • Part 4: 101 alternative crafty supplies ... and where to find them [after reading this don't tell me you don't have any collage supplies!]

  • So far in this 'collage and altered book adventure' we've really been looking at how to prepare before you begin. [See the links above]. And now today, and in the next post, we're going to look at a way of filling those pages.

    Disclaimer:: Like I always say: this is just my way of doing things; I don't anticipate you'll get to the bottom of this post and turn into a Julie-clone ... [although, if that does somehow happen ... do let me know ... I might be up for some sort of scientific / technological innovation prize!]

    Well, I say it's just my way of doing things when, more specifically, this is was my way of making this particular book. Therefore my purpose for this set of posts is really to just:
    • share some ideas about playing with paper;
    • think out loud;
    • explain my methods complete with lots of example pages;
    • and to encourage you to think about how the images you choose can help you tell a visual story.
    Many of the collages in this book consist of two key elements which I held in mind while constructing each page:
    1. The figurative or narrative aspect of the page. These are the parts of it which feature a figure / a character / a clear theme which a viewer could connect with; it's the parts which tell some sort of story or which at the very least a viewer will attempt to interpret into a 'meaning'.
    2. A more abstract form which is more concerned about creating a general mood rather than a specific 'meaning'. And also a form which simply celebrates and outs centre-stage your favourite scraps of paper. [Because it is possible to have favourite scraps of paper isn't it? We've all been there ...].
    And, in the spirit of my 'Freezer Meals Approach' to blogging [make in bulk but savour one at a time] we'll look at both of these individually turn.  So, for today, let's just focus on the figurative and narrative elements.

    1. Using figurative or narrative elements on your pages.
    If you're on the look out for a cast of characters of your own to use in your collage / art journals / crafting than check out my Fabulous Figures [please note: that's a product promotion ... and not a come on] which are lucky-dip packs of mixed figures and characters ready to feature in your next artistic story!
    Now let's reflect back upon the PURPOSE of the book you're creating, the collage you're making, journal you're filling etc ...

    ... because it may well be that you're using your creative time to reflect something about your life, to tell a story, express an emotion, capture a moment and so on.

    In which case, using figures can be a direct way to transfer those feelings from your head to the page.

    Take a look at this figure and see if you can guess the feeling I was trying to convey when I chose to use this particular character over any number of other options:
    What do you think? Thoughtful? Uncertain? Pondering? Wondering?

    Well, the page documents a day where I had to make a work-related decision and simply couldn't do it on the spot over the phone; so my boss gave me overnight to think on it. And, as the journaling on the page explains ...
    I was afraid to say both 'yes' and 'no' ... hence selecting the little character who, like me, looked confused and deep in thought!

    Similarly I supported the theme by using the arrow illustration - to indicate having to choose a direction - and I also added a small figure in the top left corner who's wandering off in the completely opposite direction to the figure at the bottom!

    Now ... chances are you didn't pick up on all of that on first viewing but that's fine; but the fact that I had thought all that through while I was making it definitely helped me decide what to put on the page.

    With all the scraps of paper and images at my disposal .... having a clear narrative in mind helped me narrow down those options and pull together a cohesive page. 

    Same goes for this one:
    No one outside of my own head would know that this page is about me remembering that every year I've joined in with Shimelle's 'Learn Something New Every day' project I've documented a lazy September Saturday spent with James. So this page features a couple of figures to represent the pair of us and a tortoise to represent our relaxed Saturday-night-in-front-of-the-TV-with-wine feeling!
    As for the 'St.Ives' card ... that doesn't really mean anything! It was simply one of the supplies I'd sorted out to use before I began my pages and it fitted in with the colours of the page. The nearest it gets to contributing to the theme is that we've been there ... and it was nice and relaxed too!
    But your pages don't always need to be as subtly themed as those pages of mine which need to be unpicked and explained to a viewer. 

    You may want to be quite literal in your approach by creating a page which is clearly 'about' something ... and you use that 'something' to illustrate.

    Take the following for example ...

    Remember how all the collages in this book where all relating to my 'Learn Something New Every day' lessons during September? Well on this particular day I was reflecting on how I 'd been walking home when I spotted that my neighbour's gate was open. My neighbour who has 3 huge dogs!

    And I didn't know if the dogs were out in the street. And I panicked ... and didn't know whether to just turn around in the street and go somewhere, anywhere, else instead!!

    In the end I did reach home in one piece ... and eventually this page came out of the experience:
    [For the record: next door's dogs are a lot bigger than the one on my page! Even I would've managed to get past one of those!].

    So yes, it was a page about dogs and I used a dog to illustrate that fact. Nothing clever or obscure about that! 

    But that's one of the best reasons to use a figure on a page - to act as a readable and recognisable focal point which can quickly communicate the story you're trying to tell.

    Here's another ...

    The journaling here is about how you don't always need great big hugs to show someone you care. You can reach out and touch their fingertip ... and they'll still get the idea.

    And what did I use to express this thought? An illustration of a finger tip of course:
    And there's more hands in this close-up where the narrative was about being busy with work, and the image reflects the thought:  
    When I began this post I didn't realise there would be a hands/canine theme happening .. but here's another dog:
    ... whose pleading look I used to reflect how it feels to be a seller at a craft fair!
     And if you can't find a figure/character which quite fits the narrative you have in mind ... then customise one.

    I gave one of my figures a rather smashing set of petal wings to help her out with her climb:
    And if a figure isn't quite working for you, or if it's saying too much or  not conveying the right story ... then cut into it!

    Here I cut off the head:
    ... and reused it on another page:
    I covered over the face as it just felt a bit edgier, a bit more like I'd made the imagery my own, rather than let it say too much of something that wasn't part of my narrative:
    Plus it adds a bit of mystery ... because sometimes you want to keep the full story to yourself!

    And I'll leave you beneath that veil of mystery for today ... and leave you to ... :
    • Think about how you already incorporate figures into your work [are you a literal story teller? Or do you like to wander into the more metaphorical?]
    • If you haven't tried this style until now have a think about what will you take away from these examples today.
    • Have a look at the Fabulous Figures packs to see if they're something you'd find useful [there's 20% off all orders until Friday night [12th Dec] if you use the code that's stated in my shop description here.]
    • And do join in the conversation with a comment here or on my Facebook page ... I know I've been sharing a lot of collaged characters in these papery pages ... but it's always good to communicate with some real people too!
    I'll be back, when I can, with the second part of this look at filling up those pages. Next time we're going to go a bit abstract!

    See you then then.


    Tuesday 2 December 2014

    My 860+ vintage Christmas cards ... and the one that made me cry.

    Hello, ahoy, salutations, it's good to see you here.

    And if that's not enough of a welcome for you then how about if I offer up 860 additional season's greetings to you?

    OK then, here you go:
    If you read my previous post [my 'Month in Numbers' for December] or if you've visited my Facebook page or Etsy shop lately you won't be able to avoid the images I've been sharing of all the original, unused, nostalgia inducing 1980s/70s Christmas cards I bought last month.

    Many of the designs are now available to buy in my shop either as singles [for the most special of the illustrations amongst them] or in lucky dips packs of 5 or 10.

    There's a whole 'Vintage Christmas Cards' section in the shop for them, so do have a browse. And if you opt for the lucky-dips to use in your December journal just think of it as buying a pack of retro design journaling cards, they're a similar price and they're meant to be written on!]

    But I thought that here I'd share a few more photos and the story behind the haul ... including, later, the card that reduced me to tears [not that it takes a great deal to set me off!]. But let's start with the whys and wherefores, starting with how ...

    I fell down a festive rabbit hole ...

    I'd been browsing Ebay for 'vintage postal-themed ephemera' [because that's the kind of thing I do ...] when the phrase Job Lot 20kg Vintage 1970s/1980​s Christmas Cards caught my eye [well, it would, wouldn't it?].

    And I pondered, and wondered, and debated. Yes, some original retro cards would make perfect additions to the Festive Junk Journals I'd had planned for months ... but 3 stone of them??? I wasn't so sure!

    But then I realised that the seller was a registered charity ... and I decided that if I was going to be onating to a good cause then really, it wouldn't matter if I didn't sell any of them on or make a profit from them as the buying was a worthwhile thing in itself. 3 stone of old cards was just the fabulously nostalgic bi-product! And how often do we get guilt-free chances to indulge like that?!

    So I bought them. A few days later ...

    They were delivered in a box I could fit myself into ...

    And when I opened it this was I saw:
    They came wrapped in various plastic bags and black bin liners, all the designs bundled together, no order, rhyme or reason to any of it ... which is when my fondness for sorting things into neat piles got the better of me!
    And it was while sorting them into piles that I came to realise that these weren't simply a mix of oddments that must have remained unsold form a shop back in the day ... no, there were actually multiples of many of the designs and, moreover, some were still wrapped inside brown-paper packages from the manufacturer!

    Most of the packages had been opened, so you could see which card design was inside, but others - like this one - were still sealed!
    I carefully opened this one ...
    To reveal this big eyed pup - a Giordano Art illustration from 1987 [you can buy this design here]...
    27 years ago, while I was starting secondary school, someone in a card factory packaged that up and posted it out to a shop where it must have been until ... I don't know ... I can only speculate:
    • until the shop closed down??
    • until the owner took all the cards home and put them I the loft??
    • until a son or daughter found it all while clearing out the family home??
    • until it was donated to a charity who put it on Ebay ...
    • until I bought it ...
    ... when I became the person to open it up after all this time!
    After all the locations it must have been moved to and from; after all the history that's passed since it was sealed and after all the people who didn't know what to do with it ... it finally gets to be seen and appreciated by people like me [and whoever buys one].
    Here are a few more designs you might like ... and which you might just recognise from Christmases past!
    There are some kitsch-tastic designs amongst the 800+:
    ... alongside many sweet illustrations like these too:

     And if, like me, too ever sent or received a card in the 70s/80s then there's plenty in the collection to give you that thrill of recognition!

    Especially when you come across some familiar faces ...

    ... such as 'Bedtime Bear' Carebear:
    ... and the one and only Strawberry Shortcake!!!
    ... OR - and here's the one that made me cry - ...

    ... the very lovely Holly Hobbie:
    So why did I cry when I unwrapped this one? Well ...

    ... in part it was because I had a Holly Hobbie doll back in the 80s [hey, who am I kidding? I still have my Holly Hobbie doll!]. And I've always loved dolls, and I didn't expect to see her, and suddenly there she was, looking splendid in her patchwork frock ... and it was nostalgic and cosy and lovely ... and ...

    And yet the tears really spilled over when I looked at the greeting; because it's been a while since I had anyone who could send me a 'granddaughter' card.


    But I didn't cry for long. How could I when, somehow I'd been sent this unexpected but lovely message in amongst 800+ others?!

    I hope that in sharing the designs I'll have passed on some of that warm and cosy Christmas feeling to you.

    And if reading this today makes you look in your loft to seek out those cards of your own you've saved over the years ... or if it stirs you to phone or visit those people who still send you 'granddaughter' cards ... then all the better.

    Season's greetings to you.

    Julie x