Christmas Art for Everyone

Get Tagged

Every year, my mum spends weeks planning and organising a charity Christmas fair to raise money for a village in Tanzania that our village church has been linked to for several years.

Over time it has become more than a just a fundraiser, is also a high point in our family calendar with everyone (seven  siblings, their partners, and fourteen nieces and nephews) involved in some way. Children who used to run a little riot between the tables, now run stalls – the sweet stall being particularly popular, and hence not terribly profitable! Nephews pack tables away at the end at lightning speed, and sweep the floors, having bought most of their Christmas presents earlier.

This year I ran a make and take stall – I thought it would be fun to share the magic of heat embossing with the children at the fair. It gave them the opportunity to work with craft materials they hadn’t seen at school – and who can resist the lure of those matt grey lines transform into shiny embossed lines under the heat gun.

The process I settled on:

1. Use distress stains to create a colourful background.
2. Stamp a Christmas image using a ‘Perfect Medium’ ink pad.
3. Apply embossing powder and heat to create a bold image.
4. Adorn the image using mica paint.

Teacher Tag

My customers ages spanned from two to forty something, including a toddler, a teacher and a little boy whose mum said: “He never usually wants to paint…”

It was wonderful to watch the expressions on their faces change – from curiosity to wonder to intense concentration and flow as they got to play with the intense colour of shiny watercolour paint.

Using artist quality materials and skilled instruction, anyone can experience joy and excitement in the process of making Art, and develop the skills to create masterpieces they are proud of! And that is where I wish to focus increasing amounts of time and energy on over the coming months and years.


Mysterious Creatures

This June and July, I was lucky enough to take an assignment at Holywell C of E Primary School, to look after a year one/two class whose teacher had fallen ill. As well as literacy, Numeracy and lots of Phonics, I was able to share my passion for Art with them.


Using a little of what I had learned in a fab online course by Micki Wilde, I introduced them to mysterious creatures.

They learned that by using a range of simple shapes to make facial features and bodies they could invent a wide range of weird and wonderful creatures. And it didn’t take them long to grow in confidence and come up with their very own creations.

The joy of Art is that, given a few tricks and tools, amazing things are possible. As was proved by a lovely group of five to seven year olds this Summer.

Experiments in Life



“Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving — it doesn’t matter, Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vow a hundred times, Come, come again, come.” ~ RUMI

The last few months have been an experiment. Some of it has been very conscious other parts less so. Some parts amazing and enriching others heartbreaking. A continuous learning process – both in terms of my Art and in terms of becoming the best Me that I possibly can.

I created the piece above at an amazing three day soulful art retreat  – “Call of the Wild Soul” that took place at the end of September – it was a hugely life enhancing experience and brought me into a wonderful tribe of sisters.

It is still a work in progress – just as I am – and I’m sure both of the figures are speaking to me though I haven’t quite put their thoughts into words yet.

Mixed Media Art Demonstration at Tindalls, Cambridge

I spent this Saturday at Tindalls Art Shop in Cambridge demonstrating Mixed Media Art Techniques.

This involved sitting at a table, surrounded by art materials, making Art, and talking to people – a huge hardship! The lovely Jan (store manager) also brought Tea on a regular basis – which was very welcome considering how much talking I was doing!

I focussed on the use of Mediums and Gesso showing how Gesso is great for texture – it will hold the imprint of objects and will work as glue to hold bits of book papers down while half covering and revealing the text – it also works well with bits of fibre. I also demonstrated the pastel and Gesso technique that I have made into a tutorial on this blog.

This is a combination of two demonstrations – the background was made using “Inktense Blocks” – they really produce beautiful vivid translucent colour and are permanent once dry as well. The patch of deep red on the left side of the page and the peach colour at the bottom are made with the same block but at different dilutions.

The top layer shows the flexibility of Gesso: I used it adhere and texturise text and tissue paper; I pressed a stencil into it – then just splodged it and made marks. Its consistency means that it is fab for creating interesting textures.

Another technique that most people enjoyed making an image transfer using Acrylic Medium; several people actually bought some gel before leaving.

I had some really interesting conversations and gave several people the details of the Artist’s Playgroup so we might have a few new faces.  A young girl came along with her Grandma and was fascinated with the possibilities that I showed her with gesso – I cut a quick tree template out of a piece of paper swiped some gesso through it, this was followed with a spritz of spray ink. The result? A colourful 3D christmas tree.

 I think it took about 2 minutes from finding a bit of scrap paper and cutting a quick tree shape out to the final result – the main point was to give a few ideas – and as a largish (1litre) tub of gesso costs less than £13 – it is a lot cheaper than most specialist texture pastes.

Altogether it was a great day – one of the nicest things being that a couple of friends made a special trip to see me – thank you Cheryl and Sharon. I look forward to doing it again.

WOYWW – Warning! Full Frontal Messy Desk.

The Dark Underbelly of a Mixed Media Artist’s Workspace…

mixed media chaosIf you’d like to join in with this great blog hop you need to visit the lovely Julia at Stamping Ground – go on have a peek – it’s fun. There is a ton of stuff just piled here – the orange folder is full of cling stamps – the best way I’ve found to keep them organised. To be honest I can’t even remember why the cat food box is there! 🙂 The most interesting thing -I reckon is my latest bargain from Tindalls the red handled mini foam roller – it came with four swap-able heads for less than £3.00 – now I can cut one about or wrap it for different effects!

Well the previously tidy desk couldn’t last – but on the up side I have been making lots of stuff! Quick set change and Ta Dah!

I decided to attack the blank page monster – by doing backgrounds in three books all at once and I highly recommend it!

The back journal is in a fantastic Spanish Art History book – it has really thick pages with a waffle texture and line drawings of old buildings. My top tip is – Wimpole Hall they have a fantastic Second Hand Book Shop where their sale books are less than a pound.

The central one is a big Moleskine that I’ve been scared to tackle for ages and the front one is a Paperchase book – I really love working on brown paper or kraft – though the pages have to be gessoed to allow any media to move around.

I have come upon a way of getting quite a layered look using just a couple of magic ingredients and I’d love to share – so look out for a step-by-step tutorial over the next few days.

So what are your favourite background making materials? Please share.

Art Journaling – 10 things you might want to know…

What is Art Journalling?

The short ( if overly esoteric) answer is that Art Journalling is a record of your existence in time and space.

This can be a terrifying thing – like facing an unknown planet without a map, or any idea if the aliens are friendly.  So here are some markers for the terrain we’re covering here.

1. It generally involves some kind of image and words.

2. It can happen in a book/journal or on loose paper.

3. Anything that can be attached to the page is fair game.

4. The page can broadly consist of five parts.

5. A Background (something to soften up the scary white page so it can’t bite anymore).

This background is made in an altered book, general smooshing of Gesso and stuff here.

6. A Focal Image or Images. This is shorthand for ‘the thing that stands out most on the page – that you notice first’.

This queen is by Lily at Octopode - the Lion came in bits by me.

7. Some Text – in any form – it might even have been written and then obliterated by layers of stuff on top of it.

8. Layers – Bits of stuff stuck down, stamping, paint splatters, coffee cup rings – (real or pretend – obviously the real one is more slobby and therefore infinitely more desirable! :-))

9. Borders and Doodling – Give the simplest thing a frame and it creates a bit of magic. As for doodling we all doodle it (sorry, couldn’t resist!) so lets celebrate it!

This is a doodled border.

10. Or NONE of the above. It’s YOUR Journal; YOUR Space; A place to sneak up on yourself and find out what YOU think and who YOU are.

If you already Art Journal – Have I missed any vital information?

If you don’t is there anything else you would like to know? Of course you could always come to one of my Workshops and find out!


Let’s Sneak Out for Art

Cambridge Artists’ Playgroup

Thats what 9 people did on Wednesday. Usually the ‘Cambridge Artists’ Playgroup’ meets every three weeks but as it’s the summer and I needed a fix of Art and great company I put out a call for an extra one.

mixed media, art journalling, papier mache and zentangling

This time some of us brought projects that we had started but not finished, or even thought about and not got around to starting – by the end of the evening we had finished or almost finished projects and two new players had learned the gentle art of zentangling.

Ann didn’t even know what a zentangle was before tonight – what a beautiful image she created.

This is Alexis’ beautiful piece – simple, and kind of mesmerising.

papier macheLiz is making a bowl – which she will paint and then use image transfers to decorate – we learned about image transfers a couple of weeks ago.

acrylic and pastelSharon has been playing with this for a while it really came on tonight.

We also chatted and drank some good coffee. Thank you everyone – I’m looking forward to next Wednesday.

So where do you like to make Art? Would you enjoy getting together with other Artists to make sure that you make Art rather than just think about it?

If you are interested in joining us check out this link – Cambridge Artists’ Playgroup




Mixed Media Workshops and What’s on your Workdesk Wednesday

It’s What’s On Your Workdesk Wednesday – If you’d like the opportunity to have a peek at other desks around the world visit Julia here. My  desk – still reasonably  tidy – a miracle in my house has been the site of quite a lot of activity. At the back of the picture are copies of the flyers for the Workshops I am running over the Summer –  All the details are here.

I’m enjoying playing with some background techniques in my Art Journal. I’ve discovered a couple of new things to do with gesso recently so I’ve been experimenting. The other thing I’ve been doing is using my home made walnut ink that I made back in the autumn. It’s made a great background for this bird piece I’ve been fiddling with.  It started with an image transfer of the bird that hadn’t turned out too well but as with a lot of things adding lots of layers has improved it alot. And now I really quite like it.

Mixed Media Art Journal backgrounds

I’ve added a bit of crackle accents to bring out the foreground. So that’s my desk for today…Happy WOYWW!

Cambridge Artists’ Playgroup

How can I describe “Cambridge Artists’ Playgroup’? It began a few months ago through the Meetup site. I was looking for a way to get together with some other like-minded folks on a regular basis. Art Workshops are great – but they’re often some distance away, cost money and are over in a day or so. I wanted to build a community in real life.

First I searched on Meetup to see if something was happening already – but no, not with hands on arty stuff. Through another coincidence I found  ‘The Missing Sock’ which turned out to be the perfect venue.

We have the wisdom room on a Wednesday Evening from 7.30pm til late every third week.  It is a no pressure space to play with arty stuff. I plan a theme for each session bring along some products and we try out a few techniques. It’s also a space to work on and share your own projects or some materials if you like.

Last night’s theme was ‘Resistance is Useful!’ (if you are a proper Star Trek fan you will appreciate the reference – if not, oops I’ve just flashed my inner Nerd! 🙂

We were using resist techniques; embossing powders, embossing ink, wax paper, stamping etc.

Partners are welcome – mine is the one taking the photo. When are very lucky another one serenades us on guitar. (Thanks Steve!) Hugh, the owner of The Sock is an excellent host and  even offers free tea and coffee during the evening.

So, if you are in the area and fancy  a Free Workshop/ Playshop let me know.