Wednesday, 22 June 2016

DIY Coasters

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Macmillan have created a new fundraising campaign called ‘Summer Lights’ – and it’s all about celebrating the people who light up your life and raising money for them at the same time. Macmilllan Cancer Support are a wonderful charity so when I heard about this, I really wanted to share it with you guys. It’s a lovely idea to bring people together and raise money to those who are affected by cancer – by having a good time and helping out a great cause too. I’ve created an easy coaster DIY that will be perfect for a get together – whether you use them inside as you sit on the sofa clutching a cup of tea while having a good old natter or outside on your patio enjoying a chilled out summers evening. These would also make really lovely gifts – make four and then tie them up with ribbon – you could even sell them and raise money that way.


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Step by step

It’s a really simple project and if you use oven-bake clay rather than air dry then it takes even less time. I used air dry clay and just left them outside in the sun to dry but it’s personal preference, or whatever you have to hand. Here are the step by steps, though the pictures are pretty self-explanatory too!

Take a piece of your clay and roll it out to a thickness of between 0.25 to 0.5cm – you could make these thinner but we want them to be sturdy enough not to be break or snap. I used a glass bottle to roll out my clay and used small pieces of clay rather than one large one as it was easier to handle. Take a circle cutter or a small dish that is 5cm in diameter and cut out your circles – I used a craft knife and small up and down motions instead of going in one long cut. Don’t worry about this being perfect – once they’re completely dry, just sand down the edges with a piece of sandpaper to smooth out any lumps or bumps. Using your tape, place this on to your clay so it separates one large and one small section. Fill this in with nail polish, and leave it to dry for 10 seconds or so before peeling off the tape – you could paint this freehand but I like the clean lines that this technique give. You can continue on in this way with adding more and more colours but be careful that the tape doesn’t peel off any colour that you’ve already put down.
Make sure you seal your coasters once the paint is dried so they withstand use – I used ModPodge for this. I wouldn’t recommend PVA – I did that once and it smudged the paint and ruined the design so an official sealant is definitely the way to go!


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#summerlights

If you’re giving these as presents or selling them, they look lovely when they’re stacked together and tied with a large ribbon. If you have your own ‘Summer Lights’ night or try your hand at this DIY, send me a photo on Twitter because I’d absolutely love to see! You can learn more about the Summer Lights for Macmillan campaign here and be sure to use the hashtag #summerlights too.


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Sunday, 12 June 2016

Six months

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I can’t quite believe we’ve reached the half way mark of 2016 already. I know, I know, it’s so cliché to say that the time goes by so quickly and it speeds up as you get older – but hey, it’s true, I honestly don’t know where the year has gone. Seeing as we’re six months down the line, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look back on the resolutions I made back at the start of the year and see how I’m progressing.

My word for the year is ‘Push’. I’ve had months where it’s been a struggle to get out of bed and push on with the day – I guess I hinted to that in a previous post. So that probably means I’ve not quite as far along with my goals as I would have liked, or intended to be. But that’s ok. Let’s just recap and reshuffle if needs be.




Push my body

Ok. So this one has probably been my least successful resolution. Last year I really did feel good in terms of my body – with personal training and home routines. I just haven’t got back in to it. Once you’ve stopped, it’s harder to start. I know that’s no excuse, I just haven’t found the motivation. The good news is, I’ve made steps to tackle this head on. If I don’t feel motivated to exercise on my own, at home, and I don’t have the money for a personal trainer, why not a group class? I’ve always wanted to try Pilates. I decided to book an 8 week course at my local studio and I’ve had two classes now – after my first class I could 100% tell this was for me! I’m so pleased to have signed up to this and can already feel the benefits. I finally bit the bullet and pushed myself out of my comfort zone and I’m proud of that.




Push in the kitchen

So far this year, I’ve mostly felt guilty when I’ve been in the kitchen and definitely haven’t been inspired to cook. I struggled with simple meals I already knew, let alone try new ones! I think I’ve only tried one new recipe this year, which is pretty shameful. Most of this year I’ve not felt motivated and have resorted to takeaways or unhealthy chuck-in-the-oven meals. The guilt I feel about it isn’t good, but I’m hoping to feel more motivated and fall back in love with cooking.




Push creatively

I haven’t been blogging, which is usual creative output, but I have been creating. More so in recent months, I’ve had little bursts of creativity and actually created things for me – personal projects, designing logos just for fun and illustrating just ‘cos. This can definitely be improved and I’m feeling inspired to keep it going, so fingers crossed! I was thinking of setting a little challenge to myself to draw something everyday – even if it’s just a doodle or a quick sketch, at least I’ll be drawing. It doesn’t have to be good, and I don’t have to share it, but I wonder whether it will help me.




Push out of my comfort zone

I started the year off really well with this one. Then, not so much. With the push of going to the Pilates classes on my own I feel like I’m tackling this one again – I’ve just got to remember not to let myself get too comfortable and continue just doing ‘safe’ things. I don’t like challenges per se but certainly pushing myself to do things I wouldn’t normally do every now and again is a good start for me.




How are you doing with your resolutions? I think it’s always a good idea to ‘check in’ on how you’re doing (whether you blog it or not) and change anything that maybe isn’t quite working. We’re all learning and adapting so I don’t think there’s anything wrong if you’re not doing as well as you hoped – let’s jump back in as best as we can and try again.


Sunday, 5 June 2016

5 tips to improve your hand lettering

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One. Relax

It’s always a bit nerve-wracking having a blank piece of paper in front of you, no matter how many times you’ve practiced. I like to try and be loose with my lettering, I don’t push down too hard with my pencil and I try to relax my wrist. I find that being lighter and more delicate with my strokes (before I then find a line I am happy with and going over that with more definition) helps give the words a more organic feel and the end result looks a lot more natural.




Two. Vary the height

Hand in hand with creating an organic piece of lettering comes with varying the height of the characters. Though it’s natural and important in typography to create words that have the same character height, you can be a lot more relaxed about hand lettering and the result is far more aesthetically pleasing. Dip the descenders of the characters so they come down lower than the baseline, and take the stems of the longer letters and add swashes as big as you like at the top. Similarly, if you have two letters in a word that have descenders, try not to make them exactly the same. For example, if I have a word with a g and y, I try to make the loops look different and add distinctive swirls or swashes so they’re not identical.




Three. The right tools and materials

Though these things aren’t the biggest factor in your hand lettering, they can make a difference. Everyone is different and we all have our own preferences, so I’d definitely recommend trying out a few paper stocks and different drawing tools to find your favourites. Though cheap printer paper with a low gsm is good for loose sketches, for final pieces I prefer paper of a much heavier weight. If you’re tracing rough lineart, using a lightbox will help massively in order for you to see through the paper, otherwise it’s easier to use light-weight paper. Generally, for lettering, it’s easier to use smooth paper, particularly for line art. Textured paper can be used if you’re using ink or watercolour, though my preference is always smooth as you can be more precise with your lines.

A lot of creatives use mechanical pencils for sketching as they keep a nice sharp point, though personally I am more inclined to go with a soft pencil, like a 2B, and then sharpen it out later on. If you’re inking your final piece, the pen you use will largely depend on the style you’re going for. A dip pen and ink is great for a traditional look, though it takes some practice. A brush pen helps create varying strokes with ease, or a fineliner can be used for outlines and you can fill it in as you wish.




Four. Inspiration

While we all know it’s important not to plagiarise – it can be good to copy. If you are browsing Pinterest and see a particular quote or font that you love, copy it down. Take your sketchbook and draw the curves of the letters. What is it you like about the font? Is it the particular way it flows, the ligatures are large or they’ve done a specific letter differently to how you normally would? Practice creating different letters on your own using it as inspiration. It’s easy when creating your own lettering to stick to one style, and this is a great way to improve your art and discover new methods that you may not have thought of otherwise. (Though it’s important to note, copying something directly with intentions of selling or displaying it as your own, is not ok. We’re just using it as practice here).




Five. Digital enhancement

There isn’t anything wrong with a bit of digital touch-up. The knowledge of being able to fix mistakes later on gives me a lot of additional freedom when creating artwork (unless of course, you’re planning on selling the original). Generally though, it means that we can be more relaxed and if we do make mistakes, we don’t need to start again. I scan all my artwork in to the computer so I have a digital copy, and then use Photoshop for any adjustment. The eraser tool is perfect for touching up any wobbly lines or accidental scribbles, and I also like to adjust the curves to increase the contrast between the lineart and the paper. These little digital enhancements will help your final artwork look professional and finished. Of course, if you’re unhappy with the drawing in the first place, taking it on to the computer won’t fix any big mistakes, so make sure you’re happy with the framework of the design before scanning it in.


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Friday, 3 June 2016

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Here's to tomorrow

I feel like I’ve been absent for 2016, so far. I know that’s a weird thing to say, but I honestly believe I haven’t been ‘all there’, in a mental sense. You know you have days sometimes where you just float around and you do the things you’re meant to do but your mind isn’t in it? ‘How can I live a life if my hearts not in it’ has been bouncing around in my head (thanks Oasis), and I’ve struggled with that a lot this year so far. I’m not saying that we’ve got six months through the year and things are cured and I am better now. But there are things that have changed and I’m hoping this will allow me to start again. It doesn’t mean there’s been a monumental, life-changing event. but sometimes one change is enough to shift your perspective.

I know this is all very cryptic, but remember when I wrote this post back in December about not knowing what to share on the blog? My creativity faded away and my inspiration was zapped. I’ve literally been a walking zombie since about November. With that, this space has been neglected. I haven’t shared anything on my blog, let alone felt the confusion between what to share. Most of the time I haven’t felt like I’ve missed it. That’s not to say I don’t, or haven’t ever, enjoyed blogging – quite the opposite. Sometimes, I suppose, you just need a break. I felt obliged to post but I know it’s been sporadic and it’s pretty clear that my hearts not been in it. I’ve had this blog for six years now and it’s been a huge factor of my life. This (whatever ‘this’ is) didn’t need an acknowledgement, I guess, but I feel like I owed it. This year I’ve asked myself ‘What’s the point?’ far too much. I questioned everything. Creativity, blogging, writing, existing. If you’re going through this right now, here’s a quote that helped me (because I know it’s a lonely feeling and the whole weight of the world feels like it’s solely on you) – ‘You have to do this on your own, but you are not alone'.

I don’t want this post to be all doom and gloom. I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t feel better. I have a clearer mind today, and maybe I will have a clearer mind tomorrow, or maybe I won’t. Take each day as it comes, as they say.

My lovely friend Debbie shared a video with me last week (here’s a link), and it’s about holding a cup. How you can hold a cup full of water, and that doesn’t change, but the longer you hold it, the heavier it feels. And it’s true. The longer I held, the heavier it felt - the heavier I felt. I feel like I’ve managed to put the glass down for a brief moment. I’ve emptied some of it out to another glass now. I’ll still be holding on to it, and maybe it will refill and we’ll be back here again. But it feels manageable, for now, at least.

Thank you, lovely readers, for sticking around. The friendship and support I’ve had from family, friends in real life and friends on Twitter has been insurmountable, and I am so grateful. If you’re struggling, reach out. It feels impossible until you do it. Sometimes the internet is horrible, and mean, and scary. But if you look in the right places, there are people there to help, and you’ll feel supported and less alone.

Here’s a link to the wonderful people at Mind, and the Samaritans. If you feel like getting lost in a book that makes your head nod constantly and find someone who really, really gets it, have a read of ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig. Or, simply send me a tweet or email, and I’ll listen.

Here’s to tomorrow.




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