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Talking About Texture: I’ve Been Playing With Arnall-Culliford Knitwear’s Latest Yarn

Talking About Texture: I’ve Been Playing With Arnall-Culliford Knitwear’s Latest Yarn

I’ve just heard, by way of newsletter heralding good news, that the latest line of yarn from Arnall-Culliford Knitwear has been released for sale, and I’m excited because it’s really, really good. I have been lucky enough to have an early play with Something To […]

The Craft Snack Drawer

The Craft Snack Drawer

When I migrated from my old website to this one, I did so because I wanted a safe space to write about the things that were important to me. A lot of my writing is about the things I make, either as handmade projects, art […]

The Roundybirb Project

The Roundybirb Project

More than a decade ago I learned to draw in Photoshop. I’ve used Photoshop for the creation of illustrations and graphics far more than I have used it for photo editing. It was all I had access to at the time, and so that was what I used. It wasn’t really the right tool for the job, and so when I finally gained access to an (old) version of Illustrator a number of years ago I thought I would attempt to learn that. Nope. For two programmes from the same suite of products, the way they implement the pen tool so differently just threw me each time I tried to learn. I could not do it. The fact that I haven’t owned a mouse or any input other than a trackpad for well over a decade probably did not help, but, whatever the actual reason, I hated Illustrator almost as much as it hated me.

After a few very poorly days had me stuck in bed for a time this month I decided I was going to have another crack at it, but this time, I was going to skip the pen tool (for the time being, anyway).

So I took a few quick tutorials on Tutsplus with the genius intention of skipping over the pen tool entirely, for now at least. It’s actually pretty impressive the amount you can achieve with a few basic geometric shapes and the ability to warp and distort them in a number of ways.

After a couple of tutorials I decide I was going to draw a bird, and I was going to compose it of simple shapes chopped, merged and fitted together. With this in mind I started with a very simple canvas to build the bird upon: a perfect circle.

I sketched my first bird out in pencil, trying to break it’s constituent parts and markings down to simple geometric shapes that would sit mostly within a circle, but with certain defining characteristics (usually beak, tail and feet, and sometimes wings) extending beyond. Once I had my design I tried to replicate it in Adobe Illustrator, and the first Roundybirb was born. Why ‘birb’? Because of the internet.

In a recent post I gave details of the process of sketching and then creating one of the birds in Illustrator in a 60 second video, which also went onto show the next part of the process: cutting the birds from paper. This added the greatest complexity into making the birds as each of the layers have to fit and line up exactly, and windows have to be formed for one colour to make way for a colour further down, which then may need another portion removed to make way for another colour a further two, three, four or more colour layers down.

Every time I think I have just about got a handle on the layering issue, I get completely stumped at how to arrange and cut the layers for a bird that at first seemed simple. Each bird is different. With different shapes, different markings and a different way in which the shapes and colours lay alongside each other. I did think I might find a process to making them that worked for each bird, and though there are a few replicable steps, each one is essentially a process of learning the whole thing from scratch once again, and I have had to perform a good old ‘start over’ a number of times. It’s all good as an opportunity to learn.

So, this is my current ‘big’ project. I embark on one in some form or another each year, often based around birds. In December of last year I slowly painted bird watercolour miniatures, that I eventually gave to my mother for her birthday (she has a bird phobia, but she promised me that these did not count).

The year previous to that I drew a different bird on my living room window with a chalk pen every day through December. I don’t have any good pictures of the completed double window as it turns out windows are a particularly difficult surface to photograph with an older smartphone camera, but here are a couple of my favourite photos from that month.

All of my bird projects are dedicated, in at least some way, to my grandad. He adored birds. Not to go out and track down and follow rare birds, just the simple joy of watching them in the garden or the park. I tend to start a new bird project in December, when I miss him most. This year, I found that a difficult time hit me in July, so my birds have come to visit earlier in the year, and for now, they are still arriving.

So, that’s how I’m working through some tough times now, supported by a lot of help from others, in many forms. Every message that has reminded me that I am worthy has helped. Every note to tell me that I can get through things has been just a little cushion. And practical help, too. I’ve had help from someone who has sent me cardstock from their stash (brown cardstock, folks… it’s a rare and precious commodity) so that I can cut more birds. A friend fixed my site after I broke it (and it partly broke itself) and I have the most amazing biscuits for when I just need a biscuit and tea, and stickers for my little boy because this affects more than just me, and an emergency craft stash for when I need to make something without being too creative myself.

As silly as it may sound, these birds are helping. Though I need to be in a relatively calm and together place when I think the layering through, especially, just having created something big seems to have helped. I don’t know what I shall do with them all yet, if indeed I can do anything with them. In fact, when writing this post, I was trying to remember the name of a little, very round bird in nature that someone alerted me to a few days ago (a Bearded Reedling, fact fans) when I found Round Birds, and it’s kind of knocked  a few of my ideas backwards. Maybe there really is nothing new under the sun. Obviously they’re not quite the same as my roundybirbs, and I think the markings of the round birds are composed entirely of circles and arcs, quite an achievement, but I think they are likely cousins. I’m trying not to let it take the wind out of my sails.

For now, I hope I can find the motivation to keep making all of the roundybirbs on my list, and keep learning more of Illustrator each time a problem needs solving. One day, I may even draw a square.

Toddler Craft: Colourful Paper Leaves

Toddler Craft: Colourful Paper Leaves

Our last big toddler crafting project, the Tissue Paper Watercolour Rainbow, was such a big hit both for the fun creative process and finished piece that I decided to play with the technique a bit more for our next project together. This time I thought […]

Why I Miss Being A Yayii

Why I Miss Being A Yayii

When my son started to learn to babble, he picked up syllables in a fairly standard way. ‘Mama’ came before ‘dada’, though, which is a less common ordering, and in my son’s parlance meant ‘I am sad and want comforting’, which as a Mama I […]

Paper & Found Twig Art Of A Garden Bird

Paper & Found Twig Art Of A Garden Bird

A good friend and very special person to me recently commented that she loved the blue tit papercuts I had been working on. They were not intended for any particular project and I hadn’t yet worked out what, if anything, I could do with them. A natural first idea is often to turn small cut figures into greetings card toppers, but I thought I’d have a go at framing one instead.

I recently made a bit of 3D wall art for the home and used an Ikea RIBBA box frame to hold the finished piece, and thought another would work well for the blue tit picture. I decided that the happy little round bird should be sat on a branch, and that there should be some blossom and spring leaves to signify growth and hope.

For the branch I considered a selection of possible windfall sticks collected from the garden (toddlers are the greatest stick collectors of all) and chose the handsomest stick of those that found. I drew up a few simple blossom and leaf shapes in illustrator and put score lines on them so I could give them a bit of added dimension with a few well-placed creases, and arranged the elements in the frame with a gentle watercolour background.

I really love this simple arrangement, and the mixture of materials, and I thought this tiny bird had found his perfect spot to sing. Unfortunately his perch broke a little whilst he was migrating south (perhaps due to the uncommonly dry spell of weather that we have been having in the UK and the stick I had chosen being too dry and brittle) so I am taking a lot of advice on where to find sustainable sticks without damaging trees, as I don’t want to remove living bits of tree, and using ‘green’ wood sticks, and various, more flexible alternative wood sticks. I may try this again in a few weeks and send a friend on the same journey to see if another birdy might have a better journey.

 


Coddswallop

Our First Two Years Together

Our First Two Years Together

It’s been two years since our family grew by one. I think we were always a family, Russell and I. From, perhaps, the day that I felt like I trusted in his goodness to let go of that little bit of certainty and security of the path I was on, soon to have my own little place to live, and took the leap that I could trust in this human to be good and to care and love enough that I could uproot once more and move in with him to a pokey little cold flat in Whitley Bay. Boy it was cold. And it was so tiny! But perhaps it was my favourite of all the places that I have lived due to it being where our story began and the first place in which I had felt safe in a very, very long time.

But my favourite chapters of the story so far all burst into colour two years ago when a tiny human popped into our world, a mixture of Russell and I. This whopping great blackcurrant stained baby shot into the world at a faster rate than I could really handle it. But after all the worry and panic there lay this 9lb bruise with a wrinkle for a nose and Russell and I cradled pure love in our arms. It had not been so very long previously that I did not think that I could trust anyone to truly love in my lifetime, and now I had these two pillars of love, one huge and protecting and one (not so very) tiny, heartbeat fluttering fast upon my chest, and I knew that I would never feel the same again. And our family was strong.

I truly love being a parent, but as so many people will tell you, parenthood is tough. Gosh, yes we have our off days. Tired, grumpy days, days of illness and the mystery maladies of baby and toddlerhood, sometimes that write themselves apparent three days after the screams and sobs with a scarlet rash and sometimes which manifest on no physical symptoms that you will ever detect and are put down to some mystical condition which may or may not have existed. And you are always, always doing it wrong. So says that lady in the supermarket, or the health visitor who you’ve known for four minutes of your life, or that relation who’d do that differently, or the neighbour who is old enough to remember when babies did not cry because in those days 10 month old babies did as they were instructed, and probably earned their keep down the mines at the same time.

If my little boy knows or feels anything I would hope it is just how perfectly I love him and that I love learning from him more than from any of those people. I hope that Russell and I can teach him, above all else, how to be kind, how to be thoughtful and how to have empathy for all the people whose lives touch on his. I do not expect that as he grows and natually makes mistakes for him to always be good, or that he will always make the right choice, but I do so hope that we will always have time to put three chairs around the table and to talk about how we feel and how others might feel, and the effect of our actions on others. And from him I am learning how to best see the world anew. How the most basic and fundamental feelings that I have can be best nurtured and put to use. I am tougher in my resolve to surround myself with good and kind people and to not let damaging influences into our lives without guard, and to that end I have a strong determination to stand up for my family and to know when to say ‘no more’.

I hope that our third year together will be one of greater learning and growth. I hope it will be full of rainbows and colour, but when there are grey days that we can make things better with love and understanding. I hope that that there will be laughter, kindness, and, importantly, dinosaurs.

 

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