My old studio workspace

I’m currently undergoing some ‘big’ life changes and I’ve just moved house which has prompted me to document my old workspace for posterity.

My drawing table

I  worked between these two desks. One for drawing , stitching / making and the other a computer desk for writing and my digital work, like photo editing, digital colouring,  etc. My drawing table was lit by natural light from a skylight window, while the computer desk was tucked under the shade of the slanted attic ceiling.

My computer desktop

Pinned up around my workspace were postcards and images that inspired me, reminding me of favourite places and people.

Postcards and wall art

The back of the door was covered with cards,  prints,  and gig mementos. Like my tins all these biz cards , postcards and greetings cards remind me of who and where they came from.

Door of my studio

Boxes of paperwork, personal mementos, old letters and the remnants of tape cassettes collection and a stereo player I kept stashed under my tables. But my guitar was on show in front of my bookcase of  reference books, technique and art books, and all the magazines I’ve ever appeared in.

My guitar & shelfie

On top of the book-case my old friends: the Crow and Edward Scissorhands, ponies and pumpkins. This little tour has reminded me of all the things I hold dear; music, people, places and memories. I hope whatever my next workspace will be is less cluttered, but I really don’t think that’s me somehow.

Edward Scissorhands and friends

As the post goes live these walls are blank and this room empty. I’m looking forwards to my change of scene for so many reasons- but the process of moving is still very stressful. Sometimes I forget to eat and have been keeping cereal bars on hand to keep me on an even keel.  The Nakd bars are my current favourites btw,and they are worth considering if you are planning going on a wheat free diet for a while, as I sometimes do to help with my IBS symptoms. (These are not your usual bars as they are made from cold pressed fruit and nuts, yummy, but I urge caution if you are sensitive to fiber).
I expect this blog to become a more personal space in the coming months, and I’m not sure yet what new shape it will take.  But I do hope you’ll wish me luck with all my changes! B.x

Things I collect- Pretty Tins

I’m not sure when this started exactly, but it seems that I collect novelty tins. The smaller the better, and I incorporate them into my crafty and creative life. I discovered them housing everything from jewellery and make-up, to needles and pens, as well as being project containers for embroidery works.

Pretty Tin collection

I love that these tins remind me of who or where they came from, the Ghost Busters tin was a recent acquisition from my friend Dave, the strange manga style needle tin from my brother Robert, the Nautical But Nice tin I nicked from Clare. Others are souvenirs from other people’s holidays like the chocolate tin from Bruges, and even the odd one from my own (I picked up a cute Breakfast at Tiffanys tin in Edinburgh recently).

Pretty Tins- and their contents

I’ve even been known to buy make up for the container. Here’s a recent example from my dressing table, the Benefit Groovy Kinda Love set. What I didn’t realise is the power of suggestion it had over me.  Just look at the hand mirror I bought as a joke! And it turns out the image on the tin itself was subconsciously reminding me of  this poster I photographed in Harlem.

Benefit make-up tin and mirror

I’d say at least half of the tins in my collection have been gifted to me , (like the Bagpuss tin a leaving present from 2001), but it looks like I bought the rest of them myself. Like these cute Hello Kitty tins I got from the local discount bookstore and pound shop respectively.

Hello Kitty Sewing tins
There are so many more tins that didn’t make it into this post. Enough for another ! And something tells me I’m not about to stop collecting them anytime soon. I guess the moral of the story is: Sometimes you don’t realise you’re a collector until you’re packing things up to move! Do you have any odd collections, something you’ll always compulsively just pick up?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

90s leather chokers

Leather Jewellery – 90’s Style

I’ve been craving some 90’s style leather jewellery and  decided to make some for myself. I experimented with various thicknesses of leather from 1mm to 5mm making everything from bracelets to necklaces and choker style pendants. To stop the bracelets looking too plain or a little to A-ha I wrapped them with Krenik  1/16″ metallic ribbon floss.

90s style leather braclets

I bought the leather thong and ready-made clasps from the Bead Shop Online. I have fond memories of visiting their real life store in Afflecks Palace, Manchester in my student days. For the most part I was just messing around, recreating the types of accessories I liked as a teenager. I didn’t  have any pieces pre-planned but I had a couple of items I knew I wanted to include; like this heavy metal skull bead.

90s style Skull bead choker

And my fossil pendant  originally bought in Cambridge, which has been used in various necklaces over time. I probably have it around 15 years and I always think of it as my little tribute to the Nine Inch Nails Downward Spiral. (One of my all time favourite records).

Fossil and leather necklace- downward spiral

I even made some earrings using found and repurposed charms. (Notice my little nod to my embroidery practice there?)  I’m a terrible magpie and I have a tendency to hoard shiny things that I then never use!

Charm earrings


I’ve come to the conclusion that Jewelry making isn’t the best hobby for me. It fills me with guilt when I look at my lovely stones that I can’t bear to split up to work with, and I get stressed out in the middle of making a piece when I discover I don’t have all the pieces I need,  (like the wrong colour findings, or I don’t have the right bail for a pendant, or extension loops ). So it feels like I’m always having to buy in components. I have plenty of ideas for pieces but unless I make them straight away they don’t get made.  This recent flurry of actively was spurred on by a sense of ‘use it or lose it’. I’m moving house soon and I’m considering handing over my supplies to my sister for a while- to assuage the guilt of things bought but not made.

So do you think I’m being crazy, or am I better off letting this stuff go to someone who might make a better go of it that me? Do you have any hobbies that drive you nuts? What did you do about it? Tell me about it in the comments.

Tula Lotay- Dirge- Art Book

Inspiring Artists – Tula Lotay

Tula Lotay is the nom-de-plume of comic artist Lisa Wood. I’ve been following her work on instagram now for sometime and when she announced a collector edition art book of prints I knew I had to have one. I was heart broken to have missed her limited run of Blade Runner prints so I can’t tell you how pleased I was that this was the postcard she chose to include with my book ! The art book is small, about the dimensions of a CD, but its a beautifully produced  featuring a lovely selection of  over 40 sketches and full colour works.

Tula Lotay- Dirge- Art Book

I first became aware of Tula Lotay in her capacity as the originator and organiser of the Thought Bubble  Festival Leeds. (One of my favourite comic festivals which sees its 5th year this November and I’ll be in attendance- but more about that another time). Lotay is also the manager of comic store Travelling Man and an all round good egg, but more pertinently to this blog post a fantastic a comic artist in her own right.

jane- tula lotay

Lotay’s work really caught my eye – it’s hardly surprising that her pop culture portraits would speak to me. But I also love her unique blend of digital and traditional technique, which leaves one wondering if the final work is pen and paper or wacom tablet in origin. I’d hazard a  guess that Lotay sketches by hand and then transfers to the computer for colouring and further manipulation.

Scarlet-Tula Lotay

She has a keen eye for design and her work never takes on that ‘too perfect’ look that digital techniques can bring, preferring instead to emulate brush and paint, and using the digital element to play tricks like pixellated backgrounds and ‘double exposure’ style tricks that computer manipulation is perfect for.

Tula Lotay Illustration

As a lifelong comic reader growing up it could be a bit of a boys world.  Things are different now, its much more common for girls to be involved in comic fandom and making, but they are still a little underrepresented in the industry.  So I’m proud to see a woman like Lisa so prominent in UK comics, not only for raising awareness through one of my favourite cons, but  as an influential up and coming artist herself .

Louise Brooks- Tula Lotay

Tuta Lotay is currently working on two comic book titles,  Supreme Blue Rose with Warren Ellis & the ‘Bodies’ miniseries for DC Vertigo. I’ll hazard a guess that these are two of the best looking comics in print right now.

supreme blue rose- tula lota with warren ellis

You can visit Tula Lotay’s site here , follow her on instagram here, and buy prints and art books here. All images in the post are copyright of Tula Lotay and are reproduced with kind permission.  I’ll leave you with another of my favourite Blade Runner inspired images, this time of Rachel, with a rather ghostly looking Deckard behind.

Rachel and Deckard- tula lotay

Have you discovered any great new artists recently? I’d love to hear about them. Feel free to give ‘em a shout out in the comments below.

Portrait Quilt by Mark & Bridget Mann FoQ 2014

Review-Festival of Quilts 2014

I recently attended the Festival of Quilts at the Birmingham NEC where I also exhibited my City of Culture Heritage Quilt. I was glad to have seen the Festival after hearing about it in glowing terms for so many years now.

Cherry & Cinnamon at the Festival of Quilts 2014

I’m sure for a quilter this event is the highlight of the year, but one day was plenty for me, not being a quilter myself (I designed all the fabrics and the pattern of my quilt). In terms of stalls and sellers the FoQ is much like the Knitting & Stitching show but with more emphasis on fabric suppliers, sewing machines and gadget demonstrations, and of course  the workshops and talks which are all patchwork and quilting specific.

Bowie- Ziggy Quilt FoQ 2014 by Ann Beech


The main draw for me are the exhibitions of quilting and textile art – which I was encouraged to see featured a lot of modern and experimental styles and techniques.Of course I was drawn to the quilts that featured pop culture references and icons. I could hardly pass up the chance to photograph this David Bowie quilt by Ann Beech!

Classic Video Game quilts - FoQ 2014


It was also interesting to see how notions of pixel art are transposed into textile art, like these classic computer game quilts featuring Pac-Man and Mario.  This is something you see a lot these days with cross stitch, but it works well with quilt blocks too. This blown up image of the face of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ is a perfect example.

David Quilt & Detail FoQ 2014

Like a large impressionist painting it’s best viewed from farther away to really get the full effect of the image. Many visitors were thrilled to see the effect through their digital camera’s artificial perspective, myself included. If you got closer to this piece you’d see it was quilted using words written over every inch of the patchwork. I wish I knew what it said.

Creature Quilts - FoQ 2014

Actually I wish there had been information about inspiration and making beside each of the quilts, so that you could learn more and appreciate the work better. If I had one major complaint about the exhibition it was this. Competition exhibition listings were by number and name – making it hard to learn anything at all without a show guide- (which cost £7 and there were no pictures, not even of winners).  So apologies for not being able to supply names for each of my examples shown here- if you recognise them feel free to tell me who the maker is in the comments and I’ll make sure to credit the work to them.

Detail Fire and Ice Quilt-FoQ 2014

Lots of quilts featured creatures, and I was also impressed by the quilts that had lots of metallic threads and rhinestone picking out details in stunning works of free motion quilting and embroidery. Like this one shown above. I think it was called Fire and Ice , a really stunning piece with a black and white checker board border. So sparkly and intricate.

Memento Mori- Textile clock- FoQ 2014

Another piece ripe with details that drew in the crowds was this wonderful free-standing textile time piece entitled Memento Mori. I loved picking out all the little features, specimen jars, eggs and egg timers, a book of days, skulls and a swinging pendulum heart stabbed through by needles. A really lovely piece that defies the regular definitions of textile art.

Portrait Quilt by Mark & Bridget Mann FoQ 2014

Another of my favourites was this portrait quilt by two person team Mark and Bridget Mann, entitled ‘Dear Mrs Morcom’. I would love to know  the story behind  this piece as well as the techniques involved in the making- there were lots of different screen printed faces and text in the fabrics that made up the portrait that was very intriguing. I also have a soft spot for chevron quilts so I thought this one was very clever.

Atelier M+M Butterfly-Paper Quilt Detail FoQ 2014

Finally this ‘paper quilt’ by Judith Mundwiler and Gabi Mett, had a very tactile quality (promise I didn’t touch). I love the faded quality of print and tea staining,  and this piece reminded me of lots of textile work I saw as a student. It has a very  ‘ 90’s aesthetic and reminded me of the mixed media work of Dave McKean who produced the dust covers for Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic series.

I hope you enjoy my little roundup of the work that stood out for me.  Quilting in general is still very much the realm of the white middle-aged, middle class ladies, which I do find a little daunting. It can feel a bit like a Women’s Institute’s grand day out, where I don’t quite fit the demographic. It would be great to see more diversity in terms of race and gender and younger faces getting involved here – patchwork & quilting and textile art in general is something that many find very meaningful and take great pleasure in so it’s curious that it seems to be so niche.

This was a special occasion as my quilt was on show, but due to the distance and expense I doubt I’ll be a regular to the Festival of Quilts. It was a pleasure to have had the company of my dear Chiaki and to have met up with Laura ‘Bugs and Fishes’ while I was there. We were definitely doing our bit to widen the age bracket of those attending ;-)  Do you have any special exhibitions or shows you’ll be attending this year? Or even convention style events you’d like to try out for the first time? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments…