Monday, 8 December 2014

Lots of Work in Progress in spite of Domestic Distractions

Last month I wrote about how my planned fortnight of relaxed creativity was blown off course by the leak in my neighbour's roof that soaked through to the wallpaper in my guest bedroom and threatened to ruin it.

I'm pleased to say that eight weeks later, it doesn't look too bad - at least in daylight the stains are hardly visible unless you know what you're looking for. Not so good in artificial light but still better than I ever thought it would be. 

But November hasn't seen much relaxation or creativity because of the wrangling over which builders to use, a problem with my garage electrics that plunged me into darkness one very wet night, no power, no light, no phone, no internet. And, as luck would have it, my mobile's battery was telling me it needed to be plugged into a charger - as if I had any sockets working to plug it into!

So with the roofing work only finishing on Thanksgiving Day and the noise that has entailed, followed by my central heating boiler malfunctioning and a blocked drain, I've been thankful for the little bit of collage I managed to complete before all these domestic interruptions stopped me in my tracks.

The Rangoli patterns have led to so many coordinating patterns that I've created about 800 products and cards for my Posh & Painterly store - and there are still some more to come. With this pattern more than any other I've made so far, I think, it's been a question of knowing when to stop and move onto something else before I get bored!

First there was the whole Rangoli, on different coloured backgrounds: that went well on cushions/pillows, as well as cloth napkins, ceramic tiles, clocks and coasters -

Then I took the centre of the Rangoli and one of the flowers and made them into a new pattern in its own right -

Next I took the floral stems and made these repeating 'mini-print' patterns:

And here's another, slightly different, one created from individual flowers from the original pattern.

Then the fun really began! 

I love discovering which patterns Mix and Match well together, to make more complex cushion designs - 

- and Smartphone Cases, many of them ready to personalize:

As if that wasn't enough playing around with my original Rangoli, I still had the border pattern to explore. I'm getting a bit faster with practice and this time, I made two alternative borders, a single row and a double one:

Here's a link to all the Rangoli gifts and greeting cards in my Posh & Painterly Zazzle store. 

But it hasn't been all about the Rangoli pattern this month. 

I made this Penguin collage a few years ago but I only used it for Christmas Cards. When I found that penguins seem to be popping up everywhere - even on the John Lewis Christmas commercial - it occurred to me that my skating penguins could extend their reach and adorn other Christmas-y clothing and gifts. So I used the Photoshop feathering tool to soften the edges and here they are, with a new lease of life:

As far as actual, away-from-the-computer art and design goes, it hasn't been easy with hammering immediately above my head in my attic studio. But I did manage to make a start on something I've wanted to do for a long while - a collage fish! Well, when it comes to sticking tiny pieces of painted tissue paper onto card, you can get a bit tired of flower petals and I thought I'd give fish scales a go instead.

Not quite finished yet, Finnegan the Fish!

I'm not sure whether I'll make other fish and sea creatures and use him as part of a repeating pattern - for shower curtains and beach-bags maybe? Or he may have possibilities as a stand-alone design; Pisces birthday cards spring to mind - or greeting cards for the Persian New Year, Nowruz.

Maybe that's something to think about for early next year? I certainly have plenty to keep me busy this side of Christmas!

So, although this has been yet another month when too many Domestic Distractions kept me from creating as many new designs as I'd planned, it has still managed to be quite productive time for me. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

Islamic Patterns - a Selection of Gifts

. . . from my
Islamic Collection

Whether it's gifts for the home, fashion accessories or cases and sleeves to protect your electronic devices, you'll find plenty to choose from in my Posh & Painterly 'Islamic' collection - and most of them are equally suitable for 'him' or for 'her'.

Here are just a few of them -

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Ten iPhone 6 Cases Inspired by Traditional Folk Art Embroidery

Just a few weeks ago I made a hand-painted paper collage 'Folk Heart' - a heart shape composed of flowers, inspired by traditional Folk Art embroidery from Eastern Europe . . .

new post on

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Work in Progress: Best Laid Plans . . .

Tissue paper painted with acrylic - click HERE for tips about making collage

They say that 'Life is what happens when you'd planned something else' and that's certainly been the case for me lately!

Early last month I decided to take a break from my usual routine of uploading my designs to Zazzle and other PODstores to give myself time to catch up with the ever-growing number of designs and patterns in my 'pending' folder. I also wanted to take a step back to ponder the possibilities of a change of direction after Christmas.

So I quickly finished up my new October Birth Month Flower gifts and greeting cards and took myself up to my attic studio to paint and make collages, right away from my laptop where all the tedious uploading, titling, describing and tagging takes place.

Over the first weekend I painted some tissue for the collages and finished the mice for the cheeseboards that Zazzle had recently introduced - I'd been doodling them in the evenings but never seemed to have enough time to paint them.

And then, on the Monday, I made a start on quite an ambitious collage, inspired by the Folk Art Embroidery of Eastern Europe:

As you can see, although I was having fun cutting and sticking little flowers, I only made half of the heart shape because I wanted to be sure that the pattern was symmetrical.

Here's one of the finished 'Folk Heart' cushions -

And I've even got around to making one of my faux patchwork patterns - as I worked with this one, the colours seemed to suggest the Art Deco home furnishing colours of the 1920s and '30s.

I'm still adding to my Folk Heart Collection but you can see more than four hundred greeting cards and gifts that I've created from that one collage 

By now I was on a roll and on the Wednesday I moved on to making a collage from a hand-drawn Rangoli motif that had been sitting in my 'pending' folder for quite a while - 

The making of Rangoli patterns is part of the Diwali celebrations and you can read about them HERE.

When I drew the Rangoli design, months ago, I had based some of my motifs on traditional elements of Indian Design from my huge 'Grammar of Ornament'. 

And again, I worked out that I didn't need to make the whole pattern in hand-painted paper collage. 

Making just a segment of the pattern saved a lot of time but it also involved a lot of very accurate work in Photoshop afterwards to make sure the segments fitted together properly. Not being a perfectionist, I find this sort of thing very hard work - and tedious! But looking forward to seeing the finished pattern kept me going - and here it is!

And I think I like it even better with a black background!

But I'm afraid that's when my 'creativity break' ground  - or screeched! - to a sudden halt!

I came downstairs from putting the eight segments of the Rangoli together to boil the kettle for coffee and found an email from my neighbours telling me that they had a leak in their bedroom ceiling, close to the party wall that joins our pair of Edwardian houses. 

They asked me if I had a leak too and when I went to look in my guest bedroom (that I only use about once a week to do the ironing) to my horror, this is what confronted me:

It's not actually a leak in the ceiling, 'just' water seeped through from next door I imagine, from just below the picture rail. And I found out later that it had been 'seeping' ever since early on the Monday morning, while I was happily making my Folk Heart collage, in total ignorance of what was happening!

As if the damage to one of my favourite wallpapers, now unavailable, wasn't bad enough, a silly dispute has arisen about which builder to use. Apparently the leak was caused by the lead in the 'valley' between our two roofs being faulty and replacing that is a joint responsibility. Thanks to the internet there's now not much I don't know about repairing a 'valley' and what it should cost! 

But all this has taken up so much of my time and energy, that I abandoned my attempt to make a collage Christmas Angel because I just couldn't concentrate. 

I was becoming completely indecisive about it - which is unusual for me. So I've put her back into the 'pending' folder and gone back to the rather less demanding uploading - hence the hundreds of new 'Folk Heart' products in my Zazzle store! 

And I haven't even begun the November Birth Month flower, the Chrysanthemum.

But the repairs to the roof are due to begin on Tuesday so I hope the end is in sight. And meanwhile, I shall enjoy working with the Rangoli pattern to create lots of greeting cards and gifts. Too late for this year's Diwali but in plenty of time for next year!

(I keep looking at my wallpaper and hoping it's not my imagination that's making it appear slightly better. But I don't think I will ever get rid of the stains and all I can think of is to mix the two shades of green gouache and paint over all the tiny leaves in the pattern. Shouldn't be too difficult for a painter, should it? Watch this space!)

Close-up of an undamaged part of the wallpaper in my spare bedroom. 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Marigold - #enjoythelittlethings

This image is hi-resolution A4 size if you want to save it and print it -
 or maybe you'd just like to 'pin' it to spread some encouragement?

I was really pleased to find this quote to go with the Marigold, the October Birth Month flower.

I love roses and lotus flowers but a vase of marigolds can give me every bit as much enjoyment as any of the more exotic flowers. 

Marigolds are easy to grow, seed themselves profusely and provide a welcome splash of colour in the flower beds - though October is far too late for them here in the UK! - so I think they are every bit as much to be cherished as any flower!

I find myself increasingly appreciating the amazing 'everyday', the awesome 'ordinary' - in preference to the 'extraordinary'. 

Especially on the internet, it's so easy to find ourselves being fed an over-rich diet of 'amazing'. On practically any webpage I open, even the weather forecast, there will be links to all sorts of astonishing things. Superlatives abound - the 50 fattest countries, the world's most enormous castles, 30 happiest cities, 50 weird and wonderful animal facts . . . 

After a while, I can feel my senses glazing over at all this amazing-ness! 

Better to ignore all these enticing headings than reach a point where 'amazing' ceases to amaze and, just like painkillers, we adapt and need ever higher levels of sensationalism to make any impression at all!

Give me a clump of self-seeded Marigolds any day, glowing against the green of the leaves and the blue of the nearby Mountain Cornflowers in the corner of my little back garden! In spite of my neglect, they'll keep flowering and creating a cheering picture. 

That's what I call truly amazing!

The garden of my childhood home was full of marigolds. My mother did most of the gardening but without the luxury of purchases from garden centres. Even if they had existed at that time, we couldn't have afforded it! It was a pretty little garden and I used to love to pick a posy that consisted of one each of all the flowers. Maybe that's where I learnt to appreciate the beautiful things that cost next to nothing?

So yes -

It does not matter if you are a rose or a lotus or a 
What matters is that you are flowering.

And I think it's time to 




(I think I'd quite like to be a Marigold!)

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Spreading the idea of the Seasonal Door Wreath!

It all began with Pinterest last spring, when I was putting together boards to represent the four seasons!

That's when I discovered that hanging a decorated wreath on our front doors isn't restricted to Christmas-time. This discovery fired my imagination so much that I wanted to drop everything and make a spring wreath straight away. 

But where to get the base? Naturally, I did a google search for sources of bases - which led me to a website with lovely clear instructions for making my own and I plunged right in!

You'll find more about my Spring Wreath
and a link to the 'Modern Country' blog
where I found the instructions

In the summer I didn't have time to make another wreath base from scratch so I cheated and filled a pretty heart-shaped wire basket with (artificial) summer 

But with my honeysuckle hedge growing like a triffid this summer, sending out such long shoots that it's barely possible to get past it to refill my bird feeder, I was determined to take advantage of the fresher stems to make the base for my autumn wreath!

The honeysuckle threatening to strangle the climbing roses!

I somehow still didn't get around to having my wreath all ready in time for the 
first day of autumn. But we were still having unusually summery weather so my 
poppies, daisies and cornflowers didn't seem too out of place.

I finally found some time to cut back the honeysuckle last Sunday afternoon and the sun was still so warm in my garden that I decided to use the stems I cut off to make the wreath base outside in my garden, to save the mess in my kitchen. And all that bending and trimming the stems can result in quite a mess, especially if you haven't removed the leaves and berries!

During the week, I've begged or bought all sorts of bits and pieces for my Autumn Wreath and found some more in the park. 

A word of warning if you think of making something like this: try to use flowers 
with stems that are thin enough to slot into the wreath base - or at least thin 
enough to cut easily. I bought some lovely sprays of berries and so on from the local florist but the stems were far too long and almost too thick to cut. So I ended up having to use wire to keep them in place; not a disaster but not ideal either.

In most matters of design, I tend to prefer 'balance' to 'symmetry' because it's usually less formal; and I just followed my instinct when I created my Spring Wreath.  

But I thought it would be good to make a change and try to create a symmetrical Autumn Wreath - funny how that strong instinct of mine took over and ended up with 'balance' again!

So here it is, finally finished and hung on the door, just as the weather has finally turned chilly and damp, much more autumnal -

The seed-heads on the left are Granny's Bonnets (Aquilegia) from
my garden, the beech-masts and cone are from the park and
the dark seed heads at the top are from a neighbour's garden,
 Rudbeckia, or something like that, I think.
I'm not usually very enthusiastic about our British habit of frequently importing 
ideas from the other side of the pond. Maybe I'm old-fashioned but I don't like the idea that 'globalisation' can blur the (positive) differences between countries and their cultures too completely. 

But the idea of a seasonal door wreath is one idea I'll happily borrow from our American friends and I'd love to see the idea spread over here too!

My front door isn't easily visible from the pavement so the best way to promote the idea is through my blog.

So - all you clever and crafty Brits, 
what are you waiting for?

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Morning Glory Illustrated Quotation

Although I'm quite wary of a lot of the 'positive thinking' quotes that circulate on the social media, I think I am a generally a persistently optimistic person, which is not quite the same thing.

So I try to choose quotations to illustrate that convey a mood of optimism, as I hope this one does. I like the fact that it says 'some of Life's beautiful things . . .' - hinting at a possibility rather than claiming to know for a fact.

Please feel free to save and print this A4-sized,
high resolution image if you wish - or just 'pin' it!

Apart from being a quote from a book called 'Morning Glory', I felt this one was a very appropriate quotation for such a brilliantly coloured flower that can brighten up a dark corner of a garden, well into the autumn when the shade lingers longer. 

That's exactly how I think of Morning Glory flowers. 

I've only once succeeded in growing them; mine always seem to succumb to either the slugs or the frost, or possibly both. And that's why they gave me a lovely surprise the year when they did survive, blooming so brilliantly in a dark corner of my garden, well into September, after I'd given up hope of seeing them and forgotten I'd even planted them!

So this is for anyone who ever experiences 'dark moments' -
and I expect that includes almost everyone!

Friday, 12 September 2014

The (highly addictive) Joy of Pattern-making

Have you ever been told that you work too hard? Or that you spend too much of your time on a computer?

I have - and so, it seems, have many of my friends who are designers or pattern-makers. It's perfectly possible to get so absorbed in making patterns that the hours fly by, while the dinner burns in the oven, the washing gets soaked on the line - and our nearest and dearest start to feel decidedly neglected.

So is it the computer that draws our attention away from what's going on around us? Or is it the designing? 

I think it's probably a mixture of the two, though I do know people who work on computers all day who can't wait to get away from them at the end of the day; which seems to suggest that the designing is probably the main cause, especially if it involves making patterns.

What is it about pattern-making that is so absorbing, almost to the point of 'addiction'?

Is it the fact that our brains are hard-wired to make patterns? Partly.

Is it the fact that, unlike most other forms of art, pattern-making can constantly surprise us? I may think I am in charge of the plan for a pattern but what actually happens is that, at some point in the pattern-making process, unexpected effects, 'happy accidents', seem to occur quite frequently! I don't think I ever create a pattern without being, at least once, 'surprised by joy!'

And that's another thing - the designer, aided and abetted by sophisticated designing software, can experience pure joy whenever a pattern comes together in just the right way. 

But so can a landscape painter, a photographer or any creative person whatever creative activity they pursue . . .

So what is about pattern-making that is different? What makes is so absorbing that the hours disappear and nothing else seems to matter?

I think it is the 'what if?' element. 

We know that curiosity and the willingness to risk failure are components of creativity. Small children will try all sorts of things in the spirit of wondering, 'what if . . .?' "what if I colour my bedroom wall with my crayons?' "what if I mix up all the spices in the kitchen cupboard?" "what if I put the cat in the drawer and close it . . .?"

When we are absorbed in creating our patterns, in a sense we are back in our early childhood - but with the advantage of having an adult's ability to use a computer to extend and enhance our original ideas. And time becomes as irrelevant as it is to a small child who can't understand the urgency of getting to school on time!

Some adult thought has probably gone into the original design - like this one that I painted a few weeks ago.

But then, after scanning it and the tedious process of tidying it up and making the background transparent on the computer, we enter the magical world of 'what if . . .'

What if I try different background colours?

What if I take one of the little blue flowers and make it into a 'polka dot'?

What if I take the individual flowers and 'toss' them around to make a completely different, but coordinating pattern?

Stripes maybe? And even a plaid or a matching check gingham?

And then - what if I put some of them together in mix'n'match designs?


Or even a faux patchwork?

And then, maybe, just maybe, I can take a piece of the original painting and use it to make a border? I wonder whether that'll work . . . ?

Of course, I've made it look more straightforward than it probably is! It doesn't always run so smoothly. 

As well as 'happy accidents', there are the unexpected results that are far from welcome too! Finding patterns that work together can take time . . . and that's when other things can get neglected, as we wrestle with the 'ingredients' that we know will eventually fall into place, if we just keep working at it!

And then there's the placing the patterns on products - more 'what if?'s!

How will the border look on a teapot? Can I use the mix'n'match to make a greeting card . . .? What will the faux patchwork look like on a laptop sleeve?

Here's a pillow/cushion that I think came out quite well -

Of course, I always hope that others will enjoy my 'creations' as much as I enjoy creating them.


So if you are one of those people who suffer from a friend or family member getting so caught up in their pattern-making that you feel neglected, please don't take it personally! 

I very much hope that the process I have described here will go some way to helping you understand what's going on - and it may even, maybe, help you to share in the excitement and ultimately, the joy as well.

And if you are on the receiving end of grumbles about your 'obsession', don't let the negative remarks stop you doing what you love! Remember, nobody else can do what you do - your 'talent' is your gift to the world and, as Louise Hay said, 'somewhere, someone is looking for just what you have to offer'. 

Try to accept that a 'balanced' life may not be for you - in fact, I sometimes think that the concept of the 'balanced life' is probably the handy invention of those who lack the courage to embrace their talents whole-heartedly, never daring to ask 'what if?' - and that could never be said of you, could it?

If Early Man had listened to his wife and led a 'balanced life', if he had never allowed himself to to wonder, 'what if . . . ?' the wheel might never have been invented.

Now there's a thought!