Thursday 4 December 2014

Geometric frosty windows

Well the tree is up and its officially time to get festive - so I bought some trusty old spray snow and thought I'd decorate the window with a snowflake inspired geometric, frosty pattern using nothing more than a roll of masking tape. Quick, cheap and very cool - have a go!

Monday 1 December 2014

Exhibition Double Bill: The Enchanted Page at London Print Studio & Sigmar Polke at Tate Modern

Last week I was lucky enough to catch 2 very different exhibitions in one day. Juggling 2 gallery visits with nappy changes, lunch and nap times was quite a mission but well worth the effort and I came home with an exhausted but contented toddler after a days visual stimulation!

The Enchanted Page - an Exhibition of Children's Illustration at London Print Studio was first on the bill. Being an avid collector of children's picture books I was really interested to see this display of imagery from 15 contemporary illustrators. The gallery space is relatively small, in front of the working print studios, but has been fashioned into a fun and welcoming, creative area. Both the walls and the ceiling are dotted with characters and bold imagery from the books, and several page spreads adorn the base of the wall at child height. There are tables with chalks, crayons and activity sheets, comfy bean bags and book tables.

 My daughter loves her books and was in her element here, its well worth a visit if you're out and about in West London. There's a lovely little gift shop selling various print and design related goods, and I picked up the latest copy of Wrap magazine too - bonus!

More information on the LPS website here
Until the end of January 2015: Free entry

In contrast to the morning's gallery visit, the second exhibition of the day was Sigmar Polke at Tate Modern. I had done a quick read up on Polke before I went, but was unsure what to expect and had been warned 'some of the imagery may be considered challenging' at the exhibition entrance.. so off I went with toddler in tow, ready to avert her eyes when necessary!

This retrospective displays the broad variety of Polke's work from painting and drawing to sculpture and video-art. Polke worked in many mediums, and used all kinds of unorthodox materials in his image making. His work is highly experimental and often controversial, and I found it very interesting to explore. Its a huge collection, and every room has a different theme as they have attempted to cohesively arrange the vast styles and subject matters in a meaningful way. Quite hard to describe Polke's work concisely - you need to go and see the exhibition with your own eyes!

I could have done with a whole day at the Tate, as there is so much to see and its an awesome building. There's plenty to see for free if you don't want to pay for the special exhibitions. Less crowded midweek its a great place to take your kids for some creative exposure, the Turbine Hall alone is a pretty impressive space for a little one to experience.

More information on the Tate website here
Until Feb 8th: £13.10 adult ticket 

Sunday 23 November 2014

Sneak peak - new linoprint

This week I have been working on an illustration of an armadillo. I love their bold shape and naturally graphic patterning and thought it would make a really neat linoprint.

I will have a small run of the finished posters in the Make Play Do shop soon, but here's a quick peak of what I've been working on so far...

"Oh hi Waterstones, nice cards!"

So excited to see my Make Play Do cards in Waterstones yesterday!

Saturday 22 November 2014

2 colour linoprints in the Make Play Do shop now!

I have been busy printing my festive pets illustrations and have some 6'' x 8'' original 2 colour linoprints in the shop now. They come including a mount so are ready to frame, and also come with free postage. Would make a lovely unique gift this Christmas!

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Make your own Boj toy

For anyone living in a toddler-free house, Boj is a small Aussie creature from a new tv show on Cbeebies. Its a really good cartoon and is a favourite in our house! You can't yet buy a Boj toy in the shops so I figured I'd make her one - and was happily surprised to find a downloadable pattern and tutorial on the official Boj website. I therefore won't detail all the steps as its not my own pattern, but you can download the pattern and the instructions here and have a go yourselves: Boj Sewing Pattern

Granted it took me about 5 hours to complete so it wasn't quite as quick and easy as they suggested - but seeing my little one find Boj sitting on the sofa this morning was priceless. And at least if Boj gets lost I can rustle up another one overnight! It was great to get my puppet making head back on. Watch this space for some of my own design Make Play Do toy patterns and tutorials to come soon.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Vintage Rotex label maker

As a stationery addict I'm very chuffed with this latest charity shop find - £2 for this vintage Rotex label maker. It came in bits but I figured out how to put it back together and to my joy it worked! It came boxed with this awesome bright orange tape that looks very cool next to the powder blue. I have tried to find out how old it is, but can't find any other identical versions online... It has an engraving on the side that says 'Tech Office Area 2 FFD Field', I'd love to know where it came from. Any ideas get in touch...

I intend to give this a new lease of life, must get thinking of a creative use for it!

Wednesday 12 November 2014

DIY Draught Excluder

Well the weather's officially turned, and I really needed a draught excluder for my front door. I wanted it to match my front room colour scheme, so I set about making one. Here's how I did it:

MATERIALS: Fabric in your chosen colours, a pair of old tights (just 1 leg needed!), lots of uncooked rice/lentils

TOOLS: Sewing machine/needle & threads

Start by cutting fabric to size: 2 x 960mm by 170mm, plus small pieces for ends. (I cut an extra layer of white cotton as a backing to my geometric print as it was not opaque.) Pin the fabric outer sides facing, and stitch with a 10mm seam allowance down the lengths on both sides.

To cut the end circles at the correct size you need to use some maths. Turn the tube inside out and double check the width of the fabric (should be 150mm if you have allowed a neat 10mm seam allowance each side) Double this to give the circumference. Divide the circumference by pi (3.14) to give the diameter (=95.5mm) then add 20mm for 2 seam allowances on the ends. Using a compass mark out the size to cut to give the correct diameter, and then pencil over again to give a clear line to cut to with scissors.

Turn the tube inside out again and hand stitch one circle with a running stitch, leaving the 10mm seam. This bit is a bit fiddly and you have to keep realigning the circle to keep the circle even. There's probably an effective way of doing this on the machine, but I prefer to have more control and do it manually. Turn tube the right way out again. Then tie a knot in the end of a leg of an old pair of tights, and get filling enthusiastically with dried rice/beans/lentils, and shimmy the filled tights into your tube until its super sturdy.

Then fold the ends of the tube down inside until they are the same height as the filled tights (knot the other end too!) and hand stitch the final circle on as before. Halfway round you have to adopt a hemming stitch to finish off. I then added some black string trim to cover the untidy stitching and give it a clean finish. Tada!

Thursday 6 November 2014

Christmas Cards now on sale in the Make Play Do Store

Christmas cards are now available to buy from my Make Play Do shop! (see the link to the left) There are two designs, both reproduced from original linocuts designed and printed this week.

Reproduced onto a quality Conqueror 300gsm wove board, I've paired them with lovely poppy red envelopes. Each card has been individually scored by me on my lovely new creasing machine, and lovingly folded and cellophane packed in sets of 5.


These would be great for dog-lovers, cat-lovers, print-lovers and general Christmas-lovers. Check them out now!

Wednesday 5 November 2014

DIY Cork Stamps

Sticking with the printmaking theme this week, here's a little stamp making project I did last night using some old corks that I had saved. I'll admit carving the cork is a bit fiddly as they are so little and cork can be a bit brittle at times, BUT its almost completely free! Plus if you are not so confident with intricate cutting, some bold shapes will work just as well if not better. These stamps are great for making your own fabrics, wrapping paper, cards etc, or just letting your toddler have a good play around with them. At the moment my daughter's really into her numbers so I thought that was a good theme for trying these stamps out.

MATERIALS: Old corks & ink stamp (or paint if you don't have any ink pads hanging around)

TOOLS: Scalpel/craft knife, marker pen

First I drew out the designs on the flat end of the cork with a Sharpie, remembering to draw the image in the reverse of what I wanted to print. I then carefully traced the outlines of the designs with a scalpel. I then sliced from the side of the cork down to the design, and carefully began removing bits of the cork that I didnt want to print.

That's basically it - ink them up with your preferred ink/paint and stamp away. Loads of creative possibilities for these stamps!

Monday 3 November 2014

Sausage Dog Linoprint (part 2)

 This week I have been cutting some lino prints that I'll make into Christmas cards, coming very soon...
Linocut is one of my favourite printmaking methods and is relatively inexpensive. I really enjoy the process of carving away to reveal the image, and its a very flexible medium that allows experimentation within your own home without too much mess. Here's what I did:

Lino/rubber block, printing ink, paper

TOOLS: Pencil, scalpel, cutting tool and blades, print roller

 I actually tried a new type of rubber block which I found on Amazon for £6 per A6 block, and I found it a lot softer than the usual lino. It has a coloured layer through the middle which helps to let you know how deep you are carving and just generally makes the process more clear.

After some lengthy drawing sessions to establish the designs, I transferred the image in graphite onto the block, and used a scalpel to trace the outlines. I find this allows for a neater cut when you come in with the cutting tool. I then carved out the rest of the image, leaving only the parts that I wanted to print. (Remember the final image will be the reverse of what you cut)
TIP: I left the corners of the block although I won't ink them, so they wont print. I find it helps stabilise the block and give the paper something to rest on.

As a change from my usual printing ink I used an ink pad to ink up the finished block, and then laid the paper over the top. I used the roller to evenly press onto the design and simply peeled off the paper to reveal the finished piece. For a longer print run I would use proper printing ink, but I found the ink pad worked really well to test the design is working, with no roller and palette to clean. An alcohol free baby wipe works wonders for cleaning the stamp after use, so easy and cheap.

I have another design I'm working on today, and hope to get some Christmas cards in my shop in the next few days - watch this space!

Thursday 30 October 2014

Finger painting fun

Start them young! Whilst I sit here drawing, my little one is happily painting a masterpiece with these excellent washable finger paints. £6 for 6 tubs from Galt, and they last ages. Lovely and gloopy.
From Amazon

Monday 27 October 2014

DIY Fireplace Blackboard

My daughter's room has a lovely little original fireplace in it, but unfortunately comes complete with sharp edges and a broken draughty vent! Needing to baby-proof the room I decided to temporarily convert the area into an art space for her (what else?!) and make a DIY blackboard from a broken picture frame I had lying about. Here's how I did it:

Board/wood/back of a broken picture frame!
Blackboard paint
Wall fixers (I used the super strength velcro sort for hanging pictures)
*Acrylic paints (for final decoration)

Stanley knife
Metal ruler
Mix of paintbrushes

First I measured up the space, and then cut the board to size with the Stanley knife. I then prepared the board with a quick sand, to clean up rough edges and so that the paint would take better. I laid on the first layer liberally, and gave it 30 mins to dry.

I then gave the board a quick sand again after the first layer, and went in with layer 2. I repeated this for layers 3 and 4 so a nice thick layer built up. 
TIP - I alternated the direction of the brush on each layer so Ive ended up with a nice crosshatched textured effect.

After a bit of sketching of ideas, I draughted the design onto the board in pencil, and began painting. Acrylics are perfect for this as they are water resistant so the board can be wiped clean with no fear of destroying the design. I then applied the fixers to the reverse of the board, and 'hey presto!'

Friday 24 October 2014

Packaging junkie: 'Plasticine'

I am a sucker for a nice bit of packaging, and this week paid over the odds at £2 from a charity shop for some old plasticene that I don't need.... but look at the box!

 I was immediately drawn to the retro palette and typography, and from deciphering the roman numerals on the back it looks like it dates back to 1977. I also absolutely love this tiny illustration on the back. Worth every penny!

Thursday 23 October 2014

Channel 4 doc: Grayson Perry: 'Who are you?'

Grayson Perry: Who are you?

Well worth watching on catch up if you missed it last night is the first of this 3 part series on Channel 4 by Grayson Perry on portraiture/identity. The 14 portraits he makes during this series are on display at the NPG until March next year. I can't wait to head down there before too long and take a look!

Available on catch up here:
(image © Channel 4)

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Felt bunting

I had great fun making lots of colourful felt bunting for my little one's birthday. Though a bit time consuming I think its really fun and so simple to do.

Simply cut your circles (or other shapes) and assemble a huge pile next to your machine, then stitch straight down the centre of each piece being careful to stitch straight onto the next one as I found the thread tangled and jammed if I wasn't quick enough and the stitch had nothing to stitch on to!

Cutting your own letters means you can easily personalise any birthday banners. I did these in the same way as the circles but used some bias binding to form the 'ribbon' and hold the pieces together. Try it with a variety of shapes and letters!


Monday 13 October 2014

Quentin Blake Exhibition at HOI

Well worth checking out is a rare collection of Quentin Blake's work at the House of Illustration at their new premises in Kings Cross (

A simple and beautifully designed exhibition which let the sketches and doodles of Blake take centre stage and leap out at you from every corner. I absolutely loved seeing authentic half-used paint pots and scraps of paper. On until the 2nd November, its a must! My 1 year old also really enjoyed it (and its a fantastic venue if you are pushing a buggy around - lots of space and ramps!)

Friday 10 October 2014

Christmas Crackers

 Time to get thinking about Christmas, and making crackers for your loved ones is a great gift and fun too. Here's how to do it:

SCALPEL (or guillotine)
BONE SCORER (optional, a blunt knife or similar will do)
*optional, you could purchase ready printed/patterned paper if you wanted

PAPER: 200gsm white card, 100gsm red paper, coloured tissue paper (for hats)
TOILET ROLL TUBES *note: not all toilet rolls have the same diameter!
STRINGS & RIBBONS: red & white twine, red gift ribbon
CELLOPHANE (for wrapping gifts, optional)
BANGERS: sourced from ebay
SMALL GIFTS: your choice!

First I designed the patterns for the crackers and made the templates to print on the computer
(I'll be putting a downloadable template on here shortly.)

Print out on your deskjet, and trim to size top and bottom.
Gently score down the folds (dotted lines), and then cut the holes (solid lines).

Cut the red paper for the ends (155mm x 50mm, or the required length for your cracker)
and stick it on the insides, inserting a banger underneath one end. (leave it free the other)

Apply double-sided tape to the top edge, and place a toilet roll in the centre, with the banger inside the tube. Carefully roll and stick down to create a cracker tube (leave one end open)

Next make the hats from tissue paper. I concertina-folded a length of 580mm by 100mm high and made one diagonal cut across the top of the folded stack. Open out and secure one end with double-sided tape. Refold and its ready to go.

I chose to wrap my inner gifts & hats in a piece of cellophane secured with some twine.

Insert the gift in the open end and tie both ends with gift ribbon, and you're done!