Wednesday 26 August 2015

'Ladybird by Design' at HOI

A lovely exhibition well worth a visit this summer is Ladybird by Design at the House of Illustration. I'm always banging on about how great this gallery is, and as expected this exhibition was again beautifully curated and made for an interesting viewing.

The gallery is filled with original illustrations for classic Ladybird titles, by some truly talented illustrators of the time. There are many original works, as well as correspondence and photographs so often seen at the HOI exhibitions, I love seeing the working process and getting an understanding of the context of the work. As always there's a compelling documentary in a little nook within the gallery, complete with some original classic books for leafing through. I really enjoy the tactile element touches in these exhibitions.

Its a real feast of beautiful paintings, reflecting british life of the times, and to work on these titles for Ladybird was a big commission for any illustrator at the time. Technical drawing and illustration meet graphic design in a really satisfying way in many of these pages. I was fascinated to see that the standard 56 page book was printed on a single piece of paper, which enabled them to be priced attractively, and therefore be accessible to a wide audience.  There's a proof sheet like this displayed in the gallery, it would make a great poster in its own right!

House of Illustration are holding a really interesting public programme of events to accompany this exhibition, there's still time to catch the September ones. Check their website here for more information, and head down there before it closes next month!

House of Illustration - 2 Granary Square, Kings Cross. N1C 4BH
Tues - Sun 10am - 6pm
Until 27th Sept 2015
Adult ticket £7

Monday 17 August 2015

Herdwick sheep fabric design

I was recently commissioned to design some fabric for a lovely lady at Out of the Pen who makes handmade pillows and cushions using Herdwick sheep wool and natural materials up in the Lake

I set about some visual research in to Herdwick sheep, which are very characterful and look like they're smiling, so I thought this would be a nice little project. After several sketching episodes I landed on one particular illustration, and laid out a simple reverse and repeat pattern with a light background. I thought this design would make a neat square cushion, and set about preparing the artwork for print, again at Woven Monkey. As always if you are going to print your own bespoke fabric be sure to fork out for a sample piece to make sure your colours are true to what you want.

Below is the original drawing, the pattern, and the final cotton drill fabric. I can't wait to see the completed cushions, I'll update the post when I have some pics.

You can find out more about Out of the Pen at their website here

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Lingotastic floor cushions

 I recently made a stack of floor cushions for Sarah at Lingotastic, to use for their classes. I had the fabric made at Woven Monkey again, the same as I did the Lingotastic rocket cushions some time ago. (If you missed that tutorial catch it here)

I cut, prewashed and ironed the fabric, and cut the backing material and wadding to size too. I bought the 200g wadding for £2.50 a metre, I found this to be just about the thickest to get through my machine with 2 layers of heavy fabric. I used size 90 needle, and managed to get through 4 of them making these! The backing material was from Workaid (if you missed that post, check it here)

I pinned the fabric layers together with the wadding at the bottom, and the 2 fabric layers RIGHT sides together on top of that. I then marked a 15cm opening that I wouldn't be stitching, in order to turn right side out. I then stitched all around, being careful to make a clean 90 degree turn at the corners. I used a 1cm seam allowance around, and then trimmed the corners to get a good shape when turned the right way out.

I would usually trim the excess wadding and material from the seam before pulling inside out but in this case I left it as it actually helps give the cushion a good edge and anchor it on the floor a bit. Once pulled carefully through the opening I found a lovely buff floor cushion. Careful machine stitching to the outside to close it up completed it! Repeat x 9 and the job was done!

Saturday 1 August 2015

Old Town Quarry & Artists' Studios, Weston-Super-Mare

A couple of weeks ago I found myself at the Old Town Quarry in Weston-Super-Mare, such a great find! A working quarry from the 19th Century, it ceased production in the 1950s and became a place to relax and enjoy nature. Sitting snugly beneath the Weston woods, this peaceful site is now a serene haven to lots of British wildlife including foxes, toads and butterflies aplenty. There are many historical features of the quarry to see, including a huge restored weigh bridge and little sheds housing original tools and information. In addition, the quarry is home to one of only 3 working blacksmiths in the country. Set high into the imposing quarry wall, its really a magical place and I wish I could have caught the blacksmith at work!

I was most excited to see that the quarry is also home to a host of local artists who rent studio space in this remarkable place. I was lucky enough to be shown around the studios by Aileen, which are not usually open to the public. Such fantastic workspaces, I can't imagine a more inspirational location in which to base a community of artists. There is a wide range of art produced, from ceramics to paintings to jewellery to garden furniture. There is a working kiln to fire ceramics, and well-used desks and workbenches all over, littered with interesting pieces of work, books, brushes and bit and bobs! As per usual, the slightly musty, solventy, inky, woody aroma that comes from a vibrant working studio had me feeling happy and at home!

If you aren't already convinced this place is worth a visit, there is also a lovely little tearoom selling homemade products, and housing various exhibitions. The intimate gift shop also holds some unique and interesting things, including some of the artists' work and information about the history of the quarry.

I recommend a trip here for a cup of coffee on a quiet morning, to take in the wonderful surroundings and have a ponder, look at the current exhibition and maybe catch a glimpse of the artists or the blacksmith at work. It's really magical.

More information on the quarry can be found at and information on the community artists here at