Sunday, 30 November 2014

Recycled Mini-Album Pages–The Great Outdoors

The second of two posts today.

The section of the album that I am now working on will be mostly photographs, which will take up most of the page (or they’d be too small to see). There won’t be much room for background decoration but I am continuing with the black and white borders that have been a feature of the album throughout.

Dad wasn’t exactly a fan of the great outdoors but went along with Mum who is a great fresh-air-fiend! Once he was out, he enjoyed it. His taste in sport was somewhat eccentric (like most of his other tastes, actually!) and included fencing in his early days, tennis and table tennis in his prime, and throughout his life and particularly during his retirement, croquet – this game would turn this mild-mannered gentle man into a perfect fiend!!

When out walking, he always wore a deerstalker and used a walking stick, and of course had his inevitable pipe. When on holiday with me in Iceland, an American lady was highly delighted with these accoutrements so typical of her idea of an English gentleman that she had to take a photo of him!

I decided to add a bit of stencilling on the page, using Polyfilla (joint compound to our US cousins), and a Julie Fei-Fan Balzer stencil (6x6 Cornflowers).

108 Stencilling on Great Outdoors Page

Here is the stencilling after adding clear gesso and black acrylic paint.

109 Stencilling Painted Black on Great Outdoors Page

I then dry-brushed the stencilling with acrylic paint and added a little gold gilding wax.

110 Painted Stencilling on Great Outdoors Page

111 Detail of Painted Stencilling

112 Detail of Painted Stencilling

The page with the photos added. They were adhered with regular matt gel medium.

113 Photos on Great Outdoors Page

Stamping the title text. I used the small alphabet from the Darkroom Door Alphabet Medley set, stamping the letters with Walnut Stain distress ink onto a scrap of cream card that I’d already brushed with Frayed Burlap distress ink.

114 Stamping the Text on Great Outdoors Page

The Great Outdoors page complete.

115 Great Outdoors Page Complete Blurred

The picture on the top left shows my dad punting on the River Cam. He always threw himself wholeheartedly into everything he did.

A detail showing the title text, stencilling and the leafy border I drew with my white marker pen and filled with white acrylic paint, adding the veining with a waterproof black pen at the end.

116 Great Outdoors Page Detail

I hope I have captured a nice outdoor feel with the stencilled flowers and the leafy border.

Recycled Mini-Album Pages–Poem, and an Outing to Paignton Sea Front

The first of two posts today.

Making good progress on the recycled mini-album. This page celebrates my Dad’s love for nonsense verse. He committed several Hilaire Belloc verses to memory and loved to recite them at every opportunity!

These are the materials I used to create the background to the page.

106 Materials for Poem Page Background

Here is the completed page.

107 Poem Page

As this is such a short post, I am going to add an outing we had to Paignton Sea Front. We had intended to go somewhere else which didn’t work out, and ended up going to have a look at the sea. By this time it was mid-afternoon with the light already beginning to fade, and the weather was quite strange, with sudden brief bursts of sunshine through rather threatening clouds, with occasional brief showers of rain. This made the light (or lack of it!) quite interesting, and I got some lovely photos. I adore the seaside in the winter, when the beaches are deserted apart from a few stalwart dog walkers. The tide was on the ebb, leaving an expanse of wet sand which gave rise to amazing reflections.

01 Paignton Pier

02 Paignton Pier

03 Paignton Sands

I also took photos of some of Paignton’s more unusual and eccentric hotels on the Esplanade. This is the Redcliffe – I just love those turrets! Really OTT Victorian! Somehow you can get away with more OTT at the seaside – perhaps it’s something to do with the free, holiday spirit!

04 Redcliffe Hotel, Paignton

The Marina Villa. I love those Colonial style balconies and the green copper dome over the beautiful round bay window – what great views of the sea!

05 Marina Villa Hotel, Paignton

Finally, the Recliffe Lodge. More Victorian OTT! Love that pinnacle with all the windows, the double gable with the twiddly bits on the roof.

06 Redcliffe Lodge Hotel, Paignton

My final photos are looking back along the Esplanade.

07 Paignton Esplanade

Here’s that seagull, with a a bit of photo manipulation to make him stand out.

08 Seagull on Paignton Esplanade

After this we went to the chocolate-box village of Cockington with its thatched cottages and the complex of art studios and galleries – I didn’t take any photos there because it was getting late and too dark. We didn’t spend long, and we intend going back another day, perhaps when it isn’t quite so cold. I will leave you with details of one artist we visited, Marc Heaton, who knocks my reputation as Recycling Queen into a cocked hat! We had a lovely time in his gallery and were delighted with the eclectic display of his art, which he was only too pleased to show us – he paints, draws, sculpts, upcycles, distresses… you name it! His work is really quirky and fun, and proves that you really can make art out of anything, if you only start looking at the world in a different way. Here’s a link to his website, which covers his work over two decades, and the evolution of his ideas.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Recycled Mini-Album Pages–Tigers

As promised to my faithful followers, here are the Tigers pages! This has turned out to be one of my favourite sections of the album, not least because it is one of my earliest and fondest childhood memories. It might seem somewhat out of place to have a section on tigers in a book about my dad, and it was certainly an unusual episode in his life.

Sometime in the mid-to-late 50s, there was a wonderful vet living in Plymouth by the name of Fernley Slee. He specialised in zoo and circus animals and had been consulted by Chipperfield’s Circus, who had in their possession two tiger cubs with congenital cataracts. Not feeling up to performing the surgery himself, he asked Dad to do it, and he readily agreed. Lily and Rajah, the two tiger cubs, were certainly the most unusual patients he ever had.

He took us as a family to see the tigers at Mr. Slee’s house. They were wandering freely about, and even at my very young age I was impressed by the unusual way they walked, with their shoulders moving up and down, and although they were about the size of a large domestic cat, their gait was quite different. They were very friendly, and very interested in everything.

My mother owned a white pigskin handbag at that time, and she put it on the floor beside her chair. The next thing she knew, one of the tiger cubs had got hold of it and was chewing it! When she rescued it, the corner had deep tooth marks that remained in the bag ever afterwards! People would often look a bit oddly at it, and she would say, “Oh, it was bitten by a tiger” which was certainly a conversation stopper!

I am so glad my dad never threw anything away. Going through his study when we had to sell my parents’ house, I was delighted to come across an envelope marked simply, “Tigers.” Inside were the photos which I have scanned and used for these pages.

I recently came across an online image of an art journal where the edges of the pages had been cut back at different lengths, and I decided it would be nice to incorporate this idea into my book. After cutting the pages, I painted the cut edges with black acrylic paint.

94 Stepped Pages

A couple of years ago I painted the face of a tiger for my art journal, to go with the William Blake poem “Tyger tyger burning bright.” This painting went across the centre of the book so the photo has a line down the middle.

07 Tiger Completed

This is how the tiger painting ended up in the book.

09 The Completed Page

I took the original photo of the painting and edited it in Serif PhotoPlus to get rid of the central join, and printed it out to fit my page. I could have done a fresh painting of a tiger for the book, but decided to use the one I already had, to save time, and also to keep the thickness to a minimum.

95 Tiger Painting Edited

After sticking the printed image into my book with regular matt gel medium, I went around the edges with pan pastels to soften and darken the background, to help it blend into the page background. I used more pan pastels to create the dark tiger-skin effect background. This design did become darker and less visible after spraying with the Rustoleum spray seal, but this is what it was like at the beginning.

96 Tigers Title Page WIP

Starting to work on the tiger picture border.

99 Tigers Title Page WIP

Working on the Tigers title.

99 Tigers Title WIP

The background for the second page – again done with pan pastels.

100 2nd Tigers Page Background

Working on the border for the second tigers page, using acrylic paints. You can see the borders I painted on the curving cut-away pages on the right.

101 2nd Tigers Page WIP

The photos stuck down with regular matt gel medium, and work beginning on the border. You can see the operation taking place in the right-hand photo.

102 3rd Tigers Page WIP

The completed title page. Acrylic paints and a combination of black and white pens, and pan pastels. I am very pleased with how the tiger appears to be emerging from behind the border. I photographed these final shots using my new scratch paper as a background. I Use a scratch paper to clean my brushes and rubber stamps onto. It’s amazing how much paint would otherwise end up in the water pot! This way, you get to save paint (money) AND get another piece of art into the bargain!

103 Tigers Title Page Complete

The finished second page, with journaling to describe the family’s encounter with the amazing little tiger cubs.

104 2nd Tigers Page Complete

Finally, the third page completed.

105 3rd Tigers Page Complete

I think this unusual episode makes a fitting addition to the book, and it’s a nice opportunity to add a bit of richness and colour. I really enjoyed working on these pages, not least because I love tigers so much!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Recycled Mini-Album Pages–Professional Life

Having just heard that my sister and my niece are coming down in December, I thought I would really press ahead and try and get the mini-album finished in time for that, so I can give it to my niece. I am making very good progress so far, and have now completed some more sets of pages. Today I am showing you the Professional Life pages.

This is the completed title page of the section. This section is largely monochrome, with heavy use of the white pen (I am now on my third white pen for this project!) and trying to keep the pages as thin as possible as I am getting rather concerned at how thick the book is becoming, and there may be further thick pages to come. The text was printed on the computer, cut out and applied, along with the pictures, with regular matt gel medium.

89 Professional Life Title Page Complete Blurred

The second page, before I did the border. This page deals with my dad’s work at the hospital, taking the initiative at his own expense and in his own time, to give his junior staff extra tuition, better to equip them for their professional lives ahead. I have also added a piece about the professional conferences he attended. The two photos on this page are of artefacts now in my possession. To create the background, I used a larger version of the picture of the hospital, stuck down with regular matt gel medium, and painted over with a grey acrylic glaze. The text was hand-written with the white pen.

90 2nd Professional Life Page WIP Blurred

Here is the page with the border.

91 2nd Professional Life Page Complete Blurred

I created the background for the third page using a mixture of titanium white and black acrylic paint, dabbing it on randomly.

92 3rd Professional Life Page Acrylic Background

It was a little bit too strong so I went over it with white pan pastel with a little black for good measure. I prefer the softer effect. The next photo shows the page after sealing the surface and adhering the photos with regular matt gel medium as before, and again, the artefact is now in my possession.

93 3rd Professional Life Page Complete Blurred

The border was done with white acrylic paint and black and white pens, and the journaling in white pen, outlined in black where it was against the light background. The picture shows my dad wearing his badge of office when he was president of his local medical society.

There was a special event in his professional life that was so unusual that I have devoted a separate section to it, which I will cover in the next post.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014


Please click on the WOYWW logo in my sidebar to visit our hostess Julia’s blog, where all will be explained how you can join in the fun of the world’s most famous nosey fest.

First of all, I am sorry I haven’t been visiting many desks. I have been working flat out in my ARTHaven, when time and energy permitted, desperately trying to complete the recycled mini-album. My sister has contacted us and said she and her daughter are coming over in December, and it occurred to me that I could give our niece the album then, if I can only complete it in time! I’ve been making good progress.

Here is my desk this week.


You can see the current page I am working on, which is about tigers. Keep an eye on my blog over the next few days and you will see these, and some other pages I’ve completed. Laid on the book are a white pastel pencil (very useful for marking out elements on a black page, and easily rubbed off afterwards) and a pan pastel applicator. The book itself is resting on a new scratch paper I’ve started making, cleaning off my brushes from all the orange painting I’ve been doing over the past day or two! I shall probably turn this scratch paper into a masterboard if it looks useable. Even at this stage, it does show just how much paint can be wasted in the water pot and down the sink.

On the left you can see my entire stock of pan pastels (not many, but I should be able to achieve a good range of colours by mixing). At the back, lots of gel mediums and acrylic paints, my usual trademark dirty water jar (no, it’s not the same water as last week – it’s actually been changed quite a few times this week!), my brushes, distress inks, two bubble wrap printing blocks, the corner of my iMac and my heat gun. Perched on top of the distress inks is a pink circle punch. All the usual stuff on the shelf above.

Despite the pressure to get this project completed, I am really enjoying doing it. I am hoping to have time before it goes to do a video of it and also a blog post of all the completed pages, but we shall see!!

As for the rest of the week, I’ve been reasonably well. Although I was told that my latest blood test was “normal,” I spoke to the surgery subsequently and was told that it was at the bottom end of normal, and my GP wants me to continue with the iron, but reducing the dose from three times to twice a day, which I am happy to do. Over the past couple of days my balance has been a bit more off than usual and I’ve felt more wobbly on my feet but these things come and go with the M.E. and it’s probably because I’ve been pushing myself a bit too much!

Various bits and pieces have been arriving all week from Ebay, for soap making. The teacher supplies everything we need for each class, which is great, but it means we can’t do anything at home. I need to get some soaps made for Christmas presents.

I’ve been working on the final stages of my knitting, which I’d hoped to have completed by this week. The second sleeve is now finished and I’m picking up stitches around the neck, and then I’ve only got to sew up the side seams and it will be completed! I hope to be able to show you next week.

Have a great week, everybody, and happy WOYWW.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Recycled Mini-Album Pages–Cars

I have now completed the Cars pages. I began by printing out some “Cars” text in various sizes, and at the same time, to fill the page, I printed some material for the Professional Life pages.

78 Printing and Cutting for Cars and Professional Life Pages

Fussy cutting the cars text.

79 Cutting Out Words for Cars Page

I applied the text to the page using soft matt gel medium. The pieces were rather delicate and I thought they might tear if I used regular medium.

80 Words on the Cars Page

Once they were dry, I made a wash with titanium white acrylic paint and acrylic polymer and roughly painted over the cars text.

81 White Glaze on Cars Page

I had a rummage in my card strips box and made a selection, for some “go faster” stripes for this page. I was rather pleased to find the offcuts from the recycled Christmas cards that I used for the pages of this album! Seemed fitting somehow. Recycling the recycled.

82 Cars Page and Card Strips

I thought the page looked a bit dull so I added a small suggestion of colour with white and brown pan pastels, which also had the effect of muting the brush strokes on the page. I fixed it with my Rustoleum spray sealant (great stuff, but it really stinks!!).

83 Pan Pastels on Cars Page

Now for the fun part. I had printed and cut out several car badges and stuck these down with regular matt gel medium, and then cut the card strips to form the “go faster” stripes which were laid down with a suggestion of randomness. You can still see the “cars” text echoing the title and forming a subtle background.

84 Cars Page with Badges and Go Faster Stripes

I completed the first Cars page with the addition of a border – I was pleased with how this turned out because it looks almost suggestive of car tyres!

85 1st Cars Page Complete

The second “Cars” page shows the cars my dad owned during his life (with the exception of the first one, a Riley, which I do not remember, and have no photo). I wanted to keep the look of the page consistent, and also to introduce a somewhat vintage appearance, so I edited the photos in Serif PhotoPlus, creating a duplicate layer which I desaturated, and then erased away the actual car, so that the colour from the bottom layer popped. Unfortunately when I printed them out the colour balance wasn’t quite right and I had a bit of touching up to do. I fixed the photos first, with Rustoleum clear sealant, and then used various distress inks as watercolours to alter the colours somewhat. The MG Magnette (second down on the left) had no colour added because it was dark grey anyway. After this came the first MG sports car – an MGA in red. This car was, in my opinion, the most attractive of all his cars – it had such beautiful lines. The MGB sports cars (top right) had to be printed from a downloaded image because for some reason I have no photos – he had two (if not 3) of these, all in British Racing Green. He loved his sports cars!

85 2nd Cars Page with Photos

A good number of years before he retired he bought his first Porsche. He drove this for many years, well into his retirement. The second Porsche, a Boxter, was the last car he ever owned, which he was still driving aged 89!!

I am quite pleased that the border on this page, which was determined by the page of the same size further back in the book, looks like a chequered flag! Although he wasn’t into motor racing, it seems appropriate with his love of sports cars.

The final step was to add the journaling and final embellishments to tie the page together.

88 2nd Cars Page Complete

This takes us up to the end of the second signature of the book.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Second Soap Making Class–Natural Soaps

Last night I had the most fun ever, at our second soap class. After starting last week with basic mould-and-pour using fancy moulds, tonight the shapes were more basic, but the soaps themselves were just wonderful, coloured and fragranced with natural materials.

We used the basic mould-and-pour soap bases we used last week – white and clear. For colour, instead of using synthetic colours, the teacher brought natural powders such as turmeric and cosmetic-grade clays in various colours. The fragrances were all natural too – essential oils and the natural scent of the various additives. She also brought along bags of different botanicals to add for colour and texture, such as tiny flowers, petals, wheatgerm, cinnamon sticks, and dried sliced orange. Everything looked so wonderfully natural and subtly coloured, and as for the smells! My hands continued to smell lovely for several hours afterwards! If none of the subsequent classes are as fun and fulfilling as last night’s, I shan’t mind – I think most of my own soap making from now on is going to be along natural lines.

Having M.E. I can be a bit sensitive to chemical smells, and last night I spent some time going through the two boxes of liquid fragrances the teacher brings – firstly the essential oils, and secondly the fragrance oils, which are synthetic. The latter did not appeal to me at all! They all smelt very artificial and unpleasant to me. However, the essential oils had no detrimental effect at all and with a few exceptions I loved them all. This gave me an idea of what to get for my own supplies.

At the end of the class we spent some time wrapping our soaps from our teacher’s big bag of goodies. I completed this process when I got home.

One of the soaps we made was orange soap. This was made from the transparent base, coloured with natural orange colouring (turmeric) and fragranced with orange essential oil – this smells totally gorgeous… When we turned them out of the moulds, we took a little melted soap base and dipped half a dried slice of orange in it and stuck it to the top of the soap.

Orange Soap

Another soap we made was cinnamon and wheatgerm. This was made from the white base, coloured with natural powder colour, with the wheatgerm adding colour as well, and fragranced with cinnamon essential oil. The powder colours cannot just be added to the soap or they go lumpy. You have to put them in a small container and pour in a small amount of melted soap and make a paste, a bit like a roux in cooking, which is then returned to the soap. After pouring the soap into the mould we added a cinnamon stick to the top. The mould we used for this soap was round, with straight sides, so there was no “up” or “down,” which meant we could add any embellishment to the top after pouring. Normally the top of the finished soap is at the bottom of the mould, and if you put something in the bottom of the mould it tends to float to the surface, so the embellishments have to be added afterwards with a shaped mould.

Cinnamon and Wheatgerm Soap

As you can see, I finished the wrapping of this soap with some raffia. I love the choice of natural packaging for natural soaps!

Finally, my favourite soap of the evening. This was a seasonal one, and quite stunning – gold, frankincense and myrrh soap!

This was made from the white base and some people coloured theirs with natural powder colour; however, I followed the teacher’s lead and didn’t add any extra colour, but depended on the botanicals to give a subtle colour. We added frankincense essential oil for fragrance, and ground up myrrh gum, which still had a somewhat grainy appearance. I was intrigued to hear that the gum is supplied in small lumps called “tears” – considering that myrrh is symbolic of death, embalming and the tomb, this seemed appropriate. Finally, the gold… After the soaps had come out of the moulds, our teacher produced some 24 carat pure gold leaf, and we added flakes of this to the top of the soap using a soft brush. This is soooo beautiful… The soap also smells out of this world, and as it is not a specifically feminine fragrance, but more spicy and exotic, it would be suitable for a man, too.

Before I show you the photo of this soap, I will show you the process of making a decorative band which would do justice to this precious soap. At the class, I merely wrapped it in cellophane (necessary to protect the soap from the air and from fingerprints).

I looked in my “card strips” box to see if there were any offcuts that were suitable. I found a strip of Core’dinations “gemstones” in a soft gold colour, and put this through the Cuttlebug, using the Tim Holtz Alterations Texture Fades “Damask” embossing folder. First of all I tried highlighting the embossed parts with gold gilding wax but this didn’t show up as much as I’d hoped, so I painted it with burnt umber acrylic paint.

01 Painting the Embossed Strip with Raw Umber

Adding a layer of iridescent medium just made it look too silvery, so I mixed some with some more burnt umber and painted this on, working it well into all the recesses in the embossing.

02 Iridescent Gel Medium and Burnt Umber

When it was dry, I squeezed a little metallic gold acrylic paint onto my craft sheet and picked it up on my brayer.

03 Gold on Brayer

Rolling it carefully onto the embossed strip, I was able to apply gold to the highlights.

04 Completed Embossed Strip

I decided it was a bit too wide, so I trimmed down the sides (keeping the narrow strips in my card strips box – never throw anything away lol!) and then matted and layered it onto a scrap of gold mirror card, which really finished it off.

05 Embossed Strip Matted onto Gold Mirror Card

After making a bow with my bow maker, I wrapped the band around the soap, added some of the same ribbon as the bow, and attached it with glue dots. This is the result.

03 Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh Soap

I really think this packaging does justice to this beautiful soap. In the picture you can see the gold leaf reflecting the light. This has to be my absolute favourite soap ever! It is really special.

Here are the three soaps I made, wrapped and embellished ready to give away. I still need to make labels to stick on the back of the soaps.

04 Three Natural Soaps

I am definitely going to make more natural soaps. All of these are gorgeous, and there are so many more combinations to discover and experiment with. I have seen natural soap made in a large mould and then sliced once it was set – this gives a beautiful hand-made effect, and it looks gorgeous with lots of botanicals on the top! I have also seen this with different layers, which show across the slices. Clear soaps can have botanicals suspended inside so you can see them. The possibilities are endless!

Before we leave the subject of gold, frankincense and myrrh, when I told my hubby about the soap, he found something to show me – a little box which a friend had given him several years ago. I had never seen this before, and I was entranced.

The box itself is beautiful – made of thin wood, very plain.

01 Box Closed

It hides a secret within!

02 Lid Removed

Some detail shots.

03 Inside Box

04 Inside Lid

I think the design on the inside of the lid could be adapted to create a beautiful label for the soap. Pulling the little tabs inside the box removes the semi-circular covers, revealing this.

05 Box Fully Opened

Between the purple tissue are sheets of gold leaf, and in the compartments, real frankincense and myrrh. Isn’t that just perfect?

Finally, yesterday I strained and bottled the lavender oil I have made. A couple of months or so ago, our neighbour from opposite was cutting back her lavender and gave us a huuuuge bunch, asking if I could do anything with it! I said that yes, I certainly could, and decided to make some infused oil with it. Making essential oils is a difficult process involving distillation and I didn’t feel up to that, but you can make wonderful fragrance oils by distilling things in oil and leaving them to steep for several weeks. I filled a jar with the flowers that I pulled off the stems, and then poured enough grapeseed oil into the jar so that it came up to the top. Grapeseed oil is very good for this because it has no smell of its own. It is a pleasant, pale green colour, and easily obtainable from the supermarket. Over the first week or so I stirred the mixture daily, and kept it for the whole time in the airing cupboard, covered with kitchen paper to let it breathe but to keep the dust out, and stirring occasionally, when I remembered. I strained it into bottles. The small bottles are blue glass (not particularly visible because the finished lavender oil is quite a dark green colour). I bought three with dropper tops to give away, and one with a pipette dropper for my own use. The bulk of the oil has gone into a larger brown bottle which had had some medicine in it. I made some labels, using a permanent black pen and colouring with distress inks (Milled Lavender – appropriately! – and Mowed Lawn).

Lavender Oil

This oil smells out of this world! I shall be using it to fragrance my soaps, and also the lotions and creams that I intend making.

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