20 April 2014

How to design a unique set of Russian dolls

Today I'm going to tell you a bit about how to design some Russian dolls. You can pick up the blank wooden dolls fairly inexpensively many places online. Or if you find a cheap set of painted dolls in a charity shop you could try painting over them (I've haven't tried that yet, though, so I don't know how well it would work).

Here's how to get started.

1. Decide on a theme. This could be absolutely anything that interests you. Bear in mind how many dolls are in your set, and how you can fit your theme onto this number of dolls. I've done three sets of dolls so far - the first based on a Japanese fairytale (The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter), the second on the theme of Little Red Riding Hood, and the third were based on a very simple flower design with each doll in a different pastel colour. One artist whose work I really admire is Irina Troitskaya who makes some amazing Russian dolls in animal designs.

2. Draw outline shapes of the dolls on paper (you could even draw round them) and sketch your ideas. It's a good idea to have two outlines for each doll, so you can draw the front and back of each doll. If your doll is going to have a face, it's a good idea to draw this first, then work the rest of the design around it. Work on your design until you are happy with it.

3. Draw the design onto the dolls (I like to paint the dolls with white paint or gesso first). Your pencil lines don't have to be exact, as you will be painting over them.

4. Paint the doll using paints of your choice. I like to use acrylic paints and emulsion paints (I often buy tester pots from the diy store for craft projects). You might need to use a few coats of paint. Make sure that any areas that extend over the join in the doll match up perfectly. You may need a very fine brush (and a steady hand) for painting the details of the dolls' faces.

5. Protect with varnish if desired. I like to use extra pale dead flat varnish, as it's pretty much invisible.

6. Admire your finished dolls!

Another project I'd really like to try with Russian dolls is painting them with blackboard paint. Not only would they look cool, but they would be an easy way of sketching designs for future dolls.

Blogger Tricks

19 April 2014

Blog redesign

I'm really excited to reveal the new look of my blog! Some of you might have seen it evolving over the past week, but now that the header is finished, the blog is finally ready.

I've been redecorating my craft room in more neutral tones, and I decided to do the same with the blog. I've added buttons to the sidebar to make it easier to find the types of posts you are most interested in, and a "Related posts" section to the bottom of each post.

There will be bigger, brighter photos, and, I hope, more frequent, varied content, including lots of fun craft projects. So stay tuned!

Bright bathroom

I've always found neutral bathrooms a tiny bit boring and predictable, so one of my early decorating projects was painting some of the tiles in my bathroom a bright terracotta colour. For many years I paired this with orange towels and accessories, but lately I've decided to try something a bit different.

I'd seen a few turquoise painted ceilings online, and I realised that the dark coloured wooden ceiling in my bathroom could maybe benefit from this. I added some turquoise and white accessories around the room, like the framed postcards from Ikea, the vintage wooden painted Scandinavian bowl, the hanging heart (a cheap find at the charity shop), and the cable-knit effect handwash containers (which were also ridiculously cheap!). A beaded bracelet hanging from the knob of the bathroom cabinet is another fun way that I tied together the turquoise and orangey tones.

18 April 2014

5 projects to brighten up your garden

Since it's such lovely weather here today, I decided to put together some ideas for brightening up your garden. These are some projects that I've done in my own garden over the years, and they are cheap and easy ways of adding some colour.

This has the added benefit of making it more comfortable! This throw is one I brought back from Peru, and I love the vivid turquoises and pinks in it. Of course, with the weather being as unpredictable as it is, using soft furnishings can only be a temporary measure in Scotland!

Either use a brightly coloured container, or paint a container in a bright colour. This 3-tiered storage container was rescued from a skip, and I turned it into a planter by drilling some holes in the bottom of each layer. Fill your container with a selection of plants.

Use some brightly coloured gloss paints to make some cheap chairs look bright and cheerful. These chairs were only £3 from my local charity shop!

4. Paint some cheap garden ornaments
This was a quick and easy project to brighten up a couple of cheap looking grey lanterns – I just gave them a quick coat or two of brightly coloured gloss paint. You could also try spray paint – I’ve got a little geisha ornament that I might spray bright pink.

5. Paint a mural
I used acrylic and emulsion paints to paint my mural, and it’s still holding up fairly well 8 years later. When the wall was just painted white, it needed repainted every few years to cover up mossy areas and peeling bits, but the design of the mural makes these less obvious, so it’s a time and money saving solution!

15 April 2014


I got a cocktail shaker and glasses for my birthday, and I've become addicted to mixing some tasty fruity cocktails!

The one in the first photo was my favourite, and it consisted of:
Grapefruit juice
Angostura bitters
Lime juice
Cucumber and mint (muddled in the drink and as a garnish)
Black pepper garnish (I also attempted to put salt round the rim of the glass, I think I need more practice at this!)

The next one was a Chambord cosmopolitan, with:
Cranberry juice
Lime juice

The final one was:
Pear juice

18 February 2014

Living Room

A few weeks ago I started watching a home decor programme on TV, and was seized with a sudden desire to make a few changes around my house! I decided to make a start on the living room.

I'd always fancied a feature wall, and I decided that this olive green colour would go well with the cream, black and red colours I already had in the room. I also wanted a bit of a retro feel to the room, and felt this colour went well with a retro look. The programme I'd been watching had emphasised working with the era your house was built in, so I supposed that the retro look might fit in well with my 1950s or 60s house. The colour gives a really warm feel to the room, and every time I walk in there it makes me smile.

I got some gorgeous fabric with a retro pattern of green, grey and black, and covered some of my cushions with this.

I also added a few yellow details around the room. I decided to make a feature of the retro lights, which I'd not been very keen on, by adding some yellow to them, and now they fit in well with the retro style. I also painted some dried seed pods yellow (I already had some painted red).

I bought a lovely tray from a charity shop, and the wooden blocks spelling "home" were from another charity shop. I displayed them with my mid-century modern wooden cats. I also converted one of the photos I took in Kyoto to a vintage look, and had it printed to go in a frame.

I spent a lot of time reorganising all my ornaments into different groupings. I put most of my vintage kokeshi dolls together on a wall shelf, and I love seeing them displayed in a group like this. Right in the middle is the little mirrored ornament, inherited from my gran, which was one of the things that got me interested in Japanese culture.

I finally found a retro coffee table, although it needs a little bit of work (I didn't have it when I took some of the photos!). It was only £10. In total the mini-makeover cost less than £100.

12 January 2014

A Moomin Marvelous Christmas!

This was the Christmas card I made for Dad to give to Mum.

11 January 2014

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

My sister-in-law was giving her parents tickets to this show, so she asked me to design a holder for the tickets. I looked at various versions of the book cover, and I went with this one, but I decided to miss out the garden fork sticking into the dog - in my version it could just be sleeping instead :)

10 January 2014

Dala Horses

I'd made some felt Dala horses to sell as Christmas tree ornaments at the craft fair, and when I went to Japan and saw all the items in the shops related to the Year of the Horse, I decided I would design my Christmas cards for my family based on this idea.

09 January 2014

Japan souvenirs - various

Totoro items - a hand drying cloth, a towelling pouch, and rubber stamps. These were all from a shop on the way to Kiyomizu temple.

Food related items - a cheap little bento box, a little sake cup from one of the pottery stores on the way to Kiyomizu temple, a bird-shaped food cutter from the famous knife shop Aritsugu in Nishiki Market, a gorgeous chopstick rest in the shape of a tiny bowl, a bamboo fork, some citrus flavoured togarashi seasoning (next time I will buy all the different flavours, as they are so tasty and the tins are gorgeous!), and a natsume (tea caddy).

Wooden items - elephant shaped magnets, an ema (prayer plaque) from Heian Shrine, some tiny traditional style kokeshi dolls from a flea market, a doll-sized tea whisk, and a keyring.

Cute items - the little pink god was from a shop on the way to Kiyomizu, the other half of the same shop was the Studio Ghibli shop. The teeniest tiniest maneki neko (waving cat), and a Kewpie keyring. I did want a slightly larger Kewpie too, but the only other one I saw was an enormous one at a flea market.