27 January 2015

I love... Marsala!

Pantone's colour of the year for 2015 had a bit of criticism when it was first announced, but I've taken a liking to it! I think it works as a great neutral in my wardrobe and I can see many examples of it in my home too!

Just before I'd seen what the colour of 2015 was going to be, I had ordered a jumper with a strawberry on it from White Stuff, and a pair of jeggings from M&S. The jeggings and the strawberry are close to marsala in colour. I'd also bought a top from H&M that's almost exactly marsala, and in the sales I got another pair of M&S jeggings (seeing as I wore the other ones all the time for the few weeks after I got them!) which are also almost exactly marsala. I got a necklace for £3 in the New Look sale which has marsala along with royal blue and turquoise. And I love my wine coloured tights that I got from Primark a year or two ago, and my Essie nail polish.

Here is a little display in my home that was inspired by marsala:




It's a really versatile colour, that matches well with lots of other colours. Here are some of the colour pairings that Pantone suggests. It goes well with greys, pale yellows, mustards, royal blue, mint, turquoise, orange, peach, pink, and greyish blues. I've seen it paired with duck-egg blue a lot, so my new Cambridge Satchel will work brilliantly with marsala! Here are some clothing items I have that match well with marsala, including my skirt and top made from a vintage dress, 



I'm interested to see if marsala will make its way into any of my craft projects this year!
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26 January 2015

2015 photography challenges

I bought a great book, Photocrafty, just after Christmas, and it gave me all sorts of ideas for photography challenges! So I've made a big list of things I'd like to try, some of them from Photocrafty, some of them from the A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book, some of them from elsewhere, and some that I dreamed up by myself. I'm sure I won't get anywhere near doing all of these this year, but it'll be fun to see how many I can do and tick them off!

They are not in any logical order, just the order that they occurred to me in! And I may add more as the year goes on.

I've already ticked off two on the list, to take self portraits holding my vintage suitcase and a vintage camera from my parents' collection. I used some Photoshop actions on the photos to make them look more vintage, and I love how it makes the shed door, my dress and the suitcase all look the same colour.

1. Self portrait with a cool mural
2. Bokeh shapes using black card
3. Self portrait in a vintage style holding old camera (done!)
4. Food photography inspired by the Istanbul cookbook I got Dad
5. Chiaroscuro style still-life
6. Shadows (of me or other things)
7. Shutter zoom
8. For a day, photograph items of one colour
9. Cut-paper silhouette from a profile photo
10. Flipped reflection
11. Collect photos of letters and numbers
12. Use a toy/disposable camera
13. Panning
14. 50 shots of one thing
15. Macro photos
16. Recreate a vintage family photo
17. Recreate a famous painting
18. Photograph an event
19. Shoot from the hip for a day
20. Use a large picture frame in self portraits
21. Photograph a landscape or townscape in a glass ball
22. Make a cool backdrop from paper or fabric
23. Vibration of liquid on an old speaker
24. Light sensitive paper
25. Use scanner to photograph items
26. Abstract photos
27. Hockney style montage
28. Pinhole photography
29. Make fish eye lens from door security viewer
30. Make and use a ring flash
31. Homemade stereoscope
32. Take photos through a vintage camera
33. Make a diffuser for pop-up flash
34. Use orange gel or sweet wrapper on flash to mimic the golden hour
35. Spirograph style photos of a torch
36. Photograph the scene of an old photo and merge the two
37. Self portrait with vintage suitcase (done!)
38. Pick up items on a walk and photograph them
39. Self portrait with battery xmas lights
40. Backlit self portrait
41. Jumping photos
42. Selective coloured photos
43. Self portraits for a month (hands, feet, details)
44. Diptychs/Triptychs
45. Use the A Beautiful Mess app to add fun elements to photos
46. Photo from above
47. Upside-down self portrait
48. Interesting costumes and makeup (inspired by Kevin Aucoin makeup book)
49. Black and white photos
50. Self portraits with silly string or coloured powders
51. Self portraits inspired by Little Paris Kitchen cookbook
52. Free lensing
53. Use a CD drive lens as a smartphone macro lens
54. Buy and use a Holga turret
55. Buy and use a selfie stick with phone
56. Buy and use some iphone lenses

25 January 2015

Knitted beanie

One of the things my parents got me for Christmas was a kit for knitting a beanie hat. I got straight to work on it over the Christmas holidays!

It was a very simple pattern, but my knitting skills are quite basic so it was a fun little challenge! I learned to cast on with the long tail method rather than my usual way, to do ribbing, moss stitch, increase stitches, and decrease stitches. Although I could knit and purl already, I needed to learn how to do so on alternate stitches for the ribbing and moss stitch. For these techniques, I looked at tutorials online.
I love how the hat turned out, and I was really pleased with myself for managing to follow the pattern and pick up new skills. Now I will have the confidence to try some more knitting patterns!

24 January 2015

Book review: Photocrafty

Every year I have a bit of a post-Christmas splurge on Amazon, and this book, Photocrafty by Sue Venables, was one of the books I bought this year.

The book is full of projects to try with your SLR camera, from the simple beginnings of learning to compose your photos, to some really impressive tricks to try at night with torches, and fun hacks using vintage cameras! I find most photography books a bit dull, because they spend too much time on the technicalities. But I love books like this that are more about how to come up with unique ideas of what to photograph and how to photograph it.

Photocrafty is a good companion book to one of my other favourite photography books, the A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea book, which is also full of inspiration rather than technical details. In fact they are almost the same size, so they will sit neatly together on my bookshelf! As you can see, the A Beautiful Mess book is full of bookmarks, but I could put one on every page of Photocrafty!

I'm feeling really inspired by this book! In fact, I may try to work my way through as many of the projects in it as I can over the coming year.

23 January 2015

Harlequin Russian dolls


Today's the last day of my Russian dolls themed week. These dolls are quite small, the largest being just a few inches high. They were part of a "Paint your own Princess Dolls" kit that I found in the bookshop The Works for a few pounds. I really should go back and buy some more!

I love looking at images of Russian dolls online, and I've got a Pinterest board full of them. I loved the triangles on these dolls, the dark wood of these, the face of this doll, the vintage look of these, and the colours of a painting here (which also happen to be similar to the colours in my bathroom).

1. I painted the dolls with a couple of coats of interior wax to give a darker wood appearance.
2. I stuck washi tape to paper and used different sizes of circle punches to punch it out. Then I peeled it off and stuck to the dolls where I wanted the face.
3. I drew triangles all over with a pencil.
4. I filled in the triangles with various colours of paint - three colours of turquoise, and an orange mixed from red and yellow.
5. After peeling off the washi tape, I dotted on black and pink paint with a cocktail stick for the eyes and cheeks, and tiny dots of white as highlights in the eyes.
6. I gave them a coat of varnish.
7. I ran a craft knife around the join before separating the halves.

I think they are going to be very much at home in my bathroom!









22 January 2015

Russian doll clay pendant


Here's a fun colourful Russian doll pendant to brighten up a dull January!

This pendant is a great clay project for beginners, because it just uses the most basic clay colours! I'd recently decided to get some Kato polymer clay, a brand I'd been meaning to try for a while, so I just bought the primary colours plus black and white, which is just what's needed for this pendant.
1. After warming up the white clay, roll it out (I used a pasta maker on a thick setting).
2. Draw a Russian doll shape (you could draw round a Russian doll) and use this template to cut the clay to shape.
3. I pressed some textured paper to the clay to give it texture, but you can leave it plain if you like.

4. Make dots around the face and body with an embossing tool or pin head, and remember to make a hole at the top.
5. Add the details in different colours of clay. The flower, dots, cheeks and eyes are made with small balls of clay. The eyelashes are teeny tiny sausages of black clay. The top lip is a sausage shape with a small dent in the middle, and the bottom lip is a smaller sausage shape.

6. Bake the clay.

7. Add some gloss varnish to the facial features and flower.

8. Add a jump ring to the top, and hang it from a cord or chain.




21 January 2015

Russian doll Notan design

I showed you last week how I created my first Notan design, and here is another one! A symmetrical design like a Russian doll works really well with this technique.






20 January 2015

Russian dolls card





Here's a simple card idea that's great for any occasion!

1. Draw a simple outline of a doll, with a plump body shape and a head shape.
2. Choose your patterned papers - I found that these paisley patterns worked well.
3. Cut the shape from one paper, then cut it in smaller sizes in two other papers and glue them to a card.
4. Cut ovals of cream card for the faces and glue these on top of the doll shapes.
5. Draw faces, add small circles of pink card as their rosy cheeks, and add a little bird shape on top of the smallest doll.

As you can see, I was very much into creating groups of three things on my cards at this time! These two cards ended up framed on the wall at my parents' house, along with another card I'd made.


19 January 2015

I love... Russian dolls

I got my first set of Russian dolls on a childhood trip to Morecambe - I think I got them at the pottery in nearby Heysham. They are really unusual, because they depict a lady wearing a sari. Nowadays nesting dolls are painted in all sorts of designs, but at that time they tended to be in very traditional Russian designs.

In front of them in the picture above, you'll see a set of dolls that I painted in a Japanese theme, and a more traditional style of dolls that I found in a charity shop.

In the photo below you'll also see some of my non-nesting Russian style dolls. At the back, in the middle, is a doll that really does come from Russia, which I found at an antiques fair for next to nothing. Next to that is a Lindt chocolate tin, which I just had to have after seeing one in someone's room at work! Further forward is a doll that I found in a charity shop, which had been a container for Kenzo perfume. It's Japanese in style. And finally, at the front, is a brooch that a family friend bought for me on holiday.

She also bought me the brooch below.
Apart from the first Russian dolls I got, these are my most treasured. They are a Japanese set that I found at an antiques fair. Apparently nesting dolls were common in China and Japan long before they came to Russia!
Here are some Russian doll related items I got for Christmas (a spice grinder and a scarf).

And here are my Russian doll measuring cups


Finally, here's a set of dolls that I painted, and recently sold. You can see how to design your own Russian dolls in this post from last year.