Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Beachcomber Grotto Pot

I'm currently living up in the town of Montrose on the North East coast of Scotland. There is a beautiful beach here and when the tide is out, you can walk for miles. I'm always on the look-out for interesting things brought in by the waves - shells, pebbles and driftwood for instance. Last week when I was feeling particularly low, the sea gave me a really generous present. Washed up on the sand were lots of broken plates and bits of crockery. I didn't have a bag with me, but nonetheless, I gathered them all up, grateful for the unexpected gift. 

It's the one and only time I've seen this sort of stuff washed up in Montrose, but elsewhere I've been luckier. A few years ago I stayed on Tanera in the Summer Isles on the West coast of Scotland, and was always finding broken bits of china and sea glass along the shoreline. I remember making a mosaic mirror frame with the pieces I found, and I decided to do something along the same lines again.

Once home, I washed and dried the crockery, and laid out lots of old newspaper. Then I  wrapped the ceramic in an old tea towel so that I could smash the pieces up one by one. Very theraputic. I also used tile nippers to give more shape to the pieces as I worked and to remove the sharpest points. ALWAYS WEAR SAFETY GOGGLES when smashing up and shaping your bits of china. You might also want to wear protective gloves. When you've finished breaking up the bits put them onto a clean bit of newspaper and carefully wrap and throw away anything you don't want in the old tea towel. Clean any surfaces with damp kitchen towel.

As well as the china I found on the beach, I added in a couple of charity shop plates bought locally for a couple of pounds. I needed a bit of brightness for the mosaic.

For my base I used a cheap terracotta flower pot and then bought a tub of all-in-one tile adhesive and grout. Using half an old clothes peg as a spatula, I stuck the broken pieces onto the pot one by one. I probably used a bit too much adhesive/grout to start with. It's better just to blob and stick the bits on one by one I think. As I worked, I also added in a few little ceramic favours or fèves that I found at brocantes in France during my Mobile Makery trip in the summer. These little figures come in all sorts of different designs and are hidden inside the Galette des Rois - a traditional cake brought out to celebrate the Epiphany. The person who finds the favour inside his or her slice of cake gets to wear a crown and make a wish!

As you can see, the pot looked a little rough and ready after the first 24 hours of drying - a bit like a crazy Christmas cake with too much icing! But then I grouted it carefully using a damp sponge, gently scraping back some of my over-enthusiastic gluing. I'm really pleased with the final result below, and it's a lovely momento of my walks along the beach in Montrose. A great idea for your own holidays.


Monday, 8 February 2016

Mollie Makes Extra

A  big thankyou to the team at Mollie Makes magazine for the lovely feature about my Mobile Makery which was published on 4th February in issue 63. Hurrah! As a huge Mollie Makes fan, it's a real privilege to be in the mag itself. Also a round of applause and a shout out for Caro Weiss who took all the lovely photographs. If you're getting married this year, then do check out her website. She does AMAZING wedding photography too. Also thanks to Fiona Guest and Giles Laverack for letting us use their beautiful Scotia Seeds farm as a location. They are the UK's premier producer of native Scottish wildflower seeds and do incredible work ensuring the continuation of these species. I hope you enjoyed the magazine feature. Here are a few extra photos to give you another peek at my upcyled Mobile Makery - aka Bambi!

Remember you can book Bambi for your own events or book me to run a workshop for you and your friends in Bambi.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

London - Spring workshop dates

Would you like to make yourself a beautiful vintage-style headpiece just like this?

Join me at my little home studio in South East London and spend a day immersed in millinery. You'll learn how to make this specialist ribbon-pleated trim by hand, how to create the birdcage veil, and how to recreate that all-important vintage look with this beautiful headpiece. 

All materials will provided. Participants can choose to make a headpiece using either black or tea-dyed cream ribbon. 

A moroccan-style lunch will be provided along with a glass of wine.

Places limited to four - small is beautiful and ensures my full attention!

Price: £125.00 

Workshops will be from 10-5 with an hour for lunch

Sat 12th March
Sat 26th March
Sun 3rd April 

Further dates TBC

For further details or to book a private workshop please contact


Sew-on-the go workshops!


Photo: Carol Weiss

Bambi and myself are ready, able and willing to come to your event with our pop-up workshops. Wether you fancy creating beautiful brooches for your wedding, want to make fun and frivolous floral tissue-paper crowns with the kids or learn to make a millinery masterpiece - we'll take on anything! Prices from £25 per person plus travel. 

Contact: for further details.

Photo: Carol Weiss

Photo: Carol Weiss

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Immersed in making in my Scottish hideway

Since I began my Scottish sojourn (let's call it my maker's retreat) I've been busy coming up with ideas and projects for my new book Vintage Vacation based on my travels in the Mobile Makery. It sounds idyllic I know - far away from the madding crowd - cutting, sticking and stitching. I  realise you won't believe me but it does have its drawbacks! It's chilly and a bit lonesome and I'm not quite sure how long I can afford the luxury of not earning day-to-day. I'm lucky in that I have a very kind brother letting me stay with him for a while. But, I need to sort out the cash flow - fast! 

My 5am starts for shifts on the foreign desk at the BBC in London seem a long time ago already, but I miss my friends and colleagues enormously. The day-to-day dramas, deadlines and banter do give you an energy and focus that you can lack when you're working on your own with no reason to hurry. It's all too easy to become disconnected from what's going on in the world. For instance,  I've not been listening to the Today programme at all. Shock Horror! It used to be my regular wake-up call but now I switch it off if my brother puts it on. I've come to realise that being hit with bad news on a global scale every morning isn't necessarily the way to stay upbeat and positive! I'm not saying you should cut yourself off entirely, but pick and choose your moments, curate your listening, viewing and reading. Too much information can be a bad thing.

But onto more creative matters....!

Here below is a sneak preview of some of the makes I've been working on. I'm using largely recycled materials to create a host of projects that I hope will please both stylish nomads and home-loving hoarders!

Anyway - time for lunch so I must be off! Food is always a deadline worth sticking to ! x

Printmaking in Dundee

For artists and artists-in-the-making, one of the many benefits of being up in Scotland is access to training and facilities at a much cheaper rate than in the South. Dundee for example is home to the DCA - Dundee Contemporary Arts.  As well as hosting exhibitions,  an arts cinema and a rather good bar and restaurant - the DCA also offers one of the UK's leading open-access professional level print studios. If you do a course at the DCA you can join the studio for an amazing £28 for the year. You then pay a small amount each time you want to book the facilities. The studio courses are many and varied, so I decided to have a go at printmaking using laser technology. A fantastic £95 for the weekend - even better when you consider there were only four people on the course - the maximum in fact. It's a bonus that numbers are kept small as you get a real opportunity to learn and be hands-on.

I started off with some of my illustration efforts - doodles you might say! I then scanned them into a computer used Adobe Photoshop (with alot of help as I've never used the software before) to convert the images into useable files. 

My idea was to make some lino cut stamps that I could then use to print up advertising material for my Mobile Makery. To do this, you place the material you want to use (wood, plastic, lino etc)  in the laser printer, and by pressing alot of buttons and manipulating your image on the screen (tricky for a technophobe like me) you then click GO!

Here is the sewing machine lino cut I made! You have to have a few goes before you get close to what you want, and it takes quite a while for the laser to do its job. This little stamp took about 20 minutes.

My new workshop friend David, who's a very talented photographer, decided to scan in and make prints from one of his images. He used plywood instead of lino to create his printing block. Here he is inking it up.

You can see on the left that he has cleverly built in a scale - let's call it a saturation level scale - so he can see how the depth of colour in his original photograph will correspond to the depth of cut the laser makes in the plywood. Of course the deeper the laser burns into the material the more of an impression the resulting print will make.

And here's the result of my own labours. A little less sophisticated but fit for purpose!

Thankyou DCA!