Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Winter birds for Christmas 2015

I went for a Leo Lionni paper cutting inspired Christmas card design this year, and I've always gotten a kick out of collage as some of you may know.

I took these lovely winter birds as my starting point.


I have a relatively new set of watercolours Kuretake : Gansai Tambi Japanese Watercolours and it has been a little challenging to get used to the richness of each pan (which beats any watercolours I've ever dabbled with). But I'm acclimatising...

I really enjoyed building these birds up, and taking my time over the tones and shapes. 

I had the cards printed with Solopress who are always super-swift and produce a high standard print job.

Here's the stack of cards which wended their way to various addresses and hands. 

I gifted the original collage to my parents, in a letterbox red frame which suited the handsome red northern cardinal particularly.

Please note – It may appear that I only have Christmas cards to say for myself lately, but now I've caught the collage bug again I'll try to keep the momentum up!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Christmas wreath folded cards

Each year I pickup my paints, lino blades or potatoes and create a new Christmas card design to give to friends and family.

This year I revived a previous folded design I created in Christmas 2009 (take a look here), a circular design that stands when folded up into quarters.

This year's is a watercolour painted wreath of oranges, eucalyptus leaves, berries and fir.

2013 - Lino printed partridge in a pear tree
2012 - Potato Printed Robin

2011 - Watercolour squirrels, robins scene
2010 - Lino cut Robin prints
2009 - Repeat watercolour Christmas pattern for cards, advent calendar and tags
2008 - Re-interpreted Victorian Christmas Cards - Handpainted

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Viewpoints: French beaches and Sheffield's Skye Edge

French beaches I daren't climb down to

Skye Edge - views over Sheffield

I recently developed three films at once and had a reminder of the year that has trickled behind me (nicely).

Note - A walk up to Sheffield's Skye Edge gives wondrous views of the city, as was well illustrated by Sheffield Publicity Department a few years ago in their great, FREE, thoughtfully designed paper maps.

Here's the Skye Edge map. Print at home, as their original distribution was snapped up within weeks and SPD are no longer officially in operation.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Chair Club part 7 - a small stool is finished

Here's what it all was for! A small stool to sit at my bedroom dresser. 

Chair Club part 6 - oil her up!

After the rougher sanding process to level out the surface, followed a period of patient hand-sanding. My chair club homework was hard graft - but knowing how close I was to chair heaven I kept on sanding and watched some interesting tv shows.

I love how sounds or sights can be incidentally woven into the item you're making, whether you chose to play Wes Anderson movie soundtracks in the workshop or watch a programme about Constable paintings that people found stashed under their beds (this is what I opted into when vigorously sanding my chair back home). Sights and sounds become forever part of your work and it becomes a little trigger for many varied memories - happy chair club memories.

Here I am applying oil to my smoothly sanded stool in the workshop!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Chair club part 5 - Legs in! Sanding flat

Once the holes were adequately chiselled out - taking care not to remove too much because the legs needed to fit in snugly - it took some serious knocking in to get them to slot in!

Now they did fit mostly perfectly, but as expected all was not perfect - a slight crack in the multi-layer plywood and a little chip in the surface of the Iroko on the stool top.

Nothing a little wood glue mixed with sawdust can't fix! Richard showed me a nifty, classic method of filling gaps, mixing sawdust from the appropriate wood, with wood glue and applying it as a filler.

Sanding the surface flat

Chair Club part 4 - making the necessary leg holes

Tricky tricky work! Marking out the holes for each leg to slot into, I drilled through to make a start and then began chiselling out. 

Richard had a brainwave to switch me over the using a power hand saw, and boy did it speed things up! But it was very delicate work and I had to carefully work close to the lines.

Chair Club part 3 - four legs

This is a chair club retrospective, since my stool was completed a few weeks ago. But it's good exercise for my woodworker memory to record the steps as blogposts!

So here are photographs of the next level of chair club, where the surface (made of various woods - see previous posts) is setting, it soon became time for leg making.

I originally set out to make a milking stool but took the decision to go four legged, for good balance and aesthetics.

Here are the steps taken to preparing four legs at angles, to splay out beneath the stool whilst slotting into the surface at right-angles. Using a set square and mortice gauge, carefully! Marking out each leg in the same way, and then removing the necessary sections.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Chair Club Part 2 - building up the surface

It took a while to position and set the various woods on the top surface of my chair, but once this was complete, I took my stool top to the band saw and trimmed it square.
The woods I have the privilege of including in making my chair are a combination of cheap and durable, and expensive and durable. Every piece has been salvaged locally, or donated kindly to the cause by our teacher Richard.


Iroko (Milicia excelsa) - origins in Tropical Africa, a medium wood that darkens over time. Very durable and resistant to termite attack which is always welcome.

Panga Panga (Millettia stuhlmannii) - a rich African wood, very dark brown with black streak. I think it looks like beautiful dark hair when polished up! Another termite avoider. 

  - on target for a super durable multi-wood stool!

The other main wood I have used for the surface is multi-layer plywood, a particularly fashionable material in contemporary design (you may have noticed). This was salvaged by Kira and I, although would have been v.cheap had we bought it. It is multi plies of birch veneer which results in a wood that is tough, and I think, very interesting to look at. 

- some designers do great things with this plywood > 


Meanwhile, Kira's miniature chair was being painstakingly cut. Each leg angle was cleverly chosen, kindred to a retro Scandinavian dining chair.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Chair Club part 1

There are some key rules in Chair Club. The first rule is that Chair Club is not open to new members - we are sorry for this but hopefully this Chair Club will inspire another chair club!

We have met and made chairs on Tuesday evenings for the past 4/5 months, often followed by a Street Food Chef burrito. Chair making is hungry work.

The second rule is Chair Club is not exclusive to chair making. Now that we have reached the penultimate session - my "milking stool" (four legged so it doesn't technically qualify) is almost ready for an oil finish - we are speculating about season two of Chair Club, and it might involve metal, and creating non-functional things.

Here's a short diary of Chair Club, in pictures; myself, Kira Askaroff and the brilliant Richard Bartle, chieftain of Chair Club.

Part 1 

Preliminary sketches done, I decided to make a short stool for my bedroom dresser, akin to a milking stool but four legged.

Kira opted to create a miniature chair, inspired by a series of miniature furniture that Richard made for a previous project Deities at the Bottom of the Garden (a series of twelve exquisitely and accurately rendered scale models of a typical garden shed, each containing the interior of a different temple or church).

We selected our materials - mine combines various woods on the surface which will be sanded flat, and the leg joints will be visible on top too. 

Woods; Rose wood, panga panga, multi layer plywood

Glueing the various pieces of timber down.