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Glittering Shards

Glittering Shards: August 2010

Glittering Shards

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A weekend of making

The Greenbelt festival...


 - made my first ever print at the Greenhaus Art School (a venue at the festival)...using 'Intaglio' and 'Drypoint' (gosh that sounds clever), with a sheet of acrylic and special etching tools. Loved the process (and the smell of the ink) and love the outcome. Having done this, I now get that there is something special about printmaking and am wondering if I can make some sort of prints at home using my pasta maker!

- Isabella and Toby made lots of painted cardboard ducks and fish with googly eyes, flowers (also with googly eyes - heck why not?!) as part of the fun stuff for families to do together.

- we all made 'music' on Holly Yoon's Water Piano.Isabella kept saying "Water piano again mummy...water piano, water piano" (I think she liked it).

- we made beans, sausages and fried eggs for about 20 of us camping together. Loved hanging out with friends around the camp stove but I have to confess, I found myself saying repeatedly, "Why am I doing this to myself?" over the weekend as we faced cold wind, rain and freezing night time temperatures. Mmmm...I think I am a camper van rather than tent kind of girl. We will have to start saving up...

Hope your weekend was good.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Festival weekending

Hi ho, hi ho, its off to Greenbelt we go (tent, food and frying pan packed, wellies and mac at the ready).

Have been going to Greenbelt since I was taking both my children and we are all camping for the first time. Can't see myself staying up for the late night comedy like I used to in years gone by...

A few highlights I am looking foward to:

Bobby Baker who began her art as a way of coping with mental illness and has expanded her work in a most remarkable way...

Shearon Caton-Rose's Mirror installation ( broken mirror?!). Could this be the biggest 'mosaic' in the world?

'The Selfish Giant' puppet craft.

Bit of R&B with Beverley Knight and maybe a bit of Courtney Pine if I am not putting kids to bed.

But most of all, looking forward to having lots of creative fun with my sweet family and hanging out with many beautiful people we know that also gather at this little patch of heaven once a year. Have a good weekend, whatever you are doing.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How to be an entrepreneur

This poster has followed me around all my workplaces for the last 10 years and is now on the door of my studio. 

I bought it in Haight Ashbury, the most wonderfully hippy district of San Francisco, from the Red Victorian Peace Centre where they produce a range of inspirational arts posters (you can order them online). Check out the one called "Baloney"!

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Carve out your bliss

We were at 'our' farm again on Saturday (yes, it now feels like our farm, owned by the community of people who are working the soil and loving this patch of land back into abundance).
There is a greengage tree, bowing with the heaviness of the most delicious, sweet fruits. There are blackberry bushes with enormous, lush berries on them. Then we have the seemingly never ending supply of rainbow chard (go back a few posts and you will see that when I say rainbow, I am not exaggerating!). Cucumber plants are dripping with their juicy fruit, which my children pick and walk around munching like candy. Beans...the beans which, when you open the pods, are  fluorescent pink, with dashes of purple! So much goodness which is all new, as the farm is only 7 months old, and none of it was there last year...just empty soil, apart from the old greengage tree, which I thank  as I pick its fruit. I feel genuine gratitude from my belly - for the soil, the air, the sun, the Spirit - and all that these combined energies have yielded.
As a London urbanite, I also feel a real privilege that I have this opportunity to be so connected to the food I eat. We harvested more potatoes this week. Potatoes which my husband and children helped plant a few months ago. Later that day, we cooked and ate them. You appreciate food - and work so much harder to  prevent waste - when you have been so closely involved in the process of it coming to being.

Every time I am at the farm, this thought runs round my head: carve out your bliss where you find yourself.  I love the open space of the countryside, yet I live in London, amongst the noise of double decker buses,  the traffic fumes, the terraced houses with small, handkerchief patch gardens. I love living in London. It has been my home for 21 years and whilst we have a constant trickle of good friends who are always leaving London (really hard to be the 'left behind' ones) we have no reason to leave and many many reasons to stay. So I carve out my bliss where I am, creating pockets of beauty, nature and inspiration that I can go to regularly. We have many spots in and around London that are part of our pockets of bliss - the Southbank, the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park, Merton Abbey Mills (with its working water mill where William Morris made his Liberty prints), Happy Valley, doing yoga at the Radiant Hand, which feels like its own little community of carved out bliss (that I have missed for over a week due to sore hips - need your healing vibes yoga friends...). Bliss in where we go...bliss in what we seek out, what we give ourselves to, the feel of our homes, the rhythm of our lives.
On Sunday (slightly stressed) we made jam and pie with all the fruits from the farm. Within a few minutes my stress had melted away.

Carve out your bliss, right where you are...

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Me + Anthropologie = creativity!

I spent a glorious hour in Creative Beadcraft in Soho today looking for just the right gemstone for my teardrop mosaic which currently in progress. I came away with the most beautiful Swarovski crystals (ehm...and quite a bit more). It was a veritable Aladdin's cave for a magpie like me.

Aware that I needed to get back to the studio to actually do some mosaicing before collecting the kids, I walked briskly back up Regent Street towards Oxford Circus tube station when I saw the famed Anthropologie store and was diverted in like a magnet.

My first 5 minutes left me a bit cold - beautiful clothes I know, but the thrifter in me just cannot contemplate spending £50 on a necklace I could easily make myself or £70 on a t-shirt. OK, so the clothes department was not for me (well, at least not until I am a rich and famous artist!) and I was just about to leave when my eye was drawn to a magnificent vertical garden adorning the huge left hand wall of the store. When I say huge, I am talking about 15 metres high and 10m wide.You can see a bit of the wall below...
I walked towards it and breathed in deeply - that most wonderful gift of plant oxygenated air. Stunning. When I turned, I was enthralled further by enormous lampshades made out of throwaway materials - plastic lids, bottles, old jewellery and toys.

Now we were talking! Thrifty ole me started smiling again. I wandered into the homeware department and was soon picking up objects, smiling and stroking with glee at the little details - those small (and not so expensive) things that make a house a home. Brass owl and cat hooks, fox doorknockers, beautiful measuring spoons and the good old fashioned cafe au lait bowls, just like the ones I drank out of when I lived with my aunt in France as a child (funny how things come around eh?).

I went to pay for a gorgeous children's book that was in the sale, written and illustrated with paper cuts  by a self taught artist, Nikki McClure. Loved it and love the fact that she has clearly carved out her creative career outside of the box.
As I was at the till paying, I was telling the cashier how much  I admired this stunning feature they had made of recycled bottles and rope.

She told me that their interiors team made it using glass cutters and a blow torch. "Aha!" I said, "Please tell them there is an easier way"...and I went on to explain my recent discovery of how to cut a glass bottle. She was amazed at how easy it was and now wanted to give it a try! I love these bottles and it has given me more ideas of beautiful things to try and make from recycling glass.

Reflecting on my visit to Anthropologie, I realised that just being in such an environment - where attention to detail, design and beauty was so meticulous and passionate - got me into a great creative zone. While I was there I got so inspired by possibility. I came away with three new ideas of things to make - a synthesis of things I saw and things in my head. So good. I think I will have to make some Artist Dates and hang out in beautiful shops (perhaps leaving my credit card at home)! Anyone have recommendations of cool stores to hang out in just for creative inspiration?

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Fun, Farms & Crafternoons

Just a few pics of our last few days...
 Stems of the chard we harvested from our community farm where we go every Saturday to weed, water, pick and picnic! Amazing colours and very delicious, especially made with this recipe for Sicilan chard (being half Sicilian, rather appropriate too!).
I love this picture Isabella drew of me, herself and her brother. Such a treasure.

And this is us at the Mayfield Lavender fields - one of our favourite places.

We are carrying on with our Crafternoons...

Making a mosaic elephant...
Tracing round our bodies and decorating them!
And making fingerbobs (remember those?).

Hope you have had a good weekend...I'll be back in the middle of the week...hope to see you then!

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Moonscape recycled mosaic...and a free mosaic material for you!

Moonscape is a commission which I have made almost entirely from recycled material. The base and background is made of tiles in the local Tile Store breakages bin. The coloured tile is from the client and the silver glittery tiles are a material you may well have in your home and throw away! Read on to find out more...

 The client wanted me to use thick ceramic tiles left over from his bathroom decoration. He liked the design of another of my mosaics (From the Rising of the Sun). The rest was up to me as long as it 'had some glittery bits'. Me? Glittery?!

Spot the unusual material? All will be revealed at the end!

The ceramic tiles given to me were really thick so I used cement adhesive (thinset) to build up the base so I could use coloured mirror (much thinner) within each moon. This was the only non-recycled material used,

  The three moons are finished.

Doing the background.

Ready for grouting.

Voila! Mounted on whitewashed wood - also recycled.

I get a few days to enjoy Moonscape before my client comes to collect the piece. Can you see the shiny silver bits in the background? Believe it or not, its an everyday object that gets thrown away. Can you guess?

Yup, halogen light bulbs. If you use them, keep them when they are spent. If you don't, ask your friends to save them for you. It is a source of beautiful, reflective material which you can make into tesserae (mosaic term for small tiles) .  Here's how to do it :
I wrapped them in a tea towel and bashed them. Please, please don't try this unless you are wearing protective goggles and gloves as the shards are sharp. Once you have cracked the bulb open, remove the clear glass disc (mmm...what can we use this for??). Using tile nippers like these...
...or two wheeled cutters like these, carefully cut the shiny material into workable sized tesserae.
You need to break the curve of the glass sufficiently so it doesn't stick out too much when stuck down. Here's what you end up with.
When you come to stick them down, make sure you stick them with the curvy ends pointing up to the sky (like a flat 'u' shape). If you stick it the other way round, the adhesive wears away the reflective film and you end up with clear glass (as I tried and discovered!). The results are beautiful, almost holographic tesserae that really sparkle and catch light like a rainbow - tesserae which embody the spirit of recycling and re-purposing rather than throwing things away. And its free. Happy days.

If you want to see another use of halogen light bulbs in mosaic, click here and look at my award winning Owl mosaic. It all started one day when I was just about to chuck two light bulbs away and said those immortal words "I wonder if there's anything I can do with these...."

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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Celebrate Each Step - August 2010

After some reflection and feedback, I have decided to run this space at the start of every month instead of weekly to give us plenty of space for action and reflection (a week just goes sooo fast!). Celebrating Each Step will now run the first Sunday of the month for you to pop over and comment (or link to a Celebrate blog on your post). We can share our aims for the month to come as well as our reflections on the month just passed (steps, successes and struggles you have walked through).  In the meantime,  please do let others know about the space and use the badge to promote it :)

My biggest achievement and reflection  on the past week is the pure energy released by just starting something. I have been brewing several pieces of art and have felt a little 'blocked'. Then, on Thursday, in a somewhat artistic frenzy, I started - sketching like crazy, onto the bases where each piece will be mosaiced. Boy, it felt good. I then started playing with tiles, experimenting with colour and reflection. During this process I had an 'aha!' moment when I realised I could use a whole bottle, cut in half length ways, to make up a central part of one of the mosaics. I found the perfect bottle (an old shisha pipe basen no less!) and faced the challenge of how on earth to cut it in half whilst keeping both the bottle and my hands in good shape!

The joy of the Internet and the beautiful sharing spirit of Mosaic Artists Online bought me the solution within half an hour. Here's a You Tube video of how to cut a bottle (great for crafting, making vases etc...) which I adapted - used a glass scorer to score the length of the bottle, then hot and cold water and - crack - a beautiful, clean cut. Love it. (If you try this, make sure you protect your hands and eyes).

For the month of August, I will be focusing on making lots of art for a forthcoming exhibition. I will also be doing a major overhaul of my blog and site as well as setting up a new Flickr Group for students on my mosaic workshops (and scheduling new dates for workshops as the current ones are all fully booked). I also want to venture into making some mosaic jewellery. Watch this space!

How about you? What steps have you taken? What do you hope for in the month of August?

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010


I love making. I love making with my children. I love it because it's fun and appeals to my inner child. I love it because I believe creativity is  a core aspect of our human language that needs developing, as much as learning to speak and verbalise.
 I have a bundle of books with ideas for activities to do with children and en famille. We have a cupboard stuffed with materials that we might use one day to make things with.
 I visit a host of web sites and have many pages bookmarked with exciting activities to do.
But somehow, our making often defaults to self-directed art and crafts that the children initiate, informed by materials at hand (I have made a point of them having lots to hand in their own craft corner) while mummy flits in and out and tries to do the dishes, hang out the washing etc.. etc.... While child-initiated activities are fantastic and valuable, I do feel a pang of guilt / parental failure when I look at the mountain of children's activity books and our bulging craft cupboard. It's like having a pantry full of amazing ingredients and not using them. I've realised that there is something about balancing spontaneity with intentionality  and choosing to give 100% attention to being with my kids and making together. So...I have decided to introduce a new rhythm to our home.
Enter "Crafternoons". Four afternoons a week, I will now intentionally plan an activity for us to try. From now on, whenever I see / read about / think up a new activity I am going to write it down in our special crafternoon book.
 Yesterday, I opened page one of our crafternoons book and started making lists of activities for us to try. It helps me to think in categories so I divided the book into sections (drawing, painting, 3-d, nature, messy play, games, cooking etc....oh and of course, mosaics) and have started populating the sections with ideas from books and web sites.

Here's our list for this week:

Yesterday we had a go at shaving foam play (or "champagne foam" as Isabella calls it!).  We introduced food colouring and did lots of squishing - oh my it felt good!
 Then, Isabella decided to do a drawing with the food colouring and some toothpicks. Great until she spilt loads of red food colouring on her hand and arm which freaked her out somewhat and led to 20 mins of crying (that was not fun).
 Once we all recovered, Toby wanted to do an activity he had seen in an Usborne activity book which involved lots of black paint - heck there was mess everywhere so we went for it. Here are their beautiful creations.

Finally, as we were clearing up, Toby (totally spontaneously) decided to create his first art installation! He was intent on copying the picture on the paint container box...but because some of the coloured lids were missing, he improvised!
He was so funny - as I was trying to take a picture of his work he kept saying "wait, I haven't finished yet" and would add a balloon here and a brush there until he was satisfied with how his objects were laid out. My little artist!

Yup...a bit more intention from Mama is a good thing. Directed activity is releasing spontaneous creativity. Love it! What are your favourite sources of activities and ideas? Which books or web sites have you actually done activities from? I'd love to hear...

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