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lisa swerling

Hole by Lisa Swerling

Today I have traipsed all the way across Nottingham for a meeting and am now eating M&S oat clusters as I recover. However my long trek gave me the chance to enjoy the leafy Park Estate in Nottingham – I was amazed at the size of some of the town houses and the architecture as well as the tennis and squash clubs and the bowling green. All too soon the peace and tranquility ended as I found myself heading towards Hyson Green but I knew there was a treat in store after the meeting…

When we finished I got a lift up to Gregory Boulevard to the boxy New Art Exchange building. There were a couple of exhibitions so I decided to take a good look at the main and mezzanine galleries. Downstairs was the “Pork Knocker Dreams” exhibition by Guyanan artist Donald Locke. It comprised of around 50 sculptures and several paintings made with natural and printed found objects. According to the information, “Pork Knockers” are the gold prospectors of Guyana and they were represented as folk art like wooden heads with a modern twist. I have to admit that they weren’t to my taste and almost a little eerie.

I headed upstairs to find an exhibition of Pardhan Gond Paintings by Venkat Raman Singh Shyam and Rajendra Kumar Shyam. This colourful art illustrates traditional myths and natural scenes and as well as spiritual elements. When you look closely at the canvases you can see much detail goes into making the vivid trees, birds and animals.

Finally I took a look at the Butterfly Images on the stairway by Rakha Singh. The large images of rare butterflies and moths have been produced by a special technique created by the artist that seamlessly joins together many smaller close up pictures.

On returning to work I spent my lunch break looking up some of the exhibitors for the Country Living Magazine Christmas fair. I was delighted to discover some more tiny art – Glass Cathedrals by Lisa Swerling. She has created a series of boxes containing tiny scenes which she describes as being inspired by a “collision between the seriousness with which we take our lives and the limits of our understanding.” I just love them especially as she has some clever and original titles and the characters seem so small within the boxes!

I am thinking that I am going to do a bit more exploring into tiny art. Sounds like a nice evening of teatime research with a mug of hot chocolate…


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Beautiful Candy Cell art from Boshdi Design

I love autumn! I think it has to do with the rustly sound as you kick through bright orange – brown- green heaps of fallen leaves! There have been so many near where I work on Castle Boulevard in Nottingham that I have been happy as a little kid in jumping in puddles as I make my way down the road. Out in the countryside there have also been some great sepia coloured misty sunrises across the fields near my house and some lovely autumn sunshine.

A couple of weekends ago we decided to make the most of the weather and head to Sherwood Forest to visit the Art and Craft Centre and go for a walk through the forest.  We walked across to the craft centre first and had a good look around.  The centre is made up of a number of little studios set in the former Edwinstowe Hall Coach House and stables.  Amongst them are the Firecracker Glass, Boshdi Designs, Three Little Daisies and A Bit More Than.

I started off with a visit to Three Little Daisies which is packed full of textiles and gifts and offers workshops in textiles and soft furnishings. I made a note to bear this in mind for a future challenge and headed to A Bit More Than who specialise in cardmaking and scrapbooking and also offer some workshops including paper folding – maybe I should have a go after my recent disasters! We were heading back across the courtyard to visit when we got sidetracked by the smell of coffee and before we knew it we were sat at a table with a couple of cappuccinos and some triple chocolate torte! I am pleased to say – for those who are beginning to wonder about my tendency towards cakes – that I didn’t finish it all and was quite stuffed!

We then went to Boshdi Design where Amy Woodman was busy at the loom. It was fascinating to watch her in action at the huge piece of machinery and see the blanket being created in front of our eyes. Amy doesn’t just create blankets though, I was fascinated by her Candy Cell Series of  3D geometric hand woven canvases which were hung on the wall. You get a really good sense of the layers of warp and weft in this artwork.

Finally we headed out to one of the stables to take a look at Firecracker Glass. As I mentioned before I really fancy having a go at glassblowing so was hoping that I could see some in action. Sadly I wasn’t in luck but got to have a good look around at the studio  stacked full with different coloured glass and the products on sale. There were some beautiful bright bowls and paperweights which I particularly liked and Jill Ellinsworth explained to me that visitors could also have a go at making their own sand art paper weights if they booked in advance. It was definitely something to remember for a future visit and I have since found out that they even offer a glass blowing course (just need to start saving!).

It was getting late so we started to make our way towards the forest for a walk around. The sun was setting through the silver birch yet the sky was still blue against the leaves. We stopped to ponder on the age of the Major Oak before returning back to the car through some lovely piles of leaves.

Cakes, craft and leaves on a Saturday, who could ask for more?

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Grand mere by Anastassia Elias

When I was a child I was a big fan of Tony Hart and the craft bits on Blue Peter. I never seemed to possess any double sided tape but we had a box full of all sorts of bits and pieces of household objects for when we needed to amuse ourselves. One of the best things I made was a pair of kitchen roll binoculars with deep purple sweet wrappers as lenses. I was very proud of them and would wander around my bedroom bumping into things through the purple haze.

Well, this week I discovered that things have really changed in the world of cardboard rolls! Yesterday –  inspired by some paper folding that I saw at Debbie Bryan’s studio and on Folksy – I picked up a couple of library books on paper art. I thought I would have a go at some basic techniques and maybe make a box or stork. My nanny taught me to make a simple two part box as a teenager and I was convinced that if I had mastered that so successfully then I would surely be able to fold an envelope and a couple of stars….

How wrong I was! I spent most of the evening getting more and more frustrated with bits of paper spread all over the floor. I ended up working my way through an entire TV magazine and having dark print colour fingers. Each time I would get so far with the steps and then find that I was  completely lost and have to start again. My cats on the other hand were quite happy at my failure, playing with the screwed up balls of papers and burying their paws under them. I decided that the books were at fault for not having clear enough instructions and so today thought I would take a look at paper folding on the internet.

As usual one thing led to another and before I knew it I had come across some amazing art! The first was by Japanese artist Yuken Teruya whose projects have turned everyday objects such as plastic bags, dollar bills and pizza boxes into works of art.  Particularly remarkable are his trees cut out of toilet rolls and books. I also discovered French based artist Anastassia Elias who amongst other things has created scenes inside toilet rolls.

So it seems the days of making things out of cardboard rolls are not long gone after childhood, rather they just got a bit more intricate!

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One of Vincent Bousserez's mini masterpieces

As I child I loved Mary Norton’s stories about the Borrowers – the tiny people that lived in the skirting board and made all their furniture out of household objects. I wished that they somehow could exist and I could get a tour of their house. I have always had a great love of tiny things starting with the doll’s house my mum carefully created down to tiny paintings and furniture. I also vividly remember a tiny postage stamp sized bound bible I had as a child and then miniature cookery books I hoarded as a teenager. This is probably why I am so fascinated by the miniature zig zag books by Alix Swan.

I was therefore really excited when I came across some of Vincent Bousserez‘s photography in the Metro today. He has taken the idea of tiny people to a new level with his microart photography and it just amazes me. I could sit and look at it all for hours, it has stirred up some great childhood wonder and imagination! Check out his Plastic Life – it’s well worth it. It makes me want to raid the nearest model shop!

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ladybirds and stars

Ladybird stitches

Ladybird stitches

One of the girls at work makes the most amazing cupcakes – they are light and fluffy with delicious frosting piled up on top. Recently she brought in a whole batch of lemon cupcakes which she had made for a practice run for her niece’s birthday. Needless to say they didn’t last till lunchtime. Today she brought some chocolate orange cupcakes into work sprinkled with tiny white and milk chocolate stars on top of rich chocolate frosting. Despite the danger of an early morning sugar rush I have already eaten one and am using extreme willpower to stay away from the kitchen! My sister in law’s 40th birthday is coming up this weekend and I have decided to attempt the lemon cupcake recipe to make her a tower of beautiful cupcakes.

Ladybird guide to purl stitch

Ladybird guide to purl stitch

As I was eating my cupcake I came across the Ladybird Print website where you can buy prints of illustrations from old Ladybird books. Many of my favourite childhood books were there and when I have more time I’m going to sit and look through all the pictures. I also thought what would be a better way to brighten up a wall than to buy and frame some of the lovely retro/vintage craft prints!

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visiting the mafia

Nottingham Craft Mafia shop's logo

Nottingham Craft Mafia shop's logo

The summer of 2001 I spent a month in Sicily with my sister. We toured most of the island including the slopes of Mt. Etna which had just erupted and was spewing a river of lava towards local villages. The highlights for me were the Aeolian islands,  a festival in Trapani and a special private tour of the ruins of Agrigento. Towards the end of our time we headed to Palermo to take a look at the city and its nearby cathedral at Mondello. It really is a fascinating but chaotic place of dilapidated once majestic buildings, fast moving traffic, beautiful architecture, colourful markets and an air of danger. It’s said that the mafia still run the city even when under lock and key and we could see the famous “mafia” prison as we made our way around…

So I was more than intrigued when my recent internet dabbling (mainly etsy and folksy)  led me by way of several links and clicks to the Nottingham Craft Mafia. As you can imagine the name conjured up all sorts of mafia and textile images in my imagination so I had a good look around the website. Their “Get Made” shop is located on St James Street in Nottingham next door to the Malt Cross and is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 am to 6 pm. This lunchtime I decided to go and pay the shop a visit. It was a treasure trove of amazing craft! I have long admired Amy Blackwell on etsy so was pleased to see her prints, it was also a great opportunity to have a look at Kate Broughton’s brooches which look even better in real life. I discovered some colourful textiles by Molly’s Mum and loved Alina Designs jewellery. I had only taken a few pounds out with me so couldn’t splurge and treat myself today but I did buy a Hello Sunshine Pin by Jo Want with a little bird house on it to brighten up my computer.

On the way back to work I popped into Chocolate Utopia to see if I could get a couple of cinammon chocolates to go with my afternoon cafetiere of vanilla coffee.  Sadly they hadn’t made any for a while so I decided to go for a dark mocha and a new madagascan chocolate (which looked like a work of art in itself). The dark mocha went down well with the coffee, it was deep and smooth with a crunchy coffee bean on top. The madagascan was like a chocolate with a hidden dimension which I couldn’t quite describe. I did a bit of internet research and it turns out that experts consider Madagascan cocoa to be one of the best in the world being both delicate and complex with a fruity flavour. So if you like dark chocolate I highly recommend trying it.

All in all a very inspiring Friday!

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coffee and biscuits

"Favourites" by Neil Smith

"Favourites" by Neil Smith

As I write this I am polishing off the broken bits of a box of Danish biscuits which have come to live on my desk. I really am a big biscuit fan and  firmly believe there is a biscuit for every occasion in life.  I usually prefer a custard cream as my hot drink accompanying biscuit of choice although I am always cheered up by a jammie dodger because of very fond childhood memories. I am quite partial to a fig roll at work and I have been known to be very disappointed when I lose half a biscuit in my drink. I have also ventured into the international world of biscuits – I discovered French Prince biscuits on my first trip abroad at the age of 14 and was introduced to Oreos in the mid-1990s by an American flatmate. One of my general biscuit rules is: chocolate covered biscuits should never be placed on a saucer next to a hot cup of tea for fear of melting them onto your teacup and then transferring that to your hands/face.

If you are also a lover of biscuits here are a few interesting websites:

Science of dunking

The Biscuit Appreciation Society



Today on my way through the newly named “Castle Quarter” of Nottingham I stopped for a quick peek through the window of the Nottingham Society of Arts Trust and saw a stunning biscuit picture by Neil Smith (similar to the one above). I just had to go in and have a closer look! It’s painted in oils and captures light and shadow to create a realistic yummy picture. By chance the artist himself was also in the shop and I got to chat to him about his paintings. Most of the originals are done in oils although a couple of them are in acrylics. Many of the paintings are available as giclee prints. He showed me his other paintings in the series – there is a tempting painting of Belgian chocolates, as well as coffee,  muffins and a fabulous afternoon tea. For those who love fine art, the details and the light in the still life paintings are remarkable.

I think a print of the biscuits in a chunky black frame would look great in a kitchen or dining room. Now to persuade my husband…

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