Thursday, 2 May 2013

Beautiful Printing Presses!

As a designer specialising in printed surfaces, I am extremely interested in the process of print methods - especially if I have never used them before! One very traditional technique I have always wanted to try is letterpress printing. These companies are a few of my favourites who use the technique to create beautiful textures and detailed designs...   
So today I was very excited to visit the print room of one of the few remaining traditional printing houses in Yorkshire - Quacks printers. It has been running for an incredible 300 years, and still has the original printing equipment that the company used back in the early 18th century. 
I was kindly shown the print room by one of the lovely members of staff, and it was so beautiful to see I thought I'd share the photos I took!
The company has a range of different styles of press and one was hand operated, requiring rows of text to be arranged by hand into plates (like the one below) and then used to print each piece of paper individually.

This is an incredibly slow process and needs pure patience and dedication to see the prints through to completion. But, like many traditional crafts, this is what gives the final product its charm and character.


 Drawers and drawers of different fonts...   

These are larger rosewood printing blocks. Aren't they beautiful?   

The best part about seeing such beautiful old printing equipment is it inspires new ideas, and the tradition and history behind these presses makes me love them even more. I'm hooked! 
Visit the lovely folks at Quacks on Grape Lane in York or to find out more about them click here. 

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Wedding Flowers

Last week I assisted York based flower business Wedding Blossoms with preparations for a wedding service in the Hospitium (set within the Museum Gardens in York). It is a beautiful 14th century listed building - one of the most stunning spaces to hold an intimate occasion in York, and being involved in preparing the flowers for such an exciting and important event was one of the most interesting experiences I have ever been asked to help with!

I was interested in seeing the 'behind the scenes' preparations of a real wedding and this really opened my eyes to the beautiful, tailored work and attention to detail which takes place a long time before the day itself. These photographs were taken shortly after we had started but I was amazed how quickly the arrangements and started to take shape!
Mandy was amazing throughout the process and I am so pleased she asked me to assist with such a fantastic morning of pure creativity, passion and dedication.
To find out more about Mandy and her business Wedding Blossoms, visit her website and for more information about the Hospitium click here

Saturday, 15 September 2012


I returned from my holiday to Rome this week, and despite having only four days there (and getting caught in a HUGE thunderstorm on the second day) me and my friend managed to visit a long list of piazzas, places of interest and historical sites....was an amazing place with so much to admire. I particularly liked the design of the streets themselves which more often than not had their own way of drawing your eye to the end and changing your course of direction completely. Beautiful and busy. That's how I was sum it up I think. And delicious, of course...we ate a lot of pizza and ice cream!
Piazza Venezia was our first stop, orininally belonging to the Republic of Venice before becoming a seat of Govenment. Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II is designed with symmetry and symbolism and is constantly passed by traffic due to it's almost exact position in the centre of Rome. The sculptures adorning it are allogorical representing the State and the Italian People and themes such as action, strength and war. 
San Marco
Interesting spots, streets and brilliant street acts...
Interior shops and open studios in the design-led Cavour area of Rome. 
Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona
When we had found our bearings on the metro we went to visit Piazza Navona - this was one of my favourite places because it naturally feels like sociable meeting point. All the little side streets lead onto the baroque style square which appears from nowhere. Magical. 
Fontana Di Trevi
This was an amazing sight by night. Very peaceful and the lighting enhanced the detail and drama of the sculpture. It seems to be crowded all day and all night! 
Colosseo, Arco di Constantino and Foro Romano

We decided to avoid the many tours which were taking place for several reasons - mainly because we didn't have enough time. Despite this though, I absorbed the city on my own. I have always wanted to explore Rome to see how it felt to walk among the reminants of its past. It was this personal response to the hundreds of years worth of architecture and design which I wanted to find - to decide for myself why people continue to visit and be fascinated by it. Perhaps I didn't leave armed with as many factual accounts as I could have, but visually I was reminded why I travelled there in the first place. I was inspired, and first hand that is an experience you don't forget.      

Friday, 7 September 2012

Autumn Ideas

We've arrived at that season when I most feel a sense of change and reinvention.
To me, it is as if Autumn reawakens a fresh sense of enthusiasm and adventure - a restless feeling of emerging energy which follows the long days of Summer and brings with it sparks of new ideas and perspective.

Great for a new design direction...

Summed up in three words:

 (I have managed to include the work of some of my favourite designers and companies here too, some of which I met at Pulse and others have been featured in related design magazines. They have such distinctive styles and I love the personality which shines through each design.
I have labelled them in case you would like to take a peek at more of their work!)


Friday, 15 June 2012

Interview with Sue Bulmer

I asked Sue a few questions about her lovely work...

1. Please tell us about your design process and describe your favourite part of it.

When I was doing my Foundation Course we were guided through the design process, primary research (sketching from real life), secondary research (sketching and collecting ideas and pictures, textures, examples etc and sticking them into our sketchbooks), experimenting with different media and techniques, developing our ideas and then resolution of the idea into our final piece. I do like to do things properly so I stuck to this for the first few years after my Foundation while I was still trying to find my way and develop my style, thinking that this would give my work more strength.

Now I’m a lot more laid back and when I have an idea I like to follow this kind of path but in a more relaxed and less structured way. I usually write my ideas down and then work from that, developing them, searching the internet for inspiration, reading blogs, going to exhibitions, taking photos, looking through my design books etc. I like to plan out my designs in my sketchbook and then when I’m happy with how they look I then scale them up into the final piece.

2. When did it all start?

My love for art has been with me ever since I was young, I remember winning a Road Safety Competition when I was about 6 for a painting I did at school, and I have loved to draw and paint ever since. I did have a bit of time out through my late teens and early twenties when I was studying hard for my Pharmacy degree but then same back to my art in 2005 when I was going through a bit of a rough time, and my sister suggested I enrol on my Foundation course, since then I’ve never looked back and my art is now a big part of my life and I work part time as a Pharmacist and part time as an Artist. This gives me the security of a stable income which pays the bills and the mortgage and I now have time for my creativity and building up my business.

3. Do you have a favourite design? If so, which and why?

As a Libran I have the reputation of being quite indecisive at times so would find it hard to pick a single favourite design but I suppose it would have to be one from my bird range ‘Birds of a Feather’ is one of my favourites. In particular I like the Truly Madly Deeply design, partly due to the name, being a bit of a sentimental old fool and I just LOVE the film, and also because the inspiration for the topiary came from a lovely day out with my Mam at Thorpe Perrow in Yorkshire. My house pictures are also close to my heart as I love all things ‘homely’ and my family and relationships in my life are a big inspiration to me.

4. You exhibited at the British Craft Trade Fair in April. How did you find the experience?

I found the experience an incredibly positive one. I decided to apply to BCTF in 2011 as I knew this was the next big step for me and my business. I had decided that I really liked selling my work through galleries and I knew this was going to be a great way to showcase my work to new buyers. I was quite well prepared for the event but as it got nearer I did start to think to myself ‘can I really do this?’ and on the day of set-up I was full of self-doubt. Needless to say I got over the pre-show ‘jitters’ and had the most amazing time. It was very well-organised and friendly and I’ll definitely be going back again next year and I’m looking around for other shows to attend.

5. How would your ideal day in your studio be spent?

My ideal day would begin with a sunny dog-walk along the River Trent not far from where I live at about 8am. Then I’d have a bit of breakfast and be sat at my desk by 9am making new work and experimenting with new ideas. I’d always make sure I have a cup of tea and some good tunes or a podcast to listen to and I’d work away until my tummy told me it was time for lunch, where I’d take a quick break, check up on emails, facebook and twitter as well as planning new blog posts and I’d ideally like to back in the studio by 2ish and work through the afternoon. I like to plan my days the night before so I know what I have to do and making lists of tasks helps me structure my day.

In reality the demands of running a small business part-time can sometimes take me away from the creative stuff. You find you have to become ‘jack-of-all-trades’ and make sure paperwork is kept up to date as well as banking, packing up orders, sending them, collecting work from the framers etc. I do sometimes get a little frustrated by my perceived lack of sketching time but I know that the rest of the jobs need to be done to keep the pennies coming in!

6. What is your best achievement to date?

My best achievement to date is definitely doing BCTF 2012. I felt it took me to the next level with my work, I gained a some new stockists and was really happy with the feedback as well as all of the lovely new contacts I made. At the beginning of every new year I write myself a list of the things I want to achieve over the following 12 months and love to look back over old lists to realise how far I’ve come. I think it’s really important to celebrate small ‘wins’ and focus on what you have achieved over certain time periods.

7. What do you have planned in the next year?

This year I have also been lucky enough to be accepted onto the new Design Factory Mentorship Scheme as a Mentee, and I’m really looking forward to working with my Mentor over the next 6 months to develop my business and myself further.

I’m also going to be exhibiting my work at Melbourne Arts Festival for a weekend in September which is an established event in Derbyshire. I’m really looking forward to taking part in this as I haven’t showed my work at such an event before. I’ve also applied to a few other shows, hand-picking them specifically rather than applying to everything, in the hope that I will be accepted to a few and get my name out there a bit more.

I’ll also be working on my blog, growing my readership, featuring a weekly Sketchbook Peeks interview with an artist/designer-maker, a weekly Etsy treat, featuring work I love, and also keeping you up to date with what’s happening in my little part of the world.

8. Where do you find your inspiration?

I find my inspiration in a variety of places. It could be when I’m out and about exploring the great British countryside, when I’m away on holiday in my caravan, the lyrics to a song, or even just in my own kitchen or garden. I do try to make a note when inspiration strikes, and write it down so I don’t forget. I do try to take my sketchbook out and about with my so I can jot things down as I think of them. I also try to get down to London with my sister once or twice a year, to visit and exhibition or market, and also visit the inspiring Libertys of London… awesome place!!

9. What piece of advice would you give to designers starting out in the business?

Believe in yourself and have determination… if you have both of these you are on to a winner. Having the right mind-set makes a HUGE difference and if you surround yourself with positive inspiring people you will fare well through the good and bad times! Learn from your mistakes, take the knocks on the chin and if something doesn’t work the first time chalk it down to experience and try again. (Ok, I know that wasn’t one piece of advice but I couldn’t choose just one!!)

10. You returned to your artistic roots from a career in the sciences - if you could begin your creative career again, would you do anything differently?

No I wouldn’t do anything differently, I’m happy with how things have turned out for now, and can’t wait to see what is round the next corner!

Thank you Sue - great advice. It's been lovely to find out about your background and to hear about your future plans. Looking forward to seeing more of your beautiful designs soon!

Thursday, 14 June 2012


On Tuesday I spent the day at London based show Pulse, and I've got to say it was hands down the BEST design trade show I have ever been to ... there was a huge amount of inspiring work, talented designers and beautiful stands which all offered something completely new and unique. It had a great atmosphere, and I could instantly tell that everyone was there because they really wanted to be - the designers were so welcoming and lovely to talk to, and just walking round I became engaged in conversations with people who simply wanted a good chat about the show and to find out which part I had enjoyed the most. As someone who loves a good natter, this was definately up my street, and more than anything meant that I met some really interesting and inspiring designers. I really didn't want to leave!

The best part was getting to meet and spend the day with the designer and owner of Dear Prudence. She kindly invited me to help her out on her stand and the experience this gave me was invaluable. She is particularly insipring to me as a fellow Yorkshire based designer because she stays true to her roots and beliefs and this is evident in the beautiful work she produces. It was refreshing to get to know someone so in tune with their work and personal style, and I feel very lucky to have gained an insight into her creative world. (If you would like to see more of her work, you can here)

A fabulous day from start to finish!  

Monday, 11 June 2012

Sketchbook Feature

My work has been featured by Sue Bulmer on her lovely blog, as the new 'Sketchbook Peeks' post - I am very excited to have taken part in this, because Sue's work is so inspirational and she has achieved a huge amount (which is obvious at one glance of her blog!) so it was great that she wanted to include me.

Her sketchbook peeks do exactly what they say on the tin ... they delve into the most personal and experimental part of the design process: the sketchbook. Mine is full of a combination of mistakes, changes of direction and decision making but I think this is what makes a sketchbook so appealing and rewarding to produce... why else would you need one? It record the process you make from concept to finished idea with all the bumps and walls along the way, and as such, it is a fantastic tool to learn from and look back on for future reference and inspiration. Yes, there will be a lot inside which goes well, but sometimes the mistakes spark ideas you would never have considered in the first place.

I have chosen a few pages which sum up my style but also (more importantly) show snippets of the journey I take to get to the final product which, for me, is one of the main reasons why I love producing sketchbooks so much.

It has been great to take part - thank you Sue.
The full feature is here.