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Getting by at home

Sew-Walk-Draw-Design-Repeat

As for most people on planet earth at the moment life has changed dramatically around here during the past two weeks. But we’re lucky, we have space to walk the dogs and for each of us to hide away from each other when we need to. I’ve been enjoying starting some unusual projects. At the beginning of the year I certainly wouldn’t have expected that I’d be researching the perfect sewing pattern for a face mask. I found a pleated version first but it really wasn’t very effective. Then I found Craft Passion. What an absolute feast of goodness that is! This red face mask was put together really very quickly and easily. It fits snuggly over the nose and has a pocket in the lining for a disposible paper mask or peice of filter paper. We live in the countryside south of Melbourne so we don’t really have much call for facemasks here yet. But we’ll be ready if we do need to go somewhere and if anyone else needs one just contact me.

Custom Tissue Paper and Funky Mock-ups

My other discovery this week was the very wonderful noissue. They’re an Australian based company who produce compostable postage sacks and customisable tissue paper, tape and stickers. I’ve been playing with some of their beautiful mock-ups. I’ll be using their services but as a creative partner I can also offer this service to anyone.

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Flying Elephants from the Past

Many years ago when my parents lived in Australia (and the world wasn’t completely fxxxed…sorry, I’m trying to stay positive!) my daughter drew this marvellous elephant. Mum loved it so much she had it stuck on her laundry wall for ages. I managed to take a photo before it faded and the other day it popped up whilst I was reminiscing. So, of course, I made a pattern out of it.

So this got me thinking about all the millions of people who are housebound with children. Mine are older now but not so much older that I can’t remember exactly what it was like. We were lucky enough to live near the beach and amongst tree and countryside. Our kids were wild. They climbed and ran and swam and any opportunity. Confinement was really tough. But when we were stuck inside on a rainy day creative activity was on!

I have taught art for many years and love running workshops in schools. I’ve put together a list of fabulous online resources where you can find a wealth of ideas for creative activities for kids

kate's elephants_drawingkate's elephants_yellow

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Time for some Dancing Bears

I scribbled down some dancing bears today. It seemed right to find something silly to do. Things are still pretty easy for us in southern Australia, but we know that the schools will close soon and we’ll told to stay at home.

Over the years I’ve run private art classes and school workshops on drawing and painting. It’s always been something I have loved doing. I pulled out all my files of ideas and plans for children’s art activities today in the hope that I can translate some of the most successful lessons to short videos or blog posts.

In the meantime I was reminded of the truely fabulous blog/website Deep Space Sparkle. It’s a fantastic space to find ideas on doing creative projects with kids.

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Rainy Day Mock-up

It’s been raining non-stop today and I’m feeling a bit coldy and yuck, so what better to do that play around with some mock-ups. It’s so great to see a whole collection of patterns come together. I’d love to see it come to life one day. There is so much brown, ochre and muted tones around for children and babies, which may look stylish but colour is more fun.

A mock-up picture of a nursery crib with cushions and blankets in brightly coloured patterned fabrics.
Mock-up of artists print. Blue and pale blue guinea-fowl in various size
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Setting up shop!

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been setting up shop on my website. The idea is that this will support my market shop. At the end of last year I was able to have a small stall at a twilight market for alumni at Chisholm college. It was such an uplifting experience to have my work in front of people and talking about how it was created, I can’t wait to do it again! First I have to create the stock though. I’ve been really enjoying creating these little cards to go with baby blankets and newborn wraps.

That Chishom market also led me to meet a wonderful creative entrepreneur Rondelle of Rondelle Designs . She’s a total inspiration. She’s recently set up the amazing Rita and Frank Creative Studios in Capel Sound on the Mornington Peninsula. It looks like it’s going to be a fabulously busy creative centre.

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New Collections!

African Discoveries

It’s taken a while but I’m so pleased I have taken the time to create three new collections that I’m happy with. Last year was really eventful. We were thrilled to be able to take the children to Zambia. It’s been ten years since we last went and being able to take them on safari in the Luangwa National Park was unbelievably special. From all the sketches and photographs I’ve created a pattern collection including rich colours and animals that’s designed to be joyful and fun.

Big Oak Tree

Two weeks before our trip to Africa I returned to the UK. Early July a beautiful time of the year to visit rural England and the trip included many early morning walks around familiar lanes. It always surprises me how green and dense with life the English countryside is. I was there because Dad passed away after having dementia for many years. It was a sad time but also really nice to have the time to enjoy walking in the places he loved. This collection celebrates those walks.

Children of Nature

Last year I created a pattern for a Spoonflower contest inspired by my husband’s childhood in Africa. The idea developed to include other patterns related to children’s curiosity and wonder. Each of these patterns takes me to a time when either my children were small or I was. Looking for bugs and beetles whilst camping. Getting new chickens for the garden coup and fishing or searching rock pools for prawns, or seeing a rare lyrebird in the rainforest.

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Springing Forward

I’m finally getting back to work! It’s the start of another school year here in Australia, and we’re all wondering where on earth the Summer went. The country has had a hideous time and we’re not sure what the future holds. On a personal level our little household has been very busy with the start of renovations and a new puppy who is growing before our eyes. We also bought four new chickens who are delightful to look at because they’re all black, but they’re pretty useless. We’ve had several escapes as they try to navigate the ladder back into the coup at night and not a single egg has been laid!

Spoonflower this week

Of course I set myself some lofty and ambitious resolutions and goals for the start of the year. And of course they’re not being met. One of them was to write a blog post each week…hahaha! Another was to complete two Spoonflower challenges each month. It’s February and this is the first one for the year. It’s a Springtime theme so an opportunity to illustrate some cute little lambs with the potential for making baby blankets. I’m really happy with this. I drew on some of the many many photos I took in the Devon countryside when I was home last year. My particualr favourites are heather and cow parsley (how good is that name!) because they remind me of walking with Dad.

cushion with a pretty Springtime pattern design
blanket with a pretty Springtime pattern design
a pretty Springtime pattern design of lambs, flowers and ducks
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Magical Mallacoota

Australia is experiencing our worst bushfires in history and the news from Mallacoota was some of the worst. It is harrowing and difficult to get your head around. It’s hard to know what to even write under the circumstances. There is so much commentary on how to donate, whether or not to send goods or money. Should we be making joey pouches or donating money to animal shelters? I enjoyed listening to Magda Szubanski yesterday, who’s teamed up with Will Connolly (aka Egg Boy) to raise money for the long term relief effort through providing trauma/mental health support. Here’s the link at GoFundMe.

So, I will donate money and time and sew joey pouches, but in the meantime, I’d like to share my connection with one of the worse affected towns, Mallacoota. We first visited Mallacoota in January 2009. We decided to treat ourselves and stay in a house rather than camping. It was a mudbrick flat and the excentric owner encouraged feeding the wildlife, especially the birds. We fell in love with this magical little town by the sea. The abundant wildlife captivated the children and when we left we always said we’d go back one day.

Ten Years On

It took a while but finally, we returned to Mallacoota, and it didn’t disappoint. Again we found wildlife, beautiful bushland walks, hundreds of little blue crabs scurrying on the beach and the most stunning scenery you can imagine. And now a delightful little coffee hut near the beach selling delicious coffee and a daily supply of origami animals! The kids might be older but nothing beats a bit of origami art. My husband loved to admire the spectacular coffee machine, and I enjoyed the coffee and the view. When you go, visit them! Mallacoota Origami Coffee

Hope

So this week has been heartbreaking but my little ray of hope is seeing that Origami Coffee is still operating on the seafront in Mallacoota. A lot of their customers are the fireys and they’re running a little jar for donations. I read a lovely little article in The Age that offers hope and optimism. We are all hoping that Mallacoota will continue to be the magical place of our memories. We’ll certainly be visiting again with our empty eskies.

If nothing else…. draw.

Using the inspiration I have from the wonderful times we’ve spent on the east coast amongst the parrots and lyrebirds I’m getting back to designing and drawing. Watch out for some colourful patterns!

Australia Red Cross

Go Fund Me page for Trauma and Mental Health ongoing Support

Wildlife Rescue

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Happy Holiday Season

I made this!

The holiday season always seems to creep up on me at an alarming rate in Australia. The kids finish school and the weather starts to warm up so we all hit the beach and forget that Christmas is coming very soon! I did manage to organise myself a bit this year though. I ordered some of my own fabric printed through NextState and got sewing with a beautifully easy-to-follow pattern from Tilly and The Buttons. Of course, when I came to actually wear out to an event I had a crisis of confidence and felt very silly. That’s where having daughters really helps. I swear I wouldn’t leave the house in anything but black without their help.

Puppy news

I know this has nothing to do with design, pattern or illustration but just look at this gorgeous boy! He’s distracting me a lot when he’s not napping or eating so it’s been tricky to get on with any real work. But that’s what the holiday season is for, isn’t it? Plans, drawings and pattern collections can come later. In the meantime, I’m running around in the sunshine with this one.

Happy Christmas

I wish anyone reading this the very best holiday time. Stay safe and have fun!

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Walls That Talk

My illustrations on the outside of a public building!

Back in August The Maitland Library in New South Wales approached me to ask if they could use the illustrations from one of my books for their Christmas exhibition ‘Walls That Talk’. So I was delighted when I checked out their website and saw that they are there! Click on the screenshot below to have a look. It’s the classic ‘The Night Before Christmas‘ and was the first published picture book I illustrated back in 2012. So it’s particularly dear to me. I remember exactly where I was the day I got a call from Hachette Children’s Books to say they wanted to offer me the opportunity to illustrate a childrens book.

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Christmas Cake Toppers Workshop

A bit of history

A few years ago a friend and I met once a week to make cakes. It was a good excuse to get together and laugh, and she really makes me howl! We got pretty good at cake making aswell. I can’t, or rather won’t, bake but I can design stuff. Over time I started making my own fondant and even figured out low-sugar or honey replacement fondant which was delicious. I learnt how to smooth fodant, make all sorts of little models, paint on fondant and create 3D model shaped cakes. We even started exploring gluten free options and beautiful tiered decorated cake with minimal frosting and fruit and flowers. We made cakes for all kinds of different occasions. A lot of them, but nowhere near all of them, are on this Pinterest board.

Christmas workshop

Several years later and we have both got back into teaching. But it’s great to have a reason to work together again. So yesterday I went to run a workshop in cake decoration at the High School where she teaches. It was so much fun I really hope we get the chance to do it again. I tried to keep it relatively simple and gave the kids step by step instructions. They did a truly fantastic job and we laughed a lot.

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Christmas! Just round the corner.

A fun illustrated advent calendar

It’s going to be a bit of a mad Christmas this year at our place. With relatives driving across the Nullarbor Desert to be with us, a new puppy and just one bathroom because the renovations haven’t progressed in time….what could possibly go wrong? One thing is certain there’ll be a lot of laughing and probably some emotional tears. We’ve had some tough times since the kids last saw their cousins so we’re all incredibly grateful that we’re all still here and able to enjoy the gorgeous Aussie summer together.

Advent Calendar

Over the next 20 days I’m offering this free A3 printable to anyone who chooses to subscribe to my news and ramblings. It’s a bit of fun and I’m thinking of using some of the motifs for cards and patterns.

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Excitement all round Play School, Fabric and Puppy!

Mini Celebrations

We had a lot of fun watching Play School yesterday and celebrating ‘Eva’s Imagination’ being read out. It brought back memories of the time when it was on every afternoon. The bubbles were non-alcoholic, and when the kids were little they certainly didn’t have chocolate and crisps for afternoon tea. Who knows if this little bit of exposure will lead to more projects, but it was certainly fun!

Fabric and sewing plans

I finally received the fabric I ordered a while ago from Spoonflower and I’m looking forward to whipping up a few tea-towels. I love Spoonflower for all sorts of reasons, mainly the mock-ups and the design challenges though. Actually ordering and receiving fabrics in a timely manner is pretty restrictive when you live so far from the USA. I’ve decided to stick to NextState. It’s local and many of the fabrics are locally farmed and woven. That’s just sensible all round. Next year I’ll be making some pretty baby wraps and muslins for markets. I’ve ordered some fabric labels for products, so I’ll have to wait for them to arrive before I start on my tea-towels. In the meantime this gorgeous sewing pattern is waiting for me to sew something for myself for the Summer. I’ve ordered the fabric in the Lily pattern I created a couple of weeks ago.

Two weeks is a long time

It’s hard to believe it’s been just over two weeks since I had a nightmare phone call from my daughter travelling in Europe to tell me she’d been in an horrific coach crash. She’s been home for ten days and is doing remarkably well considering what shes been through. So, as things seem to have settled just for a moment in our mad household we’ve decided to shake things up a bit with this little bundle. I stress about not having time to do all the design work I want to do. Not entirely sure how this is going to help. Christmas is going to be fun.

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Book reading on Play School!

We’re on the telly!

Front cover of 'Eva's Imagination' a children's book illustrated by Karen Erasmus and written by Wenda Shurety

I was super excited this week to hear that ‘Eva’s Imagination’ is going to be read on Play School. I used to watch the program every day with the kids ten years ago, but on Tuesday this coming week I be sitting in front of it again with my three near grown-up kids and a bottle of champers. And to add to the excitement the reader is Kate Richie (of Home and Away and Nova 100 fame). This past year I have been exploring surface pattern design with a passion and I really enjoy it. But book illustration has a beautiful lasting quality because people really treasure books.

Maitland Library

A few weeks ago Maitland Library in NSW contacted me to ask if they could use some images from my first published picture book ‘The Night Before Christmas’. They are using the images their Christmas ‘Walls that Talk’ exhibition on the outside of the building. I illustrated the book seven years ago now, so I’m thrilled that people are still enjoying it.

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Water Lilies

I made a new pattern yesterday with water-lilies for inspiration. I was also following the creative prompt ‘Grateful’. My cynical voice didn’t get much of a look in (‘god help me if I hear someone tell I have to be grateful one more time I’ll scream!’…that one) because I really do have something to be incredibly grateful for this week. Forever. Water lilies were what I focussed on when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter. The colours and design had to be joyful and bright. I gave this one a lot of thought and I’m happy with the result.

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Inktober Round-up

This is the round-up of all my Africa Inktober sketches. I’m not sure what I was thinking of when I decided to do two Inktobers. I over-did-it and didn’t do any of it brilliantly or finish it! Pretty sure that’s breaking the rules and shows no hard-line commitment at all! But it was wonderful to attempt to discipline myself to draw every day on a subject matter that I might not necessarily feel like doing. I’ve collected up some funny motifs that should be really useful for pattern making, cards, graphics and all sorts of stuff. Now onto Advent!

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Inspiration for Design

Inktober

I’m managing to keep up with two versions of Inktober, but only just. Days go by and I miss doing the sketching and then do a whole load at once. So, as with many things, I’m hopelessly inconsistent. The sketches I’m accumilating though are leading to all sorts of ideas for patterns and collections, cards and prints. There’s so much to do! It’s a good space to be in. The Christmas holidays are coming up and instead of dwelling on everything that needs to organised, I’ve decided to be optimistic about getting some design work done during that time.

Just keep swimming

Ive been looking back on all the illustration work I’ve done over the past ten years. It’s really helpful when I’m feeling like I’m not getting anywhere. There’s an awful lot of work there and some of the ‘passion projects’ I’ve done along the way have been the best to keep me focussed. I wasn’t sure if Inktober could give me a similar sense of satisfaction. Afterall it’s just sketching everyday. But the body of work that’s coming together is interesting and a lot of it will be really useful.

New collection started

This is just a start to a new collection incorporating ideas from our trip to Africa. I’m working on some guineafowl patterns at the moment as well. Completing the Spoonflower tea-towel competition was a good incentive.

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African Designs

This week’s Spoonflower challenge spurred me on to look at my drawings and photos from our recent trip to Zambia. I loved the whole idea of using a folk art style for this tea-towel design. It just seemed right. The colour palette came together easily from a mixture of folk art research and collections of photographs. I’m looking forward to designing a whole collection of patterns for children from this.

When I first looked at the tea towel challenges on Spoonflower for this month I honestly didn’t find them very appealing and thought they probably weren’t for me. But I guess that’s the whole point of a challenge. You find yourself researching art forms and genre that you wouldn’t previously have considered looking at. I love the way folk art has no rules. This design appears symmetrical, but it’s not. The drawing is naive, yet accomplished. The design seems haphazard, or cute, but it’s deliberate. This definitely won’t be my last attempt at folk art

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Do children have a say in design?

They have minds of their own

A long time ago, when I started illustrating children’s books someone very cynically said to me ‘You know you’re not illustrating for children, it’s for the parents or grandparents, they’re doing the buying’. Now that’s all fine if you’re in publishing and marketing and all that matters is shifting units off the shelf. But are we designing and illustrating to sell stuff or do we do it with children in mind? Do we consider their little personalities and the quirky choices they make? Personally I think the kids definitely have a say.

We start communicating with our children from day one. Mothers, in particular, are usually highly tuned to what their child likes and dislikes. My girls had a say in almost everything because they imposed their views and were very chatty. And, with three under 5, sometimes it makes for an easier life to let them go to kindergarten with their bathing suit on over their leggings. It’s not a great style choice, but it is theirs. Children make their own choices all the time. It’s healthy for them to be given the freedom to choose. You can buy them all the books you like, but they decide if they want to read or listen to them. They may have beautiful dresses but they often won’t choose to wear them. My middle child wore the same rainbow coloured skirt every day for almost six months until the colours faded (it did get washed). The person who bought it for her really knew how to buy for that particular child. It certainly simplified the morning dressing routine for us for a while.

Thoughtful gifts last

Some of the best gifts, the things we continue to treasure from when our children were little, were sourced thoughtfully or handmade. Beautifully made dolls, quilts and knitted baby cardigans. Things that we’ll keep safely in a box for when they have babies. I love the way we have more opportunities to choose now. I don’t mean that there are more and more things available in the shops or online. I mean that you can choose to make ethical choices when you buy things. The baby market is a throwaway market in the extreme. It’s painfully short-lived. But people buy gifts for little ones and there are more and more opportunities to buy well. Keeping in mind the environment, buying local and supporting small businesses.

Environmentally conscious buying for children

I come across a lot of washable nappy companies that use pattern designers for the wraps that go over the washable nappy. They are so colourful now! I used washable nappies but it was 18 years ago. It took some effort to source them and we had to drive about 30 miles up the motorway and pay a small fortune to get them. When we moved to Africa though I really found out that it was the best decision. To dispose of ‘disposable’ nappies there I would have to burn them (yuk…it takes ages!) or bury them (really?) So I loved them my washable nappies. It would have been so great to have had some of those beautifully patterned wraps that are available today. And you bet this little person would have had a say in which wrap she was going to wear….before she ripped it off and ran around with nothing on her bottom.

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Tea Towel Design

I’ve never designed a tea-towel before. I did this one for this weeks Spoonflower Challenge and it was an absolute joy. I thought I’d do something that would be of use to me. As you can see, the pages of my recipe book are well worn on this particular page. I’ve been making chocolate brownies for the kids since they were little, or since I was given this book was given to me by someone super clever at giving presents. I’ve adapted the recipe and simplified it but it’s usually successful. ‘Bosh it together and chuck it in the oven’ is my way of cooking. The brownies usually last about two days in our house.

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Inktober

Well, a new month has arrived and that always gives me a bit of a boost…’This is the month! This is the month I will get my s*** together!’ I can start with good intentions anyway. I’m in complete denial that the year is nearly over. It has been a particularly tricky year. But less of that, I’ve decided to set myself the ludicrous task of doing not one, but two, Inktobers. The official Inktober was started several years ago and now has a huge following of super talented artists. Let’s hope I don’t contribute to bringing the standard down! I’m really looking forward to following #inktober2019 on Instagram. I also decided to do my own African Inktober. This is a way of disciplining myself into getting some drawing done from the wealth of material I gathered from our trip to Zambia in August. I’ve set myself some rules

Rule #1 Work ahead of schedule

I have to do this to stay in it, to get to end and to stay sane. From past experience with these kind of things it never gets finished unless you work ahead of schedule. Life is crazy and unpredictable and the reality is that I am fairly unlikely to be able to sit down and draw and paint every day for a month. It’s nice to think that that’s what a professional artist does but in honestly it’s a round of marketing, emailing, doing other work, running a household and having three kids. So, in reality I have taken full advantage of being sick all weekend and I’m a week ahead of schedule. Round of applause for me!

Rule #2 Keep it relevant

I could let my imagination go mad with these prompts and try to do clever, illustrative images. But what I need are motifs for pattern making and prints for children. After all that’s what I’m offering and what I most enjoy creating. So I’m steering away from drawing people or scenes and keeping it simple.

And that’s it. Wish me luck. There’s a heap of other things coming up as well. Not least preparing something for the fabulous Illustrators Australia 9×5 Exhibition ‘Grow’ in December.

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Licensing my work

This week my surface pattern designs were accepted on patterndesigns.com, a European pattern licensing site with really high standards. I was really thrilled. The designs are all checked and curated, so you have to have a sharp eye with whatever you present or it’s rejected. I’ve only managed to upload two patterns but, as with all these things, once I’ve done a couple a system can be put in place to get the rest up there.

Spring continues to inch forward here in Melbourne. The kids are on holiday so I have more time to get some more patterns designed. My plan is to get into get into working on some African animal designs for children.

I had a poke around on the Pantone site in the search for good colour combinations. These colour trends for 2019 look like just the right kind of mood for children’s patterns.

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Winter Blooms

What better way to get back into designing than to enter another Spoonflower challenge? This week is Winter Blooms and as we’re coming out of Winter it wasn’t difficult to figure out the colours. Greys, soft greens and little splashes of colour are very much par of the Australian scenery. This little bunny jumped out at me for the perfect colour combinationthough. And, as we’re a bit topsy-turvy with Christmas in the middle of Summer I was aiming for a subtly seasonal print.

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Limited Palette

This is the first time I’ve attempted the challenge of using a limited palette for a pattern. Who knew it could be so incredibly absorbing? And I’ve just spotted a mistake! Ahh. Anyway, it’s inspired by the thought of floating along the Lower Zambezi admiring the egrets wading. Something I’m really hoping to be doing soon. In the meantime I can’t decide on the combination.

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African Boyhood

This weeks Spoonflower challenge was for boys clothing. It coincided with celebrations for my husband’s 50th birthday. So the challenge got me thinking about his childhood, which was pretty unique and special. He grew up on a cattle farm in rural central Africa. They didn’t have a TV until he was about 15 and communication was by radio. But he had a dirt bike that he would go out on with his cousin all day. His was a wild childhood of adventure and exploring, climbing trees and rocks and messing about in dirt surrounded by all kinds of creatures.

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Cushions!

I finally got you round to having some of my own prints made up into cushions. It was about a year ago that I first took some classes on Skillshare with Bonnie Christine. Then we went on holiday to Queensland and I collected a whole load of drawing and photographs to make my own patterns. I’m always learning more and more about pattern design and it just gets better. I’m working on getting some baby quilts and muslins made up next.

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Cycling and Pattern Design

I’ve been wanting to find an excuse to design a pattern for a cycling shirt and this weeks Spoonflower challenge was just perfect. I was really working from what I’d like to wear as a cycling. I enjoyed playing with the colour palette and there’s definitely some more playing around to be done. Maybe the pink as a background or even an additional panel? The maths involved in creating this was daunting at times. I created each of the wheels and cogs in Adobe Illustrator. The mock-up came from Creative Market which is an increasingly valuable design resource for me.

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Small Scale Summer

A couple of weeks ago I entered my second Spoonflower competition and was please to get around 90 votes! That’s my best result yet, but it didn’t cut it for the top 60. Onwards and upwards though. I’m going to just keep on trying. This week was Small Scale Summer. It was so perfect for Australia and it taught me a thing or two about scale. Voting starts on 2nd May here

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Australian Beauty

I have loved creating a new pattern for Spoonflower this week. Australian florals are an endless source of inspiration. The’r mad and random, curly and spiky and come in the brightest, loveliest colours.

I also discovered Roostery this week. Cant believe it took me so long. What fantastic resource for creating quick mock-ups and visualising your work win products.

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Nautical

Last week I entered my first Spoonflower challenge. But Whilst I was doing that I generated a whole new collection. It was such a great creativity boost. I’m really pleased with the results. I’ve put the whole collection on my other website.

It’s had a little bit of attention on Spoonflower. The competition is really high though. Fingers crossed!!