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