Not Quite Hot Off The Press… New Work.

"The Sea Kist" ,South Queensferry"

"The Sea Kist" ,South Queensferry"

With gorgeous light this morning I headed out to take a few shots  before breakfast. And the one advantage of working close to home is that I could scan the shots before I worked on them. I had intended to use some of the new Impossible film , possibly the most recent colour version. But I still had some of the “Artistic” TZ film in the camera I had to hand, so that’s what I used instead.

The good thing about this film is that it manipulates well. The bad thing ( or at least the thing that I don’t necessarily want to emphasise with every shot) is the rather wierd colour mix.  So , not only does the image have to be manipulated it also has to be “tweaked” to get a result that I am happy about.

A few times recently I’ve had conversations about whether this or that ( photoshop in particular) is “cheating”.  As far as I’m concerned, since I am not photographing in a journalistic manner where I need to accurately represent “the truth” , anything I need to do , to create an image that I am happy with, is fair game. I am pretty sure that Rembrandt and Van Gogh would have made full use of all these modern tools had they had them around !

So you can see for yourself what I’ve done  – here are two more shots. The first is the unmanipulated version , and then the half way stage of manipulated or “smooshed” as I call it, before the colour tweaking was done.

From Camera

Smooshed but not Tweaked

A few people have asked me if I could put together some kind of a “how to ” guide to all this, so I am working on that at the moment. If you subscribe to the Studio Newsletter you will be the first to hear about it. This month’s issue will be out later this week and if you’d like a copy you can make sure you get it here.

Monday Moodboard

Monday Moodboard

Thinking about trees this week after a stormy week when a lot of trees fell. This wouldnt have been so unusual in November , but was quite surprising at the end of May.

Melting Frost Flower Brooch by KrapLap

Harmony by ArtWaterColor

Oil Painting Trees by NancyvdBoom

Falling Branch Leaves Silver Pendant by AliBaliJewellery

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Five on a Friday – Interior Inspirations

work in progress

work in progress

With having been on my travels for a couple of weeks I don’t have a guest poster lined up for today’s Five on a Friday. So today  I’m going to indulge a new direction that I’m going in -  moving some of my designs towards interior design applications. I’ve hinted at this before , and been “cooking” the idea for a while, but fresh from the energy boost of the retreat I have moved this up my priorities. It was always there in the background whispering “my turn” and I was always too busy attending to some other element of my photographic work . But now I have made space in my timetable to develop a range.

I think it is partly inspired by moving house after renting for a while. I am quite particular and can often not  find  quite what I am looking for.  Anyway, selfishly starting off with the things that I would like myself, I’m starting to build a range – and hopefully some other people will like them too !

Although I don’t have any formal training in interior design is has been a “side interest” for a very long time. When we sold our first house the buyers asked if they could just buy the whole lot, they liked the mood of it so much. Then later ,doing up a crumbling old house, from the floorboards up, I learnt “on the job”. I studied the effects of paint on walls, learning how to make big rooms feel cosier. Now ,in let’s say, a more “bijoux” residence , I am exercising the other kind of skill – making small spaces bigger ! And it also demands more restraint in terms of how many items are in the house so I am increasingly ruthless, editing out things that no longer please my eye or are appropriate to the space. I will never be a minimalist but everything has to earn the right to be there.

Over time I’ve realised that the things that give me most pleasure are the things which have some kind of story attached. The little wooden plank that my Oma had in her house to keep her keys and purse on . The green ginger jar that one grandmother gave to the other. An unusal green painted blown egg I was given in Romania. The rather forbidding carved wooden figure I bought from an amazing sculptor in northern Romania. Of course, I buy things for colour or shape or function as well – but they never achieve quite the same level as the “story” items.

I’ve digressed a little  – my intended “Five” was  a round up of past and present interior inspirations.

1. Tricia Guild from Designer’s Guild.

Around the time I did up the first house she had just launched a range for Next. It was very pale and faded and stood out against the harsher colours or overly floral chintz elsewhere. From then on I’ve followed her career. Visiting her shop was always a treat if I was in London and her books a more accesible resource. Inspiration  is a favourite – especially if I’m  looking to jump start a new colour combination.

2. Jocasta Innes – The other designer who influenced me at the outset wrote a book called “Paint Magic” ( published 1982 – goodness !) and went on to develop a wonderful range of paints , which, I’ve been sad to discover are no longer in production. But maybe her books are still available. The  second book “The Thrifty Decorator” ( 1993 ) was also ahead of its time, in restoring old furniature and reviving old skills .

And then zapping along to more recent inspirations …

3. VT Wonen – This Dutch interor design magazine really appeals to my liking for “crisp and clean” styling. But with contemporary unfussy shapes or bold use of colour. I pick up a copy everytime I am in Holland and keep meaning to set up a subscription. In the meantime they have a great website ( which is in Dutch , but the images are great if you’ve not needed to master that language).

ETC by Sibella Court -I’ve written about this book before, but I keep returning to it. I love how she writes about colour palettes and suggests creating palettes of ten colours and then using them in various combinations as a way to unify the style of a house.

5. And a new discovery for me – who is suddenly appearing all over the place -Sania Pell.  She has written a book, The Homemade Home,  which I’ll make a point of peeking at next time I am in a bookshop, but for now I’ve enjoyed her new blog, site and interviews, amongst others the one on the Do What You Love  site. I am delighted to see that there is an Edinburgh connection as she has studied and taught at Edinburgh College of Art.

By the way , if you want to join in this round of the Do What you Love ecourse – I think today is the last day to sign up.

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I am planning a few changes with my Etsy shop and website in the next wee while – if you’d like to be “in the know” you can subscribe you my Studio Newsletter here. And if you’d like to contribute your “Five on a Friday ” just let me know.

Do What You Love Retreat – Part 4 – Flora Bowley Painting Workshop

Flora's finished painting

Flora's finished painting

The third day we got a fresh canvas to work on. Apparently most of Flora’s workshops are over one or two days so it was a luxury to have the third day. With this one we could put into practise what we had learnt and work with a little more purpose.  I did have some idea about what I wanted to do – but that was mainly in terms of the colours I wanted to  use – I tried to let the actual marks appear more intuitively. As I was having a bit of a “photo break” I didn’t take my “big” cameras with me, nor was I really thinking about writing blog posts afterwards -so I didn’t take many pictures of the progression of the first two paintings. The final one I did photograph a bit more as it evolved.

Third canvas early on

Third canvas early on

Each day there were little sessions in between the painting, making sketches , thinking about what insprires us and also what our negative voice was telling us. We had to write a little note turning this thought upside down. Mine was quite simple ” I am a Painter” – as my voice was regularly muttering – “This is all very well, and you might be  a photographer , but you’re not a painter”. I gave myself the same advice as I give to people who hesitate to call themselves a photographer – “You’re a photographer if you decide you are”.  Very simple but it did seem to just wave away the voices.

Detail later on

Detail later on

I’ve rambled on a lot here – it’s actually very hard to capture the whole mood in words. But in short – we painted for three days. It was amazing, blissful, inspiring, encouraging and feels like the start of so much more. I know I’m not alone in feeling like this. I don’t know which way my painting will evolve but I know I have definitely crossed an important barrier.

Around coffee time....

Around coffee time....

The class was made up about 50 /50 of people who already painted versus those who hadn’t – but again, the whole format made it so unintimidating for us newbies. If you have always wanted to paint but didn’t know where or how to start then this is the course for you.  You will get paint on your fingers and the biggest dose of encouragement and enthusiasm that you can imagine.

Finished painting

Finished painting

(It does feel a tiny bit out of my comfort zone again to post these online, because there are a lot of things I don’t like, or would like to try differently next time. But in the interests of showing what I completed during the workshop I have posted it. I read somewhere ( maybe the Artist’s Way ? ) – that in order to do a good painting you need to give yourself permission to do 100 “bad” ones !

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Etsy Favourite – Tara Leaver

Tara Leaver - Two Pears Original Mixed Media  on Canvas

Tara Leaver - Two Pears Original Mixed Media on Canvas

I thought it would be fun to shine the spotlight on a few of the Etsy artists who I met during the last week, at that magical retreat you’ve heard me going on about. Tara was one of my housemates there , and it was so lovely to meet her and hear about her painting. I could see that she really took what Flora showed us and ran with it. She’s  opened an Etsy shop earlier this year  selling both originals and prints of her work. And also does quite a lot of paintings to commission if you have something particular in mind.

Green Love Trees by Tara Leaver

Green Love Trees by Tara Leaver

You can find her Etsy shop here  for her smaller pieces and for other work visit her website at www.taraleaver.co.uk – and if you’d like to know a bit about how each piece develops , have a read of her blog.

Do What You Love Retreat Part 3 – Flora Bowley Painting Workshop

Flora painting demo

Flora painting demo - (Photo Iphone)

This is definitely the hardest post to write about the DWYL retreat. And it has ended up as such a long post that I’m going to break it into two .

Choosing to do the painting workshop was a definite shove outside my comfort zone.  I’ve wanted to paint for a long time but been either scared or unsure about how to approach it. And not sure if I could let go enough to get past the feeling of being dissatisfied with the result.

The long list of paints we had to get before hand, those tricky foam “brushes” which caused raised eyebrows in some of the Edinburgh Art Stores, none of this was terribly reassuring. But at the same time I had butterflies about the idea of it.

However, the welcome and the first evening at the retreat was so relaxing and enjoyable that my worries started to fade away a bit.  All our luggage was taken away and brought to our little eco houses while we chatted with each new arrival, drank tea and ate cakes. Dinner in the tipi and more chatting followed.

By morning I was a little apprehensive but curious about how it would unfold. Flora had the perfect technique for dealing with slightly anxious would – be painters. First off a little intro in a circle so that we could see who we were sharing the class with and then outside onto the grass for a bit of stretching to loosen up. For our first marks on the canvas she put some boppy music on and had us apply paint using our hands and fingers, allowing the music to direct us, all the while keeping our eyes closed. It really got past that “white canvas” fear that many people have.  And then, using the foam brushes and other implements she guided us through a whole series of ways to make marks.

After a while we had to move around the room stopping at all the other paintings and she would again direct us to make a certain mark – sometimes swirling the brush round, sometimes creating short dashes, or dots or an angry mark. It was quite interesting to note the feeling of detachment to the other paintings and that helped us to have the same approach to our own. We were advised to regularly turn our painting upside down, or round by 90 %- again to let intuition guide the painting rather than trying to force something. Flora worked on a demo painting throughout and she also regularly turned her picture upside down.

Painting tent

Painting tent - (Photo Iphone)

By the end of the first day I was thoroughly enjoying the process – although I didn’t like how either of my canvases were looking. I think most of the group were feeling that way. Undeterred Flora had us choose the one that we preferred and in turn we found some tiny corner of our painting that we did like. And here the marvel of acrylics comes into its own – if you don’t like something you can paint right over the top. In fact most of our paintings have at least 10 layers – possibly more. The painting below is one of mine from the first day- there was very little of that left by the next day.(I didn’t take many pictures during the retreat as I wanted to have a change of pace and not look through the viewfinder so much. All the photos I did take were Iphonography ones )

Reviewing Paintings - First day

Reviewing Paintings - First day - Photo Tara Leaver

On the second day we continued to work on the two canvas in rotation – a good system as it allows one to dry while the other is being worked on. At around the time I was starting to pull my paintings towards something I liked a bit more Flora stood in the middle of the marquee , took a deep breath , and invited us to give one of our paintings away to our neighbour. For ever. There were a few gasps. But surprisingly, no uproar , as we quickly understood that this was yet another lesson in working with “what is” and trying to keep a bit of detachment. And again a reminder that anything we didn’t like could be painted over. And anything in the painting we’d given away that we liked, we could repeat.

The time whizzed by so quickly. Every now and then Flora would demonstrate another technique. Or put on some music to do another bit of stretching or dancing. Or if you really felt stuck she would make gentle suggestions about what you could try next. It was absorbing and challenging but never felt uncomfortable – and at the end of the second day most of us had completed two paintings ! For me , one felt more completed than the other but I still decided I was done with them for now -so that I could just work on my third canvas the next day.

Final installment on Thursday.

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Monday Moodboard

Monday Moodboard 24

Now that I’ve tracked down where the new home for the moodboards is, I’ll add one for this week. We’ve had some lovely summery days but today all around my studio is rainy and blustery.

Mr Bauman was a rainy character  by Baboucherouge

Raindrops Lariat Necklace  by Kosmika

Whimsical Rain Earrings by Miskay

Brooch – Rainy Cloud by LaCravatteDuChien

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Tomorrow I’ll be back with my final review of the Do What You Love retreat – on the painting workshop. I’m still not sure I can put it all into words, but I’ll have a go.

If  you didn’t manage to go to the retreat you could still get a flavour of it by joining the Do What  You Love e-course. I didn’t do the previous one myself, but I’m guessing it was pretty inspirational.

Also on the menu this week is shooting and reviewing some of the latest films from the Impossible Project.

If you’d like to make sure you are always first to know any news and secret snippets you can subscribe to the Studio Newsletter here - and get a few freebie digital downloads into the bargain.

Do What You Love – Part 2

DWYL details

Still processing the whole event and coming back down to earth with a bit of a bump and a bug.

Although the painting workshop ( more of that next time ) was the main draw for me, as well as simply the fact of attending an art retreat at all, there was a lot more going on too. In order to help people work out how do to what they love or give them some resources and information to help them grow, Beth had lined up an impressive group of speakers.

Of course all the tutors spoke about their work and took questions.  In charge of the painting workshop was Flora Bowley. Well, if you’ve never painted before , but want to , this is the workshop to get you going. Book -maker extraordinaire Rachel Hazell led her very enthusiastic group through the intricacies of creating and filling a personal book. The workroom was full of all kinds of amazing papers, snippets of maps, ribbons, stamps – a real treasure trove.  And finally Priscilla Jones taught her group how to make very intriguing textile sculptures  transforming wire, silk and wax into creations- from cupcakes to lamps  -that wouldn’t have been out of place in Alice in Wonderland.

In addition a few invited guests came along. For me the most relevant was Rachel Taylor, of Rachel Taylor Designs. She talked at length about her path from graduation to that of successful surface designer with her own label as well as freelancing for other companies. It was also lovely to meet Hannah Nunn and see her amazing lamps – she had a lot of inspirational advice to share.  It was also rather a coup to have Matt Stinchcomb from Etsy Europe come along to give us an insight into where Etsy is going. They are gearing up for a big conference in Berlin in September (which I am also going to attend) – the line – up of speakers there looks very good.

Like so many others who were there, we had read about all the different workshops and retreats held in America and jumped at the chance to go to one closer to home.  ( I should add though, that a good number came from overseas, America, Canada, Italy, Ireland and Denmark – many using the retreat to make their first visit to the UK  - this international aspect really enhanced the flavour of the group ) .

Although the painting workshop was amazing and all the business discussions were inspirational , maybe the best part of all is the opportunity to mix with about 50 lively creative people – all open to learning , sharing their experiences and encouraging each other.

DWYL details

Huge thanks have to go to Beth Nicholls  for having the vision to pull it all together. The attention to detail was noticed and appreciated – little inspirational notes on the table at the first dinner, beautiful decorations inside the Tipi and the cafe area, a generous sprinking of bunting throughout – and the most gorgeous little goodie bags to welcome us at the start.

I will definitely try to make time and funds available to go to other events in future. ( The next DWYL is planned for next April)

Etsy Favourite – Geninne

Bird Print by Gennine

This week’s Etsy Favourite is Geninne D Zlatkis-an artist based in Mexico. I’ve been saving these prints for a  while until I had the perfect spot for them.

Bird Print by Gennine
She has a very delicate and unique style with a special fondness for painting birds and lives in an amazing house that her husband designed.

Gennine D Zlatkis

She has her finger in a lot of pies, working on a fabric collaboration and writing a book on hand carved stamps amongst others as well as being featured in the book Water Paper Paint

Gennine D Zlatkis

Find out more about her life and her work by visiting her  site here and her Etsy shop.

The Impossible Factory Visit

Impossible Factory

I’m going to interupt my report on the Do What You Love retreat to give a little review of the Open House that the Impossible Project held on the 9th of May. Although I have supported this project from the outset , read their newsletters and experimented with their film as it progressed and was even  a “top secret test photographer”  ( I love saying that ! ) , visiting the factory and hearing the presentations has given me a new level of respect for what they have undertaken.

Impossible visit

Many people assume that all that was required was to restart production of a Polaroid type film. In fact they have had to completely reinvent the process so that the films they are producing now rely on a completely different technique to the Polaroid film of old. When they started out they had a list of at least twenty technical issues that had to be resolved. I’m not sure if every single one of these has been dealt with but they are now very close to their goal.

Impossible visit

There were about 100 people at the open day, divided into two groups for the purpose of seeing the factory . About a dozen people came from France , as well as others from Italy and Germany, in addition to locals. Afterwards there was a  presentation by Andre Bosman , who was previously employed by Polaroid , Dr Florian Kaps who had already been retailing the last supplies of Polaroid film and Marwan Saba. It was interesting to hear their thoughts on the project to date.  In fact it only got off the ground when Andre and Florian met when Polaroid had a closing event. Not for nothing was it called “Impossible” and  there were moments of doubting whether it would all work out. However they are all pretty tenacious and committed so that now there is already a good black and white film and a colour version very close. I tested the Beta version and have just bought some of the first release so will post some photos once I’ve shot with that.

Apparently in the past Polaroid was very secretive, spending two years to test new film and forbidding any photography within the plant, even by their own staff. We were given free rein to photograph pretty well anything we liked and no questions seemed off limit either.

Impossible visit

We saw the machines that cover the whole process. From where they test batches of the finished film for colour consistency. Where the surrounds are cut and shaped. Where the emulsion is injected into the pods. Where the pods are sealed – ( this is one of the most crucial elements as no-one wants that stuff seeping out of the finished shot). And of course  where the finished packs were assembled into boxes ready for dispatch. Interestingly every battery was tested and those that didn’t make the grade slid off into the reject box.

Impossible visit

Questions covered a wide range of topics. One thing that many people have wondered about is the fact that there are 8 shots in a pack as opposed to 10 in the past. Was this a clever marketing ploy people asked ? No, the new batteries were thicker than the old ones and so there was only room for 8 shots in the cartridge.

Our tour group was taken round by  Martin, the chief chemist who Andre Bosman said was 95% behind the chemical formula for the film. I will admit to feeling a little bit star – struck about that fact !

We also met probably the only man in the world who still repairs SX70 Cameras for a living. He had the very reassuring information that he only   rarely finds a camera that he can’t fix. If it is nothing too major you can drop it off, do a bit of shopping and then come back for it. If you are from further afield it can be done by post. He seemed to also do replacements of the faux leather coverings which I am tempted to have done on two of my cameras sometime as they are both crumbling and rather unsightly. When it looked as though there was no more film I wasn’t too bothered about it, but if I’m going to be shooting with them for years to come it would be nice if they were a bit more presentable.

Impossible visit

If you are in Enschede they do have a little outlet shop at the factory. There is also talk of them holding another open house later in the year. If you shoot Impossible Film and are curious about the project I’m sure you would find it interesting. And if you haven’t already tried the film, or only tried the very first batches to come out of the factory , why not have another go. If you love shooting with this type of film they need your support to ensure that the film reaches its full potential so that we will be able to keep shooting with the cameras we love.

PS . I did take some additional photos. I’ll upload them to Flickr and add the link here over the next couple of days.

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