Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Meet the Maker

 In June of last year I was featured as part of Handprinted's ongoing Meet the Maker blog project. This post gives readers a bit of an insight into my work and processes. If you'd like to read it (or just scroll through the pictures) visit Handprinted's website.

Here's a snippet of my answers in this optimistic conclusion: 

 "Set yourself a deadline for making work - sign yourself up to an exhibition, competition or show. After leaving the creative rigour of university it's easy to get out of the habit of designing and making all the time. I thought I was too busy to make my own work whilst working full time but with a few adjustments it's amazing how much extra time you can squeeze in when you have to. There's nothing like a deadline to force you to find it."

I'll leave it up to you to decide if I take my own advice...



Friday, 24 February 2017

Places to Visit: Painswick Rococo Garden

It is not difficult to find beautiful places to visit in the Cotswolds and this is certainly no exception. The Rococo Garden in Painswick is just what you need if you've spend too much time in cars, staring at screens or in an office chair. Queue for five minutes in front of a tiny ticket shed, walk past the plants for sale, past a rather unappealing conservatory, turn a corner and then forget that final phone call with the courier company that lost your parcel. Soak in the views of rolling hills dotted with sheep and over to the farmhouse where, let's face it, someone is probably baking bread right this minute. Climb the slopes of snowdrops and find the follies, climb to the top of the pigeon house. I promise you'll feel better. Plus, according to my Fitbit, you'll climb the equivalent of sixty nine flights of stairs whilst you're at it. Pretty good right? 


Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Roasted Chickpeas

There are lots of recipes for roasted chickpeas online and I'd like to take a minute to sing their praises. Last night I was ravenous as a busy day had caused me to skip lunch (I had a milkshake and a twix to keep me going...) I opened a tin of chickpeas, seasoned them up and shoved them in the oven whilst I assembled and chopped various fridged items into pretty little bowls. By the time I had done this I had crispy spiced chickpeas ready from the over to spike my salad and shove into a wrap. Here's how I made mine:

1 tin of chickpeas
1tsp oil (vegetable, sunflower, olive, coconut, rapeseed, whatever)
1tsp sumac
Shake of cayenne paper
Sprinkle of salt (pink for added smugness)
Excessive grind of black pepper

Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Discard any of the loose chickpea skins that appear on top of the colander. Give them a shake in a clean tea towel to get rid of some of the moisture. Tip out onto a baking tray. Drizzle on about a teaspoon of any oil you have around and then sprinkle on your seasoning. This time I used sumac which is lovely and fruity (I ate so much of this in Cyprus thanks to the culinary skills of a friend from France), cayenne pepper for a kick, salt and pepper. Sometimes I like to make curried chickpeas with cumin and turmeric. Give the tray a shake and stick in the oven at 180C for about 15 minutes.

Spike salads, fill wraps, snack straight from the bowl. Last night these were tossed into a wholemeal wrap with hummus, green leaves, sliced apple, cheese, flax seed and avocado.


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Photo Shoot for Quirky Covers


 Tom and I spent Sunday afternoon at Upwaltham Barns in Sussex having our photos taken for Marsha, owner of wedding chair hire company Quirky Covers. Her gorgeous chair covers were scattered around the lovely wedding venue and Tom and I played bride and groom in the freezing cold February air. 

It's so important for creative businesses to support one another. Vicki Savage brought handmade headdresses, Caroline was the photographer (although these lovely shots were taken by assistant stylist, Millie!), flowers were provided by Nordic Twigs and of course Quirky Covers created the beautiful vintage chairs. If you're stuck in a rut creatively, getting together with other creatives from your local area can help you to absorb some drive and productive energy, even if it is February and freezing.




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Friday, 10 February 2017

Vegetarian Jambalaya

This dish is not pretty, which is why it's pictured here in my most distracting bowl on my lovely kitchen floor - but it does taste good and it's easy to make super cheaply. Chances are you'll have most of this stuff in your cupboard anyway which is exactly why I made this dish last night.

This recipe accidentally makes enough for four people, although I meant to make it for only two. There's a kind of mania that comes over you when you rummage through the fridge to discover yet more vegetables you can use up. Also, rice swells up - who knew?

Here's what you'll need (feel free to substitute veg for whatever you have kicking about):

2 red onions 
2 carrots
red pepper
2 sticks of celery
2 large shakes of paprika (not the smoked stuff because, let's face it, it's unpleasant)
1tsp ish turmeric
cup of brown rice (always brown unless you're making a risotto or sushi)
Tin of kidney beans (butter beans, chickpeas, aduki.. whatever is in the cupboard)
Tin of tomatoes
1tsp marmite
Ground pepper
Pinch of salt
Pinch of sugar 
I also added some leftover roasted sweet potato from the night before

Chop the onions and sweat them in your nicest big pan. I've said it before and I'll say it again - don't bother putting oil in the pan, just a splash of water if they start to stick and they'll be soft and gorgeous. Add the chopped carrots, celery, turmeric and a two big shakes of paprika. Celery takes quite a long time to cook so don't be tempted to add any more ingredients until you can force a spatula through it. Adding a splash of water to the pan and putting the lid on for a couple of minutes can help. Add the chopped pepper and cook for a minute more. Pour a cup of rice, the chopped tomatoes and enough boiling water to just cover everything. Melt in a teaspoon or marmite. Pop the lid on and simmer until the rice is cooked through. Add the kidney beans right at the end just to heat through. At this point I added the leftover roasted sweet potato from the night before too.

If you try this, let me know! I like to hear how things turn out outside of my little kitchen... 



Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Grown Up Decisions - Living Room


My partner and I are currently doing up our house. We are in a lucky state of renting-with-benefits as we are allowed to make cosmetic changes to the house which is heavenly. First on the list: the living room. This room has been used as a bedroom for the last few years and so has had all the pleasure of spilled cups of tea and melted candles on the carpet. Solution? Take up the carpet!

I do not like carpets. It's not that I don't think they look good (although I mostly prefer rooms without) but I can't really live with them. Fabric on the floor? It's never really made a lot of sense to me. Having grown up in a house with gorgeous wooden floors with just the right amount of beaten up charm, I find it difficult to function in a house with carpets. I'm too messy. If I can't scrape a blob of printing ink or emulsion paint off the floor it just ain't gonna work. 

Here's how our living room looked in Saturday morning:

We had just come back from Ford car boot sale with the heavenly carved mirror pictured at the top of the page and were in the mood to get stuck in to a House Project. The room had already been painted freshly white (see Sara Tasker's How to Live in a White House) including the fireplace which had been raw, dated brick. The ugly tiles around the fireplace have also been removed, later to be replaced by a big chunk of slate from Tom's parents!

The floorboards were in surprisingly good condition apart from one corner where they have been a bit butchered to fit a radiator. They'd look beautiful restored and sanded but alas, that's big money and skills we don't have so we're going to opt for scandi-painted boards instead. 

Here's The Current Plan:

Sofa: Ikea, Stocksund - we may actually get this exact one
Lampshade: a gorgeous Trouva shade that was given to me by my sister and bro-in-law
Rug: Old New House - a US company but something like this would be perfect
Hanging Light: Olive & the Fox - I got Tom one similar to this and we're planning to hang it by an armchair
Throw: this is a fancy one from Houzz 

Until then, our house will look like this:


Any suggestions? Has anyone else had a go at painting floors? I'd love some colour suggestions!



Friday, 3 February 2017

I don't like everything I make!

Last night I sat down for a full 3 hours of dedicated making time and achieved next to nothing.

I had spent the last week doodling and writing down ideas for some new prints and wishing I just had a little more time to get cracking. Finally, an evening revealed itself in which I could sit down and release some of these artistic impulses and of course nothing happened. All of a sudden my head was free of ideas and any I had drawn in my sketchbook didn't make any sense to me any more. I attempted work on two new prints and abandoned them with a sulk and an audible sigh.

Now it's the following morning, my head is clearer and so here are five of things things that I have realised:

  1. You won't like everything you make. This seems like an obvious one but when you've been waiting for a moment to work on something it can be infuriating when those eventual moments produce nothing worthwhile.
  2. Working with other people around you can be a bad idea. If you're one of those people who work best in a creative environment filled with other people, bouncing ideas off one another then I salute you. I find that when others are around I am less likely to try something that may not work and am more likely to get frustrated at a drawing or a print and quickly shove it under a book for fear of someone noticing that I had made something unsuccessful.
  3. You HAVE TO PRACTICE. I've always liked drawing and I used to be good at it. I like to think that I still have the potential to be really good but I've been naive (and arrogant) enough to think that I can just pick up a pencil after months of drawing nothing and produce a masterpiece. I have a sketchbook from about 2008 and in it are some of the best drawings I have ever done. This book was made before and during the time I was studying architecture and drawing every day. I have realised that to be able to draw like that again I will need to work hard again to get back to that stage and only then can I get better. Don't try to draw hands after not drawing for six months.
  4. Being talented takes hard work. Right now I am neither working hard nor talented but I'm trying to change that.
  5. Try again tomorrow. Or the day after that...

In the end I made a little print of my sister and brother-in-law's new house to give to them as a present so the whole evening wasn't completely wasted. Pictured below: tiny drypoint etching, 'old house, new home'.


Thursday, 2 February 2017

Weeknight Falafel

I am very good at putting off going food shopping. This has forced me to develop the ability to whip up meals for two from the contents of the ever dwindling cupboard. The previous night I had made Jack Monroe's goulash (a stock cupboard lovers dream - try it) so I made these falafel to use up the leftover wraps and salad. The best thing about these is that they use up a lot of cupboard ingredients and usually don't require a trip to the shops. I did however pick up some coriander on the way to work because for some reason I just can't grow it. Even if I buy a healthy plant it's dead within a week. If anyone has any tips on this please let me know...

This served the two of us but could easily serve 4 with a few more trimmings. I have a history of chucking in pretty much anything from the cupboard to make falafel so here's what got chucked in this week:

One tin of chickpeas
Red onion
Squeeze tomato purée (this helps it to stick together without egg and keeps in vegan if you like)
A decent shake of cumin
About a tsp bouillon powder
Bunch of coriander chopped finely, stalks an' all
Tbsp flour (I used wholemeal plain flour because that's what I keep in the cupboard)
About 2 tbsp oil to cook them in

Sweat the onion with the cumin in a medium pan. I don't use oil to cook onion, just a splash of water if it starts to stick. When the onions are translucent and soft, drain and rinse a tin of chickpeas and tip into the pan. Add all the remaining ingredients apart from the flour and mix to combine. Turn off the heat and use a potato masher to squish the mixture together. Keep mashing until about 3/4 of the chickpeas are mush. It's nice to keep a bit of texture in the falafel. It's also nice to not have to wash up a food processor so everybody wins here. Stir the flour into the ever stiffening mixture.

Heat up a little oil in a shallow pan. Scoop out small handfuls of falafel, roll into a ball and place into the oil. You don't want the oil so hot that it sizzles or the outside will burn before the inside heats up. This batch will make 8 - 9 decent sized falafel so you may need to cook them in two batches. Once the falafel are in the oil do not be tempted to move them. They will be stuck and you will prove to all the naysayers that veggie food always falls apart and we must fight the haters. When you see the golden colour creeping up around the edges you can grab them with a pair of tongs and turn them over. Keep the temperature on medium and turn them regularly until they are golden all over. Don't worry too much if they're a little over - this is veggie food after all, nothing bad will happen.

I served these with with seeded wraps, grated carrot, za'atar mixed with water to make a dressing, gem lettuce and avocado. The whole thing took me about 45 minutes from start to finish including washing up and dancing in the kitchen. A speedier cook could do it in 20 but that sounds like too much hard work.


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