Sunday 19 February 2023

Making Paper Mache Board - it can be used for many projects.

I am making a form of paper mache board from recycled papers - in this case to use it for making paper mache trays and bowls and as bases for moulds for making more bowls of the same size. It can be used to form the bowls and various objects - it can be used for many things - I use it to make jewellery, cut out silhouettes for decorating and whatever comes to mind. This board is a relatively flexible version for bending onto shape. I am working on a grass Beach Mat on an Ikea table top that I originally painted to make a Backdrop for videos and photography - there is a video showing how I made that too. I placed a plastic sheet on the table and under the beach mat. It works perfectly. It can be made over a few days or in one go with the aid of an iron. During the 18th Century Paper Mache Board was made commercially and used to make large strong 'canvases' to paint on. Also trays, furniture, clocks etc. The history of Papier-Mache is fascinating. A pocket watch that kept perfect time, a church that stood for decades where people worshipped, a yacht that sailed on the lake of a wealthy eccentric and a complete village including a school that was shipped to Australia from England. So this is easy stuff. Materials; Table. Plastic Sheet. Grass Beach Mat. Tissue Paper. Brown Paper Bags, packing paper, carrier bags etc. Brush - wide. Water. PVA Glue. Or Flour and Water Glue. Iron.

Thursday 26 January 2023

Paper-Mache 'Flowers' - 2

Air dried Paper-Mache 'Flowers' almost finished. Ready to have findings added. You can scorch and gild paper mache quite easily. I am playing with the colours of winter when the colour has gone and we are left with dried stems and seed heads - burnt in sooty carbon with a Pyrography tool or with a light touch to give various shades of Burnt Ochre and Umber. Then gilded with Imitation Gold Leaf or the real thing if you prefer. It will echo the glimmer of sunlight breaking through on a cold January morning - perhaps. They resemble seed heads and sea shells in some ways. Memories and hope for the coming of spring again. Apologies for the sound level - listening through headphones seems to fix it. These are quite old videos now though I think that they are still well worth watching. Either way you are all invited to Subscribe - if you wish - I wish you would - it helps me enormously.

Sunday 8 January 2023

How to Make Papier-Mâché 'Flowers' - Drying in a Microwave Oven

How to make papier-mâché 'flowers' by drying them out for 20 seconds at a time in a microwave oven. This method really speeds up the process. Do work out for yourself exactly how long the paper mache actually needs to dry out. Start with 5 seconds and see how your microwave and your paper mache responds. My suggestion of 20 seconds is only meant to be a guide. These components can be made into jewellery and as additions to bowls etc. Plenty of room for experimentation.

0.00 Intro 0.15 Porzella papier-mache clay by Rayher - other ingredients 3.50 In to the microwave for about 20 seconds or less - try less first to gauge your microwave 4.35 Out of the microwave 5.20 Using the pyrography tool to scorch marks on to the surface of the 'flowers' 6.40 Applying Acrylic Gold Size 7.30 Applying Gold Leaf or Artificial Gold - Silver or Copper Leaf 8.00 The central disc or flower whorl 8.30 Adding epoxy resin - describing how to briefly

Friday 6 January 2023

Papier-Mache Bowls (etc) Tutorials - 2023.

Making a Modroc Bowl.

Modroc also known as Paris Bandage is so good for building form and structure. I am re-structuring my YouTube Channel one video at a time and  as I have a few working with Modroc I will bring them here on one Blog Post.

A very simple way to either make a bowl or to begin making on. 
I often use this method to make the form and a surface to work on to with more delicate layers of white tissue paper - I use the best quality tissue paper I can fine rather than the thin grey/white variety as it holds together for the time I need it to do so whilst working. I buy mine by the ream from Amazon nowadays.

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Making a Modroc Bowl. 2

Tuesday 25 October 2022

Spring - Autumn 2022

 This is a catch up post. I have been so busy that life has taken over. I love creating this little sort of diary. More of a point of interest for family and friends but open to everyone - what I'm doing, perhaps my thoughts and photos of inspiring places. Saying this I have not yet uploaded any images onto my new laptop so I've looked to the past for the photos here. I love my past - most of it.

I count myself very fortunate as I'm usually pretty inspired by the world around me and by my imagination. In short I'm never bored. Though I do find that after covid was more tired than previously in the afternoons for a while. I surrendered to Hypnos and Morpheus and learnt to enjoy the journey and simply stopped resisting. In return I was able to conjure images and ideas that were/are quite literally as food from the gods. 

As some of you may already know, I have another studio to work in that also comes with storage space - incredibly useful. Also the use of a polytunnel although I prefer to think of it as a greenhouse. Make no mistake - it is a polytunnel and I'm rapidly learning the difference. But my mind keeps saying greenhouse so I'm going to say the same - it's far more atmospheric and old fashioned after all and comforting as I can transform it in my mind into a long Victorian greenhouse in a walled garden. It's a place where I can listen to the birds and the wind in the trees, the rain on the roof and look out across a valley to the sea beyond. I am blessed yet again. It's now beginning to provide green leaves and herbs plus a few strawberries and a place to safely keep my pots of transplanted garden plants - members of my family - gardeners will understand.

It's quite a jungle or will be. I've strung up a hammock so that I can slip occasionally into that alternative reality of feeling completely weightless - the perfect departure point for the imagination in fact. I've started to paint and draw in there too - lovely when it's raining. 

The studio space or rather spaces are exactly what I was hoping for when I was looking for my next studio last year - the perfect place to make all my YouTube and future Patreon tutorials (hopefully in January 2023) - spaces that are Set Decorated to look like home though in fact I don't actually 'live' here as I'm still technically homeless and stay with friends on a sort of rota basis when not working - for the time being anyway. 

What I like about this arrangement for now is that I do get to meet up with friends regularly - those who can put me up anyway. As a maker and an 80% introvert I can easily be completely preoccupied with my own inner world.

However I am constantly on the lookout for a new home but these are extremely hard to find right now. Prices have rocketed and so many people moved out of London and other cities in favour of a less stressful and expensive life. Well, less expensive for them but the result is that it's far more expensive for the people who live here. The ups and downs of life. Adaption is called for yet again. At least I have a place to work and I quickly decided that that was the priority.

So as my working space used to be initially a dormitory, then a hospital, then university offices, then a kitchen was added, then workshops and studios, it does naturally lend itself perfectly to my way of working. I have a series of dedicated spaces - one for jewellery making and video tutorials, one for painting most sizes of canvases and panels, one for my 'Sofa Chats' videos that I began in lockdown, the old kitchen is my papier mache studio as there is water and I have a portable induction hob for mixing up gesso, gelatin and also beeswax polish, a dedicated area for for drying by fan - it works - and my microwave for the quick drying of beads and small bowls etc. It's also ideal for video tutorial making as there is so much natural light. I even have an 'office space' and a place to edit and upload vlogs at the end of the corridor - fairly small but big enough.

 The room with the least light and a loo are piled with boxes of things I have yet to organise and for which I need to put shelving up but as yet I haven't found the time. I did manage to put up my daughter's big Victorian brass bed that I store for her, as I can store more boxes underneath it as well as create a huge 'table' with with my old market trestle tops on top where I now have a dedicated photography and packing area. One has to be creative with space. I still have lots to sort out and in theory I try to sort a bit out every day - I set my timer and give it half an hour. It adds up.

I sometimes house-sit a large rambling old house on the edge of Dartmoor when the owners who are friends go away with the possibility for long let in the future. In the meantime it's head down and work undisturbed and thank God for my friends and their spare rooms. 

Fortunately or not I'm one of those people who needs very little sleep and I've always been a very early riser - I love to welcome in the dawn and especially at this time of the year it is perfect as I can quietly leave wherever I happen to be and drive to work without waking anyone and start my day. My circadian rhythms give me a sharp mind from about 3.30am so I can be at work at usually 4.30. I know this may sound crazy to many people  and yet it is the way I am wired - I have had the same circadian rhythm all my life. I love it.

At present I am working on 18 new A4 boards that have been laser cut to make a new collection of paper mache jewellery. I'm constructing some paper mache bowls - rough textured and appearing to be weighty and resembling ceramic - think old Japanese masters of ceramics. 

I found a torn off strip of some kind of black waterproof paper that seemed to have acquired a richly textured layer of mud and green algae that had weathered and dried to an incredibly beautiful appearance. Naturally I brought it to my kitchen studio where it's been waiting to be transformed. The start of a new series. I'm currently filming that process and will then show how to create that effect without old mud and algae. So video to follow in the next post.

When working on any craft based project it'a all about processes and organisation. I have had to re-organize my studio so many times. This is effectively my 48th move. It's not as stressful as people think - though not without stress.

Autumn is now here and it's a great year for sweet chestnuts.

I'm continuing to gather the old dried out stems of foxgloves and bracken etc when I'm mooching about on Dartmoor. They provide me with endless references for paintings. C'est la vie. Toodle-loo.

Friday 11 March 2022

MOVING ON 2021\22 - September/March

I've learnt to rather like 'Moving On' and really I do seem to have a tad more than average experience in doing so. I'm now right in the middle of sorting, packing, labelling and consequentially piling up boxes wherever I can find some space in my very small cottage in readiness for Moving Day - Part One - interspersed with the rather more exciting activity of getting the feel of my new home. I have developed a habit of going there and just standing in each room, looking out of the windows, getting the feel of the place - it is growing on me.

Although when you are out at sea and looking for a safe harbour there is an overwhelming sense of gratitude for any terra-
firma I imagine. Either way this is the only place that offered itself to me and for that I am very grateful.

I'm now busy cleaning and painting - walls mainly (32) plus a few ceilings (8) and lots of cupboards (?), window frames (12) and doors (8) - all requiring quite a few coats between them - plus wonderful though neglected parquet floors. 

Please don't get me wrong - I absolutely love doing this - it's simply a matter of timing before moving begins and then the cleaning and tidying up the garden at my little cottage. I may need to outsource that final activity if my back doesn't hold out or is that 'up'? I have been training my back for months for this moment - as it can be a little unpredictable at times.

The most wonderful side of all this activity is that I'll at last have space to paint and to make and to move between the two. Or failing that - storage.

I've had the help of wonderful removers - as in removal company - without which this task would have defeated me. My back is still intact anyway. The weather was wonderful - warm and sunny and if it did rain then it did so at night. I couldn't have asked for more.

The most striking thing about my new place is the deep sense of peace - it is really quiet but it is much more than that. I feel as if I could almost float upon this serenity. It could also I know become a real challenge in long dark winter months.

The place itself is old and somewhat neglected. I can sympathise. I am not neglected but ageing inevitably brings new problems to try to solve. A long period of silence now began. I survived the isolation and even the lack of a car as mine finally refused to start and no garage could find a cure. I imagine it was only a loose wire but it would cost far more than it was worth to spend the time to discover exactly which wire. I am now about to look for a replacement. Something that will happily take on Dartmoor lanes and journeys to the sea. A mobile studio in fact is my ideal. They're hard to come by nowadays. 

I can now 'take up my pen' and report that once I stopped moving I seemed to come to a complete standstill - I suppose all the stress that I was suppressing (and there was too much) finally had the chance to start to manifest in all sorts of totally unexpected ways - I won't go into detail but they've surprised me. Some were and still are aspects of Long Covid, according to my doctor but really there's no conclusive proof. Either way I'm doing my best to move on from that, but it seems to be a long, slow and confusing process. I've far less energy and a complete disappearance of my usual joie de vivre - one of the many blessings that I've never taken for granted. So I went to ground and hoped that hibernation and rest would do it's magic - not yet. 

I try to make myself go through all the motions in the hope that memory will kick start my love of life but not yet. Sometimes great waves of deep and profound sadness almost overwhelm me - even more so now that the crisis in Ukraine is gathering momentum. 

I've always loved my own company - I learnt to as an only child I imagine and yet even then I longed to belong to a different family - my own yet expanded to include an even bigger rambling house with a father who was gentle and thoughtful and reserved and my own mother just as she was but with the addition of many brothers and sisters. I longed for never ending interesting conversations around a very large kitchen table and ad hoc pot luck meals with an Elizabeth David air. I have often wondered if there is a sort of muscle memory locked in the morphic field of our DNA and of the legacy of our ancestors - for good or bad - that we have to continue to work it out on their behalf as well as our own that could then create an added depth of security for the generations to come. These are the kind of thoughts that I ponder when alone as that big kitchen table is lost in metaphorical storage somewhere so no discussions can take place. This can spill over into a deep heart wrenching sense of loneliness of the soul. On the edge of being unbearable.

So finally I've come to London with my daughter to try a change of scene - my first real journey anywhere since lockdown, to see if that would do the trick. Not yet - I've been to some of my old haunts - Chelsea, East Dulwich, Richmond and have wandered around the old Victorian streets of Peckham and through parks and built up housing blocks and so on and I still feel unmotivated. Perhaps it is ageing but I have always determined not to rust away through age and neglect. There's a little demon inside me who has a tendency to feel sorry for itself that can from time to time overwhelm me like a soporific drug and one which I always try to overcome. Recently I've been watching YouTube and three people in particular who are just the kind of people that I would have wished to be sat around that childhood kitchen table - they are Dr Rangan Chatterjee, Richard Schwartz and Gabor Mate. They seem to hit the nail on the head for me. I'm at the beginning of my journey with them.  

I've always been able to write from my imagination and have found it to be incredibly revealing and helpful and also entertaining if that's the right description/word to use. So now that I've spent the sunny days out and about I am going to focus on my daughter's garden - a very small affair but has a bit of potential. Weeding, removing builders rubble, cutting back a headstrong Buddleia, scrub off algae from wooden fence panels and add wires for roses etc, remove moss and algae from steps, cut grass and clean paving stones. The garden was neglected when she moved in and I love to do this - I do recognise that I have a certain sort of list of things that I seem to like to do wherever and whenever I can. I think that I could easily expand it to include as yet undiscovered delights. Maybe my joie de vivre lies hidden out there.

Saturday 23 January 2021

Papier Mâché 'Pottery' - Learning Through Making - 1

My focus is on learning through making. My medium is papier-mache and resin in the main.

I am making a series of new video tutorials for YouTube and Patreon.

First of all I'm making a Flat Lay Board - I used to have a stack of old doors and driftwood that I would use to take photographs on and I want to include current methods too. Flat Lays are really popular because of i-phones and Instagram. And they look great for certain things. I have an i-phone and an Instagram account so here goes. 

I'm working on the back of a small Ikea trestle table top that I sometimes use in my studio and thought it would double up as a good surface for displaying work on if I painted it first. 

My thoughts are to make a series of vessels using different methods in papier-mache. I'd also like to make moulds and forms for vessels from scratch or from found objects.

I'm always attracted to colour, texture and light and was never particularly drawn to earthy colours that were so prevalent in the 20th century British pottery movement. I do like their forms and lifestyle. 

I'll start to collect and list all my references as that may be of interest to some.  

Monday 4 January 2021

January 4th 2021


So - here we go 2021 - what do we call you? You're still the 20's - We had The Roaring Twenties 100 years ago but not many of us are exactly roaring, apart possibly Elon Musk as he heads off into space. 21 is one of those - just a little bit 'special' sounding numbers and anything related to it gets a sprinkling of hope from the start. We're talking of the great reset and goodness knows we need one but we're a divided world - polarised and arguing - a lot right now. 

I have and am enjoying lockdown in its various tiers - it's as if the world has joined the artists, the philosophers, the contemplatives and the sages of old in living a life less travelled. So welcome and let's make the very best of it.

My world has changed for the better. The love of solitude has crept up on me determinedly and steadily. At first, quite a surprise as I'd always pictured myself living in a big happy family as a child - so where were all the others? They never materialised. But I did eventually find them - not the other children, rather the essence of mother nature - the world of nature - in the garden, when out exploring the countryside and in the infinite realms of the imagination. So for me, solitude became a place where one finds both magic and safety. 

During lockdown, I've been able to make time for painting and am delighted to find that I have a bit of an obsession for flowers. Wildflowers, a little abstracted and layers and layers. I used to paint much more realistically but always with a touch of magic - a twist on reality. Going into winter I find I need to collect armfuls of dried wildflowers - dried by the wind and the rain and the change of the seasons - silhouetted against the sky and now against paper and canvas. Raw linen canvas and canvas coloured like faded frescos, intense and brilliant colours and deep mysterious colours from the world of the Renaissance. And layers on silver, bronze and gold, wisps of trailing white, smudges of pale turquoise. I paint in my head throughout the day just as I also develop and hear conversations between my characters in my stories in the early morning and the times of falling to sleep.

And then there is the business of business - my business and of earning my living. The dream I had years ago where a rather beautiful and somewhat elegant lady - yes 'lady' rather than 'woman' in this case for it seemed she had momentarily stepped forward from of the world of an intelligentsia of selected females to meet me. The feeling accompanying my dream was that I had always known of her and admired and respected her so I was delighted and surprised to see she was the person who was running or owned the art gallery I'd chosen to first show my portfolio of paintings to. She was rather like a historical figure from a time and place long ago. I have just realised that I have a woman who is of exactly her ilk in one of my stories called Zuleika - it translates into 'brilliant and fair' - she is, though eternally old now. But here I have to emphasise that I'm not using 'ilk' in a pejorative way but as an antonym. This became all the more profound when she suggested that I cut up my paintings and make jewellery from the fragments. 

I was horror-struck - all the more as I respected her considered opinion above everyone else's. So you see I didn't expect her - what I felt, was a putdown. And yet in reality she'd thrown me a lifeline. I did as she suggested - after all, it was a sort of question - 'why don't you?' So - I did and it was another turning point. I see her rather as one of the three graces - Charis possibly as she is grace, kindness and life. It fits in my mind.

Lockdown has been another turning point. The turn I'm in the process of making right now is the one we call Patreon. I've always taken to social media - it's ideal for someone of my temperament - I love to communicate and sometimes to meet people but need to be undisturbed in the main. This is so that my imagination is given room to reveal its gifts. Also, people have disturbed me a bit too much for my liking during my life. I was unprotected. I am wiser now. I don't hide away. I simply love contemplation and the joy that lives in solitude.

So - Patreon? Well, I've been thinking about it and now I'm researching just what I can do with it. I don't appeal to everyone - who does? But after so many years of being true to myself, I do know that I have a following of interesting and interested people who love what I make and some of the things that I say. So I have the required foundation on which to build a Patreon account - that is an established presence online.

I used to be an Art Teacher - not for very long it's true - I didn't take to the system or the curriculum or the general school culture. So I handed in my notice and went my own way - hitching through the South of France and Spain. The streets were sometimes paved with gold. Not always. And they need a little polishing right now. But I love teaching - sharing and making and know for sure that millions of us do too. I don't really look at other people's ways of doing, making or sharing so I suppose I risk seeming somewhat unusual. That's ok - I'll keep on following my own path.

The thing is I feel very safe, very confident and very enthusiastic about this next stage. I've been keeping up with social media since its arrival. I've always been able to see the point of it and its possibilities. A bit like the wheel and clean water on-tap. Or telephones or boats. Anyway - I'm trying to work out what certain phrases, jargons really mean and to see if I need them. I don't have people I personally know who are embarked on the same journey to ask for guidance and actually they would probably say as I will - you need to work it out for yourself. And we have forums - just like Ancient Rome. And I even have my own permanent pitch on our modern-day Agora - Totnes Market on Fridays and Saturdays where strangers and old friends meet and have the most interesting and spontaneous conversations. The wisdom of the market place is a reality.

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