Friday, 30 October 2009

happy Friday!

It's nearly the weekend again! I'm not sure if I'm looking forward to it or not - it all depends on whether someone gives me work to do or not... I'm not anticipating a completely carefree two days :-( Hopefully I will be able to get my shop up and running, fire some of the ceramic pieces I've been decorating, go shopping with the husband in London. He is in need of sartorial upgrading - he's one of those sporadic shoppers who won't buy anything for a year and then goes out one day and spends two hundred pounds in one pop. If I do that I come out in hives and need to lie down for a bit - a little at a time is my method. That way you realise much more slowly how much of your income you spend on clothes and junk and it hurts a little less (but is probably more insidiously damaging).

I've spotted a few things I'd like to see at next week's auction at Willingham. I shall write about it next week. One of the pieces is a landscape watercolour by one of my illustration idols, Arthur Rackham. OK, it looks like something he smeared onto paper whilst at the beach on holiday, but it's still by him! Here's one of his images (from Wikipedia):

He was one of the most famous and best-loved of the illustrators that were a part of the late 19th/early 20th century golden era of illustrated children's books. His strength was certainly his line work - he was essentially a drawer rather than a painter. His illustrations were well coloured-in (I'm not being derogatory, though!), masterful drawings. He was not that bothered about colour, but the drabness of his work is part of its appeal to me. It creates a real moodiness and gloomy atmosphere that perfectly suited a lot of the material he illustrated.

On the other hand Edmund Dulac was an absolute master of colour and pattern. He balanced the drab with the most exquisite, jewel-like colour washes, and was wonderfully skilled as a painter. His sense of lighting and composition was gorgeous. We were privileged enough a few years ago to see some of his work in the flesh alongside some Rackham, Kay Nielsen and other contemporaries at Dulwich Picture Gallery. These images don't do the originals justice. For more images, look here.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

stuff and nonsense

I went to London yesterday and did several good things. Well, they were good for me if no-one else. Firstly I visited the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road where you can see all the amazing and strange things that Sir Henry Wellcome collected during his travels in the early 20th Century. There were some properly weird things there - glass eyes, Japanese sex aids, Napoleon's toothbrush, phallic amulets with wings or horses' legs. Brilliant. See more images here.

Next up I made my pilgrimage to Anthropologie on Regent Street. My goodness, I could have bought the lot - such beautiful clothes (waaaaaaay to expensive), and lovely homewares. I loved their living wall of plants - a nice touch. But me being a miser and all that, I came away with nothing. Not a sausage. I did want a pair of patterned tights, some delicious solid perfume, more bowls, a delightfully odd cruet set and most of the jewellery. Sigh.

Then I stopped off at Cos and Banana Republic because I'd never been in either before. Shame I don't have a proper grown-up's job where I need to dress like I'm not a 19-year-old student. There were such beautiful colours and interesting cuts at Cos. I'm still too much of a cheapo at heart, though, so I went next door and bought trousers from H&M instead :-(. Sniff.

Enough with the clothes talk. Went for dinner at Vivat Bacchus in London Bridge where they have not one but TWO cheese rooms. Oh yes. OK, OK, so again I went cheap and had their set menu deal, but the cheese was a tempting thought and maybe to be tried next time. In retrospect, the lemon posset dessert nearly killed me, so maybe the cheese might have been a better and less sugary idea.

Work has been piling in again and I'm doing a great job of not getting on with it... snore!

Monday, 26 October 2009

the weekend

was smug-making - we were in a local junk shop and they had not one, but TWO pieces of wonderful 1970s G-Plan furniture in GREAT condition. I feel kind of bad, I hate spending money, but I couldn't resist getting the little chest of drawers that were from the Fresco range, first manufactured in 1966. It is just such good quality stuff. Just to make me feel more smug I found this chest on eBay selling for five times what I paid for it. Unfortunately, the other piece was a Fresco sideboard and we most certainly don't have room for that in the house. The chest is now the proud container for my piles of A3 paper, printer paper and junky bits of card, and it looks great next to my mid-century desk. I think one can have too much teak in the house - it's quite orange, but I like to mix things up and a bit of modern is kind of cool, I think, next to 17th century wooden beams. I would take a picture, only the weather is so grim here that the room is depressingly gloomy. Maybe some other time. G-Plan still make the Fresco range today, but it looks different from how it used to. Read a little more about vintage G-Plan here.

What else? We went to see Up by Pixar - what a delightful, sad, funny, imaginative film. I loved it for its beautiful animation, character design and storytelling. And the talking dog, Dug. OMG, I wish I could have him for real! (Image from

Friday, 23 October 2009

sneaky peek

Here's a sneak peek at one of the designs for my Christmas cards this year (hm, it's a bit less saturated here than in Photoshop). They will be available in a set of four different designs, each limited to an edition of 30, numbered on the reverse. There are squirrels, cats and reindeer, alongside a disgruntled Santa and a pepper pot. I'll keep you posted of my progress, but things are looking less grim today (probably because I'm winding down two of the jobs I've been on and am REALLY looking forward to the weekend).

Still, there's all the packaging to do, and product photography with my pathetic little camera... ho hum.

Thursday, 22 October 2009


I have been alternating between working on proper stuff and doing ideas for Christmas cards. How hard can it be to come up with four different designs? I am at 3, but the last one is proving elusive. Whilst doing that, this strange dude turned up in a boat...

Hopefully I'll be able to work on the cards and open up shop in the next week or so. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

attempt no.2

How about this one? Sorry about the random colour choices... gah! I HATE purple and that's how it looks on my screen. Yech!

Friday, 16 October 2009


I really shouldn't get so excited about this, but I am. Yesterday I came across a link to Fontcapture via Pikaland - thanks Amy. In a nutshell, you download a template, draw your own font into the boxes, scan and upload the template and hey presto, your own writing as a font. The possibilities! The kerning isn't great, and depends a lot on where you place your letter in the box, but it's great fun. Apparently you can also do this at Here's the little test I did in about 10 minutes just now:

It's called karenbasic and if by any chance you want a copy of the font, just comment with your e-mail address (but use 'at' and 'dot' instead of your actual address so you don't get spammed). I'll be sure to have another attempt or six very soon and maybe they will get better. I think some more stylising would be good for this - a bit more thought required, though!

I've been a busy beaver this week - drawing lots of cars, bushes, trees and monkeys for Skoda. It's the best job I've had in a while - it feels great to be using a paintbrush again, even though I'm cheating by tidying up and altering colours in dear old Photoshop... what did I ever do before I learned how to use this program?

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Anthropologie opens in London

One of the stores I wished to visit on our recent trip to New York was Anthropologie - such whimsical, pretty store styling and products simply had to be seen. I came away from the 5th Avenue shop with four pretty cake plates that really brighten up breakfast, and a tiny pink striped rice bowl (oh, and a cardigan too!). I have been coveting their beautiful crockery for months now, and at last I won't have to travel across the pond to get my mitts on it (nor pay an arm and a leg in P&P).

Now I hear that they are opening up shop at 158 Regent Street in London next week (23rd October). Whoop! I can't wait to go and have a look and to touch those bowls. They sell such feminine stuff - not to everyone's taste, of course, but a bit of floral girliness never hurt anyone. I like the backlash against boring, stiff minimalism - I'm all for pattern, colour and lots of both, please!

I have loved this clock from afar for ages. Silly thing that it is, I still think it is witty and a lot better than a real one, which would annoy the hell out of me. Shame I still can't afford it! Maybe I'll knit my own. Oh, hang on, I can only knit scarves...

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


Thanks this morning to my lovely friends at Jelly for mentioning the Cretinous Ostrich blog that Baz and I draw, after I sent over a couple of pictures from it that tickled their fancy. For more from the blog, please click here.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Holiday Stories

Here are a few scans of that book I mentioned. What's nice about it? The thick, textured paper that has gone all yellow and patchy. The beautiful silhouette on the back cover. The quirky titles of the stories, with crisp black and white illustrations and lovely typesetting, and the print almost debossed into the paper. Cute, for a couple of quid.

the weekend

was pretty good, all in all. Minus having to drive the husband to the airport via one of the most annoying motorways in England (take a guess... yeah, the M25). Lordy, that was awful - stop-start driving amongst the never-ending roadworks and alongside what appeared to be EVERY SINGLE nutjob driver in the South. Urgh.

The weekend visit to the North was good - lots of family fun and appallingly bad Trivial Pursuit 'pop-culture edition' playing. I'm the worst person when it comes to knowing anything about TV, films, music etc. I watch nothing, I watched nothing in my youth and my musical knowledge is more of the, uh, classical kind. Call me sad, call me behind with the times, but I don't really mind not ever having watched 'Spaceballs' or any more than one 'Back to the Future'...

Best bits included an eye-opening foray into Halifax, which had a charming indoor market and lots of charity shops. I bought a pair of 1980s black pixie boots, which are all the rage at the moment and, because they are too small for me, I intend to sell them on eBay where they are selling for ridiculous sums of money right now. What else did I get? From an amazing second-hand bookshop in the Piece Hall, I got hold of a beautiful children's story book with perfectly aged paper, which I shall scan something from later today if I have the time. Bear with me, I'm supposed to be working!

The husband is away again, this time in Korea, and has taken the camera away from me, so no photos this week! I popped into some charity shops this morning and came back with a teapot and a squat little planter that I intend to draw on with porcelain pens and sell in my soon-to-be-open shop. How exciting. Now I've just got to think of things to draw on them. I love experimenting.

Friday, 9 October 2009


The scanner arrived but I have nothing to scan... So I thought I'd take a few pictures of some of the vintage silver charms I picked up at Willingham Auctions a few months ago. Amongst quite a big selection there was a charming birdcage with a gold-coloured birdy inside, a tiny lion and a teapot. I've just got to hang them on some silver chain with a few other odd beads or something and I'll have some serviceable Christmas presents... well, maybe I'll keep the birdcage for myself :-)

Thursday, 8 October 2009


Sorry it's been a while since I last posted some of my own work. My scanner packed in the other day and I'm still waiting for its replacement. Grrrr! I have been reliably informed by some automated delivery e-mail that it should arrive today.

It's not as if I've been doing much personal work recently, though. I've been working rather hard, which is a change for me!

It is sunny today and I went out just half an hour ago with the camera to see if I could capture that misty, cool quality of the light and the deep shadows of the furrows in the newly-turned field. It's cold this morning, chilling the tips of my fingers as I check my beer traps for slugs, assess the rapidly fading vegetable patch, pick the last few courgettes. I don't think this picture captures all of these things, but this is my view today:

Tuesday, 6 October 2009


I used to hate wicker and still have an uneasy relationship with it. I think it has its place - log baskets for the fireplace, or picnic baskets and hampers, but absolutely not, never ever (shoot me if I change my mind) in furniture. Wicker chairs and stuff like that make me shudder. Remember this post? Well, it's no longer picnic weather, but I found something even nicer (and cheaper after some haggling!) than this at Peterborough on Saturday. Here she is, tubby and just the right size, with a lovely worn leather strap:

What else, what else? We got a Mason Cash mixing bowl, a lovely vintage plaid dress, a watering can and these sweet little watch faces that I intend to string on some long chain with a vintage charm or two from an auction purchase.

grey and gloomy

The weather has just died here and gone all pasty grey like a drowned corpse. It's raining. I was in London yesterday and I swear it didn't let up until 4pm - I was miserable and wet, mostly because I couldn't be bothered to bring an umbrella even though I knew it was going to rain. So I don't expect sympathy.

Had a good weekend in blowing gales at the Peterborough Festival of Antiques, which was immense and bewildering. Forgot to take my camera with me. Came back with a clutch of interesting things which I will photograph later today if the light gets better.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

auction action

It's that time of month again... auction time, that is! We're not even going, but I like to cast my eye over the catalogue anyway. So what is there to see? Not a whole lot this month. There is this lot of jewellery including a funny picture of a man to wear around your neck, and three sweet little perfume bottles that you wear like brooches.

Or how about this stereoscopic viewer with lovely old cards?

For £50-£100 you can get this case of very well kept dead butterflies. Hm.

If you don't want any of those, you can always depend on there being a quantity of terrifying dolls :-)

it arrived!

Well, it arrived a week ago but I couldn't stir myself to go to the post office to pick it up until yesterday. Now I've just got to work out how to rewire the damn thing and find a spot in the house for it...