Thursday, 31 December 2009

Let's Have A Noughties Party!

If you're stuck at home this New Year's Eve (and, goodness knows, I am) there's no need to be miserable. Grab some nibbles, click the link and enjoy a whopping great video playlist I've made from 50 of this decade's greatest UK hit singles. That's over 3 hours of party bangers, classic anthems and fantastic memories.

Click here for the full playlist.

(2011 Edit: Broken links removed making this playlist shorter than the original.)

So all that's left to do is wish you a fantastic New Year, thanks for keeping me company and here's looking forward to an amazing 2010!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

A Story I Couldn't Have Written Ten Years Ago

Katie sat on the London Midland train, on her way home from another busy day behind the counter at Cartridge World. She flipped through her copy of Metro and filled in a few squares of the sudoku.

She hummed along to the Coldplay, Will Young and Rihanna songs on her iPod until she was interrupted by Amy Winehouse playing from her phone. She answered it to find her friends Sophie and Charlotte had sent her a video of themselves posing in their new Twilight tee-shirts.

Katie sent Sophie a text in return and reminded her of their long-awaited trip to London to see the Take That concert.

'CU@ O2 2MOR'

She turned to the newspaper's TV listings and planned her night in. The One Show, How Clean Is Your House? and Celebrity Big Brother would pass the time away, she decided. There was a clash at 9 o'clock so she decided to watch Spooks and record Heroes on Sky+. The hard drive was getting a bit full though, but she reckoned she could make some time to watch an old episode of 24 or Torchwood she had lurking on there. Then she fancied snuggling up in bed watching the Freeview box - Family Guy on BBC3 or Skins on E4, maybe.

Turning the page, Katie saw the review for the previous night's Ashes To Ashes. She groaned as she realised she'd forgotten about it but made a mental note to catch up with it on the iPlayer over the weekend.

She logged into her bank account on her iPhone, checked the balance and smiled at the extra cash she had in there. Her Irish Facebook friend Tara had sent her 10 Euros via PayPal for her birthday and, in an impetuous moment, she paid it into her Paddy Power account and gambled it on an accumulator, guessing the winners of The X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing and I'm A Celebrity: Get Me Out Of Here. Joe McElderry, Chris Hollins and Gino D'Acampo - result!

The train pulled into the station and the man in the aisle seat briefly took his eyes from his Da Vinci Code paperback to let Katie past. As she began the short walk home, she could almost smell the aroma of sushi drifting on the wind from her kitchen, waiting for her to arrive. Then before she could calculate how many minutes she'd have to spend on her Wii Fit to burn it off, Jonas, the neighbours' Labradoodle, barked his welcome home.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 25th

A little daft entry to end with today, but as it only does what it does this one day of the year, why not give it a look? So if you're trying this any other day, tough, you should have been here!

Click the... oh if you don't know what to do by now you never will.

A big big thank you to everyone who's visited my advent calendar this month. I hope you've enjoyed the treats I laid in wait for you. I'd better start searching for stuff to put in the next one, I've only got 11 months! (Oh and I haven't forgotten I've got 2 graphics to fix, I'll sort those out after Christmas and I'll let you know so you can see them. As well as on here, they're archived on my Facebook page.)

Join me after Christmas as I present my look back on the year and the decade. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook and you'll be the first to know when I update.

However you spend it, have a fantastic Christmas!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 24th

If the kids (or big kids) aren't excited enough already, here's something to get them bouncing off the walls. Site suggested by Carol from

Click the pic - you'll have to do it today to get the best effect.

Don't forget, there'll be a final entry tomorrow. I won't keep you long, I promise, but it's another one you can only see on the day. So please spare me a couple of minutes while you're digesting the turkey!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 23rd

Something for those of you wearing out your remote control with boredom this Christmas. Set aside an hour and let this autoplay (clue!) This is one of my all-time favourites so I hope you enjoy it.

The fire's out so it's safe to click the grate.

NOTE: The links I'll be posting for the last 2 entries will be live on that day only, so make sure you're here to see them in all their glory! I'll try and get them ready for you in plenty of time (allowing for gift wrapping and snack arranging).

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 22nd

Today, a nostalgia fest (or not, depending on where you live or how old you are.)

Click the ginormous HD-ready plasma telly that's obscuring the number 22.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 21st

Well now we're in The Big Week, I thought you might like something useful to help take away the stress.

Gobble gobble means click me.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 20th

Something a bit thought provoking today (in a fun way of course.)

Eek! We're into the twenties! There's a little sheep-girl for you to click. How exciting!

Advent Calendar - December 19th

Some little works of art for you today. I've actually had to put some effort into this one, so apologies for the lateness.

Click the... oh you know how it works by now.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 18th

I hope you've all posted early for Christmas. Here's a cautionary tale about why you should.

Click the postbox. Or the robin. Or anywhere in the picture, actually.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 17th

The schools start breaking up tomorrow so here's something for idle hands.

Click the danglies.

(2011 Edit: Link updated to an alternative site.)

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 16th

Today, a little help with a delicate subject.

Click below but please don't wake Poochy.

(2011 EDIT: Post updated with a different link.)

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 15th

Today's treat comes thanks to my friend Mo at (2011 EDIT: Sadly the original link is no longer available but I've updated it so you can explore the whole site instead.)

Click the 15. (Eek! 25-15 = 10 days to go!)

Monday, 14 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 14th

It's the Monday of the last full week before Christmas, so no doubt you're in need of something to cheer you up.

Click the yummies and they will oblige.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 13th

Today: head****s - the gift that keeps on giving. Although I'm going to distance myself from what they've put as number 6 on there (you'll know what I mean when you see it!)

Chrtistmas fairy transports you away when you click her with magic mousey.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 12th

Something really jawdropping for you today, don't miss this one!

See that 12? You click it and nice stuff happens.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 11th

Just a quick one today, but it follows on brilliantly from yesterday's. (Make sure you see that first, here, if you haven't already.)

Clicky the biccy to see the piccy.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 10th

A classic bit of showing off today (I should warn you about flashing lights if you're sensitive to such things).

The trees say "click me".

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 9th

A follow-up to something I posted last week, based on a suggestion from Elaine at

Piccy-clicky as usual.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 8th

Today, the greatest Christmas tradition in the world EVER, no exceptions.

Click on the 8.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 7th

Something to fight off the Monday blues today.

Click on the 7.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 6th

The advent calendar sticks with its international flavour today.

Click on the 6. (Yay! It's got a picture on it again! The technology's behaving itself today.)

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 5th

The advent calendar takes an international turn this weekend.

Click on the 5 to find out why.

PS: After an emergency dash to the Apple Shop, the computer's working fine now so normal service will be resumed tomorrow. I'll probably tart up the graphics for today and yesterday when I get some spare time, too. Oh dear, it never rains but it pours, doesn't it?

Friday, 4 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 4th

Click on the 4 to see something to keep the kids (and big kids) busy this weekend. Suggested by sallyk at

Apologies for the more basic graphics. I've hit some serious computer problems so I've got to keep this as simple as possible at the moment. I'll still be posting my links though, so make sure you keep visiting!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 3rd

Today, something to get you in the festive mood from one of the friendliest sites on the internet.

Just click on the 3!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 2nd

Today's surprise is something which I've had great fun raising money for with friends and workmates. It beats Secret Santa any day!

Click on the number to be transported away.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Advent Calendar - December 1st

Welcome to the start of Val's Work In Progress Advent Calendar 2009!

Every day between now and the 25th (yep, I'll even be here Christmas Day) I'll be putting up a mystery link to a brilliant bit of Christmas-related art, design or media. It could be anything - a silly photo, a drool-inducing recipe, a classic video or a gift for the man/woman/child/pet who has everything.

So here to kick us off is one of the greatest ever pieces of marketing, which many people now consider to be the official start of Christmas (and which caused an outrage when it was dropped for a year in 2006).

Just click on the big number (designed © yours truly, by the way) and enjoy. Hint, there's more than 1 thing it links to, so let it run on.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Sunday Head****

Apologies for the lack of head****ing last Sunday (we had an inspection of all the house electrics the next day, plenty plenty tidying needed!) To make up for it, here are links to a bumper crop of stereograms to give you eyestrain in time for Monday morning.

Animal Farm



Floating Pool Balls


Hexa-Gone Wild

I Don't Know

Placitas View


Teddy Bear

Taken from, who have over 100 more examples for you to go goggle eyed over.

Being able to see into stereograms is a bit of an acquired skill but it's easy once you know how. I find the best way is to pick 2 bits of the picture that look the same and go cross-eyed so they merge together. If you're not sure how best to view the pictures, here's some handy hints from Eyetricks.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Happy Birthday Doctor Who

46 years ago today (which was a Saturday) the BBC aired the very first episode of its new family adventure series.  The story was about two school teachers becoming concerned about one of their pupils who was behaving oddly and giving her address as a place that didn't exist.  Deciding to tail her home, they discover her bizarre real life living in a police box with her crotchety grandfather.

In that moment, one of the greatest British icons of the twentieth century was born.

Sadly, the TV schedules were overshadowed by the tragic shooting of President John F Kennedy the day before, so the BBC took the wise decision to repeat episode 1 of Doctor Who the following Saturday, forming a double bill with episode 2.

In week 5 the Doctor's most famous enemy, the Daleks, made their first appearance and the series grabbed the public's imagination in a way very few shows have ever done, before or since.

So, performing my duty to show you the very best in art, design and media, here's that very first episode, An Unearthly Child, in all its YouTubed glory.  Compare and contrast with David Tennant to your heart's content.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Children In Need Animated All Stars

I know it's a good cause, think of the kiddies, yada yada yada, but I have to hold my hands up and confess I can't sit through the annual Children In Need telethon.  Just the thought of singing newsreaders has me reaching for my off switch.  Every so often, though, it throws up a little corker of an item and last night, while waiting for the sneak peak of the Christmas Doctor Who special, this one popped up.

Comedian Peter Kay has an amazing ability to gather the biggest names in British entertainment to take part in his charity pop videos. This time he promised a cast of nearly 100 famous faces, and he didn't disappoint.

There was just one thing that wasn't mentioned...

...not one of those famous faces was human.

Two years in the making, this is an incredible collaboration that brings together so many of the best loved cartoon and puppet characters that have been on British TV over the last 60 years.  So whether you grew up on Muffin The Mule or Iggle Piggle, there's something here to bring back happy memories.

The song and video are already available to download on iTunes, and will be in the shops on Monday.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Sunday Head**** - Doctor Who Special

As I'm having a Waters Of Mars celebration weekend, here's my regular optical illusion with a Timelord twist.

It comes from a one-off 2008 BBC programme called Don't Miss A Trick, which was a spin-off from BBC3's highly popular The Real Hustle.  In this clip, an 8 year old Doctor Who fan gets taken inside a real TARDIS (honest).

Unfortunately, the person who kindly posted this on YouTube didn't also post the solution, so you can't see how it's done.  Thankfully, I remember it well so I'll give you my own explanation afterwards.  To avoid seeing it as you watch the video, I'll include a lovely Waters Of Mars photo showing David Tennant defining the word dashing.  You scroll past the photo, you see the secret.  You have been warned.  (Of course once you've seen the video you'll be gagging to know how it's done, anyway, but it's more fun if you take a few moments to come up with your own theory.)

Thanks to Blogtor Who

So now...

Are you sure you want to know?

Okay then...

Here it is...

The Solution

The main deception in this trick is the right-hand monitor showing the top-shot of the TARDIS.  It's a very clever split screen.  The left of the shot (the front of the TARDIS) is live.  The right of the shot (the back of the TARDIS) is actually a photo, lined up at precisely the correct angle to match the rest of the image. But it's only flipped into place once the girl's led the boy round the back of the TARDIS (which she does to prove there's nothing behind it).  Then Kate, the presenter, distracts the parents and sister to look at something on the left-hand monitor so they don't see the right-hand one being changed.

While the man is telling the boy all about the keys, the behind-the-scenes crew are opening up the back of the TARDIS and the white wall.  Full-length curtains mask the join between the open sets of doors.  So when they eventually enter the TARDIS, they're actually walking into the room behind the white wall.

When they decide to take out a souvenir, they deliberately pick a statue that's way too big to fit in the police box, to add to the illusion that it's bigger on the inside.

Hey, if you can't play a prank on an 8 year old, especially one that makes his year, who can you play it on?

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Socktor Who

If, like me, you're hyperventilating with excitement waiting for the last Doctor Who special before The Big Two-Parter (gulp), here's your chance to relive the Easter episode, Planet Of The Dead...

...As performed by sock puppets...

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre Company.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Getting Dirty So Your Clothes Don't Have To

Café Press have added 3 new colours to their range of aprons so you can look extra stylish cooking your Christmas turkey/goose/vegtetarian alternative.

Khaki and lemon aprons have been added automatically to all shops.  To see them, click on the white apron in the Home & Office section and you'll see the other options. Select the colour of your choice and you'll then see what it will look like with my design printed on it. (Here's a clue - bloomin' gorgeous, that's what it'll look like!)

Aprons in white, khaki and lemon

Dark (navy blue) aprons are also available but I need to add these manually to the shops, so I'll be rolling them out along with the general update I told you about last week.  So far you'll find them in the heart, apple and beachball designs.

Navy blue aprons - turkeytastic!

All aprons are 31" long x 29" wide, made from 100% heavy cotton twill and are machine washable.  They feature a neck loop and waist-level drawstring.  Two generous pockets are fitted to hold your cooking utensils, paintbrushes, gardening tools or whatever other use you want to put them to.

At £14 for the light apron and £15 for the dark*, these are great value, hard-wearing and stylish. You'll stand out from the crowd in my eyecatching exclusive artwork and I won't even mind if you get gravy all down it, honest!

To visit the shops, just click on a design you like from the buttons on the left of this page.

* Prices are set in US$, prices in other currencies are based on the daily exchange rate and therefore may vary.

An Alternative Thought For Armistice Day

I found this through Twitter and it seemed kind of appropriate for today.

Click here for more information and to make a donation.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The Sunday Head****

Just to prove head****ing isn't a modern phenomenon, here's something which dates from around the late 19th century (actual date unknown).  It was produced by the Liverpool photography agency of Brown, Barnes and Bell.

You might want to click on the image to see him in all his gloriousness (and work out his secret.)

For more about the gorgeous young thing in the photo, visit the source article at Mighty Optical Illusions

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Oooh! Aaah! Woo!

If the dodgy weather's stopping you from getting to a real display over this bonfire weekend (it's never just November 5th now, is it?) here's a crazy (and totally safe) firework display to keep you amused for a few seconds.

Take a couple of minutes to check out PES' other animations as well, they're all really creative and very funny.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Product Update: Organic T Shirts

I'm in the process of updating all my Cafe Press shops to make sure the full range of products are available for you to order in time for Christmas.  Over the next couple of weeks I'll be highlighting some of my favourites.  If you're enjoying reading my blog, please lend my shops your support.  Each one contains over a hundred products that are perfect for all your gifts, greetings and homeware needs.

In the current update, I'm adding Cafe Press' new range of organic T shirts to each shop.  There are 13 styles, to fit everyone from babies to adults.  Adult shirts come in standard and fitted cuts, and most of them are available in a range of colours.

The T shirts, produced by companies such as American Apparel and Econscious, are made of 100% certified organic cotton, so you can be guaranteed of their quality and comfort.

Here are some examples from the apple, beachball and heart shops, which are the ones I've updated so far.  

All other shops will be updated over the next week and I'll keep you posted with my progress. You can get instant updates by following me on Twitter or Facebook, just click on the round "t" or "f" buttons on the left.

Also on the left, you'll see the buttons that take you to the shops.  Just click on the design you like, and you'll be taken to all the amazing products you can have it printed on.

More product updates soon - keep watching!

Posted For Truth

song chart memes
see more Funny Graphs

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Sunday Head*** - The Halloween Hangover Edition

Just to make you feel that little bit worse after a night celebrating all things horrific (or watching the X Factor - same thing) here are some nice creepy ghosts to freak you out.

Click on the image to start the animation. Keep staring at the red star and you'll soon see things glowing at you.

Illusion taken from

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Scary S*** For Halloween

Never mind ghosties and ghoulies, this is what scared the b'jaysus out of me when I was little:

UK Public Information Film, 1973

Happy Halloween. Just don't come knocking on my door.

funny pictures of dogs with captions

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Dirty Birdies!

Caught some great starling birdbath action. The birds are a blur but I love the spray flying all over the place.

The poor sparrows trying to feed underneath got more than they bargained for!

Click each photo to see it in more detail.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Birthday Boy - Matt Smith

Happy 27th birthday to Doctor Who-elect Matt Smith, currently filming his first full series to be shown next year.

Smith was a shock choice to land the role of the much-loved time traveller, being so young and fairly inexperienced. It's not the quantity of roles that matters, though, it's the quality of them. Smith has crammed some impressive starring roles into his 5 years as an actor, notably the Sally Lockhart Mysteries, Party Animals, The Street and Moses Jones.

Party Animals was an excellent, but short lived, BBC drama from 2007. It followed the lives and loves of an opposing Labour and Conservative MP, their researchers and assorted hangers-on. As well as Smith, it also starred up-and-coming actors Andrea Riseborough and Andrew Buchan.

In this scene which opened the first episode, MPs Jo Porter (Raquel Cassidy, Lead Balloon) and James Northcote (Patrick Baladi, The Office) are debating in the House of Commons. Porter comes off worse and researcher Danny (Smith) knows why...

(Warning for the easily offended: contains a little bit of effing and jeffing.)

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Sunday Head****

A video to blow your mind, dedicated to anyone nursing a hangover.

(Click the full screen button for best effect.)

CHOP CUP from :weareom: on Vimeo.

Design and Direction :weareom: -
Lighting by David Lee -
Production by studioset -
Post Production by :weareom: -
Sound by Alin Flaidar -
Starring Vlad Grigorescu -

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Birthday Girl - Jemima Rooper

Today is the 28th birthday of my favourite actress, Jemima Rooper.  To celebrate, here's a brilliant clip of her in the Sky 1 supernatural thriller, Hex, shown in 2004.

In this scene, schoolgirl witch Cassie (Christina Cole) is possessed by the evil fallen angel Azazeal (Michael Fassbender).  It's up to her best friend, Thelma the lesbian ghost (Rooper) to save her and she can only do that by electrocuting her.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Work In Progress - Button Bags 1

So, after I was rudely interrupted by gorgeous sci-fi logos (oh and don't get me started on the new Will Young video - wowza!) it's time to get down to what this blog's really about - discussing my latest projects.  You know the sort of thing: ideas, inspirations, plans, progress, snags, hopes and fears (aargh, enough with the Will thoughts!)

They say you should look for a gap in the market, and I've been looking at making something that everyone is being encouraged to carry with them these days - reusable shopping bags.

I found this site,, which sells a wide range of blank bags.  I bought 5 samples of their cotton shopping carrier bags and I'm currently experimenting with decorating them with buttons, beads and sequins.  Then I'm going to carry them round town, firstly to test out how well they hold up to being manhandled, but it'll also give me a yummy warm glow to walk about showing off my work!  I'd love it if someone stopped me and asked me where I got it from, in which case I could say I made it and give them my card, but we're all far too British for that to happen.

What I love about this idea is that each bag would be entirely unique.  The bags cost just a few pence, as do the decorations.  The real cost of the item would be the labour needed to create it.  That's where I fall down because I always think people would be put off paying too much if I was to charge the full hourly rate for the time I spent making it.  So more research needed into similar items on the market and how much they sell for, methinks.

The nice thing about this product, though, is I can make it in my spare time, watching the telly.  It's not like I need to devote a 9-5 career in an office with loads of specialist equipment.

So here are the designs I'm working on (click on the photos to see the details more clearly).  Now you can see why I'm a bit obsessed with Union Jacks:

As well as the red sequins in the diagonals, there will be red buttons in the St George's cross part and blue beads/sequins/small buttons in the triangles.  The white parts will be left blank, to let the design breathe.

I've been sewing the sequins on in short horizontal rows on this bag.  For the next one I'll try long diagonal rows and see which one I prefer.

This format also lends itself to two other backgrounds, onto which I've just tacked the shape for now:

The blue bag will have the red and white sections filled in and the red bag will have the blue and white sections filled in.

I can extend this idea to many other flags, providing they're quite a simple geometric design.  So that can be tricolours such as France, Germany and several other European countries, crosses like the Scandinavian flags, or those which consist of diagonals, circles, etc.  If I can find some star shaped buttons of an appropriate size, that would allow me to tackle other countries such as the USA and Australia.  More complex flags could be a possibility if I could find sew-on motifs for the country's crest or whatever it is I need.

My second design is a heart which is a simple shape but which would be very eyecatching when you see it in the street:

I've just put a line of pink buttons on for now because I thought it might look a bit flat if I did it all in red.  So the pink acts as highlights, I'll add some dark red/purple down the opposite edges as shadows, and fill the rest in bright red.

The final design in my test batch is a flower based on a Dandelion I created using the Bodoni Objects font at college:


Bodoni Dandelion: The Bag.

This one will be slightly different because it's following a line rather than filling in a shape.  So for this I'll probably be more consistent about the size of buttons I use.  As you can see, it's based around 2 large fancy buttons for the base of the stalk and the centre of the flower.  The rest will be just be small green buttons for the stalk and leaves, with yellow, pink, orange, red, purple or whatever else takes my fancy for the petals.  Each petal will hopefully be 2 small buttons with a matching medium sized button in the middle.

Except for the flags, other designs can be put onto any colour background.  I just happened to have ordered samples in black and natural.

One of the joys of creating these bags is the randomness of sticking my hand in the button bag and seeing what comes out.  There's so much geometry and planning that goes into the designs, I like something totally unpredictable to balance it out.  Some parts, such as getting into small corners, are dictated by the size I need to fill.  Other than that it's just going to be the fun of letting the pattern do its own thing.

My red buttons, including teddy bears and ladybirds off my niece's old baby clothes - aah!

Once I've created the bag I need to test its durability.  As I mentioned, I'll be using it to do the job it was intended for, so I can check how well it works as a shopping bag.  I'm a bit concerned about the stitching on the inside of the bags, this may snag or fray with use, leading to decorations falling off.  For that reason I'm contemplating adding a lining to the bag once it's decorated.  This means I'll have to source some material - either full sized pieces or maybe scraps which I could turn into a patchwork.  This has the bonus of adding to the recycled, eco-friendly feel of the bag, but has the downside that it's extra work and therefore extra labour costs to pass on!

As for the decorations themselves, for now I'm buying some cheap stuff from the greetings card shop.  Strictly speaking they're for use in paper craft so it remains to be seen how durable they are.  If the idea takes off I may splash out on some metal sequins, in particular.  (I had to test out how well those red plastic sequins coped with hand washing, when the white bag had a close encounter with some ham and beetroot on toast.  A couple of them got a little creased but the bag stands up to some gentle cleaning, I'm glad to say!)  Other than that, job lots of buttons and beads will serve me fine.  Ebay seems to be the best place to get them from, a lovely big random bag for a couple of quid.

Ideally, though, I would love to be able to use recycled materials as much as possible.  So if you have a tatty shirt with reusable buttons you're chucking out, a box of beads or some old sequins that could be given a new life, please get in touch with me and I'd be happy to take them off your hands.  I can't pay a lot but I'd certainly refund your postage.  In particular, I need them in bright/dark red, white, royal/navy blue, yellow, green, pink and purple.

If anyone has any experience in bag making or sewing in general (i.e. more than me, which is none) I'd appreciate some feedback about my ideas.  Any tips on how to make them practical, rather than just a work of art, would be especially welcome!  If you can point me in the direction of similar products so I can check how much they retail for, that would be very useful too.  Of course, if you like what you see and want to place an order or discuss how to take the idea further, I would do the cyber equivalent of kissing your feet, whatever that may be.

The comment box is down there somewhere, waiting for you.  Thanks!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

We Interrupt This Blog For a Fangurly Squee-Flash

Best laid plans and all that, but I HAD to take time out to comment on this:

New Doctor Who logo, © BBC.  The word "squee" was invented for moments like this.

Britain's favourite time travelling alien gets a brand new logo to launch the 2010 series, when Stephen Moffatt takes over running the show from Russell T Davies and the brilliant David Tennant is replaced in the title role by the equally brilliant Matt Smith.

If I'd just seen the words on their own, I would have felt a bit "so what?"  It's the new idea of the DW TARDIS insignia that's the beauty of this design. Just a D, a W and a glowing chevron. Yet they have the confidence in their brand to know that's all it needs to get across the title of the show.

In fact, ignore the words.  Yes, they'll probably get used in the title sequence, but the Smith-era merchandise allows the option to just feature the insignia.  Having that on a T shirt, badge or whatever is a classy, grown up alternative to the character action shots that are aimed at the kids, but it leaves room to have those as well.  That insignia on its own says, "I love Doctor Who.  You can see I love Doctor Who.  You don't need to see the words 'Doctor Who' to know that.  You and I are more intelligent than that."

Then once the initial impact's over, the details start to make themselves noticed.  The brushed metal texture. The cool blue taking over from the fiery red and orange of the old logo. The way the serifs on the D and W exactly match the base and roof of the TARDIS.  The fact that the serifs in "Doctor" face left and those in "Who" face right.  The very slight bevel giving the effect of it being cut out of steel, making the DW TARDIS look all the more tangible (especially with the reflection underneath).

Then there's the animated version, which you can see below courtesy of the official BBC Doctor Who site:

This is really going to grab people's attention.  I can imagine it vworp-vworping its way onto screen at the start of every episode, followed by the opening scene and then the full title sequence.  Then fading up again at the end of the episode to introduce the "coming next" sequence and maybe even vworp-vworping away to blackness at the end of the credits.  I'd actually be very disappointed if they didn't use it as a 2 second sting trailer in the run up to the 2010 series.  This year has been a bit of a Who-drought and to see a "blink and you'll miss it" flash of the DW TARDIS will have millions of fans up and down the UK so excited there'll be serious danger of spontaneous Who-fan combustion.

The best test of a design classic is trying to imagine life without it.  Doctor Who's been on screen for 46 years (give or take), surely somebody somewhere must have come up with the idea of turning the D and W into a TARDIS shape.  What, they haven't?  Wow, it's so obvious when you think about it but, in all those years, we've never had it.  Now we do.  It's bold, cool, sophisticated, clever, iconic and instantly recognisable.  I only wish I knew the name(s) of whoever designed it, because they deserve a HUGE namecheck for their inspired brilliance.  It's been less than 2 hours since I first clapped eyes on it and already I know I'm looking at a design classic.

*That is the end of this squee-flash.*

Friday, 2 October 2009

Autumn Fair 2009, Review Part 3: The Really Trendy Stuff

Although a trade expo like Autumn Fair has the whole range of gifts and homeware, whether you want a pair of earrings or a fireplace, as you walk around you tend to notice certain styles and fashions start to dominate.  The more shows you attend, the easier it becomes to notice which are the new trends and which are the old reliable products.  As a designer, it's important to be able to tell the difference because you can come up with something that's en vogue but will date quickly.  Alternatively, a more timeless style might not be so eye catching but could provide you with more opportunities for sales in the long term.

Here are my 4 favourite trends I've picked out from this year's Autumn Fair.  As before, company websites are linked to if possible and all copyrights are acknowledged and respected.

Huge Flower Canvases

Flowers are always one of the most popular subjects when it comes to affordable art.  This year, though, dainty daisies are out and extreme close ups are in.  Whether you choose a painting or photograph, the latest canvases are well over 20 inches square, exploding in colour and zoomed in so far you can count every grain of pollen.

I've struggled to find any examples to post here, but have a look at this excellent interactive catalogue from The Art Group.  Flower prints can be found between pages 28 and 36.

Scrap Wood

Autumn and Spring Fairs always do a lot to promote ethical trade, using a special logo to indicate the most eco-friendly companies on show.  In the past I've seen such great products as ornaments made from drinks cans and shopping bags made from juice cartons or newspapers.  This year, though, the trend is for using wood that's recycled, reclaimed or those odd bits that can't be used for anything else.

Loftcat have import rights to this attractive driftwood mirror:

Driftwood Mirror by Loftcat

Driftwood is also used by Box Brownie Trading for a range of bespoke hand-made ornaments, including this 56 cm heart.  It'll knock you back £125 but that's comparable to buying a good limited edition print and for that money you'll get something that's completely unique to you.

Driftwood Heart by Box Brownie Trading

They also make driftwood trees, 2 ft for £50, 3 ft for £75, which you could smother in tinsel, baubles and fairy lights for a more environmentally sound alternative to real or plastic Christmas trees.  At those prices they would be a big investment which should last for many years and save a fortune in the long run.

Some of the most dramatic uses of wood came from Makasihome, with their range of furniture, mirrors, lamps and accessories made from tree roots.  They are not only unique but full or character, with each piece being shaped around and inspired by the natural growth of the roots.  A wonderful change from mass-produced furniture that would suit both indoor and outdoor use.

Root Chair by Makasihome

70's Childhood Nostalgia

Everyone loves to be reminded of the good old days, and this year they're aiming straight for the hearts (or should that be wallets?) of 40-somethings like me.  Call me a sucker but I'm sold on it already!

It was rare to find a kid who wasn't into The Beano or The Dandy (Beano for me all the way) and Wild and Wolf have a new range of products reproducing strips from the golden age of both those comics.  They're available on mugs, key rings, journals, playing cards, water bottles, flasks and even first aid tins.

Beano Tea Mug from Wild and Wolf

The same company also produce the Ladybird Archive Collection, which has won a Gift Association Gift Of The Year 2009 Award.  The selection of products is mostly similar to the Beano and Dandy range, but based on those classic Ladybird books which taught all kids my age how to read.  I especially like these activity kits which contain all the stuff you need to create the craft projects in the book (I had most of those books but I don't think I actually made anything from them!)

Ladybird "Things To Make" activity tin by Wild and Wolf

Pulpshop also use the iconic Peter and Jane Ladybird illustrations (by the late, Walsall-based, artist Harry Wingfield, incidentally - I'll never miss a chance to big-up a local) on homeware including aprons, mugs, cake tins, coasters, memo boards, tea towels and trays.

Children's Tea Party - Ladybird Classic boxed mug, £5.95 from Pulpshop

Although they don't actually use the Crayola brand name, this range of crayon mugs from Gift Republic looks a dead ringer for every kid's favourite colouring tools. There's 12 different colours to choose from, priced £5.99, each with an evocative name and a tag explaining why they're so called.  To illustrate, I've picked 3 to match my blog!

Custard Yellow, Flamingo Pink and Black Cab mugs by Gift Republic

Bastardised Union Jacks

If you're in the UK, you very likely saw an example of this over the summer, as EDF Energy used a Union Jack made of differently-patterned green materials to promote its Team Green Britain campaign.

This fashion continues with a number of products I noticed at the show that take creative liberties with our flag.  That would be illegal in some countries, you know!

Before you scroll down, have a think about the sort of products you might expect to fly the flag.  We've seen it on T-shirts, Mini Coopers, Noel Gallagher's guitar, Geri Halliwell's dress, but I bet you'll never guess what the last product on my list's going to be...

The Union Jack is a design that's cropping up a lot on soft furnishings.  This gingham cushion, jollied up with buttons and bows, is available for £15.95 from Dot Com Gift Shop on behalf of Rex International Ltd.  A similar design is available on bunting, pennants, aprons and hot water bottle covers (mmm, it'll be winter far too soon!)

Vintage Union Jack cushion by Rex International

It's also, unsurprisingly, a popular image for adorning travel accessories.  Flowers and polka dots form this pretty little passport holder from RJB Stone.  You can also get a matching luggage tag, back pack and purse to fly the flag on your holidays.  Bunting and a cushion complete this charming range of products.

Union Jack passport holder from RJB Stone

More travel accessories from Think Pink, taking the design to extremes but definitely getting away with it.  Make an impact with a luggage tag, cosmetics bag, washbag and this weekend holdall:

Union Jack Weekender Holdall by Think Pink, £39.99

So now we come to that final product.  The most unlikely use I have ever seen our national flag put to.  Yet... I want one.  I would do unspeakably pleasurable things to Santa Claus to have this in my house.

Ladies and gentlemen, brace yourself for...

The Union Jack...

...door stop.

Yes, no more pesky door open/closed conundrums with these little miracles, which combine flags with cute animals.  What's not to love?  The most bizarre thing is there's more than one company that makes them!  The first two are by Cake:

Union Jack Dog doorstops by Cake

Duckling doorstops by Cake

The third is by Lucy Tom, who also makes Union Jack dogs:

Union Jack Chicken Doorstop, £25.00, by Lucy Tom

In my next blog, you'll find out why it could be good news for me that these Union Jacks are in fashion, as I finally get down to showing you some work in progress.