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.
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.
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.
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.
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, carrierbagshop.co.uk, 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!
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.*
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.
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...
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.