Friday, 26 December 2008

Think of this as a teaser for a more exciting title

Christmas time, whatever else it is (Excuse for last-days-of-rome style drinking) is a time when generally I work on something more substantial. Actually this christmas I didn't do that right away, instead I went on holiday - well I went and stayed with my mum. I saw my nan and family, met up with lovely old freinds, went to a gin and mince pie party, went to a party at a nursing home which was surprisingly ok once I started in on the brandy shots.

Now i'm back home and after 2 days in my pyjamas with this as my view

I got off my arse and started priming some wood. It's for a jumping jack bigger than the usual size. I decided to try a large one after reading about the french courts of olde were they used to make super-sized puppets. It's not gigantic but you can see the size of the parts next to a normal sized jumping jack below.

Also, large puppets seem to be becoming very popular over here... In the last 2 years Britain has been treated to 2 amazing spectacles by french events company Royal De Luxe involving enormous automated puppets. One of them took place this year in Liverpool, I didn't get to see either of them but the photos are stunning. The ones below are taken from 'The Sultan's Elephant' which took place in 2006.

On a much smaller scale, I ended up making a tiger to go with the tamer - no clear photos as yet, the weather is awful here. But you can get the idea

Now I think it's time to get back to view #1 and read some Angela Carter - I got a selection of her journalistic writings for christmas and it makes wicked reading.

Happy holidays!

Monday, 8 December 2008


Here's some shots of the automaton. Various things need doing like covering up joints and cleaning things up and maybe an extra layer of sea etc, but the mechanics are fine.

Well, I should get to bed, i'm up past my bed time on a school night.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Some progress

My blog title's always seem to be 'Some progress' or similarly vague things. I'll try and have a more enigmatic title next time :) Meanwhile, the commission i've been working on has come on in leaps and bounds and I hope to show some photos of it soon, here's a shot of some of the parts before they were placed in properly:

It's currently hanging in my hallway and making me very amused to turn the handle and watch it go.

Also, a new jumping jack to go with the strong man. He's a lion tamer - without a lion currently, i'm not sure whether to make one to hang above him? I was thinking a tiger and a small whip for him.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Colds and Coal Fires

Well, I finally succumbed to the nasty cold doing the rounds. I spent most of the past fortnight amazed at how resiliant I was, and of course I must now be bed ridden for my sins. Yesterday was a write-off, today I snuffled around and scanned in 2 of the little paintings I made for the shop - Progress! They are both silhouettes, inspired by the christmas cards. Silhouettes are such a simple concept but you can convey a ton of character in them.

I have also just bought a lovely silhouette from penandpaper - Her work is so incredibly lovely.

Also, this week my beautiful printer broke down, I spent a fruitless evening trying to revive it but it refused. This is why there aren't many prints in the shop - i'm only offering things I already have or dolls/theatres which I can do on my old (but still good) printer. Fortunately I am within the warranty period so an engineer is coming around to fix it this week - hopefully it should be up and running in no time!

So, with my cold I sat infront of our coal fire and stoked it and read about BlueBeard and now i'm watching Return of the Jedi and having a Hot Toddy - it's a traditional scots cure for the cold. I for one would vouch for it over a Lemsip Max. Here's a nice recipe for it:


A wee dram of whisky (Ahem, this is discretional)
1 teaspoon honey
Boiled water
1 slice fresh lemon/lemon squash
1 pinch ground nutmeg (optional)
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
1 clove (optional and needs to be removed along with the cinnamon stick before drinking the hot toddy)

Cooking Directions
1. Put the honey into a mug and disolve in a wee bit of boiled water.
2. Add the whisky depending on your taste. 1 -2 tablespoons is recommended.
3. Top up with more boiled water. Add the cinnamon stick and cloves if used. Leave to stand for about 5 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and any cloves used.
4. Add the fresh lemon/lemon squash, stir well, then sprinkle with a pinch of ground nutmeg if used then serve.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Ta Da!

So, the reason I heart Ponoko so much is that - although the shipping to Europe is expensive, they are working on it and in the meantime they have provided many great offers and deals to us eager makers. And one of these deals meant that I could have a large amount of wooden jumping jacks laser cut.

Woop! As a result of that i've been messing about with decals and so forth in order to produce copies of jumping jacks i've previously made. And here is the result of Monsieur Fleur, the strong man:

The decals work excellently and then I cover the lot in a nice glossy varnish and finally pin it all together using binding posts. It's very sturdy and looks very lovely in the flesh so to speak. The question is really whether to discontinue paper DIY versions? They will remain much cheaper than the wood versions - Even with the great deals at Ponoko each laser cut jumping jack is more expensive than i'd like.

I hope to carry on and make a circus set of jumping jacks - A ringmaster and a clown as well as a lion tamer .... or something like that anyway!

This jumping jack will be listed in the shop shortly!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

A quick ol post

I've managed to do a few things this weekend that are just for stocking up the shop. The christmas cards are listed! And i'm starting some smallish paintings, more affordable than the recent lengthy projects i've been making.

Oooo, also, I recieved a large package from Ponoko, my favourite service - I love them honestly, they really try hard to offer the best service that they can for the small time laser cutter :)

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Cards and that

Well it's christmas (yay!) and I have designed some christmas cards soon to go into the shop.

They aren't printed however! Ta-da! They are cut paper silhouettes mounted on thick coloured cards and they come with matching complimentary coloured envelopes. (I cut them using my amazing craft robo - sometime object of hate or love depening)

I have grainy shots, once I get a good shot they'll be listed. They are quite lovely in person.

There are 2 silhouettes and 3 colour combinations of each. They are mounted on foam pads so they stand out and cast a nice soft shadow. They'd work well in a frame as well!

These are all the combinations. I will be selling them in packs of 6.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Quick Update

Hi all, I am just dashing in and out again as I make progress on the sailor automaton. It is going well and hopefully i'll have some pictures to show soon enough. Thank you all so much aain for your valuable suggestions, i'm going to post some return comments to the last post shortly, when i've got a wee bit of time.

Meanwhile this is just a notice to say I have listed 'The Sleeper Dreams' paper theatre in the shop...I thought about keeping this, but i've not the room realsitically, especially since I have a whole host of characters waiting to fill the next one.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Thanks so much

I have to say how happy I am to have recieved every piece of advice, and kind but direct honesty from you guys in the last post. It's true that actually vocalising the issue has helped. Here's a few things i've done since then:

  • I put together a spread sheet showing the most basic outgoings I need to meet each month, the amount it costs me to create prints and ship them, the amount I make from them, how much tax I pay on them etc to figure out how much I would need to sell to meet my costs.
  • Collated every months sales this year and after fees/shipping etc figured out what my average earnings were
  • Read a lot of advice, mainly about cataloging work, writing an artists statement and CV and self marketing and presentation
  • Thought a lot about which direction I should go in, this is an important point which i'm going to ramble about now
Putting together the spread sheet and figuring how much i'd need to sell especially in today's financial climate was rather sobering. I looked at various options like going part-time in my current job (unrealistic, and I haven't been there long either), contracting (most of the work is in London and runs for 6 months), working part-time in a lower paid job (couldn't afford the bills), moving to a smaller place in town (Lack of studio space and no more great outdoors).

So realistically I need to increase the average amount I make from art enough to make it feasible. I know that if I am making more I can sell more, however the laws of supply and demand don't work that simply. I feel like there are two main options, either try to increase the value of my work by submitting to exhibitions/juried shows/self marketing - the traditional route. Or else commercialise some of my work, I am thinking mainly of the toys (jumping jacks/paper dolls) and theatres. Perhaps even both.

Anyway, before any of that takes place I need to address one major issue, my totally rubbish cataloging of work. I take shoddy & badly lit photos all the time, this is because cataloging for me is secondary, it's something I do in the 5 minutes between finishing a piece and starting another. But it struck me recently that if I were to send a stack of photos of my work as examples, i'm not sure most people could work out what the hell it is I produce. I need some level of consistency as well.

So, I promised myself that whenever there is good light on a weekend and I have work which needs photoraphing I shall set the camera up properly, put a white sheet on the table and take the photographs as well as I can. And as it happens, this weekend there is good light.

These aren't the best shots you'll ever see but thery're the best I can manage at the moment, so that's ok.

These are tiny steps, but it feels good to make them.

In terms of actual art, i'm doing a rather exciting commission at the moment, it is to be a fully moving automaton. Normally with these things I get bogged down by the complexity of the task and can never make it because my tools are minimal. But this time, I stumbled upon a genius solution in a book which made it do-able even for my clumsy hands.

Here's the central mechanism, it looks so simple doesn't it?
That little baby took me all day and lots of glue and nails and pulling it apart and more glue.

Here's the sketch, it'll be put inside another of those old clock cases

Here's the main character, a sinning sailor who's making his way to heaven (hopefully)

Sunday, 26 October 2008

When the grass is always more veridian

I thought i'd have a bit of a natter today about non-process related matters of art. Anyone who knows me in the real world knows I talk a lot about trying to work as an artist full-time.

Realistically, the way I spend money means that it's unlikely to happen any time soon. I'm a fritterer, I don't buy big things but I have more books in my house than I have room for, they are stacked in corners and crushed into cupboards. And because I am in a relatively well paid job and because I like it and the people I just haven't ever gotten to breaking point with working full time.

Generally speaking my thinking is always split into two on anything anyway, so I never really make any big decisions...I'm not a planner by nature, I just drift along, occassionally ranting about how i'd like to be going down the other trouser leg of time.

Every now and then though I get into a really shitty mood. I fume to myself about all kinds of things - one after the other, sometimes all mixed together.

I fume about the world at large. The odds are stacked against artists I rant. Our social and economic institutions are set up to keep us in traditional work patterns for almost our entire lives. Art institutions and grant systems have little interest in work outside of the conceptual mainstream!

Then I move onto my work, it's too nice or not nice enough, it has nothing to say about the world in which we live, it's too derivitive.

Then I move onto myself, I don't take art seriously enough, i'm a terrible planner, I don't organise myself properly, i'm not taking responsibility for my life.

My emotionally mature response to all these feelings is to try to ignore them as much as possible by going out a lot, or getting involved in a really good series of books until it goes away and stops annoying me. I never ever confront them, I never sit down and try to unravel all the tiny whingeing threads. I certainly never get out an excel spread sheet and try to figure out how I might afford to live off art.

I know that making a living from art has all it's own problems. I know that you have to seek out commissions more often, fulfill wholesale orders if you can, attend art fairs and even (gulp) answer emails in a timely fashion, you end up not really doing art for a lot of it.

But the other side is that starting on a Saturday I rush into my bedroom studio and start cutting up pieces of wood as fast as I can, gessoing, preparing, planning, drawing. I also have orders to fill out for prints and packaging and visits to the post office before mid-day. By sunday I may have gotten somewhere with a piece and then on monday I have to put it aside and wait, wait, wait until the next weekend. It's a fevered high pitched way of working which then spirals into this yearly fug of exhaustion and self recrimination.

Which is why, for the first time, i'm trying to consider what it would take to change my life. I don't think at this time I can afford to do it, perhaps not for a long time, but i'm interested in exploring the avenues and seeing in real terms how much i'd have to make and how I might do that. Even if I come out of it with a feeling of acceptance it'll be something - at least I can refer to my spreadsheets when I get into my fug.

Thursday, 23 October 2008


I ended up adding another balloon to the theatre

I've wanted to do a moustachioed balloon since Baron Munchausen.

It continues slowly but surely. It's nice to tinker about rearranging and creating new compositions.

I am listing Monsieur Fleur in the shop tonight. A paper version will be out soon!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Jumping Jack

Some quick and dirty shots of a new jumping jack - This one will be made into a paper jumping jack - I've never bothered doing that before but people have asked about it so I thought i'd give it a go :)

Scans for the paper version

Photos (bad again!)

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Theatre Update 'n some brooches

It's been another beautiful day and i've been restlessly going out and coming back in again, not doing anything fully. It's my last day off work and I feel like I should get the most out of it - that attitude usually leads me to do nothing of anything.

Anyhoo, I do have some photos of the theatre with balloons
Different position for the fish.
With symmetrical balloon arrangement

Assymetrical! And the fish now looks like he's having some kind of heart attack, sorry about that.

Some close ups, love seeing the 3 dimensions

Since i'm an endless fiddler (I have a funny story about my endless fiddling which almost always ends in disaster, especially where anything health-related is concerned, but maybe i'll leave that till everyone's had their tea) I decided I would make a different scene for the same theatre! I can't do it right now what with constantly bumping in and out of the house, but soon!

Anyway, the last of the silver brooches have been made and will go in the shop today

I think that's all for today!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

A sort of aside

The theatre is almost finished I think. The suggestions for doing an asymmetrical arrangement on the ballons were taken on board and in fact i've done it so that now it's possible to move the balloons up, down, backwards, forwards - wherever you like! There is a third balloon, those things are like catnip. I'll post some pics tomorrow!

Meanwhile I wanted to spraff about Toc Fetch. I recently bought a comic from him, I say comic but it isn't anything like other comics. It's bizarre, almost impenetrable in it's surrealness.

Have a look

Every page is like that, perfectly rendered, and the words +images have an (alarming?) otherworldliness.