Monday, 30 March 2015

More Drawing with Rubbings

The second Drawing with Rubbings class was great fun, even if the weather was a bit grim. Being in a cosy studio while the sleet, rain and wind all did their thing outside was really quite nice! For a tutor it's fascinating to observe the dynamics of a different group of students as they tackle what are, in theory, the same activities. Of course, what's so satisfying is the variety of the work that is produced. Here are a few photos of what we got up to:

It didn't take long for my demo table to get in a state of chaos!

I often find myself working on the floor and these two ended up laying some bigger compositions on the floor too!

Before I go, a quick update on availability of places for the remaining workshops this spring/early summer:

Altered Books 12th April - full, waiting list only
Altered Books 15th April - 3 places
Creative Sketchbooks 19th & 26th April - 1 place
Creative Sketchbooks 22nd & 29th April - full, waiting list only
Exploring Monoprint 13th May, full - waiting list only
Monoprint & Nature 17th May, 1 place
Adventures with Acrylics 20th & 27th May - 4 places available
Adventures with Acrylics 31st May & 7th June - 2 places available

I'd love to fill up those last few spots. If you'd like to come and join me for a day of inspiration and ideas just email to reserve a place. More info about each of the classes can be found via the tab at the top of the page.

Hope to see you at the Wooden House soon.
Love Laura

Thursday, 26 March 2015

The first workshop!

What a lovely day - the sun shone, I was joined by 6 brilliant students, there was caramel shortbread, what more could I want?

The inaugural workshop here at the Wooden House took place yesterday, 'Drawings with Rubbings'. It's so easy to be enthusiastic about these techniques, they work so well. Here are a few photos...

We mixed our papers and our media for really interesting results.

Quick! A photo of the caramel shortbread before it was demolished. 

I was so pleased that students made such good use of the pin boards. It helped so much with analysing the work and building larger compositions.

The beauty of teaching from home is that I can dash into the studio to grab whatever turns out to be relevant to the work that happens. Out came the antique newspapers and dictionaries - the old paper was the perfect partner to the rubbings.

Amelie couldn't resist having a go while we packed away at the end of the day...

A big thank you to my first students for making it such a fun day. I hope I'll be seeing you all again soon. 

The next class with availability is 'Altered Books' on either the 12th or 15th of April. Spaces are limited so if you're keen, do drop me a line and I'll save you a spot. Details are in the previous post, or by clicking on the tab at the top of the page.

Bye for now,

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Altered Books - Find out more

It's probably about time I told you about the next workshop that's open for booking here at the Wooden House. Coming up in early April I'm teaching 'Altered Books'. It's one of my favourite classes to teach - I just love seeing those old, unloved books turned into little works of art.

First, let me tempt you with some pages from my altered books...

Starting with the basics of preparing pages we'll explore some of the best tactics and techniques for book altering. You'll be led by your chosen book, modifying the original structure with cutting and additions before customising the pages with mixed media, paint, print and collage.

We'll add new papers, photos, cut, stitch and paint.

I'll show you how simple drawing and painting techniques can bring your pages to life.

And we'll play with exciting ways to adjust the structure of the book to add a creative surprise here and there.

I'll provide a book to alter, but you can also bring more of your own to make for a super-productive day.

Liberating, experimental and highly addictive, what more can I say! During the class there will be ample opportunity to study examples of altered books and gather ideas to take home. This one-day workshop is suitable for beginners or those with experience as there's plenty of scope for pushing the ideas as far as you'd like to. I'll demonstrate all the techniques and you'll see how layering simple processes creates such exciting results. You'll never walk past a book sale again!The workshop will take place here at The Wooden House where you'll be able to use all of the resources available - art media, print blocks, stencils, stamps, etc. Please check out the post that follows this one for a peak at how the studio looks.It's a one-day workshop and there are two dates available. At the moment there are places on each date, but do drop me a line if you'd like to come so I can pencil you in. 

Sunday 12th April or Wednesday 15th April.
10am - 4pm

£65 to include materials including a vintage book for altering. (I'll ask you to bring 1 or 2 other old books to work in, but I'll provide everything else.) Homemade lunch and all refreshments during the day are also included.

Our location - The Wooden House, near Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

Really hope you can come!
Bye for now,

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Welcome to the Wooden House

It's taken a lot of work but we've gone from this...

via this...

to this...

Our Wooden House is finally finished.
(I'm not quite sure why it looks purple in this photo, it's actually the steely blue grey of the photo below!).

The 'wooden house' is actually a former cricket pavilion in our garden. Over the years it had become very tired and ever so slightly sideways, well actually, quite a bit sideways! When we bought the house in 2013 it was in desperate need of saving.

Jamie, with help from Eugene and our two carpenters Paul and Dave, worked so hard to carefully take it apart bit by bit, repair what could be saved and replace what couldn't, before putting it all back together. We've added insulation so we can be cosy in there even in the winter months, lovely lighting and new flooring.

The Wooden House will be the home for my workshops. As you can imagine, I'm very proud of what they've done with what was a falling down building.  Come on in and I'll show you round.

There's one large space which we've painted white, and added design walls on three sides so there's plenty of space to pin up work in progress.

There is a large adjustable table for every student which can be tilted for comfy working all day long. We have air conditioning so if it's baking hot outside, we should still be cool as cucumbers indoors.

There's a mini kitchen with the all important coffee machine and teapot! When you come to a workshop we'll provide refreshments throughout the day including a homemade lunch.

The Wooden House can accommodate 8 students but most classes will be limited to 6 so that there's plenty of space to spread out. During workshops you'll have access to lots of materials and resources including art media, print blocks, tools and equipment and reference books. In fact, for most of the workshops the only thing you'll need to bring is yourself.

My own studio will be open for students to visit on workshop days (I'll tidy up) and you will also be able to see the digital printer, and print fabrics. We'll have those for sale as well as a small selection of some carefully chosen art materials. On warmer days I hope we'll be able to eat our lunch in the garden and maybe even work outside too.

We're located in the beautiful Shropshire countryside in the heart of England. Our nearest town, Bridgnorth, an historic market town, is 3 miles away, with other attractions well worth visiting nearby such as Ironbridge, Much Wenlock, Shrewsbury and Ludlow. I can help with info on where to stay and what else to do should you want to make a weekend or even a week of it!

Today I've been getting ready for the first class 'Drawing with Rubbings' that takes place next week.
A list of other workshops can be found here. I also welcome enquiries from small groups looking for a tailor-made workshop/retreat. Just drop me a line anytime.

I look forward to welcoming you to the Wooden House Studio!
Love Laura

P.S. I've just re-read this before I post it, and I'm so excited to look at all these photos, to remind myself of where we started and that it's finally finished. It's such a beautiful space, thank you Jamie, Eugene, Paul, Dave, Tony, Maureen, G-G'ma, Mom and Dad and everyone else who's mucked in and helped to save the building. To be honest, I never dreamed it would be quite so lovely as this. I think I might burst with happiness!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Deadlines and decisions

I'm sticking with the Big Painting Challenge, more because I don't like to give up on something, rather than that I'm particularly enjoying it. Did you see this week? They had to do quick drawings of flamenco dancers and working from those only (no iPads here!) go back and make a painting. What could make that more difficult? Oh I know, make them use pastel! I think at that moment I might have run for the hills.

I have read other blogs reviewing the show. Some say that the contestants should have expected such harsh critique and that it is a competition not a painting holiday. Maybe my issue is with 'critique'. It's too easy for that to be interpreted as a need to be purely 'critical' when in fact critique can equally be about finding merit in something. Having done an art degree, I've experienced enough 'critiques' to know that it is a process of analytical discussion, not merely a thrashing. This programme is neither lightweight fluffy entertainment nor intellectual exercise.

Oh, and of course, there's the whole issue of judging art. Poor Anthea who kept drawing the heads too big. So what! There are great artists who've drawn heads a bit big, or legs a bit long or features a bit wonky. Maybe the fundamental flaw of the programme is that you simply can't judge art. No-one is right, wrong or better. All artists are individuals and their work, as an extension of themselves, is also individual. Can it be measured against some scale of correctness? Let's face it, the Bee has it easy, the skirt fits, or it doesn't fit. The BakeOff easier still, it's cooked or it ain't! Art, well it's all a bit more shades of grey.

With all that in mind, the entry form for Festival of Quilts lurks on my pinboard. I'm tempted to enter, but it'll probably end in tears.

Sunday, 8 March 2015


Spring flowers are always a welcome sight and while I'm not mad on daffs, I do love to see crocus. We've had quite a lot of disruptive work related to drainage and water pipes done in our garden this winter and I was very nervous that the bulbs would either have been dug up, or their little shoots trampled on by work boots. But they have survived and are putting on a stunning show in the sunshine. Even a bee arrived right on cue for his photo!

Saturday, 7 March 2015

A little bit about what we do

We do have a fun time here in the Fingerprint Studio printing custom orders. From one day to the next we never know what orders will arrive and so it's always a pleasure to receive artwork files and see them transformed from an image on the screen to a print on fabric.

We're delighted to be working with Derek from Botanical Cushions. This is a brand new company with a wonderful vision for design led cushions. As the name implies, the images are all botanical and look so lovely in both an interior or garden setting.

Here at Fingerprint we print and sew the interior cushion range. We use a lovely quality cotton drill fabric and the sewing is done with all the attention to detail that you'd expect.

Below: All of the cushions are double sided so just turn the cushion when you fancy a change.

I hope that you'll agree how important it is to support individual designers and British-made products. Perhaps if you have a moment you might pop over to the Botanical Cushions website and have a browse through the collection. With spring and summer fast approaching the cushions are a wonderful way to  add a splash of nature's colour to your room.

Thanks for visiting today. Back soon!
Love Laura

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Big Painting Challenge vs. The Sewing Bee

There's been good natured grumbling in our house that all the TV lately is either interior shows (still love Grand Designs), sewing or painting programmes. If you're like me then you'll watch anything art related just because there's usually so little on mainstream TV. So it's been The Sewing Bee and now The Big Painting Challenge.

I'd so been looking forward to the Big Painting Challenge starting. Do you remember Watercolour Challenge that used to be on ages ago? In that show, the candidates had a few hours to do a watercolour of a set scene, then a winner was chosen and it was all very friendly and a good time was had by all. The Big Painting Challenge is similar, apart from the good time. So far there have been two episodes and the poor contestants have been slated and crushed!

What I like about The Sewing Bee is that even when someone's made something and the sleeve's held on with a pin, the hem's all wonky and the zip's hanging out, May and Patrick manage to find something good to say about some aspect of the garment. They're constructive in their criticism and supportive of the entrants. In spite of the panic stations and from time to time the occasional tear, it all looks like everyone's having a lovely time and that it's a fun experience to be part of.

I'm not sure the same can be said of the Big Painting Challenge. It's the first series and so far only 2 episodes have been aired, but based on that, the judges seem bent on embarrassing the contestants. I'm not sure on what basis the entrants were selected, but they're all amateurs who enjoy painting. They're not making a living from it, though some might like to, they're painting because it's fun.

Making art is such a personal thing. By making a painting you're laying yourself bare. I feel so sorry for the candidates, they're putting all their efforts in, really doing their best and then the judges tell them they should have had the guts to throw it away and start again. Really? Is that fair? Look, we've all had disasters that'd be better off in the bin, but to tell someone so on national TV. Is that not public humiliation? Watching the contestants getting crushed, their sense of pleasure in creating something destroyed, well, it's just not nice. OK, so maybe some of the works being done on the show aren't all that great. Perhaps they wouldn't cut it on the professional art scene. But they don't deserve to be slated so badly. The judges must offer specific constructive criticism. Yes, say what's not quite working, but explain carefully why, suggest practical and creative solutions to improve. Simply to say you should have started again is not going to help anyone achieve their potential.

Maybe I'll be proved wrong as the series progresses but so far it seems as though the judges have very set expectations of what they want to see. They seem to have forgotten that there are no rights or wrongs in art. A painter, amateur or professional can work however they want and tackle a subject however they like.

It's a TV show at the end of the day and it's success will depend a lot on the chemistry of the hosts and the judges and whether we care about the contestants. When I watch I want to see people being challenged, but enjoying that challenge, and as a viewer I want to be uplifted and encouraged to try it myself. I watch the Sewing Bee and I want to rush into the studio and find a pattern and some fabric. I watch the Bake Off and I'm tempted to see if I have the ingredients for a cake or cookies. I watch the Big Painting Challenge and I just wonder to myself if the contestants knew what they were letting themselves in for, would they have applied?

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Finish Me! Art Journal - Tip Time

By now I hope all Finish Me! Art Journals will have found their way to their new homes and so I thought it would be time for some more tips, techniques and processes to try.

I know my inclusion of pages with text bound in upside down or top to bottom has caused a little consternation. There's method in my madness. I hope that you will consider all the papers in the book as raw materials. So text, rather than being words to be read is instead marks or pattern on a background. The colour and scale of the mark might vary, as might the linear direction it travels in. With that in mind, any pages with text on will make excellent backgrounds for all sorts of activities. Here's one thing you might like to try:

I've chosen to work on these two pages in my book. They both have quite small text on fairly neutral coloured backgrounds. On one page the text runs one way, the other is at right angles, no matter. Like I suggested in a previous post, I'm turning the book so it gives me a tall vertical format.

Try adding even more text. This is where you can start to bring some of your own ideas and personality to the book. I've recently been revisiting some work themed around poppies so I'm going with a phrase that's related to that work "what dreams may come?". You might go with thoughts, song lyrics, a poem, something descriptive, a journal entry...

I'm writing with a Sharpie for a bold, black permanent mark. My handwriting is much larger than the printed background text so I'm getting a nice contrast between the two.

Next step is to add a motif. I'm going with a seed head, but yours could be anything that's relevant to you or your book. I've found out an old photo back from the time that pre-dates digital photos when even rubbish pictures got printed. It's a boring photo, but it's going to work well for this.

I draw my motif on the back and cut it out with scissors. I'm letting serendipity take over here and am not planning which bit of the photo I'l get within the motif shape.

I've cut it carefully so I'm left with the background intact and a voided poppy shape. That might come in for another day.

Next it's time to glue it down. I like matte acrylic gel medium for this, but you could use whatever glue you like. I prefer the gel medium because it sticks everything down really well and also is a good base for painting on top of.

As you're working in your book you'll no doubt notice the different qualities that the papers have. Some are very smooth, some are much softer and more absorbent. I'm adding a thin layer of gel medium all over these pages to seal them and stop them being so absorbent. This means I'll be able to paint a wash over the top without the page drinking loads of paint and it seeping through to the back.

I'm using colour to introduce some contrast between the poppy cutout and the handwritten text background. A wash of transparent watercolour works nicely for this.

As you can see, often with art journaling the secret of making pages is to layer techniques and media. I hope you have fun giving some of these a try.

Back soon,