Archive for June, 2012

June 26, 2012

British Summertime and Vintage Caravan Drawings

There is something unmistakable about holidaying in Britain, and this time of year brings up memories of childhood trips with surprising fervour. I believe it may be partially due to the weather, which seems to change its mood hourly; the smell of rain mingled with cut grass and sunshine, wet sandal-footed feet and BBQ’s that end with in a crowded kitchen, or sheltering under a porch. This June I’ve found myself looking at holidays in Devon with a kind of longing, whilst mulling over old photographs and doodling vintage-style caravans decked with bunting and flowers. The caravans and trailers owned by parents and their friends were always decorated and altered with personal touches, in honour of their travelling days.

Having a dog throughout most of my childhood meant we felt compelled to  take relatively local trips which allowed our furry friend to join us, and so I have a great nostalgia for British holidays. I can safely say that those planned for July and August share the same possibility of being dictated by the weather as those booked for June. Alongside that, however, they equally have the potential for some amazing memories. On the occasions where the sun shone and the heat was almost unbearable, we would hike to high places so that the deep blue of the sky stretched for miles around, or make dens in the fields surrounding the campsite or play hide and seek in apple orchards and have picnics on chequered blankets. The rain tested our innovation and our ability to conjure up new ways to make fun; board games were always a firm favourite, building forts from the chair cushions, or making up stories, like that one time we were oceanographers and our caravan was a submarine lost in the Atlantic. In later years we got Gameboys, and would trade Pokémon and narrate our adventures; when the rain cleared again, we would explore the long grass.

I am certain things were not always so rosy as I remember – a bunch of children in a confined space is never wholly pleasant – but the boredom and childish squabbles are easily forgotten and only the wonderful bitter-sweet moments remain in my memory. Such is the nature of nostalgia.

A few years ago a small group of friends and I stayed in a caravan in Devon for a week in June, and a half-hearted attempt to celebrate our collective childhood British holidays. That June bought thunderstorms and torrential rain instead of the usual intermittent drizzle and showers. We spent half the week in a caravan with water pouring down the windows, busying ourselves with games of scrabble and Artist Charades, (in which the players use famous artworks – installations, paintings, sculptures, sound and video, – instead of the usual books, films and TV shows,)  and when the clouds cleared we donned wellingtons and took walks across country fields, discovered secret beaches, explored rock pools and ate cheese sandwiches under the shelter of oak trees.

Although I have no time for a holiday this year, I have been looking for some kind of caravan escape for next summer, or even scraping together some impromptu weekend camping before then. Last night I discovered a website for an enchanting campsite in Cornwall, which offers some truly beautiful converted vintage vehicles as accommodation, which I feel is definitely worth perusing by anyone considering a holiday soon. In the mean time, I wanted to make a bag that would encompass these happy memories, which I could take on my outdoor wanderings to carry my spare leggings and jumpers for when the weather turns! I found it difficult to decide whether I wanted a blue or mustard colour on the illustration, and settled with making both so I could mix-and-match depending on my outfit. Even when it is raining I am now able to have cheerful little reminder of summer with me.

June 19, 2012

Lovely Things

A few more lovely things I’ve been looking at recently:

Between Folks: British Butterflies is just beautiful. Take a look at some of the other works in this series.

These delightful chicken footstools from The City Girl Farm. I also love the design of the website.

Mystic Moose’s new Folksy shop!

 Oh Comely magazine. Who couldn’t love such a delightful collection of charming articles?  I can lose myself for hours in these stories.

June 18, 2012

Woodland Animal Totes

It is no secret that I have a great fondness for foxes, and regular readers may remember several posts outlining or illustrating various reasons for this. Although it has been many months since I have mentioned them, do not assume that this is because I no longer think of them; it is merely because I cannot seem to find the time to make as many declarations of my love as I would like!

I have, however, been taking quite a few country walks recently, and these have given me some lovely quiet moments with a sketchbook. In true British summer style, the weather has been a little intermittent in the last few weeks, pouring with rain one moment and overflowing with warm sunshine the next, but on the dry occasions I have taken a few art essentials with me on my wanderings. There are some lovely worn footpaths which trace lines across fields of long grass and it is not uncommon to spot wild rabbits and deer in-between the occasional dog walker.

I quite often find a seat on a dry-stone wall or patch of mossy grass and fill a few pages with doodles and thoughts. The process verges on therapeutic, and these quiet moments are wonderful for planning new designs for my shop. Last week was perhaps a more obvious example of this, when I caught sight of a red fox along the edge of the wood across the field from me. Without my glasses on she looked like an orange smudge in the distance, but she slid into focus once I had retrieved them from my bag.

Perhaps she wasn’t used to humans, or perhaps she didn’t see or smell me sat upwind, or perhaps she simply did not care that I was there, but she came towards me in an unconcerned trot.

It was one of those instances when you daren’t move for fear or spoiling it, so I sat very still as she approached. She was a healthy fox, unlike the ones that has moved into my garden some years ago who had been covered in mange. She had a sleek coat, and a thick tail, although she was a little smaller than I had expected so I wondered if she were young, or if it were just because she was a vixen? I briefly wondered what she was doing out, being a nocturnal animal, but then decided it was relatively early in the morning and she may be on her way home for bed.

When she was about five meters away she caught sight of me and froze. We had one of those frozen and assessing moments, that seem to last longer when you’re involved in them than they do to those on the outside. Then she turned tail and melted into the shadows of the wood.

I had been thinking of heading back to my studio at that point, but instead I rummaged in my bag for my flask – for I sometimes bring a flask of tea with me on these occasions, never knowing if I will stay out longer. It is a lovely mustard coloured flask that came with a picnic set I got last winter in the sales, and I am very fond of it. Settling down with a cup of tea, I began another series of drawing of foxes. But once I had finished a few, I moved on to rabbits, who had been frolicking on the other side of the field during my drawing, and then an Eurasian Eagle Owl, which I had not seen, but had been on my mind a lot these days.

When the weather began to turn, I packed up my sketchbook and pencils and continued my walk home. Back at the studio, over another cuppa (raspberry and Echinacea herbal tea, this time, my favourite right now,) I coloured my drawings and scanned them in for preparation to transfer them onto tote bags for my etsy shop.

June 9, 2012

Making Pencil Cases and Websites

After many weeks with long hours in front of the computer, I am so pleased that the Mystic Moose website for my craft shop is finally up and running. It was a wonderful place to put all the lovely photographs of totes that never quite reach the etsy listing photos – usually because they are too detailed or busy for the thumbnails. It links to my etsy shop, since that is the only place I sell my things online at the moment, but I really enjoyed making and designing the site, and will sell things from it directly someday soon!

On the theme of lovely new things, I have also branched out from the cotton tote bags I sell in my shop. For the last few weeks I have been perfecting my designs for pencil cases and purses, heat pressing my illustrations onto un-dyed cotton and sewing them in my studio. I had a huge delivery of zips at the end of last week, but couldn’t start immediately because I was searching for the zipper foot for my sewing machine. Even though I used the normal foot for the trail runs, and it looked okay, I felt it was important to take extra care when making something I was planning on selling. I visited my local sewing shop hoping to by a new zipper foot, but they had sold out of that morning. Eventually I found it last night when I crawled into the attic to look in the box the sewing machine originally came in. The box now holds a collection of beloved children’s books I can’t seem to let go of, and right at the bottom of the box, nestled between The Lorax and The Cat Who Walked By Himself, was the zipper foot. It was still in its plastic zipper bag with a needle threader, and apparently had been left behind in my excitement to use my new sewing machine two years ago.

After that little adventure, the pencil-case-making road had few bumps, and it wasn’t long before I had quite a selection to choose from. Not using a pattern or instructions meant that it was an interesting learning experience, working out how to have all the seams on the inside and yet leave a space to turn it inside out. I tried various places for this visible seam, including along the zip and on the bottom of the lining, but eventually settled on the side of the lining since it is least visible, and it meant I could sew in a lovely little Mystic Moose tag. I altered designs that are currently used on my totes, such as the typewriter, and the vintage map hearts, but I have some new designs floating about in my head right now.

I am hoping to order my new business cards soon, but I’ve been waiting for the perfect photograph of my products, and this wider range of sizes should making interesting compositions more exciting!

Also, don’t forget to enter the Mystic Moose giveaway over at Lazy Explorers! You could win your favourite Mystic Moose cotton tote, and the winner will be chosen on 13th June 2012, so head over to find out how to enter!  This giveway is now closed, and the winner can be found here.

June 8, 2012

Mystic Moose Tote Giveaway

Giveaway Time!

I am delighted to announce that the lovely Chloe from Lazy Explorers is hosting a Mystic Moose giveaway!  Which is your favourite cotton tote from Mystic Moose? You can have up to four entries per person, and be in with a chance to win the tote of your choice!

Take a peek at her latest blog post to read an interview with me about Mystic Moose, and make sure to comment on her post once you have entered. (The rest of her blog is full of beautiful and inspiring things and is well worth a read as well, so make sure you wander through!) The lucky winner will be chosen on 13th June 2012 over at Lazy Explorers.

This giveway is now closed, and the winner can be found here.

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