YSC (who I worked with earlier in the year - you can see my illustrations on their homepage and global office pages) asked me to illustrate their Christmas e-card with a fun and playful winter wonderland scene. So I did.
Winter's finally here; it's super frosty and foggy up here in Leicester. I'm wearing two pairs of thick socks and slippers over my woolly tights and I've just finished a deliciously warming cup of Spiced Winter tea which the lovely teapigs sent me to review. I'd definitely recommend it for a chilly winter's morning.
(c) Becca Thorne 2012
I recently signed up to the teapigs e-newsletter, to get deals in their online store, but I also discovered that they're stocked by both Carluccio's and The Original Cookware Co. in the centre of Leicester, so I'm going to pop into both soon to stock up on special teas for Christmas presents. I'm a big fan of both the Darljeeling Earl Grey and the Chocolate Flake tea (you must try this, I've kept the little paper sachet it came in because it smells so darn good), and this spiced number would be perfect for several of my relatives.
The Spiced Red is made with rooibos, so it's naturally caffeine-free, and is full of slices of orange peel mixed with ginger root, cinnamon and cloves, which fill the room with gorgeous Christmassy smells. Like all their teas it's whole leaf and housed in a non-paper (but fully compostable) tea temple, so there's no dusty rubbish or paper to taint the taste, just clean, fresh flavours. You can drink it black (or red in this case), but I had mine with almond milk, which made it extra smooth and added a little extra sweetness to the mix (which it didn't need, but did give a lovely chai latte-like flavour). I'll definitely be trying out teapigs' recommendation of a slug of brandy for extra mulled-winey deliciousness.
So try this out if you're looking for something to warm your frosty bod and get you feeling fully festive, but not sozzled (unless you go for the brandy...). Perfect for frosty mornings or chilly evenings by the fire. Plus, the packaging is rather pretty.
And as an extra special Christmas treat you guys can get 15% off in the teapigs shop when you use the code BLOGGERS12(*enter code at checkout. Discount does not apply to gifts and cheeky deals as these are already discounted).
There's currently free shipping on many products in my Society6 shop (all except framed prints, stretched canvasses and throw pillows with inserts) when you use this promo link http://society6.com/beccathorne?promo=4d4256
That means free shipping on all these lovely new cushion cover designs! This offer ends on Sunday 9th December, so hurry!
I've finally updated my sorely neglected Etsy shop and added some new items to my website shop. New in are Fancy Dress Chihuahua totes and Christmas bunting, plus some old favourites in the popular Bluetit tote and lino print tree decorations (there's only one pack of these left, available on Etsy).
I'll also add my screen printed Christmas Carol and wood engraving Robin cards just as soon as these rain clouds stop darkening my favourite winter photography corner and give me a chance to take some good pics.
This Sunday, 18th November, I'll have a stall at the Winter Food and Craft Fair at Leicester Market. It's a huge celebration of local foods, arts and crafts that fills the covered outdoor market place with delicious sights and smells. Alongside arts, crafts and food stalls there'll be cookery demonstrations from professional chefs and just round the corner, in Town Hall Square, the big Christmas lights switch on will start at 4pm, so there should be a real festive atmosphere.
I'll be selling original linocuts and wood engravings, handprinted cards, screenprinted bags and bunting alongside the talented Claire of Dragonfly Lane with her gorgeous jewellery and crocheted delights. We'll be positioned next to Cafe Bocca on the corner by Market Place South. I was especially excited to see that we're going to be sharing our little cube with the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, who Rowan and I do conservation volunteer work with every other Sunday.
We'll be there from 10:30am - 5pm, so why not head down to see us and sample some of the treats on offer - and maybe join the Wildlife Trust while your here!
I've just received my very first order from moo.com, and I can see why they're so popular. Gorgeous finish, high quality card stock, speedy delivery and great service. And it was extremely easy to use. I'll definitely be ordering from them again next time.
These little beauties were made using two new winter-themed wood engravings of a robin and a snowdrop. They'll be getting their first outing on Sunday at the Leicester Market Winter Food and Craft Festival, where I'll have a stall. More about that once I know exactly where my stall will be, but for now, here's a quick snap of my new cards.
I may have mentioned this before, but my younger brother, Jamie, is a rather talented photographer. He's currently got some of his photographs for sale on ebay, with 10% of all sales going to Epilepsy Action, a charity campaigning to improve services and raise awareness of epilepsy as well as offering advice and support to the millions of epilepsy sufferers is the UK (of which my brother is one).
Above are just three of the selection available; the two on the left are both from his Beautiful Dead series, which looks at the beauty and life that can still be found within the bodies of dead animals. Burnt Seat, on the right, reminds me so much of some of Warhol's car crash photos - dark and intriguing, so much less graphic than Warhol's, but no less macabre.
All the photographs are available professionally mounted and framed and can be found here.
Yesterday I printed up a new wood engraving onto some nice, crisp white cards ready for the next two weeks' craft fairs.
This little fellow will be on sale - along with my larger, screen printed Christmas cards, bags and bunting and original prints - this Saturday, 10th November, at Stokes Wood Allotment Society Christmas Craft Fair in The Pavillion, Stokes Drive, Leicester LE3 9BS.
I'll also have a stall at the Leicester Market Winter Food and Craft Festival at Leicester Market next Sunday (18th November).
Come along! There'll be loads of other artsers, craftsers and cake makers (I'm particularly looking forward to them) for you to peruse and may even indulge in.
This year marks 400 years since the infamous Pendle Hill witch trials in Lancashire and 300 years since Jane Wenham became the last person in England to be convicted of witchcraft. BBC History Magazine asked me to create the illustration below to lead an article called Witches In The Dock, covering these and eight other notable cases of witchy persecution from the 1441 to 1808. It features in the December issue, out tomorrow.
Could you have been accused of witchcraft? Take the BBC History online quiz to see how you'd have fared against the witch hunters www.historyextra.com/witchtest
I'm normally pretty rubbish and lazy when it comes to fancy dress, but this year I thought I might try to make a bit of an effort, and as part of my Halloween costume I wanted a gnarly old crow's head pendant like Bellatrix wears in the Potter movies. You can buy bird's skull necklaces all over the tinterwebs, but I wanted to spend as little as possible, so I decided to make one myself from papier mache. And I thought I'd share the process with you guys!
1 sheet of newspaper
Mixing bowl or bucket
Gold or silver paint
Black acrylic paint
Black ribbon or thread
An image of a bird's skull to copy
A couple of days' drying time or a couple of hours in the oven
To make the pulp tear up your newspaper into smallish bits, put it in a bowl and add enough warm water to just cover it. Leave it to sit for a couple of hours until the paper feels good and mushy (If you want it fairly smooth leave it overnight. I wanted mine quite lumpy for a more gnarly effect, so I only gave it about an hour and a half). Get your hands in there and give it all a good mushing up then drain off any excess water and squeeze out the pulp until it feels malleable and not too soggy. Now add a good dollop of PVA (this bit needs a little trial and error, but approx two or three tablespoons should be enough for one sheet of broadsheet newspaper). The pulp will keep for a couple of days in the fridge if you don't get round to using it straight away.
Scoop up some of the mush and roll and squeeze it between your palms to create the basic skull shape you want. Mine's quite big, but remember that smaller = less drying time so if you're in a hurry, go small! If your pulp seems a bit too dribbly then squeeze some more of the liquid out, it'll hold together better if it's not too wet.
Shape the eye sockets by gently pushing your thumbs into the fatter end of your blob and pinch a little with your forefingers to shape the brow ridges. If you need to add extra pulp to create definition, use a small amount at a time and carefully smooth it onto the main piece to ensure it's properly bonded. Use more PVA where necessary.
Use the handle end of your paintbrush to carefully shape the nostrils. Keep squeezing, poking and adding pulp until you get your desired shape.
Don't forget to make a hole around the back for threading your ribbon. When it's ready, place the skull on some paper towel or newspaper and put it somewhere warm and dry, like an airing cupbaord or above a radiator, to fully dry out. If it feels like it might be a bit too wet to handle give it a gentle blast with a hairdryer on a low setting for a few minutes, just to harden the outer layer a little, before moving it. Mine spent two days in the airing cupboard followed by two hours in a very low oven (with the door open slightly to let any moisture out) to finish off.
Once it's completely dry (it should be very light and sound kind of crispy when you tap it) you're ready to paint it. The colours are up to you; I used gold calligraphy ink because that was the only shiny paint I had. When that was dry I brushed a teeny-tiny amount of black acrylic paint all over it using a dry brush to make it look a bit more 'dirty' and to highlight all the lumps and bumps. I used a little more around the ridges and indents and loads in the eye sockets and nostrils to make them really stand out.
Thread your ribbon through the hole you made and you're done! To ensure that I really didn't have to buy anything at all, for the ribbon I cut a couple of hanger loops from the shoulders of a cardigan and tied them together. Brilliant!
So there you have it, how to make a cheap n' gnarly skeksi bird skull pendant for Halloween. Send me a pic if you make one too!
Happy Halloween/Samhain, guys and ghouls! The other day Laura of South West Artwork pointed me towards an Amelia's Mag call for Halloween-themed animal fancy dress illustrations, so this is my little contribution. I think I'll print her onto some bags too - bit late for Halloween, but who can say no to a dog in a cape...?
Right now I'm busy preparing and packaging loads of printed bits and bobs for my very first craft fair. I'll be at the Flint Hall (former Central Lending Library), Leicester this Saturday (27th October) from 10am - 4pm. There will also be an art exhibition and auction with all proceeds going to Leicstershire and Rutland Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research (a percentage of all stall sales and the full stall booking fee will also go to LLR).
So if you're in the area, please pop along and say hello. I'll have a host of goodies for sale as well as a print in the exhibition/auction and there'll be loads of other artsy craftsy stalls too.
Another cat for you. This is Rory. Rory in a bag. When we lived in Oakham we had a cat flap but no cat, and Rory - real name unknown* - was a frequent visitor. For all his disdainful, snooty looks he was a bit of a grubby numbnuts (he liked to sleep in the road) and always stank of stale cigarette smoke. He'd squeeze himself in between us if we were curled up on the sofa, if the butter was left uncovered he'd lick it all over and if we locked the cat flap he would scratch at it and moan until we let him in. I once heard a rustling under my desk and found him under there like this, inside a paper bag (which he'd broken with his fat body) of old sketchbooks.
We lived opposite Tesco, and Rory's favourite spot for a nap outside was nestled up against the curb while the delivery lorries thundered past. The last time we saw him was December 2007, when my family was visitng for a Christmas feast and Rory sauntered in and fell asleep on the sideboard next to a bottle of cooking brandy. We don't know if a Tesco lorry finally got him or if his family moved away, but we stayed there for another two years and never saw him again. We missed him.
*We can't remember why we called him Rory, but it suited him.
I was looking through some old photos the other day, when I realised
I've got tonnes of pictures of cats that I've never owned but have
somehow weaseled their way into my life, and I thought I might make a little series of them (maybe I'll call it Cats I've Never Owned....).
In the autumn of 2006 I'd recently returned from travelling, and was living back with my parents, when Lucky here briefly took up residence in the old cider barn. His real family lived across the valley, but for a
few days we would look out of the kitchen door in the morning to find him staring up at
us expectantly. He never got anything, and was probably living off the rats anyway, but that didn't stop him hoping.
My swanky new lino cutter got its first proper use today and I'm left wondering why I didn't buy one years ago - when they say mushroom handles are harder to use, they lie. Here's a (slightly blurry) little peak at what I've been happily cutting away at all day, without a sniff of shoulder/neck/hand/elbow pain - thanks, new cutter! I'll post a proper pic when the ink's dry.
Very excited about this delivery, just arrived from TN Lawrence:
Mmmmmmmmmmmmm; 500g of end-grain offcuts, two engraving tools and a lovely, brand new, artist quality lino tool - I decided it was time to upgrade from the plastic one I've been using since I was a student. Can't wait to get stuck in!
My allotment society hosted the sixth West Leicester Horticultural Show on Saturday, and it was my job to wander round with the judge while she sized up all the fruit and veg and tasted all the cakes, jams and pickles (she let me 'help' with the tasting; I'm very grateful to her for the rhubarb and ginger jam experience. Not so much the salty marrow chutney). Despite this year's wonky weather messing up the growing season there was only one category without an entry. Here are some of the highlights:
So many delicous colours. The beautiful basket of veg got Best In Show and although those spider 'cakes' didn't win a prize they were my favourites in the children's section. The leeks were huge and, as everyone knows, you can't have a horticultural show without enormous vegetables.
These beauties were in a little border by the pavillion. So pretty.
Good morning bloggers, I hope you're all having a marvelous end to the summer. This post is all shameless pleading I'm afraid: I've uploaded a new design to Threadless, and it would be grand if you could score it (a 5 would be lovely, but that's up to you).
This one's called I Know A Bird That Cannot Fly, and is inspired by the little African Penguins at Bristol Zoo. I used to love to stand in the viewing tunnel there and watch the seals and penguins zipping past like underwater swallows. I've got a lot of reservations about zoos - the animals rarely get enough space and often bob and weave as they slowly lose their minds (the asiatic lions and pygmy hippos at Bristol are especially bad), but I do believe in their conservation work and I feel they are doing some good, even if they have a long way to go to make their animal's lives better. Anyway, here's the link:
It seems like ages ago that I worked on these illustrations for my second project with the Folio Society, so it's great to finally be able to share them with you!
I created twenty three illustrations, including the cover, of subjects ranging from a dead donkey to a man getting a poker up the bum and all manner of oddities in between.
Compiled by the late Derek Brewer, the book is full of ribald tales from Medieval Britain and Europe; there's innuendo galore, plenty of mistaken identities with sexy/fatal consequences and randy priests abound.
I've spent most of the day rearranging bits and bobs on shelves and chests of drawers, trying to find the best spots to photograph my newly printed bags. I think I've finally found some good spots for these two, and they're now up and on sale in my shop. What do you reckon?
They're both made of strong and durable, 100% completely natural cotton and feature nice long straps for carrying over your shoulder.
My new Compassionate Dorset Tee is now up for voting on Threadless. If it wins it will be printed by Threadless as part of their range and I will donate 25% of the earnings to Compassionate Dorset in aid of Compassion In World Farming. So if you like my work and/or you would like to see an improvement in the lives of farmed animals all over the world, please click the link below and score my design, and maybe even share it will your chums! Thanks, all!
A couple of new bags designs I've been working on. These'll be up in the shop soon, I just need to find a good spot for taking photos when the sun's not shining in my tiny sliver of garden. I'm not sure my batik bed sheet really cuts it.
You might have noticed I've altered the layout of the blog a little; it wasn't really filling the screen the way I had it, before, which meant that my pictures had to be smaller than I liked. Unfortunately it now means that some of my old posts have gotten a little mangled and might look weird, but without going through them one by one and re-jigging the text and re-sizing the pictures there's not a lot to be done about it, so I'm leaving them as they are for now.
I also thought it was maybe time to update my header, this new one is the logo I print inside my bags. What do you think?
Over the past week or so I've been creating a new design for Compassionate Dorset, a supporter group for Compassion In World Farming. The new design is now in their online T-shirt shop, alongside the other designs I've done for them. I've also just uploaded this design to Threadless, so I'll post a link if it gets approved for voting!
My allotment society are going to be hosting their very first craft fair on the 10th November and are inviting crafters, printmakers, artists and anyone else making handmade delights to book a stall. We're planning on making this a regular thing, so if you're based in or around Leicester this could be one for you. Call Barry on the number on the poster below, or email me using the email address (also on the poster) for more info or to reserve your spot.
There's something about that poster that reminds me of a Christmas book I had when I was little, that was illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura. I can't remember what it was called, but I think it's the text that's reminding me of it; it's a font called Hitchcock that I found thanks to playwright Sean Dixon, who used it on the poster designs for his new play FRANCE (or, The Niqab). After making the Craft Fair poster, I broke out the watercolours for this little number below, also for the allotments. Lord Kitchener with a light sprinkling of Giuseppe Arcimboldo.
I went to Birmingham Museum recently with my mum, and saw their amazing collection of tin glazed ceramics from the 17th/18th centuries. There were also jugs, tiles, bowls and all sorts else, but these plates were my favourites. I don't think the two at the bottom are tin glazed, or from the 17th century, but I love them all the same. Click for a bigger view.
We also saw the incredible Staffordshire Hoard, which is touring the country at the moment, but I wasn't allowed to take any photos of that. Suffice to say, it was amazing. I think it's in Stoke-on-Trent now, but have a look on the website for where else it's headed http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/
Here it is, my secret little screen printing project! My friend Ellie turned 30 at the weekend, and I made her some extra special bunting as a pressie. I also made her a big fat carrot cake, but that got scoffed way too quickly for a photo!
I printed two designs in four colours onto medium weight, unbleached cotton duck fabric (with much waste of fabric thanks to my poor planning), cut them out with pinking shears and sewed them together on cotton twill tape. I printed far too many triangles, so I'm going to make up a few more from what I've got left over and they'll be up on sale on my website as soon as I've managed to get the layout etc right in my online shop!
In other news, I stood on a blimmin' weever fish in the sea in Brighton yesterday and spent half an hour with my foot in a tub of hot water at the lifeguard station. The excruciating pain subsided and the swelling went down in good time for us to have scrumptious nachos at The Dorset, but it's back again now, so I'm typing this with my foot in a bowl of hot water.
Would you believe I spent yesterday wandering about the Peak District in glorious sunshine? T'is true! And it was ruddy lovely. But rest assured it's peeing it down again now. So here's something a little summery to raise your spirits.
I've spent the day screen printing. I won't tell you what these are for yet, but you'll see soon enough I promise!
I was in Pembrokeshire last week, flarping about on the coastal path,
watching seals, finding fossils and trying not to stand on all the huge, fuzzy Oak Egger moth caterpillars. It was awesome and is my excuse for not having done this post til now. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you've probably already seen my gushing posts about the wood engraving day course I took at Leicester Print Workshop a week ago. If so, bear with me, because I'm about to gush again (which sounds gross. Sorry).
First of all I must confess something. Until last Sunday I had no idea there was a difference between woodcutting and wood engraving. I know, d'oh! I knew that there were two basic types of block - side grain and end grain - but I was totally unaware that the method used to cut them was completely different. For anyone else as clueless as me; woodcutting uses side grain blocks of wood, the cutting method and tools used are similar to linocutting and the grain of the wood can often be seen in the final print. Wood engraving, however, is done onto finished endgrain blocks, which are much finer and smoother than side grain, meaning they're easier to carve, allow for more fine detail and produce a blacker print. The tools are points and edges rather than gougers and have names like medieval weapons - spitsticker, bullsticker, scorper...
So. The class. We each got a sample block which we used to get used to the different tools and the marks we could make, followed by a 'real' block which we set about once we were comfortable with our technique. That's my sample piece above.
I wanted to try engraving out as a way of incorprating my printmaking with my drawing, which is more detailed and less stylised, and I absolutely loved it. I took along the Chickens book I illustrated for Kyle Books a few months ago, partly so I could compare two similar images in different mediums, but also because I thought all those feathers would be perfect to recreate this way. Here's how I did:
Not bad for a first-timer, huh? I'm actually so pleased with this print that I can't stop looking at it. And I made ten editions. I started off using a Japanese tissue paper and burnishing by hand as I normally do at home, but I actually found I preferred using the thicker Zerkall and a small letterpress roller - the print came out lovely and crisp and dark. Yum.
It was amazing how differently each member of the class set about their block. We did a load of group prints too, so check it out, this is what everyone came up with. Pretty diverse, no?
I'd like to do a lot more of this. If only the blocks weren't so ruddy expensive! Even T.N. Lawrence's 'cheap' maple blocks cost over £5 for a 2x3" block. Cripes! Must look into other sources....
I really recommend anyone with an interest in printmaking check out the Leicester Print Workshop, they do courses in every type of printing under the sun, provide all the equipment you'll need and the tutors are fantastic. We had the wonderful Geri Waddington teaching us, check out her work here. So inspiring.
I can also now properly share the illustrations I created for phd and eatbigfish for their book, Overthrow | 10 Ways to Tell A Challenger Story. It's elegantly designed, bound in matt black with the title embossed in glossy black and the spine and blurb text simply printed in white (I'd take a photo but Rowan's got the camera in Wales for the next two weeks and my phone camera is rubbish. And I'm impatient). Here are a couple of illustrations I'm particularly proud of:
And that means I can finally show you the illustrations I created for it! I did fifteen illustrations in total, all much more colourful than I usually get asked for, which was fun. These are a couple of my favourites from the sliding banner on the homepage:
A couple of maps for the regional offices' landing pages:
And I also did a few re-renderings of the business values models, like this one:
The new site looks great (the work of the designers over at Treat Digital) so if you're interested in seeing more of my illustrations or learning more go to YSC.com. You can find the rest of the maps by going to the Our Offices menu at the top right of the homepage.
It's old Queenie-pops Diamond Jubilee on Tuesday, and in honour of her special day my allotment society is holding a Garden Party (next weekend, because everyone's too busy with other celebrations this weekend). There'll be cream teas and plant stalls and crafts and lots of bunting, and I designed the posters. If you're in Leicester and fancy having a wee nosey at Stokes Wood Allotments, or just joining us for lashings of tea and cake, please pop along. Admission is 50p and includes entry into the raffle. Children enter for free. Who knows, maybe the sun will be back out! Click the pic for a bigger version.