Monday, 26 December 2011

Oh SEW cute were all my new handmade owl friends, I felt obliged to spread their button-eyed love far & wide. As well as giving the little fellas to some of my chums as Christmasy presents, I decided to have a go at whacking on a price tag & selling them at a Christmas market. I booked a stall at St James' Christmas market & spent the few weeks leading up to it going mentalist with all kinds of crafty matters.

St James' was one of the four schools from my youth - spending 5 years there in a picnic blanket style skirt & shapeless blouse. Hair tied up, skirt 2 inches bellow the knee, no make-up, no jewelry, no straps on boyfriend. (Final rule wasn't exactly a 'rule' but more of a fact given the other rules. My appearance in these five years left much to be desired). It was a rather unusual school, to say the least - we meditated, learnt Sanskrit, had philosophy & cross-stitching lessons, ate vegetarian food & chanted at the beginning & end of every lesson throughout the school day. Oh, & we weren't allowed to look at boys, let alone speak to them. We sung the Nelson Mass in morning assembly & went to classes called 'The Art of Hospitality' where we learnt to cook & fold napkins. Sound a bit like - 'finishing school' for girls with a bit of an alternative edge - to you? It certainly felt something like that. Despite it's quirks I absolutely loved it. In fact, I think the quirks were what made me love it more. At meals times we were told off for serving ourselves, we were only allowed to take food if it had been offered to us. In the classroom we had to stand whenever a teacher came in & greet her, we weren't allowed to stay inside during break times & had to take skipping ropes to the playground where hop scotch was another acceptable activity. There wasn't much bitchiness or bullying..the ethos of the school wouldn't allow it.

So, this was the location chose for my first Christmas market stall. I felt sure that the good vibes of the crazy place would work in my favour. I set up my stall & had a wonderful afternoon selling my bits & bobs & conversing with teachers from my past - standing up to greet them of course.

On my stall I was also selling t-shirts. These were hand printed by my friend Austin who goes to Brighton art school. I cruised to Brighton a while ago to visit him & returned with a massive suitcase filled with t-shirts. They are really fab - printing with all sorts of designs - swirly cupcakes, a cool vespa, sad clown, dangerous sandwich, 'Make Tea Not War', & many more designs.

Fimo! Fimo! Fimo is just so fab - it's a bit like play dough which can be molded into all sorts of fun shapes. I made fun little earrings which I then popped into the oven to harden them. I made loads & on various occasions forgot to take them out of the oven so was left with burnt little brown owls with melted eyes. Most sad.

In the 4 hours I was at the market I had the chance to wander around to check out my competitors at neighbouring stalls. Many wonderful things...

 The funniest thing was when I realised my immediate stall neighbour - competitor no.1 - was Haya from Lord Sugar's 'Young Apprentice'! A girl hand-picked from thousands of applicants as one of the most entrepreneurial bright young sparks of Britain was selling almond hair oil on the stall next to me while I sold...owls. Great.

Thursday, 22 December 2011


Bits & bobs! Needles, thread, string, pins, buttons, scissors, material, beads...oh glorious bits & bobs.

I've always loved making things - from lumpy bits of pottery at primary school 'mum look! I made you 'The Owl & The Pussycat' boat!' shoving something resembling a rock in her direction, to a knitted scarf in my first year at Durham - my excuse for not going clubbing. Who needs vodka shots when you've got knitting needles & wool? I went to dress-making classes back in the day where I learnt pattern cutting & that kind of business. I really enjoyed it but I think dress making is not really for me - too arduous & I was never accurate enough so inevitably things went wrong, ending up in one messy heap. I did learn how to make corsages which are fun & to this day I always have one pinned on my jacket, adding a colourful injection to any outfit. When I traveled to art school with my extremely creative chum Olivia, we'd both sit on the tube doing some form of making - she'd knit while I'd sew random bits of material together. I really think sewing on public transport is just ideal, the best way to pass long journeys with the added bonus of freaking fellow commuters out. Seriously, if you want to ward off sweaty tube travelers, start sewing - it really makes them keep a safe distance. I'm not sure if this is a fear of being stabbed with a needle or strangled with some wool or whether they just thought our activity was so strange that we must be from another planet.

I am jolly keen on FELT & recently a need to acquire it became quite an obsession. I searched high & low in crafty shops but they only seemed to sell small squares which was not ideal as I was after industrial quantities of the stuff. Eventually, after quite a felt finding palava, I went to Shepherds Bush...oh Shepherds Bush, thank you. Goldhawk Rd is brilliant - shop after shop selling fabric, each kitted out with their own sleezy man trying to encourage a purchase of something shiny, animal themed or just plain ugly. I bought various brightly coloured pieces of material before cruising down Shepherds Bush Market where I struck gold (if you call felt gold. I certainly do). Metres & metres of the stuff! Every colour! Peeeerfect!

With all my wonderful newly aquired felt I set about sewing like a mentalist. Owls, owls, owls, what else?! Owls to pin onto things, owls to hang, owls to chill.

Boxes & boxes of material fill my room - ideal of making these fun little corsages. La.La.La.


Wednesday, 14 December 2011


If you are my chum & this keen-owl-related fact had passed you by - you are either extremely unobservant (most of my jewelry, clothes, hats, scarves, bags, etc. are owl-related) or extremely deaf (most of my conversation is owl-related). People often ask me why I am quite so keen on the fluffy fellas & to be honest I'm not entirely sure, except that they are cute, wise & have very big eyes. I think that's enough fuel for an obsession..

During my foundation year at art school we had inductions to all sorts of arty processes & techniques - from screen printing to dress-making, photography to casting - & for each induction we had to do a little project. Following on from my clothing & conversation, these too were almost always owl-related in some manner. The project where we had to create a large construction out of wood, loo paper, string, etc. turned into a tree with a few owls perched here & there. The etching project which required us to design a template to print was again an owl. The screen-printing project - owl printed t-shirts. The glass cutting project - a owl encrusted mirror. And so on.

Durham university was the next phase in my life to discover Bella's owl-tastic tastes. Here it was expanded from clothing, conversation, arty bits & bobs - to therapy. I shall explain.
I had an absolutely tiny room in college in first year - it was practically non-existent. I was not too thrilled about this, particularly as the other rooms along my corridor were vast with large gothic window letting in lots of lovely light, while I was stuck in a dark box. Not ideal. It came to a point when I decided enough was enough & went to our college tutor to discuss my non-existent (yet unfortunately existent) room & she gave me a list of some empty rooms that I could potentially move into. I was thrilled & decided to test run the rooms, sneakily acquiring about five keys to various empty bedrooms around college. I finally settled on one with a big window, slanting ceiling & general good vibes. However, by this stage the term was almost at an end so I decided, against anyone's knowledge, to live in both rooms. SUCH a perfect situation.
How is this story owl-related, you ask? Well, I kept the box room for my clothes, work & general clutter, moving only my bedding, ablution equipment & a box with small squares of paper, a black pen & coloured ink - for my owl creating (all materials mentioned minus the bedding & ablution equipment) to the new room. Since no one new about my second room, I would have to sneak there in the dead of night, fleeing my essays to sit in my big windowed room & draw owls. My complete & utter de-stressing therapy.

A few weeks ago I heard about a competition to design the cover for the 100th issue of 'Stylist' magazine. Owls owls - was of course my intial thought. It was required to have a celebratory theme & have '100' written somewhere on it. The two 0's to me screemed OWL EYES &  I wanted to keep it simple & colourful. 

I sent my design with the application form & in the section 'Please write a few words on what inspired your cover' I wrote: 
What a hoot! I love colour, I love owls, I love celebrations! Bright, colourful & fun. I draw owls a lot - I find it very soothing. If I'm stressed I draw & colour owls. Thank you oh wise & wonderful owls. I hope others will also be inspired by my calming, colourful owl & his little mouse chum (with cheese).
Ok so I didn't win the competition...but am still waiting for the men in white jackets to come & take me away! 

(This scan of the cover hasn't come out that well - in reality it's much more colourful! Pink backgroud etc.)
A little mono print my friend Olivia did of me at art school.

Bella Owl.

La La La.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Idle? Ideal.

There's a magazine dedicated to the ethos of being idle called 'The Idler' which campaigns against the work ethic & promotes liberty, autonomy & responsibility...sound ideal? Anyone else singing 'The Importance of Being Idle' by Oasis right now? I certainly am.
I found out about this idle business when I came across an events programme for 'The Idler Academy' which has recently opened on Westborne Park Rd. Such fun quirky things going on there - evening talks, sewing mornings, ukulele lessons...I actually decided a while ago that I wanted to learn the ukulele. I've never been musical - tried leaning the piano at prep school but my teacher was strange & he sniffed a lot so I gave up. It was very shorted lived - probably just as long as he had a cold. I say this in retrospect, now that I've realised that the sniff may not have been a permanent characteristic of this chap, but I didn't stick around long enough to know. My recent decision to learn the ukulele was based on my idea that it would be realitively easy as it's small. 'Half the size of a guitar = half the difficulty of a guitar' was my rationing. Unfortantely, after a lesson with a musical friend of mine I realised this was certainly not the case. He spent a good half hour teaching me to strum which was quite frankly beyond me. Once again, my attempt at a musical career was somewhat short lived.

So ukulele lessons at the Idler Academy? Maybe not. But a talk about hedgehogs? Yes please. Apparently there was also a talk about Sloths a while ago which I sadly missed. A whole hours talk dedicated to wonderful does that sound? It would also have been rather interesting because I honestly cannot think of anything else they do other than be lazy. Maybe the talk was tips on how to be a lazy sloth? Because we all need more help with that, right?!

No sloths, no hedgehogs, but books! I went to an evening talk & class called 'How to Make a Book' which was just fab. It was run by a man called John-Paul Flintoff, a proper English eccentric who just bloody loves books. I don't think I've ever met someone who has such a passion for them...Of course I know real bookworms - those wonderfully bookish, library loving, nerdy types, but this chap's love of books is different. He simply loves making them - from what I gather - out of anything & everything. The talk began with him waxing lyrical about all the ways books can be created & the types that can be created..books with hidden pages, books that fold into different shapes, never ending books, small books, large books...papers, colours, shapes, sizes, books, books, books. The evening then turned practical - glue, scissors, paper, material, thread, needles, all flying around as we learnt to create signatures & bind them together. It was such a jolly event & the other people were equally as jolly & indeed rather eccentric. One woman in particular had to shield her eyes when the buttons were brought out. She has a phobia of buttons. I found this a bit odd, but then remember that I've got a phobia of toothbrushes & I guess an irrational fear of buttons & toothbrushes are roughly on the same par...

 My owl-y creation!

Here's another example of a bit of my collaging..lots of owls, of course. My favourite is the picture of Adam & Eve with the quote 'Honesty, there IS no one else'. Amazing.