Thursday, 24 December 2015

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

It's that time of the year again!! We've passed the shortest day of the year, the pile of presents under the tree is growing, the larders are fit to bursting and families are journeying across the country (and further!) to be with their nearest and dearest. No matter what your habits, faith or creed, this is something I think we can all get behind 100% - food, family, friends and fun! 

We are breaking with years of tradition and spending Christmas with my family! They are usually dotted all over the planet, so this is a rarity. In fact, my parents actively avoid Christmas usually. They use it as an excuse to flee the country for warmer climes!! So, you could almost say we have anti-Christmas traditions. A few years back our 'faux' Christmas dinner was actually as late as Easter! Christmas pudding and gift giving in Spring, with chocolate Easter eggs on the side was confusing!!

What's even more important is this will be our first Christmas with the next generation. Young Marlow, my first little nephew arrived in this world only a few weeks ago. I simply can't wait to meet him! I'm sure he'll be completely non-pluses by the whole Christmas shebang, but the rest of us will surely be beside ourselves with excitement that he's here to share the day. 

These illustrations I did for our Christmas  gifts - one for each member of the family, including new Marlow!

So here's to wishing you a wonderful few festive days, full bellies and happiness and health to you and yours.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

10 Top Tips for Home Framing

Having spent rather a large amount of time framing and putting photos on the wall over recent months, I can safely say we've learnt a thing or two about what the process (and had a few heated debates along the way!!). Be it 'to dos' or 'not to dos', I think we finally have our process down! Although it's unique to everyone, I thought I'd round up TEN of our top tips for home framing to hopefully help you on along the way.

1. Don't be precious about your walls

Fill them with nail holes if needs be. Most will end up covered by the frames themselves anyway and any that don't will only take two ticks to hide with a dab of quick-dry polyfill, a dainty sanding and a teensy dollop of paint. :)

This is sometimes the hardest part - getting started! Once you get a few nails in the wall you'll find it hard to stop! Or so I'm hoping...

2. Frame things you LIKE and that make you HAPPY

I don't care if it's not THE latest trend or by THE latest artist, if it creates a happy harmonious home that's what really matters. You're the one that will be spending the most time looking at them, so if they offend your eyes, keep them locked up in the dark!

A real mixture of mediums is idea - anything from photos, artwork, prints, ticket stubs, doodles or sketches and the family's finger paintings. Whatever it that reminds you of the good things in life, get 'em up!

3. Frames first

If you have a fortune to spend on custom frames, then ace, go for it! If like most of us you're not made of money, then buy the frames first and then fill them! Even better, keep a little list of things you want to frame WITH THEIR DIMENSIONS alongside in you Filofax/smart phone/paper diary (I may be the only person left in the universe that has one of those still!). That way you can check before you buy.

Every single frames image in this post has been thrifted or inherited and we've had to learn to work our magic from there!

4. Mix and match

I am a big fan of mix and match. Be it a mix of colours, shapes, styles or sizes. What's more, I love frames with character. Ben keep berating me for picking out the most battered chipped frames I can find. In addition to what you're framing, the actual frames themselves bring a whole lotta fun to the party too! If they've been around the block a few times, they have their own story to tell too...

On the flip side, if you like a bit more consistency or a smarter look, then a simple splash of spray paint is a fabulous fix for a themed look. A variety of frame sizes and shapes look fabulous all black or white. You can see more on spray painting frames here.

5. Mount

If there is anything that will make you family snapshots looks like premium pro prints or you dabbles in watercolour look like masterpieces it's a good wide mount or mat. They can cost as little as a few pounds and yet make your work look a million dollars! You can opt for a simple wide neutral mat or a experiment with a little colour as we did here. Seriously give it a go, I promise you won't look back.  

6. Go BIG

Your walls are likely to be waaaay bigger than you think! When sitting on your sofa you don't want to have to squint to get a glimpse of your favourite Auntie's pea-sized head on the opposite wall. Go down that route and you'll be wearing thick as your thumb GLASSES in no time. Instead go for frames, art and prints that will make an impact, be big, brash and bold!

7. Get creative with your layouts

There are so many options when it comes to layouts on the walls. From a regular Instagram inspired square grid to a free form, organic, mix and match gallery style. Try a long single row all aligned at the top or a single supersize frame. Cluster frames together in small groups or pile them up on a shelf. Experiment and try all the options until you find an approach that works for you.

8. Experiment with colours

So many options when it comes to colours, in my opinion the colours in an image/photo are almost the most important thing! Pick out colours you love, or colours that bring out the theme of the room, go all black and white for a timeless classic look, stick to a few key colours for a harmonious pulled together feel or go all out for an over the top eclectic look (yup, that'll be me then!). 

9. Balance

This is important to get that intentional put together look for a room. Your art work and walls are a huge part of the room and need to work WITH the rest of the decor, NOT against it. Think about balancing scale, colours, alignment, themes, motifs etc. The way we worked photos into the shelf above our hallway hooks is a good example.

Unless of course, the theme is 'More is More'. In which case, just go for well...more.

10. Have FUN! 

With this cheap as chips approach to framing the most important things is TO GET THEM UP ON THE WALL! Sounds crazy, but all to easy to sit with a pile of frames on the floor waiting for the PERFECT image, the perfect FRAME, the perfect SPOT etc etc etc. instead, just go with what you've got and once you end up with something better, switch it up then. Easier to modify what you've got than start from scratch!! 

And finally a sneaky bonus point - I was on fire and couldn't let you miss out on this gem! ;)

11. Think outside the box

Anything that you can safely mount can go on the walls, it doesn't need to be square and flat! You can add mirrors, empty frames, ceramics, decorative plates, wall hangings, textiles, carpets, tapestries. Basically ANYTHING goes on them walls!!

So, what you waiting for. Go fill those walls...

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Creative habit update

I have been loving my new creative typography habit! It's has been ever so slightly thrown off track by building work in our house - all my craft gear had to be burried away under dust sheets for a couple of weeks while we had a wall pulled down! But, thankfully that's all done and dusted now, so my pens and paper are back out and in constant use...

A little confession - this new habit had not literally translated into writing EVERY single day. I have to be honest - I have occasionally been a little sneaky and front-loaded a batch at a time - e.g. when we're sat on the sofa watching a winter tv marathon! But, do you know what, that is A-OK in my book! Also, I've not necessarily been sharing the results daily on insta (@knickerelasticfantastic). Maybe I should have set out with slightly less lofty ambitions - like an every-now-and-then creative habit!! Haha. But you've got to aim for the stars, right?! 

So far, these are my three most notable observations about the process so far:

1. Experimentation 

After a few days of using he same font or the same medium things start to get mundane so experimentation become natural and super exciting! I quickly moved on from my trusty sharpie on to watercolours. And I am currently experimenting with a brand new set of brush pens ('fanks Izzy!), which is a whole new skill set it seems! These aren't quite ready to see the light of day yet just yet, but hopefully you'll get to see some soon!! 

2. Sharing

Now I have committed to sharing, either here or on Insta, I continue to feel an obligation to do the same. It may be completely in my mind, but that's works just fine too!! And while it's not daily, it's frequently enough that I can already see small improvements since day one and hopefully I'll continue to progress further... 

3. Collecting

I already have amassed a large bundle of quotes all written out on plain A4 paper, it's amazing how quickly you build up a collection when you're doing one or two a day. So I've now started planning what I'm going to do with them when I get to the end of this process (seems very distant right now mind!!). Ideas people have already suggested include binding them into a booklet or I may even frame one or two of my absolute favourites once I'm done! 

4. Inspiration

This one was a little unexpected, I have to admit. But since I've started this project I have actually spent more time with my paints and pens out doing other little sketches and practices than I previously had done all year long. So it really has had a snowball effect on all my creative habits! Something I couldn't be more excited about and am super determined to keep up. Woop!

5. Fun!

Last but not least, this is so much fun!! Doing something daily totally takes the pressure off. I'm not precious about these in the slightest. I see them as little exercises and practices. They've not taken me months and months (unlike this!). I'm not terrified of making a tiny small error and ruining all that hard work. I know I don't have to share absolutely every single one I do. And if today's is terrible, then there's always TOMORROW! And for that reason I can really let loose and enjoy! :)

Has anyone else started a new creative habit recently? If so, I'd be super interested to know how it's going! 

Plus, what with new year being just round the corner (waaaaaaat??!) it's the perfect time to start thinking about any new habits you want to start building into your daily life from 1st Jan!! New year's resolutions here we come! Anyone tempted?

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Shoreditch Photowalk with Xanthe

When you're wandering the streets with your pals do you have to keep stopping yourself from dashing across the road to snap the perfect photo you just spotted??
Do you let perfect photo opportunities pass you by everyday because you're mid the wrong side of the road or too busy dashing for the train?
Do you lie in bed at night and see all those untaken photos flip through your mind as you drift off to sleep?!

If you've experienced any of the above (and I really hope some of you have and it's not JUST me!) then you need to join one of Xanthe's fab colour photo walks!! (Check out her inspirational instagram account here).

Nobody bats an eye lid of you suddenly crouch down in the middle of the road with your iPhone to snap a shot. Everyone gathers around to take a peek when you point out an obscure squiggle of street art. When you excitedly claim, 'look at this shot' - you get hearty exclamations of approval, rather than mumbled 'yes, yes my dear' responses. You're not being dragged along the street to try and get somewhere before the shops shut or having to run to catch up with everyone else after pausing for a snap. You don't have to worry about the cars - everyone's looking out for your back as you step into the street to get the perfect wide angle and haul you back to the safety of the pavement! 

I could go on (and on!). Suffice to say, if you love to explore, gossip, make new friends and experiment with your phone or camera then a Photowalk is definitely for you!! Check out Xanthe's blog and insta for more details, I'm sure she'll be offering more very soon and I'll be the first to sign up! :) 

The top highlights of the morning for me were:

1. Slowing down

Marching around the streets of London is what I've done for the last 12 years or so. It's actually incredibly difficult to purposefully slow down!! But the rewards when you do so and vast. The streets we walked down were filled with so many layers and layers of graffiti and collage that even a full day would have not given you time to really take in each little piece of artwork. But we certainly packed in more of Shoreditch than I have seen before! 

2. Morning light

It's rare that I'm up and out of the house before late morning at the weekend!! So setting the alarm early was a rude awakening, but totally worth it for that bright crisp morning light before the clouds gathered. I really hate the darkness of winter, and I think it's a photographer's worst nightmare. But this Sat I barely noticed it at all! Sounds like my solution is to set that alarm an hour earlier each Saturday...we'll see how long this one lasts!!

3. Colour is allowed

Xanthe's instructions were dress in colour, wear pretty shoes and clear all you camera memory space. Anyone who knows me will be all TOO aware of which out of hose came naturally to me and which was a tough challenge!!! That morning my hardest decision was deciding which colours to veto from my outfit. After a week of office dressing in always primed to bust out all the colours of the rainbow at the weekend!! And my second hardest decision was which photos to delete. Worst. Job. In. The. World. Luckily I culled just enough to let me snap away with ease all morning. Thank goodness!

4. Making new friends

Making new friends is always fun, but finding the opportunities for it can sometimes be tricky! So when you rock up and everyone is new, everyone is on their tod and are all looking for new experiences to push them, it's a melting pot for a fun and varied few hours. 

5. New angles

It's super easy to get stuck in a rut. The safety of a familiar shot that we know and love and can repeat ad nausium is difficult to shrug off, especially if it's worked well for us in the past (or got lots of 'likes'!). But watching and learning from others, sharing successes or failures and learning from them is super valuable. Even more interesting is seeing the trickle of images on insta over the following few days and seeing what people have picked out to share from the hundreds of images we took!! 

So a truly inspirational morning and something I am super keen to try again. Have you ever done something like this? You could join an organised event, or drag a few friends out for a walk with benefits, or simply grab your camera when you have a spare hour and go explore your neighbourhood! 

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Guerrilla gardening final update

I would LOVE to be sharing images of glorious blooms splashing colour all up and down our street. Alas, our first (but not last!) forray into guerrilla gardening hasn't been a runaway success. But that's not to say we feel like we've been left empty handed, far from it, we have this success to our name:

Ta da! Yes ever so slightly compact but still a strong and healthy nasturtium plant. Even more importantly it's still holding it's own while all those around him are loosing their leaves! :p 

Whether or not we should expect a late Autumn flowering or not is still up for debate and with the weekend's first frost of the year (Yes! Time to wrap up your sweet bundles of joy to protect them from this silent killer!) due, handed are looking increasingly slim! But not to worry, I am not as fickle as to do this solely for the flowers, that's under egging the importance of lively vibrant vegetation on our streets too! :)

You can see our earlier guerrilla gardening updates here and here! 

Monday, 16 November 2015

DIY Fantastic: NYC Holiday Map

This may be my longest running art project EVER. I dreamt up the idea on our trip to New York back in 2013. And I finished and framed it a few weekends ago. Yes, that's right, over 2 years in the works.

We'd had a frame AND mount ready and waiting for months - reflection of the impressive level of faith Mr Fantastic had that I'd actually get the thin finished. (I'd have long given up on me!!) But I have admit it was incredibly satisfying to sign off on a piece and then get it framed and up on the wall within an hour. Maybe this should be my new motivational ploy for all my art projects...

Back in NYC we ummed and aaahed about buying a city map for our walls. We saw some super fun ones at Brooklyn Flea Market. But getting them home in our carry on was going to be an absolute mission. So instead, I promised I'd whip us up a personalised version upon our return....

I started out with a general outline of Manhattan and the main districts and then started to fill in from there. I included little snippets of each of our favourite adventures in the city. We tried to remember all our little adventures, walks, dinners, concerts and memories from our whistle-stop tour and I worked them into a drawing with little illustrations and phrases!

I sketched out the outline of each district and the general shapes of each illustration in pencil and then dived in with a permanent fine-liner for the final draft.

Some of my favourite little snippets in the above and below include 'Giant fritto-misto' at Bianca's restaurant (aah-mazing!), our final day's shopping spree for gifts in Greenwhich Village, our 'crazy taxi ride' out to Brooklyn in a yellow cab (I am a super supporter of The Knowledge after that experience!) and the delicious 'Brooklyn Roast and breakfast donuts' we had when we FINALLY arrived!!

For the areas we left unvisited (there's only so much you can squeeze in in three and a half days!) I kept the districts simple, filling the shape of each district with their names. These spots will definitely be on my hit-list for our next aherm, anniversary, trip to the big apple (did I say that out loud?).

This has been a real labour of love, but I am so pleased with the result. The concept is super simple - the map base and the overlay of place names and drawings is something you could do for any trip, anywhere in the world! Although getting all that detail in the tiny sketches did take a wee while...

In fact, you could also do something very similar using memorabilia from a trip. Creating a map-collage using ticket stubs, cutouts from pamphlets and photos. Have you ever made any holiday inspired art for your walls? Looking for suggestions for our next big trip now!

p.s. for more Knicker Elastic art work and framing take a peek at these floral watercolours and our eclectic living room gallery wall. 

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Type Fantastic: A New Creative Habit

Knicker Elastic Fantastic Blog Typography 365 day Challenge 1
I have recently started to feel like a bit of  a creative hermit. It's always the same excuses, lack of time and commitment. But enough is enough! My creative side won't take no for an answer any longer!

To switch creative gears I've decided to start a new creative habit and break through from this creative drought I've been living! 
Knicker Elastic Fantastic Blog Typography 365 day Challenge 2

I've been mulling over a few ideas for a while, but have finally set on a 365 day typography project. When I was a kiddo I'd spend hours writing out my name in hundred of different type fonts. Simply using coloured felt pens on a stack of white A4 paper. I'd do it day in day out.

Soon my friends started asking for their names in their favourite fonts. I even starting selling them for a grand price of 20p a piece (which you know was quite lucrative for a 10 year old, back when Mars bars cost sounding like my Mum!)!! 
Knicker Elastic Fantastic Blog Typography 365 day Challenge 3
So I'm going right back to where it all started (and should never have stopped!). I have committed to doing a daily typography exercise. I'm right back there, with a bunch of sharpies from Wilkos and a pad of fresh crisp clean paper! I'll start each day with a new fresh blank canvas. The beauty of this daily exercise it that it should be quick, simple and inexpensive (no extra heavy weight watercolour paper and specialist inks here! Well, not yet... ;).

Let's be honest, I may not end up doing this exactly EVERY day. I may skip a day and then have to catch up. Or I may try and front-load a few at a time. But if it means I sit down at my desk and churn out five typography exercises, then even better! I'll have turned what was intended as a way to carve out time for a five minute task each day into a full half an hour session and I can't think of anything better. Getting started is the toughest bit. In fact, I actually hope it snowballs. Once I've started it's almost harder to stop and drag myself up to bed!

Knicker Elastic Fantastic Blog Typography 365 day Challenge 4
By making this commitment out loud (well writing it here at least!) I feel committed to keeping up this new habit. Sharing the best of the bunch over on Instagram I'm hoping will also help keep me in check! (You can follow along with me here @knickerelasticfantastic). I plan to experiment with lots of different handwritten types and fonts plus a number of different mediums. I'm hoping we'll see a serious uplift in my typography skills over the next 365 days if I keep practicing!! 

Do you keep up a daily creative habit or are you now tempted to do so?! I'd love to hear how it's going as I launch into my personal challenge...

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Do you need your own board of directors?

Last week we had a Sibling Dinner. Yes, with capital letters! This is a rarity these days (since the brother exited Europe stage right and spent longer than we care to remember hiding (I mean surfing) in Australia). So when it does we all sit up and take note! We had a brilliant evening, sharing anecdotes, debating each others lives and decisions and generally setting the world to rights.

At the end of the evening, after a heated debate about 'where I should be going and what I really should do next' (who isn't always deliberating this?!) my the brother exclaimed in jest 'Gosh, I feel like we're your own board of directors Marian!'.

And it's true. They are.

My rowdy rabble of a board on a recent Away Day in Tuscany (photo credit: Izzy Eeles)

I firmly believe that everyone needs a board of directors. It might seem like a rather dramatic statement, but bear with me on this one...

Why do we need a board?

Most of us will already have a few directors of sorts, although in reality they are more likely to be known as 'best-mate-Anna', 'Grandmole' or 'friend-I've-known-for-ever-Helen'! The people we naturally gravitate towards as we try and make our minds up on big life decisions or the people we seek out for refuge when the going gets tough.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. We all need others in our world who we can rely on to help guide us and mentor us through this whirlwind called life! We may find them in the most unlikely places - be it a kind face at the bus stop or a friend of a friend who just seems to 'get us' and we click with instantly. 

Execs vs Non-execs?

My executive directors I like to think of as those that I am closest to - they can be totally honest (sometimes brutally so!), they know you inside out and often know how you're going to act before you do yourself! In this bucket I'd include my brother, sister and 'rents plus my good friends. They're definitely all fighting in my corner!! 

On the flip side, non-execs would be the folk slightly less invested or engaged in your everyday life. Ideally with have a wealth of experience to drawn upon, in a particular area or just life experience in general. And these 'directors' play a slightly different role. When you feel like you've tried every avenue, they can offer up new potential solutions. When you're worried out of your mind, they provide perspective and calm. And when you're dithering and indecisive, they are a bouncing board for your ideas. 

The list of our potential non execs is long - ex colleagues, formal business mentors and partners, relatives and friends. We may check in with them every now and then, once a year or anywhere in between. Our relationship has strong foundations and they know us and our ambitions and yet at the same time they are distant enough to have a sense of perspective.

In this group I would count myself super lucky to have some ex colleagues who's opinions I trust, old friends who go 'way back' and some slightly newer ones too! 

The range is key. 10 people giving you the exactly same advice is not necessarily helpful (although it can help reinforce a decision you've reached). In reality, what we really need is a wide spectrum of opinions and perspectives. Some may not resonate with us and others will really strike a chord. But at least this way we will have considered all the possible options and leaving us free to follow our own gut feeling!

Give and Take

Who have you identified that are already on your board? And who do you want to add? Seek them out. Our relationships need to be nurtured and this is not a one way street. In fact, you are probably on quite a few other people's board of directors too!

So, next time you're stuck with a difficult decision or in dire need of a pep talk to pull yourself together, don't dither and panic - consult one of your directors!

P.s. you can find more ramblings on hanging out with my grown up siblings here

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Potting Shed Fantastic: Very Cherry

Do you ever sit at your computer with one hand on the mouse and the other tossing treats into your mouth? To suddenly realise you've scoffed the lot and you don't even remember doing it?! Yesss?!! That is exactly what I'm like with cherries. I get through a LOT of cherries.

So, you can imagine my delight when we discovered we had TWO cherry trees in our new garden! 

I know cherry blossom gets a lot of press. But, they have been the first plant in our garden that we've seen go through it's full annual cycle, it's like 'a year in the life of..'. And that's what I wanted to share here today, it's so magical!

From the delightful blossom of spring and these seemingly soft fluffy 'footballs' of flowers. 

Through to branches heaving with fruit and literally bending down with the volume and weight of them all.

All the way through to seeing the branches stripped bare. More often that not by smaller garden visitors, rather than me unfortunately. But I love feeding the local wildlife too, and who can blame those sneaky squirrels when the fruits are as plump, juicy and red as these?? :)

One lone cherry sitting in a tree...

Even still the greenery and remaining tree continues to bring colour, structure, shade to the garden and extra habitat to it's wildlife.

This is what gardening is all about to me. Nurturing and watching plants go through all the stages of life. Stages we take a lifetime to work through, plants get through all within one year! Excited with the prospect of new growth and shoots in Spring. Enjoying the beauty and exuberance of the tree in full bloom. Willing the small fruits to ripen and plump up as they grow. Feeding and gorging on the bounty. And then finally preparing and growing strong to survive the long winter and be ready for spring's fresh growth once more. Ever cyclical.

P.s. You can see more of our early spring garden here.

Friday, 26 June 2015

DIY Fantastic: Creating in Watercolour

Knicker Elastic Fantastic Watercolour Florals 1

I'm always excited to dig out my watercolours. The freedom, fluidity of adding water and pigment to thick heavy paper and seeing what happens is always amazing. The results can be mixed, but they are certainly always unusual, unexpected and impossible to replicate! These few factors make them a creative force to be reckoned and why I always try to let the watercolours do the walking and the talking, rather than vice versa. They will never bend to your will so it's a real test in letting go and guiding rather than controlling.

Knicker Elastic Fantastic Watercolour Florals 2

The quiet time I've had this week as I recover has been the perfect time for some relaxed watercolour experimentation. That plus the veritable explosion of flowers in the garden and from the folks' garden in Hereford has meant endless floral inspiration. Perfect for putting water to paper and seeing where we go...and this was where we went.

Knicker Elastic Fantastic Watercolour Florals 3

I'm super pleased with the results, the colours are vibrant and the intensity and textures varied and they sort of look like sweet peas too (always a bonus!).

I also love my watercolour palette below, I never tire of looking at this, the tiny cute block of colour and the crazy colour combinations I create on the mixing plates. Ha!

Knicker Elastic Fantastic Watercolour Florals 5

Are you inspired to get out your watercolours or any other favourite medium after this? Nothing like a little creative experimentation to help you feel alive!