Posts belonging to Category Workshop/studio

A Little Painting Tip

It’s quite important, when you’re painting . . .

coffee and water jar for paint

coffee and water jar

to remember not to dip your paintbrush in your coffee cup.

That’s really all I have to say on the matter.  I’m sure your imagination can fill in the details.

Here’s the Gubbins . . .

For those who thought yesterday’s post about the packing area in my studio meant I keep a tidily organised studio, here’s the other side of the story.  Ros complained in her comment on the post: “snot fair, where’s the gubbins?”

Just for you, Ros, this post is dedicated to my gubbins.

The main painting area is this desk, full to the brim of gubbins.

gubbins on painting desk

gubbins on painting desk

I even spread out onto makeshift shelves (balanced on a precarious-looking arrangement of glass jars and MDF boxes, they are sturdier than they look, having survived lost chickens planning to roost for the night as well as errant cats enjoying the sunshine).  Mostly, these shelves are used for drying plaques, canvases and clocks.  A sunny day in that window, even when it’s cold, makes for a good paint-drying day!

And there’s more . . .

Paintbrushes, spread out on a bit of old towel, drying off



Glue gun, surrounded by more gubbins

glue gun and gubbins

glue gun and gubbins

Wire and ribbons, spreading themselves about without any encouragement from me  ;-)

wire and ribbons

wire and ribbons

And that lovely tidy packing desk getting some abuse . . .

gubbins on packing desk

gubbins on packing desk

If you’re wondering about that word gubbins, I looked it up for you: it just means bits and pieces.  It doesn’t mention they have to be untidy.   Maybe that’s just me then.

gubbins dictionary definition

gubbins dictionary definition

The way I work tends to get messier and messier, until I feel the need for a massive clear-up.  Organised chaos becomes neat and tidy – for a very short while indeed.  I think maybe I am genetically programmed to make a mess.

This afternoon, I thought I might find time for a tidy-up.  But when I heard that we’ve got warmer weather in the north west of England today than Greece and Spain, I decided a bit of gardening might be on the agenda.  I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for some more late-ripening of the outdoor tomatoes – today was the best day for ripe tomatoes this year.  A few more days like this and it won’t need to be green tomato chutney all the way!

Let me know if this post inspires you to share your mess.  I love having a nosy at other people’s spaces and when they’re messy, they’re so much more interesting!

Beach Huts and a Bit of Summer in my Studio

It’s hard to put into words exactly why I love beach huts so much.  I think it’s to do with lots of things really.

It’s their cheery, bright colours . . .

beach huts

colourful beach huts

it’s the fact they’re in such a superb position, right on the beach . . .

beach hut in dunes

beach hut in the sand dunes

it’s that they’re all about escapism. . .

beach hut


it’s that they’re oh-so-British . . .

abersoch beach hut bunting

beach hut with painted bunting

it’s the thoughts of snuggling inside with a pot of tea and a blanket while the rain lashes down outside on a typical British summer’s day

pot of tea

pot of tea

it’s the simplicity of them. . .

beach huts thru trees

beach huts through the trees

and it’s the creativity surrounding them . . .

stripey beach hut

stripey beach hut

Speaking of creativity, I plan to create lots more things related to beach huts next summer.

Right now, though, I’m starting to get ready for the Christmas rush.  A little corner of my studio houses my packing table – and . . . you may have already guessed . . .

I have some little reminders of summer there, which will remain all winter and remind me that summer isn’t ever very far away, even when the sunshine is!  And if you look carefully at these photos, you may be able to spot my beach hut pen pots, which house pens, pencils and craft knives.

packing area in studio

packing corner in studio

The packing area is not  just a tiny bit more summery, it’s now more efficient than it used to be.  There’s room for boxes on the top shelf – I have a ready supply of these and cut them in half to make the perfect size for chalkboards, large clocks and 25cm canvases.  When I have lots of these, the extras get stored flat under the table.


box storage

This wooden frame on the wall is perfect for hanging scissors, tape and notes.  It started out life a packing pallet for my woodburning stove when it arrived and I just sanded the edges and stuck it to the wall.  The peg you can see at the bottom left is where customer orders get pegged after they’ve been packed.  From here, they get taken back to the computer in a bunch and an email is then sent to each customer to let them know their parcel is on the way.

recycled pallet frame

frame for hanging essential stuff

The shelves are just pieces of MDF, painted and edged with gingham ribbon and bunting-shaped pieces just glue-gunned into place.



The shelves sit on jars of shells and pebbles

jars acting as shelf supports

coffee jars of shells acting as slightly unusual shelf supports

and even the little bits and pieces get the beach treatment.  This was a shell I found on a beach in Anglesey:

shell used as mini bowl

shell used as mini bowl

I love how the little things all have memories attached to them.  Not that I’ll notice much of this in those manic few weeks before Christmas.  In fact, I’m guessing one of my daughters will be promoted to chief packer then and I might not even get a look in!

Pockets of Organisation

Last week, I wrote this post about what I dubbed My Creative Mess. 

messy art studio

MY Creative Mess

It’s true - my studio is usually in a state of creative disarray which always dismays and disappoints my Other Half, also known as Britain’s Tidiest Man.

However, there are some redeeming bits of tidiness in my studio: my Pockets of Organisation, dotted throughout this mess.  I’m going to show you a few pics of these pockets, just to prove that I can be organised and tidy!

There’s the gorgeous gingham ribbons in their little basket (and behind them, the pegs I use for the children’s artwork hangers)

organised ribbons

gingham ribbons in their little basket

the paints and whiteboards (the whiteboards help keep me organised on busy days as they get updated with orders waiting to go out)

the whitebaords and paints

the whitebaords and paints

the paintbrushes in my favourite Uncle Joe’s Mintballs tins.  Actually, I can highly recommend the mintballs, made not so far away from here in a traditional way, as well as the superbly useful and gorgeous tins which just beg to be reused, recycled and proudly displayed.  What a great excuse for buying sweets (though once you’ve tasted Uncle Joe’s, you won’t need an excuse).

paintbrushes in recycled uncle joes mintballs tins

paintbrushes in recycled uncle joes mintballs tins

the clock parts

clock parts

clock parts

and even the padded envelopes



I can be tidy, you see.

I just think, like everything else, tidiness has its place.  Most of the time, I love the untidiness of the studio - the splashed paint . . .

paint on desk

paint-splashed desk

and the gradual spreading of paraphernalia . . .

desk area

I’m still working on striking a balance . . . chaotic untidiness seems to take over far too quickly in busy periods!

A Creative Mess

If there is just one of the plaques I sell which applies directly to me it’s this one:

you can't seriously expect me to be tidy as well as creative

you can't seriously expect me to be tidy as well as creative

I’m untidy by nature.  I get so involved in the creative process: playing with ideas, designing, making those designs happen, creating templates, samples, painting, sticking, drawing, lettering, even the packing . . . I forget to tidy up. 

I get annoyed at myself occasionally.  Usually the studio is “tidy enough” (the inverted commas are there for a reason!) that I can find things – but stuff (occasionally important stuff that I need right now!) does sometimes get buried.  It’s the price I pay, I suppose, for allowing my creativity a bit too much free rein. 

I do love my mess though.  It’s very me.

my very messy painting table

my very messy painting table

 You’ll find more creative spaces to mooch around over at Kootoyoo

Finishing Touches

My favourite part of making my plaques, clocks and canvases is always the finishing off.  I think it’s partly because outlining painted images feels more like sketching and doodling than actual work and partly because that’s when it all comes together.

stars on plaque

stars undergoing the finishing off process

There’s not a lot of thinking involved in the finishing off, so it’s an ideal task for the end of the day, maybe even in front of the TV!

cupcake plaques

cupcake plaques

I always think the painted images look a bit rubbish until I come along with a pen to transform them!

painted stars

painted stars

Even though the pen lines are far from perfect (and far from neat!) they always seem to neaten everything up!

ballet shoes

ballet shoes

I think they make the final image much livelier too!  What do you think?

Welcome to My Creative Space: Studio Tour!

I’d love to show you round my very own creative space.  I built this studio (no, not me personally – there were burly builders involved!) from a ramshackle garage extension – see  and am quite pleased with the space as it is now!

So, follow me as we take a tour . . .

chicken outside studio door

follow me

We’ll leave the chicken outside (although she’d love to come in – they’re always pecking at the glass door!).

If you’ve followed this blog for long (or followed me on Twitter) you’ll know all about the way I’ve survived two harsh (by UK standards!) winters with ice on the inside!  Here’s what gets my attention first thing every morning at the moment:



I love that I can pop my little camping kettle on top of the woodburner and get some free hot water for my mid-morning cuppa!

kettle on wood burning stove


Before the space is warmed through, I sit in front of the woodburner, keeping toasty.  I use the bottom half of an easel as a mini table when I’m painting small things:

easel in front of fire

in front of the fire

I can fit quite a lot on it



and it’s easily moved when the studio warms up a bit!

The table by the window is my main painting space – I move here once it’s warm, and on a sunny day it warms more quickly.


main workspace

a wider view showing a bit more of the clutter:

workdesk by the window

Whoops - didn't realise the windows were this dirty!

and this table is where I do all the finishing off  – the pen outlines and the personalisation (I also use this table when I’m at the ideas and designing stage). 

work desk

work desk with pens and paint to hand

It looks fairly organised and although I do try to keep it that way, I sometimes fail!  At the moment there’s a spreading mess on the right hand side . . .

work desk

work desk

This is where all the packing takes place. 



It was a really busy spot in the run-up to Christmas!

packing desk

packing desk

Under the packing desk I keep spare cardboard boxes (they’re everywhere, actually!).  I get boxes brought home for me every day by the man of the house – he brings the used ones from where he works.  They work perfectly as recycled postal boxes – sometimes whole and sometimes chopped up (which is why I keep a cutting mat on my packing table).

cardboard boxes

flattened cardboard boxes

The Gridwall on the packing table is the same Gridwall I use at craft fairs.  It was sitting in the garage, doing nothing, in between fairs and I figured I’d put it to good use during the quiet spell after Christmas.  I wasn’t going to do any fairs before the end of March but I’ve gone and booked one at a local market for the 12th February. Lots of work to get these out to market and back again!

There’s still an element of patchwork about this studio – the floors are just painted concrete and I’ve popped carpet offcuts down wherever I can (just to keep it a bit warmer underfoot), I’ve used anything I can to create worktops (my main painting desk is actually an old door propped on trestles!) but the main thing is, it works for me!

Thanks for looking round! 

Pop over here to see what else is going on in other creative spaces around the world:

Toasty Warm . . .

It’s totally possible that everyone who follows my inane ramblings on Twitter will be, by now, heartily sick of me moaning about my icebox of a studio.  Layers, thick socks, furry boots and fingerless mittens have definitely been the way to go with only this little fan heater to save me from plummeting temeratures.

battered old fan heater

But I have some exciting news!

This may not quite meet the excitement levels of the new baby in the family (see last post!) but if you’ve worked in sub-zero temperatures like I have, you’ll understand that this is important to me!

The woodburner


which was delivered and unwrapped in excited anticipation many moons ago, has finally been installed!

toasty warm fire

I’m so looking forward to lighting the stove on these cold winter mornings and getting the studio all toasty and warm before I start painting.  There’s something special about real fires, and with all the trees we’ve had to cut down recently, there’s also a very cheap and environmentally friendly supply of logs already on site.


Do your worst, Jack Frost, I’m ready for you now!

frost on studio window

Make your own Stay-Wet Palette

I wrote a long post yesterday about my efforts to be green so I’ll try to keep this one a bit shorter!

I mentioned that I make my own stay-wet palettes, and if you also use acrylics on a regular or even semi-regular basis, these may well be helpful to you too.  You can buy them in the shops, but a home-made version is much cheaper, and you may well have everything you need already – even better!  Using these palettes, it won’t matter if you accidentally squeeze too much paint from the tube – it will keep fresh and useable for at least a few weeks – often longer.

You’ll need:

  • a plastic container: I use takeaway containers which you can buy in packs from pound shops and kitchenware departments (although if you want an excuse for a sweet and sour with egg fried rice I can think of none better or more bizarre!).  If you’re using a pre-used container, do make sure it’s washed thoroughly first as the oily residue will affect your paints.
  • some absorbent paper: the best I’ve found is Plenty kitchen towels – they won’t shed tiny bits of paper into your paint like some others will.
  • a small piece of greaseproof paper. 
container and paper

container and paper

Fold the kitchen paper to fit the bottom of the container

folded paper

folded paper

Place the paper in the container and wet the paper so it’s damp all over, then cut a piece of greaseproof paper to sit on top of the folded wet paper.

stay wet palette

stay wet palette

That’s it! Just add paint

mixing paint

mixing paint

It makes a good tub for mixing colours – and you have the exact colour for several weeks if you need to touch up any smudges.

mix your own colours

mix your own colours

stay wet palettes

stay wet palettes

Art and Craft Workspaces

I know I’m a bit of a virtual peeping Tom when it comes to looking at other people’s workspaces, and I know from what other people tell me that I’m not the only one.  You can see my workspace if you click here: (or click on the Creating the Garden Studio link on the right hand side).

Here’s a link to another workspace – that of Lizzy from Lavender and Lime:

I would’ve loved to have seen it before the three hours of tidying up!  Mr 1st Unique bravely ventured into my studio over the weekend – I use the word bravely as he is such a tidy soul, and I am not.  My workspace gets gradually worse and worse until a craft fair or event, and I (usually) tidy it up afterwards.  So I don’t really recognise Lizzy’s “calm before the storm” – for me, the calm is after the storm! 

But I love her baskets, all laid out in readiness for a fair.  Just gorgeous.  Here they are looking very tempting: