Home of The Small Art Company and a bit of British all sorts about my family, kids, home, art, mixed media, craft, photography, illustration, travel, cooking, organisation, teaching... Good to see you:)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Raising a child with a disability

I haven't really said much about my daughter's disability (she has verbal dyspraxia), but I wanted to link to a post I found that sums up pretty well what many parents of children with special needs feel.

First of all, please read this short piece called Welcome to Holland. I first read this a couple of years ago and thought it was very true. I never expected to have a child with special needs, but I have and she's just as wonderful as my child without. I just wasn't planning on it.

Then I came across this post - Amsterdam International. While I love Welcome to Holland, I think I have to agree with the author of Amsterdam International; it's not an easy journey by any means. I think this is a very honest portrayal of what it is to be a special needs parent. I hope it helps someone out there who may just be starting out on this exhausting, emotional, scary but ultimately wonderful and loving journey.

Friday, June 6, 2014

ATCs and ACEOs

As you may know, I love miniature artwork. ATCs and ACEOs are perfect for me! These are some ACEOs that I'm going to be working on:

At the moment, they are just gelli plate backgrounds, but I'm thinking of using 3 of them to do another Alphabet series of ACEOs.

I also recently took part in an ATC swap, where I made 2 ATCs. First of all I painted a sheet of watercolour card with purple, green and pink watercolours and swirled them around a bit with water:

Then I cut them up into ATC size (3.5" x 2.5"):

Then I used a stencil to add some purple flowers. I also used a script stamp and distress ink on some paper before scrunching it up. I used purple pastel pencils and coloured pencils around the edge of the paper. 

Here I added some text and a photo of a butterfly, which I then coloured with pencils:

Finally, I added some zendoodling on the foliage and the butterflies, some pink and purple on the text and a fake stitched border (I used to make a lot of ACEOs with real stitching and love the effect!). Oh and I added a stamped butterfly with a glue ink pad and sprinkled some mica powder on top to give a glittery effect:

Hope the recipients like them!

NB: If you're not sure, ATC stands for Artist Trading Card and ACEO stands for Art Cards Editions and Originals. They are exactly the same thing, but ATCs you swap while ACEOs you sell. They can be made out of any medium, the only criteria is that they must measure 3.5" x 2.5". They're lots of fun to make and are an affordable way to own an original art collection.

I'll be reopening my Etsy shop soon...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Gelli Plate Art Journal Backgrounds

Although I've been creating mixed media art for a number of years now, I only really got into art journalling in January. It's always been something I wanted to do. It reminds me a little of a Judy Blume memory book I had when I was younger; filling up the pages with photos, stickers, tickets, drawings...

Anyway, I love looking at backgrounds for other people's pages. Some are so beautiful! I decided to purchase a gelli plate a while ago so I too could create lovely backgrounds! A gelli plate is basically a gel-like 'plate' (mine's 10" x 8") that you spread paint onto with a brayer, add some texture (see below), lay a sheet of paper on top, lift off and see amazing patterns!

So here are some household items I use to create the backgrounds:

You don't have to spend loads of money on proper stencils or stamps, there are so many things around the house you can use.

My first art journal was the one I started for the Documented Life Project (you can see it here), where I create the pages as I go along, following the weekly prompts. However, I wanted to make another with all the gelli plate backgrounds (boy, you really get through a lot of paper!), so I got some of my favourite pages together and bound them using stabstitch binding (handbound books was one of my many craft experiments!). This is the result:

I've only completed one page so far. It started off like this:

I think this is one of my favourite backgrounds. This wasn't actually created with the gelli plate, but was a cleanup sheet, where I rolled excess paint off my brayer and excess ink off my stamps, so I didn't really want to cover too much of it up. This is how it turned out:

I'm really pleased with it and think I managed to keep enough of the background as well. 

These are some other pages that I did create with the gelli plate:

Used the end of a paintbrush to create the swirls. Think there's a world map stamp in there too.

Used a honeycomb stencil and cutout foam shapes.

Stencil and a paper doily.

Large flowery stencil and end of paintbrush.

Used a texture roller for polymer clay and corrugated card.

My kids' lettering stencil and bubblewrap.

Here are a few more backgrounds:

Sometimes I cut them up to add collage bits to other pages. The blue strip you can see there to the left was created with bubblewrap. It's left over from a sheet I cut up to make this page:

I'll try and get around to doing a gelli plate tutorial soon. I'll also show you some ATCs I've made for a swap from the Art for the Heart Swap Facebook group. 

More coming soon:)


Friday, April 4, 2014

Bacon Lasagne Recipe

My lovely friend Sian and her friend, Anne (who I'm sure is also lovely!) have set up a blog and Facebook page called Egg and Chips where they write about easy, tasty family meals. I remember Sian always asking me "what are you having for dinner/tea?" when we used to work together and it seems she is still very much interested.

I thought I'd share my bacon lasagne recipe. It's probably one of my kids' favourite meals. I wouldn't say it's the quickest, but worth it. As with all my recipes, I usually find a basic recipe from somewhere, then add a bit of another one and then make a few changes of my own. I also tend not to measure ingredients, apart from when I'm baking a cake, then I am very precise!


Makes about 4 - 6 portions


     For the tomato and bacon sauce:

  • 8 rashers of bacon
  • onion
  • 2 cans of tomatoes (400g)
  • Basil (dry or fresh)
  • Oregano (I always use dry)
  • Pasta sheets
     For the white sauce:
  • Ground nutmeg
  • 50g butter or margarine
  • 50g plain flour
  • Cheese (Cheddar or Parmesan)
  • 600ml milk

(Used celery as well once. Could also add peppers and mushrooms)

  1. Chop the onion and fry in some oil, then add about 1tsp of oregano and the bacon (chopped). I have also added cooked ham in the past, if I'm out of bacon or it needs using up.
  2. After about 5 minutes add the cans of tomatoes, season with black pepper if you wish and simmer for another 5 minutes or so, before adding some basil (about 20 leaves if fresh or 2 - 3tsp dried).
  3. Meanwhile, for the white sauce: pour the milk in another pan, add the flour and butter and whisk over a moderate heat. Simmer until it thickens before adding some ground nutmeg. I sometimes add a little grated cheese at this point.
  4. In a large baking tray, pour the tomato and bacon mixture and add some pasta sheets over the top. 
  5. Pour over the white sauce and then another layer of tomato sauce. Alternate until you've used up your mixtures. I usually have 3 layers of 4 pasta sheets, but it really doesn't matter.
  6. You can sprinkle some Parmesan over the top if you like.
  7. Bake uncovered for about 40 minutes on 190C/170C fan/gas 5/370F.

And that's it! Serve with salad and chunky chips or crusty bread.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Passed my Driving Test! And some Memorable People...

Yep, I still can't believe it, at the age of 30-something (closer to 40 than 30!) I finally got around to learning to drive. Well, I say 'finally got around to' but it was never something I had any inclination to do. I really never in a million years thought I would ever learn; the whole thing looked so difficult and scary. There are other reasons I never wanted to learn to drive, but I won't go into them now.

Anyway, life is already so much easier now I have wheels! Since September I've been doing a 4-hour round trip on 6 buses to collect Little W from her Nursery speech unit. That journey is now an hour!

Although I mostly don't miss the buses, there are some characters I've met that are quite memorable! I thought I'd remember them here... There was the man who was deaf and noticed Little W using sign language. He asked if she was deaf, I signed no and wished I could remember all the sign language I'd learnt on my BSL course! He told me his dog recognised signs as well. Then there was the well-spoken man who came from London (like me) and lived in California for many years. The woman who grabbed my arm at the bus station and wanted me to walk her and her trolley to the next stop. Oh and the man who handed me a load of receipts and asked me to add them up! The man in a wheelchair who told me my smile brightened his day:) The groups of elderly people who complained about the schools being on strike and stating 'teachers get enough holidays'. Seeing as they weren't talking directly to me, I did everything I could to hold my tongue!! As if we strike for a day's holiday! And then there was the girl who was fast asleep, woke up and asked where we were. Had a chat about her having moved house and how she was on her way to the job centre. There are many more people who have made my long journeys slightly less dull, but I'll stop there for now:)

Friday, January 31, 2014

Art Journalling

When Zoe from Top Floor Treasures asked for guest bloggers on art journalling I ummed and arrhed (not sure how you spell that, but you know what I mean!) as I don't really consider myself an art journaller, having just started at the beginning of the month, but I offered to write a post from a newbie's perspective.

Luckily, Zoe was happy to have me:) Here's my post which you may find interesting if you're also new to art journalling. But please take a look around Zoe's blog and Facebook page. She's a truly talented mixed media artist!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

How to make stencils with polymer clay

I've done a few polymer clay tutorials but thought this one would be useful for anyone interested in mixed media and art journalling.

Stencils tend to be used a lot in mixed media but can be quite expensive. Always one to try and use everyday household items, I've been stencilling with satsuma and onion netting, my children's plastic stencils, paper doilies (ok, not exactly an everyday item, but cheap nonetheless!) and while not a stencil, bubblewrap gives a stencil-like effect.

Anyway, this is a great way to use up scrap clay and create your own unique stencils.

You need:
  • Polymer clay (I use Fimo but any brand will work of course)
  • Cutters (I mostly used polymer clay cutters, but you can use anything at all: cocktail stick, pen lid,    small jar lid, cocktail stick container, old film container... anything really!)
  • Rolling pin (you could use a jar if you don't have a rolling pin)
  • Tissue blade (not essential but useful to remove stencil from work surface to baking tray)
  • Heavy books
What to do:
  • Condition your clay. Mine was quite old so I had to spend a while rolling it around and warming it up a bit.
  • Roll it out to your desired size. My largest stencil (the bubble one) is about 14cm x 10cm / 5.5" x 4" and about 1mm thick.
For the bubble stencil I used several circular cutters, a cocktail stick and another pointed tool.   

  • Then carefully cut out your shapes. I would perhaps recommend leaving a wider edge between the holes and the outside edge as otherwise you may get lines when you spray. You can always place a piece of paper underneath the edge to prevent this though.
Anticlockwise from top left: Stars, hearts, flowers made with circle and raindrop cutters and a swirly shape I cut out with a blade)

 Left to right: Zig zag lines made with a zig zag tissue blade, butterflies, squares and bubbles.
  • Even more carefully (!) pick up your stencil and place on baking tray. You may need to slide a tissue blade underneath. Alternatively, you might prefer to cut out the shapes on your baking tray so you won't have to move the stencil.
  • Bake for recommended time. Fimo takes half an hour.
  • IMPORTANT! Once baked, place some heavy books on top of your stencils. Polymer clay is quite flexible when it comes out of the oven and if you leave something thin like stencils, they will bend, which is no good for stencilling! I left mine under the books for about half an hour.
  • Now the fun part! I used Dylusions ink sprays on 150gsm watercolour paper (this is something I painted ages ago with watercolours, just to use one day as a background):

and here's all the patterns made by my stencils:

I messed up the bottom right corner as the spray on my ink didn't work properly! The good thing about mixed media work is that you can just cover it up:) I'm really pleased with how they turned out and can't wait to use them in my art journal.

You'll find that there's a bit of ink left on the stencil, so wipe this off with a paper towel or blot with paper and use this in your next project!

Hope this has been useful. I'd love to see what stencils you create. Have fun! And don't forget to come and join in The Documented Life Project...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mixed Media and an Art Journal Project!

Well, happy New Year! I think this must be the longest I've not blogged for. Sometimes life just gets in the way, but I have missed sharing things with anyone who might be reading (!) and catching up on what my favourite bloggers are up to.

I've been really enjoying working and experimenting with mixed media. It's something I've been dabbling with for a few years, in different forms, but am doing it more seriously now. I even sold this piece in Things British at King's Cross: 


And I've sent this piece off to the shop today:


I've managed to sell a few encaustic pieces and some alcohol ink tiles as well. I'll be visiting the shop in a few weeks and can't wait to see my things there! I've never made it up to the Gift Gallery in York, so I'm really excited to see my work in a real shop!

I'm also taking part in an art journal project. Zoe over at Top Floor Treasures mentioned it and I thought it sounds just like my kind of thing! Despite keeping all sorts of diaries and journals since the age of 12, I've never actually made an art journal. I half-made a smash book a few years ago, but it remains half-made...

Anyway, here's the cover:


It's titled 'A Year of Hope' which relates to my daughter. Maybe more about that another time.

If you're unsure what an art journal is, it's basically a journal that you create art in. So you could have a daily planner which you decorate with doodles, or you can write journal-type entries and decorate the pages in any way you like really. You can add things like tickets, photos, quotes, stickers... anything that is meaningful to you at the time.

For this project we're given weekly challenges. The first for example, was to incorporate our front door.
This week's challenge is to use an envelope. I love this one and have an idea in mind. Just need to wait for the right kind of envelope! I've never wanted junk mail so much:) It's been so interesting to see everyone's different ideas using the same prompt!

If you want to find out more about the Documented Life Project, then you can find them on Facebook on on the blog.

It's not too late to come and join in:)