Sunday, 29 June 2014

National Art & Design Saturday Club - The Sorrell Foundation

A few months ago I found out about an amazing organisation: The Sorrell Foundation was set up by Frances and John Sorrell in 1999 with the clear aim of inspiring creativity in young people. The Foundation has run a whole range of programmes in the UK including the National Art & Design Saturday Clubs which offer young people ages 14-16 (a crucial age in their education) the unique opportunity to study art and design every Saturday morning at their local college or university for free.

A little history: Following the Second World War a government initiative encouraged free Saturday morning classes for 14-16 year olds at their local art schools. This incredibly modern sounding idea helped to foster a love of the arts and for many of the UKs current artists and designers was the start of their creative and entrepreneurial journeys.
Photo credit: Angela Tobin
Frances and John Sorrell both attended Saturday Clubs in their teens, and with their National Art & Design Saturday clubs they hope to recreate and reinvent this idea for a whole new generation. The clubs are in their 5th year and are now held in 33 colleges, universities and the Victoria & Albert Museum (and are ever-expanding). Club members are often put forward by their teachers at school and are given opportunities that they probably wouldn't have access to, opportunities that really could be life-changing. Approximately 70% of members have never visited an art gallery or museum before, and a similar number have never been to London. (The first project for all the clubs across the UK involves a visit to the capital, and brings members together giving them the chance to make friends across the UK and widen their social networks.)

During the year club members are able to enjoy lessons way beyond the boundaries of conventional school lessons - not only are they inspiring but for many who aren't doing well in a traditional school environment they can be a great confidence builder, and can feed directly back into their GSCE work. In the Spring Term each club attends a Masterclass with a leading designer or artist, often in their own studios.
Photo credit
And this is where I come in! My professional job is as an Architectural Modelmaker for Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and we were honoured to be invited to hold one of these masterclasses for Coleg Sir Gar club from Wales. My boss, my colleagues and I devised a day-long project to get the kids thinking about the concept of scale. After their very long journey we were keen to get them started straight away with something practical. We showed them the work of artist Slinkachu, gave them some miniature figures and asked them to photograph them in and around our office. (And yes, there just happened to be a dead bird outside who came to play a starring role in the project!)
Photo: Jo Mieszkowski
Photo: Jo Mieszkowski

After lunch we all looked at the images and chose three strong scenes that could be developed further using modelmaking techniques. The club members divided into groups and worked on their ideas together, along with hands-on advice from my colleagues and I. The end results were imaginative, original and show just how hard everyone worked all day. I was really impressed.

Photo: Jo Mieszkowski
Photo: Jo Mieszkowski
Photo: Jo Mieszkowski
The end of the year of classes is marked with the Summer Show held at Somerset House in London; an exhibition that is visited by around 3,000 and treats the work of the club members seriously. And so it should, as personally, I was blown away by the standard of work and the scope of creativity produced by members across the UK. The show has now ended unfortunately but I would really encourage you to look out for it next June. RSHP are keen to stay involved and will be holding another masterclass next year and I can't wait!

In their own words "The Saturday Club nurtures talent, builds confidence and raises aspirations...Our ambition is to continue to grow the Saturday Club so that, by 2018, as many as 2,500 young people will be taking part in free Saturday morning art and design classes. These young people are the UK's next creative generation."

If you would like to find out more about the Sorrell Foundation, or the Saturday Clubs you can visit their website, or follow them on twitter @natsatclub
There are various ways you can support them, whether as an individual, if you are a creative business or if you would like to find a Saturday Club in your area.

*Although this may sound like it's a sponsored post it really isn't! I am just proud to have been involved and to have worked with such great young people. I want to spread the word as I think the National Saturday Art & Design Clubs are doing an amazing job.

**Where not credited all photos are taken by the club members of Coleg Sir Gar.


Friday, 27 June 2014

#BlogBumpClub - 31wks + 3

Hooray! My baby is apparently the size of a pineapple this week. Ouch.

Names have been on our mind this week, but as we don't know what gender our baby is any discussions are still quite vague. It was the same when I was pregnant with Wiss - we went into the hospital with 2 girls names (Alice and Florence) and 2 boys names (Rudy and Lewis) and then we just went with what felt right.

We're finding it particularly hard this time to think of boys names that we like as we've already used our favourite! I love the name Lewis - it's not too trendy, it has references to the author of one of my favourite books, Alice in Wonderland and it's hard to shorten. Or at least that's what we thought! My friend's daughter had trouble saying Lewis so she called him Wiss and it stuck straight away. Other names we call him: Buddy, Sausage, Luigi, Weegee... And that's not to mention the nicknames he's called by others: Lollis, Lulu, Louie... So many names already and he's only 4!
None of the names we had before seem to work with us now so I've been trawling through the baby name lists, searching the Nameberry site, even reading all the credits at the end if films and programmes for inspiration but we still don't have any definite ideas. There's still loads of time (!) so I'll keep on thinking, but I'd love to know how you chose your babys' names. Did you go classic or trendy? Or did you name them after someone; famous or family? All comments will be very gratefully received :)

Don't forget to check out the rest of the #BlogBumpClub either on twitter or using the button below. And if you're a pregnant blogger then why not join in too?

Mother's Always Right

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Ta Da! Some Waffle & a Customised Bobby Horse

Things have been a little slow on the production front recently. Don't get me wrong, I feel like I've been as busy as ever but when I looked around there doesn't seem to be much that I've actually finished.
What have I been up to??! Well, I had my last craft fairs & markets this month before I packed up for 'maternity leave'. My website is now down too while I have a complete revamp. I got some of the initial photos back from the photographer and they look amazing! I'm really excited and can't wait to relaunch the online shop soon.

I've also been busy with my day job - three teaching days and private views of the Royal Academy Summer Show and the brilliant National Saturday Art Club Summer Show. I enjoyed working with the Coleg Sir Gar club from Wales so much and am looking forward to next years masterclass already. (I'll be writing more about these classes in next weeks post.)
And then there was BritMums Live! I attended this huge blogging conference this weekend for the second year running. With 700 bloggers, guest speakers, informative sessions on all things to do with blogging, top brands wanting to connect and an awards ceremony it's a busy two days. But good fun too! Last year I was a bit overwhelmed and felt like the new kid at big school. It was exciting but hard to take everything in. This year I knew a bit more about what to expect, and I was braver with talking to people. It was really lovely to meet people I know online in real life, and to find new friends too. I've come away with tons of ideas and things to put into action (that To Do list just keeps on growing!)

But what about the 'Ta Da!' moment this month? There is something I have finished, I promise! A lovely customer placed an order for a Bobby Horse to match the felt crown she bought. I am more than happy to customise my products in particular colours and this lady chose everything herself, right down to the green gingham ribbon. Doesn't it look great?

Monday, 23 June 2014

#BlogBumpClub - 30 weeks +6

Blimey! Has it really been 3 weeks since I joined in the weekly linky? My apologies - everything is going well, so there are no worries there. I've just been super busy (and super tired) which doesn't leave much room for anything else. So what's going on at 30 weeks?

I have actually been told by the doctor to rest and put my feet up whenever I can as the baby is lying on a vein at the top of my right leg, and slowing down the flow of blood back up to my heart. It sounds much more serious than it is, basically it just means I get a 'dead leg' feeling or pins and needles, plus a little swelling. Nice!

We had our final cardiac scan at the Evalina Hospital last week and everything is looking great. This is such a relief. We had to take Wiss with us to the appointment and my husband was going to wait outside with him, but the consultant said they were welcome to come in too. She was lovely and explained to Wiss that the lights were going to go out so we could watch the telly better and see his brother or sister. He was fascinated, and a little unsure (he couldn't fathom the jelly on my tummy!) but he gave me a thumbs up and told me I was being very brave! It must have helped to cement the idea of the baby insode my belly as he has been singing and talking to 'The Lump' as he has been calling it (?!) Poor thing!

The weather has been pretty warm in London recently so I have been living in my fab turquoise maternity jeans (from ASOS) and vests, a couple of dresses from Primark and Hennes, and my new Toms. Oh my word, these are SO comfy! I also treated myself to a pedicure as it's definitely getting tricky to reach my feet myself!

Other little things that have been making this stage of my pregnancy easier are the Organic Pregnancy Stretch Butter from NomNom Skincare - it's really easy to apply and rub in, it's not greasy at all which is perfect for the hot weather - and the Pregnancy++ App that I have been reviewing. With just over 9 weeks to go (if everything sticks to schedule, of course!) I need all the help I can get with my To Do lists!

These #BlogBumpClub posts are part of a wider group of bloggers - don't forget to check them all out either on Twitter or with this linky:

Mother's Always Right

Pregnancy++ App Review

If you're pregnant like me, I'll bet that you have downloaded an app (or two, or three) to your phone. There are loads out there and they can be a good way to keep you informed with what's going on with your pregnancy, as well as being a fun way to while away the time (see the obligatory fruit and veg comparisons!)

I have been using the Pregnancy+ app from Health & Parenting for a couple of months now and it has been really useful. It covers all aspects of your pregnancy from the early stages, to symptoms, to name lists and right up to a contraction timer! Plus it is very customisable so you can add photos and details personal to you.

There are separate sections for 'Baby' and 'Me' with some extras under 'More'. I really like the way that it covers everything all in the same app. You are able to add all your appointments and include a list of questions you wish to ask at each (perfect for combating 'baby brain'), there is a daily blog highlighting various pregnancy topics (today it was about moses baskets, but others have included swollen feet or exercise during pregnancy) and you can receive relevant weekly information for you and your partner via text as well as through the app itself. In addition, there are check lists for your Birth Plan, Hospital Bag, a Shopping List and a To Do List, all of which you are able to personalise to what you need.

There is a kick counter which allows you to record how much your baby is moving. Monitoring the kicks is a way to bond with your unborn baby, but the amount of movement can indicate the baby's well being. The charity Count the Kicks has been promoting this recently so it's a good feature on the Pregnancy+ app.

The other really original thing about this app is that you can share it with your partner, the grand-parents, even a sibling-to-be if you so wish. Everyone is able to see and follow your pregnancy 'journey' (if you wish!)

There are a few things that don't really work for me though. I don't like the generic and dreamy computer generated images and videos of babies in the womb. I would like to be able to add my own scan images to this section, especially if I was sharing this app with other family members. I also found it quite tricky to add photos of my own belly to the app - it doesn't allow you to resize existing images you bring in so it ends up cropping them itself, and in my case losing most of the image! I think it works better if you take the photo using the app though, but this is shame as I have been taking pictures for my blog or Instagram and would like to be able to use these too.

These are quite small gripes though and perhaps they will get ironed out in future updates. On the whole it's a really useful, good looking and fun app - I'll have to let you know how the contraction counter works after we've used it!

Disclaimer: I was given the paid version of this app for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. This version of the app costs £1.99 but there is also a free version available.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

For the Kids - Graze Box Hacks

A few months ago I signed up to Graze, along with a couple of colleagues. In case you don't know about Graze they send you a selection of snacks in the post as frequently as you wish (weekly, fortnightly...) You can also pick which items you love and those you don't like, and with over 100 choices there's a wide variation and something for everyone.  It's a great way to always have snacks at hand (perfect for when pregnancy hunger  strikes!) and I love that each week it's a surprise what's in my box. do end up with a lot of boxes! They are cardboard so of course they can be recycled but the hoarder in me just can't bear not to use them somehow. So I started collecting them!

Inspiration struck and I started to turn these boxes into little play scenes for Wiss. The boxes lend themselves to endless scenarios and adaptations, and best of all they can be closed up when not in use so make great portable toys.
Here are the hacks we have made so far:

The Cretaceous Period - Wiss loves dinosaurs and has loads of toys ones. We made the Cretaceous period for them to hang out in using images found on the Internet. These were spray mounted to the inside of the box, then I added some foam sprayed green for the hills, miniature trees and a little blue stream.

Race Track - One of Wiss' other loves is Lightening McQueen and the Cars films. I made this track for his little Micro Machines to race on. I found the graphic online and stuck it across the whole box, then simply added some chevrons around the edges. A picture of Lewis Hamilton in his Formula 1car on the front means that Wiss can identify the box by himself.

London in a Box - we chose London but this could equally work with any city or town. It could be a good way to introduce a new place to a child before a holiday, or perhaps even better made afterwards as a memento of somewhere visited. I printed out a London scene for the backdrop, and the EastEnders aerial map is on the base of the box! Key landmarks were just stuck onto card and then a little block or tab added at the back to enable them to stand up.

Outer Space - I let Wiss loose to make his own box and he came up with this! He covered the box in black tissue paper, added sequin stars, foam planets and even made an egg box satellite!

Laptop - the shape of the Graze boxes lend themselves perfectly to being made in to a laptop. Wiss made the keys of the computer by writing on foam blocks but you could use card, and then I made the screen using a sheet of acetate. I stuck this on three sides only, leaving the top open so that any pictures can be inserted to create various screens. (It would work just as well by using an A4 clear plastic pocket) Admittedly this laptop is not quite as much fun as an iPad, but Wiss has still played with it a lot!

Marble Run - This one has been a huge success! I lined the base of the box with bright coloured paper then stuck foam walls at various intervals allowing for a marble to pass through the gaps. Make sure the gaps are staggered to make the maze a little harder. Then cut a hole in each side to allow the marble to be put in, and drop out at the end. My mind has been racing with ideas of harder and more elaborate marble runs to make next!

A quick search on the internet has brought up lots of other ideas for recycling Graze boxes - 3D picture frames, filing systems, homemade book covers.... I'd love to hear about any other ideas you may have. And if you make some Graze box hacks then please do share the photos with me - either leave a link below, find me on Facebook as This is Wiss or tweet me a picture @thisiswiss. Happy making!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Work in Progress - Our Garden and Dining Room

This months' Work in Progress is a bit of a mammoth project, and has been 'in progress' since we moved into this house nearly 2 years ago. We are lucky enough to have a large open plan kitchen and dining room with big glass doors into the garden - this room was the clincher for me when we were viewing the house. When the sun shines the space looks fantastic and it's such a wonderful room to spend time in (which is good as we all often hang out here!)

Photo credit: Zoopla
However, things are rarely perfect and although the developer who updated the house did put this extension in he also ripped out the garden too. I have seen old property details and there was a lovely mature garden at the rear bursting with plants. Unfortunately we were left with a very dull rectangular garden with poorly laid turf, a dominating new fence, a small patio and no plants whatsoever!

Photo credit: Zoopla
Last year I made a start on the planting and even grew some tomatoes & runner beans but there is still a lot to do. While the plants take their time to establish I thought I could at least inject a bit of colour myself. The fences provide a backdrop to all the plants so I decided to paint them with Cuprinol 'Wild Thyme' from the Garden Shades range - it's actually more teal than grey as it looks in the photos below. There are so many shades in the DIY shop these days that it's really easy to liven up your fences (& protect them at the same time.)

I've also mentioned before that our dining room is a bit of a white cube. Great as a blank canvas but it just doesn't feel homely enough to me. I want to use some bright colour in here and I thought it would make sense if I used similar colours in the garden and the dining room; connecting inside and outside.

I bought this poster from a flea market years ago and it now hangs near the patio doors so using this as a starting point I echoed the pink to give a new lease of life to our old garden bench and table (Sweet Sundae from Cuprinol)

I got carried away with 'finishing' this little corner of the patio so stayed up late on Sunday night to sew up a cushion pad for the bench (I know I can't be the only one who does this?!) Its made using Cloud 9 Geocentric Circles in Teal which is an organic canvas fabric (from my stash) and simply quilted using 2 layers of left over batting. It's hardwearing and comfy but still easy to roll up small for storage when not in use, and can be washed too. I think I'm going to make some more of these for our hallway bench indoors - so much quicker than a boxed cushion cover. I made new envelope cushion covers using more fabric from the stash and the finishing touch was to hang the white ball tea-light holders (from Habitat about 6 years ago) on the fence.

There's still lots to do - paint the coloured feature wall in the dining room, finally get round to putting the fronts on the shelves I made (about a 18 months ago!), tend the garden and find a solution to the clothes horse that seems to be permanently up by the back doors! But we're getting there... Hopefully I'll be able to post some pictures of the finished dining room and garden soon.

What projects have you got on the go this month? I'd love to see so please leave a link in the comments below or you can tweet me a picture @thisiswiss, and we can encourage each other to finish them!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

We Like to Read - When I Was Born

We Like to Read - I bought this book as a way of getting Wiss ready for the arrival of the new baby. Written by Isobel Minhos Martins, it shows just how far the character in the story has come since he was born.

"When I was born...I had never seen anything....I didn't know what the sea was..."

It's a really lovely way to gently show the older child the difference between them and a baby, but it works equally well even if there is no younger sibling. It's a great celebration of all the things a child has learnt so far, and will continue to discover each day.

The graphic illustrations by Madalena Matoso are brilliant (as you'd expect from a Tate book) I love the bold colours against the black pages. And of course Wiss was over the moon with the giraffe poo image!

As usual, these We Like to Read posts are part of a bigger picture over on Tigerlilly Quinn. Pop over to check out Fritha's weekly suggestions for great kids books, and if you've got one to recommend too then why not link up?