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Dollhouse progress

I previously wrote about my dollhouse on the blog before all of my previous posts went into the abyss, never to be seen again! So if you didn’t catch that, I’ll update you.

My Mum’s friend built a Dollhouse as a Wedding present for us (read: for me! Although it is probably intended to keep be busy whilst any football is on, so Rob is grateful for it too!) It was made completely from scratch apart from little details like the window frames and the door. We were so impressed by it when we returned from Honeymoon to find it had been delivered by two secret squirrels.

Here are a couple of photos from before I did any work on it: (Please note that I had only had my big camera for a couple of days here and no amount of photoshop has made up for my not knowing which setting to have the camera on!)

I delayed getting started on it for a few reasons, firstly, where do you start with a dollhouse? I had no idea what to do first. Secondly, I didn’t have any tools or paints etc to get started; and thirdly, I found that you could see the roof behind the dorma windows, so I cheekily asked my Mum’s friend if he could cut two small squares in the roof before I started work on it, this was so that you could see through those windows to the top floor rooms. He was happy to do it and managed to cut out the windows during the Christmas break, then I started work on it almost straight away.

I started off by painting the outside. We had some light blue paint left-over from painting our Kitchen, so instead of buying new paint, I started with that.

I then painted all the interior walls, floors and ceilings in the white paint that we painted our kitchen ceiling with. The inside was only roughly painted so I thought that painting it again would create a blank canvas to work with. I also like the fresh white look of interiors, so might leave some of the walls white. Here are some in-progress photos where I had painted the blue exterior and started on the white details. You can see that I painted white triangles above the squares for the windows in the roof, this is because you would be able to see that space when peeking through the window and I wanted it to look finished behind there, not just the plain wood.

I bought a small tester pot of charcoal grey paint for the window frames, door and chimneys. I considered painting the roof tiles grey originally but am undecided now that I’ve tiled the roof, what do you think?

Here is a close up of the door, I still have a few details to add to the door, including deciding which number it should be. I’m thinking Number 7 for 7th May, which is our anniversary.

Just after Christmas, in a little dollhouse related shopping spree, I bought some cute wooden tiles and took some time to build up the courage to work on the roof over the last few weeks or so. Working on the roof was a lesson learned the hard way. I’m usually someone who reads instructions and follows them to the letter. The instructions said to use hot glue for the roof tiles, I didn’t have a hot glue gun but they’re made out of wood, so wood glue should work, right? …wrong! I spent a couple of hours battling with the wood glue and clothes pegs and holding each tile down for ten minutes each whilst it dried, then another ten minutes later found that each tile had warped! I stuck at it trying to make it work for a few hours before insisting on a road trip to Homebase for a glue gun. My gosh did that make a difference?

Most of the first half of the roof was done over the following few hours. The most difficult part was cutting each tile to fit around things like the chimneys and dorma windows. I quite enjoyed it once I had the right tools! I’ve also added a small magnet so that the whole thing stays closed now.

So that’s where I have got to so far. The dollhouse has six rooms and I plan on creating a living room, kitchen, bedroom, art studio, man cave (although I’m undecided about this one, it’s mostly because I want a miniature pool table but might think of something else for that room!) and a beauty and the beast style library (which I’m so excited about!). I’ve already bought a few bits and pieces for each room but will finish the exterior decor first before starting on each room.

I really love that this dollhouse is something arty/crafty for me to work on in my spare time. If you know me at all you’ll know that I love anything creative. I’ve wanted a dollhouse for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I don’t think I realised that the making/decorating of it was half the fun, so it’s probably exactly the right time to be working on it now. I wouldn’t have had the patience before either. I’m sure if I owned a dollhouse when I was about 9, I’d expect it to be some sort of magic house for Borrowers or the Indian in the Cupboard! (I loved that film!)

I love that it is such a slow process too, everything else seems to be needed yesterday in today’s world and I really appreciate anything that encourages life to slow down for a couple of hours and will be exactly as I left it when I go back to it after a break.

March: Meet the Maker, creative block and herbs

Yay! I’m finally getting to grips with this whole blogging regularly thing! Here is what March looked like for me.

March meet the maker

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been taking part in March Meet the Maker organised by Joanne Hawker. Initially, I was quite nervous about taking part because after the failure of my 100-day project, I wondered whether I’d be able to keep up. As I write this, I haven’t had to catch up more than one day at any one point throughout the month and I’ve really enjoyed taking part.

I’ve gained a few more followers on social media and have met loads more creatives and makers online, which has been great. There are so many talented creatives around!

I’ve also been developing my photography for Instagram. Content and the caption are still key, however, shooting in low light is no longer an option and ensuring I use good composition and more importantly, lots of colour have been high on my priority list.

To catch up with my March Meet the Maker posts, take a look here. 

New paints and a mother’s day card

I used to use gouache paints all the time when I was doing my foundation course (10 years ago!) but have never owned my own set and haven’t used them since. Having seen a lot of designers and illustrators using gouache in their work online, I wanted to try my hand at using them again. So I bought my own gouache introductory set in a little art supplies shopping spree a couple of weeks ago.

When they arrived soon after, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them and to get painting. First of all, I doodled quite tentatively in my sketchbook, but a few days later, I wanted to create a Mother’s Day card for my Mum, so I got to work.

Mixing the right colour was tricky – only because I didn’t mix enough paint the first time, it ran out, then I ended up having to paint the entire background again after mixing a darker shade the second time around. I also found that I needed to use a lot of white to get the pastel colours that I wanted. I’m used to just adding more water to watercolours to make them lighter (and my first watercolour set didn’t even have any white paint) so I’m sure it is something that I will get used to. I love how this Mother’s Day card turned out, though, my Mum loved it and I look forward to playing with these paints even more in the future.

Creative Block

I feel like I’m finally finding my groove for this year, however, it hasn’t been easy. At the end of last year, I felt incredibly grateful and very overwhelmed (read: shocked) at the success of the desk calendars. Throughout December, I knew that I should be working on new ideas ready for the new year but I couldn’t focus on them. I hoped to hit the ground running in January with a few Wedding Stationery ideas that I’d had but nothing I created seemed to be working.

I got into a vicious cycle of first of all thinking that I wasn’t going to make a success of it all, then not doing anything anyway, so that was a self-fulfilling prophecy in itself. I would then look at what everyone else was doing, of course, it was all better than what I was creating and even when I saw work that I thought “I could do that,” even that was better than anything I’d created. It was a horrible rut to be in.

That was until, a couple of weeks ago, one evening after I’d had an especially bad day, I found a couple of articles about creating positive thought patterns and chatted to a couple of friends and made a few decisions/realisations:

Negativity isn’t going to be my default anymore
I think that I’m quite a positive person and I am about most things. Apart from the story, I tell myself about myself. That needed to change.

I will not be led by anxiety
Almost related to above, but I’d got to the point where I’d feel anxious about not feeling anxious and try to think back to why I was feeling anxious before. It seems silly when I think about it now and anxiety is real but I seem to have taken control at the moment.

I must make an effort to get outside or do at least 20 mins of exercise every day
Fresh air, stretches, yoga, breathing, and focusing on right now is healthy and it works.

Switch off notifications!
Put the phone down, back away from Instagram and stop worrying about why you only have 10 likes and whatsername has 10,000 likes and she only posted a photo of her lunch, whereas you posted a piece of work which took hours! (not based on real people or real events but I’m sure most people can relate to this)

Change my 7 am alarm to 6:35 am
This is a small change but I am a morning person and get up a lot quicker when my alarm goes off earlier and feel better for fitting in stretches, a walk and a slow breakfast when I get up early, any later and I feel as though I must get to work almost straight away.

These new plans have already made a significant difference to my days, my work seems to be looking a lot better too, which I’m not sure if it is a coincidence or not. I’m sure my positive outlook and good habits have made some difference.

Herb growing

It’s now Spring! Yay! Spring is my favourite season, mostly because the days get lighter as the weeks roll by, also because all the new plants and flowers are waking up and popping up everywhere! In the UK, it is ever so slightly warmer, we still have grey rainy days but we can’t have everything.

Rob and I planted some herbs in a little box on our windowsill and teeny tiny shoots have started to appear. We planted basil, coriander, rosemary and thyme as they’re the herbs that we cook with the most. The coriander is the one in the photo which is going a bit wild, the others are slow and steady. So that is exciting! I look forward to eating our own herbs. We also have a chilli plant which has woken up after the winter and already looks as though it’s going to produce more chillis than last year.  

Beauty and the beast

Beauty and the Beast was my favourite Disney film which I was a child (it still is!), right next to Mary Poppins, I knew all of the words by heart. So when I heard that they were remaking the film I was equal parts excited and nervous that it’d be ruined forever. However, we went to see the live action remake a few days after it was released in cinemas and it did not disappoint! It was, first of all, absolutely stunning, had all the charm that I enjoyed from the animated original and included a lot more of Belle and Beast’s story that you don’t hear about in the original. I really enjoyed it and would go to see it again in a heartbeat.

Lastly, another photo from the March Meet the Maker challenge, this one was all about milestones and included designing Wedding Stationery, Penguin Calendars, setting up shop and becoming self-employed.

Meet the Maker Week – Day 4

This week I’m joining in with #MeetTheMakerWeek organised by @joannehawker and if I were to take an “in action” video right now, you’d see me sipping on lemsip, wrapped up in a blanket, working on a boring spreadsheet. So thankfully, I took this video a few days ago when I was painting away with Gilmore Girls on in the background.

Meet the Maker Week – Day 3

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This week I’m joining in with #MeetTheMakerWeek organised by @joannehawker and today is about where I work. This is my little office, I’ve had this desk since 2002 (when I was just 14) and it has been with me ever since. I work in my spare room which doubles up as a guest bedroom when we have family staying. Whilst I’m working, I’m regularly surrounded by lots of paper, notebooks, pens, paints etc and I’ll manage to find the smallest space to work. The organised chaos regularly extends onto the floor around me but I absolutely have to tidy up at the end of each day, right before writing a list for the next day. In an ideal world, I’d have at least 2 desks or a bigger desk to give me space for computer work and for drawing/painting etc.

Elsewhere in my office, I have a shelf with all sorts of bits and bobs on it, my new kinda fancy printer and on the wall is an extension of a noticeboard to surround myself with notes of encouragement, inspiration, things I’m proud of, vouchers and to-do lists. I love the minimal look but my office is just not a place for minimalism.

Meet the Maker Week – Day 1

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This week I’m joining in with #MeetTheMakerWeek organised by @joannehawker . So here goes, my name is Sian Shrimpton, I’m based in Hertfordshire and this is what I do.

I first opened my Etsy shop in 2010, just after graduating with a degree in Graphic Design. I would create hand painted notecards and stationery for family and friends. I had to stop selling because I found that I didn’t have the time with a full time job and a long commute.

I didn’t stop drawing however and I quickly filled many a sketchbook with ideas, drawings and a few penguins for good measure. Fast forward to 2016 and I have decided to take the leap and open my Etsy shop with all new products and working freelance as a designer and illustrator. Currently, I’m selling little desk Calendars and Greeting Cards (Greeting cards will be back in stock this afternoon).

My work is inspired by bright colours and bold lines. I have a passion for hand drawn lettering, paint and illustration. I put a lot of love into everything that I do and I enjoy every second of it, I hope that my work can put a smile on your face as much as it has mine.

Etsy Shop now open!

If you follow me elsewhere on the internet, you’ll know that back at the beginning of October, I made the leap to open my Etsy Shop again. I’ve started small, and have designed two really cute desk calendars. One features penguin in all sorts of cute situations and the other is a more minimal, typographic design. Each of them sit on a little wooden easel and are a perfect addition to your desk or office, with Christmas just over a month away, they’d made an ideal stocking filler.

Alongside the Calendars, I’ve added some Christmas cards and notecards that I had left over from previous attempts at an Etsy Shop, they are reduced for now to make space for new products in the new year. Plus, you can get 10% off on orders over £10 by using the code SALE10 until the 31 December 2016!

I am so proud of these and they have been quite successful so far, in my opinion anyway. I’ve had a few attempts at running an Etsy Shop in the past and I’ve sold four times more over the last couple of months than I ever did in the previous 6 years.

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My Sketchbook

I managed to almost fill a whole sketchbook last year for the whole year, I used a Moleskine sketchbook (rather than a plain notebook as I had done in previous years) and used all but 15 pages towards the end. It got to the end of the year however and I thought it was time for a new sketchbook.

So I started 2016 with a new sketchbook, it became a catch all for all my drawing, notes, to-do lists, reminders and little notes of encouragement to myself. I filled the pages quite slowly up until May as I was quite preoccupied with Wedding planning. But then, I fiercely filled the remaining pages with drawings and doodles until I reached the very last page a couple of weeks ago.

This is probably the first ever time that I’ve reached the last ever page of a sketchbook, and in under a year? It is unheard of! I have many a notebook and sketchbook that have drawings on the first few pages and then nothing. Some notebooks even have pages ripped out where the page was less than perfect, no such thing happened in this sketchbook. There are definitely some pages that are less than perfect, some are downright rubbish and not for public consumption but I’ve kept then as “lessons learned” – plus it’s a sketchbook, not a work of art!

One of my “keys to success” in this, was that I added a pen loop to my sketchbook, put a pencil in that loop and carried the sketchbook with me in my handbag every day. The fact that I kept a pencil with me, meant that firstly, I always had a tool to draw/sketch/write with and secondly, a pencil is far less permanent than anything else, psychologically there was far less pressure for my drawings to be “perfect.” I know they were never going to be perfect, but using a pencil really helped keep my drawings freer and I would create a lot more.

Now, just like all these drawings, I even drafted this blog post in pencil and paper. It was full of mistakes but it was down on paper and the words flowed.

I hope you enjoy a small peek into my sketchbook. There are definitely some ideas in here that I want to bring to life as products in my Etsy shop very soon.

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Our Wedding Invitations

When we were planning our wedding, it was without a doubt that I was going to design our Wedding Stationery. It made sense because I’m a designer and it’s something that I always assumed I’d do myself.

I did however find it quite a daunting task. They say that being your own client is the worst and combine that with being the bride as well and you have a nightmare! Well, in my case, I found it very difficult. Family and friends were telling me that I’d do an amazing job of making the whole day look amazing, but it felt like such a big task. I felt the pressure of being “the creative one” of the family and didn’t know where to start.

Choosing a “look” for our Wedding was my first hurdle. Would we have a theme? Would we have just a colour scheme? Can I find Bridesmaid dresses to match? Will it all look amazing for the photos?

Regardless of style or colour, I started the Wedding stationery design in the way that I do with every design project and that is, with pencil and paper. Being a lover of hand drawn lettering, I just started writing our names over and over and tried many different styles of ampersand. I loved that our wedding stationery gave me the perfect excuse to draw hundreds of ampersands!

Meanwhile, I decided that I wanted to design a Save the Date. Most people knew the date anyway, but being a print designer and someone who loves keeping ephemera as a memento – I just had to design a save the date! We gave them out in September for our May wedding, people started to get excited about our day and I got an idea of how people reacted to the design, especially from some of our closest friends, who are all creatives too.

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Once we were happy with the way that our names looked, I brought them into illustrator and started to re-draw them. I remember spending a lot of time getting the “o” in Robert right and the leg of the “R” was troublesome. Our names became a lock-up and were carried through to most of the printed items that we used for the wedding. I decided to add some floral details into the mix and by the time we finalised the design of the invites in January, I had chosen the bridesmaid dresses. They were very floral, so after all the anxiety previously, it was all coming together nicely. I absolutely loved the style of the bridesmaid dresses and picked out a lot of the different colours in them to create the colour scheme for the whole wedding.

I then created an information sheet and created a map as part of it, just because I wanted to draw some maps and it might be useful for guests that are not familiar with the area, to know where to park etc. Hand drawn lettering had featured a lot on the main invite and the save the date, but the word that I had the biggest problem with was the word “map,” such a small word and yet so troublesome! I must have re-drawn it about ten times and tweaked it in illustrator a thousand times and after all of that, I started to doubt whether it was even spelled correctly!

The information sheet was A5 and the main invite was slightly smaller to allow them to sit together nicely in an A5 envelope, I strategically placed all of the information and a floral pattern so that the information sheet almost formed a border for the main invitation.

Once it was all checked a hundred times and printed, I collected it all together with a belly band, which had the same lock up of our names, the date and a small floral detail. I found that this was a better value solution than most of the others that I looked into. I’m a big fan of stationery and paper products but also a firm believer in keeping things simple. The belly bands were a simple way of keeping both sheets of the invites together and although they took a while to fold and put together, it was a lot less hassle than constructing each invite from scratch.

All was posted together in white envelopes with a small sticker (which was also branded with our names) and this little sticker was the one thing that most people mentioned to us as a nice detail they wouldn’t have thought of themselves.

I really enjoyed creating our wedding invitations and it is still a favourite project of mine and a project that I’m most proud of. I would really love to branch into designing wedding stationery for other couples someday and it’s something I look forward to adding to my Etsy shop in the near future.

You can see the final Wedding Invitations in my Portfolio.

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