Category Archives: DIY and Craft

Pottery – Falling in Love with Clay and Time Out for Carers

Those who know me will already know I’ve been attending a pottery class for a couple of months. I’ve learned so much and come to love the medium of clay and sculpting. It’s not only therapeutic but also highly creative and fun.    

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I was really lucky when my friend, Ruth, invited me to a special class, put on by Dorothy Morris of Greenspace Gallery, Carmarthen, to learn pottery. Dorothy received funding for a class for Carers and she also runs a Textile class for Carers on Wednesdays. I’m my father’s main port of call as he suffers from disabling Ataxia and as he cares for my mother who has Alzheimer’s and Cancer, so I qualified, and it’s the best thing that has come out of the heartbreak of elderly parental care.

It’s worth noting that this came at the perfect time for me, having just asked for help to deal with crippling anxiety and depression myself. It came at a time when I was as low as I’ve ever been and unable to cope, and I fought my virulent social anxiety to attend and am so glad I did!

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My sleeping dragon before and after glaze and firing © Lisa Shambrook

Pottery is, as I mentioned, therapeutic, and I get huge peace from working the clay with my fingers, from considering and thinking of ideas, and from learning techniques and skills. Dorothy has a curriculum and we are learning right from the beginning, which is great as most of us are beginners! We began with pinch pots, moulding a ball of clay and pushing your thumb inside to create a pot shape, then smoothing and shaping into a bowl. The following week we made two pinch pots and sealed them together and created something from our imagination – you know my imagination – I made a sleeping dragon!

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Oak Tiles, Clay biscuit fired work, Tree Trunk Vase and some of our work in class © Lisa Shambrook

I sketched it first and began to mould it and this is where learning works, I began to cut out and shape two separate clay wings, to fix onto the sides of my dragon, but Dorothy showed me how to use the clay to sculpt impressions of wings adding ribbing and ridges to show where the wings lay. This worked so well, and I knew I was going to learn a lot.

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Bust and Bowls and other class members’ work  © Lisa Shambrook

We made busts with two pinch pots and another for shoulders, then we moved onto slab work making tiles and my natural inclination took me to acorns and oaks. A tree trunk vase came next, learning to curve and seal the slab into a cylinder. After that we had time to design our own project using both pinch pots and slabs of clay. I designed bookends. One was an acorn, I have a penchant for them, and the other was a reference to my three books: Beneath the Rainbow, Beneath the Old Oak, and Beneath the Distant Star, a rainbow, an oak leaf and a star. Sadly, these bookends blew up in the kiln.

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Acorn and Hope Within Bookends in clay © Lisa Shambrook

Accidents will happen, so it’s best to be prepared for them. Any air inside the clay that hasn’t got a hole to escape from will create a bomb inside the kiln – and any piece could have an air bubble, especially as we are all beginners. There’s no blame, as it could have been my own piece or anyone else’s that caused the explosion, we’ll never know. It did serve to help us be more careful with our rolling out and avoiding air bubbles!

Coil work came next. I had no idea that many, many pots, large and small, are first created with coils then smoothed, but it’s a great way to way to make pots without a potter’s wheel and to vary the shape. My coil work was a little suspect, not very tidy, and it rather frustrated me. But I did learn to use it in a later project.

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Castle Turret Box © Lisa Shambrook

Our next brief was to create a box, or at least a lidded item, using slab, pinch pots and coils. I designed a square castle turret using six tile slabs, scored the edges and used slip (clay and water mixture) to seal the sides to each other, and added the pinch pot to the lid, decorated with tiny coils. I wasn’t sure the coils would work, and worried about how they would look, but in the end they actually looked like roses and I loved them! I put battlements around the lid and a smaller square tile to the base of the lid so it would sit on top and not slip off the box. I pushed air holes into the lid beneath the pinch pot – I didn’t want another explosion! A decorative handle, a door and window, and creeping vines finished it.

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Castle Turret Trinket Boxes © Lisa Shambrook

I’m quite an efficient worker, so with my spare time leading up to Christmas, I made two more boxes. These were circular turrets, one in brown clay and one in white. Curiosity, I suppose, to see how the two clays differ. I rolled ‘snakes’ of clay and coiled them into discs that I then smoothed out, and they became my bases and lids for my castle turret boxes.

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Ruth’s work glazed and fired

I love this class. We meet in a small, cabin studio on a Friday afternoon for three hours. There’s no internet or mobile phone connection and I feel so free and at peace for those hours. I get to chat with my friends and work on being creative; it’s a win-win!

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Greenspace gallery and some of our Carers class…

You can find Dorothy Morris at The Greenspace Gallery and enquire about whether you would qualify for this class, there may be a few places left and we’re keeping going through next year too. She is also putting on an evening class for £10 per lesson working with pottery, textiles and art, so take a look if you’re interested.

I’m truly glad I took up my friend’s invitation – pottery has become a favourite outlet, and I’m thinking of playing and working with airdry clay after Christmas (as I don’t have a kiln!). It’s not something I want to give up!

Have you ever tried pottery or are you a potter?

What’s your favourite creative outlet?

Tell me what you’ve made…

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Bucket Lists and Dreams – Just Do It

Just recently I looked back at the things I’ve been doing for fun,
and it made me search out the Bucket List I made a few years ago!
What have I done since writing it?

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Eleven years ago, back in 2005, I wrote a list. I realised as I came out of a long period of depression that I just wasn’t happy, we weren’t having fun – and I wanted that to change! The list included some easy, simple ideas, and some bigger, more out of reach dreams. Some of the simple things: meal out with the family, go swimming, paddle along the shore, swim in the sea, kick autumn leaves, play football on the beach, build a sandcastle, have a barbeque, write a poem, build a snowman, do a big jigsaw and more… The bigger things included: fly in a helicopter, romantic evening with Vince, night away with Vince, learn Welsh, paint a dragon, take a family holiday, outline a new story, take a maths GCSE, fly in an aeroplane, do Vertigo, buy a Suburu with rally decals…

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Family Portraits © Lisa Shambrook

We did some – as you, and your family, get older there is often a little more money available and we managed a surprise trip to Edinburgh on an aeroplane. We bundled the children into the car at 4am and took them on a mystery tour ending up at Cardiff airport and spending the day in Scotland! We went up in a helicopter for Bekah’s 16th birthday as Vince had a client who flew a helicopter and he was paid in kind with a ride up in the sky! Beaches were easy and we had barbeques, including getting pushed off the beach by the rising tide and finishing the barbeque at home in the back yard, in the rain! I swam in the Blue Lagoon at Aberieddy, a 90’ deep lagoon, loved it! Vince and I have had some nights away. Ice skating on the Isle of Wight, bought a real Christmas tree, family holidays to Butlins, got a dog, I passed my motorbike test, decorated some amazing cakes, took some awesome family portraits. I began a whole new career as an author and published three books. Vince flew a plane, and I got air sick.

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Helicopter, motorbike, planes, Blue Lagoon and Vertigo © Lisa Shambrook

I even did some things not on the list: I started a business – Amaranth Alchemy. I got my first high heels, got my first Dr Martens too. I didn’t paint, but I did create art and many stories.  I went to the ballet and saw Giselle. We went to Harry Potter Studios, saw Les Miserables in the West End, wrote a book in 30 days doing NaNoWriMo – twice, and I’ve dived from a 10ft diving board and lots more!

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Bucket List and Boots © Lisa Shambrook

Some things will be crossed off the list because they are no longer important to me: I have lost the desire to skydive but my daughter did a couple of weeks ago – and it wasn’t as big a thrill as she’d hoped! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford piano lessons or a piano, I don’t want a rally car anymore, and I don’t feel the need to complete a maths GCSE, I’m at peace with my F grade!

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Theatre, Bekah’s Skydive, wild camping, London © Lisa Shambrook

So what is there now? I’ve flown in that helicopter, I’ve done Vertigo at Oakwood Park, I passed my bike test, and taken the kids on a surprise holiday, and we even slept out in the wild in a tent on Dartmoor when we went wild camping, and began a pottery class.

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Cosplay © Lisa Shambrook

There’s a lot more to come!

My new/current Bucket List contains more dreams
and some I haven’t ticked off my last list.

Build a big, old fashioned sandcastle on the beach.
Go to a Spa.
Visit the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland.
Ride a gondola in Venice.
Climb the Eiffel Tower.
Go up in a hot air balloon.
Climb mount Snowdon.
Ride a long zip wire.
Rewrite my dragon books and publish.
Paint a dragon!
Stand out in heavy rain and get soaked.
Swim in a tidal swimming pool.
Learn sign language – I did once, but have forgotten it.
Travel with Vince on our motorbikes.
Get a professional massage.
Go on a Norwegian Fjord Cruise.
Drive a rally car – but not own one!
Do NaNoWriMo again.
Have a gardener fix my wild garden so I can redesign it.
Achieve consistent book sales.
Write a best seller.
Visit Canada.
Visit Iceland.
Bathe in hot springs in Iceland.
Walk on a glacier.

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Decorating Cakes © Lisa Shambrook

In my debut novel Beneath the Rainbow, Freya leaves a list behind and her family vow to do the things she’d wanted to do… One of her dreams is one I share – to build a big sandcastle, on the beach complete with turrets and a moat! 

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Author, art and Amaranth Alchemy © Lisa Shambrook

What about you, what’s at the top of your Bucket List?

What have you already ticked off your list?

Get out there and have fun!

Rudolph on Ice – Christmas Cake 2015

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer – won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?

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Rudolph found his way onto my cake this year, though it looks like he’s got more grace in flight than on ice…

I found some great ideas on Pinterest and amalgamated a few to make my own design, but Rudolph came from this brilliant You Tube tutorial. My sugar-paste (fondant) skills are basic, but after a wonky Rudolph, I produced this one and was quite happy with him.

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Rudolph © Lisa Shambrook

I made small hills and covered the whole cake in smooth fondant, then placed Rudolph on top and shattered ice behind him. If you place Fox’s Glacier Mints on baking paper you can melt them at a low temperature (about 100C) for ten minutes and create ice. If you smash the mints first you get broken ice. (My mint/ice always bubbles, so if you know how to get smooth ice, please let me know!)

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© Lisa Shambrook

I bought a little set of small star stamp cutters, (I love TKMaxx) and made Christmas trees with them. Four of the large stars placed on top of each other overlapping ‘branches’ then four more smaller and finally four more tiny stars and a point on top. Very effective!

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© Lisa Shambrook

A shimmer of royal icing snow and edible glitter and we’re done.

When I asked here and on Facebook for guesses, we had some great ones, including some left of centre Star Wars and Dr Who themed ideas – maybe I’ve been posting about Star Wars on Facebook a little too often 😉 We had starry nights, angels, Narnia (that would be pretty), reindeer, Santa and Rudolph, penguins, robins and Christmas Trees, and I’m not beyond trying something twice…and poinsettia…

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© Lisa Shambrook

The idea had been cemented and my plan printed out before I posted my last blog post, so the guesses were fun to watch and Eilís Phillips mentioned reindeer so she wins a signed paperback copy of ‘Beneath the Rainbow’, but it’s Christmas and I decided to send copies out to those who also mentioned Rudolph or reindeer, so both Carly Sewell and Nick Johns win copies too.

At home Caitlin guessed reindeer on an icy road, which was right, and in Canada via emails Dan finally chose reindeer too, though he commented: I am probably completely wrong because I can’t read your face, ha ha… So that’s how he guesses!

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© Lisa Shambrook

So here’s to the most famous reindeer of all!

How are you decorating your Christmas Cake this year?

Christmas Gifts Amaranth Alchemy Offer…

As Christmas arrives…and it will, take advantage of our new offer at Amaranth Alchemy. Use coupon code: CHRISTMAS15 and get 25% off everything until 5th December 2015…

19. Christmas Collection Amaranth Alchemy Nov 2014It’s worth it! If you’re overseas it will help offset the shipping costs, and all our products are priced within £2 and £20. You’ll find original gifts for the book lover and reader in your family, and a plethora of stocking fillers.

 

6. CHRISTMAS Etsy 25 off 2015 JPEGMake your bibliophile happy with a bookmark, or print. Decorate with our Christmas plaques and tree ornaments, and tag your parcels with our beautiful gift tags.

amaranth alchemy winter gifts, etsy shop christmas, christmas shopping, stocking fillers, the last krystallos,Fix your notes upon your fridge with our pegs, and wear one of our stunning Scrabble style necklaces.

amaranth alchemy winter gifts, etsy shop christmas, the last krystallos,Pop over and see what you’d love…0. Logo Complete Rectangle

Cosplay Heroes – The Fans

My daughter just returned from her first Comic Con: Cardiff Film and Comic Convention at the Motorpoint Arena. She had an amazing time, and one day she’ll take me with her!

It was the culmination of great desire and months of hard, hard work creating her own costume…to go to a Comic Con and not cosplay? No way!

She finally decided on Thranduil from The Hobbit and got down to it. She needed much, including a sword, crown, elf ears, long blond wig and an elven coat. I saw it in many states of array and watched the whole costume come together. I was wide-eyed at the range of her talent, talent she already had and new ones! The silver coat was miraculously hand sewn from scratch, and is gorgeous!

The money, time and dedication that goes into a cosplay costume is legendary, and a lot…then she got to wear it, and she looked stunning!

Bekah - Thranduil by Antti Karppinen Photography, Alias Creative Nov 2014

Bekah – Thranduil by Antti Karppinen Photography, Alias Creative. Cardiff Film and Comic Con – Nov 2014

She got to take photos with Sylvester McCoy, the Seventh Doctor and Radagast The Brown and also sat upon the Iron Throne! She was stopped, too many times to count, by other fans wanting to take pics with her, and she loved the time to meet so many like-minded cosplayers! The costumes were first rate…and this is where the most amazing guy turned up.

Antti Karppinen, a young Finnish photographer, was there with a small set up and took photos of the fans. Seriously, this young man’s talent is fantastic, but his ethos was even better…he wanted to take pictures of the fans because he realised what the Comic Con was all about – without the fans the celebrities wouldn’t be celebrities – and he wanted to give something back.

Please read his story here, you won’t regret it and take a look at the other stunning photos he took! Assasin’s Creed, The Beast, Constantine,Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Super Girl, Spiderman, Loki and more…they all rock! Follow him on Facebook too.

His photo was probably the culminating moment of Comic Con, a permanent photographic record of a costume that took hours and hours of blood, sweat and tears, and lots of determination and love! And a photo of my daughter that I can treasure…Now take me next time! 

Amaranth Alchemy: breathing new life into old pages…

When you grow up losing yourself in books you can’t help but have an affinity to the written word that will last a life time.  Amaranth Alchemy’s brand of creativity involves rescuing old, unwanted and damaged books breathing new life into their pages.

Amaranth Alchemy products...

Amaranth Alchemy products…

My daughter, Bekah, and I recently embarked on a new adventure and created Amaranth Alchemy and we’d love to introduce you to our work!

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Winnie the Pooh necklace, Dream necklace and Alice bookmark…

Both of us spent our childhoods engrossed within the adventures laid down on pages; words that took us away and threw us into other worlds, other lives and allowed us to escape and experience so much more than our own small worlds could let us! I was the proverbial bookworm, never happier than when I was curled up with a good book. I loved searching my local independent bookstore for second hand books I could spend my pocket money on. The shop owner helpfully rescued tattered copies of The Famous Five and each of The Silver Brumby books so I could immerse myself amongst my favourite things!

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The Lord of the Rings products…

My book collection grew and I was always saddened when my beloved books began to fall apart, spine glue disintegrating, pages slipping out, accidents, a book left out in the rain, pages torn, and general wearing out. I kept a lot of my books, reluctant to release them, and unable to throw them away, despite having bought a better condition copy! Over the years my old books vanished to charity, or final acceptance of the dreaded bin, sacrilegious!

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This is the average state of the books we use before rescue…

These days charity shops are overrun with books, too many to sell or recycle and many are pulped. Those that don’t make charity are often thrown away to rot in landfill.

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Marvels of Nature, Oliver Twist and Dracula bookmarks, and Winnie the Pooh wall art…

Bekah and I decided to do something about these lost and abandoned books and created a rescue service!

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Alice wall art, The Story of English Literature bookmark, Birdcage quote plaque and Winnie the Pooh necklace… (clockwise)

Our choice of name epitomises our ethic…unfading creation
Amaranth: a purple flower whose name derives from the Greek ἀμάραντος (amarantos) which means ‘unfading’ and is what books are, unfading stories, and Alchemy: a magical process of creation, turning old books into new.

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Dictionary word necklaces…

The vintage book pages we use in our craft are currently sourced from the Healthy Planet (a charity that gives away donated books preventing them going to landfill or being pulped) or from books lost within the dusty back rooms of charity shops or donated to us. Each item we make breathes new life into old pages.

We promise never to take pages from new books unless they are irrevocably damaged!

GIVEWAY: you can own Mrs Tiggy Winkle! Go to our FB page to take part!

GIVEWAY: you can own Mrs Tiggy Winkle! Go to our FB page to take part!

You can have a chance to win the necklace above! It’s our very first giveaway and all you need to do is pop over to Facebook and ‘like’ our page Amaranth Alchemy, like and comment on the Giveaway photo…very easy and Mrs Tiggy Winkle is waiting for a lovely new home…could it be yours? 

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15% Etsy voucher…

Even if you don’t win…you can have 15% off in our Etsy shop until the 15th October 2014...use the code above when you go through to pay for your purchases. Go and take a look and end up with a beautiful package delivered to your door!

Amaranth Alchemy's first packages all packed up pretty before posting...

Amaranth Alchemy’s first packages all packed up pretty before posting…

Amaranth Alchemy is a mother and daughter team who adore words and art of every kind.

Lisa is an author, photographer and an all-round artsy dreamer. Her first novel ‘Beneath the Rainbow’ is available to critical acclaim. When she’s not writing her second and third novels she can be found tinkering with other arty projects.

Bekah is an artist and designer by trade, spending time as a Make-Up Artist out on photo shoots, and designing websites, logos and all manner of arty things. She can be discovered at Masterpiece Artistry.

Lisa and Bekah have an eye for all things of natural beauty and a talent for putting creative arts together.  

Creative Feature: Flourish Buttons

I’ve always had a thing for buttons, so I’d like to introduce you to my third Creative Feature.

If you’re looking for something different and unique you can’t go wrong with Flourish Buttons and Becky Underwood’s gorgeous jewellery, I’ve got several of her pieces on my wish list! A mutual friend liked Becky’s page on Facebook a couple of years ago, and I couldn’t resist the buttons, the colours, and delicate designs. Becky operates an online store and also regularly attends craft fairs…take a look and see what catches your eye!

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Becky Underwood – Flourish Buttons

Flourish Buttons: Becky Underwood – Creative Jeweller

I love using buttons in my own craft, but what inspired you to begin making button  jewellery?

About 10 years ago, when my children were babies, I would make greetings cards once I’d settled them for the night. I used pressed flowers, embossed metal, acetate and you guessed it…buttons (not all at the same time!). I realised then that I loved buttons. Unlike most people, my mum or Nan never had a tin of buttons when I was growing up so I had had little interaction with them. I put my cards in shops and to my surprise they sold! At the time my husband was working for a recycling company and we were quite into reusing materials so I decided to make studs from old buttons, I called them ‘button ears’, these also sold well. One day I was in a wool shop in Fishguard and I discovered 50mm iridescent buttons and thought they would make fantastic brooches, these buttons are the back bone of my brooch designs. It was at the time when waterfall cardigans were very popular and they were great to close those, these also sold well. Then I was addicted, I loved buttons and I loved selling so I began to put together a range. I had to work out how I could hang buttons as the work differently from beads.

How have your designs developed as your business has grown?

Well, initially I had to look at glues and findings, what would work and unfortunately we had a few disasters to start with, brooches that didn’t stay stuck, buttons not hanging well, wire breaking. So I had to really experiment and test, find reliable suppliers of good quality products. This continues to be an ongoing mission. My range is pretty big now, I have taken on trends and customers suggestions and tried to deliver on these. I have realised that simple designs work best.

Do you have favourite buttons, or materials, or colours to work with?

I love to use coconut and shell, they are lightweight and you can get some beautiful coconut buttons that have been lacquered with designs and prints, the shell buttons can be lazered with designs and dip dyed to create a 2 tone effect.

I love bright colours, turquoise, fuchsia, burnt orange but I also like using vintage style buttons and I love to mix the two. I am the same as most girls and like floral, heart and animal designs.

What is your best seller, and do you have a favourite piece yourself?

I have a few bestsellers, dangly earrings always sell well, I think that is common for most jewellers. The best selling layered brooch is:

and from the single brooches:

and the pendants:

What I find interesting is how differently things sell in different shops and so it can be hard making recommendations.

I like the Tiffany brooch and have that on my jacket, I also own a Swallow necklace, Coco Rose brooch, Pink Bird necklace. I would own many, many pairs of earrings but my ears will only allow gold and I am not keen on gold jewellery. My favourite item at the moment is:

What are your future plans with your work?

Expand!!!  I have a part time employee, mainly covering my maternity. I am applying for a second Jobs Growth Wales employee, this a scheme that is entirely funded, for a placement of 25 hours per week, fingers crossed that will come through. I have attended several trade shows and I hope to do a lot more of these when my 5 month old baby is older. To keep enjoying what I do but still keep the balance of work and family (hopefully I do that now!)

Lastly, if you could commission anything for yourself, money no object, what would it be?

Ooooh…I love stained glass and I love fabric but have not had the time to explore them. I think it would either be a very elaborate ball gown with a fantastic petticoat or a small three walled house made of  stained glass, chunky slabs of glass in a variety of bright colours, especially cobalt blue!

You can view and purchase on our website at www.flourishbuttons.com or follow the links to Like Flourish Buttons on Facebook and Follow on Twitter.

Flourish Buttons

Established in 2008, Flourish designs and hand makes unique and contemporary jewellery using stunning buttons and the finest silver plated findings. Flourish is a small company based in a beautiful part of West Wales in a little town called Aberystwyth.

A high proportion of our buttons are sourced and even made in the UK, keeping our carbon footprint low and supporting our very important UK based button manufacturers We try to keep our conscience so we recycle as many waste products as possible and use jewellery boxes made from recycled card and on occasion a second hand button may be found in a Flourish bracelet as I like to re use beautiful vintage buttons.

Our style ranges from soft feminine qualities and influences from the past to bright colours with big statements. Many of our buttons are made from lightweight materials such as coconut or shell, making our jewellery effortless to wear.

Creative Feature: Angie Richmond – Artist

I am a creative.

First and foremost, I write. I consider my writing art and have always enjoyed indulging in many other arts and crafts.

My daughter and I are soon to announce a creative venture of our own, but leading up to that I wanted to share some of my favourite Artists and Creatives. Many of them have their wares available to purchase and it’s a pleasure to be able to promote their work.

IMG_3306 copyMy first feature is Angie Richmond, a Vancouver based artist who creates one-of-a-kind mixed media collage, abstract watercolour and skyline doodle art. I have known and admired her for several years. Last Christmas I commissioned an individual piece from Angie and was incredibly happy with the beautiful result!
And look out for Angie’s special offer to readers…

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Angie Richmond – Artist

Angie Richmond – Artist

What inspires you? 

I really struggled with this question, which surprised me. When it comes to my art I find myself working at an intuitive level that doesn’t require a lot of thought. Which means that although I’m continually being inspired by things around me, I’m not always conscious of it.

But I can tell you that when I first started this journey there was one artist who did inspire me, Kelly Rae Roberts. Her work lead me to explore the world of mixed media collage. When I read her book Taking Flight I realized that everything I had been doing up until then wasn’t just fooling around. It was creating art. It inspired me to own the title Artist and take what I had been doing seriously. So I guess I owe her a lot. Maybe one day I’ll meet her and thank her in person.

Is your art planned or spontaneous? 

Most of the time it’s a combination of both. I usually start with an idea but rarely do I stick to it exactly. I find that my best work is often the pieces that were completely unplanned. Even when I’m working with commissioned pieces there is still an element of spontaneity that I love.

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My commission ‘Words of the Heart’

How do you like to work – do you have a favourite medium, or colours, or techniques? 

As a mixed media collage artist, paper and acrylic paint are mediums that I find myself continually incorporating into my art. I like paper with lots of words, like old dictionary pages or even sheet music. The older the better. Speaking of old, I also love using vintage dress patterns and postage stamps.

I tend to use a lot of turquoise. Blue is my favourite colour so even though I might make a conscious decision to try other colours, somehow blue always creeps in. Which I’m totally okay with.

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What do you consider your best work to date – do you have a favourite piece? 

Ha! This question made me laugh because upon reflecting I realized that I’ve said ‘This is my favourite piece’ like a hundred times! So I guess I can’t pick one. Each of them are special.

I’ve watched your art diversify over the years – what are your future plans? 

Good question. To be honest I’m not entirely sure. I’ve been doing some serious contemplation on venturing into the world of fiber art. I have a sewing machine set up now and I’m learning how to embroider. I’d also love to try pottery some day.

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Lastly, if you could commission anything for yourself, money no object, what would it be?

Hmmm, let me see. I suppose I’d commission a piece of jewellery. Either a ring or a necklace. Something vintage looking with loads of meaning.

***   Angie is also being especially generous and is giving a fantastic special offer to all you lovely readers! Just use the code LISAFANS in Angie’s Etsy Shop for 50% off!   ***

You can find Angie at angierichmond.com and at her Etsy shop. Follow her at @write_me_happy. Take a look and get inspired!

Thanks Angie, a lovely insight into your art!

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Button Christmas Tree Cake

This year’s Christmas cake hits all the right buttons! After polar bears, penguins, robins and melting snowmen…I was looking for a new idea. I found this pretty scrapbook Christmas card on Pinterest and inspiration hit!

Button Christmas Tree Cake decorated by Lisa Shambrook

This is how I put it together:

  • Marzipan and then cover the cake in white fondant icing.
  • Roll a narrow trunk from chocolate fondant icing and roll thin branches, six each side, stick them to the iced cake by brushing on water with an artist’s soft paintbrush.
  • Use whatever colour fondant icing you desire for your buttons. I wanted natural coloured buttons, so mixed white fondant with brown and added a couple of lilac buttons.
  • Follow instructions here to make your buttons (Pinterest is so useful!) In case the post is ever removed…roll fondant then cut out buttons using a tiny circle cookie cutter or the end of icing tips, add the holes using a cocktail stick, then decorate pressing the star end of icing tips against the buttons, or pressing a fork onto them, or indenting with whatever pattern you like.
  • Add your buttons to the tree.
  • Add small twigs, rolled from chocolate fondant. Gently mark the trunk to make it bark-like.
  • Add silver balls.
  • Add green sugar strands, use tweezers to pick them up and a cocktail stick to gently manoeuvre into place.
  • Make Royal icing and spread across the bottom of the cake and down the sides to make a snowy base, and add whatever sprinkles you wish. I added shop bought sugar snowballs, ice, silver balls and snowflakes.
Button Christmas Tree Cake decorated by Lisa Shambrook
Thus…a lovely Button Christmas Tree cake.
I always decorate the cake on my own and we have a small family competition to guess what they’ll find on top. The children made guesses, and came close, but this was pretty original!
In case you’re interested, these are the past years cakes…now to start pinning ideas for next year on my secret Pinterest board!
Polar bears, robins, penguins and melting snowmen cakes decorated by Lisa Shambrook
How are you decorating yours?

Melting Snowmen Christmas Cake…

So, it’s Christmas again…and the challenge of decorating the cake came around…
Private Photo (Do Not Use)
We have a tradition in our family, where Dad makes the cake with the help of the children. See above for 2001 photograph, many years ago, now it’s pretty much Caitlin who helps (she’s the baby in this one!) 
After the cake is made, it’s left to me to marzipan and decorate. Up until a few years ago the cake was always roughly marzipaned and then slathered with stiff, peaky royal icing and then I plonked a couple of Christmas cake winter ornaments on top and that was it! We were happy, but a couple of years ago I was inspired by Kirsty Allsopp and used her idea of polar bears on the cake. 
Not knowing if I could duplicate the said polar bears, I disappeared into the kitchen on my own and created… it worked! See here for the result! 
Last year I made Penguins…
Ever since I have cordoned of the kitchen during the decorating process and banned anyone from seeing anything until it’s finished.
It’s even turned into a competition to see if anyone can guess what I might do each year!
This year it was melted snowmen…inspired by trulycustomcakery cake’s Pinterest pic of melting snowmen cookies, and I decided to use her marshmallow technique to put them on top of my Christmas cake! 
Photo by Lisa Shambrook (Please do not use without crediting)
The cake was covered in marzipan and iced with fondant icing, then I put a layer of stiff royal icing to make snow. I added more water to the royal icing to make three icing snowman puddles on top, which I loved as it ran down the sides of the cake! 
Then came the marshmallows…that was the experimental bit…
Place a marshmallow on a piece of silicone or greaseproof paper and place it in the mircrowave. The instructions are not to walk away and watch at all times, as it swells (puffs up) take it out…somewhere between 8 and 15 seconds. Do not let it double it’s size or it’ll just be a gooey puddle. 
Taking them off the paper wasn’t easy either. The original poster recommended covered your fingers with grease to take them off. I covered a palette knife with oil and tried, I did get sticky and I did use way more than three marshmallows, have plenty spare! 
Then I made chocolate fondant arms, orange fondant noses and black fondant eyes, and obviously sugar silver balls became buttons…and there you have it a melting snowmen Christmas cake! 
Photo by Lisa Shambrook (Please do not use without crediting)
How do you decorate yours?