"The Craic was 90!"
Applying watercolour to the original sketch
That's what we call a good night here in Northern Ireland.
When I was travelling in the Summer of 2000 I worked in a bar in Wildwood, New Jersey. I got a lot of strange looks when I used this term. "The CRACK was what? You Irish are craaaazy!" I was told.
After some explanations, and a few laughs, my American customers got the picture. It's an Irish charm, we've many of them here.
It's one of the reasons why St Patrick's day is celebrated all over the world. Everyone can drink Guinness, pretend to play the spoons** and be an Irish dancer for the day. It's called having FUN.
'Craic' can be found in many Irish establishments. Belfast Bars especially. I suggest starting with the John Hewitt (sketched below) this Thursday.
If you're a million miles away from the John Hewitt and having the 'craic' elsewhere in the world I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.
Where are you having the craic this St Patrick's Day?
P.S Only in Ireland can you call yourself a musician with a set of spoons. No qualifications or training needed. Just open your cutlery drawer, grab yourself a set, give them a good ole' shake and hey presto. Go make yourself some fiddle-ie-dee.
Click here to buy The John Hewitt Giclee
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As crazy as that sounds. I love the bright clear cold skies. I can see plant structures and shapes more clearly. It's the perfect inspiration for mark making.
Most days I walk my dog Tilly through Ormeau Park. Every day I see something new. It might be an unusual plant or a plain 'ole branch. Either way, it all looks a little more dramatic in the winter. Don't you think?
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These walks inspired me to sketch my new Christmas card range 'Winter Flower By Day' and 'Winter Flower By Night'.
The next time you go for a walk, try and notice the beautiful structures all around us. It makes winter that little bit more special.
These cards will be on sale first at Kiln and Loom, Meet The Maker night Thursday 20th November 6-9pm. I would love to see you there if your in the area.
Alternatively you can buy from the website www.flaxfoxdesigns.com from Friday the 21st November.
As I was saying in my May newsletter, memories especially good ones that make us laugh and smile are precious.
When I visit a place that makes me feel good my instinct is to sketch it and draw. For others it's taking photographs or buying a souvenir gift as a reminder of their great day. I'm fascinated how people treasure these moments.
Above is a little video I created with Filmsbyben
showing you how I treasure memorable trips. I would love to hear about your memorable places.
Don't forget to sign up to the Newsletter and 'SHARE' if you like this feature.
Here at Flax Fox I am always making and creating new products that hopefully make you smile.
Look forward to hearing your stories below. X
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Do you ever challenge yourself to go back into your memories and see how far you can go?
I do. All the time. Quite often I go back to when I was 4 and picture myself walking around our old family home. I can retrace every last step from the kitchen right up to the bedroom in the attic.
It's silly things like standing on the 'good' dinning room chair on tippy toes, to reach my hair clips that lived inside mum's fancy green glass vase. A groovy wedding present that seemed to be all the rage in the late 70's. I'm nearly sure my mum & dad's faces were super imposed onto this vase at the back of their wedding album….yes, groovy.
I also remember, much to my brother's amusement, sticking a vitamin C tablet up my nose. Frantically trying to pick it out only to push it up further. "You're just going to have to leave it there until it falls out," my mummy shouted. And it did, right onto my dinner.
Maybe when you get older being a child seems like a very long time ago. I challenge myself to see if these memories actually existed and it’s comforting to sometimes go back there…and just simply remember.
I got this feeling quite recently. When I took a trip up the North Coast to design a new giftware range for the Giant’s Causeway.
On first approach, the big black and white “CAUSEWAY HOTEL” sign transported me back to 1989 to my first primary school trip to the Giant's Causeway. 62 excited children bounded off an Ulsterbus coach leaving behind the stench of warm sandwiches in plastic lunch boxes.
Reaching the top of the hill where the Causeway revels itself is just breath taking. And there I was again, 1989 free falling down the hill with all my friends. Let loose. Climbing over the stones like frantic ants.
As simple as that. Like a big perfect picnic...
It inspired me to make this little video. To show you how lovely happy memories can inspire great ideas. It's by visiting these wonderful places and transferring experiences onto paper allows me to create souvenirs and giftware that hopefully makes you smile and ones you can share with others.
North Coast Sketching from Flax Fox on Vimeo.
As my favourite quote goes:
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Maya Angelou
I hope you enjoy this video. Please "like" and "share" amongst friends.
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So, Flax Fox is now a proud stockist for the Giant's Causeway gift shop. I personally delivered it myself - I was itching to get back up the North Coast for some fresh sea air and boy was it worth it…...
It never seems to leave me no matter how many times I visit. The feeling of wonderment at the sight of the Giant's Causeway. You can't escape that sea air, oh no definitely not! But it doesn't matter because there's magic in the air.
Now, my first hour was filled with slight annoyance at the BBC's weather promise of sun clouds and dry weather. Why was I surprised this was not the case? Armed with camera and tea towel in tow, I was not wasting this photo opportunity. We marched through the new centre and began to make our way to the stones.
Did I mention before there was magic in the air? Well, once that tea towel was in shot for the camera the drizzly clouds departed and the sun shone through….Hallelujah!
I spent four hours at the stones shooting footage for my next Flax Fox video blog. I CANNOT WAIT to share these visuals with you, (hence the capital letter excitement) honestly they're pretty special and you will be the first to see it.
Next stop was Carrick-A-Rede Rope bridge…..And yes, GASP I did a photo shoot on the bridge above the crashing waves. Thank goodness I'm here to share the evidence. Do you see what I do for my art?
You can see a slight bit of fear on my face here peeking over the cushion. Ben was trying to make me do a side-to-side step trick for the camera. I'm no Angelina Jolie I'm afraid. Little baby steps is all he got.
Exploring the North Antrim Coast is stunning and I strongly encourage you all to take a trip if you haven't been in a while. Honestly, it's good for the soul.
Until next time…
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2014 has started with a bang. We bought a new house at the end of this year which had just enough room at the bottom of the garden to build an outside studio. I'm not one for hanging around. A digger, dumper truck and 3 skips later we had foundations dug out and cement filled in. Next step is building the frame. I will keep you posted with pictures. I am so excited about this project even thou it began right in the middle of Flax Fox getting organised for Showcase Ireland!
I locked myself away in the Belfast Print Workshop for a few days to print new images for Showcase Ireland. My new welly boots have been christened my printing boots. I can happily blast the power hose on these screens without getting wet socks.
So below is some Georgian Doors prints. I have been messing around with backgrounds, colours and layout. I think I am going to make this image into a textile print.
I also did a little watercolour sketch of Powerscourt in Dublin. I have a retailer in here called Article. It is such a beautiful shop that stocks tasteful contemporary gift and home ware products. You have to pass this beautiful flower shop to get into the building which smells amazing.
I have also been very happy at the response to my new cushions. I have 12 designs which will be on display at Showcase Ireland. Product info will be updated on my website very soon.
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So I took a trip up the North coast last week as the weather was absolutely stunning. I wanted to get some sketches of the Giants Causeway and Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge before the weather becomes unforgiving. I am out of my comfort zone here but it's good to challenge yourself. I thought it would be good to show my initial drawings where I don't know what i'm doing yet. I need to get the feel of the landscape and figure out how I am going to tackle these large masses of rock! I thought it was best to start with a singe flower head as a warm up exercise. Start small and progress onto bigger things!
Below, I have started sketching Carrick-A-Rede in black. I always draw onto tracing paper. I use my black drawing as a master copy to base the sketch on. When I want to draw another colour, I place another piece of tracing paper on top and sketch where I want the other colour to be. This is how I prepare all my screen printing sketches.
This layer is my grassy area and I have used a thick black water colour pencil to get a grainy effect. I will later change this colour to green in photoshop.
This was my first version, but I think there is too much colour going on.
Because I primarily screen print all my sketches I am always thinking of the amount of 'layers' involved in a design. If I am using the image for a tea towel I will generally stick to 2 colours at the most however this one below looks like it might have 3.
In addition to Carrick-A-Rede I have also started my Giant's Causeway range below....more images still to come.
Also I have just figured out how to turn my comments box on...HURRAY! You have to click on the READ MORE link and pop any Q's or comments in the box.
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So I was invited to take part in a show house project called 'Hartley Hall' by Maureen Collins. As an Interior designer she was given the brief to decorate this house above with local crafters and designers products. She chose well and it was a great idea, I hope more show houses around the country start doing the same. I was pleased to see many artists from St George's Market there including Deborah Toner, Andrew Coombes, Chantalle Coombes and Deborah Campbell. Abigail*Ryan had their new beautiful fabric and wallpaper collection on display and Refound furniture complimented the master bedroom beautifully. We were also treated to an amazing spread by the Belfast artisan deli Sawers.
You have no idea how good this ham tasted with smoked apple chutney and cheese and mixed olives. There was a few super hot peppers thrown in there too (much to my tastebud delight). This is a man in the food industry I greatly admire. He is always offering new and exciting foods and has a great way of displaying it. Artisan food at it's best!
Mr Sawer holding up my (slightly crinkly) Trinity College tea towel below. It worked really well in the Kitchen made by Terry Designs. Another great design company based in Northern Ireland. You should click on the link above to see all the fabulous things they design.
So I was really impressed with Maureen Collins and her lovely seamstress. I gave her my tea towels and they transformed them into big fluffy pillows and cushions. This was the Belfast Public Library tea towel which was used in the Teenage Room. They also used The Cranes, Queen's University and The Merchant Hotel as pillows.
So you can guess what Flax Fox is going to have on their website very soon....? Yes, some lovely new cushions & pillows. Now, the tricky question is which ones will I make first?
This was the young/teenage room that showcased Flax Fox products. Refound was also featured in here alongside Flax Fox Original Screen Prints. The idea was that it was non-gender specific and that it could be used as a young persons bedroom or a chill out room. They also made a storage curtain over the bed so you can fit itty bitty things behind the Ulster Hall, which became almost like a pocket. A great idea for hiding clutter or storing bits and pieces.
This is the Merchant Hotel Pillow appliquéd onto a fab dotty fabric. It has given me lots of ideas of the fabrics I might use on my pillows.
and yes, I can confirm the pillow is ultra comfy! zzzzzzzz
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So I had filmsbyben in the studio today snapping some pictures of me printing 'Scrabo Tower' tea towels for Ards Craft Council in Newtonards, County Down. It was a glorious day in the studio as I made NO MISTAKES! I find this a cause for celebration as I did'nt waste any of my lovely linen union tea towels, yay...Go Foxy.
Every time I print 'Scrabo Tower' tea towel the tower becomes a different shade of blue as I am rubbish at keeping colour recipes, but hey thats the joy of hand printing gifts. Each one is unique and slightly different (some may even have a smudge or two).
This flat bed printing table is normally used for paper prints however very soon Flax Fox will have it's very own twirly whirly carousel which will make printing tea towels much much easier and quicker....bring it on.
Sometimes the tea towels can stick to my screen so it can be a bit hairy lifting the table and 'unpeeling' the cloth from the screen. Thankfully today the towels were not too stubborn and I managed to lift them with ease.
I printed 60 of these bad boys today and only two more layers to go, black and a yellowy gold. You can see the finished product on my website very soon.
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So every time I book my enterprise train ticket to Dublin I manage to choose the most horrendous day weather wise. The first time I made the trip was just before St Patrick's day. I got off the train and was greeted with gale force winds and hail storms. Clearly I did'nt get too much drawing done. This time was slightly different, I had a lovely morning BEFORE the torrential rain in the afternoon. It was just in time to get a photo shoot done with the lovely Nathalie from Image Interior & Living magazine. It is a piece called 'meet the crafters' which will be in the July issue. So keep an eye out for little ole foxy.
My boyfriend (and foxy photogrpaher filmsbyben) asked me to get a photo of myself being photographed if that makes sense?? I always forget when I do these shoots which really annoys him so I took one of myself outside Christ Church Cathedral which is my next print.. He does'nt approve, he thinks I should just just stick to the drawing.
I'm very fortunate to have talented friends in Dublin. They have jumped on the Flax Fox band wagon and decided to take some pictures of my new organic cotton t shirts. They really are so comfortable to wear and part of an earth positive supplier headlined by Lily Cole. You can check out my www.facebook/flaxfox.com page for the video blog about sustainable cotton.
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So, Flax Fox is getting around Belfast rightly. One of my main stockists the Belfast Welcome Centre asked me to do a photo shoot to launch their new product development competition. I'd urge any budding designers/crafters/makers to get on board and click on Belfast City Council website for more details!
Me pretending to work in the Belfast Print Workshop! When I'm really working, I screen print all my original prints here. Having not went to art college and having no formal training I completed a screen printing class here in 2010 and taa daaaa here I am today....printing as my job. Wow, how life can change. For more info an any classes click on The Belfast Print Workshop website.
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