I took a trip to the North Coast last week. I find it such an inspiring place, from the landscape to the weather, the people to the landmarks, it’s somewhere I love to return to when I can.
In between planning some new designs (watch this space!) and reconnecting with some great colleagues, I decided to make a pit stop into Lost & Found, a beautiful little independent cafe in Coleraine. It’s been on my list to visit and I’ve been pouring over their website and instagram feed of late, excited to sample what I hear is delicious food and coffee but…..it was closed. Devastating!
Never one to waste an opportunity I decided to do a little sketch of the front door. It had such a welcoming feel that I couldn’t go past it. Plus it’s a reminder that I’ll need to make another trip up north very soon to sample my much awaited Lost & Found lunch. I can't wait.
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This is The Bay Tree piece in it's final form - as a work of art in the restaurant!
As an artist first and foremost, I love seeing my work on display, and where better than in a place where people enjoy it while going about their day. Going around Holywood finding buildings that William and his customers would recognise was a delight - it's a beautiful little coastal town.
It's the largest piece I've done since the Cast & Crew Restaurant commission in 2015 in Belfast's Titanic Quarter. That piece inspired me to do my Doodle Dander skyline of Belfast, which has become one of one of my best selling pieces and you can get one here.
Pop down to The Bay Tree restaurant to see it for yourself and tell me what you think of the piece!
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I've just completed a commissioned piece for the wonderful Bay Tree Restaurant in Holywood.
Starting new commissions always brings out a mixture of emotions; delight at being asked, fear of putting it all together then joy when it all works out and the client loves it.
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I can't tell you how many sketches I begin with. I always start with a scribbly mountain of black and white quick sketches to get an idea of composition. I had to fill a space which measured one meter high by four meters long, so there was a lot to pack in.
William (owner of the Bay Tree), wanted this piece to have colour and vibrancy. If you've been to Holywood, or the Bay Tree for that matter you will know it's packed full of charm, it's extremely well kept and you're never too far away from a pot of fresh flowers.
Well now it's finished. Ready to be applied to The Bay Tree's counter in the next week or so. If you're lucky enough to visit The Bay Tree, grab yourself a coffee with a big buttery cinnamon scone and send me your thoughts! I'd love to hear what you think.....
William from the Bay Tree wanted landmarks and buildings that would mean something to his customers. Most of them are local to Holywood so choosing them was pretty tricky. I didn't want to just pick buildings that tourists would recognise, but rather buildings that local people would be familiar with.
I managed to sketch nine buildings that I hope give a good representation of Holywood. Audley House is one of them - it's the building you have to go through on your way in to the Bay Tree.
Hopefully the next time you're sitting down with your cinnamon buns you'll recognise the buildings in my piece. William was so happy with the piece he has been using the design I did of the restaurant in his advertisements.
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"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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