My friend Rachael, who I have been doing the Creative Joyful Things with, came to visit me last autumn and we decided to paint a portrait of each other. Well, it is autumn again and I have just finished mine. I cannot post a picture here though as I want to show her first, so it will have to wait. Shh.

I can say that I am really pleased to have managed a painting, even though it has taken me a year, and that I am pleased with the result! I don’t think I will be taking on another big project again for a while, as I am looking forward to having space to play and do small things as and when I feel able. Although there were a few difficult moments and many times when I was unable to work on it due to my health, I really loved those times where I could work on it and be absorbed in the task at hand. It is a kind of freedom to be able to be absorbed in a task, especially a creative one. For me that can only ever be quick short bursts, rather than hours on end that healthy people can do, but it is still really transcendent. That’s not the exact word, but you get the idea. It takes me to a state that I do not routinely experience and it feels very good. I perhaps forget that I am in an ill body for a while.

Update: She has been to visit, and taken the portrait away so I can show you what I painted. Here is a close up of the moon, and the finished painting.



Happy and connected to earth and animal self, while looking out on the peaceful moon and wonder-full and infinite universe.


The Brief: Creative Joyful Thing No.10

* Make an item of jewellery or some other decorative thing to wear out of an unusual material*


I knitted a cuff to look like the bark of the birch tree in my garden, then used shrink plastic to make a branch (a few leaves, really) falling in front of it.






The plastic cover does hide some of the knitting detail, but I am pleased with how it turned out. I had not used the plastic before – you bake it in the oven and it shrinks by 40- 50% in both directions, so getting the leaves the right size was a bit of a challenge and an experiment. I used pastel pencils and had to seal the underside with varnish before sewing it onto the cuff. I punched holes in the corners before shrinking.

Here is what Rachel gave to me:

IMG_5737 IMG_5739 IMG_5741 IMG_5742

A beautiful necklace made from a piece of driftwood with lovely markings in it (spalted beech possibly?) that she found on a beach in Wales. It was this size when found, like a pebble. She hammered some pins into it to adorn – perfect!

What was really nice was opening them together when Rachael visited me recently – presents!


Creative Joyful Thing No.9

*Make something out of paper mache*

There are various websites that give you tips, have a google if you need help!

(Send me some photos, no need to send the actual creation)



So, that was the brief. I had an idea of doing something abstract inspired by both a shell and a wave. I have a broken shell that I found on the beach and imagined it looking something like that, only bigger. I think the spirals within shells can really echo the shape of waves.

This is the shell:

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3

So I researched some shell and wave images on the internet and tried to do some sketches to develop my idea. The drawing didn’t work very well as it was so 2D but looking at the images was good.

I have no experience of paper mache at all, or making 3D objects and getting something made in reality that looked anything like what was in my head was going to be difficult. What was made was certainly nothing like I planned!

I wanted to use a kind of minced paper mache mix that is a bit like clay and you can mould into whatever shapes you want. But on the day I ended up starting the project I had no help to prepare that mixture and it was very labour intensive, so I went with the old-fashioned strips of paper glued together method. I covered various curved objects with clingfilm and covered them with the glued strips. They then had to dry before adding more layers.

Here they are drying:
cjt9 dry

Here are some stages of assembly:

cjt 3 cjt9 1

Here is the final piece:

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I painted it with spray cans to get into all the tricky bits. I was going to paint more detail onto it, but I quite liked it as it was. It is far from the beautiful object that I imagined, but it has pretty much met the brief I set for it, with the spiral inside the wave being reminicent of the inside of a shell (maybe!).

I did also make another shape, which was more shell than wave:


I was going to paint/stencil tiny waves breaking down each raised spine, but in the end I decided not to use my energy for that as I liked the other form better.

Here is what Rachael made:


He is a special dog with a secret compartment!



Look at his gorgeous felty tongue! I need to name him – suggestions welcome!

(The Brief for CJT8 is here and what Rachael did is here)

Here is what I sent to Rach.

First a little about my process…

I studied some Barnacles from photos I had taken at the beach. I also have some stuck to a mussel shell that my Mum found on the beach and gave to me. I drew some and then carved the shapes out of a lovely soft printing block. I was given this block by a good friend and have fallen in love with it. Unfortunately it is no longer made! It was very easy to carve (once I had doubled my original drawing size, as the way I started was just impossible to carve. It was far too small and detailed. I am a complete print-making amateur so it has all been trial and error). I tested the print with green ink and this helped me to see where the ink was catching and where I needed to carve a bit more.

work in progress

I also created a pattern based on a photo I took of gentle waves coming into shore. I printed this with silver ink.


Once it was dry I added the barnacle shapes.

This was my initial intention for the finished project. I wanted to do something to mark (celebrate!) the fact that I now live on the coast, and just found the two patterns (waves and barnacles) and combined them. However, I recently attended a book-making workshop and thought that I could present this print in the form of a book. I flipped through my new book-making book (Making Handmade Books by Alisa Golden) and really liked the concertina design with pockets. I realised I could put two prints together and make four pockets. So then I needed to think of something to put IN the pockets. I know that Rachael likes poetry so I googled for “barnacle poem” not thinking that anyone would have written about barnacles. How wrong I was!

I found this beautiful poem by Sydney Lanier:


My soul is sailing through the sea,

But the Past is heavy and hindereth me.

The Past hath crusted cumbrous shells

That hold the flesh of cold sea-mells

About my soul.

The huge waves wash, the high waves roll,

Each barnacle clingeth and worketh dole

And hindereth me from sailing!

Old Past let go, and drop i’ the sea

Till fathomless waters cover thee!

For I am living but thou art dead;

Thou drawest back, I strive ahead

The Day to find.

Thy shells unbind! Night comes behind,

I needs must hurry with the wind

And trim me best for sailing.

Sidney Lanier – Macon, Georgia, 1867.

Here is how it looks ready to be folded into the book pocket:
Barnacles poem page

I also found a Haiku:

Single barnacle.
What have you ever achieved?
But never lonely.


and a quote from Marina Tsvetaeva from her essay: Poets with History and Poets without History:

The wave always returns,

and always returns as a different wave

haiku page

And lastly I found a reference to barnacles in a book I have called “Longshore Drift” by Katrina Porteous (with fantatic images by James Dodds, a print-maker and painter):

Dog Whelk,



and shipworm,

Sea cabbage,

spotty dog,

brittle star

and keelworm,







deadmen’s fingers.

Katrina Porteous  – Longshore Drift

Deadmen’s Finger – a type of sea anemone

Spotty Dog – dog fish

Stingers – sting ray

Peelers – soft green crabs

Weever – a stinging fish

Longshore drift page

So along with the CJT8 brief, I had all four pockets filled.

I made a cover, and called the book “Littoral” which is a word I learned in French, it means “coastal” generally, but can also mean the area between the high and low tide marks that is undefined as land or sea. I like that there is a word for this space.


I cut this cover in half to make the front and back. It is made of a textured white card. The cut intentionally goes through one of the barnacle prints, so that even though the back spine is open, the design joins up when the two halves sit side-by-side.

The print-making process was very long and involved a lot of experimentation. As I made four books, and each included two of the silver prints, as well as a cover and each of the poems, there were a lot of prints to be made. I also had to plan how they would be made into the book pages and position the printing in preparation for that. There were some mistakes and some splodges but I had a limited amount of time, energy, paper and space! Some of the mistakes were carried over into the finished books. I had help from my partner with the print-making. She was absolutley invaluable as she fetched and carried the paper before and after printing so that I did not have to keep getting up, as well as cleaning and tidying up for me. It still took us hours!

Here is a picture of some of the prints drying (this took at least three days, as the ink is oil-based)

all prints on table

Here is what the finished product looks like. These pictures are of two books, showing what each side looks like.

both sides open

This is the front cover and the book when open, showing the front and back covers, and the two silver prints inside.

Ifront and open

Here is the front cover with the reverse side open, showing the pockets with the poems in them.

front and reverse open

(The brief for CJT8 is here, and what I sent to Rachael is here)

Here is what Rachael sent to me: First a little book about the process. I re-lived her thoughts and experiences with every flip of the page.





step 4









appx 2

Then the actual prints! She labelled them for me…

First attempt:


Second (more careful) attempt:


Happy accident:


Variation on a theme:



My fave (disco remix):


They are cards. Inside each one was a message about our project and what it means to her. I love the messages and the prints too. Getting each printed card out of it’s envelope was like following the print-making journey. Fabulous presentation!


Creative Joyful Thing No.8


*Make a pattern inspired by nature*

It could be repetitive and orderly or a random cluster of forms. If very abstract, please state/show your inspiration!

  • You could use printing of some kind to make the repeat images, or not.


See The Results here and here!

Here is what I sent Rachael for Creative Joyful Thing No.6:

*Make a sun print on fabric*


  • Use fairly substantial things – my leaf skeleton attempt was not very good, but normal leaves worked well.
  • Do it for longer than 15 minutes – I did a tester for 35 minutes in full and very bright sun in September which came out great. The ones I did for less were not so good.
  • Glass worked best for weighing things down (I took apart a picture frame and used the glass from that). Acetate was not heavy enough so things were not so squashed down. As the sun moved the shadow of the items moved too and this meant a less crisp image.
  • The images do come out brighter than they look before you rinse them, but if you can’t see anything when you lift the item up, there is probably not much there!
  • I found that doing both sides did affect the quality of the prints as it showed through a bit, but feel free to experiment as it was the failed leaf skeleton that I tried that with…

Good luck & Enjoy!

(If you want to do something creative with your sun-printed fabric all the better!)

I had previously sent her some sun print fabric.

Here is what we did with it!

First my sunprints:Image





And here is what I made with my favourite – I used a ribbon that Rachael gave me to make the sun print! It is a relaxing eye pillow with lavender inside.


Here is what Rachael sent to me – she used a fern and some marbles to great effect:



This was a tricky challenge but it was fun and I think the results are pretty good!

I posted the brief for CJT2 here. Here is what we did.

We both created a starting image then swapped. Here is mine:

The background pattern I took from The Yellow Book of Creative Colouring, by John Adams Toys (aged 8 and upwards!). I have had this colouring book for decades – it is so cool! Just geometric lines. I hope publishing my work here is not a copyright issue, after all, I just did some creative colouring! I also traced most of the seagulls from somewhere but as they don’t look much like the originals now, I don’t think it is a big problem. I am so confused when I use/change other people’s work where the lines fall about right and wrong. I am not making money but I am publishing here… Ideally I would like to just draw my own pattern and birds totally from scratch but it would have taken me much longer and used more energy than I had. But that doesn’t make it right. Hmm. A bit disappointed in myself. Didn’t think I would feel so bad about it. From now on you will be seeing my own (probably terrible) drawing skills exhibited, or at least ones done from tracing photos that I have taken myself!

Anyway, here is what she sent to me:

And here is what she did to mine:

I love what she has done with my original image. She copied it so that she could paint on it, as my copier left the lines water soluble (I tested it before sending). The red was lost but so much gained! Look carefully for the fish – they are sparkling silver on the original. She has put so much work into this and I think it is so exciting to be working together and making things we wouldn’t have otherwise.

Here is what I did with hers:

(Transcript of the text below)

I struggled to come up with a way to make her image into something different, apart from interesting colouring in I was a bit stumped and I didn’t want to erase the original meaning of the self-portrait about the missing filling. I am happy in the end with what I produced, but think she did a much better job on this one!


Text reads: You want to put your filling under your pillow? Yes I see the hole.

Well, scrap metal prices are high and teeth have dropped in value. What? You thought I did this from the goodness of my heart?

Tell you what – Get a quote for replacing your filling and I will pay for it.

BUT! You must buy an electric toothbrush ‘coz I want my assets kept super-healthy from now on.

Yes! The only money I make these days is from the “final collection” as I call it.

So do we have a deal?

Put your filling and the quote under your pillow tonight.

Sleep well!