Sunday, 8 November 2009

Phantom of the Opera

Phantom of the Opera - leaflet

Phantom of the Opera leaflet – outside

Phantom of the Opera - leaflet (2)

Phantom of the Opera leaflet – inside

What a show! What an experience!  Why has it taken me so long to see this show I just don’t know.  I was enthralled from the beginning to the end. I was totally captivated by the music and songs – so much so that whilst writing this I’m listening to the soundtrack:-)

Phantom of the Opera - ticket

The tickets to this show were a present from my daughter and son-in-law for both myself and my hubby.  He enjoyed it just as much as I did.  Our tickets were for the Matinee show and it was playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket, London.

07.11.09-Her Majesty's Theatre-Phantom of the Opera

         Her Majesty’s Theatre

The sets and lighting were so atmospheric - the chandelier was magnificent!  The costumes were absolutely stunning – so vivid in colours and sparkling with crystals – it was all so magical.

07.11.09-Amjed-Phantom of the Opera

Her Majesty’s Theatre

One thing that did surprise me was how small the theatre was – not that it made my whole experience any less thrilling or anything like that – it just came as a surprise that’s all.  Nonetheless, it’s a lovely old theatre. 

07.11.09-Her Majesty's Theatre-Phantom of the Opera (3)

Her Majesty’s Theatre by night

Apparently, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera has been playing here since 1986 when the original cast included Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman in the leading roles.  That would’ve been something to see!

Here’s more about Her Majesty's Theatre 

07.11.09-Her Majesty's Theatre-Phantom of the Opera (4)

outside Her Majesty's Theatre

I became so enthralled and captivated by watching the stage and in the story (how could I not?) – it was an emotional rollercoaster and I must admit my eyes welled up and I wept a silent tear – well I’m a big softie at heart and that’s the sign of such brilliant acting and such an amazing production.  I would thoroughly recommend this show to anyone and everyone – I loved it!

Love Never Dies - frontLove Never Dies - back

Love Never Dies – leaflet front & back

The long awaited sequel to The Phantom of the Opera – Love Never Dies – will be showing at the Adelphi Theatre, The Strand, London from March 2010. More info here


Thursday, 5 November 2009


05.11.09-Postcard box - angled view

This is a postcard box I recently constructed from…. postcards of course:-) This box can be constructed from any picture really so long as the sizes are all the same. You can use:


handmade cards

cut up greeting cards

magazine images

your own art

You can double up your postcards so that images are inside of the box also, or you can line your postcard or images with plain card as I have done. We are working with landscape images, so it’s best to find images in this orientation – apart from the sides of the box which can have portrait images.

So, basically what you’ll need to make this box are:

supply of postcards/pictures

plain card to back cards

embroidery threads in contrasting colours

pricking tool

soft mat for pricking on


double sided tape


embellishments (optional)

05.11.09-Postcard box top view

top view

Cut all your cards to one size – you’ll need 4 cards landscape size for the back, front, top and bottom of the box and two cards portrait size cut to the same width square. Whether you’re using postcards or plain card to double up, make sure you cut up all your cards to match – so you should end up with 8 landscape size and 4 portrait size cards.

05.11.09-Postcard box - side view 105.11.09-Postcard box - side view 2

side views

Now pair your main images with their backing images and secure with a little double sided tape to hold together. You should have 6 cards to make one box.

With your card on the pricking mat and using your ruler and pricking tool score a line, lightly - half centimetre away from the edges of the card, so you end up with a half centimetre border all the way around the card. Do this to all the cards.

Now along that light score line prick holes half centimetre apart all the way round the card. Do this to all the cards

05.11.09-Postcard box - front view

front view

Choose a colour of embroidery thread that compliments the shades in your cards and using a simple blanket stitch bind your pairs of cards together – do this to all 6 cards.

05.11.09-Postcard box - back view

back view

Now the constructive part – sewing all the parts to make the box. Starting with the base and making sure you have your main image on the outside, place the back card (your image that will be facing the back) on top of this (main image facing upwards) and with a contrasting thread on your needle, using a whipping stitch go through one blanket stitch on the base card and one blanket stitch on your back card and lash together to secure each card to the other (refer to my pics for reference) .

05.11.09-Postcard box -top & front view

top & front view

Then taking one of the side cards whip stitch this to the base card and to the back card. Working your way systematically with all the cards, bind them all together and to each other using this whipping stitch. In my pics my blanket stitch is in deep pink and the whipping stitch is in blue.

05.11.09-Postcard box - inside view

inside view

After the box has been constructed you can pick out details to embellish – that’s just optional. I’m an embellishment kinda gal and will embellish anything in sight, so if you look at my images you’ll see I’ve used sequins, coins and bead trim to jazz up my box. Do what you want and make amazing boxes! :-)

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Art In Clay - Hatfield House


It's was the final day of the Art in Clay Show at Hatfield House yesterday (7th - 9th Aug). I went on Friday with various ceramic classes from our Institute. A coach was hired to take around 35-40 of us. It was ony a 45 min journey and the weather was pleasant tho a little overcast. This was the first time I'd been to this particular event - tho' last year I did visit the Living Crafts Show at Hatfield House blogged.

It's more or less the same set up with marquees dotted around the huge field filled with exhibitors displaying their beautiful ceramic works of art they've created.

I must say I really wasn't expecting such a huge and varied array of ceramic ware on display and for sale. I'm not a ceramic artist and though I do attend ceramic classes I go to make tiles and ceramic pieces for my mosaics. I'm not at all into sculpture, tho I can admire the craftsmanship that goes into each piece since I see my fellow students actually make beautiful pieces in class and I know just how much time and effort goes into making them.

To be quite frank I wasn't expecting to spend just as much time looking around all the exhibitors as I did, but I was really amazed at all the lovely work I saw around me - that was such a pleasant surprise:-) My main plan was to whizz round a few exhibitors and then make for the House - that was my main reason for coming on this trip actually and my ceramic tutor Sarah did her utmost to coax me into coming on this trip as I'd initially said no to it. She eventually told me that if I came along and truly didn't like it then she'd refund me my fee - that's how confident she was I'd enjoy it. Thank you Sarah - it seems you know me better than I do myself :-D
I really did enjoy myself!

There were a couple of exhibitors that really caught my eye and were so different from the rest. I've got their kind permission to put pics of their work on here just to share with you and if you want to see more of their work I've included links to their websites.

This is Claire Baker with her exquisite vintage style ceramics she creates. There are cups and saucers and sideplates all chipped and cracked and yet still so beautiful. She told me each piece has to be fired 6 times to achieve the end result. She then applies decals to give that Shabby Chic look.

I just love how Claire arranges her chipped and cracked, vintage style crockery with real vintage cups and saucers and some of her assemblage and other artwork. Everything blends in so well. I told Claire this setting was very reminiscent of Miss Havisham's table in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. If you'd like to see more of her work just go here

Another Exhibitor who really caught my eye and whom I could really relate to was Pollie Utley from Pollie & Garry Utley Ceramics She and Garry make the most exquisite bowls, jewellery, quilts and even garments all out of clay. Each piece is beautifully designed and rich in texture and colour.

I spoke for quite a while with Pollie and she told me that she has been to India many times and her work is inspired by Rajasthani quilts and textiles (amongst other things). She makes the most amazing quilts from blocks of ceramic tiles that she stamps with Indian block stamps to get the texture and she even creates folds in the clay to represent the folds in natural textiles. She adds mirrors (Shisha) and bells and even stitching to give that authentic Indian feel to either a garment or quilt.

I felt I could relate to her through my own ethnicity as well as the art she creates. She's a Ceramic Artist and I'm a Mosaic Artist and my work is very much influenced by Islamic Art and Indian Culture and I'm also attracted to colour and texture in my work. I could've stayed there all day chewing Pollie's ear off about her work and her journeys to various parts of India. I would really encourage you to go onto the website and check out the gallery of work - it'll definitely make an impression on you believe me!

more info on Art in Clay


front and inside of 2009 Visitor Guide - freely available upon request from here

The path to the North Court of the House. The South Court is not open to the public but can be viewed from the Viewing Bay near the wilderness Garden

Hatfield House is still a private residence and has been in the Cecil family for 400 years. It's a beautiful Jacobean house and is steeped in Elizabethan and Victorian history. It houses beautiful treasures like fine tapestries, furniture, ceramics and paintings and the rooms are grand and oranate as expected of a large stately house such as this.

The House stands on over 1000 acres of park and woodlands and it boasts, in the park, an oak tree which marks the place where the young Princess Elizabeth I heard she was going to be Queen.

As part of the Art in Clay Show Hatfield House was running a free shutttle bus to and from the Show (on the parklands) to the House. This would otherwise have been a really long long long walk (you get what I mean don't you?)

You know, without meaning to be disrespectful to the Cecil Family or anyone concerned with Hatfield House, my first impression of this house was, "Is that it?" Maybe it was this view of it from the North Court, but I got the distinct impression of it looking like a giant Victorian factory rather than a stately home - sorry that's just my opinion folks :-) No doubt it was very grand, but even my daughter when she saw a pic of it thought it looked like a prison (at least I was politer in my opinion:-)) But I must add the longer I was there the more it grew on me.

I took the guided tour which lasted about 2 hours and that was really interesting. Unfortunately we weren't permitted to take photos inside the house, but there were postcards available of some of the interiors in the giftshop. The rooms we toured were exquisite - so ornate with decoration and carvings and filled with tapestries, paintings and beautiful antique furniture. I was disappointed, however, in this size house, we could only view a small number of rooms - I guess it's because it's still a family home with a family living in it and wanting some privacy - that's understandable. Sometimes when we become tourists we become a bit selfish and always want more:-)

view of the South Court from the Wilderness Gardens

I can well recommend the guided tour as you gain such an insight into the family history as well as the history of the house. You can, if you're short of time whizz round the house on your own and directions are clearly marked. I bought the Souvenier Guide on the house so that I could continue to read up a little more about it - (I always buy souvenier guides of all the places I visit).

A great way of ending your visit to any place, be it stately home, palace, castle or park is the Gift Shop - one of my favourite places to spend money:-) You can pick up such lovely gifts that you wouldn't normally be able to find in your high street shops. I came away with some lovely giftwrap, some exquisite little notebooks, postcards (of course) and the souvenier guide.

inside the gift shop - a veritable feast for the eyes!
Find out more about Hatfield House here

Monday, 1 June 2009


Stampboard has been around for quite sometime in the crafting world, though surprisingly there are a lot of people out there who still haven't heard of it - maybe due to low marketing - who knows. When you do discover this product you'll be amazed at what you can do with this little bit of board that has a smooth clay finish to it. I'm not going to gush about its amazing qualities and multi-functional uses - tho I could very easily:-) I'll leave that for you to discover yourself at the end of this, where I've left a couple of links for you to go to and become acquainted with this product yourself.

The top image shows the front of the packaging. I bought this last year at a crafts supply show here in the UK but you can order it online and it's widely available in the USA - where it was brought over from anyway:-)

This is the back of the packet showing you the amazing uses of Stampboard and when you open this up there are more detailed instructions.

These are a few of the shapes that are available: 2" square, 2&1/2" x 1&1/4" rectangle, 2" x 1" rectangle, 2&1/2" diameter circle and 1" square.

Here are a few Stampboard pieces I created

The Eiffel Tower piece I turned into a brooch by simply gluing a brooch finding to the reverse. These have all been given a gloss finish with UTEE. It gives it that laminated finish which I feel really completes the pieces, but that's optional really and to everyones own preference.

Let me give you a short tutorial on how I made these. Greater detail and more info can be had from the links at the end. This was my first time try with Stampboard so I'm no expert, but I loved the results I got with my first attempt at working with this - so if it helps you in anyway I'll be glad:-)

The best ink to use for stamping on this is StazeOn as once dried you can ink and paint over without any smudging plus it gives a lovely crisp image.

Decide on your stamps for the different size Stampboard pieces and then colour the backgrounds with any waterbased ink colour including Marvy colour pens, inkpads, chalks, even silk paints and water colour inks. Use a variety of applications like sponging, painting on and wiping off, scrunching with cling wrap - anything to create a textured background. You can use alcohol ink to great effect on these also and Adirondak ink pads and Tim Holtz Distress inks applied and then sprayed with water give some amazing results - just keep playing around to get different finishes.

Ok, so you've got a bunch of coloured surfaces to stamp on now - so decide on your images and stamp your pieces and allow to dry thoroughly or speed up with a heat gun. Any mistakes in stamping or inking can easily be erased by either using a baby wipe to rub away or I find one of those jumbo nail files or emery boards rubbed over the top erases any mistakes cleanly away.

Once the image is dry using a sharp implement or pointy tool (you can buy specific tools for scratching Stampboard from the link at the end of this) scratch away at parts of the image that you want a different colour. I look at it as colouring in by scratching. But stay within the lines for this, as if you lose the outline it doesn't look as good. So work on a little bit at a time - for example if you want to put highlights into hair scratch away and then fill in colour afterwards.

Once you've scratched away parts now is the time to add colour. I find those water based markers are really good for this as you can just scribble some colour onto a plate or your non-stick mat and then using one of those water fillable paintbrushes just pick up the teensiest bit of colour and apply to where you need to fill in colour. Just be aware at this point you're filling in colour to parts of clay you've scratched away, so the surface will be very porous and the colour will just bleed into thoses areas - so you only need the tiniest amount of colour to get the full effect. Again, any mistakes can be rectified by using a wet cotton bud for small areas or baby wipes for larger areas.

So, now you've painted in all your areas of the image you can further scratch into it to add highlights here and there to give the impression of light hitting it or shining on it. For example, if you've stamped a face and then coloured it flesh colour or whatever, you can scratch into the whites of the eyes and scratch the tiniest dot into the pupil just to give the eyes definition - you'll be amazed at what a difference it makes:-)

You can further scratch squiggles, patterns or whatever you like into the background to give more effect. When you're finally satisfied with all the colouring, scratching and re-scratching you can either choose to leave it as it is and just outline the edges with a Krylon pen or you can edge with versamark and dip into embossing powder to get an embossed edge or you can apply versamark to the whole stampboard piece (I just stamp the whole piece into the Versamark pad) and then cover with UTEE (Ultra Thick Embossing Enamel) and heat with a heat gun and then outline with a Krylon pen to finish. When the UTEE is still molten that's the time you can drop seed beads or sequins or any flat tiny charm into it to embellish your piece. You end up with a highly glossed laminated piece that looks really beautiful.

You can turn these Stampboard pieces into jewellery, embellishments, mini works of art - the skys the limit really. You can even punch holes into stampboard with your Crop-o-Dial - just think what you can do with that - add brads, charms, danglies, threads, stitching - the possibilities are endless!

Look, I've gotta go now as just talking about all this has made me want to play with Stampboard again. Hope this gives you the urge to try Stampboard out for yourselves. I'll catch you next time! :-)

Click here and here for further info

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

May Bank Holiday - Day trip to Rochester, Kent

The First May Bank Holiday was from Sat 2nd May to Mon 4th May (the other is 22 - 24 May). I like to make the most of these holidays by planning day trips, sometimes weekends away in the UK. It's a pretty hit and miss affair at times since the weather here in the UK can be kinda unpredictable. But as the forecasters were assuring us of good weather for Sat & Sun at least, I thought why not go for it and plan somewhere nice. I always ask around and research best places to go and since we don't have any kids with us we're spoilt for choice really :-) But it's always a good idea to get first hand experience of places you want to visit from friends and family who've been there before. In this instance for our first day trip I suggested the historic town of Rochester in Kent - The Garden of England. Since my family always depend on me to come up with places -and I've always come up a winner in the past:-) they agreed. I did the research, made our picnic lunch to take with us and set off the next day at around 10.30am.

on the road to Rochester

arriving in Rochester
The weather was beautiful just as forecasted - the sun was shining brightly and it was lovely and warm - summer clothing type weather:-) There were 7 of us in our Toyota Lucida - myself, my hubby, my daughter and her hubby, my daughter's friend and my 2 nephews. The journey to Rochester was very pleasant and we passed through beautiful English countryside - golden fields of rape seed that looked like fields of gold - so Gorgeous. There were so many farmhouses and fields with horses, sheep and cows all out to pasture. There was greenery everywhere and such scenic views. England is full of beauty for those who want to see:-) The journey itself took only 45mins - we didn't need to stop anywhere on the way. Rochester is about 35 miles from where we live in Essex.

Rochester Bridge over The River Medway
I won't bore you all with a history lesson - There's a link at the bottom of this entry that will direct you to a Rochester homepage where you can learn all about this place and believe me it makes for interesting reading. Suffice to say it's a historical town steeped in history and has connections with, amongst many other things and people, Charles Dickens.

Festivities outside Rochester Castle

Rochester Castle admission info

The castle keep (Great rectangular Tower)
We decided to tour around the castle first and as this was a May Day Bank Holiday there were lots festivities taking place around the castle and cathedral. There was a mini funfair with a beautiful carrousel and the usual fairground stands and foodstalls. The place was thronged with people enjoying the glorious sunshine and entertaiment. The castle was built between 1087 & 1089 with the Keep being added later in about 1127. Now it's a crumbling shell of it's once splendid glory - still beautiful nonetheless. We climbed the 209 uneven steps to the top of the castle for some spectacular views of Rochester Cathedral, The River Medway and surrounding areas - the views were quite stunning as you can see for yourself.

view of Rochester Cathedral from top of the Castle

View of Rochester Bridge over the River Medway from top of the Castle

view of Rochester from top of the Castle

Keep & curtain wall from the Southeast

Keep & castle wall from the east
After touring the castle we walked the short distance to Rochester Cathedral. This was free admission for individuals and a slight charge for group tours (again you can get details from the link at the end of this entry). If the Castle was impressive then the Cathedral was truly magnificent!

May Day festivities around the cathedral

River Dancing outside the cathedral
The earliest part of this Cathedral dates back to 1083 when work first began on a new Norman cathedral. I felt so much peace and serenity in this building - it is truly beautiful. The Romanesque and Medieval architecture are something to be admired and studied and the monolithic organ, put up by Gilbert Scott in the1870's, is simply breathtaking.

Gilbert Scott Organ

looking across the Nave Altar to the Pulpitum steps

The Nave

Rochester Cathedral

The Quire

Beautiful stained glass window

I'd love to go back to Rochester - as we never roamed around the cobbled streets and in and out of the quaint shops they have there. Just remember to wear comfortable shoes as you'll no doubt do a lot of walking - we certainly did:-) I would definitely recommend Rochester as a place well worth visiting for the overseas tourist as well as UK resident. It has a wealth of historical landmarks and such beautiful scenic views to offer - you really can't go wrong! I hope you enjoyed your visit through my eyes:-)

Like what you've heard and want to visit Rochester for yourself? - There you go!