Saturday, 1 June 2013

Lace Heart Kitty

Well half term is nearly over and it's been a hectic one but positive at the same time. Alongside marking and looking after my Dad for a few days I decided to embark on a little project for a friend: designing and making a cat plushy. She loves Victorian and vintage things so I thought lace would be really effective and pretty. Personally I'm not a cat person (we had dogs when I was a child and they were amazing companions) although I am gradually becoming persuaded to find cats quite entertaining - the awesome cartoon 'Simon's Cat' is partly to blame for this. I like the fact that cats are comical but somehow always manage to retain their elegance, especially after doing something stupid!

So... I quite liked the idea of a cat with a large cat bottom and smaller head, a bit like the shape of a bowling skittle. I started by creating a paper template and made a maquette (prototype) out of calico to check the pieces would all fit together. The tail looked too mouse-like, so I made it slightly more stumpy, and the arms weren't long enough so I extended them. Making maquettes is always a good idea as I find any mistakes can be rectified at the beginning and it saves wasting fabric / time later on.

I actually bought the lace on ebay to make a skirt (I have enough left for a mini skirt now!) and it is the same colour as calico so I used that as a base. I cut the template pieces from calico first and then laid them onto the lace to make sure the circular pattern fitted with the design (I wanted the circles to be placed in line with where I planned to hand sew the eyelashes and nose).

I planned to only have colour on the central heart and the features of the cat - eyelashes, nose, ears and paws. I wanted the heart to be the central feature so I cut two calico hearts. The larger heart I machine sewed sari silk onto in horizontal strips and then cut the edges back to heart shape. Afterwards I machine sewed the smaller heart into the centre and then created a mutlicoloured pattern of French knots using tapestry wool and embroidery silks so they would be different sizes. I like to finish off applique with couching on the edges as I think it adds a nice border to designs, so I used tapestry wool to couch the inside heart and then couched the whole heart onto the cat front.

Once the heart had been appliqued and the stitching was finished I was ready to carefully sew the pieces together. First I sewed the front to the bottom inside-out, ensuring they were lined up properly and neatly finished, I then pinned the ears inside and sewed the front and back together, leaving a small gap between the back and bottom so I could stuff the toy and hand sew the final seam together.

Ta-daaa! Finished Lacy Heart Kitty pictured with original prototype (the prototype is lovingly stuffed with Sainsburys bags!) and below, various views of Kitty.

Lastly, I couldn't resist adding one final touch, inspired by the view you get when a cat decides to sit on your lap and give you a grand view of their great behind!
Kitty bumhole :-)

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Hello 2013!

Hello 2013!!! I have been meaning to update my blog in months, apologies!
So, what's been happening in the world of Ella?... Last Autumn I completed a couple of commissions after we returned from a wonderful three week honeymoon in Thailand over the summer.

The first was a commission of a couple for their wedding day. The brief was to create a watercolour painting similar in style to 'Woodland Faerie Queen' with leaves and branches surrounding the figures. Just my kind of thing! The second was a portrait drawing of my friend's baby daughter. It is always a challenge drawing children, especially very young children, but she is such a beautiful little lass and I jumped at the chance. I also took both these occasions as an opportunity to create 'work in progress' videos, which you can see below. I thought they would make a nice little added extra for the purchasers and plan on doing this for future commissions, so the buyer can see how the artwork was created, all the time and dedication that goes into their piece of art.

After those two commissions were finished, we moved into our first home - very exciting times - and so I have had little time for art. It's hard to believe we are already five months into the year and this weekend is the first proper opportunity I have had to create something. Last week, having felt artistically stifled for far too long, I decided to buy the full set of Faber Castell Polychromo coloured pencils. There are 120 in the set and they are so lovely to use. Yesterday I had a really nice day drawing. My first artwork of 2013. It was so therapeutic sitting and drawing all day, reminded me of university - oh how I took that for granted! Hopefully I'll make more time for art as we head towards the summer - so this little faery is here to give me inspiration! I feel the suggestion of summer on it's way, although the glimpses of sunshine we are getting soon turn to grey skies and rain - but I am optimistic none-the-less, that better weather and further opportunities lie just around the corner. I will look forward to greeting them when they arrive!

Summer Is On It's Way
Polychromo Pencils, 2013.

Autumn Dedication
Watercolour, 2012.

Here is the video for Autumn Dedication:

Grace Rose
Pencil, 2012.

Here is the video for Grace Rose:

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Bubbles and Butterflies Commission Completed!

Lets take a step back in time for a moment..
January 2011: Sarah Chadwick, Rebecca de Mendonca and I were hosting our 'Inspiring Visions' exhibition in Bourne Hall, Ewell Village.
I was approached by friends who asked if I would paint their two daughters as faeries in my fantasy style. I loved the idea. We discussed various ideas and eventually organised a photoshoot in Richmond Park on a beautiful sunny day last August, 2011.
Initially the idea was to create two separate faery portraits which would go next to each other on the landing wall in their home. I took various photos (the girls helped me and we found faery doors in the trees, they posed with handfuls of acorns, had fun on the swings and ended the day with icecream sugar rushes and lots of running and giggling!)

When I looked through the photos, the most natural, interesting ones were not of them posing but running, carefree as children are, with huge grins on their faces.
So it was agreed that a double portrait it would be and in October half term 2011, I began the portrait which I knew would become my last maiden name piece. In amongst school holidays, weekends and wedding planning I would enter my spare room and embark on my masterpiece. (My husband refers to it as 'my' spare room as I have single-handedly filled it with art stuff and he only ever goes in there to do the ironing!)

I have predominantly worked in watercolours for the last ten years. Getting back into oils is like discovering a long lost friend. The smell, the application and texture of the paint, the possibilities for layering you don't get with watercolours... Ooooh it is delicious! Whenever I could, I would spend a whole weekend working away. I would often find myself getting so absorbed into it that hours would pass, so engaged that I would lose all care for the concept of time. A lovely, therapeutic feeling.

So here we are, nearly a year and a half since the first conversation, a year since the photoshoot and 10 months since I began the painting, it is finally finished.
Like a lot of women I am sure, it's an odd concept to change your name. I find it exciting, sad and a little peculiar all at the same time. In future I will be creating artwork as a Hayward, not a Richards. This painting is the last piece I have created predominantly as a Richards and I feel very proud that it represents the years of work, practise and dedication I've put into my art.
I don't claim to be an amazing artist. When I look at the world of artists out there who inspire me I know I still have huge amounts to learn and develop in my style and technique.
Most importantly though, I LOVE LOVE LOVE to draw, paint and create. It's an essential part of me that feels a bit like an additional limb, I can't imagine my life without it. So, the Two Little Pixies are my final 'Richards' masterpiece.
Thank you girls, for making it so special.

Below is a video of the process of creating 'Two Little Pixies - Bubbles and Butterflies'

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Tresoros - Shop of Affordable Beauty - Stoneleigh Broadway

For the last eight months I have been lucky enough to have my artwork and greetings cards exhibited for sale in a beautiful shop in Stoneleigh Broadway called Tresoros. An Aladdin's Cave of treasures, Tresoros is the home of some very exquisite and interesting furniture, ornaments and artworks, all priced reasonably. It is owned by Gary Nader, Marina Nader and Tania Johnstone (an old school friend of mine) who asked if I would like to put my work in their shop. I was delighted to do so and Tresoros is now the official retail venue for my artwork.

They opened the shop in December 2011 to a huge welcome and unsurprisingly their business has flourished ever since. Below is a copy of the Guardian article from December 2011 and several photos from the grand opening.

You can find them at: Tresoros, 35 The Broadway, Stoneleigh, Surrey, KT17 2JE.
Tel: 02081270366. Website: 

Creative Minds Exhibition - October 2011 Photos

Well this is a long time coming, I intended to put these photos up ages ago and never got round to it! So here are a selection of photos from the Creative Minds Exhibition held at the Kingston Market House in Kingston-Upon-Thames. Artists exhibiting (apart from myself) were: Claire Briggs, Clare Misselbrook, Tom Ryall, Mel Evans, Erica Sharp, Claire Rye, Matt Goldsmith, Matt Hayward and ballerina paintings by 'M'.

The Creative Minds Collaborative intend to hold exhibitions and events in the future so watch this space...

Saturday, 11 February 2012

What's happening in the world of Pixie?....

A belated Happy New Year to you all. I haven't had any time to post for a while and have only produced one small watercolour piece in the last few months. Currently busy juggling several large projects: the main one being preparation for my wedding later this year, but also embarking on the last painting likely to be given my maiden name signature! It's been in the pipeline on and off for months now, sitting on the easel in my spare room. Whenever I have some free time I get the oils out and have a lovely day of painting, although they are sadly few and far between at the moment. Hoping to have some time this week to get the majority of it finished, so hopefully should be able to unveil it shortly.
That's all for now folks :-)

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Creative Minds Group Exhibition

Back by popular demand, the Creative Minds Group Exhibition has returned to Kingston, with the addition of new artists. The artwork ranges from traditional ballet and portraiture paintings, to fashion illustration, fantasy and graffiti artwork. There are ten artists displaying their work. Alongside original artwork for sale, there are a range of prints, greetings cards, postcards and other gifts available, so if you find yourself in the Kingston Upon Thames area, the exhibition is open daily from 10am - 5pm and runs until Friday 28th October.

Hope to see you down there :-)
Ella x