Monday, 20 February 2017

I know her face better than my own...

...but can I draw it?

I'm working with portraits as a theme partly because of the Portrait exhibition that Through Our Hands will be having at Festival of Quilts this summer, but also towards some work that I can see happening beyond that too. For portraits you of course need a face to draw and my daughter is a willing model. So she's going to be the subject of a few studies.

I've been avidly watching the Sky Portrait Artist of the Year TV show. If you've been watching it too, no doubt you'll have seen loads of the artists using their iPads with grids over the photo. I'm always, rightly or wrongly, more impressed with the contestants who go for it straight onto the canvas with no grid and work directly from the sitter.

I'm so out of practise with observational drawing that this will probably be hopeless, but let's give it a whirl.



So last night I was wandering around on the web while I was thinking about what to blog first, and I stumbled on this video, and enjoyed it very much. 

What perfect timing. So much of what he says struck a chord. We have to make time for the things we want to do, and in doing it, we'll achieve so much. In truth sometimes I feel that I have no time to even think, let alone do, to such an extent that I end up in a paralysed state and don't do any work at all! How pathetic. Course we all know that even tiny steps each day gets you there in the end. 

So, let's make this little bit of time really productive and positive. I'll kick off by showing you what's in progress in the studio at the moment. Vying for easel time I've got these panels...

These are all quite small, primed MDF panels. The one above is a mix of digital and painting. DMTV viewers will have seen some of this work in recent video workshops. I'm really enjoying the potential of this and I'm sure that there will be more along these lines. The digital image was created on the iPad with Procreate. I'm now painting into it with acrylic glazes.

The one below is from the same series of work, again a digital painting that I'm working into. This one has some additional collage elements. The text is handwritten with ink and a brush onto thin paper. Loved doing that, and the papers have been so useful. I'm sure you'll spot them in collages in my sketchbook too.

I reckon this one is nearly finished. The glazes still look a bit thin in some areas so I need to build those up and create some depth particularly in the top 'sky' section. 

These two panels have been waiting for ages. They started out with my monoprinted frames technique and now I need to add something to the windows. What to put in them? It'll probably be a portrait but I'm feeling daunted by that. Just need to knuckle down and try, I can always paint over a disaster after all!

If you've taken valuable time to read my blog today, then thank you! If like me you spend far too much time on your phone or computer, then you might also like to follow my Instagram page where I'm also posting my work as I go. Here's a link.

Back soon!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

I'm back!

You know how it is: when it comes to the housekeeping, everything slides then you have a major clear-out, only to realise the following day that you've thrown out something really important.

So I've not blogged here since last April, and I dropped in last week with the intention of deleting the blog. But when I logged in, I saw that loads of visitors were still visiting every day! Seemed crazy not to pick up where I left off.

But I wanted to do something different with the blog. It's my intention this year to really make a big effort to draw and paint more. Lately I've been working mostly with textiles and print, but drawing and painting are my true loves. It's something that I need more of in my life and I figure that if I tell you, and make it a mission to blog about what I do here, then there's hopefully more of a chance of me succeeding. Of course I may fall by the wayside by April, but believe me when I say my intentions are good.

So what's the plan? Well I'm going to draw and paint as much as I can and post here on as close to a daily basis as I can manage. While I love to draw and paint, I still have a lot to learn and a lot to improve with practise and perseverance. I hope it'll become part of my routine to work and blog, and that you will enjoy dropping by here to see what I'm up to and how I'm progressing.

I'll be back tomorrow with the first instalment!

Love Laura

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Is that yours?

There's been a lot of chatter on the Through Our Hands Facebook page over the last couple of days. It was spurred by the posting of a quilt that was so similar to a painting, that the artist of the original took legal action.

Copyright and intellectual property rights are understandably always hot topics. Creatives are always passionate about what they make, it must be part of the DNA and that passion can raise its head in different ways: some makers are very passionate about protecting their work; some makers are so busy passionately creating that they don't realise the idea perhaps isn't entirely their own.

It's so easy to be 'inspired'. There's so much amazing stuff out there. A quick look on Pinterest and it's easy to feel that every idea has probably already been taken. Let's face it, most subject matter and themes are timeless and universal: still life, landscape, the human form, portraits, love, tragedy. They've all be done time after time. So how can the artist find something that's their own?

I love to look at the work of other artists from old masters to present day. I think because my own work has been copied in the past, that I'm extra conscious about not copying something else, to the extent that if I see something even vaguely similar to an idea that I was possibly having, then I'll ditch it completely and give the whole thing a wide berth.

What's most important, in my opinion, is that whatever subject matter, media or theme that you choose to work with, that you make it your own. Whether you start on something because you were inspired and enthused by the work of another artist or not, there's still plenty of scope in the world to find your own way with it.

Easily said, but how can it be done? Well I would always encourage students to be inspired, but then to put that to one side and look at their own position in relation to the subject. Be thoughtful and think deeply about the theme, look for connections, variations, similarities and differences, subtlety and range. Over a few years I found my way with poppies as a motif. I worked hard, drew lots, printed, stitched and explored options. After a while, the poppy seed head became part of my vocabulary as an artist. In different works it takes on different symbolic meaning, the drawing sometimes more abstract, sometimes more realistic. I don't own poppies, but I know when I use them, I'm using them in a way that's mine and that has come about through a creative evolution of ideas.

There's the crux of it. Real ideas are rarely lightbulb moments. They usually happen because of hours of graft and thinking. Copying is quick and lazy and that is why it is so annoying. It's a shortcut to an end result, and for me, a copied piece of work is always hollow. Without the backstory of the journey to arrive at a piece of work, the result will always have less conviction, less credibility. So go ahead, copy if you like, but beware it'll have no soul!

To help artists and students find their own way, I've been doing a series of video workshops on DMTV on the subject of Finding Inspiration. Basically, it's about finding ideas and then what to do with what you've got. Current episodes are available to subscribers in the DMTV Latest Videos playlist and the new episode will be out in two week's time.

For more info about DMTV please do check out our new website where you'll find free videos and more info about the Latest Videos and Archives.

Love Laura

Thursday, 31 March 2016

What a difference a week makes

Well as it's been a holiday week, like lots of people, I've been wielding a paintbrush. Sadly not an artists brush, but satisfying anyway, even if glossing skirting boards isn't usually my idea of fun!

With a bit of hard graft and very late nights, we've gone from this:

to this:

Now we're just waiting on lights to be delivered and the floor layers to come and do their magic. I've painted the whole room white which is so refreshing after living in a beige house for so long. I need a blank canvas! I'm sure we'll add more colour as we go, but for now I've just painted the window and door reveals blue. 

I'm trying not to get impatient, but I can't wait to get some artwork up on the walls and the furniture in place. Hope you've all had a productive week too.


Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Just Drawing

Phew, it's been one of those weeks. Launching the new website was always going to be a lot of work, but it's done and we have survived! Seriously though, thank you to everyone who's written with such kind feedback about how it all looks. We were going for something fresh and colourful and it sounds as though you like it. I'm very relieved. As with everything, there is never any set way to go about making a website, lots of decisions have to be made and as is my nature, I have sleepless nights over even the tiniest thing. I'm sure there are things we'll tweak and change over time, but at least the groundwork is in.

I have been feeling very square-eyed with all this computer-based work lately. One night I just needed to set the tech aside, and go back to basics with paper, pencil and just draw.

Nothing much, just a short time spent doing an observational drawing from one of my mummy wrapping photos from the museum (DMTV viewers will know about those). Have to say, I started out feeling pretty stressed and fed up, but drawing is the best tonic!

Hope you're all finding it possible to steal a few minutes of creative time in amongst the day job. It's essential!

Love Laura

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

New Website

OK, well this post should be accompanied by a fanfare of trumpets but instead I'm just going to quietly whisper "I think the new website is done!". I can hardly believe it.

I'd like to invite you to head over and take a look at the all new home of DesignMatters TV.

I hope you'll enjoy browsing the new site and seeing what DesignMatters TV has to offer. If you're already a subscriber please Login using your usual username and password. You'll find all the Latest Videos are there to watch, plus if you have Archive collections added to your account, they'll be there too.

Archive Video Shop

There are four new mini Archive collections available too. We've been asked so many times to release more video workshops from the DMTV back catalogue so this is just the start. We'll be adding many more in the coming weeks. You don't need to have a DMTV subscription to be able to buy Archives. So if you just want to watch a couple of videos this is the option for you.


You'll also find there are forums. These are just for DMTV viewers so whether you're a subscriber or have just purchased an Archive Collection, you can drop in, ask us a question, share your ideas and work in progress.


I hope you'll love the new site. It is all brand new and there are bound to be teething issues that only come to light when we let you all in to try it out. If you aren't sure about anything, have questions or get stuck please don't hesitate to email and we'll help out as quickly as we can. For any support queries please use my email

Thanks so much for your support of DMTV and we look forward to chatting to you in the forums.
Bye for now,

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Country life

Today we headed up to Bridgnorth. The sun was shining and there was a continental market and vintage tractor rally. Our friend had planned on taking part but unfortunately his tractor had broken down the day before. I guess that's the trouble with such old vehicles.

They parked up, filling the High Street, four abreast with barely a gap to squeeze between.

Amelie with the sun in her eyes!

We ate tartiflette and crepes, bought Provence soap and garlic, but most of all enjoyed the sunshine and atmosphere.

Hope you've had a good weekend too.
Love Laura

Friday, 11 March 2016

Roses and velvet

When it comes to adding a pop of colour and freshening up a room, there's nothing nicer and easier than new cushions. I've had these fabrics waiting on my worktable all week, the digital print of roses and the hand dyed velvet were perfect companions.

I've used the roses on one side with the velvet on the other and a zip closure on the bottom edge. 

I do love the combo of digital print with hand dye.

I just love these roses, they're so abundant with their stacked peony-like petals. Summer may still be a way off, but this'll do for now.

If you'd like to make your own version, you can order the roses fabrics (there are three different ones to choose from), in our online store:

Thanks for visiting the blog today.
Back soon,

Thursday, 10 March 2016

New on DMTV

New on DMTV this week is the latest episode of Linda's workshop series on Altered Books. If you've been following you'll know she's themed the book on the colour red. You can watch her this week as she shares her tips for finding ideas for pages and some quick techniques for getting images started.

Behind the scenes here at DMTV HQ we've been working relentlessly on the brand new DMTV site. It is so close to going live, we just have to test a few final areas of the site and make sure it's all OK. I'm so frustrated by how long this all takes, it will be a huge relief once we can open the doors and let you all in to explore! As with all websites, it'll continue to be an ongoing project that we'll keep adding to and improving, but hopefully you'll like how we've set things up so far.

All I can say is watch this space and I'll post as soon as it's ready.

Thanks for visiting the blog. As soon as the site is done I'll be back to work. I can't wait!

Love Laura

You can't win 'em all

Well it had all been going so well. My rag market finds turned into wearable clothes that Amelie really liked. Until now. I made a lovely dress,

gorgeous indigo fabric,

funky skull lining. And...

...she hates it!

It's no good for climbing, digging in the garden, and riding a bike. Apparently. Trousers have been requested. With luck the fickle mind of a three-year-old will have changed by next week and she may get a little wear out of it. If not, her little cousin might be in luck with a new frock.

Thanks for the kind comments following the previous post. The house may be a building site, but I'm secretly loving it. This weekend we've been plumbing and wiring. It would probably be much easier to get the builders in, but we love doing the work ourselves. I guess we're gluttons for punishment, but the house feels more ours after a bit of blood, sweat and tears.

Thanks for visiting the blog today, back soon.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Keeping it Real

We've all read the blogs, the ones where the girl who writes them is perfect, with perfect hair, perfect kids, perfect home. I reckon behind the scenes it's complete chaos don't you? It's so easy to edit life for the blog, to leave out the burnt dinners, badly behaved kid and grumpy mom. With my recent posts about sewing trousers and framing Amelie's drawings you'd be forgiven for thinking we're living in this perfect idyll, pottering about, a little sewing here, some light dusting there.

When in fact, all housework at the moment is done with a shovel...

We've finished renovating the outside of the house and now we're making a start on the inside. Walls are coming down and going up, and this week, half my kitchen was taken out. Anyone who's lived with renovations will be familiar with the fine, (and in some cases, not so fine), layer of dust that gets on every single surface.

Of course it'll all be worth it in the end. This space is going to be our new office/study. I've bagged the spot near the French doors for my desk. I'm just hoping we can get it finished by the summer. Wish us luck!

Love Laura

Thursday, 3 March 2016

New on DMTV - Speedy Tumbling Blocks

It's Linda's turn over on DMTV today. If you've been following her blog you'll have seen that she embarked on an epic super-king-sized hand piece mosaic quilt. As I type she's raiding my fabric stash for more yardage to complete the last few rows.

If you've been inspired to make a mosaic quilt in this style, but can't face the hand piecing, her DMTV video workshop today will show you how you can machine piece the Tumbling Blocks units with ease.

If you're a subscriber, you can log in over on the DMTV site to watch now.

Love Laura

Monday, 29 February 2016

Too Cool for School

I hate bottle green. And that bright grass green. You know the ones, ah yes, the colours of school uniform. Maybe if I had colour therapy it would reveal my dislike of these colours is all rooted in those primary school gingham dresses and scratchy cardigans.

Amelie's nursery has recently introduced a uniform so she heads off in a T-shirt matching all the other little bods in class. Yes, it saves choosing an outfit in the morning, but I miss sending her to class in funky outfits. Fortunately they can wear whatever trousers/skirt they like so I've been making her trousers that no-one else will be wearing.

I'm back with one of my favourite patterns, Burda 9441. Very easy to sew, really easy to wear. I've lengthened the cut of the leg because it's winter and ditched the waist tie, but otherwise this pattern needs no alteration. These are cut in a lovely babycord that's lovely and soft. 

The pockets are great on this pattern. They're a piece of cake to do, just cut two in the outer fabric and two in the lining, right sides together, sew the curved sides, turn through and press. It would be easy to add this style of pocket to other patterns. I like to use a hand dye or a bright print on a fine cotton to add a peep of colour at the edge, but hardly any extra bulk.

Sew them to the front trouser piece with a neat bit of topstitching on the bottom curve, and then they'll get set into the top and side seams later on.

These trousers are perfect because there's no fiddly fly or button, they just pull on with an elasticated waistband. Apart from the top stitching, I do all the construction on my trusty overlocker. It speeds up the finishing and the seams end up looking really professional. It's no sweat to make these trousers in under an hour from cutting out to trying on.

Once the waistband is on I topstitch just under the waistband to secure those seam allowances down and stop them making a ridge. 

And there you go, homemade trousers as nice as any in the store and not a single bit of green gingham in sight.

Thanks for visiting the blog,

Thursday, 25 February 2016

New video workshop - Creative Copies

There's a new video workshop on DMTV today. Join me as I continue with the Finding Inspiration course. This week I'll show you how you can make creative use of the photocopier. 

The video workshop is open now for DMTV subscribers. If you've not yet subscribed, why not join in today? You can sign up here:

Linda, Amelie and I made a flying visit to Birmingham last week. Now if you're a DMTV regular you'll know Linda's working on an altered book with a red theme so our eyes were peeled for red.

We spotted these red berries on this mural by Lucy McLauchlan. I've always loved these birds but I'm not sure what is to become of them now the building is being demolished.

Shame they were painted on such a big ugly lump! And yes, it did make me smile that it is 'this way to Paradise'.

Inside the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery we spotted red used in accent colours in painting. Loved the red fan, this is just a tiny detail of a much larger street scene painting.

The Piazza of Saint Mark's, Venice, by William Logsdail

and of course in this painting, The Travelling Companions by Augustus Leopold Egg

We walked back to our car with achy feet via the new Grand Central building. Pretty impressive it is too. Much prettier than the old dingey New Street station building and even shinier than Selfridges!

Thanks for visiting the blog today,
Love Laura