Jazz Age inspiration & Art Nouveau updated

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During November I celebrate my birthday and past years I have never really enjoyed myself, for many different reasons which are not of importance right now. This year I and my partner really needed a break and so a planned short trip to London had been arranged.

There are always many exhibitions I want to see in London and sadly miss, especially if the timing is not right and I do not have any free time for a journey to the capital.

This trip really would be a quick visit though so we did not have much time to see a whole lot. I decided on the fashion and textile museum’s1920’s Jazz Age fashion & photographs exhibit. This seemed an ideal theme for my recent interest and obsession with this era’s style.

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The museum is fairly easy to find from the London Bridge tube stop. Interestingly though we stumbled upon a building on our way which is painted in the exact same colours as the museum which confused us somewhat.

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The museum inside is quite small so dedicates its whole space to each display. It is Lovely and spacious to walk round and for exploring the delights presented. These 1920’s delights did not disappoint either. I took a few photo’s of dresses with fabrics and designs that appeal to my style the most. In fact the gold looking velvet garment looks very similar to an outfit I already own.

A gallery gift shop is always a must for me to, more often than not, purchase postcards which I add to my growing collection.

This time, because in a birthday treat buying mood a small pack of Fashionary mini sketchbooks found their way onto my person.

These sketchbooks are pretty helpful for the budding fashion designer and would make a great gift for a student I imagine. Each page has a template with a very handy textile dictionary and measurement end pages.

fashionista-book

I can highly recommend a stop in their cafe too, I follow a gluten free diet so had been happy to discover a few cake treats I could actually eat.

A stroll through China town, for dim sum and baked goods followed by the Lion king (a musical I had wanted to see for years) marked the perfect evening and rounded off the days activities nicely.

A sketchbook touring exhibition opportunity (www.sketchopen.co.uk) has fired my passion to get creating and produce a completed sketchbook/journal.

I am, sadly, not the type of artist to keep sketchbooks other than during my college student days. Most of my work is drawn on loose paper and filed into folders.

The mini fashionary sketchbook is an ideal size for me to realistically complete one to a standard I will, hopefully, be content with when submitting to meet the deadline (28th feb 2017)

So onto another daily drawing challenge I go. Follow my Instagram https://www.instagram.com/elizabethblades/ to keep updated on my #18daysoffashionillustration.

Inspired by inktober I have thought up 18 prompts/themes with suggested mediums which I will endeavour to keep too.

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I have begun a drawing project, on a topic which I have wanted to explore through my art for a while and have not found time due to a full year of planning and teaching workshops.

I am making time now using Christmas as a perfect excuse to create some beautiful gifts. I have always adored art nouveau and the strong style which artists such as Mucha adopted as his technique.

The general white washing, to put it bluntly now, in everything from Hollywood films to children’s illustrated books is something that is far from representative of today’s society. I find this trend boring and think changes are desperately needed, especially considering the political year the west has had.

Notably when looking through past art nouveau designs they are always depicting females who are European in appearance and largely fair haired.

If you have read any of my previous blog posts you will already know I have a very mixed heritage including white and brown nationalities. I don’t relate to a typical blond and or blue eyed female, so why should I only draw them. I am also wondering why do we tend to draw face’s that are not too different from our reflection? At least that is what I had been doing. Only really having reference from life model’s, magazine’s and other publications which are most of the time prominently European looking faces. I think this is very limiting and is another way for us to not further progress as a society.

I am also an artist who is fascinated with faces, a variety of beautiful shapes and structures. Beginning with a design for my partners mum, who is a Kenyan Goan, My composition incorporates a lions head, Lupita Nyong’o (a Kenyan actress) and vine leaves which are typically seen in art nouveau pieces.

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I still don’t have as much free time on this project as desired so I have joined up with my very talented, and if I am honest more skilled colourist, partner who lives and works as an artist too.

He and I will work together I will design and do the line work, he will paint and add the colours.

I have a few unfinished illustrations that will develop over time, pictured are snippets from my previously mentioned loose papered ‘sketchbooks’.

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I am feeling very inspired by imagery and patterns from this style of art So I am integrating art nouveau arrangements with the feminist symbol.

I am teaming up with International Women’s Day derby festival committee to lend my creative hand to an exhibition they are creating for the festival day in March 2017.

These symbols I have designed will, hopefully, be coloured in an array of methods and names will be written across the fists.

The IWD derby team have been researching and discovering women from derby’s Herstory archive to collate a time line and I am volunteering to help transform the findings into an exhibition.

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Creative Spell

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I finally have a space in the studio at Blades McDowell HQ – The picture suggests messy chaos but there is underlying organisation, honest. Every folder is labelled, and separated into categories. Yes I had an exciting summer of tidying up! Planning for example has become so much easier and quicker.

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The mess is due to the creative spell I have been unleashing recently. I should say drawing spell, which would be more accurate, but I will talk more about that in a minute.

The past two blog posts have been predominantly text based so this month I have plenty of images to visually excite.

I have been put in charge of the marketing for the writers group. I am pretty chuffed with the logo I designed and it incorporates my current obsession with Art Deco design. https://www.facebook.com/RewriteBureau/

rewrite-logo

Shorter days and colder weather aside I adore autumn and in particular Halloween! Past blog post readers may have noticed my love of Buffy the vampire slayer. So take a sprinkle of an hour or two, a dash of detailed stencil cutting concentration and a small handful of using the squeegee too pull black fabric paint onto a store brought tee and I have a new favourite slogan top!

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If vampire’s were actually real it is more likely that I would run screaming but perhaps an empowering slogan t-shirt will inject confidence for a can do attitude for actual slaying of demons if they did take to the streets this Halloween.

Onto the drawing spell I mentioned above, I have taken part in #inktober for the first time this October. Much like many other artists who join in, I have found it to be very inspiring. I am using the concept of producing a daily ink sketch to kick start my imagery for my rag doll Fairytale story.

I am generally loving it and if I am being honest have been cheating a little and drawing a few to be ahead of the game on days I should actually be doing admin.

There is only a few days left but you can follow my illustrations on Instagram; https://www.instagram.com/elizabethblades/

One of my most favourite designs is a definite contender for the front page of my story. It needs some extra things added but I think it is one of my best works I have done in a while.

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I have discovered, rather fascinatingly, that even though the #inktober concept was started by an artist named Jake Parker in the USA, Indonesia apparently run there own.

Rather brilliantly to help participants along with their drawings 31 prompts are listed to be used or ignored which ever is preferred.

I have found these very useful and have been using a combination of the Indonesian prompts and the one’s Jake Parker has suggested.

After all I am, sort of, linked to this area of Asia, due to my 11% south east and oceanic part. #clutchingatstraws

My partner and I are hoping to launch another new tutoring venture at the start of the new year. Life drawing has been one of my most unexpected and loved drawing techniques to teach during the past few years.

I have been wanting to set up a regular life drawing evening class in derby, UK, for a while now. It looks like the perfect location has been found and I hope to pull my slipper socks up and market this properly.

More details on this coming soon.

I will end this post with a Halloween inspired illustration and a hint towards a fashion project I will be taking part in soon.

zombie-flapper

Happy Halloween!

Vintage Makeover shoot

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Photographed by Becky Ryan Photography http://www.beckyryanphotography.co.uk

Hair by Pin Up Curl http://pinupcurl.co.uk

Make up by The Vintage Beauty Parlour http://www.bethanyjanedavies.com/the-vintage-beauty-parlour

Vintage Boudoir make over shoot event review at 1960’s apartment in Nottinghamshire.

1960 appartment

As my sister’s car drew to a halt outside the shoot location It seemed we had been transported to a different era. A truly glorious sunny day which meant sunlight streamed through the glass walls revealing 60’s fixtures and fittings inside the apartment building.

The anxiety I had been experiencing started to fade as I glimpsed movement in the upstairs window. Nervous excitement gripped on me as I noticed ladies being pampered by the hair and make up team.

The Lovely lady who owned the house greeted me at the door. She was warm and welcoming as she guided me into the house. Interestingly she told me how companies such as M&S tkmaxx and celebrities such as the Hoff have hired out her apartment for shoots.

What surrounded me can only be described as reminiscent of an American film set, I think most people entering this house would think the same.

This style is not to everyone’s taste, but it is defiantly mine and perfect for a make over shoot. The location is themed and assists in enabling you to take on a role and forget who you are for a while. It has a vintage feel, something so very different to the present day and drenched in stories of the past.

Never one to miss an opportunity to promote my work, I chose one of my favourite creations to model, a 50’s style navy and cream striped dress. It has an upcycled faux pearl collar which I have hand sewn onto the neck line and I always feel great wearing this outfit.

 

The hair stylist was lovely, amusing and chatted away, working quickly, displaying her obvious skill.

She also had for us to view handmade flower hair pieces for us to model and or buy.

The make up artist had a calming presence putting me (and I don’t usually like wearing make up) at ease in her care.

This may sound odd to most but it had been the first time I have worn foundation, eye make up and lipstick all at once without my face feeling ‘heavy’.

I now have a new love for false eyelashes too!

There were 8 women taking part in the shoot and we were all scheduled to spend time with the photographer after we had finished with hair and make up.

Becky, the photographer is effortlessly professional and naturally talented at her craft. Knowing how to capture your best features. I instantly felt at ease, listening to her guidance for poses, which reminded me of the times when I have to direct my model’s when teaching life drawing.

My favourite feature are my freckles, passed down from my nan and I like to think they hold all my hidden attributes to my connections in Asia and the secrets of my heritage. I am pleased to say the make up artist went back after adding foundation to expose them again. This is the main reason I don’t wear foundation.

To me, my freckles sparkled in the pictures taken and it has given me confidence in the way I look, something I thought I had lost.

The experience was even more pleasant than I had expected it to be and it is now firmly etched into my happy memory bank. I can strongly recommend that you email hellobeckyryan.co.uk to express interest and to find out more information for the next makeover shoot.

Discovering my heritage and how it influences my work

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I awoke with a jolt from a dream which later felt like a premonition. I descend from a very mixed background on my father’s side and for his 65th birthday I had an ancestry DNA test done for him.

My dad has often been referred to as a Heinz 57 (even by himself) a semi derogatory term for people of mixed background . His parents were both a mix of European and Asian decent. We knew about the links with Malaysian, Indian, French, Dutch and Jewish routes but I knew there were more, or at least I had been hoping.

My Popa (Grandpa), whom died when I was very small, only discovered that he was adopted by the Blades family when he applied for his passport to come over to England. He, I don’t think, actually knew much about where he came from or how strong his links with India actually were.

I had been impatiently anticipating the results for over 10 weeks and it had clearly been affecting my dream cycles.

I dreamed so vividly about the results finally arriving but they had an odd message attached saying there had some paint on part of the sample so the lab could not decipher the whole genetic make up. Although, in my dream, part of the results appeared on a computer screen which I frustratingly could not see. It was a pretty stupid dream I know but still I woke up, like I had been doing most mornings over the past few weeks, thinking today must be the day and it was!

Although the results are only half of my genetic make up it still means a lot to me to finally have some official answers.

For the past few years, post graduating from my degree, not knowing my heritage for sure had been playing on mind. Before that time I had just accepted my parents responses of ‘your at least 70% English’. Which, as I began to learn could not be possible because British people are not even 100% ‘English’. I can’t speak for my siblings but it made me feel like they were ignoring the facts of Human history and the maths didn’t add up. If my grandparents were likely to be both a mix of European and Asian then a DNA test would be the only way to spell out the facts.

I will fondly sit and listen to nan’s stories whenever I have the chance to visit, one of my favourites being how she and my dad spent 4 months of his first year of life ‘stranded’ in India. This apparently happened after she and Popa introduced him to his dying grandmother. My Popa, I later found out, had taken them during his 2 weeks off work but ran out of money after the first week so could only afford to return to their home in Malaysia on his own. He apparently told my nan, something along the lines of ‘your parents are well off write to them and they can send you money so you can return home’. It turns out nan and dad were not exactly stranded just staying with Popa’s family until my nan had enough money to leave. Despite my nan’s somewhat dramatic retelling, I still listened in amazement.

Like most families, I am sure, personal adventure’s are often interesting and amusing to hear when reflecting on a life past. My nan is not just well travelled but she always has a new ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’ to retell a story about. I once listened for a good 2 hours on one of our phone conversations which was supposed to be a catch up after Chinese new year but transforming into ‘aunty’ Ying’s life story. Seriously, my ear grew numb by the end and I now know more than I needed to about a lady and her family that I have only met once.

These conversations and the quirky exploits about my Popa were things that filled my head as I read through what, for me particularly, where pretty surprising DNA results.

As it turns out the percentage results are not super specific to particular countries unfortunately. For this to happen everyone in the world would need to do one I imagine. At least then we would all discover that our differences should be celebrated but more importantly, demonstrating how we are all related.

On to the big results reveal then, 23% South east Asia and oceanic (which would be the Malaysian part) 17% Southern Asia (India/Pakistan) 16% Southern Europe (possibly the French bit) 13% West & Central Europe (Or this could be the French and Dutch part, unless I have another Mediterranean part we don’t know about yet!) 10% Central Asia (One I was defiantly not expecting places include Tibet, Mongolia and Afghanistan!) 10% Scandinavia (Not surprising as this was home of the Vikings) 6% GB & Ireland (I like to imagine this is all Celtic though)

Even before the process of this DNA journey I loved to hear people’s stories. Every human has one to tell from History to HERstory we can learn valuable lessons.

As an illustrator and storyteller I feel it is my duty to document such stories and the journey of the human race. It is especially important to capture and create characters through my drawings that properly reflect the society that surrounds us.

Art is a perfect tool for educating the misinformed particularly in regards to the recent happenings in politics.

I am beginning with my story, A rag doll fairytale to create images depicting a mixed race family. My recent discoveries into my own mixed background has only fuelled my passion to be bold and design work which reflects who I am and my beliefs.

Through my facilitation work as a community artist I am also in discussion about a project happening in 2017 to work with a community to print murals which illustrate family stories, their history, heritage and adventure’s.

I hope to inspire others with uncovering my ancestry and encourage others to the same.

Rag Doll Project

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Just before 2015 drew to a close the Lichfield city festival did a call out for textile artists to submit CVs for consideration for their rag doll trail concept. I had been shortlisted to present my proposal at the end of January 2016.

Luckily my idea had been the only no sew method making it inclusive for all (including those struggling with dexterity). I had a bold concept that utilized recycled materials that would work well along side the home made dolls (sewn) that would also be on the trail.

The concept appealed to me because the theme would be recycled fabric which is something I endeavour to promote throughout my work. After the festival the dolls would be donated to refugee charities, a beautiful way to end the project. I loved that so many of these toys were hand made, by children, for children who have very little.

I live close to a recycle and play centre in Derby which provided all the fabric needed to create the dolls. I prepared for 6 or so workshops which would run during April and May. After a month’s prep I had bags of fabric cut into strips, ready to be made doll shaped!

The concept was that members of the community would make the dolls, which would then become the rag doll trail. To encourage young children to part with their newly made toys I created a ‘how to’ zine 1 so they could make their own at home (or whenever they wanted!).

The project was fun, exciting, rewarding and a big reminder why I do what I do and that I love my job. Despite the stress I can get myself into, every project I work on I am learning what does and does not work which makes me continue to improve as an artist and tutor. 2

I met many lovely people during my time in Lichfield and the surrounding area, and it is looking likely that I will be working on another project at next years festival so watch this space!

The following is the rag-doll project journey in pictures:

Every trip to Lichfield began with bags and trolleys stuffed with resources.3

Cannock chase museum, my first ‘drop in’ workshop. A Large doll made by women seeking refuge from abuse at a local centre, and a few of the many dolls created at the Cannock chase drop in session.

Following a drop in session at the Lichfield Garrick theatre, these large dolls posed in front of a very showbiz backdrop.6

Possibly my favourite location to work in was a beautifully decked out shop in Wolverhampton. A sea themed doll and beautifully designed smaller ones were created.

I had the most fun though running a workshop for a very welcoming breast cancer support group at Burntwood library. I adored the garden queen doll and small dolls that they lovingly made.

My last workshop on the last weekend of the festival. Set up in front of the hauntingly beautiful Cathedral.

Finally a chance to take a look at the rag doll trail… and I spotted one of my favourites, a mermaid!

Storyteller

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I am a bit of daydreamer. I can quite easily become distracted by all the thoughts and ideas whizzing about in my brain. I used to get told off in school for staring out the window, quite literally, at the times when the teacher seemed to be speaking endlessly about a topic that did not interest me in the slightest.

A short attention span could be put down to my dyslexia, but I like to think it is because there are so many things I want to do, make, draw and invent. My passion for what I do is the thing that drives me to finish all of my creations. Even though dyslexia effects my numeracy and literacy I have always been encouraged to write even if you can’t spell a word properly.

I adored books and reading, and I would pretend read aloud to myself thinking up a story of my own following the pictures. Eventually, the encouragement spurred me on to write and illustrate many books throughout my childhood, which is what birthed my passion to study Illustration as a degree. Through my drawn lines I am describing what I can not put into words.

However… I would like to announce that I have written a story! one that I am pretty pleased with too.

RD front cover

Despite my love for the traditional book lay out my story will be presented in comic format. The decision for this came about when I went to Comix Creatrix: 100 women making comics, a fantastic exhibition at the House of Illustration in London.

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Inspiration flew at me from all angles after reading the HERstories and viewing a vast array of styles. After postcards, zines and gifts were purchased at the shop I knew my story would be in the format of a graphic novel. After postcards, zines and gifts were purchased at the shop I knew my story would be in the format of a graphic novel.

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I have joined a writers group, the Rewrite Bureau, which encourages me to write regularly. The group is filled with people with varied interests but we are all in the same position – in search for inspiration and motivation with our writing projects. The first draft of my story has been passed around friends and the other members of the writers group to gain valuable feedback and assistance with editing.

My story has been written simply, sentence by sentence, sometimes split into sections so that I can add ‘directions’ for myself. These prompts help me to plan out the images, a stage in the process I am very much enjoying. It is helping me to properly visualise exactly how the story will flow.

The story is based on the first example rag doll I created for an exciting project I have been involved in recently.

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The project is a rag doll trail as part of Lichfield Festival, happening from July 1st to July 10th. More about my work on this project will be explained in the next blog but for now, if you can, go check the festival out!

http://www.lichfieldfestival.org/

The rag doll concept for my story presented itself so vividly in my mind. I saw the whole thing mapped out before any words were formed.

Ever since the end of my studies on the Illustration degree I have wanted to have a book published, I am determined to make this happen with this story – A Rag Doll Fairytale.

Aubrey’s Daughter

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I love my dad’s name, Aubrey. It’s unusual, I have not come across someone with this name yet.

It has become my online shop name — along with my partner, Brendan, also known as Charlotte’s son. http://www.eco-create.co.uk/shops/aubreys-daughter-charlottes-son/

The shop is filled with up-cycled and handmade clothing. DSCN2637

So far I am offering simple designs, very loose fitting and mostly suitable for small to medium size. I will be developing more up-cycled clothing when I have some free time over the Summer months. Teaching work will ease up around this time too, which means less lesson-planning and exemplar making to stress over. Yay! I love all the aspects of my work, but some rest is always nice.

Brendan’s beautiful mini top hats and fascinators will also be available to buy. They are crafted from cardboard tubing then decorated with paper mache or sewn with fabrics.

I have been playing around with a zip neck dress concept. I discovered the idea a few years ago in a book that provided annoyingly little in the way of instruction. I do read pictures more easily than words, though, so I figured it out by analysing the illustration! My finished piece is actually quite different, but I am pleased and looking forward to creating more.

This style of dress will be lovely and cooling, perfect for the warmer weather, and I have collected some unused shawls which will work as a great base. I will be crafting them this month coming, and they will be available to buy soon after.

As well as my designs, I offer one to one classes for simple machine sewing techniques, creating your own clothing and/or mending and up-cycling items from your wardrobe.

In addition to my sewing skills I am an artist with a background in printmaking, painting and drawing and I am pleased to offer tuition in these subjects.

I can tailor sessions to meet the needs of the learner and have worked with a variety of ages from child to adult, including people with special needs.

If you are interested and live in the Derby (UK) area then please get in touch for more details.

‘I would highly recommend using Liz’s services to anyone. I was made to feel very welcome in her home and found her to be professional, well prepared, approachable and a fabulous teacher. She was passionate about what she does and inspiring. I look forward to seeing her again in the future for further learning.’ Simone (Student, one to one machine sewing tuition)