Studio Musings

posted in: Musings, Observations, Uncategorized | 2

One of the things I find marvellous about the Internet age is accessibility, not only is it easier than ever before to share art and delight in creation but now more than ever we can see the studio spaces where works are dreamed up, brought forth and given to the world.

I love looking at other artist’s studios. These spaces vary wildly in character, size and style ­matching the personality of the artists they belong to. Sometimes I find myself feeling rather envious of the lovely working environs of the creators I admire. Yes, I’m not ashamed to admit I have studio envy. Often I admire the space where the work is made as much as the artist’s work.

Studio envy can be a fickle thing. Sometimes it can be a negative force, a tool self doubt uses to reinforce feelings of inadequacy (“everybody has better working spaces than me”). I often remind myself in those moments that this marvellous view I’m seeing is one snapshot, a tailored view into someone else’s life. Not only do they probably have similar self doubt at times, you can guarantee that perfect studio space doesn’t look that tidy all the time ­ creating can be messy work. Other times my studio envy can be channeled into a positive, seeing the loveliness as something to aim towards within my own studio and in the meantime being grateful that I get to see these artists succeeding and sharing.

Recently I had a big (and I mean BIG furniture shifting, culling of stuff level) Spring sort out of my own studio space, as I did this I felt both some envy for other spaces and a feeling of relief that when it was done it would be at least functional. I knew my studio still wasn’t perfect, but it’s a space I can create in and that’s the main purpose.

Flushed with the success of weeks tidying I posted a picture of my desk on Facebook.

studio desk

You can imagine my surprise when not only did it receive a lot of positive engagement it also became the focus of some studio envy!

Life’s funny that way sometimes right?

So before I go making a studio mess to the level I’m embarrassed to share with the world. I thought I’d show you some snaps beyond that one pretty table (which incidentally doesn’t look nearly that tidy now) in the hopes that any envy it brings will be of the positive sort…

studio mantle shelves
cluttered mantle shelves

 These shelves sit directly behind my main desk, roughly in the middle of the room (probably would’ve had a fireplace here in some other lifetime). As you can see they feature a sort of organised chaos, arguably a fair representation of my entire studio where my priority seems to be “squeeze it all in and hope I can find it when I need it”.

studio sewing desk

The sewing desk. I have three “desks” in total, the main table featured above, this sewing desk and a little single school desk – an original from my old primary school. This desk is where most of the sewing related tools live and on the rare occasion I actually use my sewing machine it sits here too.

studio wall
the ribbon wall

The day I created this storage wall was one of the proudest moments in my studio’s history. Storage solutions gleaned from the marvellous internet morphed into a useful yet oddly visually pleasing collection on my wall. There are ribbon racks – pretty garden scroll brackets with dowels and strings holding the ribbons/tapes. Vintage coat hangers filled with extra tape rolls.  Rolls of fabric, dowels and other tall things are held in the corner with a leather belt (not quite the naughty corner but out of mischief). And finally the half hanging baskets, originally I saw this idea being used for toy storage, they’re perfect for raffia and balls of string.

All around my studio i have tried to use interesting storage containers and decorate shelf edges. Often my studio envy focuses upon the pretty items and perfect storage pieces (like wooden curiosity cabinets – oh how i would love one), so by gradually filling my own studio with little pieces of loveliness I add to my enjoyment of the space. Each piece tells a little of my journey too now I think about it.

(click on these pics for more description)

inspiration shelf studio

The final element in my rambling studio tour is this shelf.  I call it the inspiration shelf, I’m gradually filling it with pieces that call to my creative soul. Of course there are plenty of similarly yummy items around  (including my wooden mushroom collection, more on that later)  but this shelf represents a conscious effort on my part to focus on things that bring me joy – something of a theme of mine this year. Favourites so far include my flamingo feather, crochet doily, wonders by cart before the horse and a little brass bowl I found last week.

Well that concludes my little studio tour, note the lack of pictures involving plastic storage boxes and bulging wardrobes – they just aren’t that pretty to look at! Now I’m off to make more mess in the studio and who knows maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to share the messy side of studio life with you too.

Flower Brooches – The Process

I figure now would be a good time to share with you the process I go through when making my Knot woven Flower Brooches.

It’s quite an involved process, with plenty of knot weaving and hand-stitching. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m allergic to quick, non-labour intensive practices. I seem naturally drawn to the longer complicated ideas, like a moth to flame but instead of getting burned I get wrist ache!

Rather than bombard you with photographs of each minute difference, here are a few shots from the various stages:


First I cut out various leaf shapes. I love to use everyday materials in my creations so these leaves are made from fabric designed for use in roller blinds, it is treated with stiffener so makes lovely durable leaves. I soften the edges of the leaves (trust me that would be a boring photo) before hand embroidering leafy details.

Next I Knot Weave the flowers using strips of fabric – all kinds including some raw looking silk. Once I have a bloom ready I spend a little time choosing a leaf that suits.

Then it all comes together when I pick buttons from my collection. Many of the buttons I use for these flowers are extra special, not just vintage, because they are inherited from my grandmother.

choosing buttons

Once I’m happy with the look of the flower I sew everything together and hand stitch a brooch finding to the back. I create a little self-contained tab for each brooch bar so its all neat looking. I’m a little ashamed to admit I was a bit (very) proud of myself the day I came up with that enclosure design in matching leaf fabric…

brooch back

Here’s a few examples of finished Flower Brooches

They have become one of my favourite items to create, especially because it combines my favoured technique of knot weaving with hand embroidery. Plus I get to share my extra special buttons in a process that uses everyday materials. Creating something to be pinned anywhere you like. I’m a sucker for brooches at the moment but I also adorn other things like curtains with these flowers, as my mother would say “the possibilities are endless”

Fresh Start – Sharing my Creative Life

posted in: Annoucements, Uncategorized | 0

Below will be a bunch of open, honest words from me. This post is going to be a lot deeper and more personal than any of my previous posts, its going to be long and probably rambling, I hope we can handle that.

So its March 2015, already… I’ve been planning on writing a blog post (a fresh start to the year) for two whole months. I can’t say it’s the start to the year I had planned – January was a burnt out blur and February disappeared in a cloud of creative drive and planning.

My last post was in August (so long ago!!) and it’s been even more of a whirlwind (tornado or extreme weather of your choice) since then.

You may or may not be aware that I started my creative business officially back in July 2014. Now if you were a reader of my blog you may have noticed I had plenty of presence back then. I was here at this keyboard often with snaps and ideas, not as many as were in my head but I at least showed up regularly. 

Things changed pretty quickly around August (as I mentioned in my August was a whirlwind post) I got really busy with events and fairs, putting my creative offerings out there and working with other creatives became an intense part of my life, plus I was creating more than ever before too (I still have scores of ideas and plans for the future too but that’s a ramble for another day).

Trouble is in all that wonder of new opportunity and creative outpouring I couldn’t find balance, time slipped away from me. I let all my online presence slide…faded and abandoned before I’d really got started. So I didn’t share here, or in my gallery or social media the full joy and whirlwind that my creative life has become.

I’m going to be honest here, I feel really guilty about that. It may sound silly but I kept promising myself I’d post more, share more and update my gallery…and, and. But I didn’t. Every time I missed my self imposed deadline or broke that promise to myself and you I felt guilty. More and more guilt lead to more failure (see a cycle forming here – I do) which in turn made it harder to just turn up here in front of the screen and share.

Share all the little things and successes and most of all share my creations.

So, something has got to give.

New plan:

To be present, sharing both here and there (social media) often. But, importantly, WHEN I can. I’m going to try and be as authentic as I can, just showing up and sharing – whether that’s as rambling as this post or a bunch of creative snapshots I’ll be here. 

No more deadlines – eg weekly studio snapshot Sunday – simply because, clearly, I cannot sustain that style of posting. I will still share behind the scenes and in progress creative endeavours, also finished pieces and adventures not directly linked to my practice (chocolate monster may feature). I’ll also try to share when exciting events and projects happen, hopefully before and during too!

I guess to sum all these words up, I want you to know that I think sharing my creative life with you is important. I want to share authentically and not quite so sporadically. But I’m also striving for balance and learning how pressuring myself the way I have been (read beating myself up about stuff) is not the way to achieve that balance.

Thank you for reading this.

Here’s hoping there will be another post for you here soon.

August was a whirlwind

A month long whirlwind that included: organising, creating, launching an art fair, turning the house upside down, creating some more, painting walls, re-carpeting, dog walks, a couple more art fairs, poster designing, logo and business card completion, putting the house back together and a little more creating.

I also caught the first cold I’ve had in a year – perfect timing.

So that’s why you haven’t heard a lot from me recently.

I didn’t expect August to be that busy so I wasn’t really prepared. Pinnacle Arts fair was a sudden and brilliant opportunity, the sort of artists co-operative venture that sings to my creative soul. If all goes well Pinnacle will turn into something truly special.

We’ve also been re-decorating our lovely victorian house, which involved renewing two carpets and nearly a week just painting the hallway. During which chocolate monster tried her very best to blend in with other spaniels by painting her ears, sides and tail with emulsion.

I now attend an arts & craft fair Every Weekend – Treasure and the Compass Artisan Fair I’ve been doing for a few months now. Both are held at local pubs. I now also go to Pinnacle Arts Fair at Sutton Harbour, which is on the 2nd and 4th weekend each month. Additionally I help organise all three of these local events.

Plus through all the above I’ve been busy creating – everything from origami earrings and button necklaces to knot weaving coasters and hand twisting fabric yarn. I think at one point I spent the best part of three days filling a jar with floral paper hearts.

It really has been a whirlwind month, hopefully during future whirlwinds I’ll be better at informing you as I go rather than during the aftermath.

Here’s a few creative snaps I took along the way:

(click to enlarge and find out more)

I hope you had a good August, I’ll try to keep you updated with my September adventures more frequently!

Studio Snap Sunday – Plenty of Paper

Every Studio Snap Sunday I show a little snapshot of my studio, this could include snaps of my workspace, whatever is on my ‘desk’ that day, sneaky peaks at a process or teasing looks at wonderful items and materials I’ve got hidden away in my studio. 

There is plenty of paper on my desk today:

Studio Snap Sunday - plenty of paper. Louise S.A. Allen. Everyday Wonders
Origami Puzzler hearts


I’m preparing to make some more jewellery and garlands using paper. So I’ve been a busy bee folding, rolling, gluing and varnishing. I find it works best if I work in small batches. Ive been making origami retro puzzler hearts (I’m fast running out of retro puzzler book now!), origami stars from an old novel and paper beads from another book.

Studio Snap Sunday - plenty of paper. Louise S.A. Allen. Everyday Wonders
A small amount of Paper beads
Studio Snap Sunday - plenty of paper. Louise S.A. Allen. Everyday Wonders
Folded Book stars – waiting for their sequins

As you can see with this many small bits of paper on my desk I need to keep them contained, today I’m using some of my odd glass pieces. This little Cider tasting glass is one of my favourites…

Studio Snap Sunday - plenty of paper. Louise S.A. Allen. Everyday Wonders

Hope you’re having a lovely Sunday, see you next week for another Studio Snap

Studio Snap Sunday – Beautiful Books

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Last Sunday I mentioned that I planned to show you some more snaps from my workspace. I decided to show you a selection of favourites from my studio bookcase. I may do this from time to time, especially if I find a particular gem in book form.

My studio bookcase contains a combination of three “types” of book:

  + Reference books – inspiration for drawings etc.

+ Technical books – skill bases such as spinning, knitting or drawing techniques

+ Artist books – publications showcasing the creations of other artists

In a previous Studio Snap I spoke about inspiration books I had created from salvaged books and gathered images (read the full post here) but I also collect various books for reference such as vintage gardening books or old Sotherby’s catalogues such as this one:

Such books are great inspiration for drawings. If I’m stuck in the studio with too many ideas bubbling at once, I find working with images like the page above as a starting point soothes and focuses me whilst maintaining drawing skill.

This next book is an example of a technical type:

This book has been a trusted resource of mine for years, I first turned to it when I was practicing life drawing. It was instrumental in the process of me learning to draw hands.

Another well thumbed favourite:

Annemieke Mein is one of my favourite textile artists, her work is exquisite. So is her book.

The final Book I’m going to show you today is a family heirloom:

My mother passed it on to me when I was small (maybe 6 or 7yrs old), though she still uses it from time to time. This book taught me how to embroider and even now I use it for stitch references both in embroidery and knitting. It has that gorgeous old book smell and the pages are yellowing with age. Somewhere instead is even a pressed flower I placed there years ago and now use as a book mark!

The illustrations are wonderful too, don’t you agree?

Intuitive Carving

Years ago I went on a brief art retreat, among the skills introduced was stone carving. For speed and practice we were supplied with soft stone. Taking inspiration from the ocean and my local coastline I created these two small pieces:

Yesterday (over 5 years on) I discovered a half carved chunk of breeze block. I had forgotten it completely until by chance I came across it in the cellar. When I had got home from that art retreat I had started carving the soft stone in-keeping with the sea theme and somehow it ended up abandoned. Since the breeze block was so soft all the detail i had carved had worn away over the intervening years, leaving only the basic shape.

So I took it outside to my garden, armed with some old odd tools, and just carved intuitively.

Intuitive carving = carving without a plan. Just a vague idea, a sunny afternoon and a butter knife.

As I carved I tried not to think about the results of my marks. Focusing instead on the process and envisioning elements from the sea. Fish gills, coils of seaweed and pebbles all came to mind as inspiration. After many hours and a lot of dust I had this:

An unexpected project, I found this a really enjoyable departure from my other recent projects. I plan to paint and seal this block with a few protective layers so the details won’t get worn so quickly.

I also had to fend off chocolate monster a few times during carving and photographing – she’s under the impression my carving should be for her to play with…

intuitive carving, stone carving by Louise S.A. Allen
Chocolate monster preparing to pounce

Studio Snap Sunday – Raffia Knot weaving

Today I though I’d show you one of the projects I’ve been running in the background.

Sometimes with the longer, labour intensive, processes such as knot weaving or drop spinning I maintain the process alongside all my other projects. Admittedly a lot of my creations are incredibly time consuming, most of them actually, but with a process like the one I’m featuring today its nice to pick it up occasionally rather than spend days solidly slogging. As an intermittent project I enjoy the process, if I were to work on it continuously – well I’d end up with wrist ache for a start.

I’m creating a wall hanging using dark green raffia, it starts out as a tangle such as this:

Studio Snap Sunday - Raffia Knot weaving

Using a darning needle I have been knot weaving (see this post if you are interested) back and forth, much like knitting but without turning the work. Gradually it builds this net like pattern.

Studio Snap Sunday - Raffia Knot weaving
in progress

I’m finding the different widths of the raffia strips create massive variations in the stitches. And adding on new pieces of raffia is leaving me with lots of knots and bits to weave in/ tidy up. The knot weaving is currently attached to a thin piece of bamboo, when I’m happy with the length I’ll then use this bamboo to hang the finished piece. I don’t yet know if I’m going to work on top of the weaving or leave it “plain” because I’m letting the work grow organically it may take some time before that decision is made.

I hope you enjoyed this little insight into my practice. Next Sunday I plan to post some more studio snaps, its been awhile since I last showed you my workspace.

Knitting Paper – Knitted Canvas

In addition to crocheting with and making rings from paper yarn I’ve also been knitting with it…

In fact, I produced this fairly abstract knitted artwork from a mixture of materials. The knitting starts with hand-twisted paper yarn (made from a phonebook). Then there’s a section of finger-knitted pink ribbon yarn, followed by twine and pale blue acrylic yarn. Finally there’s a small section of knitted raffia.

Knitting Paper - Knitted Canvas
A sideways view

The whole strangely shaped panel has then been carefully sewn onto a canvas frame stretched with green roller blind fabric. This is the final piece:

Knitting Paper - Knitted Canvas

I’m immensely enjoying exploring the possibilities of the paper yarn I’ve spent so many hours hand twisting. This knitted artwork may become the first of many featuring this technique. I found the process satisfying and the results exceeded my expectations, already I have a few ideas to play with.

Studio Snapshot Sunday – Paper Bowl

Last Sunday I was preparing to make a crochet vessel out of paper (see the post here). I’m happy to announce I successfully created a little dish using some mixed teal hand-twisted crepe yarn.

First I made 16.5 metres of crepe yarn, such as this:


Then I used it to crochet this little round shallow dish:

I’m rather happy with the outcome, it measures roughly 12cm across.

I did mention in the last studio snapshot post that I planned to use a big bundle of phonebook yarn (which I’ve measured at roughly 48m!). I still plan to use that yarn to make a crochet vase or big bowl. Once I’ve got a feel for the technique I should be confident enough to be quite ambitious with the design – I’ll keep you updated of my progress.

Studio Snapshot Sunday - Paper Bowl

I’ve also been hand-twisting this teal/turquoise and white crepe this week, that little bundle is 10m so should make a nice little bowl too…

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