I learnt to draw!

I learnt to draw!

At school I hated art lessons. I didn’t think I had the correct skills to be an artist and I thought if I couldn’t create an accurate image or representation of an object or person, then there was no point. I remember asking my parents for help with homework and they looked as stuck as I, referring me to my talented grandfather instead. Despite my early love of making things (I loved nothing more than a friendship bracelet set from the toy shop) I just felt like a massive failure when it came to ‘real art’.

Flash forward several years to when my craft addictions took root and I was working in a school as a learning support assistant, an LSA who LOVED going into art and design classes. I couldn’t get enough; I even got the art teacher to set me the homework that the A Level students were doing just so I could get involved and try out something new. Art lessons suddenly felt different; I’m not sure if it was because the curriculum became wider and looked more at a variety of different art forms, or if my concept of art had changed. Either way I loved it and when I trained to be a drama teacher, I felt that art could be my 2nd subject (most teachers of arts based subjects are often required to teach a 2nd subject unfortunately!) despite the fact that I still thought I couldn’t draw properly.

During my adult life I have tried so many different arts and crafts. One thing that I had realised over the years is that I like everything I do to be made by me and not copied or using someone else’s art work to create a bigger piece of art. So for example, if I was making a gift card for someone, I wouldn’t want the key image on the card to be a stamp or a piece of die cut card that someone else had designed. Again the one thing I thought was standing in my way of producing my own designs was that I couldn’t draw anything too complex or detailed. I wanted to change this.

At the tail end of 2016 my mum and I decided that we wanted to find somewhere that we could learn to draw so that we could start 2017 creatively. After a search of Google we were left confused and unsure of exactly what we wanted to do. There were so many options; local colleges offering combined drawing and painting courses (I loved that idea!), some went on for a year, a full term or a half term. Some were free whilst others were really expensive and gave you a diploma at the end… we really didn’t know what we wanted. Eventually I posted the question asking for recommendations on a local Facebook page and was directed to Anna Roth a local artist/ art teacher who runs adult art classes local to where my mum lives. She was advertising a new class ‘Drawing Essentials.’

Anna’s classes were really well structured over 4 two-hour lessons on a Monday morning. Each week focused on another key skill needed when drawing. Week 1 saw us beginning to understand the different materials we needed for drawing (different type of pencils, rubbers, charcoal, paper) and using them for mark making, then using these marks to create different textures and shading. During the second lesson we moved on to looking at form and shape, making sure that our drawings were using the correct proportions and positioned correctly on the page using a grid or a set of lines drawn free hand. Our third lesson focused on composition and how to make our drawings interesting and pleasing to the eye, we looked at how an image is composed to draw our eye to a certain place in the image. During the fourth and final lesson we looked at creating perspective within our images by using vanishing points and guide lines. This was great to create depth to an image, but also for me to tackle something that I thought was beyond my abilities… landscape images.

Starting every Monday morning of January in this way has been great to get my creativity flowing right at the beginning of the year. Getting a basic understanding of a pencil (which one to use when and how to hold it) was useful in itself. It has also been a really good starting point for how I approach constructing an image in any medium. I am working hard at the moment to improve my photography skills and I can clearly see the links between drawing an image and composing a photograph.

The course has given me a great overview of these basic skills – I now need to work out how to put it all together to create one effective image! It has become very clear to me that I don’t always like creating perfect images. I like a more abstract image when I draw or create my own designs. I also think these skills will work very well when I move forward to explore working with paint, particularly using the ideas of form, shape and composition.

Have you got any tips for me? Want to know more about my drawing equipment or the classes I have done? Then leave me a comment below… I love feedback and chatting to people who are reading!

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The Best Rosemary Focaccia

The Best Rosemary Focaccia

I have been planning to bake some Rosemary Focaccia for about 2 years now. Since the day my friend and housemate Phoebe came home from a long day of chef training at Leiths School of Food and Wine with the most delicious salty loaf of focaccia bread I have wanted to make an attempt at my own. That first slice was amazing and then when she told me that she didn’t want to eat any of it and I could enjoy the whole loaf… well I was in bread heaven. It lasted a day, maybe two at most.

Recently I achieved the dream of owning a KitchenAid mixer and seeing as I have had the ingredients in my cupboard, waiting to be used pretty much since that day Phoebe came home, I thought it was about time I used the dough hook on the mixer and see if I could recreate that scrummy focaccia. The recipe I used was from Leiths How To Cook book and can also be found on their blog here. I really couldn’t find much fault with it. I did make a couple of adaptations that are not mentioned in the recipe, but were on advise from Phoebe (so useful knowing a good chef!) however she had given me this advice two years ago!

The recipe is pretty simple to follow with clearly defined steps and was pretty quick even with an hour to prove the dough. The recipe says to use 10g of fresh yeast. I couldn’t find this, so went for fast action yeast. I added this to the flour instead of dissolving in warm water and sifted both into the bowl. The recipe doesn’t say to sift the flour, but on habit I did, as this is something I always do when baking, unless it says otherwise. For me it makes my bakes a little more airy. I also didn’t hand knead the dough, instead I used the mixer with the dough hook. This really took the hard work out of the kneading. I did miss the physical kneading process, but am glad that I didn’t have to clean up quite as much afterwards, especially with the wetter dough of a focaccia.

After waiting the hour for the dough to prove and the 20-minute baking time, all the while the flat temptingly smelling of rosemary, I was able to sample my first batch of focaccia. I was not disappointed. Personally, I felt that it was ever so slightly too salty and when I next use this recipe I would reduce the amount of sea salt that I sprinkle on top of the loaf before baking. My chef on the end of the phone said that if I reduced the salt that was within the dough, most of the flavour would disappear and the yeast needs it, so best to reduce the salt that is on top of the loaf.

Other than that it was delicious and have already made my way through a fair amount of the loaf. It is yummy simply with a bit of butter, or you could add some Italian salami to make a little sandwich to take to work with you. My favourite bit was turning over the loaf and seeing the hidden green indented pattern that a sprig of rosemary had left underneath during baking. When I sent a pic over to Phoebe the feedback was it has “even air bubbles all the way through which shows it has been proved correctly – 5/5.” Sounds good to me!

I am really pleased with my first foray into baking bread other than traditional Kosher challah – I have a great recipe for that to share at a later date!
My friend Phoebe Saffron Findley is co-hosting a supper club in Leeds on Monday 23rd January 2017 in support of #CookForSyria and it is looking to be an amazing night of Syrian inspired food (wonderfully cooked by her of course), all in aid of a fantastic cause. If you are in Leeds and free, then book yourself a ticket here and there is more information about the event on their facebook page.

Brentford Picture Book

Brentford Picture Book

I’m a proud North Londoner through and through. I love wandering around Hampstead, stopping for a crepe and taking a slow stroll around the Heath, going for a coffee and catch up with friends in Muswell Hill or Highgate and enjoying the all important food and drink in Islington. Very occasionally you may have even caught a rare sighting of me walking a dog in the leafy Hertfordshire lanes where my parents live. I always imagined that I would make my own home in one of these areas where I felt so comfortable. Don’t get me wrong… I am very aware of the cost of living there, but a girl could dream and she could always find a flat share in a lovely house.

Flash-forward to today and here I am sitting in my West London, Brentford Lock flat, learning what it means to be married and sharing my life with someone. All the while getting used to a totally new part of London place and finding that I am beginning to fall in love with it. Brentford is located right where the River Thames and River Brent meet and is an ‘up and coming’ young professional town. Its close location to several large companies makes it a great location for the professionals that work there. As with most of West London, its tube and train links to central London are slow, however the introduction of the new Crossrail Elizabeth Line promises to greatly improve this.

I love living so close to water. I don’t know what it is, but if I am near water I feel relaxed and often more inspired to get out of the house to find some inspiration. I have always loved spending time close to the River Thames and to live right by it is quite lovely. My South Londoner husband is quite happy living here… and for the moment I am too. But I do wonder how long I can stay under the spell of ‘The River’. For now I am delighting in the fact that actually our flat is on the north side of the river, so my south of the river headaches remain hidden enough for me to enjoy Brentford and its river position.

Here I am sharing a bit of a picture album post of a reasonably recent sunny day walk around Brentford. Something I loved during this walk is the mixture of weathered industrial remnants versus the more homely narrow boat culture with the beautiful moored boats in the area. I hope you enjoy my amateur photography… rest assured, one of my 2017 goals is to improve my photography, so watch this space and follow my instagram account @laurendloves to follow my progress and my attempt to complete the #makelight365 challenge.

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We got married!

We got married!

Yes so I’ve been MIA for months – that’s because I was attempting to work full time and plan a wedding and my little brain couldn’t deal with more than that at once. But I was actually blogging through the wedding process for the wonderful Smashing The Glass Jewish wedding blog. She put a request out for real Jewish or Jew-ish brides who were planning their weddings to write posts in the build up to their Big Day and I was lucky enough to be one of the 5 brides to be picked. Being one half of an inter-faith relationship meant that I was able to write about the process we went though in planning a day that reflected us perfectly (see this post) and also I was able to talk about how we designed our day ensuring to draw on my crafty love (see this post). It was so much fun writing for Karen at STG and am so excited to have her blog about our wedding next year. I am even discussing potential future posts to write about DIY weddings and interfaith marriage… watch that space!

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Our handmade chuppah

You can see in this DIY post that I had a distinct image for our day in mind and we did a lot of bits ourselves. The most successful crafty part of our day was the Chuppah (a canopy that is the central part of a Jewish wedding ceremony that often represents the new couple’s first home together, surrounded and supported by their nearest and dearest). As you can see in this picture (taken by the wonderful Photography by Krishanthi) we collected photos of all our friends and family that have been involved throughout our lives and transferred them on to a light fabric. I then sewed the fabric together with a slightly tougher fabric and sewed on some ties at the top. This was tied atop of 4 birch poles (really difficult to source!) that had eye hooks screwed into them. Our florist Lily’s Flowers added fern, ivy and flowers that matched the bridal flowers and decorations that was in the rest of the room. Originally we wanted the structure to be propped up by friends and family, but when we took delivery of the birch poles we realised that they were a bit heavier than we planned. With that in mind we found 4 galvanised buckets in Homebase and filled them with shingle to ensure the whole structure was freestanding.

It was such a beautiful day and really has shown my husband (!!!!) and I just what we are capable of when we combine my creativity and his ‘action taking’ skills together. Now I’m excited to use all the left over props and decorations from the wedding to create lasting items for our home – I am thinking a coffee table made out of the wooden crates we used.

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Handmade table names and place cards

Over the summer I gave up my full time teaching career in an attempt to focus more on interests outside of the classroom. I am still teaching a little bit at the school that I was at previously, but I came to the realisation that full time teaching in a secondary school was becoming slightly detrimental to my physical and mental well being and being a drama teacher, my subject is changing almost beyond recognition. I was finding it more and more difficult to deal with. Now I am freelancing and looking forward to all the opportunities that are already coming my way. I am now properly returning to blogging at laurendloves.com and I am so excited!! I am going to continue attempting to clear out my craft cupboards and keep a track of all the skills I’m teaching myself or using regularly. I may even get my camera out and film the odd ‘how-to’…

Please let me know if you have any feedback on any of my posts or if there is anything particular you may wish to see.

 

All pictures were from Photos by Krishanthi

A page of miracle doodles

  

To most people this image will probably look like a page of name doodles… but to me this is a little page of miracles. Here is why…

I usually attribute my crafty beginnings to being a bit bored and lonely during my first year at university way back when. But it probably went much further back than that. Way back to my DNA. You see my Grandpa was a very talented sign writer, some went so far as to say he was an artist (which I certainly agree with). He was known for his precision, refusing to get anything wrong in his work. If it went wrong he’d simply start again. He carried this in to the kitchen too, helping my Grandma make her famous chicken soup. The carrots and kneidlach had to be exactly the same shape and size… If not, it was not put into the soup. 

I’d like to think that a little bit of his artistic side has rubbed off on me. I may not have the most precise style, or like a perfectly neat finish in the things I make or buy, but I too do not like to make mistakes. I will scrap something I’ve made if I don’t think it’s perfect and will often give up learning news skills if I don’t think I’m good enough to get it right. 

Almost 18 years ago my beloved Grandpa Max passed away. Just after this my Grandmother (and legendary hoarder – definitely where I get my hoarding genes from!) moved out of her London West End home to live closer to us. In an attempt to help her declutter before the move, I was asked if I wanted to have my Grandpa’s old sign writing supplies. I obviously said yes and they were transferred from one hoarder, to me… the other hoarder.

Fast track those 18 years and these supplies were still sitting in a box on top of my cupboard at my parents house. As you’ll soon enough find out, my current craft du jour is calligraphy (more in that another time) and some distant memory said that my Grandpa’s supplies may have some calligraphy pens. So I dug them out to see if anything was usable. Amongst the lettering structure books and old felt tip pens from Woolworths I did find some treasures. There were some old and slightly rusty nibs and holders alongside some strange measuring contraptions that probably have a proper name. I also found a set of 12 Zig calligraphy pens that looked quite nice. I was instantly transported back to ‘the good ole days’ to the birthday cards my brother and I got that had been expertly written by our Grandpa’s hand. We could never quite believe that our Grandpa could write like that. Every year since, when I open my birthday cards I always think of his writing and miss him a little bit more.

Whilst I knew that I would never be able to write as well as Grandpa Max, I still wanted to see if any of the pens had any ink left in them. I opened them and in true Lauren style started doodling my name with the pink pen. Yep you guessed it… They worked! Not only did they work, but they wrote smoothly and clearly as if they were fresh out of the packet. They must have sat untouched for almost 19 or 20 years by this point and they have not nearly dried out. If that isn’t an indication of a top quality pen then I don’t know what is. Personally I think it’s a sign from Grandpa Max to get myself into gear and get onto a calligraphy course… More on that after my workshop at Quill in a few weeks time.

For now however I’m off to play with the magic pens!

Time to admit it… I am a craft hoarder

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There were boxes everywhere when my fiancé and I finally moved into our new flat. We had a load of loyal family helping us out with the move and I was the white van driver for the day. I was also in charge of allocating boxes to the correct location whilst everyone else schlepped the boxes. We had been living in a small studio flat and most of my stuff had been put into storage or left at my parent’s home. So it was a pretty extensive amalgamation of boxes and furniture. It was very confusing! John, my fiancé, was not very impressed with me that evening. Not only was everything just randomly dumped in any odd place, but the whole place was also over run with my ‘craft crap’ as John liked to call it. I was told to throw stuff away, but I bravely convinced everyone that we would have plenty of room to store it all. In reality I didn’t know where this ‘plenty of room’ was and was getting a bit concerned for the welfare of my craft supplies.

We successfully managed to cram everything into one cupboard in the hallway – a boiler cupboard that is full from the floor to the ceiling. However that is not my only stash of supplies… my parents have a considerable amount at their house too… Yes I am addicted to buying craft stuff and I particularly enjoy learning new skills. I spend days dreaming up and planning new craft projects. I research the crafts into the night and finally I go shopping for new craft supplies for those projects.

It is getting a bit silly now, not to mention expensive, so I have decided that I am going to inflict a craft spending ban on myself and start seeing through all these project ideas. Hopefully I will make some space in our home and fill it with lovely homemade beauties (I am inflating my abilities there!) I will post pictures, maybe the odd ‘how-to’ and hopefully make my fiancé a lot happier!

Wish me luck!