Friday, 31 March 2017

A Rock n' Roll Day Off!

Last week I actually had a rare day off! 

I had no ‘prep’ to do, no blog to write, no emails to answer and no shows to watch… it felt weird! Hubby and I decided to do something we haven’t done in far too many years – we went to town and watched a band.

And we had a great time…

The venue was a little strange.  It was part of an old British Waterways warehouse by the side of a canal, which has been developed and converted into smaller units.  The room itself looks very industrial, with vertical pillars that were huge steel girders.

We didn’t really know what to expect as we’d been there only once before, and that was quite a few years ago.  Hubby gave me one of his despairing looks as he discovered there was no real ale on offer at the bar, but once he’d resigned himself to the notion that he’d be drinking a very nice Shiraz, he perked up! 

He asked the lady behind the bar, “Do you have anything resembling real ale?” and was understandably baffled by her enthusiastic nodding as she said, “Yes, we have bottles of cider!”. 

The band in question is called American Aquarium and they hail from Raleigh, North Carolina. Hubby had spotted they were playing there, he read a little about them and was suitably impressed, and bought tickets after watching a few clips of the band online.  The venue’s website officially described their music as ‘Americana’.  I must admit I’m not totally sure what that is but if I had to describe it I would say it’s a bit like The Eagles, but with a much harder edge if you see what I mean.

The driving force behind the band is a really pleasant chap called B J Barham. He spoke to the audience between songs and it’s clear that he certainly has a story to tell.  The band have been on the road for eleven years. Five years ago, he explained, the band were exhausted from constant touring and frustrated because they hadn’t ‘made it’.  They wondered whether they should really be a band.  They even wondered whether they should call themselves musicians.  They decided to quit the music business altogether, but before they did, they decided they would do one last album – an album full of songs about bitterness, and failure, and disillusionment.  That album is called ‘Burn, Flicker, Die’ and was nominated as best Americana album in a prestigious American music awards.  That nomination gave them hope and funds so they could carry on.  As BJ Barham said, “it’s ironic that the record all about not making it is the record that helped us to make it.”

It just goes to show, we should never stop chasing our dreams…

Mr Barham told us a story that had us all laughing, about the friction that exists between him and his father over his chosen career.  Every time he goes home they have the same old conversation.  His father asks him why can't he get a real job like his brother? His brother is a used car salesman, nine to five, six days a week, working in the same town in which he was born.  His father can't understand the basic concept of what his son's band do.  "You mean to tell me that people actually pay money to go and hear you bellyache about your problems?"  "Yes Dad", he always replies rather wearily, "all songwriting is just people bellyaching about their problems..." 
Me and BJ Barham having a chat!

The music was as good as the wine!  This being ‘rock n’ roll’, there were no seats, but at least I found a girder I could lean against!  Unfortunately the PA system misbehaved and made a barrage of noises ranging from small poops to a ships’ foghorn.  While the technicians put that right, the band went off stage for a while and Mr Barham treated us to an acoustic set, no microphone, just him and his old guitar.  It was magical stuff.  The crowd were very enthusiastic, although there weren’t many of us.  ‘BJ’ noticed this and with typical humour said, “If there are any young aspiring musicians in the audience, then if you’re lucky, you can spend eleven years constantly touring around Europe and Scandinavia and then you too can hit the peak – you get to spend an evening in an old warehouse playing in front of seventy people!”  Cheers and laughter all round…

At the end of the gig I managed to have a chat with BJ Barham, who turned out to be a really nice charming man.  He’s one of the very few Americans who is a big fan of British food (“it’s great, it’s so heavy, everything is meat and potatoes”, he said), and he’s definitely one of the very few rock band lead singers who goes for a run every morning!

Me and BJ Barham but with better lighting on the photo this time! 

Although it was a great night, I have to admit that I’m not cut out for the rock n’ roll lifestyle.  After we got home I quickly got changed and within five minutes… well, hubby took this photo of me on the sofa that says it all…

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Last Minute Re-Think...

To many people, myself included when I first started this job, the thought of doing live television is daunting and fills them with trepidation.  I think it’s the fear of the unknown; anything can happen, and things can and do go wrong.

To try and mitigate these possible disasters, we guest demonstrators spend an awful lot of time at home doing ‘prep’.  Prep takes many forms but mainly it’s a combination of working with the products we are going to demonstrate, to the extent that we become very familiar with them.  Then there’s designing and executing our ‘makes’, so we can show not just the finished item but sometimes the various stages that led us there too.  There’s also the need to get the relevant facts stuck firmly in our heads that you, the viewers, will want to know about the various products we’ll be demonstrating.  And there are lots of other aspects to ‘prep’ too…

But basically, we prepare so long and so hard in order to make sure things run as smoothly as possible.  It reminds me of that famous quote from a professional golfer, I forget his name, when he was accused by someone of being lucky to win a major tournament.  “It’s funny”, this golfer replied, “the harder I practice, the luckier I become.”  It’s the same with ‘prep’…

So we arrive on set fully rehearsed and practiced, facts and figures firmly in our heads.  We know what the product can do and we know we are able to demonstrate what the product can do.  Nothing is left to chance. 

Or so we like to think!

The other weekend I was demonstrating the new Tattered Lace bundle of Art Deco products, and we all know from experience how popular they are with the viewers.  My many long hours of preparation had been done and I was ready to demonstrate what this new range of Art Deco dies could do.  Unbeknown to me, older Art Deco dies were displayed on the show page of the website, and perhaps it was the sight of these that inspired a lady I only know of as ‘Bren’ to email the show to ask if we could cut the Vintage Vector card shape die, which is part of a previous Art Deco Collection. 

I could have simply just cut the die as Bren had requested, but to settle for that would have been uninspiring to say the least. So, OUT went all my plans, OUT went all my long hours of preparation, and live TV being what it is, I had less than a minute to adapt my demos to incorporate Bren’s favourite die. 

This is the finished card I came up with.  I hope you like it! 

And I have to say, I LOVED the challenge and the sheer buzz of having to adapt to such a radical change in such a short space of time.  It was great, and really satisfying to have pulled it off. 

I am comparatively new to this job, but I learned a lot from Bren’s email.  We demonstrators absolutely need to do all our many hours of prep… but we also need to retain that spark of creativity so at the drop of a hat (or in this case, on the receipt of a single email!) we have the flexibility to turn everything on its head and come up with something fresh, to speed down a road we never thought we’d encounter.  That’s the kind of thing that keeps us all fresh and on our toes, and above all, that’s the stuff that makes this wonderful job even more exciting than usual.

Thanks Bren, I owe you one!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Happy Mother's Day!

As this Peek Of The Week Day coincides with Mother’s Day it's only right that I should share with you the card I made for my own dear Mum…

What can I say about mothers that hasn’t already been said a thousand times better?  Our Mums have always been there for us, made sacrifices for us on a daily basis, always put our needs and wants before their own, and always defended us to the hilt, even on those occasions when they know deep down that their dear darling offspring was in the wrong.   She’d give us her last pound and the food from her plate without a second thought.  She’s always on hand to give a big hug when we need it, and she’s always ready to lend a sympathetic and supporting ear.  Our Mums are always on our side and are always our very best friends.  It’s very true that we don’t appreciate exactly what our Mum went through until we become mothers ourselves and we can’t begin to count the lessons we’ve learned from her.

So it’s not surprising that many of us feel daunted at the thought of making a Mother’s Day card… how can we possibly sum up all that we feel for Mum in a card?

The answer is… don’t worry, whatever you do, because she loves you, she’ll love the card.  It’s almost like you’re transported back in time to when you were five years old and you brought home a rubbish drawing from school that you rushed because you didn’t want to do it anyway, and then when your Mum saw it, she raved about it like you were going to be the next Picasso!  What I’m trying to say is, relax, your Mum is the least critical person you’ll ever find! 

I began with a square card base, 20cm by 20cm.  I used a beautiful backing paper from the Paisley Parade CD ROM.  To my eye, the peaches and pinks in the backing paper looks like a subtle watercolour painting.

For the front of the card, I added an extra 2cm to the width in order to create the curve.  I must say, I really like this technique.  Then I used the Paisley Parade dies to cut the aperture, to create the pink surrounds, and to put together the white paisley detail. 

I created the sentiment with a stamp I already had – I applied the lighter orange ink first to half the sentiment before adding the stronger pink shade to the remainder, making sure they blended.  It looks simple, but I have to say getting the sentiment just right took me a long time.  I printed it out FIVE TIMES before I had one that I liked in terms of getting the colour, and the blending or graduation as perfect as I thought it was possible for me to get.  I made the sentiment a diamond shape only because I felt it might add a bit of interest, or at least, was less dull than using a uniform square shape.

All that was left to do at that point was to add the flowers and the bow. 

I’m not totally sure why, but I thought the card might look its best without so much ‘bling’, so I went for a matt effect and didn’t add any gems or glitter. 

My Mum lives in the south west of France, so as it had to go all that way I very carefully packed it into the most rigid box I could make.  Although I (obviously) love making cards I have to acknowledge that the postage costs on handmade cards, especially those with unusual dimensions, can be very expensive… this card was deemed by Royal Mail to be a small parcel!  Still, nothing’s too much trouble where my Mum is concerned!

It’s great to think that Mums everywhere today are being spoiled rotten!  So, whether you’ve made a Mother’s Day card or received one – or even made AND received one – I hope you have a magical day…   

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Think Ink!

Today I’d like to show you my rather nifty Distress Inks storage system, and talk you through a genius tip shown to me by the lovely Lou Collins.

I use Distress Inks an awful lot.  They are water based so I can use them for lots of different techniques. And on top of anything else I happen to think they have a lovely range of colours.

Regular readers might remember a little while ago when I sang the praises of my ribbon storage.  Well, I returned to Ali Reeves’ brilliant website and treated myself to a Distress Ink Rack. Made of MDF, it is sturdy and well made, and very simple to slot together.

Then I downloaded some pretty papers from the Tattered Lace CD ROMs and covered it so that it matched the Double Loose Ribbon Hanger I’d also bought from Ali. Hope you like it!                                                                                                                                                                                        

The unit holds 24 Distress Inks – and I own just 22!  That means I have two empty slots, which I find a little annoying.  Can anyone suggest which two colours I should buy?  Which two colours do you think I’d find a use for? The colours I already have are as follows – and I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall at the meeting where they came up with these brilliant names:  


Crushed Olive
Mustard Seed
Peeled Paint
Bundled Sage
Pine Needles
Greenwood Bough
Faded Jeans
Broken China
Peacock Feathers
Chipped Sapphire
Iced Spruce
Black Soot
Tattered Rose
Spun Sugar
Barn Door
Pickled Raspberry
Dusty Concord
Gathered Twigs
Vintage Photo
Rusty Hinge
Antique Linen
Old Paper

The names of some of these colours give me no clue whatsoever as to what shade they actually are – so, as well as labelling them, I’ve coloured in the label to give myself a fighting chance of being able to identify them quickly.  Doing this removes all the guesswork.

And now to Lou’s tip.  All you need is a couple of packets of mini ink blending foam rubber pads and a length of sticky-backed Velcro, ‘hook’ side only.  Simply stick an inch long piece of the Velcro on the base of each case of Distress ink and attach to the Velcro one of the foam rubber pads. The slots in the storage unit are large enough to take the extra height given to the cases by doing this.

Having this arrangement means you can change colour at pace!  No longer do you have to bother to wash the colour off your foam rubber pad and then wait for the pad to dry before using it again – you just change your pad and away you go!  It’s absolutely priceless when you are pushed for time or working on a project which demands a few different colours.  Thanks Lou!   

Thanks for reading and don't forget to give me your recommendations for those two Distress Inks colours I'll use but don't yet have... 

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Peek Of The Week - The Paisley Parade Collection

It’s Peek of the Week Day today – don’t they come round quickly? This time I’d like to share with you my recent experiences with the Tattered Lace Paisley Parade Collection. 

This collection launched on Thursday night and by the time I did the show on Saturday afternoon a whopping 75% of the Paisley Parade stock had gone already.  I’m not surprised at all, I have to say – I shut myself up in my craft room for over 3 days with this collection, just because I love it so much!

It’s the versatility I love; with this collection you can make floating cards which are magnificent, interlocking cards, you name it.  And you can make them as complex or as simple as you wish.  They offer an opportunity to add real dimension to your cards.  Dan Bancroft, the presenter I worked with on the Saturday afternoon show, pointed out that cards made with this collection look “upper class”.  Dan, I know what you mean!

Although three days in my craft room may sound obsessive, there are a lot of things to play with in this collection of 26 dies and a CD ROM.  There are 219 backgrounds on the CD ROM and twelve sheets of sentiments.  The sentiment sheets are A4 size, and the sentiments match the shape of the dies.  A lot of the backgrounds have a soft ‘watercolour’ effect, and use subtle (not to mention seasonal!) Spring and Easter type colours if you see what I mean, a lovely range of subdued blues, greens, yellows and oranges.

My demo on that Saturday show was a little different from the norm, but I wanted to show how, using different coloured card bases with the same two pieces from the die collection, you can make some really different looking cards, like these:

An Over The Edge Card

A4, folded in half

A4 folded in half, then the front halved vertically

With front aperture

So, with just three shapes we’ve created, very quickly and very simply, five different styles of card!  Fantastic!    

Friday, 17 March 2017

Desert Rose Blog Hop

Welcome to this, my first ever blog post as part of the Tattered Lace Blog Hop - please do tell me what you think of it, either by commenting at the bottom of this page or posting on my Facebook page. Don't be shy now!

I really hope you enjoy reading about our favourite products. Who knows, we might be able to make this a regular feature - that would be great, especially if we can give away a prize each month!

I decided to make my Blog Hop debut by showing you a card I made with the Desert Rose die set which can be purchased from I used the Desert rose, Desert Rose leaves and Desert Rose Doily Nested set. Here's a picture of the finished card. As you can see, I opted to keep the colours simple and I decided to use block colours.

Step 1. The first thing I did was to create a colour wash background using distress inks - which for no particular reason seems to be my favourite thing to do at the moment! I picked Broken China, Picked Raspberry, Mustard Seed and Bundled Sage. After wetting the card I brushed them across it using my fabulous Rare Earth Brushes.

Step 2. While the background was drying (and if you're as impatient as I am, you can use your heat tool to hurry up this process) I cut out three sets of the Desert rose flower and one set of the leaves.

Step 3. I folded up the die cuts to give them shape and dimension and then stuck the flowers together in alternate colours with a beautiful 'blingy' embellishment in the centre of each flower. I find these embellishments draw the eye in and really work well in tying everything together. 

Step 4. The front of the card is curved and as much as I'd love to take the credit for this great idea, I can't.  I first saw this done on a card that had been put together by a member of the Tattered Lace design team - I'm sorry, I don't know who exactly -and as it looked wonderful I decided to incorporate it into this design. To me, part of the joy of crafting is to beg, steal or borrow fantastic ideas and then share them with others...

The card base measures 20 x 20 cm and the mat layers are 19.5 x 19.5 cm (deep pink) and 19 x 19 cm for the yellow layer. I made the card front from a piece of craft card (to match the base) that I had cut to 17 x 23 cm. I scored this at 2 and 21 cm as you can see in the picture below on the right. The aperture is created from the largest nested doily.


The final panel is 16 x 16 cm and the frame is made using the first and third largest nested doily dies.

Step 5Finally it was just a case of assembling all the component parts, arranging and sticking the flowers on the front, adding a pretty complementary bow and the die cut sentiment before putting the kettle on and getting out the biscuit tin.

So now please pop along to Hels Sheridan's blog - no need to rush, there's plenty of room for everyone - and see what beautiful product she is showcasing.

But perhaps most importantly of all, DO NOT FORGET to go back to the original post on the Tattered Lace Facebook page to answer the questions for your opportunity to be in with a chance to win the fantastic prize on offer. Good luck and fingers crossed for you!

Thanks for popping by!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Radio Talk Shows And Overnight Shoots

A few days ago I had the pleasure of shooting some videos for the Tattered Lace magazine which should be coming out hot off the presses round about now.   

As regular readers will know, shooting videos for the magazine is great fun but as the studio is busy all day long, the only time we can shoot them is in the middle of the night… the graveyard shift!
I’m not naturally a night owl, and by ten o’clock at night my eyelids start to get heavy and I find it hard to stay awake.  I’ve even been known to almost fall asleep (almost, but not quite!) when I’ve been out with my hubby in a bar or restaurant, simply because the clock struck ten. He is certain that I actually fell asleep but I told him I was just resting my eyes.  

Me "resting my eyes"...

These days I try my hardest to stay awake when we’re out together, ever since hubby told me he thinks it would be hilarious if, the next time I “rest my eyes”, he grabs his coat and tiptoes home leaving me snoring in the corner… no that would definitely NOT be funny in the slightest!

After twenty eight years of working in a nine to five, Monday to Friday job, working at crazy times sometimes at very short notice, is still a new sensation to me. Not that I’m complaining, but my body clock finds it hard to adapt to my new situation.  Working during the day either doing TV shows or simply doing preparation work for future shows, and then going on to work throughout the night, does tend to leave me more than a little drained. But I’ve come up with a little trick…

And that trick is called Talk Radio!

After being awake for 19 or 20 hours, which can easily happen on overnight shoots, I’m concerned that I might find myself ‘resting my eyes’ while I’m on the drive back home, and that’s just too horrific to contemplate.  So I’ve started listening in the car to radio stations that concentrate on ‘chat’ rather than music; I figure conversation might keep me concentrating a bit more than the usual bland pop music that gets pumped out all the time. What I never realised until now though, was just how unintentionally funny these chat shows can be at times.

One chap rang up a radio station to join in a conversation when the topic was about people who take a lot of sick leave from their job. I had a laugh out loud moment when the man said he once worked with a chap who was so workshy that he once took a week off work suffering from a broken flask!

On another show the conversation went something like this…

DJ:  “And now on the line we have Brian from Leicester.  Hello Brian.”
Brian, sounding slightly annoyed:  “I’m not from Leicester, I’m from Leyland.”
DJ:  “Aah, Leyland.  They make cars in Leyland.”
Brian, sounding more annoyed now:  “They haven’t made cars in Leyland for years.  They make pizzas in Leyland now.”
DJ:  “I see.  What type of pizzas?”
Brian:  (long pause while he thinks about this one).  “Round ones.”

At this point I was laughing so much I don’t know how I managed to keep the car going in a straight line!  Fair play to the DJ though, he was so professional that he just carried on talking as if it was just a normal conversation…

It reminded me of that great Alan Partridge line when he was doing a radio chat show for the fictitious North Norfolk Digital…

“War, Iron, Fish… ring in and tell us – what’s your favourite ‘monger’…”

I got my revenge on my hubby when I got home and planted my ice cold feet on his back at half past four in the morning, which woke him up pretty quickly when his alarm was set to go off just one hour later!  

I got the last laugh darling… if you snooze, you lose!