Friday, 22 May 2015

Project 9 - 3D Profile Faces

figure 1
figure 2
figure 3

You Will Need:

Modelling Lincoln board
Pastels - Jumbo Oil Pastels in black, white and grey shades
Fixative Spray
Face Mask (when spraying)
Cutting Board and craft knife (adult use)

What to Do:

On the card draw a full face of your own design, including neck and shoulders ensuring the bottom has a nice long, straight base to it. Cut it out. Colour in and shade the skin tones and hair with an assortment of pastels shades of grey, black and white, blending across the forehead, down the nose and the cheeks and neck with the fingers. Define facial features, hair and neckline areas with the tip of a black pastel. Adults to make a single, centre-line cut/incision from the bottom to the chin as shown in figure 1

As figure 2 demonstrates, using the first head as a pattern, repeat the process. This time drawing a side profile imagining how the person would look at side view, so ensuring that the size matches that of the first head, and that facial features, with eye glasses and hair fringe, or hat (if applicable), length of nose and shape of chin falling in line with the front facing model, remember to include the neck and side turned shoulder and a straight edged run along the bottom. Cut it out, and colour in with the pastels. Ensure that you enrol your adult once again to make a one long, single cut/incision down from the centre top of the head downwards to where the chin roughly appears.

You can set the artwork by using the fixative spray. Set your two model components on some old sheets of newspaper, and, while wearing a face mask and keeping your arms outstretched, spray evenly, keeping the spray away from the eyes when you do so. Leave a few minutes to dry.

figure 3 shows the model assembled, use the incisions made in each component as a way of slotting it together. You may have to tweak the length of one or both of the cuts to arrive at a the best positioning and standing that can be achieved.

Achieving the classical, statuesque look works really well on these models. The one above should be Michelangelo's David, but someone once said they thought it was the Queen! I found this stupendous design of Julius Caesar (figure 4) by my son, done in one of our art sessions during his Roman obsessive phase, sadly not a pic of the whole model but you can get an idea of a subject from it.

figure 4

the images below are taken from a family session I once led at the Herbert Museum & Art Gallery in Coventry, where a young participant did her own take of a modern girl in colour

Pretty cool, all in all, don't you think!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The East Devon Coast (in Pictures)

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Book Review - PLAY by Dr Amanda Gummer

Play – by Dr Amanda Gummer

ISBN 978-0-091-95514-4

(published May 2015 by Vermilion)

RRP £10.99

Eight chapters – each based on age appropriateness
Final Words
Appendix – including Nursery Rhyme verses


Author and psychologist, Dr Amanda Gummer (the author) goes some way in setting the tone for the rest of the book


This is child health and development handbook for parental referencing, and what it is that makes it so is the content of each chapter being headed and led by the age appropriateness of a child: 0-2 months2-6 months,
 6-12 months, 12-18 months, 18-24 months, 2-3 years, 3-4 years, 4 years and upwards. Information is largely on milestone marking, and recognising the mental, physical, social and emotional needs of the child and interacting with, and being observational of, the stages of their development. Stimulation of the senses with objects, and toys, playing games, is a high feature. There is also some acknowledgement of the parent having to consider their own well being at times when it can be tough going. The kind of familiar, stresses and anxieties (from both sides) which can arise are mentioned, not feeding problems or medical considerations particularly (it is not that kind of health book), but things like sleep deprivation and problems arising from an interrupted routine. Tips given to handle these for the best 


The author is perceptive and knowledgeable as to how play 'comes-into-play', from the very beginnings of a young life through to school starting age. Tablets, online gaming, smart phones, games and hand-held consoles, and TV are really only mentioned under a sub-title called ‘balancing your child’s ‘Play Diet’, and this section is simply about how to limit a child’s technology focused play; rather than examining play when it comes in this form and of how and in which ways it can be facilitated to help a child to reach a greater potential. This is a book which very much takes a traditional look at linking play, adult/child and group interacting, and bonding exercises to aid children in their development. The main content it is not condescending or matter of fact and it is full of the kind of tip giving advice that a parent may well be seeking at any time in the early years of their child’s life


The first chapter is very good as it can answer the nitty gritty kind of trouble shooting questions that a search engine result may not throw up for you. This book does not really bring much to the table for the parent or parental figure who regularly engages in activities with their child in respect of their learning and development, and information is not that in depth on the subject of children requiring more specialist considerations. Yet, for anyone who seeks a little bit of inspiration and thought injection about what to do with their young children at home and when out and about, and who may need help with identifying the reasons behind their child’s moods or behaviour, or help in interpreting their child’s responses sometimes, there is plenty of intuitive comment made in a structured way that you will find helpful

Paperback 154 Pages. Sub-headings fall under the topic of each chapter. Each chapter’s end has a recap in the form of a ‘fun things to do with your child’ list, which, if you’ve read the book, can act as a quick reminder of an activity that had been outlined, this taking away the need to refer to, or locate the information each time, in the body of the text. The book also becomes a diary and there is note paper space, so the book could become a treasured keepsake and a memory evoker in year's to come, not a new idea but rather nice and the book is not too bulky for storing. There is a resource/contact list at the back of the book

Some b/w comic book style illustrations.


The tone is very much the voice of a health expert rather than that of an educational theologian. This is an advice giving class, not a masterclass, as the approach taken is not academic or in any way exploratory. For me, to channel education and development through creativity and play is my passion. Being somewhat conversant with the writings of Friedrich Fröbel and his theory writing centred on the tiny baby and its huge and forever growing capabilities, and the instinctive striving one has to achieve self awareness, and the huge leap of change in the total being which happens when the ability to stand upright is achieved. Of John Holt and his publications including How Children Fail and How Children Learn where he explores autonomous style teachings, and those of Rudolf Steiner where the importance of nature and the arts in child's play and in education, and Maria Montessori, of course, and her techniques and use of natural materials etc in educating children, well, compared to all of that; this book, for me, is not that enlightening. That comment made, I can conclude however, that I firmly believe if I'd had possession of this book when a new mother, back in 1993, being before the internet it has to be said, but before the benefit of my hindsight too, I think this book would have been something I’d refer to often for its advice giving qualities

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The Upholsterers

My grandfather was an upholsterer by trade, and I've always been proud of the very idea that he was a skilled worker in a craft like that.

I have, to hand, a recently published Upholsterer’s Step-by-Step Handbook , Alex Law is the author of this informative reference book, which really gets to grips with the practicalities of upholstery. Law, in his modesty, explains in the opening lines of his introduction that though techniques and materials have evolved over centuries, in its pure form, upholstery is a set of basic rules and that similar methods can be applied to many different chairs. There is more to it, I think, a bit of mathematical know how, good design; hands on skill, and a careful, methodical approach needs to be applied, to turn new or existing frameworks into soft furnishing items that are both functional and good looking. The National Careers Service online sums up the necessary attributes required to be an upholsterer: 

'As an upholsterer you would add padding and soft covers to furniture. You would work with textiles, design and colour to cover or re-cover items with materials such as leather, suede or cotton. If you enjoy practical, hands on work and have an interest in style and design, there could be opportunities for you in upholstery.An eye for detail and the ability to work accurately will help you to measure materials and cut them to the right size. You’ll also need to be patient and persevere to make sure your furniture is finished to a high standard'

My grandfather died when my Mum was just a teenager. She remembers him however, sitting at the sewing machine, machining fabric, even working while enjoying family gatherings up on the Norfolk coast. I’m not sure how he acquired the skill for his craft. He may have served some kind of apprenticeship perhaps, I know his father was a Boot Finisher (which might have involved stitching leather), and that my granddad also had aunts who were dressmakers/milliners, and his brother Reg owned a furniture shop, so perhaps there was something in the family's line of work, or the genes, being passed on. Perhaps I'm born to sew after all!I must work at getting better at it. This useful Handbook will help me. I will use it.

Chapter 1, is 56 pages alone, devoted to the tools and materials to fill an upholsterers tool bag and work space. Substituting equipment for items that will be less effective, or simply making do with just a few tools, just makes jobs like this harder, but there will be a fair outlay to fully equip. 

I'd like to think my Granddad was a master upholsterer like Alex Law. I wonder what happened to all my Granddad's kit! I assume it was left behind when my Nan eventually vacated the house they had shared. As was his violin, his WWII mementos from time served at RAF Cardington and the Dutch connections he made, plus other personals. Sentimental I might be, but this book is certainly not, the content is fresh and very giving, with Chapter 6 revealing the Blueprint methods, demonstrating how similar techniques and materials can be applied to a wide variety of chair styles. Recommended!

Alex Law has been working as an upholsterer since the late 1980s. He has followed the traditional path from apprentice, through journeyman and on to master upholsterer. Throughout his career Alex has worked in high-end craft workshops as well as developing a deeper understanding of the craft through teaching upholstery at London Metropolitan University alongside day-to-day bench work. He has been awarded recognition for this work from several trade organisations. He now runs the Kent School of Upholstery, based in Faversham, Kent, as well as designing and making collections of upholstery for various clients

Monday, 27 April 2015



  • Seven people die from skin cancer every day in the UK.
  • Over 100,000 new cases of all skin cancer diagnosed in the UK each year.
  • Rates of malignant melanoma are rising faster than any other type of common cancer.
  • On average, someone who dies from skin cancer typically loses 20 years of their life.
  • At least two 15-34 year-olds are being diagnosed with malignant melanoma every day in the UK.


  • Protect your skin with clothing – don’t forget to wear a hat that protects your face, neck and ears.
  • Spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm when it’s sunny.
  • When choosing a sunscreen look for a high protection SPF (SPF 30 or more to protect against harmful UVA).
  • Apply plenty of sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun and reapply every two hours.
  • Be sure to reapply sunscreen after swimming and towel-drying.
  • There is strength in the spring day sunshine so remember to keep babies and young children out of direct sunlight, and don't get caught unawares, as I once did when my second born was just a few months old, note: baby in the pic above is not of my son. 

A guide to checking your skin
by Consultant Dermatologist, Dr Bav Shergill

Dr Bav Shergill
“Most skin cancers can be cured if detected early. The best way to detect skin cancer is to check your skin regularly, about once a month. You should examine the skin all over your body, from top to toe. Ask a friend or member of your family to look at areas you can't see such as your scalp, ears and back. Look out for moles or patches of skin that are growing, changing shape, developing new colours, inflamed, bleeding, crusting, red around the edges, particularly itchy, or behaving unusually. Remember, if in doubt, get it checked out straight away. We recommend that you tell your doctor about any changes to a mole or patch of skin. If your GP is concerned about your skin, make sure you see a Consultant Dermatologist - an expert in diagnosing skin cancer. Your doctor can refer you for free through the NHS” 

Dr Bav Shergill, Consultant Dermatologist & British Skin Foundation Trustee

Find out more about our skin cancer appeal here:

For further information please contact: or call 020 7391 6347

Monday, 13 April 2015


You may have seen the large AirTurn banner in my left-hand side panel if you have visited Not Compulsory recently. Learn more about the PED wireless foot controller I am previewing here, and other AirTurn designs ideal for music education and live music performance by clicking over to AirTurn (US)

For education, this AirTurn PED (Bluetooth SMART), has a variety of uses around the school, on stage and in the home. 

The Product: AirTurn PED Bluetooth SMART (for the foot control of your tablet or computer device)

Developer – AirTurn Inc – The Netherlands – Manufactured in the US
AirTurn (US)
$69.00 (47.10 GBP)
Compatibility: works with most Bluetooth SMART READY Equipped Tablets including iPad 3 and later, and Computers (Mac, PC) and iPhone 4S and later, Android 4.3 or later with Bluetooth 4. Note: A compatible app is required
Mode: six available. PED-APP-Direct and HID (not all compatible apps will function in both modes)
Size: measures 4 inches H (76mm) x 6 inches L (152mm) x less than 7 inches (18mm) D
Suitable for hands free page turning while reading or controlling applications on a Bluetooth SMART READY device


An assistive type of technology I see as being useful in foot controlling a tablet or computer, so that musicians specifically, can view/read or page turn sheet music, guitar tablature and song lyrics via an app on a Smart ready device, so that during music playing and/or live performances there needs to be no breaking of the rhythm to turn a page, or to scroll down or click through screens with the hand. Also an alternative to using button hand-switch operation during slide style presentations


As the official release date of the AirTurn PED Hands-Free Controller has not yet arrived, and though imminent (22 April 2015) this did not undergo a trial in the same way items do when under review

I found the link to check out the Bluetooth SMART device list on Page 4 of the information booklet supplied (text is in English only). Here is the link

The AirTurn PED Bluetooth SMART is a small, compact and lightweight item which, ironically, fits comfortable between the two hands like a game’s controller would. It has non-skid material as feet, which roots it, and will help to stop it from ‘travelling’ on a slippery floor avoiding the need to go searching for it with the foot in those crucial moments of live performance. This unit will, of course, work very well using an app on a smart phone too, but perhaps a little less effectively because of the small screen (see above for compatibility)

  • Battery powered (CR2032) which is included – plus spare (see figure 3)  
  • Has PED Instructions on the base
  • AirTurn ships to worldwide customers

figure 3

Negative – whether you’re a tech head, or not, for those who are not so Bluetooth savvy, the information in the booklet attempts to pre-empt situations when the unit will not comply, so some of us will need the booklet to hand. And not only for the trouble shooting information but for getting conversant with how it is going to work with your device and your personal set up. Like any new piece of kit I think you may be referencing, researching and seeking support online until its requirements and function becomes fully apparent

Positive –In music education, teachers and students will increasingly look to technological alternatives and solutions that will result in paper formats being used less and less in favour of digital alternatives. It will happen more. It will be common place to read from devices that has whole libraries of sheet music at a touch, tap, and a swipe, and you can read it without having wires and leads attached. This AirTurn PED will have a myriad of other uses both on stage or off