Saturday, 27 May 2017

An interview with Debi McCormack of Boxcitement

As my readers will know, I like to champion the creative and artistic talents of others at Not Compulsory. 
Debi McCormack of Boxcitement (UK subscription box)

Today I share a short interview held with Debi McCormack (pictured above). Debi is the Creative Director at Boxcitement, the UK subscription box. 
With a background in Graphic Design Debi uses those well honed skills everyday, but she also happens to be a clever maker with a wonderful creative eye for things. Debi (and her partner, Sean) work hard at bridging creativity with the business world in an effort to 'earn their crust'. Debi describes her job as being a perfect one for her. 
Debi makes, sources, as well as 'buys in' bespoke pieces for a themed gift buying subscription service. Items are generally a mix of stationery, jewellery, craft items, home accessories, greetings card and gift wrap items.
Design by Debi McCormack

In the Q & A below Debi talks of the creative process involved in designing exclusive stationery, jewellery and gifts for each monthly subscription box release
Is it hard to come up with different design themes on a monthly basis?
As a designer I have always been used to drawing inspiration from the strangest of places and I carry a notepad everywhere for when an idea pops up! A colour combination, shop display or headline in a newspaper can be enough to get an idea started – for example I came up with our Wild West theme after seeing a picture of a cactus I liked in a cafe! The hardest part is knowing how to bring a theme to life once we have the overall concept with the products that we create.
Do you prefer creating stationery or jewellery?
Both! I enjoy the hands-on element of handcrafting jewellery, and there is something very satisfying about making something from scratch using a pair of pliers, though we make far too many now for me to be able to create every single item – I have a small team of makers to help once the design has been finalised. With the stationery, I love creating illustrations and then sending them off to a printer and waiting for everything to come back. Of course I am very nervous seeing my designs come to life as I can’t help but get personally involved; but when customers say they love what they receive it makes all the hard work worth it!
What is the most challenging aspect of the business?
The longer we have been creating boxes, the more I realise that you simply can’t please everyone all of the time. Our boxes are so different from one another that someone who loves one month may not like the next one so much. However, I think creating surprises is better than being predictable or repeating ideas, though there is an element of trust involved for customers to purchase a box from us without knowing what is inside. That is why we post pictures of our previous boxes on our website – and we also share sneak peeks every month across social media so you can get a bit of an idea about what is coming!
What’s next?
We’d love to be able to invest in our own equipment and learn new crafting techniques so that we’re always coming up with fresh ideas. Needlefelting, clay sculpting and laser cutting are all on the list!
The following images demonstrate Debi McCormack's designs and presentation. These are four items from a previous Boxcitement box from March this year called 'Out of this World'.

Note: this box also included an Alien keyring, and a set of notecards which we've not photographed. More information about Debi and the subscription boxes visit her own blog here

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Top Children's Picture Book Picks This Spring

Reblogging a recent post by Walker Books: April showers bring our top five picture book picks! Add some sunshine to your children's bookshelves with a forgetful mole, a hungry... for more of this Click on over Picture Book Party: Top picture book picks

Then perhaps return here to Not Compulsory to enter the competition to Win a copy of 'Mrs Mole I'm Home'., an endearing tale about Morris Mole who couldn't find his glasses.


The free draw is open to UK residents only
Entrants must be 18 or over Only one entry per person
To enter the free prize draw entrants can leave a general
comment at Not Compulsory Please note this competition will also appear on the
host’s social media outlets for the course of the competition running
The competition will run from noon on Wednesday 26 April 2017
and will close at midnight on Friday 28 April 2017
Entries will not be accepted after this closing date
One winner One prize
The prize is a new copy of the Paperback children’s
picture book story called Mrs Mole, I’m Home!
The prize draw will random
Participants must agree to be part of winner mentions here
at Not Compulsory and on other platforms
Please note that the competition is not connected
to Twitter or Facebook and is operated independently
It is the responsibility of entrants to ensure their entry
meets with entry requirements and is submitted online successfully 
The winner will be required to provide information such as a names and confirm a UK address
It will not be possible to transfer or replace this prize
for any other 

This title is also available to buy

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Book Feature - Field Guide to Knitted Birds

Publisher: Search Press
Edition: BC Paperback
Publication: 23 March 2017
ISBN 13/EAN: 9781782215394
Size: 210x277 mm
Pages: 176
RRP Price:£14.99

I quite like bird themes appearing in handmade craft items. I have my own pieces about the house. A knitted Hen; a yellow Chick and a felted Blue Tit, and, pinned to my noticeboard in the office, a Paper bird with sequins and real feathers. I also own a Textile Print Bird that hangs in the sticks inside a vase as a decoration along with the Blue Tit. And sitting on my kitchen shelf is a velveteen Budgerigar (shop brought)... my friend said she liked them when she first visited, but she also said her husband would absolutely hate such things in their home. Thinking about it I bet he would find them quite vulgar!

However, I'm not crestfallen (pardon the pun). We, that's my craft group ladies and I, are appreciative of such novelties. And we have been intending to knit birds for a while. I have an unfinished birdie in my knitting bag still, which I intended to complete when we get round to doing this as a joint activity and I can share my enthusiasm with them.

Nevertheless, I don't think I'll be able to make myself heard above the clamour when the ladies see the 'Field Guide to Knitted Birds' book. The content is something else when it comes to little 3D bird knits.

The book's authors (project designers) Arne and Carlos, said on Instagram that the books are flying off the shelves!
A post shared by ARNE & CARLOS (@arnecarlos) on

I, for one, can vouch how hard it is to make and attach legs and clawed feet to a knitted feathered friend, so the first video I am sharing shows how the famous knitting duo have designed prosthetic-like leg and feet skeletons to attach


The second video demonstrates how to add a beak to your knitted bird

This third video gives tips on how to decorate

All that is presented in the videos is detailed in the book in which there are clear instructions, helpful diagrams and full-colour photographs. The book is a beautifully presented, and have 40 of the 'tweetest' little craft works ever! 

"A field guide to knitted birds" is available in Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, German, French and English. 

I'm going to acquire some Schachenmayr yarns and get knitting. I'll add pics when I have them. 


Update 27 May 2017

We made birds in our recent craft session, not with the Schachenmayr wool in the end, but with some lovely yarns and scraps of this and that that we had already.

Firstly, Meet what J describes as being her wingless Christmas Pudding bird. He is male and she's still work to do on him she says

then meet Praynelope by your's truly. A girl's name but probably a male don't you think? As he's very flamboyant...though a bit intimidating ☺  

Bird Number 3 was completed super speedily by S in the 3 hour session. Look at the little hat! 

should be one more contribution to follow 

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Book Review ANIMASAURUS by author Tracey Turner

ANIMASAURUS by Tracey Turner. Illustrations by Harriet Russell

ISBN 978-1-4088-8485-0

Published by Bloomsbury in Hardcover –

Release date 03 November 2016

RRP £12.99

A Children’s Picture Book (Hardback)

Overview: If we were to throw the classification of the animal kingdom into reverse we would have a catalogue of inhabitants of the ancient natural world which look in some ways familiar, yet are strangely different. This is a fact finding collection of mammals; birds; arthropods; insects, sea creatures and reptiles/lizards (of course) with long, weird names, that once walked the earth; flew in the skies; made their homes in the soil; or swam in/ or occupied the oceans. None having that much in common apart from the fact they have all been extinct for millions of years. Evolution does not get a mention in the charting or the text, at all, but on the bottom right hand corner of every page there is an representation of a modern day 'relative' to those ancient creatures and you can see the similarities

Comment and Guide: This Natural History Science and Nature Picture Book is for children of the informative stage of development. It is educational. It is nicely presented in a repeated format of introduction, exploration and comparison in text and timeline information. The prehistoric creature representations are illustrated by Harriet Russell, twinned with Shutterstock photographic shots of creatures that inhabit the earth today. There are rodents with horns, huge Armadillos (Doedicurus), flying lizards (Quetzalcooatlus) and other over-sized prehistoric's, some scary predator types. Ideal for a child who is either dinosaur mad, a fossil collecting enthusiast or one who likes digesting short facts information that they can share around

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Ravensburger Fireworks Sydney feature

I specifically requested to feature/mention on this personal blog, an extra large jigsaw (2000 pieces) by Ravensburger depicting this fabulous image entitled 'Fireworks in Sydney' Disclosure

...because this coming New Year's Eve, I will no doubt see pictures of those impressive fireworks exploding in the night skies over Sydney Harbour on an afternoon news bulletin here in the UK. Those 'down under' welcoming 2017 so joyfully and brightly ahead of us, as they always do. The difference being for me this year, is that one of those people will be my own dear daughter. So it is quite strange how a place that you have never shared an affinity with, suddenly becomes important; relevant; one to watch

...and, I guess, as the jigsaw is 2000 pieces and will measure 98 cm x 75 cm when complete, I best start now and it just may be done by the New Year. Yeah..,but which one, I hear you ask!

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Ravensburger celebrating the imminent return of 'The Brighton Belle' in puzzle form

About The Brighton Belle

The Brighton Belle was the world's only electric, all-Pullman service and ran daily between London and Brighton from 1 January 1933, until 30 April 1972 when it was withdrawn from service.

A campaign to return the Brighton Belle to mainline service was launched by the 5-BEL Trust in 2009. The project, relying largely on public donations to fund the expensive restoration work, was launched at the National Railway Museum shortly after. 

So the old octogenarian + has since been restored by the professional rail engineering firms, Rampart Engineering and Pindari, in the Brighton Belle Shed at Barrow Hill, Chesterfield. I understand that tests are now being run (or about to be), and the old gal will be making a return to mainline passenger carrying service in 2017 offering a Pulman dining experience to its clientele in fully restored Art Deco car(s).

This is the first time that a complete train will have been restored in Britain. What a fantastic story!

Ravensburger Puzzle Review Brighton Belle by my blogger friend, Ute Lark

1000 pieces

A Premium Puzzle with Soft Click Technology

On opening the 1000 pieces were neatly packed in a bag. It included a leaflet showing the artists biography and additional picture for reference. As I can see from the included small catalogue that it is a new addition to the collection 2016.

The Drawing by Trevor Mitchell shows the 1st class service the Brighton Belle used to bring for 40 years. An excellent choice of the picture as it has many different colours and lines to  be identified on each puzzle piece.

There is more information about “that the magic of fine rail dining in the 1930s, complete with attentive white jacketed Pullman stewards and those sumptuous surroundings” It will be recreated and the Brighton Belle will be in service again towards the end of 2016. If you like to read more please go to the Brighton Belle
website. Rather interesting!

The 1000 pieces are great card quality which you can be sorted easily without the danger of breaking them or the fear of the actual picture coming off. 

Through the many different objects and people on the picture one can sort really well into colours and also shapes depending how you as puzzler prefer it. I prefer sorting in shapes first then colours.

The great thing with a Ravensburger, once you find a piece and it fits - it really fits, it really ‘clicks ‘in. It does have the soft click technology- not just a word- you can really feel it. You do not have to doubt if it is the right place as each piece is individually shaped. This is a big bonus and gives us puzzlers extra help especially for not such established puzzlers. The shapes are distinctive and sometimes you don’t even need to look at the picture so much. While doing piece by piece you feel and see the excellent quality. 

My favourite moment is when I put the last piece in, I feel a sense of achievement and I can see the picture in full big glory.

I very much enjoyed doing this puzzle, it didn’t take long and even my children stopped by to put the odd piece in the right place. I can recommend this puzzle to all puzzlers out there and it would be a good start for someone who has never done 1000 piece puzzle.