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all-Pullman service and ran daily between London and Brighton from 1 January 1933, until 30 April 1972 when it was withdrawn from service.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.


Friday, 5 August 2016

Science Festival at Kew

First things first:

  • Kew is a global resource for plant and fungal knowledge
  • Kew is the world-leader in plant diversity science

Therefore, this Science Festival weekend at Kew is a real opportunity for visitors to get a behind the scenes look at what goes on at Kew, scientifically. 

Somewhat surprisingly, it the first time Kew has ever hosted a Science Festival, and so for its visitors of all ages, it is bringing the science out of the labs and into the Gardens; showcasing the importance of botanical and organic science research.

Designed to celebrate the work of Kew scientists and their scientific discoveries, this festival will allow the chance for people to get hands-on and interactive with Kew’s science in a way that will inspire, and, perhaps, spark a lifelong interest in botany.

Through onsite workshops and activities led by Kew scientists, researchers and students aim is to raise awareness of a wide range of important scientific issues.

Profesor Kathy Willis, Director of Science at Kew

Professor Kathy Willis, Director of Science says "Kew's first Science Festival will engage and fascinate in equal measure. It's all about getting science into the Gardens and showcasing the exciting work carried out by our scientists in a fun environment."

The festival's programme is full of exhibits, activities, workshops and talks, and is full of variety. With over 15 interactive areas which includes: 

  • Using a DNA sequencer that can fit in a hand – which reads DNA letters directly from the living organism to the computer screen
  • Cloning a cabbage and pollinating orchids with tuning forks
  • Visitors can also become citizen scientists and have their name included in a scientific paper by helping researchers measure and assess new plant species
  • Younger budding scientists will be invited to try to make their own mushroom spore print, take part in the plant pressing ‘Olympics’ or go on a treasure hunt for the for the nearest relative to a cabbage

Monday, 25 July 2016

Paint Yourself Calm - Book Feature

'Anyone can paint. Not only anyone, but everyone

For those who know me personally or through my blog will know the high value I place on creativity and its link with health and well being as well as with teaching and learning; I believe so much can be channeled positively through artistic involvement, engagement or participation in 'the arts'

'Art isn't an exclusive club for those who are gifted or know what they are doing'

While perusing this feel good book by artist, Jean Haines called Paint Yourself Calm I was reminded of my final project idea, in my community artist role, back in 2012

'Painting is something that you can do at any stage in your life' 
My idea at the time was to start up and operate a community art box loan scheme for the elderly. Participants would receive an art box on loan for an agreed time period and I was exploring too the possible involvement of young people who could have acted as art demonstrators on occasion 

'There is far more to be gained from painting than the end result of colour on paper'

Elderly participants would have had the chance to rediscover their artistic skills and enhance their lives by using new art materials and engaging in creative experiences that will be more widely beneficial to them as individuals. Whereas the young people could have benefitted too, by learning valuable skills in communication, organising and leadership

'Time taken to put ourselves in a better and healthier state of mind is a blessing, and well worth it'

Unfortunately I was unable to break through the glass ceiling that was forming to secure the funding to get the project off the ground, but I still obsess over these kinds of principles today. However, books, like the one I feature here can be somewhat motivational and therapeutic in helping one realize that a feeling of self-worth can be regained and inner calm can be achieved at those mindful times when thoughts and imagination is allowed to flow through the body and out through not only the brush, but through the pen, the pencil, the saw, the knife, the vocal chords, the sculpture's hands, the dancer's feet, the pianist's fingers - whatever the art, in fact! Whatever the craft!  

Quotes in the colour fonts above from the book Paint Yourself Calm by Jean Haines 

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Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Is it right that we introduce children to toys and books by gender category?

Have you heard about the organisation Let Toys Be Toys ? It is a grass roots campaign that is run by volunteers and is aimed at marketers, retailers and book publishers asking that they organise toys/books by theme rather than gender. The main focus is to persuade toy shops and toy departments to take away aisles and shelves that are for ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ and to take down the pink and blue signs in stores and on packaging, and instead let toys be toys

To all intents and purposes Let Toys Be Toys is a pressure group designed to persuade retailers and toy manufacturers to stop categorizing toys by gender and for publishers to stop labeling books for boys or for girls. Interested to know more visit Let Toys be Toys a researching group, a non-profit organization, with a focus on children and play here

To help children understand gender identity themselves (as it is not quite as simple as pink and blue), there's a new picture book from Bloomsbury called Introducing Teddy. The hook line says it is 'a story about being yourself' and it goes like this: 

'Little boy, Errol has a boy teddy bear friend called, Thomas and they play together everyday doing all sorts of fun things. Secretly, however, Thomas would rather be known as a girl bear called Tilly. This would make life much happier for a uptight little bear who is worried to tell Errol in case he doesn't want to be a friend anymore. But when he is told Errol understands and reassures teddy by saying  'I don't care if you're a boy teddy or a girl teddy! What matters is that you are my friend!'
So Thomas becomes Tilly by simply switching his bow tie for a hair bow! 

The real moral of the tale and how it fits with this blog theme today, is that after the bear has revealed inner fears and feelings, the two friends continue to play and do the same things as before, nothing changes. Tilly and Errol still enjoy adventure games and playing in the park with Ava too, and indoor tea parties when it's raining, their choice of fun and games do not change in any way, so a sweet take on a difficult theme by author, Jessica Walton and the story defining illustrations by Dougal MacPherson are quite lovely.

Meet Jessica Walton and her transgender bear over on Facebook

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Keeping an art journal plus Book Giveaway Part II

Returning to the 'keeping an art journal theme' of a recent blog post and this time I'm sharing the ideas of Norwegian knitwear designers and authors, Arne & Carlos of how to create an Art Journal, Book Bound keepsake/diary, Idea Book - Call it what you will!

Crafting circles will know of Arne and Carlos because of their established social media presence and their published craft titles of course. The pair arrived on my radar when they opened the Knitting and Stitching show of Oct 2015 in London

So I'll let the guys tell you in their own unscripted video style about how to make an Art Journal/Idea Book 

And published in May this year, a book, featuring the art journal  ideas of Arne and Carlos called  'Make your own IdeaBook with Arne & Carlos' (see above)

Short review - also published on Amazon

Okay, these kinds of books can really only perform as a guide rather than be comprehensive in the detailing, but it does contain step-by-step information of how to make your own handmade book, how to sew in pages; how to bind the book and how to create a cover. 
The art editing work of the book is exceptional. It is the presentation and beautiful colour photography, (of which there are over 50 images and many full page), that does the job of illustrating the techniques adopted by Arne and Carlos in their handmade book making process. A large, folded sheet of useful templates is inserted in the back. Take a look at the pages inside

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** competition is now closed**

Thursday, 30 June 2016

The Craft of Encaustic Painting (Painting with Wax)

I have a few kit basics to hand, and have merely dabbled with this ancient artform; barely 'scratching the surface' so to speak, but I don't think there is any easier way to paint amazing fantasy scenes or create impressive landscape formations in the form of colourful and vibrant pictures than using molten wax, an iron and a just a few basic tools on card or special papers

When working as a freelance artist I ran a community project called 'DIY Girls' and introduced the group to Encaustic Art, passing on the simple techniques I had got to grips with quite quickly. Sure enough the students were soon smoothing and dabbing wax on to their painting cards like experts

It was quite coincidental that a craft book called Encaustic Art PAINTING WITH WAX was in my book box of new craft book releases, and, curiously, I fetched out a project book that I already had in my possession called Encaustic Art Project Book and saw it was another Search Press publication and by the same author, Michael Blossom. Obvious it is then, that if you have any mind picking questions to do with the art, then encaustic artist and demonstrator Michael Blossom is your man! In his sessions and in his books Blossom explains the tools needed to do basic technique and beyond, from creating simple abstracts to more delicate works of art using further techniques

Note: the following three images are by Michael Blossom. Look his gallery up here 

Both the books I mention are selling on Amazon. The Amazon reviews for both are worth a read. Click on a pic below to take you over