Category Archives: nature

Painting with sunlight

I’ve been playing with dyes and sunlight printing this week. I love it – so easy and so effective – for those of you who asked for instructions and more details here are just some quick guidelines.

You need:

white cotton or calico fabric

Dye na flow paints  – lots of different colours available see the photo in the side bar which will take you directly to this on Amazon

Flat surface (covered as it will mark)

leaves, flowers or any object that will lay flat

paint brush

water

sunlight!

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Rosa – aged six created this by herself

Instructions:

wash your fabric – (gets rid of chemicals and allows paint to absorb better)

cut fabric to size and wet

squeeze out excess water (but it still needs to be wet)

Place onto a flat (protected) surface

Paint with as may colours as you want – more than one is effective but you can get some colours from plants (dandelion heads leave a yellow mark)

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place your leaves onto the wet fabric and press them into the paint with your finger tips

leave in bright sunlight to dry

carefully peel off the leaves

iron to seal the colours

 

Notes:

some colours work better than others – pink on its own very pale but pink and blue mixture is stronger

Burnt umber is v effective

Fern type leaves are an excellent choice as they add detail

There are no ‘rules’ just play!

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It’s worth allowing children to play – Tommy threw a pile of grass onto his picture so I left it – it really worked!

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Let me know how you get on x

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Learning can be messy – Frozen Flowers

I have a confession to make – I am addicted to Pinterest and can spend hours looking at ideas and thinking ‘maybe I’ll have a go at that’. I’ve not done any photography just ‘because I wanted to play’ for ages (done weddings and proper stuff but nothing just for fun). I saw some images of #frozenflowers and immediately created a new Pinterest Board. The images looked amazing, I’ve got a ‘foldio’ portable mini studio and several bunches of flowers due to a recent birthday so ‘jobs a good en’ as we say in Yorkshire.

I hit several problems which I needed to solve – it struck me that this would be a great project to do with children as they could work around the problems – great for combining arts, science and photography.

  1. I didn’t have a container in mind so hunted around the cupboards – I chose a round one which didn’t give me a flat surface from the sides – first mistake but it did mean I tried out different shapes and depths. It was at this point that my teacher brain kicked in.
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  2. When I put my flowers into the water they floated – when I put flowers in first and poured water on – they floated! I would ask pupils to solve this problem for me. (A quick tour of Pinterest – pour in a small amount of water to freeze the flower to the bottom of the container. Then add a small amount of more water and return to freezer. NB the word ‘small’ is important because if you pour in too much it melts the first layer of water – mistake number 2!)
  3. I took my frozen block out and managed a couple of ‘OK images’ such as this one.
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    My water had frozen as ‘cloudy’ and none of my Pinterest images looked like this – how did I get clear ice? Teacher brain now in overdrive.
  4. Another search – use distilled water! I had some in the garage but if I was in a classroom I’d get pupils to distill their own – there will be a tutorial or a friendly science teacher won’t there?
  5. Photography session number 2  revealed that distilled water doesn’t freeze at the same rate as tap water (science lesson here people!). What looked like a frozen block was still liquid in the middle – lots of puddles later… I managed a couple of images – I love the patterns in distilled water when frozen – (Art lesson 🙂 )
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  6. I discovered lots of other issues – the thickness of the ice alters the patterns, and affects how much of the flower you can see. Ice blocks melt and move – (especially under a light source! – more puddles). Did you know if you put a block of iced distilled water onto another block they will fuse together … and crack when you pull them apart!
  7. I love this type of experimental photography as it gives you lots of room to experiment and come up with something unique. There is no end to what you could freeze and what you could learn along the way
    J x

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Outdoor learning just in the garden

Tommy and LJ love our garden, they love Mamma’s greenhouse (Tommy has been calling me that since he began talking and couldn’t say grandma). We are learning so much by playing outdoors just in this small space.

I wanted to share some free and inexpensive  ideas for developing your garden and using it for fun learning

  1. I’ve left a patch of grass ‘wild’ to encourage butterflies and bees. It looks very wild now and the grasses are almost waist height for Tommy and LJ. They love walking through this and feeling the different textures as well as looking for butterflies.
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  2. Seeds – I saved seeds from poppies, sweet peas and foxgloves last year and we planted these earlier this year. They understand the sequence of plant pot, soil, seeds, more soil, water and writing a label and can now plant seeds with very little help.
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  3. We won a book on Toppsta called ‘Bee and me’ this is a stunning book all about the friendship between a little girl and a bee. It arrived with a packet of beautifully illustrated seeds. Obviously we planted theses and nurtured them ( toppsta is a site where you can look at book reviews and recommendations but can also win ‘ giveaways- well worth a look)
  4. As a result of the above we now spend a lot of time looking for ‘buzzy bees’ and talking about pollen and flowers.
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  5. I caught Tommy outside with his camera taking ‘photos of flowers like mamma’
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  6. We allow the kids to fill up the bird feeders and that’s one of the things they ask to do now.
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  7. Tommy has a digger with a bucket on the front and we collect small items to fit in, leaves, feathers, stones all the while talking about big and little
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  8. We listen for sounds – I could have cried when Tommy said ‘listen to the birds singing’ -Tommy particularly likes aeroplane spotting.
  9. We have picked tomatoes from the green house and eaten them outside ( I have stressed he must always ask me first before eating anything!! Paranoid grandma.)
  10. Tommy uses the hosepipe to water the tubs and we are gradually learning what is the correct amount of water – we’ve had weeks of too much water to get to this stage!


None of this is rocket science I know but I’ve really started to learn about the joys of outdoor learning as I have been privileged to work with Juliet Robertson ( take a look at her blog there are so many ideas on there!)  on two of her books Dirty Teaching and Messy Maths ( both by Crown House ). I now think about the language I use and can see joy in the kids faces when we lay on the floor to look at a green caterpillar or Tommy asks what the berries are on the tree. I love it when they are excited to see starlings feeding their young or when LJ makes piles of pebbles. Yes they get dirty and my hosepipe is Tommy’s favourite toy but they are outside playing and learning to love nature which has got to be a good thing 

We did buy some items, a magnifying glass which meant we could look closely for caterpillars and bugs, children’s gardening gloves – they were £1 a pair at a local hardware store, smaller watering cans and the children’s first book of birds from The RSPB.

Free Motion Embroidery Part 2

I really do think you can teach yourself most things with the help of you tube videos and a pinterest board. The last few weeks have seen my interest in free motion embroidery grow. I created more flower images based on my photos such as this one here.

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Vase of flowers – free motion embroidery

I based the flowers and poppy seeds on photos and it seemed to work quite well. I decided to see if the same worked with photos of people. As I’m a beginner I’m working on images taken from behind to avoid having to sew faces!  Obviously my first subject was Tommy. My first attempt didn’t work as I forgot to flip the image and his little arm was then on the wrong side.However, undeterred, I tried again!

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I love this as this is often my view of him running ahead whilst I try to keep up. My daughter in law loved it and asked if we could do a family portrait. Trying to keep Tommy in the right position was hard but I loved playing with this.

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It’s now finished a framed! A real sense of achievement from a non sewer.

This is my latest attempt – a picture for my friend of her two granddaughters which has real significance for her.

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So if you want a portrait from behind, preferably wearing a hat! You know where to come x

Free motion embroidery

My knees are creaking, my back hurts and I can’t see the floor in my study but I’m so pleased with the results of my efforts today! I bought a sewing machine at the end of Oct and have been playing! I was fortunate to attend a thread stitching machine course led by Karen Hall at Oh Sew Sweet in Wombwell I loved the day and came home with a framed picture that I had made – it’s a bit wonky but it really inspired me! Today I’ve taken a photo of a vase of dead flowers (what else) in the kitchen and used it as inspiration for a picture.

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Free motion embroidery
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Vase of honesty and poppy heads

I know it’s not perfect but I feel like I have achieved something today x

Bird watching

I love the birds in my garden but also love a walk around our local RSPB site. For the first time in ages – it wasn’t raining and it was a cold sunny day. Spent a lovely hour in the garden hide at Old Moor.

There were a group of long tailed tits who are lovely but don’t stay still for very long.

The usual suspects were also there!

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I love this Robin one as you can see the wind blowing the branches.

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I saw a magpie out of the corner of my eye – it had what looked like some orange paper in its mouth. Unfortunately when I looked it was actually the head of a bullfinch which did really upset me but I suppose nature has to take its course!

I did deliberate about uploading and I apologise if it offends anyone but it is just such a natural shot.

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Renewed optimism

I’ve not taken any still life shots for a while so a rainy dull day seemed ideal to stay indoors and play. I do have a beautiful bouquet of flowers from our anniversary last week but I’m much more at home with decaying plants and flowers as I love the texture. A quick dash into the garden produced some sorry looking specimens but they make for amazing macro shots.

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Teach yourself a new skill – the next steps

I’m currently working on photographs for a new book for Juliet Robertson @Creativestar (Juliet’s blog is here.)

She introduced me to the idea of Hapa Zome and I have  written about  this in an earlier blog post here. However, having spent weeks working on different materials, different plants and leaves – even different hammers! I found myself with a pile of dyed fabric and not a lot of idea what to do with it! So I decided to teach myself free hand machine embroidery. Several hours on Pinterest, loads of you tube videos, numerous mistakes and I have finally managed to create a series of (very) abstract cards. I’m very much still learning but am loving experimenting!

Hapa Zome Craft Cards

If you look at the header you can see that I have used Photoshop to turn some of my images into templates and am working on these at the minute x