Thursday, 28 February 2013

My Month in Numbers 2013: February

Hello, hello.

Well here we all are again, counting the moments that count.

It was fun to see some debuts and some grand commitments to a year of Month-in-Numbering being made last month. You're all very welcome ... and I'll always forgive you if you don't manage every month in 2013 like some of you have pledged to do.

And if you just feel like joining in as a one-off then feel free ... I don't take a register ... I just enjoy your company on the occasions you can make it!

And, fortunately ... I managed to write a post myself this month [I'd be setting a poor example otherwise!] ... and here it is:

 3 = hours spent applying make-up, experimenting with vintage style hair-dos and attempting to follow jive-style dance steps at a 'Rockabilly Rosie' workshop:

2 = the number of victory rolls I managed to pin into my hair [above] after much twiddling, spraying with hairspray and assistance from the 2 extra hands of a big sister who knows what she's doing.
It was such a fun day, held in an arts and community space which was once a church hall and what with the surroundings and the hair, make up and music I felt partly like I was an extra from the set of Foyle's War and partly like we'd wandered into a tea break from when Grandma worked in the munitions factory during WW2.

As for the dancing part of the day .. well, I think it's  safe to say that we both knew our way around an eyeliner better than we do our right and left feet. All of which led to conversations such as:

Big sis: Do you know what you're doing? Because I don't.
Me: No. Not a clue. Just keep bouncing and moving and no one will know!

2 = the number of recipe books referred to during the making of a Valentine's night meal. Clearly I wasn't in charge of proceedings. I don't really do recipe books [I'm more of a 'throw stuff in' or 'just assemble things on a plate' kind of cook].

I did however do a mighty good job of stirring the a risotto James began making. And he would actually have made it all himself if I hadn't decided that we should have a dessert too - so he turned his attentions to that instead.

As our menu consisted of risotto and Prosecco ... I felt like it would only be fitting if we had a dessert ending in 'o' too. So we got the recipe book out and made ... Nigella's Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake-o.

OK, so I might have added the 'O' there ... but still ... I definitely made an  'Oooooo' sound when I ate it!

Just the 1 book read this month = Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch which was wonderful.

I know some of you like to follow up on book recommendations, so it might be useful for you to know I've been adding mine to a 'Books Read in 2013' Pinterest board I've made for myself. If you're on Pinterest too you could just repin them on your own 'Books to Read' board!

And I really do recommend Jamrach's Menagerie, despite a large proportion of the book being set on the high seas .... and I'm not a fan of the deep at all!

I don't want to give anything away but just be warned ... one night, after reading it before sleep, I dreamt of trying desperately, desperately, desperately to find some fresh water to give to a bird I'd rescued ... which then turned into a big fat fly.

I can't say this will happen to you ... but don't say you weren't warned!

£0.16 = the fine I've acquired on an overdue library book. Not the book above, but another I'm only part of the way through.

I couldn't tell you when I last had- if ever - a library book fine! I was horrified to realise I had forgotten to renew it.

*Turns away thoroughly shame-faced* *Tries especially hard to avoid eye contact with Sian*

10 = the number of items made featuring cork for an upcoming issue of Papercraft Inspirations magazine [Issue 113].
I've designed for the '10 Ways with ... ' feature many times now, and on previous occasions I've come up with 10 different ways to use: decorative pins; paper straws, cupcake cases, ruffles and more ...

And it's still always a creative challenge. As it should be! But, let me tell you ...

... you don't realise how big a number 10 actually is ... until you're on project number 5 ... and there's still 5 projects left to think up!

It's like a crafting decathlon.

Perhaps I should think about getting sponsorship from an energy drinks company? Or better still ... a  shoe manufacturer ...

£13.50 = the price paid for silver boots in the sale. I have a thing for metallic footwear and I've had plenty of gold and silver shoes in the past, but these are my first silver boots:
Aren't they special?

Now if only I had a silver bag or two .. or three ... to coordinate with them. Oh wait ... I do!

OK then, those were mine. How about yours?
Here are the usual notes to consider:
If you write a Month in Numbers post of your own and want to leave a link for myself and others to come and visit then please bear in mind it's more fun if it's a shared experience.
  • When you swing by my blog to drop off your link then please leave a comment for me while you're here. Not because I'm needy ... but because it feels fair. Reciprocal. Please don't just paste and run!
  • Please link to my blog in your post. As much as I'd like to think that everyone who reads your blog already knows what 'My Month in Numbers' means... the truth is, they don't. So unless you explain where the idea comes from and how your readers can join you in doing the same next month, they are none the wiser.
  • Please take time at some point in the month to visit and comment on a few of the other posts too.
But most importantly ... remember to tell the story of your month ... in your words ... for you! 

And one final note [before you think I'm ignoring you!]:
  • I will be away from my computer Friday - Monday so I won't be able to read any posts, leave any comments, or pin any posts during that time.
  • But I will see to all that when I get back online after a long weekend away with friends. [Once I come down from the inevitable crafting-and-getting-all-my-meals-made-for-me induced high].

See you all soon, my lovely monthly-moment-counters.

Julie :-)


Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Scrapbooking: A Vintage Start [with a hint of circus]

Hi, hi.

First of all ... thank you so much for all your responses to my 'nesting crafter' post earlier this week! I am amazed at how many similar responses there were and I really hadn't expected to find that many fellow off-piste [and on knee] creatives!

If you didn't catch the post first time around, drop in on it here, and read through the comments to have a nosey behind the closed doors of crafters who confess all about the crafty nests they've created for themselves at home.

Now then ... coincidentally enough today's page was begun on the comfort of an entire, vast, table to myself at the monthly crop I attend, but had its finishing touches added on a lap-tray, on my lap, in front of the TV.

And here's how it turned out:
You might remember the photo from January's Month in Numbers post when I described how we somehow managed to come home from celebrating the New Year ... with a bowler hat. but not before we'd all posed for photos in them:
I added a vintagey feel to the original photos by using the 'Sepia' and 'Vignette' features on Picasa and playing a round with the brightness [which is a lot, lot, easier than it sounds if you've never tried it ... and it's a free package!].

The backing paper is Studio Calico 'Darling Dear - Wayne' which I mixedt ogehter with some scraps of corrugated card plus red + white chequerboard items from Papermania's 'Happy Days' range.
And the fun Penny Farthing image card [because when else was I going to use a Penny Farthing] is Kaisercraft 'Miss Match - Knick Knacks'.

What with the bike, the hats and the mix of red, gold and stripes - courtesy of the Little Miss Military embellishment kit - I think there's more than a hint of 'Roll up, roll up, step inside the Big Top' about this page:
But if you can't go 'a bit circus-y' at New Year then I don't know when you can!


Here's a better look at the Little Miss Military kit which is available to purchase here:

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go practise my trapeze act ...
Julie ;-)

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Scrapbooking: Are you a nesty-crafter like me?

Hi, hi.

I have an office/craft room. And I'm very grateful for it.

I can sit at my desk all day, occasionally looking out on those hills we were chatting about last week or overseeing the comings and goings of my neighbours, and then, when I want to leave my work [or my 'mess'. Or both] behind I can close the door behind me and forget all about it.

And yet ...
... there are times when, despite my craft room having everything in one place, and a desk to work at, I just don't want to craft in there. Partly because I associate that room with working [rather than crafting-for-fun] and partly because ...

... there's no TV, sofa or James in there. And I like all those things.

So that's when the great crafty-exodus begins and I gather up:
  • my box of 12x12 papers;
  • my letter stickers;
  • my journaling cards;
  • my crafting-bag-of-many-compartments [filled with embellishments, ribbons, 'bits' etc];
... and
  •  my tool tote, because without scissors, my tape-gun, craft knife, punches, 3D foam and more ... all of the other ingredients remain just that: ingredients. When what I'm trying to achieve is a finished dish: a cooked scrapbook page:
And ideally it all needs to be within reaching distance, just an arm's length away ... and those are the days when my living room takes on the appearance of something akin to Tracy Emin's 'My Bed' art installation. [Only with fewer dirty tissues ... and more scraps of patterned paper!].
And I begin to look like some crazy crafty bird in a papery nest.

Well ... if the cap fits eh?


The ribbon and many of the embellishments I've used on this page are available in the Aztec Deco 1 kit which is part of The Couture Collection range of creativity kits in my shop:

I love the ribbon design [so much so I based the colour-scheme of the whole page around it] and it's not something I've seen around and about anywhere else so I quickly snapped up enough for myself and to share around in kits as soon as I spotted it!

Like I say, you can find it in either in Aztec Deco 1 or in the Aztec Deco 2 embellishment sets.


So, where do you craft?
  • Do you craft in your day-to-day living space?
  • And if you do ... are you an expert at balancing your projects on your lap and making a nest around yourself?
  • Or do you craft from up high, tucked neatly away in your purpose built IKEA-laden craft-room?
  • And if you do, do you escape from time to time to sneakily craft on your lap while watching the latest episode of Call the Midwife? [As much as I love watching Scandi-noir dramas ... I can't possibly read the subtitles and craft at the same time ... so any craft-a-longs can only happen with English language shows!]
Let's see how many of you are nesty-crafters/ crafty-nesters too ...


Friday, 22 February 2013

Introducing: The Couture Collection *a new range of crafting kits*

Hello you.

If you've visited my 'Julie Kirk' Etsy shop  or my 'With Julie Kirk' Facebook page this month then you'll have already met my latest range of colourful, creativity kits ... but if you only drop in to see me here, then you won't be formally acquainted ... so here goes ...

*THE COUTURE COLLECTION* is a range of fashion-inspired accessories kits tailored for use in crafting and gift wrapping and I created them to combine two things which make me happy, creatively speaking, on a daily basis: craft supplies ... and clothes!

There are currently 13 styles available, some of which are unique 'one-of-a-kind' sets and others have more than one kit available in that colourway. One size fits all and each has its own name inspired by a style of fashion through the decades.

Fancy a browse through the racks?
OK then, above, for example, we have images from kits called:
If you visit their section of the shop you can view more images of each pack [front + back] and read about their exact contents too as each one is a unique mix of new supplies, items I've collected over the years and vintage/retro pieces discovered on my treasure-hunting travels.

But, if the pinks and greens above aren't your style ... then how about these more restrained, subtle, and classic colour palettes? Including the most enduring design of all couture ... the Little Black Dress!
And I've saved the most daring designs until last ... these next designs are for those of you who love to experiment with colour and pattern:
There's everything from the soldier-or-circus? style Little Miss Military to  the sparkles from a mirrorball which is the Disco kit in there, each with strong colours and styles to either combine into your existing stash ... or to boldly clash with it.

Both sound like fun to me!


Give your crafty-wardrobe a makeover and pick up a unique, carefully accessorised, hand-selected Couture Collection kit for just £6 ... then use it to:
  • dress up scrapbook pages, handmade cards, mini books, mixed media artworks, 3D projects;
  • create ribbon brooches and hair bows [there are hair grips included in all packs]
  • embellish hairbands, cardigans, bags or cushions; 
  • add a special touch to the gift-wrapping of boxes, bag or envelope - make bows with the ribbons, add buttons and charms with twine and write on the tags and labels.
  • Or ... use them on anything else you feel needs a splash of fashion!
And, finally ... The Couture Collection would make a perfect Mother's Day gift [it's March 10th in the UK this year]:
  • either if you have a creative mother who deserves a chic-crafty treat
  •  ... or if you are a creative mother and would like to drop a hint to an obliging child/partner!

For examples of how I've used The Couture Collection you can:
I'll see you soon ... until then I'll leave you to browse the collection ...


Thursday, 21 February 2013

Scrapbooking: As in photography, as in life

Hi, hi.

I hope you've used the 'facilities' and packed some travel sweets because I'm taking you on another journey today. OK? Ready?

So far this month you've:
Then, when I got my breath back, ...
... and now, for today's trip around Teesside ...
  • allow me to spin you around 180° so you're facing <<<<<< in that direction, and you're all set to join me down by the the sea [getting your feet wet is optional]:

I've already blogged the photo I've scrapped here in a Month in Numbers post last summer, but wanted to record it on a layout too.

I used the wording from my original blog post as the journaling for the page which, I think you should just be able to make out here:
And here it is in context:
I've since learned [through a comment on my original post] that there's an actual, technical, photographic term for the 'out of focus but with colourful little circles' effect I managed to capture entirely by accident in the photo.

Apparently it's called bokeh and is quite an enviable thing to achieve! Who knew?

And there's me thinking I just couldn't get my focus right. Even when the camera was on automatic!!
Maybe I could have just pretended it wasn't a fluke at all ... and then presented it to you as the 'results of my experiments with depth of field' ... but, for better or worse, I'm a bit too honest for that.

Plus ...  I've been told my face doesn't always manage to hide what I'm thinking ... so you'd have guessed I was up to something!


OK, that's my seaside post for today, I can't think of anything else I could share about my local area right now so I might let you rest for a while ... anyone for a Lemon Top while we're here?


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Scrapbooking: Under a Big Big Sky

Hi, hi.

Did you enjoy the route-march from my house to the Post Office the other day? [Or at least my description of it in my February Simply A Moment post?].

Well, following on from that I thought I'd stick to the 'local' theme and share a page I made about the view from the deck of the art gallery in our nearest large town.

Just consider me your friendly tourist guide for the week and hop on board my virtual open-top bus!
Can you make out those hills in the far distance on the top photo? The blue mounds like sleeping dinosaurs?

Well, those are part of the same range I can see much closer up from my bedroom window and the ones I remember staring out at from my junior school classroom:
It's no doubt due to those hills that I've got a taste for big skies.

Our housing estate is on an incline [hence me getting breathless walking up to the Post Office!] and I only need to look out of my window to see a wide expanse of sky above the hilltops.

Similarly, when James and I were looking out across the outdoor deck of the MIMA gallery, we were only on the 2nd floor but still, it was just elevated enough to have a clear, unobstructed view of the hills and the sky above the rooftops:
It's one of the reasons I tend to loiter on the landings at work when I'm climbing the 10 floors of the tallest building on campus. I love to look out at the entire region laid out before me.
One of the other reasons I loiter on the landings is that I've been walking up 10 flights of stairs for goodness sake!

It makes me wonder if I should do more 'local' scrapbooking. More landmarks, scenes and stories.

We photograph and scrap the places we've travelled to ... but not often what's on our doorstep do we?

OK ... I'll add it to the list ....

Do you scrap about where you live?

Julie :-)

Supplies used:
Backing paper: Pink Paislee 'Portfolio' Incredible
Polaroid-style paper: Kaisercraft 'Miss Match' Treasure
Scraps of Studio Calico
Stickers: Echo Park 'Everyday Eclectic'
Washi Tape: East of India
[These are not sponsored links. Just where I bought my own supplies from!]

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Simply A Moment: And all without a safety hat


One of my favourite things to do is go for a wander around my own head. Which is just as well really, as I do it rather a lot.

What I don't do often enough is make a note of those journeys ... and I really should, because, when I've done so in the past, I've enjoyed looking back on my meandering thoughts. It's just like leafing back through an old photo album where there aren't any pictures ... except the ones inside my head.

All of which goes to explain why I'm joining in once again with the 'Simply A Moment' meme created by the ever-eloquent and inspiring Alexa in which she encourages us to, once a month, record in detail, a moment which could otherwise have passed by without comment.

You can read these tips from Alexa on how to record your own moments and view her most recent Simply A Moment post here.

And you can read mine just here ...

And All Without a Safety Hat

Date: Friday 15th February 2013
Time: around 10:15am
Location: walking to the Post Office from home
I'm not wearing a hat!

I'm not wearing a hat, and yet it's not cold. When was the last time that happened? And the sun's out!

Hello sunshine.

What I am wearing is my old boots. The stretchy fabric at the back is all crumbling away but they're still comfy, especially on my heels which need supporting when I walk fast.

And I will be walking fast.

I can't help it. There's no easy explanation why. There's several. Mixed together. Like aspiring to be more fit for one, but there are others ...

I walk up the drive and on to the street remembering the days [a long time ago now] when leaving the house was hard. Impossible in fact. And as for walking to the shops alone ... well ... that took some training. Quite some building-up-to.

One step at a time.
A dog, that I can't see, barks from the [hopefully, please let it be so] safe distance of a garden somewhere on the estate.

And, with that noise, carried on the still air of this bright morning, we can welcome-in another reason for my speedy walk: fear of dogs. Or the possibility of meeting one. Or, as I'd prefer, of avoiding meeting one.

[At the same time we can welcome-in a shot of adrenaline courtesy of my autonomic fight-or-flight responses. And I walk a little faster.]

Fortunately there are other sounds on the air. Like birdsong and the squeaky chatter of starlings makes me smile.

The snow and ice of recent weeks has cleared but left its mark. There are flakes of red brick on the pavements where garden walls have been nibbled by frost and loose patches of gravel where the road surfaces have crumbled.

It's as if a glacier passed through this 1960s housing estate and tore up the landscape on the way.

Quickly through the alleyway now. That [ironic] dog-leg bend in the middle means I never know if the exit is free. Fortunately it is [it usually is, I've never yet been trapped in an alley by a dog! But my phobia always reminds me that past performance is no indicator of future dog-free alleys. Or something like that anyway.]

The sound of a blackbird flitting between garden fences. Repetitive and evocative and I think: I've known that sound all my life.

Two seagulls cut in front of me in a low, sweeping, diagonal drawing a backslash across my path. And my thoughts.

Onwards, around the bend and up the last section of rising gradient before reaching the shops. I'm warm and fairly breathless, but I don't slow-up, or down, until I'm there.

Where a queue forces me to stand still.

Ahead of me a little boy in a pushchair sings the line: "this little finger on my right" from 'One, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive'.

And, like the blackbird I heard on the way ... he repeats the same line again and again.

And again, I'm smiling at the sound of an unexpected song.

It's funny what you hear ... when you're not wearing your hat.


Don't forget to visit Alexa for links to more 'Simply A Moment' posts.

I'll be back soon.

Julie x

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Because sometimes it's worth getting your feet wet.

Hi you.

Warning: This post may contain some tortuous water themed metaphors. Anyone prone to sea sickness should look away now.

Sometimes dry land is the best place to be.

It's safe, sturdy and you, quite literally, know where you stand.

But ... what happens when something you really want is out there? In the water?

By all means you can, and probably do, move yourself as close to the tide as possible, stretching yourself and reaching out as far as you can.

But ... sooner of later you come to realise that you have only 2 options. You can turn around and reach for something closer.

Or you can get your feet wet.
Which is kind of what I've been trying out in recent weeks.

There are certain things that have been on my To Do list for an age. But, for various reasons just kept getting put to the back of the queue. [These are mainly design / creative / blogging related things which I don't want to share until they're all ready. So, please forgive my obtuseness and feel free to just apply my rambling metaphor in anyway you see fit!]

Eventually, I got tired of this and decided that I need to stop thinking I can do everything myself ... and reach out to others who can help me get things crossed off the list!
But the thing with stepping off the shore like that is ... you don't always know what's out there. Lurking. Shark-shaped and waiting to eat you.

And yet ... I realised that it wasn't inevitable I'd end up as shark-bait. After all, I already knew of a pool of fabulously talented supportive creative people.  A pool filled with people I trust and like.

People like you.

People who I wouldn't mind embarrassing myself while splashing and floundering alongside for a while.

So I got my feet wet.


Now then ... why am I telling you all this? I'm not really sure! [In fact I've almost deleted this post several times!].

But, maybe:
  • there's one of you out there now, feeling the sand between your toes, just waiting to hear that it's sometimes worth taking the next step.
Or maybe it's a reminder that:
  •  we sometimes need to be gentle with ourselves and remember that, to get things done, to achieve, to feel satisfied in life ... we don't necessarily have to hurl ourselves from the safety of our lifeboat directly in the dark and scary deep.
There are friendlier waters out there.

We just need to pick our pool carefully ... and go paddling with friends by our sides.

Julie :-)

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Eclectic & Technicolour: Bright mixed-media 'ephemera bits' kits

Hello hello.

We woke to icing sugar in the street this morning. Well, OK, maybe it was a light dusting of snow ... but it looked as near to icing sugar as anything I've seen this side of the top of a Victoria Sponge. And so ...

.... maybe you'll be wanting to stay in and get creative with something bright and cheerful [or, as some of my Southern hemisphere readers remind me ... it's also summer somewhere ... so the bright cheery crafting will apply there too!]

So, today I thought I'd share a closer look at one of the 'Ephemera Bits' kits I recently put together and propped up on the shelves of my Etsy shop. Meet 'Eclectic + Technicolour Brights':
When I'm struggling to name a kit I sometimes just play it safe and go for the obvious and so ... as you can probably tell by this first image ... this particular kit got its name from the collection of eclectic, bright, technicolour bits of ephemera which it's made from. [No one said I had to be original!].

It's sometimes too easy to associate 'ephemera' with grungy styles, with old tickets, weathered metal and aged paper and, while all of that is fabulous and has its place ... I wanted to show how bright and fun ephemera can be too. How it can be more modern than some vintage Steampunk-esque styles ... but still retaining some lovely retro touches.

I must admit that much of this kit reminds me of my 1980s childhood ... so admitting that this is a 'retro' themed kit is pretty hard on my ego. But I don't mind suffering for my art ...

The full contents list can be found here but actually a close look at the photos reveals all:
  • There are 2 near-identical kits available in this theme - one featuring 'Topsy' [above] ... the other with 'Tim' [below]. So if you want a specific girl/boy pack, and you're the 1st to order, just let me know your choice when ordering.
  • There are lots of other bright illustrations from children's reading books + annuals alongside text pages and maps meaning there's plenty there for you to turn into both backgrounds and focal points;
  • I've mixed in some bright papers new and re purposed [see first image] alongside neon cards, bright postage stamps and fun labels;
  • There are 4 lengths of colourful sticky tape and washi tapes [wrapped around a strip of acrylic] so you can enjoy different designs without needing an entire roll!
  • I've also included on of my favourite things in this kit - a pack of pre-cut words and phrases which you can combine to create weird and wonderful journaling or titles. I love working with 'found' words and they can be great prompts and starting points for really interesting journaling and even poetry or stories.
  • I like them so much I'm thinking of developing a whole blog category or even a class around the things I've created from using snippets!
  • And finally ... I added in 3 designs [grid, dots + hearts] of mesh/sequin waste for you to use with inks, paints etc
  • Either stencil through them or colour over the top and use in reverse [like you would a stamp].
You can click any image [or here] for more details of the kit.

Before I go ...

If you've not used Etsy before:
  • it's usually very straightforward, you just need to register [so you can log-in] then it just uses PayPal like any other online store.

And, if you're new to Art Journaling and want to grab some quick inspiration for using a kit like this:
  • I now have a Pinterest board where I'm starting to pin all my, blogged, journal pages - here [you don't need to be registered to Pinterest to view it].
  • And I've also created a Pinterest board to house any tutorials I've written - here - which contains 2 step-by-step photo tutorials showing an art journal page from start to finish. [They're my most pinned and viewed blog features so I hope you find them useful too!]
Right, I'll leave you to the rest of your Tuesday.

Be it snowy or summery out there I hope you manage to squeeze in something creative today.

Julie :-)