Peony Prints

I have to admit to you that I am a little cuckoo about peonies! They’re my favourite flower, and I wait all year in anticipation of their arrival; I’m lucky enough to have two really well established peony plants in my garden, and from May onward I’m pretty much constantly checking on their progress. Last year, it rained so much that they rotted on the stem before they even had chance to come out, so 2017 owed me big time!

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A peony in my garden, getting ready to bloom!

I’m glad to report that I’ve not been disappointed; one corner of the garden has been chock-a-block with these beautiful flowers for the past couple of weeks – look how beautiful!

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A proper stunner, and so many more waiting in the wings!

I decided to draw on this love as the inspiration for a new design. To be honest, I only ever draw what I love, which is why there are so many dog designs in my ranges – as Beyoncé would say – ‘sorry, I ain’t sorry’! 🙂 

So, I decided it was high time to introduce a peony design into the Wrapped By Alice mix. I began by drawing some simple ink illustrations of peonies in various stages of bloom. From these drawings, I carved rubber stamps, or block cuts, as they can be called. 

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Initial Sketch, Rubber Carving, and First Test Print
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My Finished Carvings

 I can now use these block cuts to hand print my new peony product range – from original prints, where I use all of my carvings, to produce a unique little work of art each time:

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Original Peony Print

To pretty necklaces, featuring a flower just starting to bloom, which I hand print onto eco-friendly birch wood tiles, before sealing with a glass dome, and placing within a silver pendant fixing:

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Lots of little wooden tiles ready to become pendants.

Above all, with this new range, I just hope I’ve been able to capture a bit of the happiness that these lovely flowers make me feel, hopefully I’ve done them a smidgen of justice.

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One of my original prints, surrounded by its inspiration

Snooker, Sheffield and Stereotypes

The Snooker World Championship is at the halfway mark, with just one more week to go. The tournament is held each year in my hometown of Sheffield, at the historic Crucible Theatre – home to the event for the past 40 years!

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There’s always a special atmosphere about the city while the championship is under way, and I like to think us Sheffield folk give a warm welcome to all the snooker-loving visitors we receive over the two week period.

Another proud Sheffield tradition is our history of craftsmanship; from the original silversmiths to the modern-day craft community (the biggest per capita of any city in the UK!) As a local crafter myself, I’m lucky enough to be a part of the Sheffield Makers Shop – a collective of local artists based in the heart of the city, in the Winter Gardens…which just happens to be in stumbling distance of the Crucible Theatre.

So, given this, I thought I’d bring together the proud Steel City traditions of both snooker and craft, into one unique design, specially made for the Sheffield Makers Shop. I wanted the design to be light-hearted, and to celebrate the quirky, fun side of Sheffield; if there’s one thing Sheffield is not, it’s pretentious, and we’re never reluctant to take the mick out of ourselves!

My design began, as most of them do, with a sketch of a dog, on this occasion a Whippet, as I wanted to create a print inspired by the good, old Sheffield stereotype of an old man, with a whippet and a flat cap!

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Original Sketch

I used this sketch to create my own hand-carved block prints:

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I then used these block cuts to print a limited run of original art prints – each one printed by hand :

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I also decided to make some double-sided, hand-printed wooden tags – so visiting snooker fans could take home a little memento, both of their Crucible experience, and their visit to the Steel City of Sheffield!

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Fergus the Scottie Dog

I thought I’d share the creative process behind a new make today; meet my adorable (and rather dapper) Scottie dog, Fergus!

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Fergus Print

Fergus began life earlier this year, when – thanks to a pesky tonsillectomy which forced me to take several weeks off work – I actually had the time to sit down and draw – I’d been planning a Scottie design for a while, and now was my opportunity to bring it to life!

I began, as I always do, with a simple sketch in fine line ink. This time, I initially drew just the head – a Scottie’s face is so expressive, and I only had the energy to draw for a short time.

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First Sketch

The next day, I fleshed out Fergus, giving him a full body:

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Second Sketch

From this point, I took a high resolution scan of my sketch, and used photoshop, and then illustrator, to create a crisp vector of my original design.

 

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Finished Vector

I plan to use this design to create digital artwork in the future, but I also wanted to be able to use it to create a large block cut, which I could use in the production of original prints. In order to do this I traced this large, crisp image onto a sheet of rubber, before carving out the design by hand.

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Inked Rubber Carving of Fergus

Using this block cut, and archival inks, I then produced my own original art prints.

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Stage 1: Printing Fergus

The eagle-eyed amongst you may be wondering where Fergus’s bow tie has gone; after all, a gentleman can’t go out without his bow tie! Fear not, I carved the bow as a separate stamp, so that I would be able to add it in in a separate colour – I felt Fergus needed a pop of colour, and chose a crimson red just for the job!

Now, all that remained to do was sign and number each print – the Fergus Print is limited edition, with only 50 prints available in the run; if you’d like to get your paws on one, you can do so over in my Etsy shop!

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A Finished Print

I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about the creative process behind my new Fergus Print!

 

Staffy Love

I’m so excited and proud to announce that I’m featured in this month’s Dog’s Today magazine! My gift wrapping products have been included in their regular, Dog Crush, feature, which celebrates a different breed every month. I’m especially thrilled to be included this month, as the breed they are celebrating is one very close to my own heart – the “adorabull”, and much misunderstood, Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

 

We have our own Staffie cross in the family – the bundle of joy that is Miss Keira! She brings love and laughter to our lives every single day, yet sadly, like so many other Staffies, she has a past that is not so happy. Cruelly neglected and abused, Keira was rescued by the Sheffield RSPCA back in 2014; they nursed her back to health, and cared for her for 6 long months while she waited in kennels for her forever home, with us.

 

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Our Beautiful Seal Pig, Keira!

Keira’s story is all too common, and that’s why it’s wonderful to see a national magazine, like Dog’s Today, drawing attention to the plight of the Staffie and Staffie Cross. All of my Staffie and Bull Terrier products are charity items – with 20% of the proceeds from each sale going to DDA Watch, who work to protect bull breeds here in the UK. You can see my full range in my Etsy shop, Wrapped By Alice.

 

Handmade Jewellery Coming Soon!

I’ve been working on something a little different the past few days, in preparation for expanding my range from purely paper-based products, into jewellery, textiles and more!

I’ve been having fun testing out new materials and printing and sealing techniques.

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In particular I’ve spent time experimenting with printing my designs onto wood; using sustainably sourced birch wood tiles as my base – like my kraft papers, this material is eco-friendly and full of chracter, with the different grains and tones showing through in every piece.

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Jewellery will be available from next week, in my Etsy and Folksy shops, as well as at Frankly My Deer in Sheffield!

Brand New Song Birds Products

Some new products have landed in my Etsy and Folksy shops today, all featuring a brand new Song Bird design!

All of these new products are printed by hand using a traditional roller technique – this printing process, alongside the eco-friendly, 100% recycled materials I use, creates a unique product, rich with natural variations.

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Brand New Gift Wrapping Set

So far I’ve managed to list my wrapping paper sheets, and gift wrapping sets, but I’ll be keeping myself busy over the next few days listing my whole Song Bird range, so watch this space for lots of new goodies! Here’s a taste of what’s to come:

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Pretty Notebooks
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Gorgeous Gift Tag Sets
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And new wrapping paper colour options!

 

Twitter Tutorial, Number 1

 

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I’ve been running my on business for over two years now, and have some form of presence on nearly all of the social media platforms, however, Twitter is by far and away my favourite -not to mention, most successful – of all my accounts. This is a little ironic as when I was starting out Twitter both scared and mystified me; I didn’t understand all the terms, or how to use the platform – when to tweet, what to tweet, how to use hashtags, etc, etc.

As a massive twitter convert, I thought I would write a series of tutorials, containing the sort of information and tips, that I would have found useful when I was starting out on Twitter, in the hopes it might help other creative startups!

Hashtags

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I thought I’d start with the obvious, and for some people the most confusing, aspect of twitter – using hashtags!

Put plainly, a hashtag is something which you include in your tweets, to increase the likelihood that it will be seen by other twitter users. This basically works in one of three ways; I’m going to list them in what I see as their order of importance, for small, creative businesses, like ours. I’ll start with the most important:

Networking Hours

There are certain hours set aside each week, where people tweet about a certain subject, using a specific hashtag – I’ll suggest a couple of my favourites at the end of the post – but here’s just one example: #HandmadeHour runs every Wednesday 19.30-20.30 (GMT) and every Sunday (20.00-21.00 (GMT) – during this time lots of people with handmade businesses, as well as people who love to buy handmade, are all tweeting, using the hashtag #HandmadeHour, as well as searching for other tweets including that hashtag – it’s a huge community, and there will be lots of people liking, retweeting, and commenting on your work (more of all those terms later!) this means that more and more people are seeing your tweets, and your work, and I can say from experience that it does create sales!

Here’s a couple of examples of the sorts of things I might tweet during #HandmadeHour:

‘I hand print beautiful designs onto eco-friendly kraft paper #handmadehour’

I will also tweet about specific products, e.g. with Father’s Day coming up, I might tweet something like ‘Wish your dad a happy #FathersDay, with my handmade bunny print card #handmadehour’

I would also add a link to my shop or specific product in question, and often a picture as well (if I haven’t already used up my 140 characters!) I might also tag other twitter users in some posts too… But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, let’s just get the basics of hashtags this time round!

Searching Using Hashtags

People with a particular interest or need might search for certain hashtags, e.g. in the run up to Father’s Day people might be looking for gift ideas or cards, so may search for such hashtags as – #FathersDay, #HappyFathersDay, or #FathersDayCard (side note – do not put any punctuation in your hashtags, as it will separate the words, e.g. if you tweeted #father’sdaycards, twitter would post it as #father ‘sdaycards.) So, for example, if someone searched #FathersDay, then my previous tweet, where I used the hashtag #FathersDay, would be amongst the search search results.

Now, it may be amongst thousands upon thousands of other tweets using #FathersDay, however, if you use more niche terms, then your chance of reaching your target customer is far higher. For example, I have a range of dog designs, so if I include the breed of the dog in a tweet about the product, lovers of that particular breed may well find it, as they like to keep up-to-date with, for example, all things #Frenchie, or all things #Pug!

Trending Hashtags

Using the Search function in Twitter (just click on the magnifying glass icon), you can see what the top trending hashtags are at any time; if you think you’ve got something to shout about which relates to one of them, then you could include it in a tweet; e.g. recently #NationalPuppyDay was trending, which gave me an opportunity to tweet about my dog designs. Don’t just add a trending hashtag to your tweet for the sake of it though – this is bad twitter etiquette!

My Favourite Networking Hours

#wineoclock #womaninbiz: Mon-Fri, 18.00-19.00 – use these two hashtags together, to network with other small business owners; this is a really nice community hour.

#handmadehour: Wed, 19.30-20.30, Sun, 20.00-21.00 – biggest networking hours of the week for handmade businesses.

#woofwoofwednesday: Wed, 20.00-21.00 – a chance for dog lovers, and dog-based businesses to network, share products, and generally drool over each other’s dogs!

#crafthour: Sun, 19.00-20.00 – a close second to #handmadehour.

Any Questions? Just leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to answer your questions!