Is your life lacking in glitter?  Do you feel that it can sometimes be, well, a bit dull?  Do you want to try out arty things but are not sure where to begin?


Never fear!  We will bring you a small project each month to tempt you into an art or craft which could be completely unfamiliar to you (sometimes, it is to us).  But we won’t stop there; we will give you step-by-step instructions to create small projects in your spare time and give you some ideas on how to develop your new skills into something greater.  You will also find reviews of art and craft books aimed at beginners and improvers in various fields, links to online materials which have inspired us, and guidance on materials, tools, and where to get them.  Even if you are already good at art, it can be refreshing to try something new.  As our contributors show, we all have to start somewhere!

Our first project is a small needle-felted owl in completely unnatural colours which we hope will inspire you to try out a marvellously therapeutic craft which involves stabbing soft squishy things with sharp pointy things.


Project: A doodle a day keeps the doctor away

Hello Begonias!

The long, hot summer is now far in the past, but we kept ourselves cool and calm with doodle art, the reincarnation of a 70s classic. I’m sure that you have seen the many “adult colouring” books available (yes, I know), and seen the growing interest in meditative drawing.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a look at different books, techniques and two projects.

In fact, the project here was meant to have been posted in July, and then all sorts of things happened. Um, now that the winter is coming, it’s a great thing to do in front of the fire.

You need so little for doodle art that it is truly one of the cheapest things you can do.  It is also a quiet, calm activity whch can really help you to unwind and stop focussing on the annoyances of a bad day.

For doodles which you create yourself, your minimum requirement is some paper and a pencil or pen.  Some people even use lined paper and a biro, which can be incredibly effective, but printer paper is perfectly good if you prefer it to be plain. If you want to practise geometric and/or repeating patterns, you’ll find squared paper useful. When you create your best copy rather than a practise piece, you’ll probably still want to lightly rule a grid for repeating patterns.

For this project, Tosh has drawn the doodle for you ready to print off and colour in. As you can see, it uses mainly interlocking shapes, some simple vines, and an eagle reduced to the simplest of feather shapes, beak and eye.


We each coloured in a version to give you some ideas, but you can really do whatever you want!

Tosh’s version is done with watercolour pencils, which you can often find in supermarkets these days, not just hobby or specialist art shops. This makes them cheap! One huge bonus of these over normal water colours is the ability to blend easily to get lots of different colours. You can control where they are going and what you want them to do a bit more easily than you can with normal water colours. Tosh lightly coloured in the background first, then washed over it with a brush dipped in clean water. Where he wanted stronger colour, he either dipped the pencil into the water and drew, or took some colour off the tip of the pencil using the wet brush. YouTube has quite a few watercolour pencil technique tutorials.


My version is done with normal water colours, which I am not used to using at all – as you can see, I can’t even keep the paint where I intend it to be all of the time, but I don’t think that it matters.


The other doodling project coming shortly consists of a bunny and a lot of imagination. We’ve been collecting doodle art tutorials and examples on Catherine’s doodle art board on Pinterest for some time, so it’s worth heading over there for some inspiration and to start practising some doodle designs.

Have fun!

Review: Marabu Easy Marble on Glitter bunnies!

OK, I confess!

We’ve got a little addicted to our marbling craze and it’s led to finding the absolute best way to use the Marabu Easy Marbling inks which we bought a couple of weeks ago.  This is not an affiliate link, and you will find plenty of other similar products, but living in Germany, we’re awash with Marabu, and it was the only product on offer in our local craft shop.

Let’s get straight down to business:

You have very little time to work the Marabu colours after dropping them onto the water.  Marabu colours set on the water like nail enamels much like the tiny sample I made the other week (the pink one which looks a bit like a biopsy), and once that happens, all you will do when trying to swirl the colours is lift them out on whatever tool you are using (we unravelled a paperclip).  We watched several YouTube videos of people demonstrating the Marabu colours, and they all had the same problem – good to know that it’s not just us!

This need for speed is clearly a disadvantage for traditional marbling and the pictures which we would like to have created, although we were still able to make flowers and other complex patterns once we discovered a few product tricks.  It’s not that easy to marble something as large as a sheet of A4 paper, but we still managed a few feathered patterns, which you can see below.


A4 paper marbled using Marabu Easy Marbling – achievable if you are quick!

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Marbling update – starting on the slow road to success

Hello Begonias!

It’s a roasting hot day, and we’ve escaped to the study on the north-east corner of the house for further marbling fun.  It’s getting better!

Today’s efforts have resulted (so far) in immediate improvement using acylic paints again, thinned to the consistency of single cream and with the addition of a drop or two of ox gall for dispersion.

Better results with acrylic marbling today.

Better results with acrylic marbling today. This was a single colour practice run, so all of the white areas are simply uncoloured rather than white paint.

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Ugh! Marbling failure!

Our minor success of the afternoon!

Our minor success of the afternoon!

It’s a sad day.  We have utterly failed to produce what we wanted to today.  We have something to show for our efforts, and have added brief “how-to” section below, but… well, there’s always tomorrow.

Our aim right now is to create endpapers for a couple of books.  We love those beautiful combed pattern papers which you see in old volumes. I’ve made them before using commercial marbling inks, and it was super easy to achieve the effects which we wanted to reproduce today.  The little problem we had today was that we couldn’t find the inks – I’m not even sure if they’re in our house, at my parents, or the casualty of a house move.

Knowing that there are other options, we tried to marble without marbling inks.  This is good, we thought, because we’ll find a cheap alternative.  And honestly, do you really need proper marbling inks?  Unfortunately, it’s been a sorry mess (seriously, my hands are better marbled than the paper).

Even so, you can achieve results with perseverance – you just need to experiment a lot with consistencies and perhaps even with which paints you use.  I’ve got to say honestly that with commercial inks, you can at least just get on and experiment with design rather than simply trying to make it work.

We experimented with:

  • oil colour
  • acrylics
  • faux marbling using some gel colours for Easter eggs
  • nail polish (that actually worked – hurrah!)

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Embossed leather book cover – Part 2

Hello Begonias!

In part 2 of our book cover tutorial, we’ll be looking at the decorative elements which you can add to the plain leather covered book shown in Part 1.   Of course, you might already love the plain version of your book, so why not go ahead and make a second?

We've already completed this plain leather covered book.  Next stop, decoration!

We’ve already completed this plain leather covered book. Next stop, decoration!

OK, so if you don’t already have a covered book, go to Part 1 to create something like the one shown above.  Admire it and set it to one side.  You’re going to be working on a separate piece of leather for the next bit. Continue reading

Embossed leather book cover – Part 1

Hello Begonias!

Now that I have crawled out of the plague pit, I have completed my embossed leather book and want to show you how it went so that you can create your own.

In this part, we’ll just take a look at the basic plain cover, which is nice enough to leave without decoration, if you like.

You will need

  • book to cover (e.g. a notebook, preferably with a spine)
  • thin plywood or thick cardboard
  • string
  • PVA glue
  • contact adhesive
  • thin leather
  • wood stain
  • rounded modelling tool
  • scissors and/or sharp knife

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New project coming soon: leather covered notebook with embossed design

I have edited the centre part of a book panel to make it easier to transfer the design.  You can find the original book cover alongside many other beautiful examples here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wildmuse/sets/72157623038723753

I have edited the centre part of a book panel to make it easier to transfer the design. You can find the original book cover alongside many other beautiful examples here.

Hello Begonias!

It’s been a plague house here in Bavaria, but we are now almost fully recovered from a heavy dose of the flu (not man flu, not a mere cold, but full-on hideousness).  We send healing thoughts to anyone else who has been suffering the horrible bugs doing the rounds recently.

Tosh had been working on a notebook covered with leather to share with you, and has now been able to complete the basic work to create a plain, undecorated version.  It is quite easy to do, and I will post photos and guidelines for that shortly.  A follow-up post will include a decorative front panel based on the centre part of a 16th century book cover design and decorative (fake) metal hinges.  Although the original book is covered with embroidered velvet, the design also works well on plain leather, using a soldering iron to emboss.  In this way, you can do quite intricate designs with ease.

See you soon!

Book review: Trace & Paint Watercolour from Search Press

Remember painting by numbers?  Artists Terry Harrison, Geoff Kersey and Arnold Lowrey help you to achieve quick watercolour painting results in a similar way with the added advantage of plenty of guidance along the way.  There are no block colours here, though!

Trace & Paint Watercolour is a kind of learn by osmosis book rather than a traditional tutor book, and part of a huge range of similar reasonably priced items from British publisher Search Press dealing with a wide range of arts and crafts.  The range is distributed overseas, so if you are on the other side of the world, you should have no problem finding any of their titles through your usual book stockist.

This is my version of Geoff Kersey's

This is my version of Geoff Kersey’s “Snow Scene” from Trace & Paint Watercolour. I found this image particularly appealing, as it echoes the winter scenes in the forests surrounding our village. A range of five standard round brushes is called for in the instructions, ten colours and masking fluid in addition to the 300 gsm rough paper – nothing too excessive!

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Project: Frozen bubble photo

Hello Begonias!

Here is a fantastic winter photography project for you which looks impressive, but is incredibly simple to achieve.  Thanks to my friend Nick for putting me onto this.

Frozen bubble

The bubble above was created in -6°C on a very grey day between flurries of snow, but an ideal time would be a clear sunrise or sunset in order to capture some beautiful reflections in your bubble.

All you need is some bubble mix (e.g. dilute washing up liquid), something to make the bubbles (I twisted some thin wire into a loop) and a cold day with snow or a heavy frost – a couple of degrees under freezing or colder.  You could also add glycerine or corn syrup to the mix to help create a stronger bubble, less likely to pop. Continue reading

Project: Gerald the owl

Tosh calls everything Gerald.  It saves time, although the same cannot be said for confusion.  Thus, our first project for you is Gerald the Owl.  As time goes on, you may detect a theme…

Not high art, but he'll do.

Not high art, but he’ll do.

Gerald the Owl was my first ever needle felting project, subsequently inflicted on a friend as a gift.  Despite never stabbing wool in anger before, it was fairly easy to get something resembling one of those naive art owls which are so popular at the moment.  He’s definitely not high art, but I’ve got to tell you that needle felting is fabulous for de-stressing, and I plan to continue.

First, we’ll take a look at necessary and optional materials and tools. Continue reading