Category: Blog

What is handbuilding with clay?

You’ve probably heard about throwing clay, or seen that famous scene in Ghost. Handbuilding isn’t that. Handbuilding is making objects out of clay without a wheel, just shaping the clay with your hands or some tools, and making connections between parts of clay. You can build something out of flat slabs of clay, shape pots by pinching the clay with your fingers, or build objects out of coils of clay. This makes handbuilding very versatile and accessible. You could start handbuilding at your own kitchen table, using just your hands and some tools you have laying around. And this is why I love it, it’s creative therapy that’s accessible for anyone, anywhere.  

And glazing?
After you build something out of soft clay, the clay needs to dry and get fired for the first time, in a big ceramic oven (a kiln) that reaches temperatures of over a thousand degrees. In the kiln, more moist leaves the clay and your work turns into ceramic. It’s now hard but still porous and not yet waterproof. To make an object waterproof we need to cover it with tiny particles of glass that melt and attach to the piece when fired again in the kiln. This is essentially what glazing is. You can glaze your work with all kinds of glazes in amazing colours and with beautiful special effects.

If you want to try out these techniques yourself, sign up for a workshop in my studio and dive into all things clay!

My top 3 Modern Calligraphy tips

Want to learn Modern Calligraphy but you don’t know where to start, and how to start off on the right foot? Here’s my top 3 things I wish I’d known when I first started practising calligraphy.

#1. It all about practise, practise, practise
What I hear a lot in my workshops or when I tell people what I do, is ‘Oh I could never do that, my handwriting is terrible!’. But your handwriting really doesn’t matter! Calligraphy is the art of drawing pretty letters, it doesn’t have anything to do with your everyday writing. And as long as you keep practising, your hand will get used to the strokes and remember how to draw the letters. So just make sure you practise a lot, keep practising the strokes and really get to know your nib. And be patient, real skill doesn’t come overnight!

#2. Materials matter. A LOT.
When I first got started I bought a nib and some ink at a department store. Needless to say I didn’t get the results I wanted, tossed my supplies aside and stopped practising. I wasn’t until I got some good calligraphy supplies that I actually started to enjoy my practice and get better at calligraphy. So yes, materials really matter. And luckily good calligraphy supplies aren’t crazy expensive, you just need to know where to find them. Which is why I created this list of my favourite supplies and where to find them.

#3. Enjoy and get into the flow
Find the joy in your practice, because if it’s not for the joy then why start creating anyway? If you find that relaxing, enjoyable flow in your calligraphy practice, you will want to go back to your nib and ink time and again, and practising will come easy to you! So don’t expect to much from yourself, put on your favourite music, light a candle and just enjoy. It isn’t always about the result, enjoying the process is just a important.

And of course, if you really want to learn modern calligraphy and get the best tips, tricks, practice sheets and pro tips, sign up to my online course or book a workshop in my studio!

Friends who help you grow

Gouache illustration friends

Last week my friend Angéla moved out of the studio and I already miss her so much! We had a little conversation on one of the last days we were both in the studio. I was working on the last video for my calligraphy course and she was preparing one of her online classes. When we met about 8 months ago, we had both never taught any classes online, and during our first ever cup of coffee we discussed wanting to create an online course and how we could maybe help each other. And 8 months later she has a thriving online course and I’m about to release mine! She said ‘it’s like we helped each other grow, we fed of each other’s energy’, and I think that is so true!

It made me realise that so much of my creative journey was fueled by friendship. From the friends trusting me with their wedding invitations to  lovely Dawnie helping me host my first ever calligraphy workshop, from  my friend Linda brainstorming about business with me to my bestie Mardon helping me record the online course. And of course Angéla, who inspired red jumpsuit girl in this illustration because she actually gave the inspiration for the whole illustration and I could never thank her enough for her support over the last 8 months.

All I can say is: surround yourself with people who want to see you grow, who will help you and inspire you and cheer you on. And support, inspire and cheer them on too, because there’s more than enough success to go round in the world and someone else’s success doesn’t mean you will have less. And find what makes you tick, because as soon as you start doing what lights you up in life, those friends will pop up all around you.

I made this illustration in my sketchbook using Winsor&Newton gouache and Caran d’Ache coloured pencils. I find the combination amazing because gouache will give you that nice colourful base and coloured pencils are perfect for details and add such a nice texture. I then cleaned the illustration up and added background and lettering on my Ipad.  

How I made creativity my day job

Do you ever have these moments when you look back and realise a lot has changed? I had one this summer, sitting in the studio writing calligraphy place cards for the participants of one of my workshops. My dog Jessie was lying by my feet and at the desk next to me my friend Dawnie was crafting her awesome earrings. Some lovely tunes were filling the studio, the sun was peeking through the blinds and we were planning on a stand up paddling session on the Amstel river later. In that moment I felt perfectly happy with the way my life looked, and I realised how much had changed in just a few short years.

Two years ago things were a lot different. I would rush to the office every morning to sit behind my computer at a large media agency for 8, more often 10 or 12, long hours every day. My days were filled with excel sheets, client calls and meetings that didn’t really interest me. Life was ok, but somehow something was missing. I felt like this wasn’t really me.

So I started to investigate what really lights me up in life. And of course the answer was creativity, it had always been creativity. From a young age I was always drawing, writing, painting and crafting. My mum, sister and I would sit around the kitchen table crafting things, and on Saturday mornings my sister and I would sell our creations in front of the butchers shop across the road, from a market stall that my dad had built himself. 

How had I let myself loose that creative joy in life, why did I end up behind that computer wishing my days away? I remember clearly the moment I decided that this was enough, sitting in a meeting room in London listening to some client’s sales figures that didn’t really interest me. I promised myself at that moment that within a year I would leave the corporate world to fill my days with creativity.

I started drawing again and I taught myself calligraphy, watching every YouTube video I could find and ordering all the supplies I could get my hands on. Friends were getting married or having their first baby, so I offered to design birth announcements and wedding invitations for them. I made myself a website, started uploading my work to Instagram and slowly but surely things began to roll. In the spring of 2018 I hosted my first workshop for Dawnie and some of her friends, and in the summer of that year I left my media career for a part time job at a woodworking shop that would be easier to combine with my little creative biz.

Fast forward 2 years and we moved into the brightest, most amazing studio space, I designed birth announcements for lots of adorable babies, got to teach the art of calligraphy to so many wonderful people and host workshops by other creatives at The Craft Canteen. How life has changed from rushing into that office every morning! I never could have dreamed what life would look like now that moment I decided to bring creativity and crafts back into my life. But I knew that I had to start somewhere, that I had to do something to find that spark again. And I hope I can help you find that spark too. I hope that I can share with you the joy of just creating something and let you experience that amazing feeling of getting lost in the moment and realising what you can create with just your own hands and some good supplies. So sign up to my mailing list to stay informed about new in-person workshops, once I can plan them again, and the upcoming online course that I’m working on right now! Do it now to get a 10% discount code to use once the course opens! Because sometimes you just have to start somewhere. 

Mini tutorial 14: Here’s a hug

It’s day 14 and today I’m sharing the last mini tutorial.

During this time of social distancing it’s such a blessing that we can stay in touch with each other virtually. Can you imagine this world right now if we weren’t able to have video calls with friends and family, stay informed online and build community with people around us?

That being said, I really miss hugging people! It was always such a given that you see friends and family in real life and when you do, you give them a big hug! Now that that’s out of the question you realise how nice it is to be able to hug and hold people, and how as humans we’re social beings that are made for that connection!

But we also have the heroes of PostNL that can still deliver hugs on paper! As much as I love to be able to stay in touch virtually, an actual physical card in the mail is something special and a real mood lifter. So today we’re making a water colour & fake calligraphy card to be sent to someone you love.

Supplies I used:

Start with the text on the card. Micron pens are waterproof and don’t smudge so you can write the text first and then add the water colour straight away. Write the words joint up and slightly cursive, then make all the downstrokes thicker so it looks like actual calligraphy. If you need a more in depth explanation of fake calligraphy, have a look at this mini-tutorial from a few days back

The ‘messy’ hearts are just 2 strokes of the brush. Load your brush with water and pigment, make sure to cover the full tip and body of the brush, then lay the brush down diagonally on the paper so that the body of the brush touches the paper, and repeat for the other side of the heart. No need to be really precise, the messy look of the hearts give the card character and creates a nice contrast with the neat text!

I hope you enjoyed this one and that you will suprise a loved one with a hand made card! If you want to receive free tutorials in the future and stay informed about upcoming creative workshops and online courses please register for the newsletter below!

Lots of love,

Mini tutorial 13: Somewhere over the rainbow

So today I’m painting a water colour rainbow. Kids all over the world are putting rainbows in their window as a little sign of hope and to brighten up the world a little. So if you have the kids at home and you’re running out of ideas to keep them entertained then this might be a nice one! 

And it’s such a lovely symbol, a rainbow. It stands for community and inclusivity, but also for hope. It signifies the sunshine after the rain but it’s also a sign of the beauty that is still there even though we’re in the midst of a storm. 

These are the supplies I used today:

So with just 3 hues of paint I was able to create 6 different colours. By offloading pigment of your brush you’re weakening the colour and creating a lighter value of the same colour. Leave a little bit of white space in between the arches, but let them touch in a few spots to create that lovely water colour effect.

I hope you enjoyed this one. If you haven’t signed up for the tutorials in your mailbox yet then you can do so below. Take care and stay safe!

Lots of love,

Mini tutorial 12: Fiddle fig plant drawing!

So we’re at tutorial 12 already!

I ordered some plants for my apartment today, and one on them being a fiddle fig I decided to draw and paint one! I combined pen drawing with watercolour. Micron pens are great for this, because they’re waterproof and they dry very quickly, so you can do the drawing first and then straight away colour it in using watercolour.

So I sketched the plant first, then traced the lines with a Micron pen. I will explain how to draw the plant in another tutorial, as it would’ve been a really long video otherwise!

The most important technique here is the shading, so creating darker parts where the object that you’re drawing would have more shade, by using a lot of pigment in those dark parts and then just fade that pigment using just water on your brush to fill in the rest!

As you can see in the video today was a crazy hair day, haha! I’m not really used to filming myself while I work yet, so in some parts of the video the hair gets in the way! I’ve even had to edit out some parts where it was literally just my hair, haha, I’m sorry for that!

These are the supplies I used today:

I hope you enjoyed this one. If you haven’t signed up for the tutorials in your mailbox yet then you can do so below. Take care and stay safe!

Lots of love,

Mini tutorial 11: Fake calligraphy

So this is how I first ever started with calligraphy!

Did you know you can get that elegant calligraphy look with just a simple pen? If you know this trick you can use any pen to write calligraphy style, and you can write on any surface! Plus, this is a perfect first step towards real calligraphy with a nib pen because it teaches you where the heavy downstrokes are, so where to put pressure on your pen when working with a nib pen.

Start by writing your word in a cursive joint writing style. Make sure to give the letters enough ‘breathing space’, don’t write your letters too close together!

Next, determine where your downstrokes are. So where did you go downwards with your pen while writing the word? Give these downstrokes a double line so that an open thick line forms. Make sure the second line follows the same curve as the first downstroke so that it looks natural. Make all the thick lines about the same width!

Now, just fill in the open thick lines with your pen. And that’s it really!

In the video I used a Micron pen size 01. Micron pens are my favourite fineliners because they come in lots of (really thin!) sizes, they don’t bleed, write very smooth and they dry very fast. But you can try this with any pen really!

I hope you enjoyed this one. If you haven’t signed up for the tutorials in your mailbox yet then you can do so below. Take care and stay safe!

Lots of love,

Mini tutorial 10: watercolour rose

Today I will show you how to paint a simple loose style watercolour rose.

Basically, a rose is built of lots of petals around a core in the middle. In the middle, the petals are quite tight around the core while towards the outside of the flower they become looser and there’s more air between the petals. This is exactly what you should keep in mind while painting a rose: darker, smaller and more condensed petals in the middle and bigger, lighter more ‘airy’ petals towards the outer edge of the flower.

But how do you do this? Start building your flower from the inside out, with little c-shaped curves that are all circled around the same center. Make them quite thin in the middle, hold your brush in an almost 90 degrees angle. Then start using more of the body of the brush as you make your way towards the outside of the flower, make the petals bigger and wider by applying more pressure and holding your brush in a slanted angle. Keep positioning the petals around the same core!

Don’t put new pigment on your brush while you work towards the outside of the flower! We want the petals to get gradually lighter, so just swish your brush around your water to release pigment and go back in with just water and some left over pigment on your brush.

As you can see in the video, after I finish all the petals I pick up any excess water with a dry brush. If there’s too many ‘puddles’ left, these might dry with harsh lines around them, making the flower look patchy. I also put in some more dark pigment in the middle to give the flower a bit more depth.

These are the supplies I used today:

I hope you enjoyed this one. If you haven’t signed up for the tutorials in your mailbox yet then you can do so below. Take care and stay safe!

Lots of love,

Mini tutorial 9: a burst of joy

This is a very simple trick. Just lay down a wet swatch of a quite saturated colour. Then rinse your brush, put clean water on your brush (use two separate glasses) and lay a swatch of just water underneath. Let the two meet in the middle and watch the magic happen!

You can add some more pigment if you feel like it! Also notice how at the end of the video I picked up some wet puddles on the coral swatch with a dry brush. If you leave very wet puddles of pigment, these will dry up with hard dark lines around them, so try to notice which spots are too wet still and pick up the excess water with your dry brush.

These are the supplies I used today:

I hope you enjoyed this one. If you haven’t signed up for the tutorials in your mailbox yet then you can do so below. Take care and stay safe!

Lots of love,