Etsy or Folksy?

Update: undecided – I don’t make money from either, its as well its a hobby!

So I’m stuck in the house at the moment getting over a nasty bug and Otis and Bess are telling me to do something useful whilst sitting about looking at all the books I made for the craft fair I couldn’t get to (sob story over). Well after some time of trying (not very hard admittedly) to sell on Etsy I’ve decided to give the UK dedicated Folksy site a go. Etsy seems difficult to break into and is swamped by the sheer volume of makers and products available. It’s frustrating that a lot of their promotions are U.S based for free postage and so on. So folksy seem smaller but are dedicated to supporting U.K makers and offer lots of specific advice for the U.K craft scene.

I’ll keep you posted, in the meantime I’ve started uploading some images and products and would welcome any feedback

Be lovely if you’d have a look and give some feedback or click the like buttons in the shop front or beside any items if you do like what you see. xx

Boiled Books!

Boiled Books are also known as eco printing in some parts.

It’s a somewhat magical but basic process of combining plant material ie: flowers, vegetables, leaves, shrubbery etc with a mordant (fixer), pressed in between sheets of paper, weighted down and cooked in hot water!


This first attempt is quite light but you can see the fibres of the bamboo leaves on the left, the right side is a mix of leaves and ferns.  I had added white vinegar to help react with the plants as well as some small pieces of rusty iron. This was cooked for about an hour and the paper was heavy weight hammered card, the sort used for wedding cards etc. The hammering disappeared after boiling!


Further research ie You Tube, revealed the powerful effect of adding onion skins, (so one large pot of French onion soup later) and here you can see the reds and yellows from the saved skins. The colour is deeper with greater contrast. This time I used heavy weight watercolour paper ie: 300 gsm, it held up well to the boiling, boiled for 1.5 hours this time. Oh and I added a tablespoon of Cayenne pepper for the hell of it, some people use turmeric and other natural dyes.


Third and latest attempt, same process but this time I used Alum as a mordant, coating the paper before setting the plant material onto it. The paper this time was a medium weight watercolour paper about 230gsm, it didn’t cope as well with the cooking, though I did also cook this for 2 hours which is too long I think. The paper was much more fragile and ripped when handling. An hour to 1.5 should be enough. I also let everything cool down in the pot before draining it off and rinsing the papers, this can be left for several hours or overnight. As usual I had added some white vinegar and a few rusty bits. The colour on the edges of the paper and particularly the bottom image, comes from red cabbage. You can see the detail of the string I used to tie this bundle as this was the bottom sheet in the pot so had the most pressure.

Note: the smell of boiling plant matter with added vinegar is not the most pleasant, especially if you add red cabbage! Please do be careful about adding anything that might be toxic, boiling that as well isn’t good..

Some pics to show 1. coating the paper with Alum, (this isn’t essential, I had really good results without it as well). 2. stacking the papers and plant materials and tying up with string. 3. In the pot weighted down with stones from the garden, this helps remove air bubbles as well as keep the paper submerged, do check the water levels every half hour to make sure its still covered.

Useful resource – Smudge Design has a good overview of the process as well as some links to You Tube videos

Outputs – accordion books, pamphlet books, journals etc..

The house book

The work from ‘A Mile Apart’, was recently on show in Belfast at the historic Linen Hall Library, as part of the ‘Migration, Memory and Mimesis’, exhibition.


In the lead up to this exhibition the limitations of the space made me consider how someone could interact with the text that accompanied the images. I didn’t want a text placed beside or below the framed work. The catalogue links the work well but not everyone wants to buy one. So I spent most of my summer holiday making and sewing house books, drawing on the imagery to link to a 3D version of the photograph and include the text on the gable wall ends of the houses. There were 10 of these to accompany the 10 framed pieces.










Book theme continues

I’ve combined the various aspects of writing and the series of images into one book and published it thorough Blurb. Its available to view at no cost and feedback is welcomed so please have a look!


Some notes on using Blurb, I started on Bookify which is purely online and it was ok but a little slow at times. The main issue though was when it converted the book to pdf and chopped text off the edges, this is something Blurb are aware of which is annoying. So I then downloaded Bookwright which is a little more comprehensive and allows you to edit on your desktop as opposed to uploading and working online.

Other options include using Adobe InDesign and Lightroom, so plenty of choice in how you can put the book together, once you register look out for their promotions via email which can be up to 40% off so worth preparing a book in readiness!

Working on books

Three books linked to recent work on memory, Northern Ireland and the writing of Gaston Bachelard and there is a link..

The first is ‘A Mile Apart’ based onto series of images currently on show in the Vallum Gallery in Carlisle – opening 13th July 2017.

This work links a series of house moves in Belfast and chronicles some key events during ‘The Troubles’ in Belfast, see my previous post for more detail on this.

Next up two very small hand-made books related to memory, space and location.

the little book of big stories

is handmade, hardback and stitched book measuring 74 x 58mm


Portavogie after Bachelard

handmade, hardback and stitched pages measures 73 x 51mm


A Mile Apart

is a project mapping a series of house moves growing up in east Belfast, from birth to leaving Belfast to work in England, we moved house 10 times. Each move was just 1 mile or under to the next house.


Each house has its own memories and parallel reality of Belfast during ‘The Troubles’.

small book big stories

Small Book Big Stories

is a current project based on memories and potential to represent something that is clearly a part of experience, yet not documented except through memory.