21 Nov

#shoutoutrevolution – Lizzie Skinner

Who are you and what do you do? 
I’m Lizzie, I paint watercolour pop culture portraits, bold mixed media posters and I hand sew dolls and figures, usually in felt. Also pretty good at existential crisis.

When did you begin making your incredible art?
I’ve always been a creator, I was actually more prolific as a child (although I can’t speak to the quality of that work) and my family really encouraged my creative streak so I was lucky enough to try lots of difference mediums early on. I settled into watercolours during college, I really enjoy the flexibility of their use for different colour payoff and effect, and the easy way they glide into paper. I’ve also been sewing since I was a teenager, I used to put pockets in all my dresses and became quite proficient at taking clothes in due to a long fascination of vintage aged antique clothes. I started making small felt mice in Victorian dresses a few years ago, and then making the dolls and creatures just sort of followed from there…

What inspired you to create your form of art? 
I like things that are tactile but also give quick results- I’ve got a really busy mind and get bored or distracted easily so I’ve learnt through the years that I’m more likely to finish things if I can see progress on it. That’s what I love about the little figures and the embroidered dolls, and I suppose it’s what I fell in love with about watercolours and ink. I take inspiration for the subjects from all over the place, at the moment I’m enjoying doing tiny pop culture portraits inspired by religious iconography, but it really depends on what I’m doing and what I’m into at the time! I do better when I’ve got a commission from someone as it gives me a focus so I’m more likely to run with it to try and make something that’s going to be loved. I don’t think I’ve settled into an art form or a style that’s fully ‘me’ yet, but I’ve always been an experimenter so maybe I never will!

What is your one essential tool that you cannot live without (for your art)?  
Probably the internet! It’s so so vital for references, especially taking on the icon dolls I make. I’m making a Syd Barrett doll at the moment for someone who adores him so being able to find lots of pictures and information is critical to my process.

Where can I find you on the web?
I’m on instagram @fannyspangles
My Etsy shop is FURYmoonriver

What do you like to do when you are not creating?
I’m a great lover of film so I love to get stuck into a picture or a series, I also love video games and reading and get very drawn in (read: obsessed) luckily my SO is the same and our dog is patient and independent so neither of them mind!

Have you got any pets?
Currently one gorgeous dog Maya, I’ve only had her a month but I can’t imagine her not being here! She’s a rescue and she has some anxiety (like me) and trust issues from previous trauma that we’re working on together, she’s also going through her moody teenage phase so she can be a right little madam (also like me) but she’s so sweet and hilarious and genuinely brings me so much joy, I’m hoping that as we build our relationship we’ll both be much happier, more confident individuals.

What is your favourite art book? (or, what are you reading at the moment, your choice)
I subscribe to this incredible film magazine called Little White Lies, and every issue is beautifully illustrated so they’re very inspiring and just generally pleasing. I love reading but I’ve either got 3 books on the go or I’ve got a stack of 10 that I mean to read but don’t get around to, there’s no in between.

04 Nov

#shoutoutrevolution – Just Sew Helen

Who are you and what do you do? 
I’m Helen & by day I’m a midwife working with high risk pregnancies. I have a small textile art business ranging from dressmaking to embroidery and fabric ornaments.

When did you begin embroidering? 
I have been sewing all of my life, well as long as I can remember, as Mom taught me as a little girl.  She worked from home as a dress maker in the 1970’s and I made little dresses for my dolls and teddies whilst she took in orders.  Over the years, I have undertaken many different projects and returned to needlework & embroidery in 2015 when I started creating remembrance pictures.

What inspired you to create your beautiful pictures and keepsakes?
Sadly, after a very short illness in 2015, my mom died from Ovarian Cancer (OC) and I wanted to use the skills Mom taught me to raise money for an OC charity.  At the same time, two friends also lost their Moms to cancer and I created each of them a picture in memory of their Mom using applique and embroidery.  Over time I researched the handmade market and joined Etsy and finally created my own website and launched my small business in 2016.  My most popular items are Angel Baby Remembrance pictures and I’ve been privileged to create some very personal keepsakes.

What is your one essential tool that you cannot live without (for your art)?
As with any craft, many tools are required to complete a job – some vital and some just to help overall process.  However, I think my most essential tool would have to be my sewing machine as many of my items involve additional construction rather than just decorative hand embroidery.

Where can I find you on the web? 
I can be found in lots of places and would love you to come and say ‘hi’ –

justsewhelen.com
twitter.com/justsewhelen
instagram.com/justsewhelen
facebook.com/justsewhelen
justsewhelen.etsy.com
pinterest.com/JustSewHelen

What do you like to do when you are not creating? 
I procrastinate very well and can get lost on the laptop on Pinterest etc but I’m usually researching projects or techniques and so actually spend a lot of time creating in one way or another.

Our family is expanding, now with 5 grandchildren, elderly parents and our two boys at home are still at school, so spare time is precious.  We enjoy spending time as a family at our holiday home in Wales  – such a beautiful country and I can sit and embroider to my heart’s content.

Have you got any pets? 
We have two 15 year old ginger cats,  a boy Tigger and a girl Winnie.  Tigger is showing his age and is slowing down but is perfectly content to plonk himself on top of me and my laptop. His sister is a bit more particular often enjoying her own company.

What is your favourite art book?
My go to craft book is The Embroidery Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden and although I research a lot online nothing beats being able to flick through pages for inspiration. I also have a nice collection of vintage sewing & embroidery books that I inherited from my mom and I love flicking through and reminiscing my childhood and memories of Mom using these books for her crafts.

20 Feb

The Yin and Yang of life

Recently I have studied a little about the Tao Te Ching, just out of interest, and then had the most perfect example of Tajitu (yin/yang) happen in my own life, as if to prove the wisdom of the ancient Taoist text.

When people see things as beautiful,
ugliness is created.
When people see things as good,
evil is created.

Being and non-being produce each other.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low oppose each other.
Fore and aft follow each other.

I’m not sure if this post is about Tajitu, or the evil of the English government, or the goodness of people.  I will let you decide.

It’s fairly well known in the UK that our current government has been successful in it’s campaign in conjunction with the mainstream media to demonise the poor and divide society so that it can dismantle the welfare state that Harry Leslie Smith and his generation of people fought and died for.  The current Conservative government  promised to not cut Working Tax Credits but in reality have done so by freezing the amounts that working families receive so that they fall in relation to inflation.  In  2014 rules were introduced to rule out people who were claiming that their hobbies were a business and then receiving Working Tax credits.  The criteria in brief was that the business must be HMRC registered and carried out with the aim of making a profit.

ShoeDoodles started in 2015.  Previously to this date, I worked as a blogger and web designer and had a limited company but a stalker tracked me down using this information and forced me to close the business.  I had painted a few pairs of shoes for friends to say thank you for help and support and somebody suggested I set up an Etsy shop, because my work was good.  So I did, and to my surprise I got some orders, and some more orders and here I am today, with many happy customers, all over the world and my painting is better than ever.

The income is variable and I have not found a way to predict when the next sale is coming through.  I use Etsy, Facebook, BigCartel, Twitter and Instagram and have only recently started blogging again after the horrific on and offline stalking campaign which resulted in the stalker being put into prison, but that hasn’t stopped him.  I am still being watched, and it is still traumatic.

I was, up until four weeks ago – and like pretty much every working parent I know in the UK – receiving  Tax credits to top up my low income.  Then they stopped.  No letter, no reason.  One week I had money to pay bills with and feed my son, the next week, with no warning, it was gone.  After a morning on the telephone I discovered that I had been overpaid and they had stopped my entire regular income to pay themselves back.  No figures were given to me, no criteria, no in-depth explanation about where I had gone wrong and what I had done to deserve this brutal removal of my financial lifeline.

As a survivor of domestic abuse  I was further abused for six years via the family courts, and during this time, also stalked, constantly online and offline too, with numerous breaches of non molestation and restraining orders.  I have PTSD and chronic anxiety from this that had just started to vanish after a year of relative peace and self care.  The savage and incomprehensible removal of my Tax Credits immediately triggered my PTSD, reminded me of when I lost my job and went hungry while I was pregnant, and I am still down that difficult hole right now.

Just as I thought I had managed to begin to make a secure and stable life for my son at last, the government swept it away from under my feet with no comprehensible explanation.  I can only guess – because nobody can tell me – that ShoeDoodles has been misrepresented as a hobby in the minds of one or two civil servants who have little business knowledge and the power to destroy lives at the click of a button.

My creative spark was wiped out immediately as I fought to convince a stranger that my intentions were not to mess around with shoes as a hobby but to build a sustainable business that my son and I could run together for the rest of our lives.  I certainly would not put this much effort into a hobby!  In the past, web design was my hobby.  I went to university and ended up doing an MSc in Computing because f this “hobby”.  I have taught e-commerce and BTec Business.  I am still learning now, I have t be because the online world is constantly evolving.  I have now done all that I can do, and I can only sit here and  wait until someone who doesn’t know me or care about me and my amazing son makes the decision to keep us in poverty or restore us some dignity.

But I’m not looking for sympathy, not for me.  I’m a warrior and a survivor and I am using this tale to urge you to help others.  My story is very common – I found out this almost immediate.  Families have been left without money, immediately and with little recourse by civil servants following orders from the cruel British government.  The rise in food bank use tells our stories pretty well and I was lucky to be eligible for a voucher this week and received a very generous gift from them that will keep us from starving for way more than the three days it was intended.

Thank you Trussell Trust and to everyone who donates too.  The British media have done a great job also of demonising food bank users as drug addicts or people who cannot manage their money properly but I can assure you that this is not true.  Nobody I saw looked addicted and I know – and you do too now – that when you live on the breadline,  one click of a key in an office far away can destroy you, one emergency can destroy you.

They are only following orders….In Mein Kampf, Hitler stated “This art is the sick production of crazy people. Pity the people who are no longer able to control this sickness”.  Is my art and online business model misunderstood?  Is England a fascist state? I would like you to consider and question this, and the artificially created divisions that are apparent in the UK in 2017.

In this period of deep dark despair though, rays of sunshine  have broken through the heavy cloying, irritating smog that has filled my body and brain.  My son’s Godmother was the first stroke of luck , offering cash to help her out with some work, so we ate for another week. Vicky, Jo, Paul and my Dad, all helped make sure my direct debits didn’t bounce this month.  Linda sent me a ton of oat milk and other vegan goodies, and I don;t even know her! Aurora, Divita and Patsy all offered invaluable support and advice and pointed me towards places to go so that I can feed myself and my son.  Elaine listened and bought us a meal and took my mind off things that first impossible weekend.  Lowenna offered me space in The Pretty Pigsty.  Mum, who bakes us home fresh bread every week and gives us food treats. I am humbled by the help and generosity of all these people, some of whom are mainly “internet friends” and people who I know are struggling badly themselves.  One, is a complete stranger, only recently off the streets himself.

I’ve also become an ambassador for an amazing food sharing app that connects you with local people – I’ve met some lovely people already and had the good fortune to try home made pickles and home grown squash! It’s amazing!  If you haven’t already, download Olio and help to share food “waste”.

Maybe, I concluded, you have to have experienced true darkness yourself before you can find the light in your heart to help others without judgement or hidden agenda.  Or maybe you are just born with it.  I am blessed to have the ultimate in human kindness in my son (aka Funny Funky Doodles – he can design you a bag or some shoes as well).  At age seven, he emptied his purse and made me take all of his coins.  He told me “I don’t need classes Mum, all I need is love”.  With an angel like this in my life, the light will always be present.

His words are so perfect, I made them into a backpack bag (34*43cm).  This natural cotton bag is an unique one-off item and costs £30 including free waterproofing and UK postage.




all i need is love bag