Life is short. Break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that makes you smile. We're not quantified; there's no chart of desire. When the roaring flames of your heart have burned down to embers, may you find that you have married your best friend. [Steven Tyler]

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Forty Fantastic Women, Four Classroom Assistants, Three Tutors, Two Tons of Wet Wipes and a Partridge In a Pear Tree! [Edited to include a very important omition].

Okay, so the bit about the Partridge isn't quite true, but it could've been.

This time last week the Graphicus Paradise Weekend Retreat had kicked off. It had been an incredulous journey preparing for the event and none of us quite knew what to expect other than a whole heap of hard work both in the run up to the event and then throughout the weekend.

It all started way back in the summer (did we have one of those?) Glenda and I visited several possible venues between Barndard Castle and Darlington looking for somewhere that was pleasing on the eye with good natural light, comfortable and capable of accommodating forty very enthusiastic crafters both in a classroom environment and with overnight accommodation for those whose needed it. We eventually chose the Blackwell Grange Hotel on the outskirts of Darlington.

The Blackwell Grange Hotel
Several months of planning ensued which eventually culminated in weeks of intense planning and workshop development, product sourcing and ordering, kit making, packing lists, dozens of boxes and crates of equipment, stock and everything else that is required to occupy forty avid crafters for the best part of three days.

The Official Event Name Strap

Can you believe that we chose Friday the 13th of November to plunge headfirst into our very first  Retreat? No, I couldn't either! But I have to say, it went swimmingly and we didn't forget a thing, we ran out of wet wipes, but we didn't actually forget anything.  I think we should run a competition to guess how many wipes we went through from Friday to Sunday afternoon.... you'd be horrified to know the answer!

We had planned to advertise the event in a couple of craft magazines but as soon as the word got out  - it was full.

Ladies travelled from the highlands of Scotland, from the far south of England,  across the Solent from the Isle of White and every point east and west of the mainland and in between. And at 1600 hours on Friday it all kicked off and we were straight into the first session.

Friday and Saturday night we worked until ten o'clock and these wonderful women kept going the whole time and were back in the classroom to start 'fresh as Daisy's' each morning at nine. They were totally awesome! If any of you are reading this I have to say a huge thank you to you all for your unwavering contributions.... you made the event a huge success!

Jean and Malcolm Setting Up their Workshop

Glenda and I taught most of the weekend and our guest tutor Jean Hardy from Crafty Individuals taught an amazing workshop on Sunday morning until lunch time. Jean was ably assisted by her business partner Malcolm and their products were such a huge success that Malcolm had to make a trip to bring more stock so that nobody was disappointed and missed out on the opportunity to shop.

There are four other people who worked tirelessly, morning to night, to ensure that everyone was happy......

Kath, Lesley and Annette

These fabulous ladies were totally incredible, not only did they look after all of our crafting guests so well but they were there every step of the way to help Glenda and I behind the scenes with whatever needed doing, before, during and after the Retreat. Kath, Lesley and Annette - YOU ARE STARS of the brightest magnitude!

There is one person missing from this photograph and that's David (Lesley's husband) who did a fabulous job of running backwards and forwards washing and refilling water pots all weekend, operating the Bind It All and saving our bacon by dashing to the nearest supermarket when the wet wipes started to run dangerously low. He wields a mean tin of chocolates too!

David and Adrian (Glenda's wonderful husband) lifted and shifted us in and out of the hotel and this was tactically a massive manoeuvre  as the hotel's trolley was out of action the whole weekend so everything had to be carried and ran some considerable distance. They also did a fabulous job as the Official Event Photographers recording all the action at the presentation when the Retreat came to an end on Sunday afternoon, you've never seen two photographers in charge of quite to many cameras. Well done Guys... you ROCK!

At Close of Play Sunday 15th November

Well, it's all over and I can't believe that it all came and went so quickly. Never mind, it's all to do again in April 2010 so we'd better get cracking, there's already a register of names that far exceeds the forty places available. April's Retreat is a repeat of this one but we have a brand new programme of events to develop for 2010's Autumn/Winter event. Yay!

I will leave you with some photos of the happenings of the weekend of the 13th - 15th November 2009:-


Just a snippet of photos but if you want to see more look HERE  and HERE

Happy Crafting to All! (And to the ladies who were there and are now back home.... get down and dirty) Yeh Baby!

Edit: What a total numpty I am and I feel awful. I was so excited reliving the events of last weekend that I totally forgot a very important thank you and that goes to everyone back at the office, the team that people rarely get to actually see in action and without whom none of what we do would be possible.

It was great to have some of our lovely ladies join us for dinner on the Friday evening, it would have been even nicer if we'd had time to do a bit more socialising before the late session got underway.

I can't tell you how hard they worked to help us pull it all together, Judith who took all the admin, hotel accommodation and communication on board and got it 100% right and Carrie who's PC skills and knowledge of our new Digital Printing Press was invaluable. The night before the event Carrie was there until the late hours printing and cutting masses of stuff in the guillotine to go into the kits. They were incredible. Val and Vickie did a superb job of cutting all the stamps out used at the Retreat..... that was one hell of a lot of cutting (and it was done at the very last minute as we nearly forgot all about the stamps, can you believe that)? Denise and Emma kept Graphicus and Elusive Images running while we were all immersed in the preparation, no mean feat I can tell you and everyone mucked in to get us all packed up and out of the door. A HUGE Thank You guys - you're the best!

I have one more tribute to pay but I'm going to leave that to a post of it's own.... to follow soon.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Diesel

My blog post today is dedicated entirely to this young man...

Yes, today has been Diesel's 7th Birthday! I can't believe the years have passed so quickly but fortunately, it's true what they say about German Shepherds.... they never grow up. To prove it, here are some pics of Diesel doing precisely what Diesel does best - PLAYING! They are 'action' shots so please forgive the blurs.

Diesel is a real play boy, he's into all the extreme sports you'd expect of a super cool guy.... here he is taking a dip!

.....and still trying to play ball! We take him to the hydro therapy pool on a regular basis. GSD's are prone to problems with hip dysplasia and although he has an excellent hip score, we don't want to take any chances. Swimming is a great way to keep him fit and as long as he has a toy to retrieve he's quite happy, although if you take your eye off him for just one minute he turns around and swims with the current instead of against it... this dog's not daft by any means.

You should see him now, he's flat out on his blanket fast asleep. This little man's had a busy day.

Happy Birthday Diesel!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy..........

No, I haven't been on an extended holiday, nor have I ventured to the Moon... or Mars! I have simply been incredibly busy. Mainly with planning workshops, prepping workshops, planning and prepping for the fantastic up-coming Graphicus Retreat, Christmas (although that's not had much of a look in so far), working of course and what seems like a million other things. I'm afraid something has had to go and one of the things that has been totally neglected among others, is my poor old Blog.

I have been doing arty things but so few of them can be shared at the moment as they are either for Workshops, the Retreat or Magazine features. I'm still having fun though and one of the best things I've done for a long time took place over the weekend on Saturday and Sunday.

Glenda and Lesley taught a Photoshop Weekend at a fabulous Training Centre in Middlesbrough. I have been wanting to learn more about Photoshop for such a long time, I dabble but end up totally frustrated when I can't make it do what I want it to do. So, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to finally get to grips with it. Oh Boy, what a fantastic two days. Most of the ladies attending had travelled for hours, some from the opposite end of the country... they were all fab and threw themselves into it with gusto! It was quite intense and I went home totally brain boggled at the end of each day with so many new things bouncing around in my head. Sorry, although it was all about photo's I didn't get to take any during the workshop, much too busy.

I really didn't think I'd managed to retain very much at all but I took lots of notes - all I have to do was decipher them. Not quite sure what language I was writing in but the Egyptians would have been proud of me. I switched my lap top on late last night meaning to write up a magazine article as the deadline for submission was today and found the mouse hovering over a certain photo manipulation icon on the desk top. Well, that was it - I just had to click on it didn't I? I amazed myself at how much I had managed to retain and had a really great time playing er, practicing. I WAS practicing really Glenda! I do hope that everyone else on the course got as much out of it as I did and if you've ever wanted to get past the fear factor and start working with Photoshop, look out for any future workshop Glenda might run.... I can highly recommend it!

Ok, onto some painty 'arty' stuff. I've been doing quite a bit of painting of late. Most of which has been for Workshops, but one in particular featuring GrungePaper was just so much fun that I'm going to share some, ok... lots of photo's. Now don't go assessing my photoshop abilities will you? I've just grabbed these straight from my photo organiser 'untouched'. The stamps used are Wendy Vecchi's Studio 490 and Elusive Images.....

Time is of the essence again and I don't have enough of it to write up all the details of the products used and what I've done with them so I'm afraid I'm going to tease you a little now. Those of you who are members of the Graphicus Guild will be able to read more about this project and other canvases in this months Guild Newsletter. If you're not a member but would like to know more ring Judith at Graphicus or go here to join the Guild and get in on the action each month.

I spent months trying different ways of making GrungePaper Roses but wasn't totally happy with the results I was getting, some were a bit 'flat' and not what I wanted at all. I would like to say a big thank you to Kat who was kind and generous in sharing information which most certainly helped me to perfect the technique. Kat has a lovely blog so do take a look if you have a moment.

I have seen some of the finished canvases produced by the ladies who attended. They continued working on them after the workshop until they had them just as they wanted them and they look absolutely spectacular..... their canvases were much bigger than mine too!

Well, I'm out of that four letter word (time.... ) again! I have some more art work to share but it will have to keep until later. There's another workshop to start prepping for Thursday and I'll try to find time to take some pictures to show you of all the wonderful pieces the ladies create on the Mail Art workshop.

For now.... Happy Crafting!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

What a Blast!

Friday 03rd and Saturday 04th July saw us all having a whale of a time at our Graphicus Open Day events, during which we celebrated the '04th of July' in honour of all of our American suppliers. Let's face it, a large proportion of the fabulous crafting goodies available here in the UK originate from the USA and any excuse for a huge crafting 'knees-up' is a good one!

I must admit, on Wednesday 01st of July I was having serious doubts about the event going ahead. At one point I imagined Graphicus floating away down the bank and into the town of Barnard Castle after torrential rain fell all day, accompanied by the most awful electrical storms complete with clashes of thunder that shook the building to its very core. We lost all of our electrics, computers, phones... everything! Our regular Wednesday Crop was taking place during all of this and the Cricut machines kept stopping in mid cut every time the electrics went off and eventually we lost the electrics completely for the rest of the evening with just the emergency lights at strategic points throughout the building giving a limited amount of light. But the girls were brilliant, they just carried on cropping and enjoying themselves while we continued stocking the shop and setting up the demo areas.

Thursday brought a new day and beautiful sunshine. At one point I was outside, up a ladder hanging all of the bunting and thinking 'phew - it's hot' (or words to that effect) and decided to open my car windows to help keep the temperature down inside for the drive home. I had to put the keys in to get power to the windows and the temperature guage was giving an outside reading of 34 degrees! What a difference twenty four hours can bring.

Friday was unbelieveable... it was so hectic from the doors opening at ten until we closed at five. What a fantastic turnout and that was even with the two Andy's battling it out for a place in the mens final at Wimbledon! Saturday was busy but without the crush of the previous day, just a nice steady flow throughout with several of our Graphicus Guild members meeting up at the event, some for the first time. It was great to see everyone having such a good time enjoying each others company and watching the demo's.

We had visitors from far and wide... from Devon in the South West, the Midlands, Scotland and I do believe we even had visitors from distant shores, together with all of our local customers who support us so well. It really was a blast. Everyone was lovely, friendly and extremely generous in helping us to raise funds for Graphicus's chosen charity: P.S.P. (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy). It was great to catch up with everyone and share in the fun.

This lovely lady is Issy, one of our customers who travelled from Stirling in Scotland to support the event and got into the theme of things sporting a fantastic top paying homage to the USA!

David (Lesley's husband and resident Chef) was once again working his magic in the kitchen serving up hot food with an American flavour. As the weather was so beautiful on Friday, many people ate alfresco under the sun shades.... not the only thing going on out there, let me tell you!

We even had some alfresco shopping going on on when the bargain bins ended up outside under the sunshade... nice one Ladies - I hope you found some great stamps in there!

On the Demo front we had Glenda showing off wonderful new stamps and doing amaizing things with Copic Markers (brand new and just put on the shelves on Thursday) together with lots of other lovely arty products. Lesley was having great fun getting inky with the Speedball Brayers, Big and Juicy ink pads, glossy card, and lots of fab stamp designs from Clarity Stamps. All of the things Lesley used were new in and just about everything sold out but they will be back in stock very soon. Judith was showing the versitility of the Melt Pot, UTEE, wire and beads and made some totally stunning jewellery with a centre core of Dew Drops... sooooooo cool! (Look out for Judith's Melt Pot Workshops coming soon). Annette was our Machine Specialist, being our resident expert on the Cricut, Expression, Create and the Slice and was just to the right of my demo table and those machines were smokin I can tell you.

Then there was me! I got to play with some fab new stuff... how about Heidi Swapp's Mega Masks, Invisibles and Distress Inks. Mix in awesome stamps from Elusive Images, Tim Holtz, Wendy Vecchi and 7 Gypsies, Perfect Pearls, lots of lovely 'trinkets' from the Ideaology line, Dew Drops, Prima Flowers, Tags, Tattered Angels Glimmer Glass Albums and whatever else anyone wanted to see. Ooo - seventh heaven! I have to admit, I'm somewhat addicted to those Mega Masks together with the Invisibles and Distress Inks, they are quite incredible and such fun to use.

The event would never have been the success it was without the invaluable assistance and very hard work of the front line crew. Denise, Emma and Victoria manned the tills, restocked the shelves, answered phones and looked after our guests. If there was an award for being a good sport it would have to go to Denise who turned out dressed (very daringly) as Daisy Dukes, complete with a long blonde wig which must have been terribly hot! In fact, all of the staff dressed in accordance with the theme of the event but Denise and Victoria were VERY daring. Adrian looked dashing and quite distinguished dressed all in black with a suave silver grey stetson hat, silver adorned belt and yes.... heeled cowboy boots! He manned the presses to manufacture more stamps when stocks ran low and very kindly offered a chauffeur service for a special lady who would not have been able to join us without his assistance. Val did a sterling job of manufacturing all of the stamps with which to stock the shop and David did a brilliant job providing the hospitality and keeping the demonstrators fed and well watered even though he was run off his feet in the 'chuck wagon'.

I have only one regret from the two days...... not having time to walk the floor with my camera! I didn't get any photos of the shinnanigans I'm afraid although, I did see Judith with a camera in her hand at one point, so look out! It may be worth checking Judith's blog to see what appears.

I did get some photos (post event) of a few of the pieces I made whilst demonstrating:

Heidi Swapp Invisibles, Hearts Mega Mask and Flower Mask, together with Distress Inks in Worn Lipstick and Tea Dye applied with the Inkssentials Cut 'n' Dry Foam Applicator. I just need the right photograph of Diesel to finish this off now.......

Heidi Swapp Circles Mega Mask on coloured paper and inked with Peeled Paint and Tea Dye Distress Inks. Collaged images (Elusive Images and Clarity Stamps) stamped with Black VersaFine Ink.

Rangers Adirondack Alcohol Inks - NEW colours from the Lights and Brights range together with Pearl Mixative, Blending Solution and Tim Holtz Stamps.

Distress Inks, stamps from Elusive Images, Tim Holtz and 7 Gypsies. Embellished with Glossy Accents, Ideaology Trinkets and Dew Drops.

Distress Inks, Elusive Images Stamps, Martha Stewart Butterfly Punch, Prima Flowers and Dew Drops.

Distress Inks, Elusive Images Stamps, and Dew Drop Embellishments, Water Colour effect achieved by spritzing the inked stamp with a Mini Mister containing water, before stamping.

I know I shouldn't be wishing the months away, heaven knows - they go fast enough as it is but I am so looking forward to the next event days in September. Better get my thinking cap on now and start coming up with ideas for demos and samples!
Have fun all and Happy Crafting!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Little Light Entertainment!

I'm really busy this weekend... as many of you probably already know, there are two fab event days happening next Friday (03rd) and Saturday (o4th) of July at Graphicus and I am up to my eyes getting stuff ready (that's not a complaint by the way - I'm really having some fun getting very inky and very painty) and working out what I'm going to be demonstrating. But unfortunately, I can't share anything just at the moment - it's under wraps until Friday.

Recently, I have found myself returning to my roots and picking up the pencils and pens... I have started drawing again! It's strange how, after such a long time out of it I've almost had to start from scratch to get anywhere near the quality I used to be able to achieve, but it's coming back - slowly.

What started it all? Well, I had a bit of a turf out and found some old charcoal and ink fashion drawings I'd done many, many years ago and some of my old journals and really liked what I had been doing. I then looked at all the blank journals I've collected over the years (can't help it, I have an addiction to beautiful books) just sitting on one of the book shelves in my studio and I knew that the time was right to get back into the groove.

I want to share something with you that I found while whizzing around the Internet looking at art supplies and yes, more journals. I howled at this.... it scratched my itch on two levels. One: my love of drawing and Two: we used to have a smooth haired Dachshund when I was little and I can just see her doing this!

I hope that made you chuckle as much as it did me!

Well, time to get back to getting even more inky. I might just post a real sneaky peek of some of the things I'm up to later... If not tonight, tomorrow maybe!

Enjoy your Sunday and Happy Crafting!