Tuesday, 31 December 2013

It’s Tuesday, and it’s P for Presentation

Tuesday’s blog rolls back the hours, so I thought we might take a little trip down Memory Lane again...
Back in the 90’s, stamping really wasn’t as popular a pastime as it is now. I would like to think that we have played a part in P for Promoting it! 
But back then, it was hard to make an all-year living from our stamps, so we had to come up with something else to supplement our income during the summer months.
We developed a really beautiful slate vase. Yes, that’s right! Nothing to do with stamps! But everything to do with flowers. 
Running parallel with our stamps the whole time, right up until 2 years ago, we also made fantastic slates vases.
Here’s one of the Tavistock pieces with a 2.5" pinholder. 

Our vases were really clever. They were beautifully hand-crafted slate pieces, all hand-made. Underneath was a reservoir for the water, which also housed a pinholder. You could display really tall flowers, such as lilies, or irises, or freesias on the pins, and make the most impressive floral arrangements! Flowers lasted longer, the water didn’t get smelly - they really were fabulous. 

In fact, why don’t I just grab the lilies Mark got me at the weekend and show you how they work! 

I begin with the tallest stem

then stagger them

so that you get a veritable cascade of blooms

which will last an absolute age. 
This arrangement will keep at least 2 weeks,
as  long as I remember to add some water every couple of days.

In fact the only reason we stopped making them was because we had to leave the old farm we lived in, and we just don’t have the place to make them any more. Maybe you have even seen them at an exhibition! My parents and my brother started making them, too. We would help each other. Then Dave came on board, and he also made great vases.
I used to love the outdoor marquee shows: Penshurst, Stonor, The Royal Highland, Stoneleigh, Shrewsbury - the showlist was extensive. We received several prizes for Best Stand in Show. I used to pride myself in our floral display and P for Presentation.  

The Original Slate Vase Company, we called ourselves. 

We used to work with different slate from different regions.

They were very labour intensive. A lot of drilling, grinding, sanding, waxing, polishing, glueing, painting. I remember always washing the blanks as we called them, ready for waxing, before the pots went on. I would prop them up all over the Aga, to make them dry more quickly. Cor blimey! Those were the days. And do you know what? We couldn’t make them fast enough. We sold every single one we ever made, except for a couple I still have, to remember them by. 
To be honest, I was really sad to stop production. But the Claritystamp business had gone through the roof, and we weren’t getting any younger. Carting hundreds of heavy slate vases around was pretty gruelling! I think you have to know when to call it a day. 
I enjoyed the many years of floral display and floral art demonstrations. It was so different to the stamp world. I also met some very special people in that artisan world; some real characters.  Even now, when we do the NEC, I have more friends over in the finished Arts & Crafts hall than I will ever have on the Stamps & Stencils side! 
I used to love doing Stonor August Bank Holiday. I have such great memories of camping with good people, sharing and helping each other. And when Penshurst came round, which was round the corner from the farm, good friends would come and stay with us, and we would open our home to them.  A very far cry from the highly competitive, cut and thrust craft industry I am in nowadays. 
My favourite show of the year was the Royal Highland at Ingleston/Edinburgh. I used to try and sell out by Sunday lunchtime, so that I could go and watch the Animal parade. It was the highlight of the year for me. 

So there we have it. A glimpse into the past again. 
I have never worked under contract for anybody, you see. I have never been paid a day’s holiday, and I have never been paid a day sick. I have only ever created my own work. Does that make me an entrepreneur? Who knows. It has certainly made me work hard!

The point of today’s blog, I think, is that we can’t always instantly generate enough income from our dream, but this doesn’t mean failure; it simply requires one to diversify. 

 with love from

Monday, 30 December 2013

Flower boxes on a rainy Monday...

Happy Monday eh? 
It is pouring down outside, so I decided to brighten the morning with some fresh spring flowers.

Here’s a cracking ( or should I say crackling?) set of Flowers which make the most delightful notelets. I also used a crackle stamp to age them a little.

I used

Theuva Card, cut to size
Black mountboard
Mustard Seed Distress Pad

Simply stamp the image in Black Adirondack.
Colour it in with Promarkers. Nibs come in very handy for the tight areas.
Add the crackle around the edges with an ink colour complimentary to the flower.

Coat the whole piece with Versamark ink.
Sprinkle with clear embossing powder. 
Heatset with a heatgun.

You will find that the first emboss is a bit dimply. 
Let it set cold, then re-apply Versamark ink all over. 
Sprinkle more embossing powder and heatset. 
This time, it should start glazing nicely.
Add 3rd layer of glaze if necessary.

The glaze will make the colours much more vibrant.

So the crackle stamp has added an aged element. But we can take that crackled look one step further, by actually cracking the glaze. 
It’s best to do this before you mount the piece on rigid mountboard

Gently bend the piece over your index finger, back and forth. 
Now it looks like authentic cracked glaze.

Funny really. We go to such lengths to make our art look 
antique and old!

You certainly don’t need to bend me over your index finger gently to make me look old! I’m managing perfectly well all by myself!
Have a great day!

love from

Sunday, 29 December 2013

3 days to go...

It’s the last Sunday of 2013, so in Clarityland that means two things. 
Firstly, the December Stencil of the month needs airing one more time. It's the lovely Rose Panel.
So I thought I would do a very simple step-by-step stencil card, for those who are still not sure how a stencil actually works.

You need
Long white Card
Make-up sponges
Distress Pad Old Paper or Frayed Burlap

Position and mask off the Stencil with low-tack stencil tape,

paying attention to detail.

When you have taped it down and masked it off,

dust over the whole area with an undercoat colour, like Old Paper or Frayed Burlap.
Load the brushes directly from the ink pads.

Then we will start adding colour to the leafy areas, using a fresh brush. You can wash our Clarity Stencil brushes in warm soapy water afterwards, but while you are in the middle of a job, use them all! I’m much the same in the kitchen, aren’t you? Every bowl, every pan and every spoon is in use while I’m being creative!

Anyway, so add green where the leaves are

and pink where the roses are.  If you hold the brushes further down the bristles, towards the point, you will have more control where you are applying the colour. Literally use the brush like a paintbrush.

Build up the depth of colour gradually. This is where 

make-up sponges come in handy.
You can really get into the leaves

and petals.

But make sure you are done with colour
BEFORE you remove the stencil;

it’s quite tricky putting it back in exactly the same place.

But if we get in closer, you will see now why we did an undercoat colour of Old Paper first.

See how it breaks up and dilutes the greens and pinks?

Nice. I like the softness of it.

So then, being an old stamper by nature, I got to wondering how to get the colour on the stencil, instead of in the gaps. So I laid the stencil on a piece of copy paper and literally coated it with ink.

I figured out that I needed a lot of pressure to transfer the ink, so out the the E-Bosser (Love it!).
I sandwiched the inky stencil between two pieces of long white card and all the necessary plates,

ran it through the embossing machine,

And Bingo!
I like this look, too. I am sure there are better ways of doing this, but it worked for me! And what I like is that the card is properly embossed now; the colour is embedded in the design, if you like.

So there we are. 
It’s the last opportunity to buy the Rose Panel stencil at a discounted price before January. 
And there was something else...
Last Sunday of the month today...
First Sunday of the month next Sunday! 
Which means I’m back on TV! 9-11am and 2-3pm.
Oh my, oh my. It’s time to make a plan again...

with love from

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Full Moon, Whimsy Village...

Hi there! 
Saturday’s Blog a new technique...well new for somebody!

Here’s one I did earlier, using the funky cottages and the garden gate. I think what I like about it is the huge orb for a moon and the blue black sky.

Most of what I have used here you probably already have. I think that’s important. If you have been following me for any length of time, be it weeks, months or years, you will know that I always go back to the same ingredients, the same ink pads, the same card. Why? Because all I need is some ink pads and a brayer really. The rest is just icing on the cake. 

The stamps? Now that’s different. We are a stamp company, so naturally, we are constantly designing new images. 
Now we have even branched out into stencils, because so many of our stamp designs make brilliant stencils, too. 
But let’s take a look here...

Here’s what I used:

Let’s set the scene first. I love these whimsy cottages. We’ve had them a long time, but they are so cool. Our friend Melanie drew these. 
Here’s where the masks come in very handy. Of course, you can cut them out from Post-Its if you don’t have them.

The Cardstock is Theuva Card, cut to A6. 
Excellent for Promarkers and brayering.

Colour in the cottages with Promarkers and mask them again, so that we can do the sky.

It’s amazing how a background can transform a picture.
If you look up at the coloured in cottages, you can imagine lovely green grass and light blue spring skies. 

Or you can go the other way, as I have done, and create a fab night scene. That’s what I LOVE about stamps. 
Literally transformational.

The masking helps with depth, so that you can set cottages behind one another.

The stars and the smoke?
I used the tip of the scalpel blade and just picked at the sky. 

 The brickwork on the houses? 
I added them with a black Micron pen. 
You could even add door numbers, if you wanted make a card really special and personal.

There. Hope you like it. 
Now I really must dash. We have got 25 coming round to this quirky cottage for Potato Salad, gammon and games this afternoon!! 

with love from

Friday, 27 December 2013

And now for something very tasty....

Friday’s Private Peak, and I decided to let you in on a very specialecial secret... my world famous, 
Nothing to do with making cards, but certainly something to serve friends and family. 

It’s so easy!
Here’s what you need:

Red Potatoes
Lardons (German Speck)
Chicken Stock cube
Onion (red for a little colour
Salt and Pepper to taste

If you want to make a batch for say 8-10 people, use a 5 lb bag of spuds, a medium jar of Mayo, a pack of lardons, 2 small red onions and 4 large gherkins.

Steam the Potatoes in their skins, and allow to go cold. I usually let them stand overnight. 
Peel and dice.

Slice and dice the onions, and add.
Dice the gherkins, and add.
Dissolve the stock cube in a 5 tablespoons boiling water, and add.
Stir it in gnetly, so that the spuds soak it up.
Fry the lardons in a pan until well done, and add the lot, fat 'n all.
Add Black Pepper
Finally add the mayonnaise.
Carefully mix it all up so it doesn’t go mushy. 
Add salt to taste. 

Serve with cold turkey, ham, frankfurters - whatever!

We just had it with cold turkey, and it was delicious. I don’t think I have ever been to a party and not taken a batch of my German Potato Salad. And the best thing is, the bowl is always emptied!
Give it a go. 

I was talking to Grace and Mum Christmas Day, whilst cooking Christmas dinner, and Grace was saying she really wanted to learn how to cook some recipes now, like Mum’s Potato salad. 
So here it is. 
Grace and I made this batch together.

with love from,
Don’t forget about the GIVEAWAY! 
Let’s do a New Year’s Day Draw. 
Who wants to win a £50 Gift Voucher? 
Here’s what to do. 
1) Follow this blog and 
2) then leave a comment on the blog (once a day is even better!) and
3) email your postal details to me at barbara@claritystamp.co.uk

1st January 2014, I will get Grace or Mark to pick a random Winner. 

And don’t forget! When we reach 700 followers (it’s at 666 just now), there’s £100 Clarity Goody Bag packed by myself, going to somebody who has got the Giveaway Button on their blog! And that is going to be very soon, methinks! Don’t forget to let me know you have done it though. Just click the Giveaway button on my panel here, and leave a comment