Monthly Archives: January 2014



Today I’m sharing with you my workflow for creating 2 Chinese New Year horse motif greeting cards. I remember admiring the way Chinese calligraphers painted horses using only brush and ink. I loved those horses with their long, flowing black manes, impossibly long legs and beautiful stances. This would have been in a previous Year of the Horse, so the Western year would have been 1978, and I would have been 8 years old. I saw those horses on Chinese New Year red packets (filled with money, yes!!), on wall scrolls, on greeting cards, on paper decorations.

Fast forward 3 twelve-year cycles, and the year is now 2014. It’s the time of the Horse again. I wanted to create a horse-themed e-greeting card or printable for my social circles, something that my friends could share freely with their own circles. You don’t have to be Chinese to join in the celebrations, you know. Think of it like Christmas, everyone is welcome to enjoy the celebrations…only, the Chinese will be enjoying a whole fortnight of it, not just a day.

I searched through Dover Pictura online and was overjoyed when I discovered my beloved horses of old hiding in one of the e-books. So I purchased the page, put the images through Photoshop on my Mac to convert them from TIF to PNG, then transferred them to my Samsung Galaxy S4. (TIF files don’t show up in the photo gallery on my S4, for some reason, hence the need to convert to PNG).

I chose 2 images to work on. I then cast about for some suitable apps or filters to process my horses with. First, I used PicsArt’s “screen” blending mode to give my original horse image some colour, by blending it with a colourfield background I’d created using Impressionist Fingerpaint.

Here is the original image:


And here it is after the PicsArt treatment:


It still lacked oomph…then I had the mad notion to run this through PicsArt again, this time blending it with an image I’d Percolated.


Wow, this one really zings! I love it! Now what? I decided to have a look at Pixlr Express, as last year over the Christmas period they had had some special, limited time only, borders and stickers. Maybe they had something Chinese I could use? My gut instinct proved right, as Pixlr Express does indeed have Seasonal borders and stickers with a Chinese New Year theme. Yay!

This is what I did with the image:


Isn’t it lovely? I felt it needed a bit of background colour, just a subtle tinge, nothing that would detract from the simple beauty of the image.

I used Photoshop Touch this time, to blend another colourfield background created using Impressionist Fingerpaint, with the above image. This is the result:


And, using the same workflow, I created this with the 2nd horse image…from this:


To this:


Dear friends, you are most welcome to use these 2 completed images and share with your friends. I only ask that you attribute it back to me, AlyZen Moonshadow, as a shout out. May you all have a Happy and Prosperous New Year of the Horse!

Posted from WordPress for Android.

…And This is how they do it!

No, nothing naughty here :P.  I just thought I’d share these videos that I’ve found, which show how handmade wallpaper is made. The first video shows how Cole & Son create a Gucci wallpaper using traditional silkscreen techniques. The wallpaper, named “Flora” has 15 colours, which means 15 different screens i.e a heck of a lot of work involved. And each pass needs to be extremely accurate, otherwise it would show, and the whole batch would have to be discarded.

Here’s the Gucci video:

And here is the wallpaper in question. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Cole & Son Gucci "Flora" wallpaper
Cole & Son Gucci “Flora” wallpaper

I also found a video about a textile designer named Jill Malek, which shows her “factory” in a very interesting venue – an old bowling alley! Jill’s video also explains her sources of inspiration, and has shots of her at her workstation, a lovely glimpse into a real life designer’s work.

Some examples of Jill’s wallpapers:

Jill Malek wallpapers
Jill Malek wallpapers

Two very different styles of wallpaper, but both equally complex to print.  I really admire the silk-screen artists who have the patience and eye for detail and accuracy to do this day in, day out. The results, you will agree, are stunning, and perhaps that is exactly how they can do it day in, day out.

There is a company in Norfolk, England, “The Art of Wallpaper”, run by 2 brothers, Robert and Nigel. Their blurb reads thus:

The printwork factory in Norfolk, UK uses two methods of printing to produce wallpapers, flexographic and hand silk screen print tables.

The majority of the wallpapers are printed with a flexographic machine. This particular machine  uses high technology engraved rubber rollers which produces a quality product using fine grade paper and water based inks.  Each colour in the design has its own individual roller onto which the image is engraved.

Hand silk screen printed wallpapers are produced on a 30 metre long print table onto either woven or non woven paper.  For this process the designs are exposed onto silk screens as opposed to the rubber engraved rollers used to print flexographically.   As with the machines all the inks are water based.

I’ve not heard of the flexographic method before, so I find it intriguing and who knows, I might do some more research into that. Meanwhile, here is the video link showing Robert and Nigel at work printing wallpaper:

And some examples of their wallpaper:



MOYO online magazine – a HUGE resource for surface pattern designers

I came across the website of Make It In Design, while surfing the Net looking for information on how to become a surface pattern designer (wallpaper, fabrics etc). Whoa, looks like I hit the Motherlode of resources for aspiring designers. Check it out on:

This offers courses on becoming a surface pattern designer, from learning how to design, to approaching companies for licensing and marketing deals. Here’s what their blurb says:

  • The Design School featuring The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design – an acclaimed online course for anyone who has ever dreamt of seeing their designs on stationery, homewares, fabric, wallpaper etc. The course takes you from sketch to pattern design to product in three modules. Find out more and register here

  • MOYO Magazine – the world’s first online magazine dedicated to surface pattern design. Get FREE inspiration and advice, read interviews with successful designers and enter design competitions

  • The MOYO Directory – the place to showcase your work and connect in the world of surface pattern design. Get your own webpage with unlimited portfolio space, get in front of potential new clients, and find other designers to network with

  • Live workshops and design masterclassess

  • A host of useful resources as you build your design career

I had a read of the pre-requisites of doing the online course. As I suspected, a certain level of proficiency in both Photoshop and Illustrator are on the list. I’m not proficient in either, and my learning-by-osmosis technique isn’t working :D. But I’m sure many of you reading this know a lot more about Photoshop and Illustrator than I do, and this may well be right up your street. So go ahead, check out the course, who knows, it might be just the ticket for you!

Next, I looked at MOYO magazine, a quarterly magazine currently in its 5th edition now and available entirely online. No matter what your interest is in surface pattern design, I can guarantee you will find interesting articles, useful information and inspiring art within the magazines. Best of all, it’s completely FREE!! So, do take a few minutes of your previous time to sit down with a cup of coffee or tea and a piece of cake, and immerse yourself in these beautiful magazines.

Issue 1:

Issue 2:

Issue 3:

Issue 4:

Issue 5:

Some of the articles I found most interesting in the MOYO magazines are those about taking a tour around a wallpaper factory, an interview with a real flesh-and-blood textile designer with behind-the scene views, DIY fabric printing, custom-printing your own wallpaper designs ( – which I am going to check out!), an interview the fabulous Amy Butler, etc.

The MOYO Directory enables you to set up an online profile where you can get in touch with industry mavens, to market and sell your designs. It does cost £9 per month though, so it isn’t a free resource. However, I would advise that if you were truly keen to get a foot on the ladder and get your designs “out there”, then that may be the wisest £108 spent this year.

Good Luck!

A Musing, or the New Renaissance

We live a digital age, where traditional methods and materials are fast becoming a rarity. These days, works of art can be created at the click of a button, literally. Masterpieces that would normally take years to achieve now only take days. Consumers want more, and they want it now, so technology is developed to oblige. Even 3D objects can be created within hours from concept to reality. I predict that within the next decade, we will have the technology, and it will be affordable technology, to have our own personal “Wardrobe Generator” in our homes… Imagine this:  you wake up, and you can’t decide what to wear. So you go to your touch-screen Utility Wall, and you search through a catalogue of hundreds of thousands of clothing designs. You find a design that you like, but the colour’s wrong for your mood. Also, the design repeats are too big, as the original design was for upholstery.  So, with the touch of a few buttons, you simply change the colour and size of the design, then transfer your choice to a template…today you’d like to wear a simple organic cotton top.  While your “Wardrobe Generator” is literally fabricating your top, you turn to your selections for pants and shoes. That done, while your clothes for the day are being created, you go into your kitchen where you create your own blend of coffee and have your morning toast done to perfection by a voice-controlled robot toaster. Meanwhile, your automatic robot cleaner is quietly cleaning your home from top to bottom, using its numerous multi-tasking attachments.  You read your “Personal Newscaster” informing you of news relevant to your social circles, as well as World News. You send off a few birthday greetings, buy some flowers for your Mother just because, synchronise your virtual diaries on your TabletFone and SmartWatch to remind you that you’re having dinner with some friends this weekend. Your clothes are now ready, so you slip into them, and on your way out the door, your smart refrigerator spits out a list of groceries to get, as you are running low on some things. It also reminds you that your local Starbucks is having a special on Double Froth Organic Cappuccinos today only. That evening, when you get home, you simply throw your clothes into the “Garment Recycler”, where it will be stripped of its dyes and accoutrements back to its basic components, ready for when you call for it again tomorrow.

A strange but logical twist from this high-tech scenario is a renaissance in artesanal products, where people are learning to treasure and appreciate stuff made the good old ways in the good old days. “Artisan”, “Artesanal”, “Handmade”, “Handpainted”, “Made the traditional way”, “Organic” now carries big price tags to match.  The easy availability of materials has led to many people taking up nearly-forgotten arts, or simply doing it themselves. For years now, people have been making their own cheeses at home.  Ditto wine and beer, ceramics, silversmithing, jewellery, leatherwork, etc etc etc. Back in the 1990s, when Artist Teddy Bears were all the rage, I was part of the scene, creating my own handmade teddy bears for collectors, using high-quality materials such as mohair, alpaca and designer fur fabrics, and traditional cotter-pin joints and glass eyes.  When MDF became de rigeur for home improvements, I became quite the Handy Annie, designing and making my own bedside cabinets and ornamental  boxes, which I then decoupaged or applied various paint finishes onto.


Perfumes can be made to order, if you have the finances available … most celebrities these days supplement their already burgeoning income by having fragrances created under their own brand.  And if you don’t have the financial clout of Jennifer Lopez or David and Victoria Beckham, there are perfume kits available for you to concoct your own fragrances…seriously. I have one myself that I bought from a perfume lab in Paris, France.  (Only, I can’t seem to lay my hands on it, I know it’s somewhere in the house…I have in the past used it to create my own bath salts and body scrubs). My favourite story re: perfumes is the one about how the actress Sarah Jessica Parker created her first fragrance, Lovely. The book is a great read, if you are interested in learning the inside story of how perfumes are created. In fact, I was so enamoured of this story that in October 2008, I took my young son, Jack to Paris, where we divided our time between constantly queueing up for 45 minutes at a time at Disneyland Paris for a 3 minute ride, and travelling on the train for 45 minutes from Disneyland into Paris for an entire day of perfume-hunting and window-shopping.

The Perfect Scent
The Perfect Scent

Right now I’m toying with the idea of taking up silk-screen printing. This used to be the traditional way that textiles and wallpaper were created.  It still is, but only just…as now of course we have Digital Printing. Much less mess, more accurate and predictable results, faster production, more cost effective after the initial outlay. My local Riot Art sells screen printing kits and inks, and it’s affordable enough, but the thing stopping me is this one fundamental point: I am not an artist who can draw or paint, beyond the basics. I remember reading the inspiring story of Blue Mountain Arts (Susan Polis Shutz and her husband Stephen) “Turning Dreams Into Reality”, where they operated out of an open pickup truck and silk-screen printed Susan’s motivational poems and Stephen’s art onto greeting cards. Of course, Blue Mountain Arts, like many companies these days, has turned to e-greeting cards and digital printing, to keep up with the times.

Turning Dreams Into Reality
Turning Dreams Into Reality

While half the world is keeping up with technological advancements and all that entails, the other half is trying to “get back to our roots” and rediscover the good old days. These halves intersect, mingle, go separate ways, in an ever changing dynamic much like a murmuration of starlings. Such is the beauty of humankind.

How to create hand painted wallpapers – my Plan of Action (maybe!)

Okay, so the Grand Scheme is to create huge big panels of handpainted wallpaper…well, not really.  My medium is digital, so there will be absolutely no paints and brushes involved, only virtual ones. As for the printing, my Epson Artisan 1430, great as it may be for printing up to A3, it won’t cut the mustard for banner printing, or anything bigger than A3. For that, I would have to look towards investing a hefty sum in a large-format printer, which means buying expensive inks or dyes and the whole shebang. No, the printing will either have to be done by a Print-on-Demand Printer as a large poster, or otherwise, and here’s another idea I’m toying with, printed onto silk fabric and then stretched onto a frame by hand.

But first, let’s see how to create large-scale wallpapers. Or to cheat, anyhow…

Here’s an interesting blog that suggests several ways of obtaining that expensive, handpainted wallpaper look, without the hefty price tag that goes with wallpapers like De Gournay and Gracie  The site is called The Lennoxx  and it suggests the following:

1.  Painted Mural Wallcoverings.  These are large panels of wallpaper that are painted, and then paste onto your selected wall in one go.  They would look great with a frame stuck around the edges, to give the illusion of a large painting. If your budget doesn’t stretch to large panels, just go for a standard wallpaper that you absolutely love the look of, buy 3 lengths and get them framed side by side, as a triptych. It looks classy.

2.  Hire a Painter. There are many artists out there who would love to get their hands on your walls, if you let them. Depending on the type of Art you want, or the theme, you’ll have to find the right type of artist. Prices will of course vary, and the results may be unpredictable…but of course you could always wipe the slate clean with a few coats of paint, should the experiment turn out horribly wrong.

3.  Do It Yourself! And the beauty of this is that you don’t even have to be an artist to do this. The easiest way is to get hold of a scene that you like, an overhead projector (these “old-fashioned, low tech” equipment are rapidly becoming harder and harder to source, in this day and age), and project your scene onto your prepared wall. Then simply trace over the lines with your chosen colours. You can create depth and added dimension by painting your DIY art onto existing wallpaper of a similar theme. Those of you who remember watching the UK DIY Makeover show “Changing Rooms” starring Handy Andy and Linda Barker et al, will recall that this method was one of the designers’ favourite cheats.

4. Stencil it! To do this to a large wall, you’ll need a large stencil. Small stencils would work for a smaller area, but bear in mind if the wall is big and your stencils are small but you want your art to cover all the wall, then the scale needs to be large. Your local Art shop might not have large stencils, but The Stencil Library will.  I looked at the Chinoiserie section, as that’s where my current interest lies. The Stencil Library offers 4 Chinoiserie panels which are designed to be repeated, up to 96×135 inches, but be prepared to pay over US$1420 for that size. Each stencil is supplied in 8 parts. This works out pricey, and takes time to create, but the end result can be truly stunning. Have a look at The Stencil Library’s Chinoiserie 1-4 (the example I’ve used).

First, the 4 panels displayed side by side individually, followed by them displayed as a whole.

chinoiserie-hand-painted-wallpaper-stancils-foliage-birds chinoiserieStencil1c

De Gournay handpainted wallpapers

I was reading an article in Vogue Living Australia just the other day when my eyes kept gravitating towards the wallpaper in the photoshoot. It was a glorious pale green, Chinoiserie style wallpaper with Oriental birds perched in the branches of trees or flying about. The caption of that image mentioned that the wallpaper was by “De Gournay”. My interest was piqued, so I did some research and boy, am I glad I did!

To pique YOUR interest, here is the link to the Vogue Living article:,28401?pos=5#top

Whilst I was aware that wallpaper was created by hand in the early days, and later on screen printed, and nowadays even digitally printed, I was far from aware until now that there is a current renaissance in handmade, hand painted wallpaper. And we are talking big money here…forget paying $30 for a square metre, think $300 and over, and you’re barely in the ballpark. The rich and famous are buying them not by the metre or even roll, but by the room and by the house, and a De Gournay wallpapered living room can cost over $20,000 easily. Imagine the price to paper an entire Hollywood home. OUCH!  But, if you think about it, it’s putting Art on your walls, and the walls BECOME Art. Nowadays, people pay silly money for “Art”, and some of this so-called “Art” is downright silly. Why not have your walls papered with something that not only looks good, but will be worth even more should you ever want to sell your house.

Here is the link to De Gournay, so you can have a peek at the luxurious beauty created by these 21st century artisans. The site isn’t forthcoming about the techniques employed by De Gournay’s artists, but there are snapshots showing handheld brushes, so you probably get the idea anyway.   

You can see from the website that the company not only creates magnificent wallpaper, it also offers fabrics, furniture, mirrors, porcelain and also undertakes specific custom designs and projects. In the Press section of the De Gournay website, you’ll see how the company has been written up in dozens of magazine publications.

Not only do I find De Gournay handmade, hand painted wallpapers beautiful to look at, I also admire the artesanal care and detail that goes into each panel. It’s good to know that even in this day and age, with all that technology readily available, a high-end company would still choose to employ artists to do things the good old-fashioned way. (Even if most of us are too poor to afford its wares).

How does this “discovery” of handmade, hand painted wallpapers inspire my own creativity? Well, I already know how I large I can print my own artwork, and my next project will be incorporating gesso or plaster into my canvasses, to create some texture over which I will lay my printed tissue paper. My aim is to produce an approximation of “real” art, i.e art made using traditional materials such as oil paint, showing textures and paint strokes. My medium is digital, and so I need to utilise real flesh-and-blood materials to recreate the impression of such textures and paint strokes. After that, if my experimentation succeeds, I will try creating large panels of my designs, aka wallpaper posters.

That’s the theory, anyway…

Here are some images of De Gournay wallpaper, taken from Google Images, so you too can enjoy the sheer beauty of them:

deg-their-website 273030796128820158FVcGYcCBc Kimberley Hall 3693234940_850f020c44 SaraStory_gramercyParkRenovation-5 hollywood-glamour-decorating-tips-mueffling-1210-052

HANDPAINTED WALLPAPERS = my newest fascination

It seems I may have been asleep for a long time.  Perhaps for much of my life, actually.  It has taken me several decades to find myself, and yet when I think I’ve got myself sussed, I find myself standing on the threshold of yet another startling discovery, on the verge of yet another Grand Adventure.  What I’ve discovered about myself in the past is my Modus Operandi: that is, if I find anything interesting and worth investigating, I will proceed to get totally immersed in it, and then from within that subject I will follow this lead and that, getting tangled and disentangled, going down dead-ends and cul-de-sacs, or simply round and round, until eventually it leads me to another subject to pursue.

Now I find myself beckoning to a clarion call by the fascinating subject of HANDPAINTED WALLPAPER.  For my own record, I will trace how I got here, to this point.

I was fascinated by the idea of creating patterns firstly when coming across Kaleidoscope and Fractal art on the internet.  I dabbled with various Kaleidoscope apps on my iPad and Samsung Galaxy S4. While that was a lot of fun, it did not teach me how to make seamless repeats. Try as I might, with cropping and resizing, I could not replicate a repeat without showing the joins.  I even subscribed to Adobe Creative Cloud in an effort to try to learn how to make repeats…but even though I know a few tricks on Photoshop now, I still haven’t got the hang of using the software. It’s a mental block for me, is Photoshop hahaha.

So that was why I turned to the wonderful world of smartphone Apps to see if I could create and recreate seamless patterns.  More for my own retrospective reference than anything else (in case I forget how I did it in the first place!), I posted up 30 mini tutorials showing my workflow of how I did it on my Samsung Galaxy S4 (very) smartphone. Yes, I now know how to create seamless repeats, I know how to create those 4 Magic Corners, I know about half-drops, brick and tile repeats, how to fill in gaps, etc.

And what lessons did I learn from that steep learning curve? My explorations took me into the realm of clipart and techniques for blending and juxtaposing different elements or images.  I searched the App world for clipart that I could use in my designs, concentrating specifically on my favourites – birds, butterflies, flowers, trees. My 3 go-to Apps for blending are:

Photoshop Touch,


and Litho.

All have their idiosyncrasies and quirks.

When the iOS App Frax appeared in the last quarter of 2013, I was delighted as it gave me an extra dimension to create patterns from.  By now I was a firm fan of pattern designs, and was constantly seeking out new ideas for creating repeats.  Frax opened up a whole new world for me.  One day, as I was toying with blending different images together, I decided to play around with Percolator, an iOS App, on my iPad 2.  After Percolating a few dozen images, I transferred them to my S4 to play with.  By happy chance, I decided to try to blend Percolator with Frax, and create a pattern out of them.  The results were surprisingly good, so I took that idea and ran with it.

Frax Percolator pattern

While experimenting with Percolator in one of my favourite Apps, Photo Editor, I decided to play around with replacing some colours.  I discovered the Tolerance or Threshold slider, and yet another world bloomed before my very eyes.  Not only could I change selected colours in my image, I could also control, to some extent, how much or how little of the new colour I wanted in my image.  By shifting the Tolerance slider bit by bit, I could reveal or cover elements of the overall design.  This was really exciting for me, as now I could really control the placement of my clipart or cut-n-paste images onto my prepared background image.  In fact, I was so encouraged by this that I researched clipart online and found Dover Pictura, which is a division of Dover Publications, but specialises in royalty-free clipart.  The images are available as a physical book, CD or e-book.  Being the impatient sort, I plumped for electronic means, and very soon I had folders filled with images of birds and other strange organic forms.

Check out Dover Pictura for yourself:

After all these discoveries, I decided to have a play with printing my images as panoramic images, and in different sizes, just for fun.

Peonies scarf trial blue 30x60cm  Four Water Lilies for Snapfish

Around this time I was starting to look at the possibility of printing my “long” designs onto textiles or fabric, as scarves or throws.  Despite hunting high and low for printers, (I even engaged in a month-long conversation with several traders on Ali Baba to discuss this), it all came to nothing.  I was not prepared to invest in thousands of dollars buying  my own flat-bed printer, or a specialised printer that would do banner printing.  Nor was I looking to print my own designs in bulk and try to market and sell them myself.

So I had to contend myself with knowing that I COULD venture down the pathway of a textile designer if I wanted to and if I had the money to invest, but meanwhile, back in the land of the living, I would have to be satisfied with having my artwork on canvasses and posters.

Now for the next big leap…but first, I had to discover several inspirational women artists who crossed the gap between Art and Industry.  I have written about these women in my previous posts: Angie Lewin, Orla Kiely, Florence Broadhurst, Kathe Fraga, Sonia Delaunay, Kate Spade.  I’m sure there will be more to come.  It was through these women that I realised that my own art and designs did not have to just become prints or posters, they could perhaps be large panels to decorate a room.  I knew for my designs to be wallpaper, I would have to create repeats…but I could create triptychs and have 3 canvasses hang side by side to create a large picture, or perhaps I could create 2 panels horizontally that could be used to decorate the wall of a stairwell?

I was reading an article in Vogue Living Australia, and was captivated by the Chinoiserie wallpaper in the photoshoot.  The wallpaper was by de Gournay, and get this – it was HANDPAINTED.  This, of course, was the technique used in the old days, before screen printing and digital printing.  And, as I researched further, I was struck  by how many artisans were out there creating beautiful, handpainted and handmade wallpapers for the discerning homeowner.  Now you can have ART on your walls permanently, not just hanging frames and canvasses.  In fact, your wall BECOMES Art.

And so, in a roundabout fashion, this is how I came to discover my newest fascination – Handpainted Wallpapers.  I shall write more about various artisans that I will no doubt discover on my travels on the internet, so do bookmark me and check in often!

Artist Inspiration – KATE SPADE

I first came across Kate Spade many, many years ago, back when I was going through my handmade handbag phase. This would have been in the year 2006, when I first started by hand-felting old woollen jumpers to create bags. I was a single-mother stuck in Spain then, and had too much time on my hands when my son was in school, so the handbag-making was a big part of my life. That, and the dozens of books on making handbags that I bought on Amazon. Kate Spade featured in several of those books, and as I searched for handbag inspiration online, her name and brand cropped up quite a bit too.

Kate hails from the United States and had quite a privileged upbringing. She worked in the accessories department of Mademoiselle in Manhattan, where she met her husband Andy Spade. It was while she worked at Mademoiselle that Kate noticed a niche in the market for stylish and sensible handbags, and started researching and creating her own first handbags. In January 1993 her company “Kate Spade Handbags” was launched in New York. “Kate Spade Handbags”, as the name implies, sold handbags and accessories. In 2004, “Kate Spade At Home” was launched, selling bedding, china and other homeware merchandise. In 2012, Kate Spade produced and sold a complete line of products featuring the designs of eccentric Australian design icon Florence Broadhurst. Thanks to sharp business acumen, the Kate Spade brand just keeps growing from strength to strength and is now a truly global brand.

Here is the link to Kate’s official website:

The Kate Spade brand is all about clean lines, unfussy looks, blocks of colour, confetti spots or stripes. It’s witty and playful, yet extremely sophisticated. When she launched her Spring Campaign of 2012 in honour of Florence Broadhurst, however, Kate Spade went the opposite way and painted the town red, with Florence’s signature bold florals, geometrics and colour. Here are some of the wackier entries from Kate Spade’s blog for that campaign, which entailed driving a bright red tour bus bedecked in Florence Broadhurst designs, the interior of which was an innovative pop-up store:,en_US,pg.html,en_US,pg.html

What do I like about Kate Spade?  I admire her for having the gumption to act on her instinct when she first spotted a niche in the market, and for then taking that inspiration forward and launching her own brand. I admire her for what she did after that – expand on her range of products and designing for all manner of household items, fashion apparel, accessories, jewellery, shoes, stationery etc. I admire her for moving forward with the times and branching out into putting her designs on mobile phone cases and other techie products. As a successful businesswoman, Kate Spade is a role model for artists like myself who are struggling to find their niche in an increasingly saturated market.

Lastly, I admire Kate Spade for bringing the work of Florence Broadhurst to the attention of the public again, after many years of obscurity. She has helped bring Florence to the American market, and very deftly tied her own brand’s history in with the Broadhurst brand. A very shrewed move by a very clever businesswoman.

Artist Inspiration – SONIA DELAUNAY

Just by chance the other day, via surfing Pinterest, I came across a fascinating woman by the name of Sonia Delaunay.  I hadn’t heard about her before, and the thing that caught my eye on Pinterest was a photo of her juxtaposed against some strongly coloured, geometric shapes. Then, I realised that I had come across the name Delaunay before, but that of Sonia’s husband Robert.  A little research revealed that Robert and his wife Sonia had developed an offshoot of Cubism called “Orphism”, which was the transitional link between Cubism and Abstract Art.

Here is Wikipedia’s entry for “Orphism”:

What attracted me to Sonia Delaunay was the fact that not only was she an artist in the highest regard, she was also a Textile Designer and Surface Pattern Designer whose works crossed over from the realm of Art into furniture, furnishings, fabric and even fashion.  I’m very keen on patterns myself, if you’ve been following my blog, and that one image of Sonia with bold, colourful geometric shapes on the wall behind her, piqued my interest further.

Sonia Delaunay

(Image courtesy of Google Images)

Here then was another inspiring woman artist, and I do love them, so I thought I would write about her here, as her back story is a fascinating and compelling one.

Sonia Delaunay (November 14, 1885 – December 5, 1979) was a Jewish-French artist born in Gradizhsk, then in the Russian Empire, today in Poltava Oblast inUkraine.  At a young age, she was given into the care of her mother’s brother Henri Terk, an affluent lawyer and his wife Anna in St Petersburg, and formally adopted by the Terks in 1890.  After a privileged upbringing, she moved to Paris, France in 1905 to study Art.  However, being disillusioned with the way Art was taught at the school she enrolled in, Sonia spent most of her time trawling art galleries for inspiration.  Her early style resembled the post-impressionist art of Van GoghGauguin and Henri Rousseau and the fauves including Henri Matisse and Derain.

In her first year in Paris, Sonia met German art gallery owner Wilhelm Uhde, and they married in 1908.  Uhde was a homosexual, and it was a marriage of convenience…Sonia’s adoptive parents disapproved of her becoming an artist and demanded for her return to Russia.  For Uhde, marriage to Sonia provided a respectable cover for his homosexuality.  Through Uhde, Sonia Delaunay gained entrance into the art world, and she also benefited from his many connections as a gallery owner.

In 1909, however, Sonia met Robert Delaunay and by April that year they were lovers.  Sonia and Wilhelm Uhde divorced in 1910, leaving her free to marry Robert.  Their son Charles was born in January 1911.  Of Robert, Sonia said “In Robert Delaunay I found a poet. A poet who wrote not with words but with colours”. The Delaunays were supported financially by funds sent from Sonia’s aunt in St Petersburg.

Sonia called her artistic style “simultanéisme”, or Simultaneous Design.  In 1912, Sonia met the poet Blaise Cendrars, who became her friend and collaborator, and she subsequently illustrated Cendrars’ poem La prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France (Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Jehanne of France) about a journey on theTrans-Siberian Railway, by creating a 2m-long accordion-pleated book. Using simultaneous design principles the book merged text and design. The book, which was sold almost entirely by subscription, created a stir amongst Paris critics.

(I must say seeing this book has quite inspired me to try my hand once again at creating handmade books, but this time perhaps incorporating my own mobile photography artwork?)  Have a look yourself at the sheer genius of Sonia’s accordion book here, isn’t it wonderful?


While visiting Spain in 1914, the Delaunays were caught by the outbreak of the First World War, and decided to stay in Spain and Portugal.  They only returned to France in 1921.  The Russian Revolution also caused their funds from St Petersburg to dry up, and as a new source of income was required, Sonia found work designing clothes for Sergei Diaghilev in Madrid. She designed costumes for his production of Cleopatra (stage design by Robert Delaunay) and for the performance of Aida in Barcelona. In Madrid she decorated the Petit Casino (a nightclub) and founded Casa Sonia, selling her designs for interior decoration and fashion, with a branch in Bilbao. Still in her early 30s, Sonia was fast becoming the darling of the fashion and interior decoration world.

Back in France from 1921, Sonia threw herself into creating clothes for clients, with her signature of bright, bold colours and geometrical shapes. She also created and designed sets for theatre and film.  Robert Delaunay died of cancer in 1941.  Sonia was a toasted and celebrated artist well through her late years.  She passed away in 1979, aged 94, and is buried beside her husband Robert Delaunay in Gambais, near Paris.

Here are some images of Sonia Delaunay’s work, taken from Google Images.  I have chosen these images to represent her work in Fashion and Furnishings, as well as Art.

ozartsetc_sonia_delaunay_rythme_1934_9 tumblr_ls3f0tmT4d1r2q0z9o1_500 sonia delaunay, Robe Simultanee, 1923 sonia-delaunay-3-24-11-6 soniadelaunay simultaneous fashion market-at-minho

Artist Inspiration – KATHE FRAGA

I am in love with Kathe Fraga’s work, I really am.  I came across Kathe’s work on Pinterest, and was immediately drawn to her style. Several things stand out for me – the feel of a dusty wall with flaking paint, depictions of birds, trees and flowers in romantic settings, Kathe’s use of colour that evoke the feel of hand painted, time-worn walls of a grand old Parisian mansion.

Here is the link to Kathe Fraga’s official website:

Kathe’s chosen art medium is acrylic on frescoed canvas, finished with layers of lacquer.  I’m intrigued by the idea of using plaster (fresco) on canvas, but also interested to know how it would work with my own art, as for a while now I’ve been toying with the idea of giving my tissue paper transfers some dimensional texture.  Kathe’s technique is just perfect in evoking a powdery feel to her backgrounds. There are elements of Chinoiserie in her work, in her “Lovebirds” series, based on the vibrant and bold colours of 17th and 18th century vintage chinoiserie, as well as romantic Parisian boudoir style, in what she calls her “French Wallpaper Series”.  Kathe has lived in great old cities featuring fantastic old architecture and buildings (South America, Denmark, England and France), and these influences can be seen and felt in her beautifully evocative paintings.

Kathe Fraga also maintains an active WordPress blog, where readers can keep up with her creative work.  Recently her work has been featured on television as background interest, she has been written up in Luxe magazine, she even turned her hand to hand painting ceramics and wine buckets, and Kathe also has her art available as silk cushions and cards. I exhort you to read her blog entries, as they are full of descriptions of her creative process, observations, cultural and historical references.

This is how Kathe describes herself (excerpt taken from her website):

“The paintings in my “French Wallpaper Series” are intended to evoke the hand-painted, timeworn walls of a grand old Parisian mansion. Each piece resembles an aged decorative fresco panel adorned with birds and flowers, vines and leaves in a modern Chinoiserie style. I am inspired by the bright, colorful, fanciful imagery that made this unique style popular in the 17th and 18th century.

My art is influenced by the beauty and romance of old: vintage silky kimonos, hand-worked embroidery, lacquered little boxes, blocked wallpaper and panels from years ago, distressed with age, revealing a soft loveliness still…viewers see layered colors peeking out behind one another—pinks, blues, lavender—speckles of gold, a wisp of a faded blossom. Look for a small shy heart. A nestle of lovebirds. A French phrase. Each piece meant to be seen as part of a larger scene that’s been hidden away…until now.

I create a frescoed canvas and paint with acrylic and graphite. Aging and distressing are part of my process. I finish my paintings with a lacquered coating.

I live and paint on Bainbridge Island, Washington in a 100-year-old stone house by the sea.”

I guess the reason why Kathe Fraga’s work appeals so much to me is that I too am enamoured of using bird and butterfly motifs in my current body of work, as well as other nature-inspired motifs such as leaves, branches and flowers.  I love Kathe’s colour palette, and especially that extra special quality that painting on fresco gives.  I think I’m going to give painting on plaster a try myself – however, as I do not draw or paint, my medium being digital, I will instead transfer printed images of my artwork onto tissue paper, and then paste them onto wet and textured plaster, and hope I can create quasi palette-strokes on my canvas.  If that doesn’t work, I might give lacquering a go, and try for a smooth, mirrored surface instead.

Kathe Fraga is represented by Kaller Fine Arts, with locations in Washington, DC and New York City. She is represented on Bainbridge Island by Roby King Galleries, in Seattle by Pacini Lubel Gallery, and on Whidbey Island by Museo.  Her work can also be seen at Anne Irwin Fine Art, Atlanta. She is represented for publishing and licensing by Bentley Publishing Group.

I was so inspired by Kathe’s work that I went searching for sites where I could buy examples of her fantastic art. (These are only some of the site I found that feature Kathe Fraga, but do bookmark my page here, so you don’t have to go looking all over the Internet yourself!).

For prints and posters:

Original paintings (other than galleries representing Kathe already):

For iPhone/iPod covers:

Details on where to buy Kathe’s greeting cards can be found on her own website, using this link:

I’ve ordered 2 of Kathe Fraga’s works on wooden panels, “Love Birds II”  and “Love Birds III”, to go on either side of the bookcase in my living room at home.  They were from, I can’t wait for them to arrive!

I’ll leave you to drool over these examples of Kathe’s work, taken from Google Images:

Kathe Fraga
Kathe Fraga

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