Category: Wonderful Words

Amos & Boris

Some images are so imbedded in your consciousness that you can hardly look at them properly. This project certainly made me look at a very familiar image in a different way.

When I was growing up, one of my dad’s favourite books was Amos and Boris by William Steig. The book is about a fearless mouse who embarks on an adventure, meets a whale and discovers how lasting friendships can endure between very different people.

It’s a favourite in our house too, and so for my Dad’s birthday I decided to experiment with a new technique – watercolour and embroidery.

I’m planning to write a tutorial covering the whole process, but here is a peek at the finished piece.

Tin Type Adventures

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a photographic post, but I’ve been inspired by these gorgeous tin types, so here we go.

David Emmit Adams works in traditional photographic media (paper negatives and wet plate collodion) and uses the fact that these processes allow you to expose directly onto the display surface rather than projecting an image to make a final print.

I found (via Poppytalk) the series called Conversations with History which uses discarded tins as a base for images of the desert in which they were found.

Shadow with Cans - David Emmit Adams

Shadow with Cans – David Emmit Adams

Here are some of the images created on surface of the tins, which have been pre-exposed, giving them the

[This] rich patina is the evidence of light and time, the two main components inherent in the very nature of photography.

Traces - David Emmit Adams

Traces – David Emmit Adams

Traces - David Emitt Adams

Traces – David Emitt Adams

I can’t urge you enough to check out Adams’ website, there are whole other bodies of work which I could blog about, but I’ll let you discover them on your own because I have another photographer to tell you about!

Ed Drew took the first tin types in a combat zone since the American Civil War as a reservist on  duty during his BFA.

Ed Drew - Afghanistan, Combat Zone

Ed Drew – Afghanistan, Combat Zone

Oh those wrinkled edges, streaks and bubbles…

Ed Drew - Afghanistan, Combat Zone

Ed Drew – Afghanistan, Combat Zone

They make me go a bit wibbly, gorgeous!

Afghanistan, Combat Zone

Ed Drew – Afghanistan, Combat Zone

(via Petapixel)

An Organised Life from The Gift Shed

If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that Emma at The Gift Shed is a regular provider of notebooks, link-er to interesting articles and commenter. In addition to her paper-wizardry, Emma also runs a gardening business, and when I found myself particularly swamped running Misericordia and Killer Pilates, I asked Emma for some advice.

She very kindly sent me a very useful email and then followed it up with a guest blog post with lots of lovely tips for people running too many businesses or who are just looking for better organisational living.

I’ve popped in a few photos here and there, but I’ll hand you over to Emma for the really useful stuff:

Back in October (yes, October) Katy asked me if I had any advice on running two businesses without losing my mind. Apparently my advice was helpful because she then asked me if I’d write a guest post about it.

Life got a bit hectic here (new dog, major building work to our house…) and I clean forgot about it until she reminded me at the end of March. So here we are, almost at the end of April, and I’m finally getting around to putting some advice down on paper. I’ll be honest, I’d have forgotten again (because it wasn’t on my list – this is very important) if another friend hadn’t asked me for some time management tips.

Truth be told I’m not naturally an organised person. My default state is to gently drift through life, littering my path with things that I’ve not got round to tidying away. However I learned very early on that this was no way to live, and certainly no way to run a business (let alone two), so I made changes to the way that I think.

That’s all it is really, altering the way you approach things. The friend who recently asked for time management advice said “It’s anathema to me. Always has been but getting pissed off with being caught out by it! Giving myself a hard time and still getting nothing done!”

So this article is more focused on time management in general than aimed specifically at running two businesses successfully, but the two go very much hand in hand.

Let’s leap straight in with a list of key points, which are here in no particular order.

  1. Make a list. I love making lists, and there’s something very satisfying about crossing things off a list as they get done. I don’t seem to get as much done if I don’t have a list, it really does help me to stay focused.

    to do

  2. Give yourself easy wins. Don’t just put “clean the house” or “sort out the filing” – if you know a task is big or time consuming (and thus, usually, undesirable) then break it down into smaller chunks. So “clean the house” can be divided up by room or by type (“vacuuming” “dusting” etc.), and “sort out the filing” can be done by month instead. If you’re able to check things off at regular intervals then you’ll feel better about it. It’s a con, but it works.
  3. Be realistic. Sometimes there’s an almost endless list of things that need to be done. If you have a lot to do then just accept that you won’t get it all done, and stop worrying about it. This goes back to the easy win strategy. Prioritise a few things and get those done, and then anything else is a bonus. I believe that we put unnecessary strain on ourselves by trying to live up to the idea that everything has to be done right now.
  4. Learn to say no. Really, this is quite a big one and I have taught myself to say no due because of work, but it applies just as much at home. If you’re good at your job then you will be in demand – but if you half kill yourself trying to fit too much in then you’ll end up resenting your work, and there’s also a fair chance that you’ll end up being not so good at what you do because you’re cutting corners trying to fit everything in.

    I split my time between garden maintenance and working in my studio. For me this works best if I have a small number of regular gardening clients (and thus a regular income which I can budget around), and I can then take on one-off jobs if they come up and it fits in with my existing work.

    I’m not looking to take on any more regular clients at the moment, so no matter how tempting they sound I simply say no. I could fit more work in, but it would cut into my studio time, and that’s just not acceptable to me. Or I could fit the work in without sacrificing time in the studio but would end up with little leisure time. Also unacceptable. This goes back to the point about being realistic.

  5. Multitask. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t make the most of their time. Most tasks have dead time, when you’re basically waiting for something to happen, so use that time. If I’m waiting for the kettle to boil then I’ll do something else while I’m waiting – if it’s just putting some dishes away then so be it, that’s one less thing to do later.

    When I go down to the studio in the morning it takes five minutes for the computer to boot up and for the light to get properly bright, so I go in and switch everything on and then go out to the garden and water some pots. If I’m going out to walk the dog I’ll take a bag of rubbish (or even just a couple of bottles for recycling) down with me. If I’m going from the sitting room to the kitchen then I pick up any mugs or glasses and take them through with me. This all sounds patently obvious to me (and possibly to you, too), but apparently not everyone does this. I do it on autopilot, if I’m getting up to do something then part of me thinks “ok, I’m going in that direction, is there anything I can take with me?” – no journey is wasted! It has to be said that this habit partly evolved through laziness…why make three separate trips upstairs when I can just make one?

    I multitask in other ways too, the main one being that I knit/crochet/embroider/blog while watching television. This allows me to get in some leisure craft time while still unwinding in front of a show, and also stops me falling asleep while watching.

  6. Scheduling. I don’t think this is the best word to describe this bit, but I couldn’t think of anything better. As I run two businesses, and I work for myself, it’s entirely up to me when I go to work. Over the past year or so I’ve tried to work week on/week off. Which means that I’ll see all my garden clients one week and then have the following week in the studio. Of course it doesn’t always work out quite like that (the wonderful British weather can play havoc!), but it does mean that I have breathing room and am still able to comfortably split my time between my two jobs.

    If I have appointments for non-work things then I’ll try and book them all for the same day, even if that means waiting a while, as it’s more efficient to write off a whole day than to give up two or three mornings/afternoons for separate appointments.

    On the domestic front I also tend to spend a whole morning or afternoon batch cooking things that I can freeze and then just stick in the oven as needed. It might sounds like a lot of time to spend cooking, but it takes pretty much the same amount of time to make a huge batch of pasta sauce (or a pie, or gumbo, etc.) as it does to make enough for one meal, so why not just make a few things at once and get it over and done with. I certainly enjoy meals a lot more when I can just put them in to heat up rather than having to slave over them after a busy day at work, and overall it saves me a lot of time.

I’m trying to think of other examples which might be helpful, but actually I’m struggling because the way you manage your own time is very personal. If you’re really struggling to think where you could save time then make a list (ha!) for a few days detailing what exactly it is you do. List everything, no matter how insignificant you think it is, then look back at the list at the end of the day and see if there are things you could have combined in order to free up time.

My life since November has been very different as we now have a dog, and thus my usual habits are having to be adjusted to accommodate his needs as well as mine. It’s working out well though, and we’re just about into a regular routine. I also had two months when it was almost impossible to do because major work was taking place in my house and half my things were in storage, but I just accepted that and thought of it as a two month hiatus. I spent a lot of that time thinking of ideas and planning projects for later this year (and when I did manage to get some work done in my studio I considered it a happy bonus!). If I had worried about getting lots done while the builders were here then I’d have driven myself mad with stress, but being realistic about it made the whole thing much easier.

So there you have it, my tips for coping when you’ve got too much on your plate. Not the most well-written thing I’ve ever produced, but I’ve really found it quite difficult to put onto paper that which I do on autopilot. I hope you’ll find it useful.

Thanks Emma! Let me know how to get on with these, I’m trying to embrace batch cooking (The aftermath of my Week 1 attempt being shown above – along with the pride of my heart, my chip paper spoon rest) and being realistic. If you have any other useful tips we’d love to have them in the comments!

1000 French Knots

Safety in Numbers

I thought I ought to inaugurate my return from holiday by helping someone else complete a project.

I picked up a tweet while I was away which pointed me to this post on artist Lisa Solomon’s blog.

Her work explores ideas of repetition and collaborative effort, for instance this piece where participants contributed 1000 crocheted doilies.

1000 doilies :: 8000 pins :: 100 colors of thread :: me + approx 45 women all over the world crocheted the doilies :: me + 6 helpers installed the doilies :: 4 days :: 1 wall :: 1 art piece for “sen” at Fouladi Projects.


The piece that caught my eye looks at the Japanese (get the feeling there’s a bit of a theme here?) good luck amulet senninbari, a belt which was embroidered with 1000 knots. Each knot was meant to be stitched by a different woman. The symbolism seems to come both from the number 1000 and various other plays on words which derived from the addition of coins stitched into the belts as well as the text or images of tigers created by the knots. For much more information, see here.

1000knots stitching

I’ve submitted my contribution – you have until June to submit yours (allow time to post to the States).

If the thought of french knots (you only have to do between one and ten) makes you break out in a cold sweat, you could contribute a drawing of a doily instead. There are details here and here.

I’ll keep you posted on the piece, it should be very interesting.

Borrow, Don’t Buy

As I was completing my weekly charity shop rounds, I was thinking about the difference between owning and borrowing.

Does it matter whether our possession of things is permanent or would being able to use a thing when we need it be just as good? Of course, there are practical limitations of this theory – I think sole ownership of my undies is pretty unbeatable but I’d be happy to share cake tins or turkey lifters.


I haven’t tried to keep track, but there’s a fairly constant flow of things to and from the local charity shops and my house. I don’t object to it at all, in fact I rather like the impermanence of the purchase, but there are still some things that I can’t justify the houseroom for the frequency I use them or things I love too much to get rid of but would happily allow someone else to use in the intervals when I don’t need them.


For instance, we made pasta last weekend, but it’s certainly been at least three years since we’ve touched our pasta machine and I’m sure someone within a five mile radius of me has sighed to themselves over their lack of pasta-manufacturing equipment.

Enter this rather charming idea from Berlin:

The Leila project, billed as a 'library of things' Photograph: Christian Jungeblodt via The Guardian

The Leila project, billed as a ‘library of things’Photograph: Christian Jungeblodt via The Guardian

The Leila project allows people to drop off things they don’t use all the time and borrow the things they do need. Click the photo above for The Guardian article, or try here for a BBC video tour.

What would you borrow or lend?


Embracing Imperfection

Does anyone fancy a little Japanese philosophy in two parts? I knew you did…

If you’re in to the handmade (or computer programming), you might be aware of the concept of wabi-sabi – a term that encompasses the beauty of transient or imperfect things.


As a maker it means that my best doesn’t always mean flawless or entirely regular and the places where the human-ness of the process shows through do not require an apology.

In the programming world, wabi-sabi has come to be represented by the phrase ‘done is better than perfect’ (an axiom I am also trying to embrace in all aspects of my life).

Kintsugi calls on a similar resolve to embrace the entirety of an object, including any flaws or breakages. In this technique, broken ceramics are repaired with precious metals both to


‘keep[ing] an object around even after it has been broken, and […] highlight[ing] the cracks and repairs as simply an event in the life of an object.’ Wikipedia

My next post will be about putting kintsugi into action, so stay tuned!

humade kintsugi kit

Sending All My…

For various reasons, I’ve been thinking about my understanding of art, how I relate it to my work and how my work may (or may not) broadcast my understanding of art to other people.

In essence, my understanding of art is that it makes you think, no matter what the medium or where it is presented.

Due to the relatively mechanical nature of hand embroidery (a blessing and a curse for the easily-distracted stitcher) I am left with plenty of head-space to fill with thoughts that I either direct into the piece when things are going well or cast around me when they’re not.

web stitch

The aspect of my work that I most struggle to communicate when selling is that I’m not only hand-stitching because I enjoy it and it’s different than machine embroidery, but to give someone an object which has hours of human contact behind it signifies that you have set aside those non-returnable hours for the contemplation of the receiver’s existence.

The making of any piece, but especially a commission, means that I ponder the recipient, the giver, where I imagine the piece will live, how I hope they will speak about it to people who ask and much more. If you think intentions can travel through objects, I send all manner of good advice, good wishes and happy thoughts with each piece.

The more art I make the more I discover that I like the way it moves my thoughts outside of myself and towards other people.

So that’s the rather sneaky surprise about art, the definition is that it makes you think… but it doesn’t always say who that ‘you’ will be.

A Habit of Speech

If you know someone with a specialist subject, especially if you live with them, you’ll find yourself picking up some of the knowledge they leave lying about (this can only be a good thing, of course).


Sometimes this leads to unexpected actions, such as the many photographs of paving I took on my honeymoon (our most long-standing flatmate is a landscape architect), or an experiment in writing my undergraduate dissertation in LaTex about tutus (that would be the computer scientist sitting next to me).


It doesn’t all go one way, of course – Dragon pulls out my Pilates mat and announces he needs to do his exercises and LYM tuts sympathetically when I complain that the new DYMO label-maker has slightly different kerning than the old one.

dymo kerning

So I hope that you’ll appreciate following hilarious monologue by Mike Lacher on the font everyone loves to hate…Comic Sans.


Seriously hand embroidery - Misericordia 2012

…don’t read this out loud to your granny, unless she swears like a trooper already!


Drip, Drip, Drip

I have trouble with large purchases, if you consider large to be above £20.

I can quite happily fritter away £100 in £5 and £10 increments – but to spend it all at once… I usually bottle it and walk away. (That explains the healthy cheese collection in the fridge and the rather woeful state of my wardrobe.)

Huit organic denim – made in Cardigan

For instance, I’ve had my eye on a (possibly the only ones manufactured in the world at the moment) pair of 100% cotton, non-stretch, vaguely fashionable jeans which are not made by children.

But they cost more than £20 (as well they should do), so I have patched and mended my one remaining pair of jeans until they are more patch than jean and the patches have holes.

Serendipitously, I read a blog post by John Willshire from discussing not only the Hiut jeans I’ve had my eyes on but also the idea of allowing both the producer and consumer to benefit from a more gradual transfer of money and goods.

Sometimes I ponder similar ideas at craft fairs when I’m placed across from stalls selling things that can be impulse purchased. Would browsers who are interested in my work and say ‘I’ll keep you in mind when the baby comes.’ put down a deposit and pay in installments?

Photocraft do something similar for their online photography courses aimed at small businesses and the Arts Council England run Own Art, a scheme to allow people to purchase contemporary art (by living artists) interest-free over 10 months, so it must have some traction.

Staff of Life hand embroidery - Misericordia 2013

What do you think? Would you be more likely to commission a piece if you could pay a deposit at a craft fair and follow it up afterwards? What’s your impulse purchase limit?

Copyright © 2024 Misericordia

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑