Thursday, 15 October 2009

Promises To Keep

On my blog header it says "Crafts, photography, music and life in general." I've mentioned my crafts and photography, and the occasional snippet about life, but some might have wondered where the music came into it. Well, it hasn't, until now! My day job is primary school music specialist. My main instrument is the piano, but my favourite one is my bowed psaltery. I guess some of you reading this will now be saying "your what?" I'd never heard of it either until about 15 years ago when I met the wonderful Tony Westran at a craft fair. (Also see Tony's blog.) At the time he was making and selling all kinds of early and unusual musical instruments. I got talking to him and he let me try playing the bowed psaltery. I'd never heard anything like it before and I was totally captivated by its beautiful sound. There was no way I was leaving his stall without taking one home with me.

Anyway, here's a picture of it. It has 32 steel strings and is played with a curved bow. The history of the bowed psaltery is questionable, but it is probably descended from the plucked psaltery of medieval times. I wanted to be able to play authentic music on it, but it was difficult to find any. Eventually I decided to play whatever sounded good on it, and also to compose my own music for it. In 1997 I achieved one of my life's ambitions and made a professional recording, entitled "Promises To Keep". It has 12 tracks, eight being my original compositions, and the other four my own arrangements of traditional folk songs. My electronic keyboard provides the accompaniment.

It is hard to describe the sound of the bowed psaltery. It seems that people either love it or hate it! I reckon the split is 95%/5%, in favour of the former. Those who love the sound commonly describe it as relaxing to listen to, which I would concur with. I haven't mentioned it before because I haven't had the means to link to a sound file on my blog, but now I have! Clicking on the link on my sidebar (fingers crossed that it works!) will take you to my Windows Live Skydrive page, where you will find some sample tracks from my CD which you can download and listen to. I'd love to know what people think of the sound, for or against! If anyone is interested in knowing more about the CD, please contact me via my profile.

Copyright note: I just need to point out that I hold the copyright for all tracks. I will be delighted if anyone wishes to download the sample tracks for their own enjoyment. However, please do not re-distribute them in any way (pass on the link to my blog instead) and please do not add them to any other internet site. If you should wish to use them other than for the circumstance described above, please contact me and permission may well be forthcoming! Thank you for respecting this.

Monday, 12 October 2009


I'm still intrigued by the notion that it's possible to create interesting backgrounds by taking colour off rather than putting it on. This time, using the same materials as in my previous post, (Distress Inks and encaustic art card) I wanted to see whether I could make a pattern with the Victoria Cuttlebug embossing folder. I inked up the card as before, and then lightly sprayed the open Victoria folder with plain water on the side with the raised (as opposed to indented) pattern. Then I laid the inked side of the card over the wet side of the folder, closed up the folder, gently smoothed it over and straightaway removed the card before it got too wet. NB. I didn't put it through the Cuttlebug! I blotted it with a piece of kitchen roll and was pleased to see that the pattern had transferred to the card pretty well.

From the patterned card I cut and embossed a Nesties Labels 2. I wanted to put a border around it, but the next size up would have made one too wide. So I coloured around the edge, following the embossed line, with a Promarker instead. Because the lighter areas of the pattern showed through, it gave the effect of a shadow. To complete the card I added a panel of white card embossed with the Victoria folder in the usual way, a few Prima flowers and punched leaves and some sheer ribbon. The sentiment is by Penny Black.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Autumn colours

My favourite season of the year is spring, when everything is bright and fresh and new. I don't like the dark mornings and evenings of the late autumn and winter, or the dull days. Having said all that, though, I do enjoy the colours of autumn. I am lucky to live in an area with lots of trees, and they are now changing their hues. I can sit at my desk and look at them through the window. Across the road from our house are some beautiful old elms, and the wind this afternoon brought the leaves swirling down like snow. We have a small forsythia bush in the front garden, and just now it is looking quite spectacular.

I wanted to capture the autumn colours in a card, and at the same time try out a technique I saw in the wonderful StampARTic Blog. It used foam stamps to take away colour from a Distress Inked background. The foam stamps were simply sprayed with water and stamped on to the background. Unfortunately I don't have any foam stamps. I do, however, have stencils and sponges. I figured that I might get a similar effect by stencilling with a damp sponge, and it worked! First I tried it on plain card, and it was not bad, but the best result was using encaustic art card, which is semi-gloss. The Distress Inks stay wetter on it for longer and can be blended more easily. Having made the background I then taped a stencil to it and sponged it with clean water.

My first attempt was not very good, as I had the sponge too wet and the water seeped under the stencil. Having the sponge just slightly damp was much better. I also found that I didn't need as much water as I thought anyway, because the colour faded even more as it dried. Another advantage of the encaustic art card is that the water doesn't bleed into it as much as with plain card, so the image stays sharper.

I used a stencil by The Crafter's Workshop, called "Windsong," which I thought was really quite appropriate. It reminds me of leaves being blown about in the wind, just perfect for this card. The tree and leaf stamps are Elusive Images from Graphicus, and the word is by Hero Arts. I really like this stencil technique, and I'll be doing more of it.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Metal embellishments

Some years ago I bought some art metal. At the time it was being used mainly for embossing, by stamping or tracing on to it and then marking out the image with various tools & cutting it out with scissors. I wasn't impressed with the results, & the remainder of the pack has been languishing in a cupboard ever since. Until now!

Now there is the Cuttlebug! I found I could cut the metal with dies, eg. Nestabilities or Cuttlebug, and emboss it with the Cuttlebug embossing folders. And then colour it beautifully with alcohol inks or Promarkers. Voila!

The butterfly was cut with a Cuttlebug die, embossed with a Cuttlebug folder, and then coloured with alcohol inks. The patterned paper is My Mind's Eye, and the plain paper I have had for so long I can't remember where I got it!

The metal used for the swirl background on the lady card was gold coloured. I embossed it with the Cuttlebug D'vine swirls folder and then carefully inked over it with Brilliance Graphite Black ink, which I then heat set. So long as you do not press on too hard with the inkpad, the recessed swirls do not take the ink. The lady and wording stamps are from Hero Arts. I've had them for years, but they just seemed to fit with the swirl panel. The flourish is by Stampington.

So I have managed to use up some more old stash!

On the second butterfly card, I did even better. The butterfly is cut from a foil yoghurt pot lid, so it was free! The foil has a lovely texture and takes the alcohol inks very well. The inside foil cover found on some brands of margarine also works well. The new Cuttlebug Victoria folder provided a background for this card. The agapanthus stamp is by Stampendous, and the Birthday circles on both butterfly cards are from Craftwork Cards. The base card is pearlescent and it was quite difficult to photograph, but if you click on it to get the larger version, I think the detail will show up better.

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