March 2012

Feeling inspired by Yulia Brodskaya: papergraphics

“Feeling inspired by Yulia Brodskaya’  has been on my FB profile page as my ‘source of inspiration’ for longer than I can remember. From the minute I first discovered her work in Paper: Tear, Fold, Rip, Crease, Cut (Black Dog publishing) along with other great paper artists like Noriko Ambe

Kako Ueda

and Georgia Russell

I have been mesmerised by her work.

Yulia Brodskaya  is an artist and illustrator known for her handcrafted highly detailed and elegant paper illustrations.

She was born in Moscow in 1983 where she produced decorative fine art whilst studying  – she also developed interests in diverse creative practices such as origami and collage and textile painting along with the more traditional fine art practices. She moved to London in 1994 and continued her education, whilst working as a freelance graphic designer,  graduating with an MA in Graphic Communication at the University of Hertfordshire in 2006.

She soon switched to illustration – her graphic design background influencing her art work as most of her pieces have a strong typographic focus:

“Typography is my second love, after paper and I’m really happy that I’ve found a way of combining the two. Having said that, I don’t want to exclude non-typobased designs, I’d like to work on different projects.”

Much of Brodskaya’s work uses the old techniques of paper folding and the 18th Century art form paper quilling in which ribbons of paper are curled and twilled to create intricate designs. Since initially being approached by Orange, who selected a few of her pieces for an advertising campaign, her reputation as an international illustrator has soared – the list of companies that have since commissioned her work is extensive and includes Hermes, Nokia, Cadbury, Cafe Rouge, Penguin Press and The Sunday Times. She has also designed one of the Google Chrome themes …

She was elected a member of the International Society of Typographic Designers in 2006 in recognition of her typographic achievement. She was also was named the ‘breakthrough star’ of the 2009 by Creative review magazine (Dec 2009).

For me though, it is her use of paper and colour that makes her stand out. I have seen paper quilling before but nothing as intricate or as beautiful as this. I love the way she uses the colour and the shadows created by the paper quills to add depth to her work. This recent piece caught my eye on her website, and illustrates my point ….

the folds and bends only seek to add to the movement in the piece. It is intricate, delicate and utterly mesmerising.

I  could stare at it for hours.

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Taking advantage of the great weather,…

Having grown up in Harborne, I have a strong affinity with it. So when the girls at Cherry Tree Interiors secured a lease for a shop at the foot of the High Street, coupled with Andrea setting up a studio in the new shop, it gave me cause to visit Harborne more often.

Yesterday, I popped in to the shop to check on the refurbishment on the way back from Greta’s weekly streetdance class in Digbeth. The sun was shining and it was actually warm. In March. With The Plough situated directly opposite, it would be a crime to not go in for lunch!!

When I was young, the Plough was a ‘locals’ pub. I remember going there with my Dad for the occasional lunch of sausage, egg and chips during the school summer holidays; everybody knew everybody, men drank pints, women drank half pints. Nobody knew what a cappucino was and bar snacks were peanuts attached to cardboard with a semi-clad model behind them; the more you bought, the more you saw.  Everybody seemed to smoke and the nicotine stained anaglypta wallpaper reflected that!

It underwent an eclectic but stylish refurbishment in late 2008. The locals didn’t like it and begrudgingly moved on elsewhere. My late Dad would not have liked it!

Harborne is renowned for its pubs, they come thick and fast along the relatively small High Street. But the stand-out pub has to be the Plough in my opinion. It has been voted as one of the UK’s top 20 pubs and it’s not hard to see why.

It’s an eclectic place, the inside is intimate and the outside area is superb. It has a great selection of beers, and their food is fantastic. Pizzas and burgers form a large part of the menu, but are delicious!

Children are made very welcome. A selection of toys and games are available and sweets are sold behind the bar. The staff are extremely friendly and there are plenty of them, so you don’t need to wait long for service.

But what stands out for me is it’s incredible attention to detail. No stone has been left unturned in their attempts to maximise their customers’ experience. This list of ‘nice touches’ is vast, but the ones that stand out for me are:

There’s a display cabinet near the bar which displays original Star Wars figures (not the recent figures with the bending joints, the original ones. They’ve been played with and aren’t pristine).

When my burger was brought out, it was serviced on a wooden board (not uncommon these days I admit), but the chips were served in a mini stainless steel frying basket.

It was the warmest day of the year yesterday and the rear garden can be a bit of a suntrap. The manager brought out suncream and left bottles on the tables so parents would ensure their children were protected.

Tea cosies on all teapots. Great touch.

Condiments are placed on small wooden shelves so are lifted above the table, giving more space.

There’s a large tub by the back door with 10-15 umbrellas, so the smokers don’t get wet.

I could go on, but I think it would be better to see it for yourself if you’re ever in the area! I’m looking forward to spending quite a few summer afternoons and evenings there, highly recommended!!

Written by guest blogger: Karl Daniels

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The Scrapbooker is (finally) on the move

Some years ago, my sister and her business partner sought to relocate their expanding soft furnishings/interiors business (The Cherry Tree UK) to the beautiful leafy suburb of Harborne in Birmingham. After months of legal to-ing and fro-ing, hold-ups and money invested, the rug was ceremoniously pulled from underneath them (by a dodgy landlord) and left them without both premises and further finance to try again. It devasted them and knocked their business back 5 years –  a sad reality for small businesses in the UK.

Over the following 7 years, the girls (Maxine and Nicky) kept their eye on the High Street in Harborne. Their business continued to grow, not only surviving the worst recession for decades but thriving in it and it soon became very apparent in 2011 that new premises was very much a necessity. Randomly on one of her frequent drives along the High Street, Maxine noticed a lovely 3 storey building at the top of the Hight Street, the first shop in fact, you see as you enter the Village from the City. It held the space and the light needed to host their new ideas and product ranges. Now there was just the small matter of securing it.

4 months later after much negotiation, hold ups and legal BS, the lease was signed and the keys handed over. There was enormous relief and huge excitement here on Monday.

So what’s my involvement here? Well, my relationship with the girls has been long standing – we all worked together 20 years ago,  so we all go WAAAAY back. I worked for them as an interiors consultant a few years ago before I set up on my own; I also designed and manage their website and have produced their marketing and advertising material for many years now too; I  know their business very well and could add value to it by providing hand made products that compliment their hand-made soft furnishings and renovated furniture. Having an extra pair of hands was also a pre-requisite for them should they ever move or expand – I gladly obliged.

As I said, we were all VERY excited here on Monday. After years of trying, the girls had finally secured a premises in Harborne and I would be moving with them. It has been incredibly hard not to blog about this little achievement for many months but after the failed attempt years ago, I simply didn’t want to jinx anything.

But not anymore. As a little taster, here’s an artist’s impression (that’ll be me playing in Photoshop then) of the new premises – as it is now and how we hope it will look after much painting and decorating. More details will most certainly follow …

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Why I love photographing ballerinas

It’s no secret how much I enjoy photographing children – I’ve talked about this many times (and at length) on my blog. But my absolute favorite models for my photography are ballerinas. There is something completely captivating about an elegant, gamine but beautiful girl wearing a pretty and colourful ballet costume and theatrical make-up. For a photographer, they are the perfect muse – their long neck and limbs and the way they hold and use their body accentuates light, shadow and form beautifully.

I was fortunate enough to photograph a friend’s daughter last year as she embarked on her application to the Royal Ballet School (a successful one at that)

photos which I later transformed into a gorgeous PhotoArt piece. This week I had the opportunity to photograph another young ballet dancer and danseur in a dress rehearsal for Sleeping Beauty at The Crescent Theatre in Birmingham. It was a favour to a very good friend but being given the opportunity to photograph another ballerina was just too good to pass up.

After a brief text conversation with one of the Mums, I decided to go with the oxford blue backdrop I have from Creativity Backgrounds which turned out to be an inspired choice (much to my relief). I had never met the ballerina before so we didn’t have any time to get to know each other. It was also a very hurried affair in a small space and with a small 1.35m backdrop. I had no idea what the parents wanted out of it so we just kind of went with it.

The result were just fab ….















the ballerina was beautiful and made my job an absolute joy

When I look back over the hour or so that we were together, I can reflect on how quickly this pretty ballerina responded to my requests. Dancers are very conscious of their bodies and are accustomed to taking direction from choreographers and alike on a regular basis – this is of enormous benefit to a photographer.

We didn’t have any time at all but by the end of this very brief session, I had some fantastic photos and even (maybe) a promise of borrowing her for a couple of hours or so in a studio.

I can’t tell you how exciting that prospect is!

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The Scrapbooker loves …. handmade paper

Anyone who knows me, knows I just LOVE paper – patterned, plain, handmade, printed – even wallpaper and brown paper. I own tons of it too – so much so that there’s a standing joke, if there was ever a fire in our house, it would light up like a christmas tree and burn quicker than a firework!

As I was going through my handmade papers today searching for an appropriate paper for a client’s bespoke scrapbook album, I got to thinking about why it appeals to me so much.

I came across these beauties …

Ultra thick handmade Indian cotton papers saturated with water based dyes to achieve super vivid colours, all embellished with gold, silver and glitter. Totally scrummy.

Then there were these …

More thick handmade Indian papers with rough edges, heavily ridged vintage travel papers, delicate chinese handmade papers and beautiful Orla Kiely printed papers.

And these …

romantic, textured and oh so pretty

vintage, textured and printed

textured, printed Tour de Paris

textured and printed vintage US and British postcards and stamps

and beautiful painted butterflies.

Then I realised – I just love working with it.

I love the texture, the colour in blanket or patterned form, the grain, the sheen and light that bounces off it, the textures that are created by adding ripples, ridges and embossed patterns, the overlaid glitter and gold and the subtle effects created with pattern and paint, and the stories it portrays in its imagery –  I love it all.

It was then I decided – when I die, sod the red velvet fabric lining my coffin – line it with jewelled coloured decorative handmade paper … and I will rest a happy bunny.

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The highs and lows of school photography

Some of you may or may not be aware that I have a little photography business going on as well as my Scrapbooker site. I don’t do any major advertising for it and rely mostly on referrals and word of mouth. This works great for me as I get to pretty much pick and choose the projects I want to get involved in.

My youngest daughter attends a fantastic school in Birmingham and my involvement with them on a professional basis has increased over the last 3 years, culminating in a request for me to take their school photos this year. Of course I said yes, but I have to admit, the whole project filled me with fear – their school children range from 6 months to 16 years!

Never work with children or animals, my father used to tell me – bit late for that. Don’t get me wrong, I love taking photos of children – there is something so captivating about capturing their innocence, naivety and fun; but taking school photos is a completely different animal. You don’t get an hour to play with lighting or angles, you don’t get a arming up session where the children get to know you and be comfortable with you and  you don’t get to make the slight adjustments to their posture, pose or facial expression. You get 1/2 hour set-up and about 15 seconds per child, most of that is taken up with seating them correctly, straightening their clothes and attempting to make them smile (of sorts) – they hardly have time to warm the seat!

All things said though, it was enormous fun, albeit exhausting, and has given me a new-found respect for school photographers. We did get some fantastic shots, especially the friendship shots we offered some of the seniors, and the shots of some of the babies and toddlers, although tasking, rewarded us (and the Mums) with some rare photographs of their children actually smiling and not crying. Clearly a result.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! The rewards, both financially and professionally, are well worth it, especially if you are prepared to work long, hard hours and have your patience tested to the max! But I would definitely do some things differently, and that for me is what photography is all about – learning from your experiences and fine tuning them for next time – that is, of course, should there ever be a next time!

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