The Scrapbooker moves to The Custard Factory

Anyone familiar with Birmingham will know The Custard Factory – its location, history and importance to the City.

The Scrapbooker moves to the Custard Fcatory

The Custard Factory is Birmingham’s creative quarter. Just 800 paces from the Bull Ring this 15-acre sprawl of riverside factories was built 100 years ago by Sir Alfred Bird, the inventor of custard. At one time he had a thousand people making the stuff. But by the early 1980s it had long since lost its mysterious appeal and the factories fell derelict.

In 1988 developers began to restore the buildings and announced their intention to lease the studios, workshops, spaces and shops to the best of Birmingham’s young creative talent – there was an instant rush and since then a whole new inner city neighbourhood has emerged – intricate, fine grained and threaded by green spaces, fountains and sculpture. Now, more than 5,000 people work in The Custard Factory Quarter and its surrounding area.

The Custard Factory

The Custard Factory Quarter is now home to a dynamic community of creative and digital enterprises, independent retailers and a thriving independent music scene. Among other facilities are a theatre, cafés, corporate and social events spaces, art galleries, educational space, TV studios and a series of dramatic public open spaces. The Guardian has raved about it and called it “the UK’s most surprising creative quarters.”

The Scrapbooker at The Custard Factory

I have been lucky to be able to secure a studio here as spaces are now becoming very limited. The studio in Scott House overlooks the fountain pool in the square – a large, beautiful bright studio with vistas over the city and light to die for, it also overlooks the menacing iron dragon which climbs the wall opposite.

View from The Scrapbooker's studio at The Custard Factory

And I am thrilled to be part of it – in my first week here I have talked to a neighbour who is a long standing resident and who has photographed movie stars, music moguls, famous artists and international sports personalities; witnessed film crews set up (and film) outside my front door and enjoyed live music. It is also home to The Gadget Show, I mean – how cool is that?!

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Proud to be part of UK Handmade

This morning I received an email from UK Handmade to say that I had been accepted to join their forum and website. I was absolutely delighted.

Here’s a little about what they do ..

“UK Handmade is a design-led online magazine committed to showcasing and promoting the best creative talent the UK has to offer. The term ‘handmade’ is an indicator of quality, care and professionalism that is second to none and something that UK Handmade wishes to encourage and celebrate.

UK Handmade began its journey in 2008 when a group of designers and makers, led by web designer and artist Karen Jinks, decided to create a magazine that would reach to the general public and demonstrate that ‘handmade’ was no longer a relic of dusty church halls but a vibrant and viable alternative to the mass produced and imported goods that saturated the high street. With the combined skills and dedication of its team of volunteers, UK Handmade has grown from a small digital magazine and blog, to a large creative community of artists, designers, makers and event organisers, who are all driven by the same vision and passion for handmade.”

I’m looking forward to being part of this wonderful community and am already meeting new like-minded people – exciting times!

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New bespoke scrapbook services

I am constantly surprised by how products emerge, develop and take on an identity of their own – all driven by my lovely clients. Each one seems to take a product I currently offer and tailor it to their individual needs and so create different bi-products (if that is the correct term!) and I absolutely love this!

In the Autumn of last year I was approached by a wonderful young man who wanted to use a handmade scrapbook album as a ‘tool’ to propose to his childhood sweetheart – the last page being a photo of a ring box. This request was met with much ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ in the shop as we told clients and family and friends – what an utterly romantic idea … it simply warmed our hearts.

marriage proposal page- marry me scrapbook package


I was delighted to be asked to work on this, it was a new area for me to get involved in but made perfect sense. The client was over the moon when he received the album:

Testimonial at The Scrapbooker

Thinking no more of it, Christmas came and went and life for us here at the shop went on.  Then, a couple of weeks ago, another 2 enquiries for exactly the same thing came in. I was baffled – I hadn’t posted anything about the album I had crafted in December at all and there was no reference to it anywhere on the website – in fact I was really conscious about keeping it well under wraps until after Christmas so as not to give ANYTHING away.

I am currently midway through the new orders but it got me thinking today that there are a few romantic men out there looking for original and unique ways to propose to their loved ones and I should consider developing this into a package. In fact, seeing as we are DEEP into a recession and pennies are rather tight for everyone, developing a few packages across different categories and price brackets is probably a good idea too.

So, a morning’s work later, here they are – the first packages. The ‘Marry Me!‘ is pretty self explanatory, then there’s the ‘Birthday/Anniversary package‘ (I have crafted quite a few of these for clients but never though to develop them further – what have I been doing?!!) and the ‘Design Your Own‘ – for those who want to decorate but not build.

New Scrapbooker Service packages

All, in my mind, represent excellent choice and value across the range, and I’m already thinking about other packages to include.

If you are interested in any of these packages, see them in my shop or contact me for further details.

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New Art Deco photographic album

It has been such a surprise to me to see how popular my new photographic albums have become. Orders have been steadily coming in and I have been given the opportunity to play around with new sizes, new styles and finishes – it’s been so exciting.

An order came in last week from a lovely client in Surrey who wanted to gift her father a handcrafted photographic album for Christmas. My choice of papers is expanding so it was great to offer this beautiful black and silver handmade Indian cotton paper.

Vivid wrap

My client was happy for me to come up with a design for the album which is always lovely . The only requests were for ribbon and an album plate to the front cover. I set to work.

The album contained black photographic deckle-edged leaves and cloud glassine paper sheets as with previous albums. It suited the Art Deco style perfectly.

The album was finished with a thick black grosgrain ribbon and crafted bow secured with a large black brad, a simple but decorative finish – perfect for a gentleman.  The simple addition of a tag and black elasticated ribbon to the spine finished it off.

I was delighted with the result. As soon as I finish one of these albums, I want to start another straight away – the finished product pleases me no end.

Rockefeller album redd

If you fancy owning (or gifting) an album like this, customised or personalised to your own requirements, hop along to my shop. In the meantime, have a look at what my client had to say about the album when she received it.

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Christmas stocking party invites

Handcrafting invitations, as I mentioned in a post last month, is not a service I openly advertise. Over the years some of my regular customers have gotten wind of it and occasionally I get requests.

Rosemarie, a regular client of mine from Henley in Arden, is one such client. I have created a variety of projects for her over the years, including invitations; she trusts me to meet her needs without having to be particularly specific about she what she wants – a designer’s dream!

A call came in from her last week to create invitations for a Christmas supper she was hosting at her home. No design specifics, just a rough guide to the wording – perfect!

I rattled around a few ideas and finally decided on a handcrafted christmas stocking with a pull out tag.

I already had a .svg file for the stocking and used Sure Cuts a Lot and my cricut machine to die cut the stocking shape from one of my favorite  paper packs – Tilda ‘Wintergarden’ (now available to buy in my online store). I used trim I had in the shop (please contact me if you are interested in purchasing the trims used) to trim the edge of the stocking and glittered the scallop edge in a variety of colours to compliment the papers used.

To create the tag inside the stocking I used Photoshop Elements and printed double-sided, allowing for a pretty Christmas design on the front AND the back. I finally finished them off with a complimentary looped ribbon.

I was really chuffed with how they turned out – delicate and so pretty!

I wait to hear what Rosemarie thinks as they are now in the post to her … will keep you posted!

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Handcrafted photographic albums hit the store!

Since I first introduced my handcrafted scrapbooking albums a few months ago, it occurred to me that there may be a small market for bespoke handcrafted photographic albums. At the time, there was no way I was going to even attempt to design a framework or get my head around the process (and the maths!) required to craft something like this – after all, it had taken me weeks of trail and error (and a box of half finished albums) before I got the scrapbooks just right. No, I would shelve the idea and concentrate on new designs for my scrapbook albums, like this gorgeous ‘Weekend in Paris’ album.

Then a couple of weeks ago, the inevitable happened: an enquiry from a lovely lady wanting VERY large bespoke photographic albums to fill with memories of her Mum. How could I refuse?!

I sat down and worked on the dimensions and considered the materials I would need – a very heavy frame for a start as these were to house traditional black photographic leaves AND glassine sheets.  After a week or so, the design was done, the frame board acquired  and the handmade indian paper ordered that would be the cover…oh and some rather wide black grosgrain ribbon.

I started to craft the album…..






The front and back panels were similar to the scrapbook albums frames but that is where the similarity ends. An additional super-strong spine needed to be crafted to house and carry the weight of the heavy photo leaves and the glassine paper (this album housed 30 leaves and 30 glassine papers).








Securing it all would be tricky. I already had a supplier for my album posts but these simply weren’t large enough OR tough enough: new posts would need to be ordered and, it turned out, manufactured specially for the job.

My client was very specific about the cover – her Mum had been a huge Art Deco fan so the album had to reflect this. A gorgeous olive green paper with burgundy pattern and glittery green diamonds was selected. I had my reservations about the black ribbon but it all worked out so well, especially with it being lined with black paper.

Please with the album, I packed it off to my client and waited to hear what she thought. I was delighted when I received this …

 “Hello Andrea – just to let you know the album arrived
this morning and it is beautiful.
Thank you very much!”

On the back of this little success, I am now offering these lovely albums, with a choice of papers, in my shop. If you are looking for something special and unique, hop on over there and take a look around!

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Handcrafted invitations: a labour of love

There was a time when I first started out, when I would give anything (within reason) a go. It takes time to discover what materials you enjoy using, the pieces that you enjoy creating and what your style is. I was asked on a few occasions to create handcrafted invitations for friends and family; I didn’t mind – it gave me an opportunity to experiment and  I did have some success with it but it isn’t really what I’m all about.

                                                     Graduation invitations and name cards 

Producing several hundred of the same design can be exceedingly monotonous and incredibly time consuming. I don’t advertise this service but when you run a design business, it’s a little hard to avoid and occasionally I get approached by my regular clients if they get wind that I CAN do them.

Journalist and fashionista, Priyanka Gill is one such client. I have been asked several times to produce e-invites for events, private functions and dinners. I was also approached about designing something unique for her daughter’s birthday party. The brief was simple – it must be handcrafted, dimensional,  packaged in a box and have a ‘Secret Garden’ theme. I set to work and designed a square layered invite that would feature a dimensional fairy, a fairy garden watermark and garden elements sitting within a layered frame. It would all be tied together with pink satin ribbon embellished with a glittered ‘R’ to represent her daughter’s name.

I created a mock up and sent it to Priyanka. It wasn’t until she approved the design and told me she needed 100 of them that I began to calculate the number of separate elements and processes that would be needed to create it… some 2200 pieces!! Oh my – my Cricut was about to get the workout of its life!

And so it began ….









My process would be simple: die cut or hand cut everything first, decorate the smaller pieces, then assemble, embellish and tie together. Keeping track of all the separate elements was key, luckily I had a stash of old tubs and lids (I knew these would come in handy) which were perfect for the job.

                                                                 Glittering the capital ‘R’s

When it came to assembling  it all, I had to ensure that each element was placed in the right order in the layers or elements would be unseen behind panels or other elements. I started with the invite front and the brown scalloped panel behind it, on which the fairy would ‘perch’ and the base flower would sit. I also curved the fairy’s wings and sprinkled angel dust on them.

Adding the elements to the base frame would be easy as long as I remained organised and focussed … easier said than done when there are so many tiny pieces.

The front panels are finally decorated

and assembly can begin …










All in all I was really pleased with how they turned out even if they did take forever to craft! They looked amazing sat in pretty white boxes and more importantly, my client was happy.

Most definitely a labour of love.

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Kilimanjaro Keepsake

My younger sister, Samantha, and her husband do an incredible amount of work for Samaritan’s Purse – a charity dedicated to providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Not only do they collect and deliver shoeboxes overseas, they respond in a distinctly Christian way to issues facing people in the places where they work (issues like water and sanitation, HIV and AIDS,  sustainable livelihoods along with disasters and emergencies) and they also get involved with fundraising.

Samantha, by her own admission, had been considering a life challenge for some time:

 “I have felt the urge to undertake a life challenge for some time now
whilst being certain that I did not want the  results and outcome to be purely
for my own benefit. 
So – when the ConquerKili invite came round I had absolutely no hesitation in responding immediately – timing, level of challenge,
cause and “calling” all slotted into place.”

Along with Eddie Taylor, Lynne Dejoodt, Beth Short and Rachel Harris, she started to train for the 6 day, 21 mile hike. On 4th October they arrived in Nairobi, visiting the slums in Kibera, where the funds raised will be used to help educate people about running their own small buinesses so they become self sufficient.

Melons ‘street’, Kibera Slums, Nairobi

Then began the climb  – it was, as Sam said, ‘the hardest thing I have ever done” bar none.  You can read about the intrepid 5 and their hike up Kilimanjaro on the Samaritan’s Purse website.

 Sam (in the pink hat) and her fellow hikers.

After nearly 10 days away it was an enormous relief to have her home. Her husband, Paul to celebrate the success of the climb and her safe return organised a surprise party, inviting close friends and family. It was a lovely idea and I wanted to give her something memorable and personal as a way of congratulations on her achievement. After about half an hour, it suddenly dawned on me … a personal WordArt! Now, I have done Wordarts for all sorts of occasions but never for something like this. I set to work and produced this about an hour or so later …

I was chuffed with the result and Sam was delighted with it. There will be times when she will reflect on her trip for many, many years to come – I hope this will serve as a gentle reminder when the old grey matter sets in. In the meantime, I hope she hangs this somewhere where all the visitors to her house can see it and remark on her amazing achievement.

If you would like to donate money to the Samaritan’s Purse and the team that climbed Kilimanjaro, click HERE. All money donated is most gratefully received and goes to an amazing cause.

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Showing them how it’s done

A couple of years ago, a couple I knew invited me to take photos of them with their newborn baby boy, James. He was their first child and considering both parents hated having their photos taken, it was an honour to be asked. James was a darling – crying very little and behaving absolutely perfectly. The photos were a success and rewarded both the couple and myself with some super sweet photos.

This Spring, the couple welcomed their 2nd baby, Jessica. I was again asked to take some photographs of them all. This time, it would not be so easy. James, of course, is now 2 and with that, as any parent will testify, comes many changes in the dynamics of a home; add to this a new baby sister getting all the attention and the game plan changes completely. He, naturally, wanted all the attention. It was a difficult session – more so for the parents as they tried to get the shots they wanted whilst keeping James both amused and attentive. It is a common theme when photographing families but with a little patience and perseverance, some lovely shots can be achieved.

After we reviewed the first lot of photos, it was decided that a second session be booked. I set up a mock studio in the house and the family arrived. James was on form but reluctant to sit for me – luckily I had my secret weapon with me, my daughter Greta. She has been unfortunate enough to have a camera pointed at her since she was born and outside of a particularly bad mood, will pose for me just about any time I need her too. She brought down her tub of cars for James to play with, took her seat in front of the camera and promptly smiled.

He was in awe of her. He climbed up on the seat and just sat and watched her pose and smile, and I… well, I got to take this little beauty.

This didn’t make it into their album but it certainly made it onto my gallery! Greta was duly rewarded.

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Beautiful renovated furniture at Cherry Tree Interiors

When me and the girls at Cherry Tree Interiors were considering the interior of the new shop, the subject of renovated furniture came up.

Now, we’re no strangers to sourcing and renovating furniture, it’s kinda been a hobby of ours for some time. I remember my husband’s amazement as I spent 3 days in our back garden donning goggles, dungarees and heavy duty gloves to strip back beautiful pine furniture we’d been gifted by my parents. We appreciate good furniture and just because it’s been coated in heavy varnish or painted in a purple gloss paint doesn’t mean we can’t see the potential.

I’ve been meaning to post some pictures of the furniture we renovate and sell in the shop but every time I go to photograph it, it sells – such is the demand. So, with this in mind, having JUST put the glass knobs on the doors of a pretty sideboard, I thought I’d take the opportunity and grab some pictures.

This pretty teak sideboard is from the 1970’s. Originally varnished, it has been lovingly stripped and painted in a soft chalk white paint. We then hand cut flowers, bird cages and birds from wallpaper by Dutch Company PIP Studios and adhered them to the board to create a pretty collage.

It has been finished with a coat of clear varnish and lined with the PIP wallpaper from which the flowers have been cut. It is a beautiful piece and would be perfect for any shabby chic setting, little girls (or big girl’s room) or on it’s own in a hallway. It’s already getting a lot of attention in the shop.


Width: 125cm          Depth: 42cm          Height: 67cm

If you are interested in purchasing this lovely piece of gorgeousness (and who wouldn’t) and want to beat the crowds, call us on 0121 420 4333 or shoot over to our online shop!

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