I met a friend at the most popular meeting spot in Tokyo yesterday; the statue of the loyal doggo, Hachiko. Being uncharacteristically early, I found a seat out of the rain in the Starbucks that overlooks the scramble crossing and did some drawing. Tokyo in the rain is beautiful - unlike London, which is just kind of grey, all the time, the night sky here still looked blue, and the reflections of all the adverts, neon signs and shop fronts in the surface water were spectacular.
Materials used: Holbein Special Black drawing ink, Kuratake Gansai Tambe watercolours.
Tony has a favourite ramen place already, a tiny restaurant which he often visits, choosing from the menu and paying through the vending machine at the entrance. While I love ramen, and agree that this particular place serves wonderful bowls of hot, fresh noodly heaven, I can never finish the whole thing off. Two Japanese people will have come in, ordered, finished off their ramen (plus rice and gyoza), and I'll still be struggling through mine. I am terrified of offending the owners, and also irritated for wasting good food. Perhaps I should starve myself all day next time, in preparation.
A week ago, I packed up my bags and moved to Japan to live with my boyfriend in Tokyo. He's been out here for six months working for a Japanese company, and it is so good to see him!
I am going to be working freelance while I am here, on my shop as usual, but also expanding my illustration portfolio and improving my creative practice. I will be doing a Weekly Sketchbook blog feature every Friday to motivate me to draw and record my experience in this crazy country. And also because peeping inside someones sketchbook is like reading their diary, isn't it? Who doesn't want to do that!
These were all painted using White Knight watercolours and my Kuratake Gansai Tambe set, on Sirius Drawing Book heavyweight paper. There is a lot of stationary and art supplies shops here in Japan so I will be sure to do a post on that soon!
That's it! Have you been to Japan? Do you have any good tips on living here, or places to see? I am in the process of constructing a bucket list, please help me add to it!
Earlier this year I was commissioned by the V&A to design a piece of jewellery to go alongside their upcoming exhibition, Plywood: Material of the Modern World. The design was to be based on an exhibit, a plywood aeroplane built in 1912 called the Deperdussin Monocoque. It was a revolutionary plane, breaking the aircraft speed record thanks to the lightweight, strong plywood fuselage. Also, it looks super cute, like a toy!
I thought I'd share my design process for the brooch, now available in the V&A shop, as it was quite a journey, experimenting with a few new materials and techniques.
I started out with some rough sketches of the plane. I always start with a pencil, it helps me work through and make sense of the things floating around my head! I quickly realised that the design was going to be pretty fragile, especially the wings and propeller.
Designing this piece, I really wanted to show off the plywood and make the material a focal point. Instead of simply engraving the design into a flat piece of wood, layering up super thin layers of ply would show depth, strengthen the design and add visual interest. This is an ink drawing of one of the viewpoints we were most happy with. I just love the toy-like shape of the plane!
Here's an exploded view of how the plywood layering would work. I create all these vector files for laser cutting on Illustrator. The cloud is made from transparent blue acrylic, and will help support the thinner areas of wood, as well as creating that flying illusion! Now the samples are ready to be laser cut. I had to adjust the design many times during this process, as it was clear that some parts were too small or fragile. I made roughly 8 samples before a final design was realised.
Below are the stacks of different laser cut plywood parts for the final aeroplane design, after being stained and sanded. The smallest pieces are just 2mm wide!
Many hours later, there is a fleet of assembled aeroplane brooches, complete with blue acrylic clouds. The side view shows off the multiple layers of 3.2mm and 0.8mm plywood used. All the plywood I use is sustainably sourced, and is made of either poplar or birch.
I hope this has been an interesting insight into how my work is designed and made! I'm always trying to develop my skills as well as the materials and processes I use to create new, exciting jewellery. This project was challenging, but I'm happy with the final piece, and I'm so excited to see it in the V&A!
The exhibition opens on 15th July, in the Porter Gallery, and it's totally FREE to enter! A must if you're into design, or just a complete nerd about all things wooden like me. The Deperdussin aeroplane brooch will be available to purchase from the V&A store when the exhibition opens.
VISIT THE EXHIBITION
BUY THE BROOCH
Last December, after years of indecision, I placed a deposit on my very own laser. For four years I had been outsourcing my laser cutting, and while there were many benefits to this, the time had finally come for me to make the leap to owning my own. Here are a few reasons why it was a brilliant decision!
1. Creative freedom
When outsourcing, I was restricted with the experimentation of new ideas; it just wasn't cost effective to trial something out of curiosity without extensive consideration and design time. Now I can develop new, more complex designs using different materials, and if it doesn't work, it's only my time that's wasted. It allows me to make more mistakes and not feel set back.
2. Buying all the different materials
It's opened up a whole new world of acrylic plastics, woods, plywood, metal... I've even had a go at engraving ceramic stoneware (it looked super cool - watch this space!)
3. Speedy turnaround times
Having an in-house laser means I can cut and make orders super quickly. No anxiously waiting for the delivery man - hurrah!
4. Custom orders
Making one off pieces, custom designs and personalised jewellery is SO much easier. I've had the pleasure of making some brilliant, daft and downright crazy designs. My favourite has to be the brooch of a customers face - a gift for his girlfriend. Lucky girl!
5. Feeling more like a maker!
It's so good to be fully involved in every aspect of making my jewellery. Although I've always designed, painted and assembled each piece myself, I've always felt like I was cheating a little sending it away to be cut elsewhere!
So there it is! I'm super happy with my laser cutter, although it's definitely not been without its problems. The week it was delivered must have been the coldest all winter, and it reached -4 degrees overnight. The laser tube froze and cracked. I made the sensible decision to insulate the shed that weekend!
Would you like a custom or personalised piece of laser cut jewellery? Please get in touch! I would love to hear your ideas.
Konnichiwa! At the moment I am in Japan, spending a couple of weeks with my boyfriend Tony, who moved here in April. He's had a few days off work and we've been exploring Yokohama and Kamakura, about an hour outside Tokyo. It's an exhilarating, overwhelming country, and I'm not really sure where to start in describing it!
We visited Yokohama on Sunday, thinking it would be a good idea to go for a run, and then walk around Yamashita Park on the waterfront. It was almost 30 degrees, so the run was very hard work! We rewarded ourselves afterwards with some interesting food from a street food market, a kind of deep fried creamy crab paste with tomato sauce. Sounds weird. It was weird.
Throughout the Yokohama bay area at the moment is the Yokohama Garden Necklace, a festival of flowers and colour, and it is completely stunning. Blooms everywhere you look! It smells wonderful too.
On Monday we visited Kamakura, a former capital of Japan. In the 12th - 14th centuries it was the home to the Shogunate and the centre of political Japan. It's a complete contrast to the crowded, concrete jungle of Yokohama and Tokyo! There were trees, yay, and wooden buildings, wowee! We travelled there on the Enoshima Electric Railway, which may just be the cutest train I've ever seen.
This buddha at Kotoku-in temple was cast in the 13th century (how!?), and has survived the building it was housed in, as well as numerous major earthquakes and tsunamis. It's an incredibly imposing statue, just imagine how impressive that would be in 1252! There are countless other temples in Kamakura city, and we'll definitely be making a return trip some time to see more.
Have you been to Yokohama or Kamakura, or anywhere else wonderful in Japan? If you have any travel tips, I'd love to hear them!
The very first brooch I ever laser cut was a Twin Peaks themed pin for my super fan friend. In fact, it was the Diane brooch that's still for sale in my shop today! She got me hooked on the show and I'm so grateful - the Twin Peaks pins I made were an amazing starting point for my business, and they've been stocked in some super cool shops around the world, even in The Great Northern Hotel itself (real name Salish Lodge).
Needless to say I'm SUPER excited for the return of Twin Peaks, which airs tonight! I've tracked down someone with Sky Atlantic to reord it for me, yipeeeeeee. I'll be watching with a big slice of cherry pie and a mug of coffee. Black of course.
I've designed a collection of three brand new Twin Peaks brooches in time for the new series, as well as these super cute round glossy stickers, featuring original gouache artwork. Each brooch features acrylic detail and hand painted details!
I'd love to hear what you think of the new show too - please get in touch in the comments or via social media!