Dramatic Couture!

How about a really over the top card for a fashion loving friend or family member? These images come from the CD featuring Janet Kruskamp – the collection. Janet has the most amazingly diverse range of things she paints and sketches and these are something wonderfully different.

This is a particularly large card measuring about 11.5” x 8” – but obviously you could take this idea and create something much smaller if you didn’t want to be quite so dramatic!

The corners can be achieved several ways – you could use something as easy as a punch, a die – even good old peeloffs. So mat your backing paper onto some black card. Add the corners and then mount all of that onto an antique gold card blank. This size of card blank would be something you would do yourself and is easiest with A3 card.

Then arrange the toppers with different couture designs, decoupage the outfits to add height to the card and then add a wonderfully grand ribbon bow. The hat pins are then tucked into the bow and glued in place with glue gel.

Have fun!


The spirit of the harvest…

HTop to bottom: A westcountry ‘neck’ and a Suffolk horseshoe.ere’s a clue: Staffordshire has the knot, Suffolk the horseshoe and Devon has the Topsham cross. Any ideas what I am talking about? Other local names include Maiden Cross, Boat and Turnip while in the westcountry they were often called a Neck. Today, we generally just refer to them as corn dollies.

I’ve always rather liked these intricate and rather beautiful woven shapes and have had various designs hanging on beams and on mantlepieces over the years. In fact, this blog was inspired by me finding the tattered remains of a dolly that had fallen behind an arrangement in the kitchen fireplace – oops, housekeeping fail Joanna!

It is said that the name corn dolly comes from a corruption of ‘corn idol’ and that this straw ‘idol’ was a winter refuge for the ‘Spirit of the Harvest’. Normally the spirit lived in the growing crops but when they were cut it became homeless and so the hollow straw woven corn dolly provided a winter sanctuary.

As with so many old traditions, the concept has its roots in the pagan ‘circle’ – as in everything is born, dies, and is reborn, just the harvest is sown, it ripens, the crop is harvested and then the spirit, represented by the corn dolly, is eventually ploughed back into the soil where it grows again.

Each county had its own variation on the corn dolly theme resulting in lots of different shapes and designs. In Devon, the most traditional design was the ‘neck’, which was always made from the last sheaf of corn to be cut on any farm. Linked to this was the tradition of ‘crying the neck’ in which great ceremony was displayed when cutting the last sheaf.

It appears that there were two sorts of tradition concerning the last ‘neck’, it was either taken in as it was or made into a corn dolly. Either way, the neck was kept until after Christmas and then on ‘Plough Monday’ (the first Monday after Twelfth Night) it was cast into the first furrow and returned to the soil, this would ensure a good harvest for the year. If the dolly was not ploughed under then the harvest was doomed to failure.

Wheat straw was the easiest material to plait and old varieties with long hollow stems – such as the wonderfully named Maris Widgeon, Flamingo or Squarehead Master – were used. Today, farmers grow shorter stemmed cereal varieties and modern harvesting methods cut the straw shorter. Finding ears of corn with stalks long enough to make corn dollies has become difficult and sadly they have largely faded into harvest lore. And yet, a few farmers still grow the old, long stemmed cereal varieties for thatching and some people who have retained the skills still make the dollies. So, if you are lucky, you might come across a ‘dolly maker’ at a country show and craft fair.

Well, I’m debating sneaking outside and digging a small furrow and burying the remains of this particular corn dolly specimen. I’d hate to blight the crops, and it might do my garden good. I’ve just got to manage it when Richard isn’t looking…!



Fabulous day getting messy!

I have just come back from the most amazing day using Autentico paints at a gorgeous little shop in Exeter called Pepper White Vintage. Anyone who lives locally – what a brilliant place and I hugely recommend the course.

I have dozens of projects waiting at home for paint upgrades and now, after this course, I have remembered how to do it! I have tackled a mass of paint finishes, and even written a book on stencilling, so I am far from a beginner – but embarrassingly that was in the late 80s and early 90s, wow where did that time go – that’s over 20 years ago… help!

So, I decided to go on a ‘refresher course’ as the kind of paints made by Autentico are all new to me and they give the most delicious flat chalk finish and can then be waxed or varnished or whatever you like.

Partner in crime writing, Julia, came with me and we have lots of plans for before and after shots for this blog. We also plan to have the occasional day out together at some local auctions and household clearance places to ferret out bits of old furniture for further projects. That sounds fun in itself, but to be able to play with the paints will be an added bonus!

I have a stencil range due out very shortly (next week hopefully) but this course gave me tons of ideas that could translate to cardmaking or indeed furniture painting. Just as decoupage (the 3D version) is an everyday thing for us paper crafters, so the flat decoupage looks amazing on cupboard knobs, frames and trays. There are so many techniques that cross over the two worlds or help them meet in the middle!

I had to take a photo of this desk, displayed in the shop, that has a wonderful raised handwriting effect on the cupboard and drawers – isn’t it just gorgeous! Watch this space for my next few projects….

You can follow Vintage Pepper White on Facebook or visit their website for more information.




Have a relaxing day!

Down by the river, quietly fishing… this is no doubt many people’s idea of a lovely time. I confess it wouldn’t be my ideal way to pass the day – partly because I don’t like catching fish and partly because I would rather read a good book. But I can see the lure (pun intended) of the peace and tranquillity that fishing can provide!

This 6inch square card shows how effective kraft card can be – it gives a real ‘man-appeal’ feel to the card and it’s a colour combination I love. Another point to note is the button glued on top of the knot of the bow – again a really great look I think!



Meet artist Jane Shasky

You’ll know their names and their wonderful designs, but what do you know about their backgrounds and sources of inspiration? Joanna has been chatting to some of the top artists whose original stunning artwork is transformed into craft products and featured on her website.

In this blog Joanna talks to hugely talented artist, Jane Shasky, whose designs you will all know well. 

1. Where do you get your ideas from – what inspires you?

In one word, NATURE! Just about everything I paint and create comes from the endless wonders I see in nature. From minute details in the tiniest of flowers, colourful birds singing in my backyard, to the magic of a sunset over the water, it all inspires me. And these days, my sweet little granddaughter, Codie Jane, absolutely lights up my life. She just turned a year old and is quite possibly THE cutest baby in the world (next to Joanna’s granddaughter, of course!)

2. What do you enjoy most about your career?

I’m so incredibly fortunate to be able to paint what I truly love….flowers, birds, butterflies and plants. I often include inspirational quotes in my own calligraphy. Adding treasured vintage items that I’ve collected over the years from antique shops and estate sales, weathered wood planters and bird houses, rusty old watering cans, clay pots covered in moss – it all brings life and character to my paintings.

Jane with her adorable granddaughter Codie Jane.3. What do you like the least?

Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, so I work through a lot of weekends. I’m very fortunate to have a great agent who handles all the business details, which leaves me to be creative most of the time. And, since I work alone from my home, I miss connecting with other artist friends, so Facebook is great for that.

4. Are you a night owl or a morning person?

Definitely a morning person! I tend to lose my creativity late in the evening, so I use that time for chores and just relaxing.

5. If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?

That’s a hard one. I’m so happy with my life now and believe that I wouldn’t be where I am today without going (growing) through some really tough times. I have two beautiful daughters, both married to wonderful young men, and they are my best friends. So, I guess I really wouldn’t change a thing.

6. What is your favourite childhood memory?

I remember visiting my great grandmother at her farm on the Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania, and helping her in the garden. Her yard was filled with peonies, which is one of my most favorite flowers to this day.

7. If you had to choose just one of your designs as your absolute favourite, what would it be?

I’m not sure I could choose just one! I have several paintings that I love, but one design that I did recently has special meaning. It’s of a beautiful pink peony, with the quote “every flower is a prayer”. My mom gave me the baby book that she made for me when I was growing up just before my grand daughter was born. Pasted on the page titled “Artist” was a little card that I made when I was six years old. I had drawn small flowers across the bottom of the inside and wrote those words. It’s the earliest piece of my ‘artwork’ I’d ever seen and is really special to me.

8. Who is your favourite artist?

My most favorite artist in the whole world is Marjolein Bastin from Holland. I’m inspired beyond words by her beautiful art of nature. I’ve collected her work for the past 20 years and four years ago I had the honor of meeting her in Atlanta. She is such a gracious, lovely person and it was truly a dream of a lifetime for me.

9. What was the last gift you gave someone?

Just today I gave a good friend a beautiful rock that I found while hiking at Dungeness Spit in Washington State a few days ago. There are millions of rocks covering that beach, but this one caught my eye. It was swirled with orange and green, and was lit up in the sun. I find so much joy in simple treasures.

10. Do you have any future plans you’d like to share with us?

At the moment, I’m working on paintings and designs for my 2016 “Botanical Inspiration” calendar for LANG, which is a wonderful project. I’m also planning to sell prints of my artwork on my website sometime in the near future.

You can see Jane’s work on her website, and she’d love you to follow her on Facebook too!