Dad’s Shed!

Sheds are wonderful things – you can make a little craft haven, leave a pile of junk in them, turn them into private pubs or just keep nice organised gardening tools in them. There was a great programme on recently called “Shed of the Year” and I watched it avidly, such a diverse collection of eccentric shed owners that loved their sheds and had a passion in their lives.

This plaque was made as a sample for us by Jo Channon and has a great combination of techniques. The plain MDF plaque is from our website. Then it was crackle finished (again from the website) and the pansies were added by doing some napkin decoupage, peel the top tissue layer from 3 ply napkins and it’s amazing what you can create.

Then lots of antiquing – you can use inkpads or coloured wax, the choice is yours. Finally add some 3D decoupage from the Jane Shasky decoupage pack and some bakers twine and garden string. The letters can be die cut and varnished – bought as stickers/peeloffs or whatever appeals to you most

This makes a fabulous man’s present – but by altering the words you could easily create a super gift for a gardener, or something equally lovely for a crafter.


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.




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!



A classic birthday card…

Although I usually choose to make everyone’s card as and when I need it as they are specifically tailored to them and their likes and dislikes, I do try to have some general cards tucked away in a drawer, just in case!

I usually have some flowery ones and some male ones, some thank yous and various other standard things that might just save me some time when I am very busy. This floral painting makes a gorgeous centre for many different things from birthday to thank you.

The image is from our recent CD called One Summer’s Day which features the artwork of Barbara Mock. Barbara paints some amazing indoor and outdoor scenes and I find this painting of roses so relaxing and very beautiful.

The pink flourish is one of our Signature dies – it’s called leafy flourish and cutting it out in pink goes so well with the colour of the roses, it looks great!

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Meet Ellen Jareckie – the talented artist behind House Mouse!

Ellen Jareckie at work in her studio.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 and stunning artwork is transformed into craft products and featured on her website.

In this blog Joanna talks to Ellen Jareckie, the talented artist behind the House Mouse designs. 

1. Ellen, where do you get your ideas from – what inspires you?

I’ve always loved mice, ever since I was a little kid. I find them fascinating because of their small size. I had a pet mouse, named Tiny, who was the inspiration behind the line of mouse characters.

2. What do you enjoy most about your career?

I enjoy many things about my career, and I feel very lucky to be able to do something fun as a career. I work at home, which is very relaxing, and I also take in Just one example of Ellen’s many lovely designs that we featue on the website.orphaned mice occasionally, so I spend the day creating the artwork as well as tending to any orphans. I really enjoy making a needy creature feel warm, safe and well fed, and I love creating new images too.

3. What do you like the least?

What I like least is doing any kind of bookkeeping, but I make myself do that, since it’s necessary to keep good records.

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

I’m definitely a night owl. I get up a bit later in the morning than many people do, and work until late at night. But if I’m tending to a critically ill orphan, I have to get up in the middle of the night as well as early in the morning because it’s so important to be vigilant with an orphan that arrives seriously ill or starved.

Pipsqueak, the orphaned piglet, that Ellen hand raised.5. If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?

If I could go back in time, the only thing I would do differently is start riding a motorcycle earlier in life than I did. I started riding at age 48, I think. Other than that, I would not do anything differently. And Barry and Nicole are my agents, and I would keep them, too. They are great people, and I could not do what I do without their hard work. Barry’s marketing skills over the past years were what really helped launch the designs. 

6. What is your favourite childhood memory?

My favorite childhood memory… there are lots of them, mostly very funny ones, so it’s hard to choose. I think that Pipsqueak, the orphaned piglet I hand raised, was my favorite memory. She was at a pig farm, dying of starvation (too many babies in the litter) and I asked the farmer if I could buy her. He said, “She’s going to die anyway, so I’ll sell her to you for a dollar”. Since I was only 14, that was an affordable price for me. I brought her home and bottle-fed her and she lived on our property. I love pigs! They are sweet, intelligent, and have a great sense of humor. 

Pipsqueak, my piglet, tilling the soil while Muzzy the mouse sits on her back.7. If you had to choose just one of your designs as your absolute favourite, what would it be?

It’s hard to choose a favorite design, but maybe that would be the picture of Pipsqueak, my piglet, tilling the soil in a garden while Muzzy the mouse sits on her back. This was years ago and the design was featured in the 1999 calendar!

8. Who do you think has had the most influence on you?

In the book, “Charlotte’s Web”, there are some incredibly endearing illustrations by Garth Williams. It is those illustrations that inspired me the most. There’s a picture of Fern (the girl), holding Wilbur (the piglet) in her arms. Also, a hilarious picture of Templeton, the rat, after he’s eaten too much garbage at the circus – I love that illustration, and that character

9. What was the last gift you gave someone?

The last gift I gave was to a friend of mine who just had a birthday yesterday. I gave her a box of fresh tarts from the bakery along with some hand soap that smells like freesia flowers, and other fun items.

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

In the near future I plan to do a little more animal rescue work, and I also plan to expand on some of the Wee Poppet, Gruffies and Happy Hopper images too. I also hope to get over to the UK to see your beautiful country, and if I do, I hope to be able to visit with some of you. To all of you who are viewing the blog, thanks for all your interest, support and enthusiasm for the designs. And thanks to Joanna Sheen, and to everyone who works with Joanna. You are all fantastic! Thank you!

Thank you Ellen! We are sure you don’t need telling, but you can find lots of House Mouse products in our craft shop on our website. We’ll be featuring more of our wonderful artists in future blogs!