Sylvie Ashton’s Cardmaking Pad

We have a new cardmaking pad on the website with pictures by an artist that you may or may not be familiar with.

Sylvie Ashton has been designing with us for some time, you’ll find numerous stamp sets she has drawn for us and now she has moved up a gear and done some beautiful paintings that we have turned into a cardmaking pad. Go Sylvie I say! She started just as a crafter and look how her talent is blossoming! You can talk to Sylvie on our forum as she has been a long-time member.

This card uses one of the sheets in the pad. Remember with 24 sheets in the pad and the whole thing only costing £4.99, each sheet for a card is only 20p … can’t be bad! I love this particular image as hydrangeas are a firm favourite of mine. I must have ten or twelve hydrangea bushes in the garden at least. No, I just remembered there are three more at the front of the house – I am definitely a serious hydrangea addict!

I feel this shows how even the simplest card can look wonderful with beautifully toning colours and some great artwork! Here’s a link so you can have a browse and see what else is in Sylvie’s pad.

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The natural beauty of seashells

I think I’ve been in love with seashells ever since I first sat on a beach as a toddler and was fascinated by their endless shapes and colours, so lovely to hold and explore with little fingers.

I still love shells now and have lots spread around the house, singly and in wreaths and little arrangements. Plentiful and beautiful, shells have been used as jewellery and for decorating homes and as inspiration for patterns and designs for thousands of year.

Over the last few hundred years, various eccentric individuals have created grottos and caves or, as in the case of A La Ronde, a National Trust property near my home in Devon, a shell-encrusted gallery, said to contain nearly 25,000 shells. It is stunningly beautiful and now, very fragile, but well worth a look if you are down this way. (As it’s so fragile, visitors aren’t actually allowed into the gallery any more but you can view it in its entirety using a touch screen 360-degree virtual tour). The whole house is The shell gallery at A La Ronde.eccentric, having 16-sides and also a feather frieze, gathered from game birds and chickens, all laboriously stuck down with isinglass. But back to shells…

Decorating with shells is great fun! Whether you cover a jewellery box, or frame a mirror, it’s hard not to create something attractive. Whenever I walk on the beach, I always come back with a few shells in my pocket as I just find them irresistible. If you don’t live near the sea, there are always shops where you can buy shells and, of course, they are easy to find online now too.

As we all know, a glue gun is a wonderful thing and it is an excellent way to stick shells firmly and invisibly in place. As with anything crafty, you need to think about your design in advance and plan which larger shells to stick down first, and then fill in with smaller ones, but it’s really easy and very satisfying.

You can either be quite ‘freestyle’ and naturalistic, or go for more of a mosaic effect – I featured a small shell box in a blog last year, where you have lots of similar sized shells and create an intricate pattern. What I haven’t tried yet, but plan to do, is create something rather more ‘monumental’ that might involve using plaster of paris and actually setting shells into a structure.

I once visited a very grand house that had a folly in the garden, complete with a wonderfully whacky fireplace that had been covered entirely in shells in plaster of paris. It looked like a mad wedding cake, but at the same time, it was absolutely stunning. As we don’t have a folly in our garden (I know, but…) I might just shut myself in the shed one weekend and get creative – but don’t tell Richard, or I think he might just have something to say about it!

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Making beachcomber hearts

Aren’t these hearts just adorable? The base is a heart shaped MDF plaque. You can get these on our website.

The next time you are wandering along the beach, in the countryside, park or anywhere that you might find interesting natural bits and bobs – start collecting! There, you have official permission to collect bits and pieces… as if you didn’t already if you are a crafter!

Once you have a collection then sit down at your craft table or kitchen table or wherever you prefer to work, and start creating. It’s rather like doing a jigsaw! If pieces are too big, you can cut them up, but once cut it is worth sanding or smoothing them so there are few rough edges. You can use pieces of cork from wine bottles too (now they’re fun to collect!) but if you don’t drink wine you can try asking at your nearby pub or restaurant they will often oblige with used corks.

You could add little shells, pieces of dried sea weed, mini cones, even tiny pieces of sea washed glass… the sky’s the limit and I think it’s a lot of fun!

The key obviously is strong glue. My choice is a hot melt glue gun, but you could also use something like Pinflair glue gel – just be a little patient while it dries overnight.

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Beautiful shell boxes

Decorating boxes with shells has been a popular craft for centuries… possibly as long as humans have admire shells! I am a huge fan of Mary Delaney, who was born in 1700 but managed during her lifetime to create some of the most beautiful craft pieces I have ever seen. Mary loved decorating with shells but also created many paper decoupage works depicting flowers, so that gets several of my favourite crafts in one hit!

The boxes in the picture were actually made by my mother. As a young child we always collected tiny shells and treasures whenever we were on a beach and to this day (she was 84 this week), she has a big collection of beautiful shells in the bathroom and some tucked away in her craft room.

I believe to get the best effect when decorating objects with shells, the trick is to use smaller shells and arrange them artistically as opposed to sticking big blobby shells on randomly. Here you can see why you need tweezers to work on intricate patterns like these. Another crucial thing is a good glue that will dry clear – I use Pinflair Glue Gel but there are other makes that are just as good.

Inevitably you will get some unsightly gaps between the shells, no matter how you tweak and twist, shells simply won’t fit together like Lego! The way we have got round this is to gently sprinkle a little sand between the shells before the glue is dry. This stays in keeping with the theme but gives a neutral filler that is easy to find and quick to drizzle over your finished design!

Both of these boxes were ‘found’ items at either a car boot or a local giftware shop, so it’s worth keeping your eyes open for objects that would lend themselves to this lovely form of decoration.

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No need to shell out!

I hate throwing things away, especially natural things, so I’m always interested in ideas for recycling. Egg shells are of course lovely things in their own right, and we’ve talked about blowing and painting them before… but what about the typical broken egg shells that we throw away every day after we’ve used the eggs?

My Hen Pal, Julia Wherrell obviously has lots of eggshells and has some interesting ideas on what to do with them, plus some ideas she’s been told by other hen enthusiasts… see what you make of these…

1. Sprinkle broken up eggshell around your garden to deter pests

Soft-bodied insects like slugs or snails don’t like crawling over sharp pieces of shell, I find it works really well.

2. Give your tomatoes a calcium boost

Blossom-end rot is a common tomato problem and it’s caused by a calcium deficiency in the plant. A very successful veg gardener friend of mine puts eggshells in the bottom of the hole when he plants out his tomatoes to help combat this problem. I’m definitely trying this next year as my tomatoes were rubbish this year!

3. Use them to start seedlings

I think this is a lovely idea, especially if you are short of space. Give your smaller seedlings a start in rinsed-out shells! An egg box fits perfectly on a small windowsill so use this to hold your eggshells. They need to be at least half shell in size, so try and remember that when you’re next cracking some eggs, rinse them clean and then plant up your seedlings as normal but obviously, best to stick to smaller things, like herbs. When you come to plant out, gently crush the shell as you plant it and it will decompose in the soil around your plant.

4. Compost them

Add calcium to your compost by adding shells to your compost bin.

5. Sow directly into the soil

If you don’t have time, energy or inclination to compost, simply dig crushed shells directly into your garden. It’s still better than just chucking them out!

 

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