I'm travelling into a new way of working, a new country, a new language, and a new hobby which I'm passionate about. Come with me for some of the journey...

Monday 17 September 2012

Full of Eastern Promise

Hello and welcome, and an especially big welcome to the new followers - I'm delighted and honoured that you've decided to join the gang.  Your first assignment, should you choose to accept it, is - I'm afraid - a very long post!

I'm sharing a sort of gift package with you today, small but beautiful I think... and I hope you'll agree.  It turned out to be a bedside set for a young girl (purely imaginary), who needs somewhere to keep her letters and memorabilia, and to record her ideas and impressions of the world, safe from curious eyes.

The main part of the project is really the altered mini chest of drawers.  It's only about 6cm tall and 10cm wide, so it's very cute, but it made some of the edges a bit fiddly!  Then there's a 'pillow book' (read on for more on that), kept under lock and key, some parchment scrolls of notepaper, and some oriental charms.

In altering the mini chest, I was inspired by one of the fabulous Trish Latimer's techniques.  She created an amazing collaged piece (the sneak peek is here, and so worth following up), and although I followed the first few stages, you'll see that things went in quite a different direction in the end for me...

WOYWW-ers may recognise the drawers - they were on my W last W.  I just about managed to grab a "before" picture, though I'd already started collaging before I remembered...

I used papers from the Prima Almanac 6x6 pad, and had great fun tearing and gluing them all over the outside of the chest.  Tricky folding them around the mouth of the drawers, but "if at first you don't succeed..."

Once the outside was fully covered, I gave the whole thing a wash of white acrylic (white paint very diluted with water) which is what gives it that lovely muted, whitewash (well - there's an accurate word!) effect.

Then it sort of sat there for a while, while I wondered what to do next.  I already loved how it looked, and you reach a point where there's a risk of wrecking something you like by doing something rash to it... so I decided to wait until inspiration struck.

One of my favourite blogs is Florence and Freddie, and whilst catching up on blog visiting (sorry, everyone, for my poor track record at the moment - juggling too many things), I saw Florence's DT piece for an Oriental Influences challenge at Out of a Hat Creations.

It's a beautiful piece - a little chest of drawers, as it happens, though hers is wooden - but I'm not much of a one for Orientalism, so I didn't plan on entering the challenge at all.

But as I sat looking at the box, it started to creep up on me.  What I do really love is Oriental calligraphy, and also cherry blossom... and those seemed to be what the box was looking for.

I've a spray of something like cherry blossom in a set of Tattered Angels texture stamps, and the calligraphy is taken from round the edge of what's really a wood-mounted Poppy stamp (an early crafty buy on ebay, that I'd started to think of as a mistake).  I just took care not to ink up the poppy!

The drawers themselves had to have slightly different treatment... it was already becoming a snug fit, and if I'd added any more bulk with papers then I think it would have made it impossible to get them in and out.

So I had to do a paint job.  I started with some mushroomy acrylic, then added the sprays of blossom, whitewashed, and then stamped the script.

I love both that it's got a real look of weathered wood or bamboo, and that it tones in so well with the papers around it.  Yup - pleased with myself on that as it really happened without any real planning... just following my fingers!!

While I was crafting, my mind was wandering around, and I remembered another facet of Japanese culture that always fascinated me - the Pillow Book.

Essentially, a pillow book is a book you keep by your bed to jot down thoughts, ideas, memories, quotation, poetry or anything else which might occur to you.  Not as pressurizing as keeping a diary on a daily basis!

The most well-known is probably the pillow book of Sei Shonagon who was a court lady to an Empress in 11th century Japan.  You may also remember the Peter Greenaway film The Pillow Book - a beautiful work, sadly now mostly known for Ewan McGregor's nude scenes!

And I've got a Pillow Book by Eleanor Bron, writer, actor, comedian, which she wrote rather than an autobiography, and which I've always loved as a record of a performer's life.

That's when the idea of this young girl, in a crowded household, with no real space to call her own, began to take hold... and I wanted to make her something of her very own... somewhere to keep letters and trinkets, and a pillow book so that she has somewhere to record her private thoughts, safe under lock and key.

The notebook was just a 10x10cm kraft notebook, that I got for about 30p in the Range, on sale.  I bought more than one, as you can see!

As well as whitewashing and stamping the covers, I aged the edges of the pages, to give it a lovely vintage glow.

The gorgeous pale blue seam binding is from Vintage Page Designs, and the lock and key are BoBunny trinkets, which I've doctored with some black alcohol ink, and then sanded, so that they would tone in better with the Oriental charms and the rest of the look of the piece.

Finally I created some notepaper (blank in this gift set for use, but in my head they are notes from a secret admirer - tucked in the drawer for safekeeping!)

I used some airmail 'Onion' finish, which is basically a gorgeously textured, very thin parchment, torn into small squares, about 8x8cm.  

I added some script down the sides, edged with Vintage Photo and rolled the sheets into scrolls tied with raffia.

So there you have it... from thinking I wasn't remotely interested in playing along with an Oriental challenge, to a project I got completely wrapped up in.  Part of me wants to go and find the girl I've imagined and give her this (okay... leaving the realms of acceptable now), but perhaps I'll have to settle for making this for sale to other journalling girls.

Can't do the drawers, but could do stationery sets along the lines of this one I made, as I've got many, many boxes, and add the Pillow Books as an extra... how's that as a sales line?  I know many people love Oriental themes, and I'm quite won over myself now, to be honest...   

Love to hear what you think - is it a possible sales piece? - if you've made it this far, of course!  Thank you so much for bearing with me and my romantic Oriental imaginings.  Hope you have some private time and space for pursuing your secret pleasures soon!!

I'm entering this for the following:
Out of a Hat Creations and their Oriental Influences challenge
The theme over at the Fashionable Stamping Challenge is Good Things Come in Small Packages - and this really is all very bijou...

Pleasing Things: 
Finding a large number of tales that one has not read before. Or acquiring the second volume of a tale whose first volume one has enjoyed. But often it is a disappointment.

Surprising and Distressing Things:
While one is cleaning a decorative comb, something catches in the teeth and the comb breaks.
A child or grown-up blurts out something that is bound to make people uncomfortable.
All night long one has been waiting for a man who one thought was sure to arrive. At dawn, just when one has forgotten about him for a moment and dozed off, a crow caws loudly. One wakes up with a start and sees that it is daytime -- most astonishing.

Rare Things:
A son-in-law who's praised by his wife's father. Likewise, a wife who's loved by her mother-in-law. 
A pair of silver tweezers that can actually pull out hairs properly.
Copying out a tale or a volume of poems without smearing any ink on the book you're copying from. If you're copying it from some beautiful bound book, you try to take immense care, but somehow you always manage to get ink on it.
Two women, let alone a man and a woman, who vow themselves to each other forever, and actually manage to remain on good terms to the end.

All from the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, completed in the year 1002


Cestina said...

So I produced the ancient pad of onionskin airmail paper on Sunday morning - I am now acutely aware that anything I find whilst clearing the house for sale will be grist to your mill - and by Monday morning this post has appeared!

The set is completely delightful - and I have the advantage of being able to feel the different textures which adds to the delight.


froebelsternchen said...

this is absolutely gorgeous!

I am also a big fan from Trish Latimer.. found her blog a couple of days ago after joining a video on you tube about her techniques.
Great to read about your progress!
It´s very similar to my way of working.. sometime especially canvases ore covers have to wait weeks.. because I don´t find the perfect thing to bring the piece to rock for me.

Have a good week and thank you for your tip with the artistic stamper challenge on my blog and your nice comment!

xxx Susi/froebelsternchen

chrissie said...

Wow! This is an unbelievable set and so pleased that our dear Florence inspired you to make it oart of it.

Wonderful work on everything and so Oriental. It would grace any home on the make over programmes.

Thank you for joining us at Out of a Hat.

Love Chrissie xx

Mrs.B said...

WOW Alison, this is a beautiful project. Love the 'alterations' and the Oriental theme give such a soft vintage look - a real treasure.
Thanks for sharing with us at FSC
Avril xx

Chrissy said...

Fabulous set Alison, I love the oriental theme...[love the sound and feel of parchment paper]gorgeous details,love the pale blue seam binding for colour and beautiful embellishments..gorgeous work.


Redanne said...

Hi Alison, I love how you started the drawer project without any real idea as to how you would finish it and then transformed it! It is so beautiful in the oriental style and it goes so well with the other items and the story is lovely. Really beautiful work, as always.....Crafty hugs, Anne x

Caroline said...

Great work! I love how you put everything together... box... book... and the nice touch of the scroll. It's a bit like shabby chic oriental :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Alison. Wow! what incredible makes. I really enjoyed reading how you made these and looking at all the fab photos TFS. Please write a book!! Love the way you have used the P. Almanac paper. That pattern is lovely but quite bold. It works so well with a wash over it. Also love how you have given your projects an oriental feel with the stamping. Not sure, after all your hard work, I would have been brave enough to stamp on it!! lol! Thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing these stunning creations with the Hatters this week. It is always a treat to visit your blog.
Regards Florence x

Deborah said...

For someone who doesn't do oriental (seems to be coming back after a few years in the wilderness) this is simply stunning. Oriental Butterfly-stylee.

mark gould said...

Wow as always, so much attention to detail. I love the white wash look and anything oriental I love straight away.
I love that you just went with the flow, they are the best crafting days I find.
love it, mark x

Claudia N. said...

This is unpayable! Sooo beautiful, Alison!

The whitewash gives it such a delicate feel! And I love asian caligraphy and cherry blossomed twigs so much! They are the perfect match here!

Stunning project! (as usual ;)

Claudia xxxx

Alie Hoogenboezem-de Vries said...

What an amazing oriëntal look these creations have Alison! Stunning artwork...your hands can create marvelous things....wow....

greetings, Alie :-)

Sandra's Spot said...

Alison this stunning and the pillow such a lovely touch. What a fabulous present to give. So glad you shared it with us at
Out of a hat. Hugs Sandra xXX

Netty said...

wow this is all fabulous, loving the design, colours and just everything. Gorgeous work. Annette x

Sarah said...

What's not to like about this? Every inch is gorgeous.

Janet said...

Stunning Oriental projects Alison,
the colours you have used are perfect.Thanks for joining us at Out of a Hat
Janet x

Sophie said...

Wow! Großartig und wunderschön.

Anonymous said...

This is such a delight and I adore the concept. I totally relate to other crafters who form stories or characters in their head as part of the creating process and I will admit that I also related (should I own up to this) to the fact that this girl became so real in your mind.
Beautiful, timeworn appearance.
An amazing piece of altered art to share with us at FSC this fortnight.

catherine said...

Oh My Alison ! Just how do you keep coming up with these fantastic ideas and creations. just stunning. hope you have a good week
x catherine

Lisa Minckler said...

I can only imagine how elated you were to see all of this transform so beautifully! You have put the WOW in WOW!! LOL..sorry, brain is on tilt after taking in this gift set. The textures must feel terrific, they certainly look sensational.

Jenny Marples said...

Definitely a 'doing it because you want to enjoy the creating part' which as a result has ended up an absolute triumph. Serious bags of insipiration here and an outstanding gift for anyone. Hugs, Buttons x

Janny Jager said...

This is a very very beautiful gift you made Alison.
I love it very much.
A really great piece of Art.

Greetings Janny

cbee said...

wow, wow, wow! that's so beautiful! such a wonderful set!!

Anonymous said...

WOW!! What a gorgeous set of artwork!!! Love your details with the painting and design!! GORGEOUS!! :) TFS!

Esther said...

This is such a beautiful project and I love that you created a whole scenario surrounding it as you created ! Thank you so much for sharing your gorgeous work with us at FSC...Esther xx

Andrea Small said...

This is deeply lovely. I had trouble picturing the size of it and had to resort to a ruler...I'm no expert in crafting but I have a high level of expertise in purchasing, and I would think this is a very saleable concept. Would the idea be that each one is slightly different? Christmas is coming and I'm sure that this would be a welcome addition to many stockings. A stroke of genius to include a pillow book. A x

Brenda Brown said...

Stunning work, I just adore this Alison, so beautifully made.
hugs {brenda} xox

Kate Yetter said...

Alison, this is gorgeous!! I am very partial to asian inspired art. I Love love love all the stamping and collage! Just beautiful!!

Inkypinkycraft said...

Another stunning make Alison , your eye for detail is amazing ! The colours and details are great , hugs trace x

Unknown said...

Alison, you constantly fill me with inspiration. My DD loves all things Japanese and this is a wonderful idea for her upcoming birthday. I always enjoy my visits and learn something new each time. :-) Thank you sweet lady! Have a wonderful week. Hugs

Kim x said...

Alison this is absolutely fabulous.
I wouldn't want to give it away.
Thanks for stopping by and becoming a follower.
I hope to get back in to the swing of things now that the Woodware weekends have finished, but at the moment I am struggling to stay awake lol.
hugs Kimx

Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous set! I love everything about it. I'm sure the young girl who gets this will treasure it forever.

Bärbel said...

Alison, das ist großartig und die Gestaltung im Asia-Stil passt ganz hervorragend zu dem Projekt!

Asia King (aka Joanna K) said...

Woooow... I mean... WOOOW! No, hang on a sec - did I mention it looks really WOOOOOOW?!!! Stunning....!!!

Kjersti said...

Wow! An amazing piece of work Alison! A gorgeous set, and your alteration looks awesome!
Have a nice week!
Hugs Kjersti:)

Neet said...

The shabby chic finish on this set of items is wonderful. I love everything you have done (yes, it i very saleable and others would be too) and I just love love love the imaginary girl and the story you have woven around her.
As an aside - You could turn your blog into a journal and sell it easily.
Hugs, Neet xx

Anita Houston The Artful Maven said...

How fabulous! Love the theme, and especially those drawers!!!

Meggymay said...

Wow, this is stunning. Your alterations are fantastic as is every minute detail of your project. Thank you for sharing it with us at FSC this time.

Yvonne Garner said...

Hi Alison! This is one for the record books. I will not soon forget your work of art. A beautiful project and post. Thanks for sharing with us at FSC. Best wishes, Yvonne

Silvia(Barnie) said...

A fantastic set, love the asian theme. Thanks for joining us at FSC this fortnight.

Karen McAlpine said...

Ohhh. I saw the before photo of the chest the other day....And wondered what magic you would create with it. Just love how this turned out. The acrylic wash really looks great...so soft and dreamy.

Fliss said...

Alison, your creations are amazing and the oriental theme is just stunning.
Thanks for joining our small packages challenge at FSC, lovely to have you with us.
Hugs, Fliss x

scrappymo! said...


Nicecrane Designs said...

Absolutely a play of art.....I love Japanesew Culture,,,,,,very well done.

toni said...

A fabulous project Alison beautifuly done and a super story behind it. I think oriental themes are fabulous for crafting. Oh and i do remember Ewan mcGregor in pillow book infact i don't suppose i'll ever forget! X

Ellie Knol said...

Astonishing beautiful!