Saturday, 25 June 2016

Vintage Photograph Collection - Part Two

If you happened to miss the first part of this series of posts then you can find it here. I will go back to talking about the collection of family photographs that came from a lot I bought on eBay, but today I'm going to talk about the photographs which I display on my shelves.  These photographs are also probably my favourites, mainly because I know their faces the best because I see them everyday. They are like unknown family to me. 

 This was one of my first vintage photographs which I got from a friend at university.  I was doing a lot of research on old photographs for my art so this was a big help at the time.  Since then I've always had it displayed on a desk or bookshelf.  I'm slightly concerned that it's faded quite a bit since I first got it.  The children's faces are beginning to disappear.  I've had this one for so long I feel like I know these people. I think this was bought from a charity shop on the Perth Road in Dundee.  If you're looking for old photographs yourself, always check charity shops.  They don't often have any but sometimes they hold a gem like this one.

This photograph is quite new to my collection and was from an eBay auction.  Again if you want to hunt down some photos of your own, browse eBay often. There are new vintage photo auctions going up every day which is both great for collecting but also incredibly sad in a way.  I love how smartly dressed this family are and I think the kids have such character in their faces.  I like family portraits as you can look at the similarities within the faces and postures.

This is my newest soldier.  I have a few soldier photographs and I think this one is especially sweet as someone has written 'The Boy' on it. I wonder what happened to him and if they got their boy home.

These guys crack me up. They look so smug with their fancy moustaches.  The more I look at it, the more I think it looks like they're away to burst out laughing after trying to look serious for the photo.

Another beautiful family, again with a soldier in the midst.  I wonder how the family coped with him being away, did he return and was this the last photo of them together?

This is quite a badly damaged photo but I love the girl's face. The back has something in a language I don't recognise and it looks like it's been written by a child. Incredibly intriguing and really quite beautiful.

This chap was bought in a small book shop in St Andrews that I've never been able to find again.  My sense of direction isn't too great though...I love his hair and smart little moustache.  I've based many drawings on him.

 I don't really know why but this photograph always reminded me of the actor Jerome Flynn.  I think it might be the chin!  He also reminds me a bit of one of my grandads. I think he just has one of those familiar faces.

Last but not least this photo actually has a couple in it that I'm related to.  I'm not too sure exactly what relation they are but I do know their names are Audrey and Manfred.  I have so many photographs of people who have no names.  All these unknown people who I completely cherish but I know nothing about.  It's therefore nice to have this photo in my collection and at least know their names.

Part three of my collection shall be coming soon...

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The Story of the Floating Knees

My blog has a bit of an odd name.  I've been asked a few times now why it has this name. Why 'floating knees'? I guess I should start at the beginning. For those of you that don't fancy a story I have drawn up a simple to follow explanation above.

So, every kid falls, usually due to clumsiness or running too fast.  I did that all the time and had permanently skinned knees. Then something weird started happening.  I did normal falling and then not so normal falling. The not so normal falling would be something like walking along and just dropping for no reason or feeling myself crumple while running.  I could sense it was something to do with my knee because I could hear a loud thud coming from it and an incredibly unsettling sensation.  It felt like my leg was falling apart.

As I grew older and it kept happening I became more and more aware of it and the conclusion that was reached was that I had dislocating knees like some of my relatives had.  They tended to grow out of their problems and that's what many doctors said.  "She'll grow out of it".
So on I went, falling over quite often and each time my knee dislocated I'd hit the ground, my knee cap thankfully having popped back into place by the time I landed.  But things then changed.  I'd hit the ground and my knee would stay around the side of my leg.  I learnt how to pull it back around safely myself so then on went the falling and pulling my knee caps back on, usually to the horror of many random strangers I'd fall in front of on the streets.

One day I experienced both knees falling out at the same time. I've sat here for a while thinking how to describe that feeling but it's too difficult. My body goes into shock and all I can think of is getting my knees back in place.  It's the worst pain.  It's also terrifying.
It was time to go back to the doctors so as a teen I went and had X-rays done.  They concluded that my knees dislocated which was obviously already known. It was know all too well.  But nothing according to the doctors, could be done.

Years went on of bad falls and increased pain each time.  My knee caps got more temperamental and I now even struggle to get them back in place. I also can't walk with straight legs as my knee caps are so loose when I straighten up.  If you imagine cracking an egg into a bowl and the yolk slides about, that's what they feel like to me. When you bend your knee you can feel everything tighten slightly so I use that tightening to keep my knee caps on.  I'm basically using the mush in my leg, all the gooey parts to keep them on.  Nice.

I went through physiotherapy, wearing knee supports, then being told not to wear knee supports, and even had my knee caps strapped down with strong tape in the opposite direction to how they fall off. That made them feel like they were on fire. Nothing worked and it just got worse.
Thankfully in the last year I was sent to have more X-rays done.  The results turned out to be a lot more than just knee troubles. My hips are twisted in the way, I have no bone surrounding my knee caps, hence why I call them 'floating knees', I have hypermobility in my joints, my knee caps are too high and my leg bones are all facing different directions.  I said to the doctor "so I'm guessing this isn't normal?", his reply, "this is very abnormal...". Can't argue with that really.  My legs are pretty darn strange.

So I guess this is another reason I'm writing this post.  I have multiple operations ahead on both my bones and ligaments so to get me through it, I'll probably post updates on here.  This is all a good thing though.  Operations sound serious and scary but when your knees fall off all the time getting them fixed is the more favourable option.  It's also a light at the end of a very long tunnel for me after going backwards and forwards to doctors since I was wee and getting nowhere.  I can't wait to walk normally and be free from the fear of falling all the time. I shall keep you all posted.

EDIT: The Story of the Floating Knees - The Update... Click here.


Saturday, 18 June 2016

Planting My First Terrarium

 I've been wanting to plant a terrarium for some time now, especially since I'd started growing my baby cacti a few months back. I ordered two cookie jars to store my pens and pencils in, but when they arrived they were a lot bigger than I'd expected them to be so all my tools fitted into one jar. I sat staring at the second jar for a while.  It was a really great looking jar. What am I going to do with it? Then I remembered my whole terrarium idea and thought, 'jar, you have a destiny!'.

Next was trying to find all the bits and bobs I needed to plant one.  I had cactus repotting mix (which you can easily buy on Amazon,) all ready for when the young'uns needed to move out of their nursery. The only problem was all the other materials that I needed: activated charcoal, gravel and some good looking moss. Activated charcoal just kept coming up online as stuff you eat (don't ask, I've no idea), gravel came in massive bags and I wasn't looking to cover five square metres, and moss, well I felt it'd be a bit cruel to pull it off my neighbour's garden walls. Also a lot of terrarium items online were shipping from America and shipping is obviously pricey.  Then I struck gold! 

 I stumbled across Geodesium Terrariums & Terrarium Kits on Etsy and thank goodness they were based in the UK so no crazy shipping costs! Also the best thing was that the kits had just the right amount of everything needed to plant a terrarium so there's no wastage at all. I got in touch with Adam (hey, Adam!) from Geodesium, to check if I could get the pack delivered for my weekend off and his response was super quick, so was the speed of delivery so thanks for that Adam!

I chose the Big Moss Terrarium Kit which included the following: Soil, Gravel, Activated Charcoal, Cushion Moss, Sphagnum Moss, Silver Moss and I also got a generous sample of beautiful crisp Iceland Moss. Included is a brilliant set of instructions too which I needed since this was my first terrarium. For everything you get I thought the price of £20 was very much worth it especially when this is the big kit! You can get other Geodesium kits for £10 and not only that, Adam makes glass terrariums by hand which he also sells in his Etsy shop. So if you're after a handmade terrarium I'd certainly head over to Geodesium. The products are made and put together with a lot of care and attention stemming from a love for the hobby and I think that's really important for any retailer, to have a passion for what they are selling. 

 So on to the planting! First here are my baby cacti in their nursery.  I'm not going to lie, there have been some fatalities, mainly taken by the dreaded mould.  There were some overcrowding in places too so some got a bit malformed... That's my fault though.  I thought they weren't growing (impatient), so bought another large pack of seeds and chucked them on top. Then they all started growing. It got a bit crazy, but these are the survivors.

 The cacti are a mix of varieties and I love them so much.  Why do I love them so much? Well look at them, they are incredibly cute. Secondly, they have tiny baby spikes.  Thirdly, I'm very intrigued to see what they end up growing up to look like (fingers crossed the growing up part happens). So anyway, this was them before the big move.

So first things first, the gravel.  I followed the Geodesium instructions and washed the gravel to get rid of all the dust and placed it in the bottom of the terrarium.  What's that old nutella jar doing there? Well that was a last minute idea to make a tiny terrarium. I'm now going to have to get a new jar for make up tools but hey, if an idea arises you just have to run with it.

Next up was a lot of mess (cleared up for the photo).  Activated charcoal is dusty but needed to help stop bacteria and therefore that killer mould that got some of the other cacti kids. 
Soil was next and I used my cacti repotting soil to give the wee ones the best chance.  The Geodesium soil is great quality stuff though and I've kept that for a future terrarium since I'm now hooked.

Now as you can see in the next photo the light has changed.  That's because the sun moved a lot while I sat very slowly repotting these tiny beasts. Now I'm no cacti expert so if there are too many in there then that's just because I'm clueless but it looks all nice and spaced out at least.  I have this image of them squidging together and forming a mighty cacti monster.  I'm not sure if that's a thing that happens but fear not, if they look cramped and distressed I'll repot them into another home. Nutella terrarium has some too. Also if you look very closely you can see my favourite. It's a tiny pink cactus, the only one.  If you look at the far left in the main terrarium there is green one then the next one in is the pink one. It's roots are so short that it was difficult to get them to hold in the soil but I think it's ok now. Survive wee one, survive!

Here is a closer view of the babies in their new home. Enjoying their fresh soil.  Stretching their legs.

Here are the Nutella cacti, settling in.

So then up next it was time to add some moss into the mix. I got such a generous amount from Geodesium but couldn't use it all due to having so many baby cacti but I did keep it all in another pot for future terrarium use.  I added a kind of mixed forest of moss to the back.  They all have very different textures and I love the colours together. I would like to add some little figures or gravel and stones but I'm going to let the cacti have a bit of space to grow first. I think it looks pretty nice as it is right now though. 

Here is my little moss pot waiting on their future terrarium. 

So there we have it! A lovely finished terrarium and it's Nutella jar experiment neighbour. I have to say I had a lot of fun doing this.  It was really nice to just sit and listen to some music and slowly build this up. I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops! I also just want to say thanks to Geodesium for existing! A brilliant terrarium shop with fantastic quality products.  I couldn't recommend them enough. 

 Disclaimer: I was not sponsored to do this post by Geodesium as I really did just honestly stumble upon their existence.  All my opinions are honest and my own.  I'm also a really rubbish gardener. I've killed many plants so my cacti planting is completely and utterly not backed up by any professional knowledge.  I'm just winging it and hoping for the best. Keep your fingers crossed for me...

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Vintage Photograph Collection - Part One

I have always loved photo albums and have spent countless hours sitting sifting through our family albums, recounting holiday memories, loved ones and childhood. Photographs are precious because our memories fade and grow weak. It's a fantastic feeling to see happy moments captured to cherish forever, reigniting and sharpening those memories. 

One thing I started to notice as I grew older is that sometimes not all photographs stay within their family. Sometimes these precious items end up in car boot sales or eBay. I'd see them listed in 'lots', hundreds of mixed items grouped together so that they were all portraits, landscapes or from a certain period, separated from their original albums and essentially lost from their original families. I guess there are many reasons why this sort of thing happens.  Some people don't see the importance in old photographs so wouldn't think twice about selling them or chucking them out.  There are those that will die without anyone to hand them on to. Some will simply be lost perhaps when moving house. 

Seeing these sorts of lost photographs made me incredibly sad and I decided that if they didn't have a home, I'd give them one.  That's how my collection started.  I display some on my shelves as if they are my own family and deeply cherish all of them, keeping them safe and in their original albums as best as I can. Today I'll show you the first part of my collection, a small section belonging to a collection I bought off eBay containing an unknown woman's entire family albums. 

Above are some of her loose photographs but for this post I'm going to be mainly showing the photographs contained within one of her albums, 'snapshots'. 

To start with there is a small handwritten note on the inside...

This album seems to be mainly filled with groups of friends from what looks to be the 1930s/40s.  There are small handwritten notes below the photographs but some don't seem to match up with the photo they are with.  I think some photographs from this album have been previously removed or lost so their order might be a bit mixed up.

 Below are a couple of loose photographs that are larger in size. The wedding photograph looks to be from a similar period but the other seems to be a lot earlier. By the way, check out the hairy dog in the bottom of the photo...

Here we have another loose photo that is a double exposure.

I love the group shots of the women with their fantastic hairstyles and amazing style. Some of the individuals can be seen popping up again and again through the photo collection.  I'm not sure if they are sisters, best friends or work colleagues.  At some point I'd like to sit down and try to see if I can work out some kind of connection.

Below are some of the other photographs from this album.  I particularly like the one that is labelled 'dad' on the bottom right. This makes me wonder if this collection is in fact the unknown women's parents photographs and perhaps the woman herself is one the children pictured.

Looking through these photographs I often feel really pleased to have been the one to end up looking after them.  They are full of happy looking times and wonderful friendships which by saving them from being lost, haven't been completely forgotten.

I'll be posting part two soon, continuing on with this particular collection.  There's a lot to get through!

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

A spot of reading: Hubert by Ben Gijsemans

This weeks 'spot of reading' is Hubert by Ben Gijsemans.  I was immediately drawn to it due to the muted colour scheme, a calming palette of pale earthy colours which help instil a gentle silence, mirroring the shy nature of the main character.

We follow a lonely man, who's main interest is visiting art galleries, taking in the magnificence of the paintings, photographing them and then returning home to try and replicate them for his own pleasure. He never really talks to anyone, and really only talks about art when he does.  He's awkward around others and tries to avoid his flirty neighbour.

 The art throughout is incredibly beautiful, and I really love the images depicting the fine art which are full of rich detail. For a man of few words the emotions written across Hubert's face tell the whole story effortlessly.  I love the quiet moments spent with him through the frames just watching him paint.

 This is a story that tugs at your heartstrings and pretty interesting to see a graphic novel set mainly in a museum/art gallery.  Working in one myself it makes you think about the visitors that pass through the doors who's lives could tell their own similar stories.

Ben Gijsemans was born in Belgium and had followed his love of art, starting with evening classes at the Hagelandse Academie door Schone Kusten and continued on to study animation and film at KASK in Gent.  He then went on to complete a bachelors degree, a masters degree and then another masters in illustration & comic strips at Sint-Lukas in Brussels. Hubert is such an outstanding achievement and I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future.

You can check out Ben Gijsemans portfolio at

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The Keeper's Cottage

For about a month now I've been working on the biggest drawing I've attempted in a long time. I wanted it to reach to the very edges as if it was continuing on and today I finally completed it. It's been pretty tough going but I really wanted to challenge myself and try and include as much detail as possible. 

The drawing is of a cottage in Glencoe which I've loved since I was a little girl.  The mountains stretch up behind it creating a stunning, detailed backdrop of rocks and foliage.  There are many streams and waterfalls dotted across its surface along with old wooden fences trailing up and out of sight. I really wanted to capture all this on paper and I've wanted to draw this mountainside for a very long time. I'm glad I've finally done it. I did have a practice run a few months back so I knew that the task ahead was going to be massive but I'm incredibly pleased that I've accomplished it.

So this is how it all began and you can see the scale here next to my fingers.  A tiny little cottage. I think this part was the most nerve wracking as I knew that once I'd tackled the cottage and got it looking the way I wanted it to, the rest would flow from there.

The drawing itself is A3 in size so there was a lot of paper to cover compared to what I usually work on.  Most of my drawings float in the middle of the paper as well so it was new to me to keep drawing to the very edges.  It made it quite a daunting task at the beginning.

Progress was very slow and I had to keep pausing as my hand was seizing up. The mark making was so small that my hand was hardly moving so after a while it got a bit painful! It was best to draw for about twenty minutes and then rest.

It was exciting to see the sheer scale of the mountains take shape behind the small cottage. I tended to work on one area for a time and then jump across to another area.  It would get quite tiring on my eyes to concentrate on the same group of shapes so it helped to look at a completely different section and start afresh.

Falling ill for a week halted progress right at the end so this last corner stayed the same for about a week. That was pretty nerve-wracking when I needed to get it finished. Thankfully I was able to catch up and it is now the complete drawing that you can see at the top of the post.

I've entered it into the RSA Open Exhibition 2016 and I find out if it's made the next stage on June the 13th so we shall wait and see! Even if it doesn't I'm just really pleased to have completed this as it was a challenge that I set myself and I did it.