Made By Mrs M

Launching my first Kickstarter!

Kate Marsden

First and possibly last, but let's see! This week I've launched my first ever Kickstarter campaign to (hopefully) fund a short print run of my 365 project book. You can read all about it here.


My first pledge came in within a few minutes, and I had a brillant first 24 hours reaching 37% of my target, but it's been a bit slow going since so if you're at all interested in getting hold of a copy (or some snazzy postcards) or you know someone who might be please do share my campaign! For those of you who are not familiar with Kickstarter it is an all or nothing kind of a thing - I have until 9 April to raise all of the funds or I won't get any so the project won't happen...

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Full details of the book's specifications and all of the rewards are on my Kickstarter page. Rewards range from £1-£20 so there's something for everyone! Thank you!

New Fabrics and a little bit of quilting...

Kate Marsden

My new fabrics have arrived! And here they are in all their glory...


As I mentioned back in the autumn, I don't plan to do any full "collection" launches as such this year, rather I'll be introducing new work in batches - so far this is working well for me and I'm finding that my inspiration has returned (and there's also a lot less pressure when my whole year no longer rests on two set ranges of work!).

So I have two new designs... Sewing Supplies is inspired by the print of the same name which I produced last year - I chatted to a number of people at the events I attended back in the autumn, and the consensus was that this needed to be a fabric, so here it is...


The second design is called Anemone and is a 1950's style pattern featuring some of the floral drawings I created for the Make It In Design Winter School.


To show my new fabrics off, and to give you a little idea of something you could make with them, I've made a quilted cushion. This is the first time I've made a cushion like this and I'm really pleased with how it's turned out. I used my new designs combined with Kona Solids in Parrot (green), Stratosphere (blue) and Mac and Cheese (yellow). I bought these fabrics from Simply Solids.


My new fabrics are now available to buy by the metre and fat quarter in my Etsy shop. I'm planning some more makes soon - do let me know if there's anything in particular you fancy seeing in these fabrics!

Brutalism in Croydon and some new prints...

Kate Marsden

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the private view of A Journey Through Brutalism at RISE Gallery in Croydon (I mentioned it last week as one of my things to do this month). The private view also included a talk from the wonderful John Grindrod (someone I'd known online for years but never met before), author of Concretopia, Outskirts and next month How to Love Brutalism. John read from a couple of his books and was very entertaining (I'm now reading them in his voice with his inflections!) and the exhibition itself was great - it's free of charge and open until the end of the month so do pop in and visit if you're in the viscinity.

 Number 1 Croydon by Adam Halliday as seen at RISE Gallery

Number 1 Croydon by Adam Halliday as seen at RISE Gallery

In conjunction with the exhibition, the National Trust have organised a series of walking tours. The snow had melted last Saturday, but it was still freezing as a group of 20 of us took to the streets with guide Janet Foster. She took us around all of the main Brutalist and Modernist buildings in Croydon, culminating with a fantastic (albeit breezy) ascent to a rooftop which provided wonderful views...


Now I'd like to say that I've made another batch of Number One Croydon monoprints in response to the exhibition and walk, but in actual fact it's simply because the first batch sold out! I've been working on these this week and they are now up in the shop (the blue one top left has already sold at the time of writing).


As I mentioned A Journey Through Brutalism continues until 31 March. Visit RISE Gallery's website to find out more about it and the accompanying events.

Spending the night behind bars...

Kate Marsden

Not many people dream of spending a night in prison, but I discovered last weekend that the Malmaison in Oxford opened 12 years ago, so I'm sufficiently odd that I've been dreaming of spending a night behind bars for 12 years! In my old day job I used to book a lot of hotel rooms, and the Malmaison chain was a favourite - I've stayed in lots of them, but we didn't have an office in Oxford so it never happened.


But last weekend we were child free and Mr M booked us a cell as a surprise (although I had guessed where we were going a couple of days beforehand). When I say a cell, it's not just one but three knocked together (2 for the bedroom, 1 for the bathroom) and very cozy indeed (and super quiet so I slept like a log.


The central area of A Block (shown above) is bar far the most impressive part - I ended up taking photos on every floor! We had dinner, bed and breakfast (and the Mal is well known for it's brilliant food) so the diet went out of the window, but it was a lovely way to spend the weekend.


The trip wasn't all about the hotel - we tried out some nice pubs too and just generally wandered around. I'm going back to Oxford again in a couple of months' time (trips to Oxford are like busses - I hadn't been for easily 10 years) so I didn't over photograph! Here are a few little colourful pics though of the cold days before the snow arrived...


This is not a sponsored post and all views are my own.

Things to look forward to in March

Art, Events, Exhibition, Inspiration, London, Shopping, TravelKate Marsden

It's nearly spring!!! Yes, really! Here are 10 good things coming up this month...


1. Virginia Woolf: an exhibition inspired by her writings at Tate St Ives - Oh how I wish I lived closer to St Ives - I'd be visiting this exhibition in a heartbeat. I've been a fan of Virginia Woolf since I was a teenager (as evidenced recently by my illustration below).

 To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway print available in my Etsy shop

To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway print available in my Etsy shop

2. A Journey Through Brutalism at RISE Gallery Croydon - one for all you concrete fans. This new exhibition at one of my local favourites opened last week.

3. Crafty Fox Market is going monthly! While I'm cutting down on selling events this year I see some more shopping in my future... the first one is this Saturday.

4. Spring blossom (goes without saying!).

5. I'll be running two lampshade workshops on Saturday 24th at Creative Happy London - you can choose from morning or afternoon slots. Only a few spaces left so get booking!


6. The National Trust are running a series of walking tours in Croydon to accompany the RISE Gallery exhibition above - now taking bookings.

7. If you're up in Scotland, the wonderful Artists' Textiles exhibition which has been touring since it's appearance at London's Fashion & Textile Museum is open now at New Lanark.

8. Hot cross buns (mmmm).

9. If you're quick, there's still time to see the Bridget Riley exhibition in Mayfair (open until 10 March).

10. And if you're still feeling far too wintery, British Summer Time begins on Sunday 25th! Not long now...

Don't turn your hobby into your job...

Business, WorkKate Marsden

It’s the dream isn’t it? Getting to do that thing you love doing in your spare time ALL of the time, and being paid for it. Chances are you’re pretty good at whatever this thing is, as you’ve been doing it for years. You might also be in the position I used to be in where you end up disliking your day job to such an extent, that you spend most of your waking hours dreaming of doing pretty much anything else if it will enable your escape.

In my case, the thing I was originally planning to do as my job ended up being my hobby – and I think this happens a lot to those who studied art subjects in particular. Jobs are hard to come by (and of course when I left college the internet didn’t exist…). I think if you can manage to avoid loosing sight of whatever it is you’re aiming to do, and you continue practicing with that aim, the “thing” doesn’t fall into the “hobby” category. In my case though it did, and quite quickly.

Back in the golden days of the day job (yes they did exist!), the hours weren’t too bad and the pay was reasonably good, so my hobbies were plentiful. This was also the time that I completed several short courses at Chelsea College of Art, ran 5ks, 10ks and even a half marathon and still had the time, energy (and cash) for nights out, festivals and holidays.

After the little man was born ALL of my hobbies went out of the window for quite a long time, before designing and making pretty much took over my life. Finally, I had the opportunity to do my “thing” and it was amazing. I ploughed on with this for the best part of three years before coming close to completely burning out last autumn.


I joined the gym at the beginning of December, with the aim of aiding the recovery of my bad back and just generally making myself more cheerful. I’m now nearly 3 months in, and despite Christmas, illness and school holidays getting in the way, it’s going really well. My first two aims have been met – my back isn’t better but it’s better than it’s been in a long time, I really enjoy going to the gym and look forward to being there (I’m quite ratty when I can’t go for whatever reason) and it’s made me realise something – I was missing having a hobby.

I would define a hobby as a thing you spend time doing, that you enjoy and which is absorbing and/or gives you that sense of flow… But most importantly, I think it needs to be something that you NEVER intend to turn into your job. When the job I’d originally planned to do became my hobby, and then my job, it lost it’s magic. That’s not to say that I don’t still love it (in fact having this realisation has in itself helped a lot!) but that there has to be something else.

Now lots of people dream of being yoga teachers or personal trainers as their second career as they love going to the gym and that’s fine too, but the same thing applies… what do you do when the thing you did to wind down becomes work?

Since joining the gym I’m working shorter hours (I go during the day when I have childcare) but I’m getting a lot more work done in less time. I’ve gone from a complete inspiration drought, to having so many ideas I have to try to prioritise and write multiple lists.

I think I’d forgotten just how much I loved being at a nice gym (mine is nice, I decided to invest – I’m one of those people who’s incentivised by a desire not to waste money so this makes me go as often as I possibly can), and just how good I feel once I’ve been going regularly for a few weeks. I think I was helped by the fact that I had no choice but to take it slowly to begin with because of my back – so there wasn’t any of that rushing in and injuring myself, or rushing in and then loosing my momentum.

I know that a lot of you are either in the process of turning that all absorbing hobby into your job (or dream of it), and many have already done so. The desire to do only that and nothing else (to start with at least) can be overwhelming, but finding time for a hobby of some kind is essential. Not only do I feel better for it but my work is benefitting too. Have you had to find a new hobby or did you always have lots?


A footnote…

Now this is not a fitness blog! But a few people have asked me what I’ve been getting up to down at the gym, so this is what it’s amounted to so far… when I joined my back was VERY bad and I was having physio, and under his guidance I started swimming several times a week and using the bike and cross trainer in the gym. I then progressed to BodyBalance classes just before Christmas (these were a firm favourite back in my running days as you’re basically stretching for the best part of an hour) and noticed a huge improvement in my back straight away. I’ve now added BodyPump as well (another old favourite!) and while I was worried this may hurt my back it’s actually made it feel great. I even had a go at a short run and used the rowing machine last week. Oh and an added bonus is that I’ve lost some weight – perhaps I should get myself a nice dress to aim to look nice in on my 40th birthday! No pressure though. After all it’s a hobby!

p.s. The tennis balls… the little man has recently started playing tennis at school so we’ve had a go at that too. I really enjoy playing tennis – rubbish at it of course – but it’s still fun!

A New Sketchbook!

Art, Drawing, Inspiration, SketchbookKate Marsden

Last week I took advantage of a moment of inspiration and bought myself a new sketchbook. The little man was planning an end of half term exhibition of all the things we'd made during the course of the week (including paper dragons, fimo dinosaurs and nature finds from my parent's garden!) and my main contribution ended up being the book. When we were out and about I picked up a set of coloured brush pens (which I'd never used before) and ended up having all sorts of fun. Here are a few images of the many pages I worked on. If you'd like to have a flick through it yourself, come and see me at Carshalton Artists Open Studios in the summer!


Studio Tour - Adrienne Roberts

Art, Ceramics, Events, Exhibition, StudiosKate Marsden

We're well into February, and that means that Carshalton Artists Open Studios are creeping up on us again! We had such a brilliant time at the first event last year and I'm really excited about doing it all over again this summer.

You may recall that I wrote a short series of studio tour posts on the run up last year, and they were really popular (as everyone likes a nosey around a studio!), so here's my first for 2018.... A few months ago I popped to see Adrienne Roberts in her studio, set at the end of a garden which was beautiful even on a miserable wet day (so I can just imagine how lovely it will be in the summer) and here are the resulting photos.

Adrienne is a ceramicist, who mostly works with porcelain paper clay. Her delicate pieces are inspired by the natural world, and there are lots of fascinating little bits and bobs all over her enviably large studio. See more of Adrienne's work and find out all about her here. Adrienne's studio will be open for both weekends of Carshalton Artists Open Studios - 23/24 June and 30 June/1 July 2018.


Croydon Goes Floral!

Kate Marsden

As you know, I've been working on some new things recently. I have new Virginia Woolf prints in the shop and I now have some new Croydon prints too!

I've been working on lots of florals lately - mostly as a boost to my portfolio and an interesting exercise, however last week, while designing a new pattern, I thought it would look rather nice on Fairfield Halls (as you do!)... and here it is!

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The pattern itself is a slightly scribbly looking spring flowers affair (which sort of came from nowhere I just felt the urge to get scribbling...) and it's quite different to my usual work. I think it makes Croydon look rather fab though! Here's Number One Croydon wearing a floral coat...

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Both of these prints are now available in the shop (however please note that I'm taking a few days away from the studio for half term so any orders placed this week will be dispatched on Monday 19 February).


Building Instagram (and my iPhone Addiction)

Kate Marsden

Something terrible happened last week (brace yourselves)…. My phone died. I know. No more taking of photos no phone calls (but what if the school need to get hold of me?!) and no random scrolling through social media (which is work, you understand) while sitting in cafés…. I took my laptop to the local café while my son was at an after school club, but the wifi was so terrible that I couldn’t even manage to mark my Etsy orders as dispatched, so I gave up.

The worst thing about the whole episode isn’t realising how addicted I am to that random scrolling (and marking my orders as dispatched as soon as I leave the Post Office), as I was already pretty aware of that, but how vulnerable I feel without a phone. If something goes wrong I’m stuck and on my own. If my son is sick or something happens at school, it could be hours before I know. Mr M kindly reminded me that this was just how it was 20 years ago. A couple of friends told me a digital detox would do me good. Maybe, but I don’t think any of them were about to spend their entire day worrying that their child was OK (and yes we coped 20 years ago, but it’s better now isn’t it?!).


This all leads me on rather nicely to something I use my phone for A LOT - Instagram. My relationship with which seems to become even more passionately love/hate by the day. Forcing a (sort of) a break (I could still post photos I’d already taken via my iPad) at just the time when I’m starting to enjoy it again, was challenging but this is possibly a good time to reflect on the time I’m spending on it. Getting new followers is so very hard – I have honestly tried every single tip suggested to me over the years, the only thing is I won’t pay for them (and I’m starting to suspect that rather more people than I realise have – not accusing anyone here!) – but what I’ve experienced lately is a bit of a surge in engagement. I wonder if this is because I’ve started to think more carefully about what images work, but at the same time I’m not religiously striving for an immaculate looking grid any more. Here’s what I’ve discovered since the start of the year:

·      People like seeing me – goodness knows why. Doesn’t have to be my face, the back of my head will suffice (but my hands or feet won’t…). The most popular posts feature my face (or back of my head!) AND my work (although the work is preferably incidental to a shot of my ugly, shiny, ageing mug. Of course…).

·      So people DON’T like seeing my work as much. Which troubles me as I need to make money from that (rather than my face!!!). However, if the work is on the wall of my studio or being held by me it helps. People LOVE studio photos.

·      Posting less often seems to work well. Also the timing seems to matter again – when it appeared to be irrelevant for quite some time. I’m finding 5.30-6.30pm to be the sweet spot for maximum engagement – but this is different for everyone and it depends on when “your people” are killing time on Instagram. Mine are often on their way home from work (but of course Instagram now continues to show images in people’s feeds for DAYS…).

·      I’m taking just as many photos (or I was until my phone broke) and saving them up for posting at later dates if I need to (thank goodness I did that!).

·      The photos I assume will do really well often don’t. However, I have seen more with 100+ likes than I ever have, all since the start of last month, and in all honesty I’m not sure why (but see my thoughts at the end of this post).

·      People always like a good shot of a pretty house.


Lots of new followers appeared last week thanks to the lovely Sarah Hamilton featuring me on the Just A Card Instagram account (on the weekly “have you met” feature – check it out and like Just A Card there if you haven’t already – you never know she might feature you!). 135 new followers and counting (it took me nearly a year to get from 3,000 to 3,500 so that’s really something!). I also got a boost from Joanna Payne’s #colourmyeveryday challenge a couple of weeks ago, which took me to that 3,500 mark.

I’d definitely recommend actively getting involved in campaigns like Just A Card (not only because you love and support it – which I hope you do – you do realise I’m the blogger yes?!) and with Instagram hashtag challenges like #colourmyeveryday and #marchmeetthemaker (organised by the lovely Joanne Hawker - I’ll be joining in with that again in a couple of weeks!), but I still think you need to ensure that whatever you post for these challenges is consistent with the rest of your feed – I’m stressing consistent rather than perfect or immaculate. I did use #colourmyeveryday to share quite a lot of my work (and pictures of me as they encourage engagement – so I need to get over it!), and probably more so than most of the other people involved, but it worked and I even had some orders.


I think the key is not to rush to post whatever you can think of first thing in the morning, and maybe to plan a little more if you’re that way inclined. This applies whether you’re taking part in a challenge or not. As #colourmyeveryday only lasted for a week it was easy for me to plan the following day’s post on the previous one, but for #marchmeetthemaker I think I’ll need to be a little more methodical. I’m also thinking of ways to work with the prompts in a more creative way, in order to elbow some of my work in there somehow when it isn’t obviously about that… Most of the strongest accounts I follow have feeds that are, almost exclusively, that artist’s work and nothing else at all.

So this leads me on to what to do with all of those other photos I take! I started a second Instagram account about two years ago for the stuff that doesn’t fit on @madebymrsm – but I don’t post to it that often, however I’m starting to try using Instagram Stories a little more. I’m using this to share images of a day out, for example, either as it happens or later that day. I really didn’t think that Stories made any difference whatsoever to my follower numbers or the engagement on my feed posts, but having used it more over the past six weeks or so, I think it does. It’s also a good way to share the photos I like and are relevant but which I may not consider to be strong enough for either of my accounts.


So where does this leave me (other than feeling vulnerable without a phone!)? I’ve given up on ever reaching the magic 10k followers as I’m pretty sure the only way I’ll get there is to part with cash, and what’s the point of that if it doesn’t increase engagement too? I’m going to try sticking to my new formula of pictures of me and my work with the occasional other (preferably colourful) thing and see how that pans out. If the increase in engagement reverses again over time, them I suppose I’ll have to shake it up again.

A quick word about hashtags in general, rather than hashtag challenges, before I go. I keep a library of them as notes in my phone (which is thankfully in the cloud – I almost stopped breathing when I thought I’d lost those – oh dear…) and I add to, delete from and change this all the time – whenever I spot a new relevant tag. I store them in blocks and scroll through for whichever block of tags is most relevant for the post. This means I very rarely use exactly the same tags for several posts in a row. It’s interesting to note that the recent spike of engagement I’ve experienced has been since I finished my 365 project (for which I used the same hashtags for every post – one each day) so I wonder whether that rumour about overusing tags (or shadowbanning or whatever) is true. Either that or the tags really don’t make any difference at all!


The queen of Instagram, Sara Tasker (of @meandorla fame) has always said that the only trick is to take really good photos – I take this as a sign that mine aren’t, and never have been, good enough! But I think she does have a point. Continuing to improve photography (once I have a working phone – although this whole episode has prompted me to get the DSLR out again after a prolonged break) and posting only your best work (so better to post nothing at all than something substandard for the sake of it) may be the way forward. Let’s see if I can get to 4k….

Dulwich Village, Moomins and the urge to paint...

Art, Architecture, Exhibition, Inspiration, LondonKate Marsden

The main point of my plan to get out more this year was to help with my total lack of inspiration. January was a funny old month, in that despite spending less time working (more time either being ill or at the gym - unsure as to whether these two are connected) and not getting out anywhere near as much as I'd wanted, the inspiration was forthcoming to the extent that it was a little overwhelming at times.

Not content with this though, I really do need to get out and see exhibitions and generally do stuff, even if the ideas are just tucked away in a notebook for the time being (as there's bound to be another drought at some point!).

Having failed miserably to make it to the Rachel Whiteread exhibition at Tate Britain before it closed, I was determined to drag my sorry self up to Dulwich Picture Gallery to see Tove Jansson.

Tove was famous for creating the rather magical Moomins, but they were only a part of her wider work...

 Tove Jansson -  Sleeping in the Roots, c.1930s -   Credit: Yehia Eweis

Tove Jansson - Sleeping in the Roots, c.1930s - Credit: Yehia Eweis

The exhibition closed on 28 January (so sorry if you're reading this and are now desperate to visit!). It was very very busy (on a Friday morning in term time...) but just wonderful. I found the range of Tove's work really inspiring and it made me want to crack my paints out immediately (most specifically the gouache - I need to check what I have as a know I'm running a bit low..). I also spent time thinking about scale - perhaps working on some larger illustrations, if I can find the space in my tiny studio, and just all manner of different ideas.


So in my new spirit of experimenting with my work, I think it was quite timely. As well as making me want to do some painting, I felt inspired to do more sketching (I'm actually considering taking my sketchbook to a cafe this afternoon but I'm not sure I'm brave enough for that just yet!). As a fan of drawing buildings, Dulwich itself definitey doesn't dissapoint as it's just so pretty. This house was a VERY popular post on Instagram, and I feel an illustration coming on (maybe I'll actually paint it for a change!!).


I may need a lottery win to be able to afford to live in Dulwich, but it's a lovely place for a wander, and I would have spent longer if it hadn't been so bitingly cold. There was also the lure of Gail's and the cinnamon buns, which I'm sure are meant for 2-3 people to share, but I persevered like a trooper!

I'm detemined not to let any more exhibitions pass me by this year - maybe I need to start viewing these things as work rather than just a nice day out. My lack of such experiences last year definitely showed when it came to my (lack of) new work, so...

What's next? I think it's nearly time to book Orla Kiely and I'm expecting that one to be very good/inspiring/overwhelming.

Tove Jansson (1914-2001) was on at Dulwich Picture Gallery from 25 October 2017 and closed on 28 January 2018. Next up they have a rather interesting looking exhibition of paintings from Canadian artist David Milne (from 14 February).

Orla Kiely: A Life in Pattern will be at the Fashion & Textile Museum and opens on 25 May 2018.

Back to School Part 2...

Drawing, Pattern DesignKate Marsden

The final two assignments for the Make it in Design Winter School tested me again! This time it was the advanced brief that I was really drawn to...

Cyanotype Square for Instagram_edited-1.jpg

Somewhat confusingly entitled Fauna Cyanotype (when there wasn't any Fauna in sight!!), I had fun turning my hand drawn motifs into a cyanotype style design.

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The intermediate brief was Kabuki's Kingdom, and for someone who's a fan of Japan, I found this really tricky! I came up with a lot of (substandard!) designs before settling on the one below.

Japan Room Set 2_edited-1 Small.jpg
Japan 1 v3_edited-2.jpg
Patterned Polka Dots Repeat Tile.jpg
Japan 3 Repeat_edited-1.jpg

Now to take these experiments and apply them to new ideas for my shop (or not!)... I am working on some new things as I type so watch this space. As I mentioned back in the autumn, I'm not planning a full new collection launch this spring but there will be a few bits and bobs, including new fabric!

See how I got on with the first Winter School briefs here.

Things to Look Forward to in February

Events, Exhibition, Inspiration, Month in the LifeKate Marsden

So I'm trying something new... for about 5 years now (yes 5 - quite ridiculous!) I've been starting each month by looking back on the last one. Last year in particular I found that a touch depressing (in a kind of ticking off the days until it ends sort of a way) so this year rather than going through the previous month, I'm going to list some things to look forward to in the new one! And here's my first stab at it...


February can be a bit of a miserable month. It's still pretty dark, the weather is still rubbish, and summer is a long long way away... However it is getting lighter, and:

1. Pancakes!!!! Who doesn't like a pancake? Enjoy lots of pancakes with toppings of your choice on Shrove Tuesday (13 February).

2. Go and see the Elizabeth Friedlander exhibition at Ditchling Museum of Art & Craft - it's open now and I'm hoping to go this month.

3. I'm also hoping to go and look at some fab upholstery at the National Centre for Craft & Design.


4. I have my first workshop of 2018 lined up on Satuday 24th - come and make a painted lampshade with me!

5. Valentines Day - can be good or bad depending on how you look at it, but increasingly it's about friends and family and doing nice things for people you care about rather than just the mushy stuff, and I think this has to be a good thing/excuse to do some crafting...

6. Joanne Payne (of Adventures & Tea Parties) is running a Colour My Everyday challenge on Instagram (it started on Monday but goes on until Sunday so there's still time to get involved/take in all the colour).


6. It's still cold and dark enough to justify lighting the fire.

7. From 22-25 February you can visit Collect at the Saatchi Gallery - I found this really inspiring last year - be prepared for very high end craft.

8. The spring bulbs are starting to appear. I'm looking forward to the daffs and then my really blousy tulips in another couple of months.

9. The Modigliani exhibition continues at Tate Modern.

10. Oh, and if you really do hate February, it's a nice short month so payday (and March!) will be here soon!


What do you have planned? Anything I should add to my list?

A Portfolio Boost...

Books, Pattern Design, Paper, Sewing, Studios, TextilesKate Marsden

I've not just been working on some interesting (and quite different) industry led briefs in the Winter School this month, I've been woring on some of my own ideas too (and entering some competitions - more on those another time).


For serveral months, I've been noting down any ideas for little things I could work on to enable me to add some more varied work, and I've started going through that list. The first, which I completed last week, is a cover for one of my favourite books. I went so far as to make an actual mock up of the completed jacket! I give you To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf...


It's just printed onto bog standard paper so the colour representation isn't perfect. Here's the pattern I produced, which is a reworked and recoloured version of one I worked on about 3 years ago...

To The Lighthouse Square for Portfolio.jpg

I've added some more images of the mock up at the end of this post.

Back in October at the Knitting & Stitching Show I took part in a Gelli printing workshop which was great fun (and messy - I rarely get messy nowadays and that needs remedying!). I asked for a Gelli plate for Christmas and I finally cracked that out for a play a couple of weeks ago and did lots of lovely, messy printing!


I'm keen to play with more texture in my pattern designs, but I'm also thinking of producing a short run of monoprints for my Etsy shop. Let's see...

A couple of weeks ago I made some dolls, inspured by the ladies I used to draw when I was studying fashion. This was also really good fun - even if I did make a few mistakes in the planning stages - I'm going to get some more printed up and I'll be making them soon.


So at the moment I seem to have gone from complete drought to ideas overload (and I think this is a good thing!). For once I'm allowing myself to go off on a bit of a tangent, before I get all sensible again and start to reign it in! I'll no doubt be sharing yet more new things soon, so watch this space.


The Just A Card/Top Drawer Experience!

EventsKate Marsden

As I mentioned in my post last Monday, the Just A Card team had the amazing opportunity to take our campaign to the Top Drawer trade fair at London Olympia. Here are a few shots from my day there on the Monday.

It's fair to say that we were all pretty tired afterwards, but we had a very successful event, handing out shop stickers and spreading the word far and wide! Head over to the Just A Card website and join our mailing list to be the first to find out about upcoming events and plans (and to see how you can support us too!). If you came along to say hello (and some of my blog readers did - hello!) thank you very much!

 With the founder of the campaign,  Sarah Hamilton

With the founder of the campaign, Sarah Hamilton

 Beautiful work from  London Calligraphy

Beautiful work from London Calligraphy

 Team Members  Victoria Wright  and  Michael Fram

Team Members Victoria Wright and Michael Fram

 The flyers, the window stickers and Sarah's book! Thanks to  for dontating the stickers and flyers.

The flyers, the window stickers and Sarah's book! Thanks to for dontating the stickers and flyers.

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Back to School...

Inspiration, London, Pattern DesignKate Marsden

In the interests of boosting the portfolio, I signed up to the Make it in Design Winter School. I took part in their summer school several years ago (when the little man was still at nursery, so I actually had some time to myself in the summer holidays!) and found it useful, so I thought this might be a nice kickstart for 2018...

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Winter School is split into three tracks - Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced, and I signed up to both the Intermediate and Advanced briefs. What's particularly nice is the fact that you get a detailed brief, which may be radically different to the kind of work you usualy produce (it certainly is in my case anyway!) and it's great for pushing you out of your comfort zone and adding new and interesting work to the portfolio.

I submitted my first pieces last week, and by the time you're reading this I expect I'll be cracking on with the next ones. I most enjoyed the Intermediate brief on this occassion, as I really stuggled to get inspired by the advanced one (the theme for that was American Prairie - very similar to something I'd worked on before, and I'd stuggled to find anything to interest me then - this time was no better!). The intermediate brief still pushed me out of the old comfort zone though, as it was florals (the theme was Bright Blooms), and as we all know... I don't do florals!

I submitted the main blue design shown above and below, but also worked up a few others to accompany it, shown here...

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As I mentioned, inspiration for the advanced brief was not forthcoming...! I did manage to pull one design together though - the only thing I could get even vaguely excited about was looking at quilts, so here's my submitted design on a room set mock up (it includes some drawn quilting stitches which aren't terribly clear in this image)...

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In addition to the main creative briefs, we're also set some shorter exercises. For the intermediate track, the first one of these was to create a colour pallet inspired by the current season wherever we are. So here's mine, taken from my photo of Notting Hill a couple of weeks ago.

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And for advanced, we were encouraged to make our own washi tape. I ran out of time to paint up pieces of tissue etc but had a go with some offcuts of my Battersea fabric...


Keep your eyes out for another post in a couple of weeks sharing how I got on with the second set of briefs.

So far, I'm considering working up a full quilting fabric collection based on Bright Blooms, and also thinking about designing a Notting Hill pattern. Watch this space!

I made a book!

Books, Inspiration, Photography, ProductsKate Marsden

As I reached the end of my 365 project back in December, I started to think about making something to mark the end of it. I did manage the whole year after all (and nobody was more surprised about this than I was!). Then I came across Blurb and decided to make myself a book (by the way this is not a sponsored post)...


It's small, but perfectly formed, and I absolutely love it!


Now, Blurb books come with an ISBN (which excited me more than is natural) and you can sell your books through them or Amazon. I was really keen to list it on Amazon, but aside from the fact that the books end up costing a small fortune to buy, the terms and conditions as the owner of the book left me quaking in my boots, so I'm giving that a miss for the time being!


That hasn't stopped me wanting to share it with the world though, so it's currently available as a pdf download in my Etsy shop (at about a 5th of the price it would've been for a hard copy). Blog readers can also save 20% on this using code COLOURBOOK - the code is valid until the end of January and you can find full details in the listing.





Just A Card at Top Drawer!

Events, ShoppingKate Marsden

When this post goes live it will be the Just A Card team's second day at Top Drawer in London! Back in the autumn we were given the amazing opportunity of a free stand (thanks to Top Drawer and The Greetings Card Association!) and offered to produce shop window stickers for us to hand out to promote the campaign.

For those of you who've somehow missed my involvement with Just A Card you can read about it here and meet the team here.


We have 2000 shop window stickers to give away and the plan is that they will appear in shops all over the country, raising the profile of the campaign with consumers. Hopefully they'll all be recognising the Just A Card logo very soon and parting with their small change!


If you're visiting Top Drawer please do come along and see us - I'll be there today (Monday) and the team will be there tomorrow too. It's a first opportunity for some of us in the team to meet each other, and to really talk to lots of people at once about the campaign, so we're rather excitied!

If you can't make it to Top Drawer but would like a sticker for your shop, keep an eye on the website for details of how to get hold of one after the event.

False starts, plans and intentions

Business, ExhibitionKate Marsden

I'm writing this from bed, as I'm not well (yet again). 2017 was not a great year for me in so many respects and I'm keen to just put it behind me if I'm honest, but one of the most irritating things about it was the fact that I felt like I was ill (with one thing or another) pretty much ALL the time. I'm sure my anxiety about my business and a few personal things didn't help this at all, but on this occassion I'm on antibiotics so I've decided it's time to let myself have a proper rest (it's a rest and not really a false start!).

Back in Novemeber when I made my big decision to change my business, my plan was to take the best part of January off. Clear my head and sort out what I wanted to focus on. But before the school holidays were over my diary was already almost full with "stuff". Being unwell has forced me to cancel some things, and take a harder look at whether I need to be doing all of the others, and I suppose that's positive.


One thing I have started looking at is my Dream Plan Do planner. I had one last year too and I have to admit that I struggled (the fact that I filled it in in pencil is quite telling). I don't think I really realised in January 2017 that I was going to have such a terrible year sales wise, and that I'd be forced to make a change - 2016 had been great and I just needed to keep building on that... but when I look back on my 3 juicy goals and my plans written a year ago (which I spent nearly two months writing) they don't exactly scream optimism, in fact I don't really sound all that keen.

In the end I spent 2017 mostly firefighting. Not creating very much new work, desperately trying to shift £3 notebooks and making less money than I did the year before. My husband told me in November that I had to face reality and I think that was it - I'd convinced myself that it just had to work, failure wasn't an option, and I'd keep on going until it killed me...

Fast forward to today (having partially achieved 2 of last year's 3 goals and failed totally at the 3rd) and I actually feel that I'm in a better position to plan. I raced through the first 47 pages of this year's planner (yes 47!) in pen - I have a plan I think I can stick to (if I manage to avoid being sick CONSTANTLY) and it's all sounding a lot more positive. February's chapter is about finances though so I may well come unstuck there again!

I like that Patricia (van den Akker of The Design Trust who wrote the planner) has placed a stronger emphasis on self care and things other than your business this time, as I've come to realise that this is essential for me. 2017 found me spending a lot more time with (read worrying myself sick over) friends and family - this year I'm aiming to spend more time with them without so much of the worrying! And of course there's my health...

I did that thing everyone does, and joined a gym and cut down on alcohol at the beginning of December (to be fair it was pretty quiet down there!). I'm absolutely loving going (and gutted that I'm not there at the moment - hopefully the antibiotics will kick in and I'll be swimming by the time you're reading this) - my aim is to fix my bad back, feel generally more positive (and less panicky), and hopefully loose a bit of weight (I'm not going on a diet as such - I hate them - I'd rather move more and still eat cake).


So, my overall goal for 2018 is to be easier on myself and look after myself better. Other than that, I have the following plans at the moment (they might change - plus my first Dream Plan Do goal is for three months so there will be new ones in the spring anyway).

  • Go to the gym as often as I can, even if it's just for a quick swim and a dip in the jacuzzi.
  • Plan some fun things with friends and family (which will hopefully be easier to do as it's my big birthday year...)
  • Diarise trips into town to see exhibitions as I didn't do this enough last year. On my list at the moment are: Rachel Whiteread and Tove Jansson (need to get my skates on for these two), Orla Kiely, Red Star Over Russia and Modigliani, Elizabeth Friedlander and Frida Kahlo...
  • Plan some photowalks and trips with just a couple of people - not opening them up to others/giving me masses of work to do for very little reward.
  • Business wise:
    • Relaunching with a clear strategy - so this involves properly planning out what I intend to offer and what I don't, along with improving my communication with regard to what I do - revamping my website to reflect this and then just getting on with it.
    • Boosting my portfolio - as I said I mostly fought fires last year and the lack of new, interesting work I have to show is holding me back. I've already started on this.
    • Finally sorting out Pinterest and SEO for my blog - which I've been avoiding as it's not fun, and I don't really know what I'm doing...

So there we go. Nothing too major. I've never been one for embracing change and if 2017 taught me anything it's that I need to learn how to. My ideas about what I want my life and my business to look like in the future have changed (and to be fair, are rather hazy at the moment) but that shouldn't matter. I've also learnt that tenacity is good but there comes a point where ploughing on regardless with something that isn't working is really damaging.

Watch this space for some new stuff (very soon!), oh and if you see me flagging, do give me a kick and remind me of what my priorities need to be!


A (belated) Happy New Year! And looking back on December...

Month in the LifeKate Marsden

After the longest blog break I've ever taken, I'm back and (sort of) raring to go into 2018! I'm starting off with my regular month in the life feature, but in the interests of mixing things up (as that seems to be what I'm all about at the moment...) this may well be the last one in this format. Let's see....


So, here's a little roundup of my December highlights. I'll start thinking more about this year later in the week.


A family trip to the London Illustration Fair - which (perhaps surprisingly) went down well with everyone!

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Doing my Just A Card duty... I bought almost all of my Christmas presents at Crafty Fox Market or in Brixton Village on the same day, and felt pretty smug...


I reduced my alcohol intake and joined a gym. At the beginning of December. As you do... Still going well as I type, and I'm pretty sure this is one of the best decisions I've made in a long time!


A gave a talk to a room full of students at Coulsdon College - which was a little nervewracking but they were all super-friendly and nice, asking great questions, and I think I might've actually enjoyed it...


We had some cracking sunrises and sunsets.


I visited my beloved Barbican Centre for the launch of the latest Dream Plan Do book from Patricia van den Akker of The Design Trust (I'll be talking more about the planner later in the week).


I had stalls at two Crafty Fox Markets as well. The first at The Geffrye Museum...


...and the second at Mercato Metropolitano in Elephant & Castle (where they have fantastic food - you should check it out if you're in the area).


Finally (before all the festive stuff set in - you probably don't want to hear about that now!), I started preparing for the Quilters Fabric Sale THIS COMING WEEKEND at Farnham Maltings. Come and see me there on Sunday 14 January for BARGAINS!!!