Final Major Project #1

As I recently mentioned, I have now started work on my final major project at uni, which is the very last chunk of my art foundation course and is what I will ultimately be graded on. It is a ten week long project and we can choose to do it on any subject we like. We are completely free to write our own brief and spend the ten weeks how we see fit. The end result will be an exhibition which will go up alongside all of the degree shows at Manchester School of Art in June which will be open to the public!

The overarching title of my project is ‘Experimental Typography’. Throughout my foundation experience in the graphic design area, I have taken a keen interest in typography and this now reflects in both my work and research. However, so far this has always been within the context of a larger subject matter. For my FMP, I want typography to be the main focus, taking influence from designers such as Paul ElIiman, Oded Ezer and Stefan Sagmeister.  
I thought I'd share some of my initial work for the project. The images here are of an alphabet I created using cake. The idea began as I wanted to write 'A Piece Of Cake' using cake letters. The rest of the images are a selection of the extensions I completed following on from this, from burning the alphabet to a crisp, to making a negative with icing sugar. It was a lot of fun and it's always a bonus when you can eat the work afterwards!
I'm thinking about posting updates on my work as I progress through the ten weeks if that's something people would like to see? Please let me know if it is!

Mini Review: Home Sweet Home, Manchester

This will be my first ever food review post so please excuse me if I don't know exactly how this type of blogging goes! This week I visited Home Sweet Home in Manchester's northern quarter with my friends to celebrate the end of our second term at art school. If you live in Manchester, you'll already know that the northern quarter is known for it's distinctive style, alternative culture and quirky cafes. I'd heard good things about Home Sweet Home before and even walked past it a few times, however it always seems to be packed at the weekend so I had never tried it. We visited on a Thursday afternoon and while still reasonably busy, we didn't have to wait to sit down. 

Since we didn't have any I can't comment on the hot food, but what can I say to even begin to describe their incredible cake offerings? The photo here hardly does these masterpieces justice. They were all so creative and unique, and not only do they look spectacular but they also taste amazing. One thing I am always wary about when it comes to over-the-top wacky cake decorations is that the cake itself is often dry and tasteless. I needn't worry though, the sponge was perfectly baked, soft and very very tasty. I had a gorgeous white chocolate sponge cake with mint flavoured buttercream topped with just about everything sweet and bad for you; it tasted exactly like mint choc-chip ice-cream! At £4.50 a slice it certainly isn't cheap, however if you're looking for the wow factor and a good old sit down in a cosy environment, it's so worth it. 

In terms of the service, unfortunately I can't say I was overly impressed. It was quite slow and our drinks order and bill both came wrong. However, both situations were rectified quickly so it didn't impact our lovely afternoon really. To sum up I think the clue is in the name here, such a homely little place to stop, relax and natter. After all, what more does one need to celebrate if not a cup of tea and a slice of glittery cake?

5 Truths Louise Gardiner Taught Me

For anybody who doesn't already know, Louise Gardiner is a textile artist who uses machine embroidery alongside painting, drawing and applique to create her beautiful work. She draws freehand with her sewing machine to create wonderfully vibrant textile pieces. She also happens to be an alumnus of the exact same foundation course I am currently studying at Manchester School of Art. This week therefore, I was lucky enough to meet her in person, listen to her talk about her own work but also pick her brains about how we creatives get by the world. I found her to be such an incredibly inspiring lady and I took a lot from the experience. She seemed to be one of those people who just beams inspiration and I left feeling very motivated to get out there and achieve exactly what it is I want from life. So, with about six full pages of notes and a voice memo recording in front of me, I thought I'd share five of the things I learnt from meeting the wonderful Louise Gardiner.

1. "Rejections shaped my career"

Of course we all like to be told that our work is wonderful and lovely and brilliant, however, at some point along the way, somebody is going to turn around and say they think our portfolio is a load of crap. It's hard to imagine that anyone could ever have a bad word to say about Louise's beautiful embroidery, but she admitted that though difficult, it was the negative comments that truly pushed her to reflect on her work and move forward in her creative career. She now embraces her critics, even when negative comments are hard to hear.

2. "Gallery owners all drive 4X4s for some reason"

Far from trying to scare us off from the big bad world of gallery owners, Louise took us on the journey of her career. Starting as a new graduate where she organised all of her own exhibitions, through to moving onto having her exhibitions organised by an agent and subsequently sacrificing 50% of her earnings, and eventually realising that there is a reason why gallery owners all drove fancy cars and she didn't, finally deciding to revert back to organising the exhibitions for herself. With this lighthearted quip, what Louise Gardiner was trying to explain was the way in which the art world worked, and the fact that at least for her, going it alone made more sense.

3. "Start archiving your work now"

During her lecture, Louise showed us an array of beautiful images of her work both past and present. However, she was forced to apologise for the fact that she wasn't able to show us any work from when she herself was doing the art foundation course. She explained that this was because she never organised her work and archived it properly, therefore it had been lost. Several times she mentioned the importance of taking good quality photographs of all of our work, and that in hindsight she wished she would have begun organising her work from the very beginning. 

4. "Self promotion is everything"

Opportunity is everywhere if you have your eyes and ears peeled at all times. My experience meeting Louise made me truly realise the fact that nobody is going to like your work unless you love it yourself. Getting noticed is a full time job that requires a whole lot of grit and determination. So get out there, talk to people in the industry, carry a business card wherever you go and seek opportunities to promote yourself in any given situation.

5. "Most people never get a 'lucky break'"

This was a very interesting and important point and one which I think I will remember for a long time to come. The truth is, most people never get that one lucky break that sets off their career like a skyrocket. In her 40s, Louise Gardiner says she is still waiting for hers to arrive. But this does not mean that you have no chance of being successful, it simply means that a career is built on lots of little breaks rather than one groundbreaking moment. You just have to work hard, immerse yourself in creativity and do things that set you apart from the crowd, and little by little you will see your opportunities snowball. 

5 Lessons I Have Learnt At Art School

I can't quite believe that I have now started work on my Final Major Project, which means it's the beginning of the end of my first year at art school and of my foundation course. It's all gone by so quickly, it really doesn't seem like more that a couple of months ago that I was walking though the doors of this big scary building on my first day not knowing what to expect, how to dress, what to do and what I was even interested in. I feel like I have come such a long way in knowing what my direction might be in art and design as well as developing my artistic skills. I have learnt such a great deal in a relatively short amount of time and today I thought I'd share 5 of the valuable lessons I have learnt over the past academic year.

1. Breaking Up Projects Is Key

As it happens, my final major project is really the only project on my foundation course which will last longer than a few weeks. The projects up until this point have been very quick, which I have become quite fond of because it stops things going stale. However, even shorter projects can be broken down with quick one day or even one morning projects. I've found that I have created some of my best work under the time pressure of 24 hours, work which can easily stand up next to the final result of longer projects in my portfolio. Breaking things down into small projects just forces you to stop THINKING and start DOING and can really help you make the most of the time available.

2. You Can Achieve A Lot In A Day

As I have said, quick one day projects have been a key part of my art foundation experience. But even day-to-day, it really is amazing what you can achieve in just 24 hours if you set your mind to it. Make a to do list, set an ambitious goal and stick to it, tell your peers what you will have done by the end of the working day so you are held accountable. Everyday has the potential for you to create your best piece of work.

3. Sharing Your Work Is A Good Thing

Before I came to art school, I was very reserved about my own artwork. I didn't like to share it with others and I kept my projects very private. But I was swiftly thrown in at the deep end and encouraged to come out of my shell and share my work, thoughts and ideas with others. Now I'm a convert and a completely changed person! I love to show my work to other people, collaborate and bounce off each other. I even share photos of my work on this blog, Instagram and Facebook which is something I wouldn't dream of doing not long ago. Collaboration is key to creativity, there's nothing more inspiring than learning off of each other.

4. There Are People Out There Just Like Me

Nobody else in my family has ever been particularly creative, and I've never really been around people that 'get' my love of art. So it was a very new and refreshing experience to be around people every single day who are just like me, and share the same traits of collecting *hoarding* everything, taking photographs at every given opportunity and just being generally more creatively minded. I firmly believe that you just cannot use up your creativity, the more of it you use, the more of it you gain, and so being around people that inspire you on a daily basis is key to unlocking your creative potential.

5. Graphic Design Is Far More Than Just Posters

By far my biggest discovery since starting at art school is my love of graphics. I hold my hands up and admit that I had previously written off graphic design as a boring monotonous job for ‘MAC monkeys’, and not something where I could express myself freely in any way that I wanted. Oh how much I had to learn. I now specialise in graphic design and will continuing it onto degree level in September. Never once have I been held back or told I can’t do something because it doesn’t fit into the umbrella of graphic design. That is why a foundation course is so valuable - it challenges all of the rules drilled into you during your a-level.

Monster Birthday Cake Bake

I realise it's been a ridiculously long time since I last did a baking post, and that makes me quite sad because I've noticed that lately I've just seemed too busy to bake. But I thought today would be the perfect opportunity to change that so I'm really excited to be posting this! It's my boyfriends birthday today and it has become a sort of tradition that I bake him a surprise cake every year. 
I'd seen similar cakes to this one on Pinterest but when I clicked through they had always been done by a professional baker or baking company, so obviously no how-to instructions! Despite this, I thought I'd just have a go with the skills that I already have and see what I could come up with. So here is my attempt at a monster cake!

I started with four plain sponge cakes, I use Mary Berry's all-in-one cake recipe but you can use whichever one you feel comfortable with. Three of the cakes will be used to stack and make the main body of the cake, while one will be crumbled up to make the cake-pop mixture.

After making the basic cakes I began the decorating process by making the cake-pops, as these are by far the most time consuming part if you don't have a lot of experience with them like me! I have made them before but only once so I don't own a cake-pop tin, so I used the crumbled cake mix method. There are plenty of videos on YouTube of how to do this but really, all you do is crumble up the cake into small bits (I cut off the crust beforehand), and add a scoop of buttercream/frosting so it becomes sticky enough to roll into ball shapes. It's a good idea to use your 'worst' cake for this bit because it doesn't matter if it's a bit misshapen! Once you've rolled them up and added the sticks, I found it helpful to refrigerate them for 10 minutes before decorating so that they were bound together a bit better. I then dipped them in white chocolate and put them in the fridge to fully set.

Next I moved on to icing the cake. I used the same plain buttercream which I added to the cake-pop mix to stack the three cakes on top of each other. Then I made up some more buttercream and coloured it orange (go for whatever colour you want!). I then scooped it into a piping bag and used a nozzle which looks like a star but with a flat edge on one side. Starting from the bottom, I iced little vertical dashes in a circle around the cake, and then made my way up ring by ring, slightly overlapping each row.  This can be quite time consuming but keep at it because it really does look lovely and 'fury' once done!

All that the cake needed then was the finishing touches. I cut out five circles from royal icing that I had coloured black and stuck one to each of the cake-pops with a small blob of buttercream. Then I arranged them into two rows of eyeballs at different heights. The mouth is just cut from royal icing, a black strip and four white triangles for the teeth.

And voilĂ ! This was such a fun cake to make, and although it can be time consuming with the extra element of the cake-pops, it isn't too difficult at all and the result is well worth it because it went down brilliantly with my boyfriend!

If you have any questions about how I created this cake just leave a comment below and I'd love to answer them. Also do let me know what you think about the cake and if you decide to give it a go!


20 Things I Want To Do Before I'm 20

Having just celebrated my 19th birthday, I can't help but think about the fact that this is my last year as a teenager. I have to admit, it's a very scary thought that this time next year I'll be in my twenties. I'll no longer be a something-teen, I'll be a twenty-somthing, and that's pretty daunting. So, for my last teenage year I thought I'd set out a list of 20 things I want to do or achieve by my 20th birthday. Some of them are just small things that I've been meaning to do for months or even years and just never gotten around to, while others are life changing decisions which will affect where I live for the next phase of my life. Hopefully in a years time I'll be writing about how I achieved all of the following...

1. Be studying on the degree that's right for me
2. Go to Chicago
3. Go to Glastonbury Festival
4. Get my eyebrows done professionally
5. Finish my art foundation and (fingers crossed) achieve a distinction
6. Really, properly clear out my wardrobe
7. Reach 100 Bloglovin' followers
8. Learn to meditate
9. Make a vision board
10. Start learning how to hand letter
11. Consider getting THAT tattoo if I still like the idea a year from now
12. Move out
13. Have a weekend away somewhere new
14. Go to a spa
15. Get to and maintain a weight I am happy with
16. Declutter
17. Wear more heels and lipstick
18. Start a regular personal sketchbook and keep it up
19. Get my hair cut
20. Go go-karting, swimming, rock climbing, walking, running & play some badminton