Monday 20 March 2017

Dick Bruna - an inspiration in my life

I was born in 1970 and had many of his children's books as a child, including some Miffy books. I was a child who loved primary colours and my favourite colour was (and still is) yellow. My parents let me have a yellow bedroom with yellow walls, yellow curtains and yellow duvet. (which was quite 'cool' in those days. I even painted my wooden chair yellow. My sister in contrast was into pink flowery Laura Ashely.

It was when I was a music student years later in Manchester that I came across some vintage Miffy curtain fabric in a charity shop and made some cushions with it. I think my friends thought I was a bit old for this but I loved them.

When I was 22, and a full time violin teacher, I decided to make a children's board book for my sister's children and did this in the style of a Dick Bruna Miffy book. The pages were square and there was a simple sentence on a white page followed by illustrations on the opposite against a bold coloured background. I used poster paints and carefully cut out each illustration to then pritt stick onto the coloured paper backgrounds. The book was just for fun and I had no idea then that perhaps a small seed had been planted in my head for later years!

I changed my career in 2008 and left my music teaching career for good. It was during this year that my cards and prints were sold in Habitat and what made this more remarkable and special to me was that they were being sold alongside Dick Bruna's packs of cards!

I started to collect fabric in my 30s and was particularly drawn to vintage fabrics from the 50s, 60s and 70s. At one point, I had a huge collection of vintage children's fabrics and amongst the collection was some 70s Dick Bruna fabric. 

Over the past ten years or so I started collecting 70s puzzles and picture dominoes as I loved the artwork on them. My Dick Bruna children's book collection started to grow and I also started to find more and more Dick Bruna vintage items.

 My favourite being an original 70s child's toy that I bought in Holland around ten or so years ago.

I began making bags, cushions and purses with some of my original Miffy fabrics and a few years ago, I signed a contract with Miffy HQ to allow me to sell these items to the public as they liked my work and wanted me to help keep the Miffy brand alive and vibrant.

On May 1st 2015, my first baby board books were published by Templar. These were shortly followed by several other baby board books. As an illustrator, the attention I've given to the line I use in my work has definitely been influenced by Dick Bruna's use of line. My work has always been quite naive and simple and I've often given thought to what lines are relevant to add to my illustrations and which ones should be left out. I chose to use square format books and wanted to keep them small, a bit like the Miffy books. Obviously they're not a copy but you can see the subtle influence! Irene, Dick Bruna's wife was his primary critic, much in the same way my partner Jim is to me. I loved imagining Dick Bruna getting on his bicycle every day and having his regular coffee in his local cafe before working in his studio.

I was greatly shocked and saddened to hear of the death a few weeks ago of my favourite children's book illustrator Dick Bruna. He died on my Birthday on the 16th February and on hearing the news, I burst into tears. I was completely in shock and couldn't comprehend it, despite him being 89 -  I just couldn't imagine a life without him existing. I'd also had a hidden wish to meet him one day and feel incredibly sad I didn't make an effort to make this dream a reality - I just kept imagining one day. I wanted to thank him for his books and for being such an inspiration to me and my work.
I believe his work will live on for decades as it has a timeless quality. Many more generations of children and adults will enjoy his work and I shall definitely help keep his legacy alive.

Sunday 22 January 2017

Sunday beach trip - Gara Rock, Devon

It was a gloriously sunny day here in Devon today so we decided we needed to get out and have some fresh air. We asked our daughter where she'd like to go for a walk and she suggested a beach walk at Gara Rock. We parked at the top and took the coastal path down to the beach. The scenery is just breathtakingly beautiful from all angles. We passed some sheep which Polly calls the 'Blueberry sheep' as they've all got blue ink markings. There were only a handful of others on the beach and at one point, we spotted a seal who kept appearing, much to our daughter's amazement.
I looked for sea glass, driftwood and then lay on the sand soaking up the sun and listening to the large waves. Polly paddled and created a dam. The afternoon ended with drinks and falafel from the wonderful Gara Rock cafe.

Thursday 3 November 2016

Recharging my batteries - 2 day break in Cornwall

Yesterday morning I left the house at 8.30 am and drove all the way to Falmouth in Cornwall. It only takes two hours but I've not been back to Falmouth for years. I decided to go alone as I had a need to recharge my batteries after having spent what has seemed like months and months in my studio in solitude working on lots of new books. My partner and daughter were fine about me going away for 2 days and told me to enjoy myself. I occasionally go to London for meetings but haven't ever gone off like this alone on a mini adventure for years and years. I had a wonderful stimulating time and it was just what I needed. I walked around Falmouth, Penryn and Flushing, looking at new undiscovered streets, cafes, boats, art galleries etc...  It felt so good being somewhere new. I didn't take any work with me and I made a concerted effort not to check emails. I'm now back at home and have made a promise to myself to get away more! Here are some of my snapshots. Some of the coloured houses reminded me of when I lived in Hanover in Brighton - my first terraced house was pink with turquoise window boxes.

Friday 21 October 2016

Jane Foster's Screen Printed Toy Santas

I designed this toy Santa a few years ago now and although I've designed a few more Christmas toys since, I still love my first design so have launched it again for this Christmas over in my ETSY shop. It began life as a simple fine line drawing using black ink before being exposed onto a silk screen for me to screen print onto fabric in my studio. I hand print, make and stuff each one individually making sure each one is in perfect condition. These are great for popping into a child's stocking - my daughter still loved the one I made for her.

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Becoming a minimalist - Jane Foster

I usually listen to TED talks whilst I'm working in the studio and for some reason, I've gone through a phase of listening to lots and lots of them recently, end on. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a TED talk about minimalism with Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus .It struck such a chord with me that I've not been the same since. I then went on to watch a documentary on minimalism that was shown all over the States. I suddenly realised that this was how I wanted my life to become and that for years and years now I've been going down the wrong path! (I'm very hard on myself and I'm saying this slightly tongue in cheek!). I believe that often in life there's a readiness to when we're ready for change so coming across this new way of living has coincided with me having found true happiness and contentment with my career at last.  - Let me go back twenty years or so ago  -  I studied for 6 years after my A levels (5 years at music college and then one year PGCE) before spending over 2 years abroad volunteering in Cambodia with VSO. I remember at the time my thoughts were to volunteer with VSO before I got into the possible trap of having a UK job and possessions etc.. - I thought it was perfect timing as I'd not been used to a wage and so therefore wouldn't miss not having one. I'm so glad I went abroad for those years and to some degree, they were two incredibly happy years as I was doing something that felt worthy, I was challenging myself in many areas, I was free, had exciting new experiences, made fabulous friendships and created my own entertainment as there wasn't any electricity (I had a generator that sometimes worked) I didn't have a phone or TV or not even any hot water. (and the cold water we did have had to be distilled every day). When I later returned to the UK and got stuck into various teaching jobs, I began to slowly (or perhaps sometimes quickly!) fill my life up with 'stuff'! I guess as I'd not been used to earning money, whenever I did have any extra salary, I bought things for my home and gradually accumulated various collections of anything I could find, ranging from old furniture from car boot sales, ceramics, vintage fabrics, records, books etc... I then became a home owner and had all the costs that owning a home incur such as renovating, painting, new bathroom etc.. ......... twenty years later and living in my fourth home at the age of 46, I now realise that very little of what I was spending my money on matters. I'd spent years defining myself through my belongings and now that I've somehow arrived at a place in my life where I'm happy in my everyday life and what I do (that is illustrating and screen printing for a living) I no longer need to spend money on filling my life with any more stuff but am now ready to do a lot of letting go and culling.
I've made a huge start with the long process of culling stuff in our house  - my partner is thrilled as he says he's always been a minimalist at heart (never buying possessions apart from the odd Grand Designs magazine as a treat!) and that I'm the one who has been the hoarder!
I've gone through each room, drawer, cupboard (and yes, have also read the Kon Mari method!) I've been ruthless, only keeping things that we use or love. I've felt lighter each day as if a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I can't wait to do the whole house and then tackle my studio.
I want to start living a more intentional life where I definitely buy less stuff and make better, more considered careful choices about what we choose to have in our home. Quality over quantity and making sure we buy things that will last years and not just one season.
I now have a fifth of the clothes I used to have on my clothes rail and all the rest have gone to charity, leaving items that I love and will definitely wear. I did the same exercise in the airing cupboard and couldn't believe how many sheets, duvet covers, towels etc... I'd purchased over the years. Again, I heavily culled to the extent that I actually enjoy opening the cupboard and seeing less! I can now find what I need!
We now have a minimalist space in the garden after having culled over 20 plant pots and containers (we invited friends to take them)  - we look out onto a calm deck, a few silver birch trees and grass. Believe it or not, I used to spend a lot of time in my day watering plants or not watering them and feeling guilty that they needed watering!
Becoming a minimalist is much more than just culling ones clutter and stuff and much more than the aesthetic minimalism you see in home magazines -  it's about leading a more intentional life in all areas - how we spend our time, what we eat, what commissions to say yes and no to etc.... I guess one reason I'm wanting to return to blog writing is that it's a platform for me to record my life without taking up any room. Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms might vanish in the future but everything tied into my own personal website is a way for me to document parts of my life without keeping actual belongings.
I'm looking forward to seeing where this path takes me - it's already felt incredibly liberating and I'm enjoying being in a much calmer space. I spend a lot of time looking at images on various Instagram sites I follow so it's lovely to create a calm environment to switch off in. Also, as I'm not a huge fan of housework and cleaning, it's much easier with less stuff and takes half the time! Will show some photos soon and will keep you updated!

Thursday 15 September 2016

Mini trip to London - Top Drawer 2016 - Jane Foster

I've recently returned from a few days in London  - my reason for the trip was to attend London's Top Drawer at Olympia. I travelled by train a day earlier so I could have a wander around London. I went to Liberty and a few other stores, just window shopping but looking at different designs that I wouldn't normally see here in Devon. It felt very indulgent staying in a hotel on my own, eating out alone, reading my book in cafes and wandering at my own pace. I visited Make International's stand at Top Drawer to see my new range displayed for the first time. It was very exciting and I was a bit overwhelmed. It's been over eight years ago now since I gave up my music teaching career to follow my new path - in those earlier years I spent almost every day frenetically screen printing and sewing, making hundreds (or more realistically thousands!) of toys, cushions and prints to sell from my website from a spare bedroom at home. Although I still screen print and sew, most of my time is now spent illustrating for children's books and working on designs for Make International. I hope you like my snap shots. * The chocolate waffles for breakfast was a real treat - this is what happens when I eat alone!

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Mini break to Cornwall - all in a day! - Jane Foster

We aren't having a family holiday as such this summer (due to various work deadlines) however, I am making sure we have the odd family day out so a few days ago we had a spontaneous day trip to Cornwall. We got up early and drove all the way to Marazion. It felt like a true holiday and although we were back by 10 o'clock, it had felt like we'd been away for a few days and was just the real break we all needed. Here are some snap shots. We managed to spend some time at Marazion on the beach overlooking St Mounts's Bay. We wandered around the various little art galleries and streets with beautiful painted white cottages and had a cream tea overlooking the sea. We also went to one of my favourite all time places for lunch - Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens in Gulval which has the most beautiful views, lovely contemporary building, superb tropical gardens and happens to be next to my favourite garden nursery specialising in succulents.

Cottages in Marazion

Succulents in a Marazion garden

Tremenheere Sculpture Garden and cafe

Tremenheere Nursery

St Mount's Bay, Marazion

Cottage in Marazion

Cottage garden in Marazion

Thursday 4 August 2016

Colouring Book News! - Jane Foster

Am so excited to be able to announce that my adult colouring book that I've been working on for the past few months is going to be published next April by Pavilion books. This is going to be my third book published by Pavilion, the first one being Fun With Fabric and the second Creative Craft With Kids. It's been hard to keep this new book a secret the past 6 months  - I've been drawing every day in my garden studio and various cafes around South Devon  - here are a few snap shots of illustrations in progress from over the past few months.