A little bit of heaven

17 April 2015

I was here, in a glorious little bit of the English Countryside, not really known to me but really only a couple of hours drive from Milton Keynes (so for all my lovely readers in other continents, just around the corner really!)

 And so, yes it could also be said that I was yet again satisfying my shed addiction.

But this isn't any old shed.  This belongs to Laura Kemshall and is in fact her Wooden House. And her little wooden house is in possibly one of the prettiest villages I have ever been to.  It is in a little village called Worfield in Shropshire, but only 10 miles or so from Wolverhampton so not so far from Birmingham.

And you have to cross a wooden bridge to get to the wooden house - which on a glorious spring day just made my heart sing!

And I was there to do an Altered Book workshop.

Now, if you pop back here on a frequent basis, you will know that I often make books.  In fact I really do love making books, and if you pop over here you can see 'Have a Heart' which I made quite recently.

But I have never really got into altering books, and as Laura was offering a workshop it seemed an ideal opportunity to go and play and also inspect the converted Cricket Pavilion - the Wooden House.

So, let's start with the Wooden House.

What can I tell you, except that to call it a 'shed' is, well, downright rude!

It has a little kitchenette at the back and a loo (completely self contained - you could live there!) and the light airy space is so fabulous.  In the renovations they kept the original sliding windows (ideal for serving cucumber sandwiches I am sure) and replaced the shingle roof.  It is quite magical.

Now, that is my only interior shot because I was there to work! I put my head down and boy did I work hard that day!

In fact, I worked so hard that I did not catalogue the whole process with photos, so there are a few gaps here!

First of all, choose your book.

Now I had already bough a book an reptiles from a local charity shop, not because I am particularly drawn to the subject but because the pictures are lovely and the paper feels almost like a rag paper.

I knew it would work and the images would challenge me.

Laura started off by showing us how to prepare the pages and how to start to give the book interest by snipping away and giving shapes etc.

She also showed us how to group the pages with either matt medium or stitch.

This is the second book I chose to work on.  Older than the first, with much flimsier paper.  It is a book about art, but with no pictures of any art!  How bizarre but what an opportunity - and some lovely words and phrases sang out at me.

And then with some stitch in place it starts getting creative.

My old friend Gesso here,

but here, using matt medium to cover a page a make a resist.

We used a water based drawing ink that Laura supplied ready mixed to create these backgrounds and the water based products are resisted by the medium, unlike acrylic paint that would simple cover it up.  I just love this effect.  And look at that fabulous oval aperture - created using an oval cutting tool (something to add to my shopping list!)

At lunchtime (and don't get me started on the fabulous food that Laura plied us with all day - that could be a whole blog post in itself what with the morning shortbread, the afternoon muffins and the lunchtime quiche - dropped in by Linda!) we popped over to the other studio, just across the front drive, to see the throbbing hub of the Fingerprint workshop.

And here is the beast itself, in effect a great big digitl printer, big enough to take a roll of fabric.

And a view of the studio with the display shelves at the end.

 Here is that first gessod paged, with ink and words highlighted.

And again, with more ink added.  It was such a good drying day that I was able to build up layers of ink.

My messy little corner in the Wooden Shed.

 And another page in the reptiles book, on the left using matt medium as the resist and using a simple mask to apply the matt medium before adding the ink.

 We also used oil pastels to create a resist.

This is a cheap brand that is new to me.  I am not really a pastels user, but I did enjoy the process.  These had a lot of pigment and felt more like a wax crayon than a greasy pastel.

Of course, Laura had some work for us to look at (done either by herself or Linda).  The butterflies below are created by bleaching out the ink.  I am going to try that!

The same is true of the spots in this book too.

And back to mine!

These pages are done using one of my favourite techniques, stencilling gesso through a stencil to create a variation on the page below.

And on the right hand side here, I stamped some matte medium to create an interesting back ground.  I love the possibilities with matte medium.

More resist using matte medium.

There is still a very long way to go with these two books. 

I have to finish at least one more piece of work for the open studio but I think I might use these as my demo pieces at the studio (if I don't get them finished first).

But do treat yourself to a day with Laura.  Details of all her courses can be found here. 


  1. You lucky thing you! The work looks fabulous. I'm looking forward to seeing how you move on with these.

    1. Thanks, I've already dabbled some more. It was just the most brilliant day.

  2. It looks a beautiful space to be creative in and you achieved a lot in the time. Sounds like a fab day all round. Look forward to seeing some more of your altered books.

  3. Looks like a lot of fun. I am too far away or I would love to take the class.

    1. Shirlee, am I right in thinking you're across the pond? In which case I guess it is a bit far! Thanks for dropping by though and for leaving a comment.

  4. It was lovely to meet you in the Wooden House Hilary - it was truly a wonderful day! It's a pity we didn't get to see what each other had done but thank goodness for blogger. Love your "Have a Heart" book.

    1. Lynn - good to meet you too, and I found your blog as well. It will be interesting to see how the Altered Books develop.

  5. What an interesting post! The thought of a day with the Kemshalls is very inviting. I have used their fabric printing service (very successfully) so it was lovely to see the 'Big Beast' printer.

  6. Oh wow! Another shed I could LIVE in and be a happy happy princess! GORGEOUS! I'm REALLY glad you had some fun with book altering...it becomes addictive after a while. I've gone from being an obsessive bibliophile to being someone who looks at every book with an eye to maiming or evicerating the poor thing in the name of art! And fabulous it is too! Love your alterations - especially using the resist techniques;it's so effective! Spectacular. Hugs from Shroo:)xxx

    1. I was taught never to deface a book, but apparently charity shops end up pulping a lot, so I feel a bit better knowing that.

      I will post more as their progress develops.

      And I'm still dreaming of the shed! I could move in!!


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