Saturday, 4 February 2012

A Week of the Craftiest Kind

Hello once more readers, hope you are all keeping toasty despite the plummeting temperatures (if you're on the other side of the world and all sunny, I'm jealous!) I've made it back from the glorious Sussex countryside and in particular, West Dean College, housed in this amazing mansion house. No photos inside I'm afraid, which is such a shame as it is amazing so we'll just have to make do with the outside.

West Dean is famed for its gardens which are open to the public (and which I'm afraid I was too busy to visit), but even the walk to the car park was scenic with a carpet of pretty snowdrops and crocuses.

What were you doing all last week, Hen? Crafty stuff, of course. With materials like this...

...and this...

If I show you these, I think you'll be getting the idea...

(This is Kim's basket, another lady attending the course; she has long collected Julie's work and was kind enough to bring in some of her collection to show us.)

..and now definitely so!

Yes, I have indulged myself in the company of twelve like-minded crafty folk and the wonderful tutoring of Julie Arkell. You may recall, I attended a workshop of Julie's in the Summer, to make fabric jewellery, this time, it was papier mache creatures!

Julie brought some of her fabulous work to inspire us.

Not just creatures, but houses too. Made of fabric? Died and gone to heaven!

The first evening, we had a leisurely time getting to know one another, having a drink in the bar followed by dinner, then going to the studio for a talk by Julie.

The next day, we were eager to get on. Out came the newspaper and glue and off we went, papier mache-ing like mad. We all let our inner six-year old out to play. The radiators were soon hogged by damp newspaper-y creatures of the weird and wonderful kind! (Yes, some of these photos were dark as we were allowed to work in the studio until 10pm).

The papier mache was fun but quite hard work. We had to work fairly speedily so that we could get our creatures dry and ready for subsequent layers to be applied and dried. Finally, after an exceptionally long day, their dried forms began to emerge and for those who chose to do so, it was time to get out the paints. (No, of course I could not wait to get my fabric out and line it all up.)

At this point, I was in my element. The many bags and baskets came out, full with bits of vintage lace, trims, buttons and all sorts. The needle started flying and the creatures came to life.

Spot the difference!

It was quite a full-on schedule (and there were the boys thinking I was going to return home all radiant and rested!) but undoubtedly so enjoyable. We couldn't tear ourselves away from transforming our creations and some truly fabulous and original items began to emerge. The papier mache sculpting was only the starting of making our creatures. The intricacy of making clothes, knitting ears and embroidering words onto patches for tiny creatures took many patient hours.

Diane's donkeys with their crocheted accessories drew oohs and ahhs of admiration.

Elizabeth had travelled all the way from America (as had two more ladies) to attend the course and wowed us with her funky knitted hair (for her creature, that is!)

Everyone had different skills to bring to the melting pot; some were sewers and makers, some were painters, some designers and so on. It was interesting that everyone produced highly individual pieces.

And me? Well, you will probably not be surprised to see the style of my creations!

I couldn't wait to make a fabric house (I probably should have showed you the other sides which are all made with different fabrics and have embroidered words), and the "winged creature" (based on one in Julie's book,) is probably my favourite.

A few more creatures emerged too, with bunny-like ears and fancy frocks of fabulous fabrics. The one on the right is called "Marvellous Mary" and I think her inspiration, who was kind enough to gift me some of the beautiful vintage fabrics, will hopefully be reading and approve.

I made a few other bits which require finishing touches so will save those for another day. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Munchkin is showing quite an interest in having a go himself so this will likely not be the last you see of papier mache!

And now, back down to earth!


  1. Oh my gosh...these are so fantastic...the house ...!!!!! What did you use for making the original shapes under the paper??? Wire? Well, I am going to have to have a go at them!!

  2. Theses are fabulous , I love them ! The house is gorgeous and all of your assorted creatures. You must have had an enormous amount of patience to make all of these but what great results, you should be really proud of yourself.

    Ann x

  3. Wow lucky you! What an amazing way to spend the week. The radiator photo really takes me back to my college days. My digs looked pretty much like this!
    Your creations are beautiful. Eldest Jam is reading over my shoulder and already dreaming up a house. Much needed inspiration on a chilly day - thank you!

  4. I love the papier mache things you've made. How did you get it so smooth? When I've attempted it it's always bumpy, lumpy!

  5. Oh WOW! You have made some really great things, they are fantastic!
    Julie xxxxxxxxx

  6. lucky you hen...the courses there are on my list(things to do before etc etc) i love the little house and pig, well done

  7. Looks like you had a fab week, you lucky girl. I want one of those houses, how did you make them? I've not done papier mache in a very long time :)

  8. These little creatures are way too cute, I love them!!! You will laugh, but I also adore the little mushroom. What a wonderful class, it looks like it was a ton of fun!!!
    Chris :o)

  9. Wow, what a fab time you have been having. Love your creations. Lizzie x

  10. Love that little house! Makes me want to run around the house looking for old newspapers!

  11. These are wonderful Hen , I LOVE your little creature...he look like he is running with his back leg off the ground .
    Your "rabbits" are too sweet , especially Mary . Looks like a wonderful course ...I'm jealous :0)
    Jacquie x

  12. West Dean is a gorgeous place. What bliss to do a course there.Great fun-always excellent to go somewhere away from home and learn something new.

  13. Oh you lucky ducky, what a fab course to go on!

    I love the things you have mad, so full of fun and totally jolly!xx

  14. Hi Hen, oh you lucky girl! What a fabulous course.
    I did just a one day workshop with Julie last year, would love to do a papier mache one.
    Your creations are great, no wonder Munchkin wants to have a go.
    I remember making papier mache heads for glove puppets as a child, amazing what wonderful items are made today.
    Carol xx

  15. Oh Hen, I thought you might be going there when you said Sussex. It's a most fabulous place, and I have looked at it many times for courses.

    You made some of the most fabulous treasures, I adore your new header!

    My favourite has got to be your house! It is so gorgeous, and your measuring tape smoke is brilliant. Have you made something (that you've shown us) out of the fabric that you've used on the bottom right window? It looks familiar to me, and I can't put my finger on it! lol

    So pleased you had such a great time. Now you're back home to the snow no doubt!
    Have a lovely weekend, and thankyou for letting us in on your crafty week ~ it's a lovely post :o)

    Love Donna xx

  16. Oh Hen, I'm seething with envy! What a brilliant time you must have had. Reading yours and other blogs, Julie seems to be getting about and spreading her delicious lovliness all oiver the country! Love the stuff you've done - wish I could spare the time to start down a new direction but have a craft fair coming up soon and NEED TO CONCENTRATE on doing the things I'm doing! Thanks for sharing these lovely pics.


  17. Oh you lucky girl! To have that opportunity to spend time working with such a nice group of creative women! My favorite is the house.. I love little houses!! What treasures you've made! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  18. Hi Hen, thanks so much for sharing all these delicious photos from your time with Ms. A! Are you allowed to give us a couple of hints, someone else asked about a wire frame; are there any hints or tips on glue type? I'm in Australia so I doubt any time soon I would be able to attend one of Julie's a.m.a.z.i.n.g. classes. You must be skip-hop-happy with your creations. Trudy

  19. oh wow what a weekend, your creations are brill!

  20. What wonderful things everyone's made. I love your smiley winged creature!

  21. Wow! You have a gorgeous blog here! There's SO much to see!!! I'm going to have to come back and do some more exploring.....

  22. so cute!
    looks like you had a wonderful fun time :)

  23. Hen, what fun you must have had! I am trying to lightly set aside a tinge of envy, while I admire all that you and your fellow students accomplished under the expert inspiration, instruction and guidance of Ms Julie A.

    I've long been curious about the West Dean courses, and was happy to see that you had some folks from the States in your workshop group.

    Ages ago, on a trip to London, I bought an intriguing book about papier mache. May I confess that my initial huge enthusiasm has not yet led to my shredding newspaper and mixing up some past.

    Thank you so much for refreshing my intentions. xo

  24. What and incredible workshop! It's always wonderful to spend time in the company of like-minded people...can't wait to see your other creations :)

  25. What a lovely crafty week.... Love the house :) x

  26. WOW what a fab workshop! i love all your quirky critters and especially your fabric house!

    i also had a peek at a previous post about your vintage brooches..they are gorgeous & very inspiring, Hen! i LOVE all things vintage :)) cheers, Marian

  27. Hello Hen, I've been looking forward so much to this post and I'm not disappointed! What a fabulous time you must have had. It's so hard to choose a favourite as they're all wonderful, but the house just pips it. Followed by the pig - the pompom is an inspired choice! I'm honoured that the scraps came in useful and a rabbit is named after me. I wouldn't have minded at all if it was the pig instead!
    Mary x

  28. Looks like you had a wonderful time making your creations with lots of like-minded folk. Love your work! ... :0)

  29. Gosh! What lovely creations :) Maggie xx

  30. What a wonderful time you had Hen! Fantastic! Those courses are quite intense aren't they? There's never enough time. You produced loads of pieces, I can see you were totally into what you were doing. Wonderful! Vanessa xxx

  31. Enjoyed reading your blog Helen and also looking back at our amazing time at West Dean with Julie. Thanks for posting so many memories of the course.
    PS Love that blouse you made in the post previous to this one. I too have too many patterns never made waiting for the moment.

  32. Hi Helen,
    What a great Blog post, You really captured the course, which already seems a distant memory to me, although I have lots of dolls in various stages of incompleteness mostly awaiting knitted bodysuits.
    Lovely photographs :)

  33. It sounds so fantastic. I am currently making a Julie Arkell inspired rabbit? at least I think it's going to a rabbit, so it was lovely to see your pictures. I love your house!


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