Design & Branding

A couple of extremely talented musician friends asked me to do some graphic design & branding for them recently – here’s the results.
Her Name Means Wolf logo

Her Name Means Wolf is a music project by singer Claudia “Clouds” Guastella which draws many of its influence from British Isles folk. New videos around once a week, or whenever Clouds can get all their computer bits to work.”

Business cards (not mine) These were my birthday present to my partner – last year’s was a studio session to get this recording of trad folk song “Young Hunting” (Child 68) done. Listen, admire, ask for more!

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Destruct Testing

I’ve accidentally put a couple of pieces through the wash before, and they’ve been fine. However, I just found this in the pocket of a shirt I put on, which had been through a 90-degree white wash.

Involuntary destruct testing

So that’s a really useful data point!

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Precious Non-Metals

Paper is amazing stuff. Historically very special and magical, but it’s so much a reflex these days to think of it as extremely cheap. We say “cheap as chips”, and don’t even think about the paper the chips come wrapped in.

The art papers I use are rather more expensive – I’ve been doing some research to compare what I use to some more traditional jewellery materials. The results surprised me a bit!

Griffen Mill Akbar Brown 115gsm handmade paper : £261/kg
Judd Street decorative paper: £101/kg
“Elephanthide” parchment style paper: £60/kg
Arches Velin: £45/kg
Khadi Atlas White 400gsm handmade paper: £43/kg
Gmund bierpapier: £26/kg
Daler-Rowney Studland mountboard (the base layer I use for most of my standard lines) : £12/kg

Of course, when you consider that a kilo of silver will set you back £860 and a kilo of gold £34,000 (spot prices at time of writing) then even the best & most wonderfully complex of papers are an utter bargain in comparison.

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Blodeuwedd mask


Lleu Llaw Gyffes was cursed by his reluctant mother – he could never have weapons & armour, a bride, or even a name until she gave them to him. His foster-father, Gwydion ap Dôn, tricked her into bestowing the first and the last, but there’s nothing she could do about the second, and frankly that family was screwed up enough already.

So Gwydion and his uncle, Math ap Mathonwy, made a bride for him out of flowers. This branch of the Mabinogion is usually told as Gwydion’s story, and to an extent Lleu’s, but I’m not the only one with a lot of sympathy for Blodeuwedd. She didn’t ask to be made, or to be married to Lleu. When she falls in love with Gronw Bebyr, she tricks Lleu into revealing the arcane way he can be killed (it involves taking a bath with a goat) and then murdering him. It’s a bit extreme, but then so is everything else in that drama-laden family.

And she really didn’t ask to be turned into an owl by Gwydion.

I had a lot of fun making this. It started out by working out what kind of owl she was (I decided on the secretive and nocturnal long-eared owl, widely hated in the avian world) and as you’ll see took a lot of liberties with the design. The text panels are from the portions of the Fourth Branch that deal with her directly, in both English and modern Welsh. I’d originally intended them to show up more clearly, but this dense green works well with the brown – which I’d planned to be lighter, but the technique I’d been envisaging didn’t work out the way I’d thought it would! The rose is adapted from a jewellery design I’ve been playing with, using hand-assembled lasercut petals.

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Recent projects

I’ve been working on a few new paper-jewellery lines recently, partly in preparation for trading at Alchemist Dreams’ Storytelling Speakeasy. Here are a few of them – as always, click through to Flickr for a better look.

Self, barrette, Elly

Copper beech leaf prototype Birch leaf pendant
Faux-rosewood & bronze pendant Rowan branches in the mist
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Faux-rosewood finish

Faux-rosewood finish, varnished (first coat) I’m rather pleased with this paint job, so I wanted to post a tutorial on how to do it. It’s done on artist’s mountboard (I’m making a display case for jewellery, for me to use when selling my work) but any smooth surface will work.

The first thing to do is to paint it black, paint it black again, and then drybrush red over it. I use System 3 Mars Black acrylic – any black will work, but you’ll probably want to use acrylic rather than anything that might be picked up, redissolved, or smeared around by the next layer, like poster paint (gouache) or watercolour. You’ll want a medium-smooth finish on the black, finding a compromise between roughness (to hold specks of the red) and smoothness (so that the red beads interestingly rather than coating it evenly) but that’s easy to get.

Dry-brushing brushThe red I use is Winsor & Newton Galeria Cadmium Red Hue, but any warmish medium red will do. Dry-brushing is just what it sounds like: painting with practically nothing on your brush. It helps to have a crap brush here – that’s mine on the right, after something like six years of generalised abuse. I use it for dry-brushing because it’s not much good for anything else, and because the accumulated crap in the body of the bristles means it can’t hold much paint at all. I like to think of this technique as polishing the red on, rather than painting with it. You’ll want to brush mostly along one axis, to keep the “grain direction”, but a bit of messing around is entirely encouraged. If you get actual deep-red spots, take a bit more black and dry-brush over the red with that. You can’t really ruin the finish by doing that – if you get too much black, put more red on!

When it’s done, varnish it as usual – I use matte Mod Podge as an all-purpose sealant & to bring out the colours & highlights. The picture at the top shows it after the first coat, but I’ll normally do three or so, for strength and water resistance.

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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

Tristram Shandy jewellery, all finished

This is the latest permutation of my text jewellery – it’s made not from an existing book, but from a handwritten copy of the first page, covered with a layer of washi, cut into jewellery blanks, and then edged & varnished as normal. I love the combined effect of the fountain pen ink, the glue (just watery enough to affect the ink but not to smear it, it turns out) and the transparent paper.

I’m definitely going to be doing more of these – the next text will be Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, and after that I may start on some Wells or Verne. In the meantime, here’s a photo of the original text panel for comparison. I love the way that cutting it decontextualises so many of the phrases or words, highlighting a particular word or even a piece of punctuation.

Handwritten panel for text jewellery

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New sketchbook - back cover I always keep an A4 hardback sketchbook with me for ideas, brainstorming, notes on events, and general Everything purposes. They’ve been getting more & more ornate with each one, partly so I can see how new designs stand up to daily wear & tear, but mostly just because. The nori-collage one flaked off badly enough that I had to retire it halfway through, but the one after that had a spraypainted stencil made from one of my relief prints, and that’s lasted perfectly. Next time, though, I’m either going to try something less ornate than this, or start much earlier, because I’ve been scraping up space in the last one ever since the empty shop conference.

It’s basically done being painted now, though, and just waiting for a few coats of varnish.

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Maker Studio

After the Transforming Spaces conference I wrote about a while back, I had an idea, and it’s now ready to unveil!

Maker Studio is devoted to crafts, making & selling useful beautiful things; to removing as many barriers as possible; to helping emerging makers into the public eye.

It’s early days yet, but we’re working towards moving into an empty shop and setting up a physical studio & gallery.

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Shakespearean jewellery

Midsummer Night's Dream pendant I’ve been making quite a few of these lately, from an old copy of Midsummer Night’s Dream rescued from the recycling. It’s the same technique I’ve been using for pendants, layered artists’ mountboard sealed with acrylic & varnish; the colours are Talens Ecoline watercolour inks, which I’m really falling in love with. The cheap paper (it’s a Wordsworth Classics edition) takes the ink really nicely, it turns out. Bare trees echo the play’s message that time is out of joint, and each one tries to respond to the partial quotation highlighted on it. Most have been going to friends, or as auction pieces for good causes (speaking of which: if you have a good cause, and are holding an auction, drop me a line) but I may be selling a few as well.

Not all of these are pendants – I’m experimenting with a new design of choker as well, with page fragments laminated onto ribbon. Still haven’t had them properly tested yet, though, so I won’t be putting them into proper production for a while. Always need more testers…

MSND choker, version 1

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