Embroidered Tea Bags Now for Sale

I have been playing about with unusual Up- Cycling.  I did not know if it was possible to stitch into a tea bag, heck I didn’t think you could even draw on one let alone stitch into it.  As delicate as it is, it is possible.

Embroidered Tea Bag
Round Used Tea bag with a stitched Pansy.

This was my second attempt as the first one did not work out to well.  I just drawing basic lines as guide to where to start stitching.  You can’t create to many hole as the bag does just fall apart so you tend to use the same hole a few times, the more you stitch the more stable the bag becomes.

Blue berry cup cake
Hand stitched blue berry cup cake into a used tea bag.

And now I have been playing about with cup cakes because who doesn’t like a cup of tea and a cup cake.

I have some of these for sale in my shop, all hand stitched, flowers and cup cakes available all are displayed in up-cycled display frames.  From £30.


poppy side
Hand stitched Poppy on a used tea bag, set on a flower background. £30.

Carving into Books and Creating Sculptures, Creating Magic from Paper.

Have you ever see a piece of art and wondered how the artist has done it.  I always look at some art pieces as little pieces of magic.  Some times they are like little magic tricks, fill you full of wonder ……….until you see how they are done and think well that was simple.

Well that’s the thing Book sculpture / carving are simple, they do take the patience of a saint to make as they can take some hours to do.  But if you want to see how they get put together then read on.

But if you don’t want the illusion revealed then you may want to move on to the next post.

Various book artist have developed there own ways to create book art, and some are very guarded on how they construct their books.  Which is fair if you have spent a long time developing a process.  Some of these book sculptures can go for thousands of pounds.  So all books featured in this blog are my own and I am happy to show my process and hope I inspire people to have ago.

As an artist you always want your work to be different and stand out from everyone else’s work, so I do try to make sure my work does not look like anyone else’s. Lots of artist fold books, some physically carve like carving stone, lots make the books look like frame and they are a 3D diorama.  I like my book to still like a book.  Here are some of the first book sculptures that I have created.

first book sculpture
My first ever attempt at a book sculpture

This was the first every book sculpture I ever made, I did not have a clue as to what I was doing, how deep i should cut, how or what images would work and biggest thing, how do I set the pages to make it solid.

Readers Digest Folklore Myths and Legends Book Sculpture
Readers Digest Folklore Myths and Legends Book

Readers Digest Folklore Myths and Legends Book Sculpture, my second every book sculpture which sold at the Discerning Eye Exhibition.

Private View at The Mall Galleries

And here are a few others that I have made since.  I have made sculptures from mass produce, broken, obsolete books, carry cases and even packs of cards.  Some books are wonderful to cut and the pages come away really nicely………..well that’s what I hope for the majority of the time but it does not happen that way.  A lot of the well known book artist pay quite a bit for their books which does give them a good quality paper to work with, but I don’t always like cutting into an expensive book so I look for the mass produced broken ones.  This causes a problem because the quality of the paper is bad, even with the sharpest and newest blade the paper still tears or crumbles.

What I am about to share isn’t a tutorial.  This is me showing how I do it.  If your inspired then have a go and if you want any advice then please email me and I will help you out if I can.

So here is my latest carving. Using a book from 1970 called The Victorian Underworld.  I have taken to creating an extension to my books, so the images look as if they are coming out of the book.  I started by cutting my cover.

cover cut
I did not want to have a straight up square cover so I just drew a random shape.
london roof 3
The book seems to focus mostly on London. I am going to use the London sky line as the main focus of this book carving
london roof 2
To do this i need to make an extension off the top of the book. I draw around the cut out image and then drill guide holes to help with cutting out.
london roof 1
Once cut our it then needs to be shaped to the sky line cut out.
london roof
Then I attach the cut out illustration.

The covers can vary in thickness and can be quite difficult to cut.  I tend to use a Stanley knife, but I have now started to use a hand held rotary tool to help remove the bulk and then sand the cover so it is smooth.

Now its all about the composition, I use different methods when it comes to this.  It can be challenging and rewarding if you can leave the images where they lie within the book.  But that can create problems because you can end up with empty spots and no images.  So I like to use the images within the book to create a whole different story or create an illusion of what is included inside.

For this book I wanted to create the illusion of a narrow Victorian London street.  Focusing on not putting too many little details so it looks crowded but clean and not cluttered.  All the pages are cut one by one with a scalpel.  Make sure you work with a shape blade, as soon as you start to feel drag on your blade change it, if you don’t you have the risk of tearing the pages and even worse the image you are trying to use.

The cutting is now all done and it now needs sealing.

Side View
Side view of newly cut book sculpture

You need to tidy up your edges, so remove any stray bits and dust, I use the edge of the scalpel to do this as using a hand held rotary tool you may end up damaging your images, one slip and its ruined.  Also use a soft paint brush to remove any paper dust.

Finshed cut
Finished Cut
Open Book
Open book

You need to protect the book by sealing it.  You can leave it unsealed by it will make the book prone to damage.  Personally I prefer modpodge and treat the book as if I am creating a piece of Decoupage.  I use matte but you can use a antique version but this depends on how yellow you want your pages to look.

You need to apply up to 10 layers of modpodge and this will make your book sculpture solid.  When gluing you need to place weight on the book to prevent the pages from warping when wet.  The style of book I have shown you here is not for beginners.  When doing your first book if your going to give this a go, go for the frame option so you book looks like a picture frame.  You can use other books on top to weight the book down so you can seal the sides without it warping.  You can if you do this frame format, glue your pages before you cut out, just make sure you cut your cover out first before you do first.  I prefer to glue after I have cut everything as it just helps with image placement.

Currently my glue is just drying so a final image will be posted on this blog when its all done and dusted.  I hope you enjoyed the insight and hope it inspires you to have a go.  If you want to talk about anything mentioned in this blog then just drop me a message.


Cymbal Koi or Cross stitching into metal.

So this is just a follow up blog about a previous work shown in this blog. obfuscation, curiosity and up cycled art.

I have stitched into a few solid objects as on going projects and have been getting a great reaction to them.  My current one I have entered into Ripley’s Believe it or Not Unconventional Art Competition in conjunction with Deviant Art.

This one project has been a bit of a funny one for me.  I am continuously looking for object that are old, broken, obsolete etc to do something different with and give the object a new use in life.  So earlier this year when I was in my final month of college and pondering what I was going to do next while gazing out of the window; the music dept were chucking old broken equipment into a skip and I noticed they were throwing cymbals like Frisbee’s in there too; to then see my tutor running out to salvage some of it to be used in art classes, she grabbed me one of the said cymbals.


Now this cymbal has been rocking around the house for approx 8 months and I still did not really have any bright ideas for it  but eventually decided to try doing a Koi, thought it might be cool, so when you look at a cymbal in its normal position, set on it’s stand, it would be like looking down into the water to see the fish with the lines of the cymbal looking as if they were water ripples.   Now with the joys of Aphantasia  I never really know how things will turn out, blessing and a curse when it comes to anything art related, I began to figure it out. First of all I found a photo of a Koi fish and went about using a online application for turning photos into cross stitch pattern.


I am sure other artist are the same but I do have moments of doubt when I have finished something, stand there and analyse it, drive myself up the wall and end up walking away and then looking at it later and thinking…. well………..

So then came along good old Ripley’s.  Approx 3 yrs ago Ripley’s Believe it or not hosted a Rip-cycle for up cycled art.  I had a such piece of art that would fit the criteria it was also another piece I had um….& arhhhh….and well may be’s.  It’s this one…..

cog and sequine skull
Cog and sequin skull which now lives with Ripley’s Believe it or Not!

I finally came 4th.  Now I am a huge fan of Ripley’s and its always been a pipe dream for them to own one of my art pieces and now they do.

A few years later they are doing a new one called the Unconventional Art Competition,  So time to try again.  The final result are not in yet but I have made it to the top 25 with my Koi Cymbal.

So now its just fingers crossed time 🙂

To see the semi finalist click the link below.

Ripley’s Unconventional Art Comp in Conjunction with Deviant Art


Portraits, Actually trying to making them look like the person you are trying to draw.

Portraits love them or hate them they have been around for centuries. The fore runner of the photograph.     I have created a few portraits over the years but I have struggled with them massively.  The big debate with a lot of artists is, Is it considered true art if you have used such tools like using a grid, working from a photo, using a projector or camera obscura (depending upon your era) or heaven forbid you trace your image.

Various Portraits
Portraits on Unusual Media
iris apfel
Iris Apfel mounted on a blue display torso. The lines of the dress patterns represent the lines a plastic surgeon would make to the body.

Personally I have to uses these kinds of tools.  I would never get a portrait done; I have spent many hour upon frustrating hour trying to just get that correct shape that makes us all individual, its the difference in making Robbie Williams look like Robbie Williams and not Norman Wisdom.

But then you put you art out on various social media platforms to hopefully get some constructive feedback and then you get 1 and sometimes more as I have found,  who’s message stares out at your off your phone screen, with a look of horror ” You used a grid, that’s not art, that’s cheating”.

Is it though?

Some, like well-known British artist David Hockney, believe that Old Master painters including Johannes Vermeer, Caravaggio, da Vinci, Ingres, and others used optical devices such as the camera obscura to help them achieve accurate perspective in their compositions. Hockney’s theory, officially called the Hockney-Falco thesis (includes Hockney’s partner, physicist Charles M. Falco) postulates that advancements in realism in Western art since the Renaissance were aided by mechanical optics rather than merely being the result of improved skills and abilities of the artists.


When at college my tutor told me this little fact too, but I really felt it was like cheating too, but I had such little patience to sit there repetitively going through the motions of scribbling, rubbing out, re drawing, rubbing out, carving holes through my paper, rubbing out and then lobbing my pencil over the other side of the room in frustration; I ended up using the projector.  Not only did I get instant gratification it helped massively with time constraints of projects.


Yeah well I did and I do……still…..again its the speed element, I even use carbon paper :0.

But why do some artist feel that is so wrong, why are you not an artist if you don’t paint in the moment, without your subject in front of you from a photo and you will be dammed if you think about even using a tool to aid you to do this.

sid 16
Sid James ( approx 3ft) Charcoals and chalks
norm 11
Norman Wisdom, Blue & Black Bic Biro’s on a 1939 Daily Mail broad sheet news paper. Normal is not only in the wrong time period for this news paper he is deliberately off centre. Portraying Norman’s ability for getting it wrong.

Don’t get me wrong I am not slamming on any artist who feel this, their points are actually very valid and doing what I just mentioned does have a very different effect on your out put of art.  But they do have a tendency to make you feel that you should not even think about picking up a pencil if you cant draw a perfect portrait.

Personally I can’t and never will be able to draw a portrait without the aid of some tool.  I feel using a grid is a little more challenging and is a little more closer too……..not cheating for the want of a better phrase.   I don’t know if my being a suffer of Aphantasia makes any difference to my ability to be able to do this but for me personally the art is about the joy I get from doing it.


I will still keep posting my art for those critiques and no doubt will still get those glaring messages of HOW DARE YOU CALL YOURSELF AN ARTIST AND TRACE.

But all are entitled to their thoughts as well.  We all know art is a very debated subject.


All of these portraits have been created using either grids or carbon paper.

Below is a self portrait drawn with copic pens and fine liners on used teabags which had been stitched into a canvas.

Till next time happy arting 😉

Tea Bag Art


Totally Winging Art Comp & Exhibitions


So I have been arty to one degree or another ever since I was a kid, and like many other artists family and friends alike tell you ” You should sell your art”  or ” Your good enough to sell in a gallery”.  I don’t know about most artist but as much as I love my family and friends and really appreciate the comments and encouragement………But,….. your never really sure if they genuinely mean it or if they are just being nice.

That aside nearly 10 yrs ago now I decided I wanted to pay more attention to my art and wondered if I could really do something with it.

But here is the CRUX!!!

The art world is brutal and in more ways than one.  When I first went back to college as a mature student, I had no clue, zip, na da, not a idea on how to sell art, get it into galleries, or just sell my stuff in general.  Over the summer hols that students get to enjoy, I decided I would just pick some random exhibition and enter a piece of work from my coursework.  I set the goal of just getting it excepted, that is all  I wanted to achieve.  I picked the Discerning Eye Exhibition which is held every year at The Mall Galleries in London.  Now nut shelling a long story, my work got accepted, went into exhibition, sold before the private view.  My little book sculpture, only the second one I had every made sold.2014-06-26 13.45.46

Well that spurned me on, maybe my friend and family love em were being totally honest with me.

So I entered another, Ripley’s Believe it or Not Rip Cycle competition ( which was a world wide one) and then came 4th, Ripley’s now own the piece.

Well I must be doing something right, right ………wrong.

I think that my naivety protected me and even though I have had work in galleries over the last couple of year I have only sold what I call bread and butter work not what I call my passion which were my first two above mentioned pieces.

This is the problem, art as with any market has its trends, lots of artist don’t really make any money until they die, ( really don’t want that to happen), You end up producing art for the market and not necessarily the art you want to sell. That is where my personal problems begins and why I feel I am winging it most of the time.  My art is unconventional, unusual, different, off the wall ect.

My art is niche and trying to find my market is proving a little difficult.  So I enter my work into galleries and comp’s, expos and the winging it bit comes if they actually want it. (Because you need to research your judges and what kinds of art they are involved with ect.)  Now I am not trying to do myself down, I love what I do, I love the reactions that bloom over peoples faces when they see my work, I produce stuff that is not as common as you may think………………and 99% my work does not have a meaning.   This also causes a problem.

I would love one day to see something that I had loving sweated my heart out over to be owned by the Tate or displayed at the Guggenheim, but my art does not really have meaning, my art is what it means to the viewer, its the emotion that is evoked within them when they look at what I produced with my little mits and visually impaired mind.

I would quite often have conversations with one of my tutors in the conceptual studies lessons, (which when I first started these lessons I did kind of wonder what was the point of them and thought I was going to be bored ridged, but funny enough I wasn’t,) about the meaning of works of art. We were opposite ends of the scale, for him everything was beautiful, he loved everything and I mean everything, until I worked out his “oh I love that” had various tones depending on how much he really did like them.  For me personally some of it I got and some times I thought he was really stretching his thoughts on what an artist was really trying to say.    I have to say as much as I did disagree with him, I did learn a lot.  But he believed all art had meaning and must have meaning and I believe it did not necessarily need any.

I kind of got the impression that if I wanted my art to eventually be displayed at the Tate or Guggenheim there are rules you end up having to follow to get there.

  1.  You have to have gone to some form of art college or university course.
  2. Your art must have meaning.
  3. You seem to have to use your pain to convey your meaning, it seems to need to be sad, tragic and not normally happy.
  4. You need to have a dramatic life of some description, depression,accident,or your just plain mad.

Yeah Ok maybe I am just going off on a tangent but you get my point, for me most artist that are recognisable are ones who have very remembered characteristics, for example, Grayson Perry, Frida Kahlo, Van Gogh, Toulouse Lautrec, Dali, you get my drift.  Other artist are available as I am still learning.

Which takes me back to my conversations with my tutor.  Why does it need meaning? , Why should I use something that inflicts me to create something?

Well I do understand more about art now than I ever did and I have to say I am starting to enjoy the history behind pieces and why they were created and I realise that the viewer does want a story, wants to understand why an artist created a piece.  But I have come to understand that maybe my tutor was (she types grudgingly) kind of right.  See I can’t use what pains me as I use my art to take me away from it ( childhood family problems, continued health issues, previous trauma)  I don’t want to show what it did to me, I use it as a form of escapism so in around about way I am still using my pain, its just hidden or expressed in a different way.

This is the other part of the CRUX!!!

I as an artist do not want to change what I do, how I do it or what I wish to make.  No artist should.  But does that mean I will be excluded from the places I would like my art shown?

Pablo Picasso — ‘Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.’

Is that what I am going to have to do? I am all for learning new techniques and skills, its just more strings to my ever growing bow and gives me a lot more variety but is that going to have to apply to exhibitions and galleries?

In the mean time I will just carry on making and doing in my own way, but what I have learnt about winging it when it comes to competitions and exhibitions is this:

1. Pick a contest to challenge yourself just to see if you can get excepted on your own merits.  But make sure its one you do not have to pay entry too.

2.  If your first starting out and your entering a pay for entry competition start with smaller cheaper contests.  Some of these can cost up and above £25 per entry ( and the more well known ones can be more but some like the John Ruskin on do student discounts) and that does not mean it will get accepted, it just means it will get looked at.  If you enter a few items and non of them get accepted, it gets expensive.

3. Research your judges and previous winners of a competition or exhibition, if your work is nothing like the kind of work the judges are picking or the kind of art they create themselves or previous winners  are producing, don’t waste your money.

4. If it’s a contest you want to take part in then the above applies and create your work to fit the contest if that is what you wish to do.

5. Choose your galleries wisely, galleries charge in different ways, check their charges before you submit work.  For me I have a preference to galleries that except your work and charge a commission when your work has sold, this can be nearly half the price of what you sell it for, but you adjust your price to accommodate this, I feel they try harder to sell your work.  Other galleries will charge you for shelf or wall space and if it doesn’t sell you have still paid out to get nothing back.

6. When submitting your main pieces, make sure you take browser pieces if the gallery does this, I sell more prints and greetings cards of my art than of the actually pieces which is depressing but that is the way it seems to work.

7.  Keep in mind you will get more rejections than exceptions.  I remember reading somewhere that only 1 in every 10 works you submit will get excepted.  But don’t give up, keep trying.

The same kind of rules apply to competitions, personally I would not pay to enter a competition, they can be run by unscrupulous people and will promise you the earth and give you nothing in return for your hard earned pennies.  This is not my personal experience but I have heard it from many another artist.  Some art mags are run this way also.

But mostly be true to yourself as an artist.  I am going to still do my thing, still do weird stuff and you never know eventually may end up in the Tate or the Guggenheim with my art piece that does not have any other meaning than what you the viewer thinks it has.



The Aphantasia Artist- creating with no visual imagination.


Aphantasia is the suggested name for a condition where one does not possess a functioning mind’s eye and cannot visualize imagery.[1] The phenomenon was first described by Francis Galton in 1880,[2] but has remained largely unstudied since. Interest in the phenomenon renewed after the publication of a study conducted by a team led by Prof. Adam Zeman of the University of Exeter,[3] which also coined the term aphantasia.[4] Research on the subject is still scarce, but further studies are planned.

So until last year I knew nothing about this, and when I say I knew nothing I mean never hear of it, didn’t know it was even a thing and never realised people saw images in their mind…………..well my mind got well and truly blown. How the heck could I be an artist and not have the slightest clue. All those terms and expressions mean all the same thing to me as anyone else, you know the ones, paint a image in your mind, can you imagine that, i cant un see that, oh can see their face now. I discovered at the grand old age of 47 that I had a blind mind eye. I discovered this after going through some brain working recursive therapy for muscle tension dysphona and found I got frustrated when the therapist kept asking what I saw in relation to certain questions.

So I within a couple of weeks I discovered Aphantasia, it had a title and I began to understand what it was all about………and then i felt totally robbed. People see things in their mind…….while there awake? WTF? How?

Now I do dream when I sleep, I can only think that its a different part of the brain that preforms that function. But if you ask me to imagine a blue gorilla with a pink banana walking down the high street………nothing, not a thing, nada. But it then got me thinking what other things will this effect. Well I wont suffer from PTSD flash backs. I don’t relive that horror film that made everyone squirm. I can’t describe someones face, because I can’t re see it, I don’t remember directions, I tend to mentally remind myself what shops I have been past. I can watch the same film or read the same book a few months later and don’t remember the plot. When reading I don’t like descriptive text because I can’t imagine it. But that thing people tell you when going to a job interview, to imagine everyone naked, yeah kind of glad i can’t do that one; and one person via a post went I feel for you, you don’t have a wank bank………😮😮😮😮😮😮. I don’t want to know.

I can’t have a memory palace, my spelling is terrible as I can’t visualise the word to work it out. Unless I look at photos I don’t always recall memories that most people can and would. But I am not sad, I have never known any different, and as for that gorilla and everything else I can think about it as much as you like, I can remember it forever if I commit it to memory but alas never ever see it.

So fast forward to now, I always knew I was wired up different to everyone else, I didn’t know why but just knew. See I have always been into the art and always struggled to get ideas and concepts on to paper but creating something out of a pile of nothing placed in front of me was a piece of cake. So even though i don’t see things in my mind doesn’t mean I can’t be creative. If anything I think it actually helps, I can come up with concepts and idea and even though I can not get it on to paper I just make them straight off the bat.

And I am happy to stay that way……….beside I i started seeing things now I would think I was hallucinating 😁

Obfuscation, Curiosity and Up Cycled art

cross stitched metal
  1. the action of making something obscure, unclear, or unintelligible.
  2. “when confronted with sharp questions they resort to obfuscation

So why on earth would I want to make art that is unclear or unintelligible………..well I do and I don’t.  I do because I want to get people talking about an art piece, well that is the point isn’t it?  But I aim more for the obscure part of that word …….Obfuscation.

koi cross fish
  Currently work in progress, Koi fish cross stitched into a cymbal

I have always had a fascination with weird and wonderful items.  When I was a kid, you know pre computers and pre internet and with the dinosaurs still wondering around, when the whole world was just outside your door and you only knew what was going on else where when you looked at the news or went to the library, I found it very hard to find things that grabbed my attention but when I did find a little curio or strange little wonderment I would grab it with both hands and never let go, but now with all the technology we have I can find all these weird and wonderful items to see right in your hand.  But I now find that kind of removes the wonderment for me.  Don’t get me wrong I would not have it any other way now, I want that access, but I am kind of starting to see the same curios, weird things that I have seen before and nothing seems new.  This aspect makes me sad but does drives my art work as well.  A few years ago when I went back to college I begin to play about with these kinds of idea, creating new obscurities from ideas that people would not think of and since discovering that I have Aphnatasia It has made me realise this influences my art work even more.

IMG_2241 (1)

I love the concept of smashing two juxtaposing items together.  I had already been playing about with book sculptures / carvings   but it was time to start progressing. This was one of my first attempts  Musical Blooms

Mr x stitch featured it on his Instagram page last year and it blew me away how many likes I got for it. https://www.instagram.com/mrxstitch/?hl=en

So this one got me wondering what else I could do and I began looking into to other artists to see if other people were doing the kinds of art I love doing. But the other question is would people buy this kind of art from me.  See every one in a normal two up two down do not have much space so will aim for art works that do not take up too much space. You know sits flat against the wall.  But then I found artists like:

severija incirauskaite-kriauneviciene

Dustin Yellin

Joseph Cornell

So then it made me think well sod it, obfuscation, curiosities, weird item, strange, wonderful and unusual art works are what get my creative juices flowing.  But it brings me back to the unclear and unintelligible bit.  Its been a debate that has gone on between me and a few of my tutors.  Does art have to mean anything, does it have to be clear, does it need to be intelligible? ……..Well that’s a can of worms right there.  Personally I don’t think it does.  For me art is something that makes you wonder, makes you look, makes you think and talk about it, the art piece is what ever the view thinks it is. But the establishment also says that art is for those purposes as well, but there must be a meaning behind the pieces created.  If I want to get to the heights of  the greats then my art needs to have a meaning of why it was created.  Which I understand if you have a chicken with two shoes tied to a frying pan.

cog and sequine skull  Cog and sequine skull which now lives with Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
sam portrait Tennis Racket Wool Portrait

But I want my art to just be, is there a right or wrong, to be a successful artist do you have to follow those ridged rule to get to the heights that we all dream of sometimes.  Can’t art just be about you look at it you loved it so you wanted to own it.    Well I will leave that conversation for another blog maybe.

In the mean time I will take my lack of visual imagination and carry on smashing ideas together and enjoy myself making weird and wonderful things.

To see more of the kinds of art I produce please visit me at http://www.shalmines.com