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.

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.



Unusual Cross Stitch and the Plastic Tattoo.

So I went back to college quite late in life, well there is late and then very late, lets just say before 50.  I never did well at school and I am not academically minded at all so I really hated artist research.  Over the years I have began to enjoy it and I have been inspired by an artist called  Severija Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene who cross stitches into solid object, car bonnets, frying pan, helmets you name it she seems to do it.  She seems to use mostly metal items to create her work.  This process fascinated me.  Now as a working artist and working with obsolete items that damaged or stuff just thrown away I wanted to see if I could apply this idea to something that isn’t metal, something fragile, something that seemed impossible to do.

Now also as an artist I am very aware of coming across as copying someone else’s idea or work.  Me personally,  if someone asks me how I did something I will tell them and even encourage them to have a go.   I mean why not.  I have contacted various artist, become friends with some of them and asked how they produce their work, how did they get over hurdles, work out problems and 99% of the time I will always check to see if they mind me asking.  So far no problem till the other day when I posted a comment on a known book artists Instagram ( they shall remain nameless) asking how they managed to  stop there pages going floppy;  it was a very innocent question, but with the wonders of text and no emotions being shown because that’s how cold text is, dam you text, they decided to answer me after two weeks by telling me to go be original find your own media and stop copying their work!!!!!!!

2014-06-26 13.46.05
This was my second every book sculpture.  I love to be able to leave the pages behind the image so it still looks like the book and not a diorama.

What the……….well if he had bothered to look at my work he would have seen that my book sculptures are nothing like his work.  One of my tutors once said ” Everything has been done before it all comes down to what version you can create”  and he is right, could you think what would happen if the person who invented books told this artist” You can’t use book’s stop copying my work and do something original.” Or if the first person who painted a picture in oil paint went ” Oi mine, you can’t use that, invent your own paint”  there would be a very exclusive club for all art works.

Rant and tangent over :/.  I can though understand where he is coming from and he may well get copied a lot and worked very hard on perfecting their method, so I do sympathise.  But that then set me thinking about inspiration and how you use it when you have seen something that does inspire you and  you don’t want to  inadvertently copy someone else.  Which takes me back to   Severija Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene and her cross stitching into solid objects.  What could I cross stitch into that would be different………..

First attempt………

rose disc 1
Picked an impossible pattern, well it is when you haven’t done cross stitch since infant school.


Cross Stitched into a 12 inch 78 Vinyl disc, I was blown away with the reaction I got from this, and I plan to do more when I have a bit more time.  This project took me over 30 hrs to complete and I hit my usual ” my God why did I start this for, why did I think this was such a dam good  idea”…………… Well it was and then went and did it again but this time it took over 60 hrs.

plastic tattoo

You know when they say an artist suffers for their art………..yeah I did that alright with this one but it was worth it.  This is my most time expensive piece ever.

Art from previous years
Penny for stitch size reference.

I didn’t count at the time but it was approx 400 to 500 holes drilled, I think my eyes went a little squiffy half way through so I am not sure; as you can see there are quite a few colour variations as well.  Because the mannequin is quite big I also had to staple it to a block of wood to keep it upright to help with stitching and had to use a pair of pliers to pull the needle through the holes as once you get the thread going through the hole more than 3 times it’s begins to get tough.

It made me wonder what else I could do with thread but was not going to be quite so tough to do.  Do a portrait maybe.

sam portrait
Portrait of my daughter when she had green hair. Made with wool.

This was a fun one to do, still took quite some time but not as much as the previous too.  But it brings me to this question, is it copying or is it inspiration.  Is painting something in front of you copying or being inspired by what you see enough to paint it as well as you can?  As an artist I don’t tend to stick to one media or style as a lot of artist do, I love to mix it up, but I am sure if I googled all the processes and media I have used I am sure I will find someone who has done it all before me.  So I will still look up artist for research, I will still scour Pinterest for inspiration and I will tell someone else how they can do the same kinds of art if they want to give it a try.

Time to find something else to stitch into 😉

visit me and see my work on http://www.shalmines.com