Now and again a customer will contact me to ask if I can make a unique piece for themselves or a loved one which will incorporate an element personal to them. I don’t go out of my way to advertise the fact I can make bespoke pieces, mainly because they can be very time-consuming (not to mention nerve-wracking), and at certain times of the year it’s just too difficult to fit around everything else that’s going on.

Having said that, commissions can also be exciting, fun and educational!

Back in March I was contacted by a customer who’s husband was publishing a novel called ‘Fray’ and she wanted to give him a special, unique gift to mark the occasion. She thought my work was reminiscent of the book cover and asked if I could create something similar in diorama form; the book is set in the wilds of Glencoe and the cover artwork by Holly Ovenden features a red cottage set amongst the fir trees and mountains…

If you know my work then you’ll know that all of these things couldn’t be more right up my street if they tried! Mountains, trees, a remote cottage, an intriguing story within = some of my favourite things and what I strive for in a lot of my work. I was also very flattered and excited to be asked to make a piece to celebrate such a wonderful achievement.

As I could use Holly’s artwork as a direct reference point, and with it being very graphic in nature I initially thought “well this will be fairly straightforward”. Always foolhardy! You think I would know by now that starting a piece from scratch is always a lengthy process, even in this case when the separate layers are already quite obvious and I have a good quality image file to work from…to explain further I should really give you a quick rundown of the stages of the design process:

First of all I draw or trace out what will become the first layer, in this case the mountains with their contour lines; when I first saw the book cover design I was immediately taken by the use of contours which you would see on an OS map (again one of my favourite things to use in a diorama, but previously as an actual piece of map forming a backdrop). I thought they would look great laser-engraved onto the wood’s surface. I used to incorporate screenprinted elements in my work to create lines and pattern, but due to a lack of workspace over the past year I’ve replaced this with laser-engraving.

Even with the lines already in place in the cover design, I have to admit they took ages to get right – there was a fair bit of tweaking involved until I was satisfied they would work as engraved lines!

Then comes the 2nd layer – the land with the cottage; the cottage only measures just over 1cm wide so I knew I couldn’t attempt to paint the details of the roof, door and windows, so they all became engraing lines too. When working on this scale I always spend time ensuring no detail will be lost in the cutting process:

The same goes for the trees on the 3rd layer. At this point decisions had to be made regarding simplifying the design to make it work on a small scale (the final scene measures 8cm). This is where artistic licence comes in! I decided to reduce the number of trees and lose the reflection from the original cover design so it didn’t look too busy.

The shapes need to be solid black so that they can be turned into vector drawings readable by a laser cutter. As I have yet to join the 21st century I do this using Photoshop (rather than something like an iPad). While all this is happening I’m also thinking about how the final piece will be painted to create more depth and texture. To help me visualise the final piece I make a mock-up in Photoshop:

Once I’m happy with all the pieces, individually and together, I can then import them into Inkscape (a vector graphics editor). Inskcape enables you to transform drawings into outlines which will be cut or engraved by the laser cutter (for a deeper dive into this have a look at LaserFlair’s blog post).

The really exciting part of the process comes when the pieces are finally cut; I always hold my breath though until I know that everything looks as it should…there are a multitude of things which need to be checked and double-checked before the start button is pressed! In this case everything came out perfectly I’m glad to say:

Of course the pieces still had to be painted and assembled, and the painting on this one in particular filled me with trepidation! Opportunities for mistakes are still plentiful at this point – I was concerned about painting the black mountains neatly to avoid blocking out the contour lines, and I also hadn’t nailed down the foreground area below the trees…

It all turned out fine in the end though, and I’m very happy to report that the customer and her husband loved the finished piece. I feel very honoured that my work is now a small part of the ‘Fray’ story. I can’t wait to read it!

‘Fray’ by Chris Carse Wilson is out now

Hello February!

I don’t know about you but I’m usually quite relieved to get January out of the way and this year is no exception. February feels to me like the start of the year proper, so to celebrate I’m offering free postage on everything in my HooperHart Folksy and Etsy stores! No need for a discount code – zero postage has already been applied, and will continue for the whole month.

Dream Wheels

A wee update on what I’ve been up to as Rudy and the Rowan Tree, the offshoot I use as a place to experiment and try out ideas which are unrelated to my Hooperhart work, and often more playful – I love creating my HooperHart pieces incidentally, but sometimes it’s nice to mix things up a bit! I’m currently loving making spirograph-inspired hanging decorations using embroidery thread and wooden discs – I call them Dream Wheels and you can find them on Folksy and Etsy Free postage also applies to my Rudy and the Rowan Tree stores for the whole of February!

Gift vouchers are go!

In other news, I wanted to draw your attention to my newly launched Gift Vouchers.They can be emailed directly to the recipient so make gifting super easy! They are exclusively available from my HooperHart Folksy store. There’s so many gorgeous products on there you might want to make it your go-to for gifts in the future though – all made in the UK to boot!

Thanks for reading and have a fabulous February!

What makes me happy

Hello! Thank you for visiting my little corner of the internet 🙂 I have been neglecting it quite badly – I was a little shocked to see that I have only done 3 posts on here in the past year…3!!! That is very poor I think you’ll agree…in my defence it’s been a difficult year and my mind has been elsewhere for much of it. Health/work/money issues, bereavement and moving to a different county (and not yet having a home of our own) are all things which have really gotten in the way. Making my work always makes me feel better by taking me out of myself and giving me focus, but there have been so many times when I’ve felt ‘what’s the point?’ However, the only thing for it is to keep going and keep doing what makes me happy (where possible)! So in lieu of any new work, here’s a wee round-up of some of my favourite pieces from the past year…

I’ll be back at some point with some new pieces and hopefully more positive news! Thanks for reading and remember, you can follow me on Instagram Facebook and Twitter for all my latest news

Hello 2021!

So 2020 is finally over, and there probably aren’t many folk who won’t be sorry to see the back of it. We can only hope 2021 will be an improvement. I’d like to say a huge thank you for all the support I received during that strange and difficult year, whether it was online likes, comments, shares, reviews or purchases – it all really helped get me through it.

To kick off 2021 I’m having a little sale in my Etsy shop (10% off when you spend £20) and Folksy (10% off everything) – use the code HELLO2021 in both!

January is usually a quiet month and therefore a good opportunity to plan ahead and start new work – I’ve already got a list of things I want to get started on so watch this space!

Thanks for reading and all the best for 2021 x

Cabin in the Woods

Well, as expected, 2018 is zipping by. Unbelievably we’re already into February; January was the usual struggle of getting back into the swing of things after a very busy festive season; happily, there was plenty of replenishing to do and new things to try out (along with a list of DIY jobs and trying to learn French on the side!) which got me through the darkest month.

When there is snow on the ground (like today), I like to daydream about living in a secluded wooden cabin, cosy in front of a wood-burning stove. It is no surprise then, that one of my favourite pieces to make is a cabin diorama!

I live in a mostly urban area, albeit in a relatively quiet corner of the town flanked by woods and river. Walk for a few minutes though, and the busy roads and new housing estates start to encroach on our peaceful enclave. The lack of foliage in the winter also leaves us a bit exposed, and I’m thankful for the line of tall evergreen leylandii at the end of our cul-de-sac, protecting us from the roar of the motorway. This might all go some way to explaining my ‘cabin in the woods’ fixation! I’ve made quite a few of these now, each one slightly different, and the most common response they illicit from people is ‘Oh I’d love to live there!’ . I guess it’s a fundamental desire in a lot of us to find solitude amidst the hectic pace of modern living, an antidote to our busy lives.