November 2011 Archives

Artwork and Crafts Featuring Deer

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I came across a few cute deer-related items on Etsy. Deer always remind me of November and early December, when the trees are bare and spotted with snow. These deer are perfect for those cold, wintery days.


1) RoyalMint:
This is one of the cutest stuffed deer I have seen, and it is stuffed with personality.

2) dobleele:
This cotton fabric has an image of deer stenciled onto it. Simple.

3) Silver for my Magpie:
Deer antlers are cool for ear-rings.

4) abbyberkson:
I love the cuteness of this deer mug. The little deer is dressed for winter.

5) VirtualDesignLab:
This is a nice piece of art for the wall to give it some dimension.

6) MarmarSuperstar:
I love the cute deer badge, and the shop also features many more cute animals.

(Note that all photographs are credited to their Etsy shops.)

European Drift Cars Final

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A few weeks ago, I went to the European Drift Allstars final at Wembley stadium in London to watch cars competing at drifting around a track in front of the stadium. Surprisingly, the weather was fairly good, although a little chilly with a few spots of rain, for the end of September. I was on camera as well, next to the fourth place driver (from Bulgaria) and his car at the interviews at the end of the races, while the camera crew captured the mood. It was a good day out with access to the pits and to see the drivers and their cars.




Artwork Inspired by Autumn and Nature

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Happy Thanksgiving to all of my visitors from the United States. I have compiled a list of autumn natural artwork as we continue our journey to the end of autumn. It is not quite winter yet. Hopefully these bright colours will put a smile on your faces.

Cindy Columbia:
This colourful artwork features illustrated leaves.


PrettyDreamer (Pamela):
A cute pouch with an oak leaf on it was created by Violeta, and the gold beeswax candles (PrettyDreamer) remind me of the transition from autumn to winter.

Kim DeGooyer:
I love these photographs of rural and country themes, and they remind me of some of my own photographs.The photographer is also working on a "photo-a-day" project, and these can be viewed on her website at:

Bucks County Frames:
These photographs (and photograph-art) are bright and colourful, and also remind me of my childhood and growing up in the country. The county fair always reminds me of autumn. (When I was given my first camera as a gift, I took it to the county fair with me every year.)

Sugar and Flour:
This sugar cookie 'art for the stomach' promises to be as delicious as they are beautiful. Apples, leaves, pumpkins, and acorns signify the autumn season.

Now that Thanksgiving is around the corner and autumn is nearly over, I thought that I would celebrate some photographs taken at the annual Pumpkin Festival.

A few weekends ago, I visited The Pumpkin Festival, which was held at Royal Victoria Country Park near Southampton in Hampshire. The highlights of the festival included a walkway of scarecrows, and giant pumpkins and squash. Foods made of pumpkin were celebrated and put up for sale, and I tried some pumpkin soup. I love pumpkin, and unfortunately puree pumpkin was nowhere to be found. (Luckily, I still have a tin can of pumpkin to use for my yummy pumpkin cookies.)

I came home with some banana bread, hot chilli sauce (yummy), and butternut squash pesto. (I'm still trying to decide how to best use the pesto.)

The weather was surprisingly good for October, and there was some sunshine. I was a little disappointed that there was not more to offer in terms of pumpkins; I only saw one jack 'o' lantern, though pumpkins have not been adopted by the British as much. I saw pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, and pumpkin curry, but that was the extent of pumpkin used in food. (Pumpkin ice cream, pie, cookies, and other foods would have been delicious; I love pumpkin and cannot get enough of it at this time of year.)

Happy Thanksgiving, and enjoy your pumpkin treats.

Half a pumpkin for sale, waiting to be made into delicious treats.

A pumpkin jack 'o' lantern cupcake. It was vanilla and tasty.

One of the many scarecrows along the scarecrow walkway; notice the pile of pumpkins in the background.

This view is taken from the Royal Victoria Country Park, where the Pumpkin Festival was taking place. Trees are silhouetted against the water; the Southampton oil refinery can be seen in the background, and ferries use this stretch of water.

Days Out: Canterbury, Kent - Cathedral

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A pilgrimage was made to Canterbury during a weekend away in Kent, England. It's been over ten years since I visited the walled city, and I enjoyed this time much more than my first visit. Most of the day was spent in Canterbury Cathedral, where many of these photographs were taken. (Canterbury Cathedral is the burial place of king Henry IV and other notable historical figures.) 

After visiting the Cathedral and completing a quick walk around the village, I headed over to a food festival, which was being held in Dane John's gardens, just inside the city walls. A walk around part of the city walls was also completed, with a monument on the top of a large mound inside this garden being the primary attraction with excellent views over the area. (The mound is actually an old burial mound.)

I've posted a few photographs of Canterbury Cathedral and the Dane John gardens mound and monument below.





Under the Site - Technologies Used

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Here is a tool that may come in useful for web developers; in a click of a button (after typing or copying and pasting a URL, of course), developers can see what technologies any given website uses. (Of course, the same can be achieved with Firebug with some analysis.)

Washington Post Social Reader Facebook App

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The Washington Post Social Reader was one of the new applications announced at the annual facebook conference in September. This application gives FaceBook users access to view and share articles and see what their friends have read without leaving the social media website. In addition, news will be tailored to each individual user based on their profile and the past stories that they have read or stories that their friends have read; this tailoring is done using Trove, and other media companies are beginning to use technology that tailors news stories to viewers (1). In addition, users will also have the ability to tailor news stories based on the categories that they are interested in.

The Guardian have launched a similar application, and others will probably do the same, depending upon the success.


Unfortunately, just over a month after the launch of the Washington Post Social Reader, the application seems to be down, so I have not been able to access it. This may be due to high volumes; apparently a million users have added the application within the three weeks after its launch (2). However, many of these users are probably simply trying out the service and will not become regular users, and the application being down does not help.

1) Isaac, Mike. A First Look at Social Reader, WaPo's New FaceBook App. [22 September, 2011].

2) Harbison, Niall. Facebook app helps newspaper get 1 million new readers within 3 weeks. [15 October, 2011].

I booked a tour of the Carr-Taylor winery in mid-October during the grape harvest season. The tour involved learning about growing grapes and the wine-making process used at the winery. At the end of the tour, we sampled various wines and made purchases of our favourites.

There are many vineyards to visit in Kent, and we stopped off at another one, an organic vineyard, just up the road in Sedlescombe.

The following photographs were taken at the Carr-Taylor vineyards. These vineyards remind me of my childhood and eating grapes off the vines in the orchard.




I love these cute illustrations and diagrams printed onto a range from cards to bottle openers, and cloth bags to tea towels. "Girls Can Tell" is a printing business run by Sara Selepouchinin in Philadelphia; Sara creates the illustrations (inspired by her degree in mechanical engineering and architecture) and prints each one by hand. On the inspiration behind the drawings for these objects, Sara states that "the belief that surrounding yourself with things that make you smile is totally important". I can't agree more; life is much better surrounded by good design and little things that make one feel content.

I have added a few of my favourites here. What gardener would not love a bottle opener with garden tools or a BBQ? I absolutely love the Eiffel Tower diagram coaster, and the tea towel with different types of glasses is perfect for any lover of fine wine or spirits (or a chilled pint).


View Sara's website:

View Sara's Etsy website to admire and/or make a purchase:

Art Made with Pen Ink Wins Award

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Gary Lawrence beat approximately 3,500 entries to win the Jerwood Drawing award (and 6,000 GBP) this year with a pen ink drawing ('Homage to Anonymous') on the back of a discarded shop poster. His artwork will be on display, along with 60 other short-listed artists, until the end of October in JVA, Jerwood Space in London.

The 'Homage to Anonymous' drawing was inspired by a trip to Greece, according to Lawrence, and he studied art at Portsmouth University and at Illinois universities in the USA.
The Jerwood Drawing Prize is a competition that "aims to reward excellence and talent in contemporary drawing practice, through the support and recognition of the work of established and emerging artists in the field of drawing" (1), according to their website.

(1) Jerwood Drawing Prize, About Us. [1 October, 2011].

Red Bull Canimation Competition

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Red Bull are hosting a video competition with the star of the video being the Red Bull can. The best animations in three separate categories (drawn, CGI, and stop-motion) will receive a prize. Prizes are then put into two additional categories: students and non-students. Prizes include a month internship at Aardman Studios (makers of Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run) or other creative agencies, laptops, and animation software. Trial versions of the software to create the animations can be downloaded from the Red Bull Canimation website.

Some of the animations have been placed into a gallery, which are available on the website. Flying horses, grannies attacking handbag-snatchers, airplanes, dancing animals, and Red Bull can rockets are some of the representations in the animations. The image below is a screenshot from the animation submission by Kat Willott.


The deadline for entries is the 15th of November, so hurry if you want to submit an animation.

Photographs from 'Occupy London'

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With the fifth of November upon us (known as 'Bonfire Night', celebrating the end of Guy Fawkes and his plot of treason to assassinate the king in Great Britain), we can see other themes of unrest and unhappiness with people and institutions of power four-hundred years later.

"Occupy London" is a movement made by a group of protesters angry with the banks and the financial crisis, which has been set up camp next to St. Paul's Cathedral in London. A second camp has since been set up in Finsbury Square. The protests were sparked off by similar protests made around the world. Topics ranging from banks sparking the financial crisis to unfair pay, job losses, and equality are addressed in posters and banners at the camp.

I visited the site a few days during the protests with my camera, and the results are below.

Popular images included many tents set up outside the cathedral, propaganda posted upon the walls near the shops next to the cathedral, protest banners and props (the Monopoly board), camera and television crew, activists dressed in the popular masks inspired by V for Vendetta, and tents set up for recycling and speeches and praying - including a library. Religious protesters were speaking on one of the days, and on another day, a bus circled the area with speaker phones.











Blott Stationery - A New Brand for 2011

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During a recent visit to Royal Tunbridge Wells, I discovered a stationery shop just outside the shopping mall. The shop sells cards, notebooks, and other stationery-related items with 'pop art' designs. Think big and colourful. Many of the products in the Blott store are also colourful and cute, and some of the products remind me of Japanese-style, with a store design similar to Muji with little containers, but Blott is much more colourful. According to their website, Blott is a 'stationery company with a creative twistt' (1).

Blott opened its doors earlier this year, amid a harsh economy, but they seemed to fit right in place on the High Street, and the shop was busy. They now have a second shop in Guildford, and this was opened this autumn. 

The company MyAgency created the branding, the range of product designs, and the shop design. Their website (2) contains several photographs of the shop and some of its products. 

Although Blott are competing with other stationery companies, such as PaperChase, these other stationery companies do not offer the same range of designs and products, so this is a small gap in the market for them. 

My favourite product range were the cute erasers. Erasers shaped like cute animals and other items that appeal to boys and girls are available in a variety of bright colours. I fell in love with the ice lolly, ice cream cone, and biscuit erasers and bought a few. (There were so many different colours of them that I wanted to choose one of each! I photographed some of the ones I bought below: cream biscuits, ice cream cone, and ice lolly.)


I also find Blott's loyalty scheme idea to be very creative. Each time five pounds is spent in store, the customer receives a sticker to place in their book. The book, given to the customer along with their first sticker, looks like a passport book, and on the front cover, it reads "The United Kingdom of Stationery". Once a page is filled with the correct number of stamps, the customer can collect their free gift. (I feel it is slightly strict, however, as the customer must spend £40.00 before they can claim a binder, which is the least expensive prize that can be claimed.) The images of this promotional scheme are below.


Blott's website is also open for business, and the website is simple and easy to use. However, I am a little disappointed in it because it isn't as colourful and quirky as the actual shops are, and the images for the products are a little too small, and I don't think the website really does them any justice. Usability-wise, the website seems spot-on to me, and it's easy to get around and to see exactly where you are at in the structure of the website, but the design offers little in comparison to the wonderful in-store branding. (The home page certainly feels a little more like the shops as it contains large images of its products, but unfortunately, this is not reflected throughout the bulk of the website.)




Using CSS To Draw Shapes

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Lately, I have been using CSS to draw various shapes for some designs that I have been working on instead of relying on images to create the relevant design elements, if possible.

Obviously, this technique will not work in older browsers, so I suggest using an alternative for specific browsers in the case that your website audience may have a variety of browsers and is accessible without Javascript. Normally, I would simply not use these techniques as I feel usability is important, but the audience for the websites I am working on requires newer browsers and enabled Javascript.

A common design element is the use of 'triangles' to create speech bubbles or arrows. Borders are rendered at angles, so assigning border colours and widths will create triangles. (More on this subject can be read on Jon Rohan's website (1).)

A quick example of this is demonstrated in the class below with setting the border colour as follows, from left to right in order - top: transparent, right: transparent, bottom: transparent, and right: violet. Changing the widths of the border sides controls the size and angle of the borders. For this example, I wanted a triangle to point to the right. The top and bottom angle needs to be the same to keep the angle 'straight', and I set it at 80px. Since we are only setting the right-hand size border, we need to give this a width, and this will influence the width of the triangle, which has been set to 40px. The code and screenshot is pictured below.

.css-arrow-multicolor {
  border-color: transparent transparent transparent violet;
  border-width:80px 0px 80px 40px;


(Please note that the 'transparent' colour setting does not work in some older browsers.)

Using these basics, a simple comment bubble (like the image below) can be made without the use of images. To create and adapt the following comment bubble to your own style, simply visit Jon Rohan's website (1) to get the code. 


In addition to creating triangular shapes, circles and rounded corners can also be created. To create rounded corners, simply add a border radius. (Unfortunately, not all browsers work the same, so you will need to use these three different tags for this to work in all browsers.)

The following three tags will create rounded corners, and the shape achieved is dependent on the width and height of the <DIV>. (For a circle, the border radius needs to be half the height and width of the <DIV> element, otherwise you will simply achieve a rectangle with rounded corners.) 

-moz-border-radius: 50px;
-webkit-border-radius: 50px;
border-radius: 50px;

An oval shape can be achieved by slightly rounding the height and width. The width of the radius should be half of the height and half of the width. (The one in the screenshot below is 200px wide and 100px tall.)

-moz-border-radius: 100px / 50px;
-webkit-border-radius: 100px / 50px;
border-radius: 100px / 50px;

Three shapes created using the border radius are pictured below, along with the code.


#circle {
width: 100px;
height: 100px;
background: cadetblue;
-moz-border-radius: 50px;
-webkit-border-radius: 50px;
border-radius: 50px;
#oval {
width: 200px;
height: 100px;
background: seagreen;
-moz-border-radius: 100px / 50px;
-webkit-border-radius: 100px / 50px;
border-radius: 100px / 50px;
#rounded {
width: 200px;
height: 100px;
background: orange;
-moz-border-radius: 30px;
-webkit-border-radius: 30px;
border-radius: 30px;

It may take a few tweaks to get exactly the shape and style you want, but that is part of the fun. Happy programming.

1) Rohan, Jon. Creating Triangles in CSS. [22 October, 2011].

2) CSS Yard. Making Shapes in CSS3. [18 February, 2011].


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