Archive for the ‘Bespoke Designs’ Category

Handmade Totoro Figures (don’t sue me)

November 2, 2009

Hey everyone,

On October 15th it was my big sister’s birthday, and while I want to give her something she’d love – I’m not buying stuff made in china.

Really nowadays I try my best to make every present I need to give and if I really can’t think of anything fitting that I could actually pull off then I buy something handmade from someone on Folksy.

But this time I had a good idea of what to make.

She is a huge fan of anime (japanese animation) and one of the things that she and I both absolutely love are the Studio Ghibli series of films. A few weeks ago we were in St.Ives, Cornwall visiting my mum (who does brilliant tours of the town) and there was a shop full of all kinds of awesome Japanese stuff. In particular there was all sorts of products based on my absolute favourite (and I think my sister’s favourite) Ghibli movie: My Neighbour Totoro.

I thought at the time that some of them would be great presents for my sister but the problem was that they were all cheaply made in china. So I’d noted it in my head and while I was wondering what to make her months later, like a leaf floating down onto the forest floor of my mind – I remembered that note. I could make little Totoro figures out of salt dough!

So first thing’s first: I needed to make salt dough.

Done and done

Done and done

Salt dough is really easy to make. It’s just white flour, cooking salt and water. I’ve got the ‘recipe’ somewhere, but not to hand so just message me or do a quick google search and you’ll find one. It seemed to go very well, but was very loose when it got warm and it was seeming like I’d never be able to make these figures. I just couldn’t get the right shapes, and even when I did they’d droop down and end up all wrong within a minute (I got very upset). So I went back to the kitchen and kneeded in more flour (I did this 4 times over two days) and eventually I had good, firm, non-drooping salt dough. So really, I wouldn’t bother contacting me for the recipe. Find your own. =)

So then I just searched on google images for some pictures of totoro and his friends. My plan was to make Tororo himself, the little blue forest spirit and the even smaller white forest spirit. So I set about with my recently firmed-up dough to make their bodies.

They all started basically like this.

They all started off looking something like this.

I then began getting them painted, which at first seemed very easy but little did I know just how scary and difficult it was going to get. The only difficulty at this stage was getting the colour of Totoro’s fur right. But with a bit of experimenting, I managed to get it looking pretty good.


They don't look great just yet, but they're getting closer.

So as my sister’s birthday edged ever closer, I got onto the hardest part of all – the details. The faces and markings on their bellies had to be reproduced accurately otherwise they’d just look wrong. I took a few evenings of trying, letting it dry, painting over it, letting that dry and then trying again. Thank god I started when I did! It was taking a long time to get these finished to a standard I was happy with. Thankfully though, with a lot of effort and studying of images from the movie and images of the figures you can buy online – eventually I had succeeded:

totoro figures finished

The damn things are so shiny the photo isn't great, but you can see I succeeded. What's difficult to see is Totoro's slight smile.


Here's Totoro on his own. (still being all shiny...grr.)

blue totoro figure

This was the best photo of him I've got. But isn't he cool?

tiny totoro figure

I touched up his eyes in this photo a bit as they were barely visible from the shiny-ness. Isn't he cute?

Thanks to Dan Jackson (who is a genius) for taking photos of them for me (as while rushing I somehow forgot to take my own photos of the finished creations.) Also thanks to Studio Ghibli for conceiving such a wonderful film with such great characters. Everyone go and see this film! (and all the others!)

So there you go. I hope you enjoyed getting to see the process, I enjoyed sharing it. (any chance to share the wonderfulness that is Totoro really!)

Thanks for reading, see you again soon I hope,

Happy Vibes,




Jenny’s Amazing Gifts – Part 1

October 29, 2009

Hello there people,

Today I start a series of blog posts entitled ‘Jenny’s Amazing Gifts’ in which I will share with you a different amazing gift that Jenny, my wife and the illustrious creator of beautiful things over at Junky Chicken, has made me over the last 5 and a half years.

There’s 8 or 9 to show you so lets get started!

Now, as Jenny has just pointed out, I actually sort of started this series a few weeks ago with this post. So the second thing I’m going to show you is the amazing wallet she made me a few years back.

My wallet had started falling to pieces after years of being sat on, and I understandably needed a new one, but all I could find in shops were stupid designer wallets, wallets that wouldn’t have things in the right places (or would be lacking essential compartments), or would just be plain crazy.

A shoe wallet?!

So without my knowledge Jenny took my current wallet (while I was asleep or passed out I guess) and carefully studied it’s layout. Then while I was at work (I assume), she would be working away at it in anticipation to whatever celebration it happened to be for (which at this point I really can’t remember).  Anyway, it all turned out very well, as it was a beautiful, perfectly designed wallet.


It was obviously a lot less sat-on when she first gave it to me. =P

Beautiful handmade wallet opened up

Look at all the well placed compartments! So practical.

It’s mind-boggling that this is all handmade, and also that I’m still using this wallet now and it must be at least 3 years (perhaps even 4!) since I started sitting on it daily. The outside is made from various colours and textures of fabric overlapping each other to make a lovely stripy design. The inside has a velcro sealing change section, 3 card sections (that can fit a good 4-5 cards each) and a section for what I can only assume rich people use for wadges of that fancy paper money they use.

He's so rich, he doesn't even want anyone to know!

Anyway, it was an amazing gift and must have taken so much thought, time and effort! So I’m thinking you should all now go and buy something from Jenny’s shop, now you’ve been enlightened to her brilliance…

Or perhaps you need more convincing? In which case, stay tuned for part 2! (or 3)

Speak to you all soon,

Lovely seeing you,


Designing my own buttons

October 24, 2009

Hello everyone!

I’ve decided I should design my own buttons for my side bar, so that my blog can be even more personalised. =D So I got to work drawing some ideas a few days ago and I came up with some good ones I think. You might have already noticed, but if you haven’t then take a look over to the right hand side of this text and you will see my wonderful new buttons or whatever it is people call them.

I personally think they look great and I’m so pleased with how they’ve turned out. I was going to do a poll (me and my polls =P) to help pick which ones I should use from the ideas I had. Instead of that though, I just went ahead and chose them myself (I couldn’t wait for you all to vote before I put them up!) and got them onto my side bar the first chance I got.

I started off drawing lots by hand on an A4 sheet of paper.

They started off quite rough...

They started off quite rough...

I then scanned that in and got it into photoshop to cut them out and size them correctly. I downloaded one of the Folksy buttons (that they offer on their site) to get an idea of size, made it a bit bigger (as the drawings could barely be seen so small) and then got to work tidying them up.

I already had favourites and Jenny helped me make the final decisions. You can see what I chose at the side (note that the computer in the folksy button actually has a screenshot of the folksy front page on the screen).

Here are the others that didn’t make the cut, and feel free to let me know if you disagree with my final choices.

This was my second favourite Twitter button

This was my second favourite Twitter button

I didn't want to suggest that I'd be afraid of you if you followed me so this was out of the question.

I didn't want to suggest that I'd be afraid of you if you followed me so this was out of the question.

This was my original idea for this button, but the other seemed funnier.

This was my original idea for this button, but the other seemed funnier.

The way that I got my own pictures to work as buttons is by firstly uploading the images (as .png files) to my webspace. Then I just changed the image links in the html for the buttons I already had on my sidebar, and otherwise kept it mostly the same. It was really much easier than I was expecting! (if that was all jibberish, get in touch and I’ll try and explain more clearly)

Anyway, that’s all for today kids. Thanks very much for reading and I do hope you are all well.

Love to you all,


One million giraffes by 2011?!

September 18, 2009

Hello everyone!

Today I’ve got another relatively quick post for you. It will lead you to something that may very well take up a fair amount of your time, but I promise it will be worth it.

I’m here to tell you about!

So just like some other absolutely genius ideas (like ‘Are You Dave Gorman?’ for instance) this all stemmed from a bet between friends. In this case the bet was that the maker of the site (I can’t find his name) can’t collect one million giraffes by 2011. The site is introduced like so:

“My friend, Jørgen, doesn’t believe I can collect one million giraffes by 2011. I’m gonna prove him wrong, but I need your help. You can create your giraffe(s) in any way you like, but not on a computer and no store bought objects. You must create your giraffe(s) yourself! Click here to read why.
So far I’ve got 267 209 giraffes, so I need 732 791 more and I have 469 days left.

Let’s show Jørgen how amazing the internet is.

And so begins one of the most wonderful collective endevours I’ve seen for years (perhaps ever)! Such a simple concept and such a simple stimulus has given rise to such wonderful creativity that you could spend weeks looking through this website already and there’s hundreds more giraffes being added everyday! So many different giraffes, it is truly mind boggling.

Like this.

You can search through all the drawings so far with a very well made search feature. He’s got a really interesting blog where he picks his giraffe of the day every day (this is a great place to start in fact) and he’s planning on many more wonderful features in the future.

Oh and if you go to the giraffe search engine and type in ‘Joe‘ you might see some drawings that are in a style you might recognise (I did them you see…).

Anyway, go on your merry way and check out this veritible feast of creativity! Go!



A card for my brother’s birthday

August 13, 2009

Hello again everyone!

Today I was stung by a wasp and it hurt so much it is madness. Just thought I’d share that as it’s still hurting now and it happened just before lunch (it’s midnight now)!

I thought, seeing as I haven’t even started sorting out the cat drawings at all, that I’d do a different post first. My brother is going to be 30 in a few days (on the 16th) and so I thought I should think of an idea just for him. It’s a big birthday and it needed some attention put into it so I got to work. He’s a computer game tester and general avid gamer so I was thinking along those lines initially.

I drew a few rough ideas and played around with some stuff, but to be honest it was only the second or third idea I had that I realised was a very good one.

The rough scanned in sheet

The rough scanned in sheet

So I got to work drawing a few different versions of it (this was originally at the garden opening so I had to pay attention for customers at the same time) and eventually I had some relatively good ones. So I scanned them in so I could make them a bit neater and turn them into a respectable card, and thus his card was born. See the final design below:

I turned out rather well I think

I turned out rather well I think

Hopefully he’ll appreciate the time spent, as it must have taken a good 3 hours work in the end. And it’s rather amusing I thought. I even looked up pictures of the NES and Playstation to make sure they were drawn accurately (to a degree).

Anyway, love to hear what people think.

Good day,