The Power of the (Hand) Written Word


canstockphoto9482436This week is #NationalStationeryWeek, aiming to promote the importance of writing by hand in our increasingly digital world. Whilst reading through the organisers website, it got me to thinking (reminiscing?) about writing letters and cards.

I’m guilty.

I just hardly do it anymore.

There are a handful of people that I send birthday cards to and everyone else gets a text or a Facebook post…and whilst those things are nice, how much nicer is it to get those colourful envelopes dropping through your postbox on your birthday…and what about saying ‘Thank You’? How often do you actually write to your host to thank them for dinner or your stay or for a gift?

Thank You Card by Binkle & Bungo Design

I went to University during the mid 1990s (yikes!) – a time where email and mobile phones went from being very rare, to everywhere in the space of my 4 year degree. In my first couple of years of study, I sent and received literally dozens and dozens of hand-written letters to and from my friends…and I kept them. Pretty much all of them. They are packed away in a box that I hardly ever open, but when I do, I’m hooked. They make me laugh, they  make me cry and they definitely make me cringe. They are brilliant. They are some of my favourite memories.


By the time I graduated from university, my friends and I had also graduated from letter-writing. Email was the new thing. We would go to the library computers and send a few typed lines.

I didn’t keep a single one of those emails.

It saddens me that we rarely send and receive hand-written letters, notes and postcards these days.

I think I’m going to try to do it more.

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Find out more about National Stationery Week here

Buy Binkle & Bungo Stationery with 20% off during National Stationery Week using code NSW16 in the SHOP


Note Cards by Binkle & Bungo Design


Let’s do what we love & do a lot of it




..and that’s exactly what I’ve been lucky enough to have been doing for the past couple of months.

In May this year, I embarked on an online course that I’d been thinking about doing for ages. In collaboration with Beth Kempton, founder of the fantastically inspirational Do What You Love organisation,  the Make it in Design courses are written by Surface Pattern Designer, Illustrator and all-round happy person, Rachael Taylor. The aim – to provide the skills and resources to become a successful Surface Pattern Designer (which is, as the name suggests, a designer who creates pattern and prints for ‘surfaces’ – anything from greetings cards, to ceramics, homewares, stationery, gifts, accessories – you get the idea!)

Having already studied design-based subjects at school and university (albeit many moons ago) and more recently taken courses in garden and ceramic design, I felt I could skip Module 1 (Designing your way) and instead jumped in, head first (so more of a dive, than a jump!) at the deep end of Module 2 ‘Creating your Professional Identity’. The 5 weeks of tutorials and classes were JAM PACKED with information and incredibly useful and clear ‘technical workshops’ – teaching novices (like me) how to create pattern using Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop software. There was a class Facebook page to connect with fellow students, trend prediction insight, design briefs, branding, marketing and PR advice, plus much MUCH more….From day one, I was hooked. My only wish was that I’d done it sooner.

This September, I started Module 3 ‘Monetising your Designs’ – just as the title would lead you to believe – how you can actually make some money from all this pretty pattern creating. Again, squeezing LOADS of content into another 5 weeks, it’s been fascinating, sometimes a little overwhelming, occasionally daunting BUT has given me a much needed focus and push to start moving forward with what I hope might mean I can earn a bit of money from doing what I love.

The online support network of fellow students has been invaluable. There is always a classmate out there to answer a question, give you some help with a technical problem, offer some feedback on a piece of work, or just a give you a bit of moral support and a boost if you’re struggling/getting behind/feeling demoralised….and that’s one of the things about this course – Whilst the Surface Pattern Design industry is hugely over-saturated and there’s a massive wealth of creative talent out there wanting to do exactly what I want to do, Rachael is very keen to point out throughout her teachings (and it’s reiterated in the many interviews with successful designers) – there is room for all of us. There are positive and inspirational messages running throughout the courses, which are incredibly motivating  and I will return to time and time again.

I would love to do the 4th Module (The Ultimate Portfolio Builder) or another of the Do What You Love collaborative courses, Make Art That Sells with illustration agent, Lilla Rogers. However, at the moment, my  finances won’t allow it, and in a way, that’s a good thing. I am in danger of always studying and making plans but never actually making those plans happen. This way I have no excuses. For now, the 2 courses with Make it in Design have given me  skills and  knowledge to make a start. I have a focus and a direction that I didn’t have 6 months ago and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process that’s got me here.


I’ve written before about my love of ceramics and the workshops I took on the subject. The sense of joy, pride and achievement I felt when I created my first few (not too wonky) pots on a potter’s wheel was something I’d not felt in years. I’d created something with my very own hands, using a skill that was completely new. I felt the same way when I managed to turn a little doodle on a piece of paper into an actual pattern using software that I’d only just opened a couple of weeks before. The power that learning new skills has on the human spirit should not be underestimated.

Of course, it’s not always financially possible or practical to quit a job you hate and go off to learn climbing in the Himalayas but my point is, that it IS possible to enhance our lives with a commitment to lifelong learning about those things we have a passion for or interest in. Whether it’s LEarn-something-newlearning a musical instrument, teaching yourself about growing organic vegetables, studying for an academic qualification, or learning a new sport.  It doesn’t have to be a huge financial or time investment, it can be as simple as downloading an e-book and choosing to read that for half an hour of an evening, instead of watching another TV programme.

I’m just starting out on my Surface Pattern Design journey. In fact I’m only in the process of packing my suitcase – I’m not even in the departure lounge yet – but at least now my journey has started and I know which flight I’m taking. Of course, things will come along to send me off course and I may end up taking a different route. I may even end up having to abandon the trip altogether, but however far along the road I get, I will, without doubt, love it and learn from it.


Do What You Love 

Make It in Design

Make Art That Sells

Design-Love Series: Awesome Umbrellas

October <3, my favorite month of the year. The weather is perfect and everything is beautiful.: image source:

As I write this short but sweet post for October, the rain is hammering at my the window. It is proper chucking it down today and I really do need to find my umbrella…rella…rella…rella (can’t say that word nowadays without the Rhianna song popping into my head!). SO, here’s a little Design-Love piece on some of the marvellous, pattern-tastic umbrellas that you can buy (as an alternative to plain black, or grey, or navy) and add some much-needed colour to the dreariest of autumn days:


Once upon a time, (it broke in a gust of wind. I actually cried) I owned this umbrella by the uber-talented designer and paper-cutting master, Rob Ryan. Unfortunately I can no longer find it still available for sale, but, despite the rain coming down, it made me smile every time I opened it, so I felt I couldn’t leave it out.

Moving on to umbrellas that you can actually buy(!), my top choice has to be the wet-weather offering from the Queen of Accessories and Design Hero of mine – Orla Kiely. There is a range to choose from, but these are definitely my favourites – classic Orla stem print and then a bit of monochrome with splashes of colour:

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If a clear umbrella is more your thing, then there are plenty of pretty prints to choose from. This red lips/spot one from Lulu Guinness and a pretty floral number from the folk at John Lewis just a couple of examples:

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The San Francisco Umbrella Co (available in the UK from Brollied) do a fab range of bright umbrellas, featuring animal silhouettes (lots of dogs!) This Labrador puppy caught my eye:

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A little more conservative, but jolly pretty, is this one from Joules:

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and finally, Radley have some fun and colourful umbrellas, featuring the infamous Scottie Dog – this one being one of my favourites:umb 8So there you have it – a bit of inspiration for your next brolly purchase. PLEASE – don’t go for boring black – Be Brave. Be Bold and get some colour in your life!

Emma x

because you can never have too much colour in your life


Photo credit: (via Pinterest)

September is a funny old month – it comes with a certain melancholy that the summer is on the way out, days are shorter and nights are cooler…but it’s not all bad…It’s the start of nature’s striking display of colour as trees and hedgerows change from their calm greens to vibrant golds, oranges, purples and reds. It’s the month of delicious fruit crumbles and pies, drenched in creamy custard and with children going back to school, it’s the start of new beginnings and an opportunity to hit the refresh button and make some positive changes.

However, if you’re struggling to embrace Autumn and feeling slightly blue as the month gets underway,  THIS blog post from the lovely folks at Do What You Love invites you to get some ‘colour in your life’ to boost your mood!

Why not give it a try and have a Happy September x

Design-Love Series: Colourful Camping

Hello! I’m kicking off a new series sharing great design and some ideas for buying and supporting independents retailers, designers and creatives, with a post about glamming up your camping this summer:

Camping and festival season is definitely upon us – But, if like me, you find yourself not always the happiest of campers (rain, cold, mud, other people’s children outside your tent at 6am, suspicious stuff lurking in communal showers and toilets…the list goes on!); there d41a9567a7dd006e890f700addcb4b6care plenty of bright, fun, textiles and accessories out there that will brighten up your pitch and inject some sunshine into your trip….and if you don’t always embrace it at home, then a bit of outdoor living is just the right time to throw caution to the wind and get some crazy colour in your life…..

Camping needn’t be all Go Outdoors, Millets & Blacks. No! Whilst I concede that these chaps have great kit, there’s some even greater kit out there from the Independent retailers…you just need to do a bit more digging!

Make sure your tent stand out in a field of green. I love this limited edition design by Tord Boontje for Field Candy. Not necessarily great for family camping, but a super fesitval tent.


For a bigger group, glamp it up with a colourful Bell Tent. The Glam Camping Company and Boutique Camping sell a wide selection.


Great for carrying all your kit (and for hiding behind when traipsing to the shower block in your PJS and wellies) is one of Rachael Taylor’s huge canvas bags


Keep warm with a cosy mug of hot chocolate drunk from one of these fabulous enamel mugs and pot from Old With New via Not On The High Street

Folklore Woodland Enamel Mug

…and how about the fair-trade, hand-painted decorative enamelware range from Nkuku for all that al-fresco eating and drinking:


Franjipani Floral Cup

Franjipani Floral Tray

Keep the Pimms and Peroni cold in one of these fun cool bags also from The Glam Camping Company


Bring a smile to your face when doing the tiresome task of cooking and washing up with another Rachael Taylor range – her oven mitt, apron and tea towel

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…and finally, snuggle up for a good night’s sleep in one of these quirky design sleeping bag from Anorak.

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So if you are off to the Great Outdoors this summer…Go on – check out the online retailers and independents on your high street and glam it up…even if it’s just a bright orange might bring a smile to your face as you listen to the rain lashing down the canvas!

Happy Camping x

Back to School

For the past few weeks, I’ve been totally immersed in back-to-school-like studies, following a thoroughly inspiring and enjoyable course: The Art & Business of Surface Pattern Design
I found the course some years ago via Beth Kempton’s Do What You Love site, but it was only this year that I felt I had the time to dedicate to it.  Written by successful Designer, Rachael Taylor in collaboration with Beth, the course teaches, motivates, inspires and advises on all aspects of the world of Surface Pattern Design (as the name suggests – that’s designing print and pattern for all manner of ‘surfaces’…textiles, homewares, wallpaper, crockery, stationery, greetings cards….you get the idea!)
Anyway, eager to get back to it, I’ll stop waffling and post a few images of the work I’ve been up to instead…..

Emma x

Hand-made Coasters Tutorial

Long long ago in the depths of winter, I published this picture on my Facebook Page of these coasters that I’d made:

and at the time promised to write a tutorial on how to make them.  Well, finally here it is – just in time for a bit of Easter Holiday crafting. It’s a bit brief so if you need any more detail, then please just get in touch and ask away, and apologies if the photos are a bit dull – they were taken in deepest darkest winter too!  It’s a nice project to do with older children, but does require quite a bit of patience and accuracy (Good Luck!)

What you’ll need:

– Basic 10x10cm plain tiles (I got mine in Homebase – end of line so really cheap)

– Mod Podge or similar water-based sealer glue with a matt finish.

– Plasti-kote Acrylic Sealer Spray (or similar) I went for matt finish but you could go glossy!

– Decorative Papers – I’ve tried free decorative/designer paper samples from craft magazines, wrapping paper and thin wallpaper (wallpaper can be a bit thick, something normal paper-weight is fine though) The paper here is a Habitat wallpaper (free sample piece from DIY store!)

– Black felt roll or squares

– Scissors, Pencil, Ruler, Foam Glue Brush.

What you do:

Lay your tiles out onto the paper, centering the part of the design where you want it on the tiles.

Allowing for a 3mm border around each tile, carefully cut out your paper pieces

 Using the foam brush, spread Mod Podge onto wrong-side of paper,

 and firmly press tile to centre, leaving that border around each edge:

 Using sharp scissors, snip off the paper corners at each corner of the tile:

and carefully fold over the edges, pressing down firmly to cover the sides of the tiles:

 Complete process for all 4 tiles (or more if you’re making a larger set)

Then, going back to the Modge Podge, paint on a layer of glue over the surface and edges of each tile and leave to dry:

They will look like this when drying.  The drying process can take anything from 30 minutes to a good few hours depending on how thick the glue is, and how warm your room is. It’s really important to let the layer really dry fully so some patience is required!

When dry, the glue will be clear – like this:

Repeat the process 2 more times, allowing each layer of glue to properly dry. If you don’t, you will get unsightly bubbles on the surface of the coasters.

Once the 3 layers are fully dry, take your set of coasters outside to seal with an acrylic spray.  This spray is pretty potent – full of stinky solvents, so don’t let kids do this bit and work outside or with LOADS of ventilation.

Spray each tile with sealer, including the edges, and leave to dry. Repeat with another coat or 2 to ensure the coasters are fully wipe-able.

Once coasters are dry (the smell will soon go!), you need to finish off with the felt backing.
Simply draw around your tile onto the felt sheets and cut out.

 Then apply glue to the underside of each tile either using Modge Podge or if you have a fancy glue gun – use that! Wait to dry (again!)  Sorry – lots of ‘waiting to dry’ in this project……

 Finally, trim off any excess felt sticking out around the edges to make the coasters nice and neat….

 …and tah dah! You’re done. if you’re giving them as a gift, you can tie with ribbon or make some binding as I’ve done here with kraft paper:

Give it a go. Let me know if my instructions are or aren’t any good and enjoy making lots of lovely coasters….you could even print off family photos and use those – great gifts for Grandparents…..makes a change from an Easter Egg.
Bye for now,
Emma xx

Creative with Kids Series: The Dot

This is just a quick post about a brilliant little book with a brilliantly conveyed big message. I came across it just recently (it was actually published in 2003) when helping T overcome a crisis of confidence over his ability to ‘draw’. It’s a children’s book by American author Peter Reynolds, called ‘The Dot’. 
Whilst primarily being a book for kids; it is, like any truly great children’s book, also very relevant and engaging for us adults.
I don’t want to ruin the story for you by going into too much detail, but it’s just the perfect read for anyone, young or old, who thinks they can’t do something. It encourages self-discovery, self-expression and a broadening of the concept of  ‘art’.
Quite apart from the story itself, the charming, whimsical illustrations are simply stunning.
Clearly something he is passionate about, Peter Reynolds gives some further suggestions of activities to capture the creative spirit of children, here on his website.

I love the dedication at the end of the book. How wonderful that Mr Matson was such an inspiration and remains in the author’s memory as the adult who encouraged him to ‘make his mark’…Exactly what all teachers should be capable of doing.

So, if you or your child have ever said “..but I can’t do it”, or “I’m rubbish at it”, then I urge you to buy this book. Buy it and leave it lying around for everyone to pick up and read.
Righto, I’m off to draw some dots…..
Emma x
p.s If you like The Dot, Peter Reynolds has written 2 follow-up books: ‘ish’ and ‘Sky Colour’. Enjoy!

Paper cuts

Shame on me…I just found this post that I wrote A WHOLE YEAR AGO but didn’t get round to publishing. Oh well…Mother’s Day has nearly come around again, so here we go…as relevant now as it was 12 months ago!!

Something I’ve been meaning to get around to for absolutely ages, is having a go at  the art of ‘paper cutting’.

I’ve always much admired the amazing, intricate work of Rob Ryan

*Apologies for the quality of the photos in this post. They were taken whilst I was carrying out the project at about 8pm – so the light is not great.

I purchased this wonderfully clear and concise book and a paper cutting knife almost a year ago and then it sat neglected and lonely on the shelf waiting desperately to be an inspiration and of use.

With Mothers Day coming up, I thought ‘ah ha’, now is my chance to have a go by making some paper-cut cards for our Mums….and a ‘go’ it was…(I certainly need to hone my skills where this one is concerned),  but Mums are very forgiving so I knew they’d appreciate the effort rather than the result.

Pressed for time, as usual, I used the templates provided in the book as this was my first attempt and I didn’t want to start designing my own artwork without seeing how tricky it might be. I selected and copied these 2 floral designs to then attached to my card. School-girl error on my card selection though – WAY too thick which meant that I had a VERY sore hand when I finished and the edges weren’t as crisp and neat as I would have liked. 

So, the process basically involves attaching the template to the card and carefully (very carefully) cutting away the ’empty’ areas. You are then left with the design on the card

Find some contrasting card or paper to fix to the back and ‘tah-dah’, the card is complete.  I added some text by applying clear stickers to the top of the cards, which, in hindsight didn’t give a very professional finish but did I mention this was my first attempt?!!

Although far from perfect, I do love the effect that paper cutting produces and because it is all done by hand, even if you are using the same template, each piece is completely unique.  Next up I will have a go at creating my own designs….watch this space…..