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The Studio – Then and Now

Everybody loves a makeover, right? I know I do. That’s why I finally got around to doing before/after photos of our studio and house.

When Joel and I first saw the house in late 2012, we immediately saw the potential despite it’s drab appearance. That, and the 1000 sq. ft heated workshop were a definite selling point. But it needed sprucing up. The house and workshop were in great condition so the only changes necessary were mostly cosmetic.

Here are before/after photos of the outside. Wait until you see the inside…another day though (because it’s pretty messy right now) 😉 The moral of this story is: it’s amazing what a coat of paint can do!


The main thing we did here to the studio was finish off the bottom part of the building, which had a layer of yellow foam insulation showing. This is called "parging", when you add a layer of concrete over the bottom foundation. We also added a coat of black paint to the barn doors, added a couple colourful pencils in front of the doors (to advertise what we do from a distance). We also levelled the yard, re-seeded it with grass and make two flower beds in front of the windows.
The main thing we did here to the studio was finish off the bottom part of the building, which had a layer of yellow foam insulation showing. This is called “parging”, when you add a layer of concrete over the bottom foundation. We also added a coat of black paint to the barn doors, added a couple colourful pencils in front of the doors (to advertise what we do from a distance). We also levelled the yard, re-seeded it with grass and made two flower beds in front of the windows.




The house needed sprucing up. We improved its appearance with a few coats of paint: first we painted the rust-coloured shutters a fire engine red, really making them pop. We also painted the front porch black, which contrasted nicely with the red shutters. This year we finally got around to digging up the entire front garden and replanting it with low-maintenance perennials.
The front porch was untreated wood when we bought the house. We painted it black to contrast nicely with the new fire engine red shutters and added some pretty flower pots.
The studio is behind the house, as you can see. The side porch was untreated wood when we bought the house so we needed to spruce it up to look prettier for when clients walk past it to the studio. Again, pretty simple makeover: a coat of black paint for the porch, fire-engine red shutters and pretty potted plants.
And finally, one of the first things we did when we moved in was to order a lovely sign to put at the front of the house. I love this sign.












From the inspiration file – Wales

I went to the UK when I had just graduated from high school in 2001 and have always wanted to return, so Joel and I decided this year to take a trip back there. We focused mainly on Wales (with a little Devon thrown in) and basically did a roadtrip around it. 

I loved, loved, loved it. 

There was endless inspiration for plein air sketching, and the only things standing in our way from sketching all day were a) time (we packed our itinerary) and b) weather (cold and sunny, a couple days of rain). We saw castles, manor houses, cliffs, moors, countless english gardens, B&Bs, sheep, sheep and more sheep, ponies, seaside villages, rolling hills, mountains, ancient forests, ancient towns, really ancient ruins (Roman ruins), amazing Victorian décor…the list goes on. I drank too much beer and had too many scones and am now vowing to find clotted (or Devonshire) cream in this part of the world so I can have  a “cream tea” at home (look it up). 

These are my sketches (Chantal’s), if you are interested in seeing Joel’s head over to his blog


Thatched cottage and windy road near Chagford, in Dartmoor National Park
Chantal sketching



Ruins of Skenfrith Castle, Wales.
The beautiful village of Beddgelert, in northern Wales.


The view of Beddgelert we were sketching
Seaside village of Porthgain, Wales
Hay-on-Wye, Wales. The "capital of books". Bartrams is a lovely stationery shop.

From the Inspiration File – The Invention of the Valentine’s Day Card

Have you ever wondered how the tradition of giving Valentine’s Day cards began? Today’s Valentine’s Day cards are descendants of the very first Valentine’s Day cards from the 1830s.

Joseph Addenbrooke is often credited with discovering the lace or doily texture used on valentines

Before there was a market for Valentines cards, valentines were simply love letters, handwritten and exchanged. Due to high postage rates of the day, they were often left on doorsteps.

With the improvement of printing techniques in the 1800’s, printers were able to try new and more sophisticated methods of printing.

A fellow by the name of Joseph Addenbrooke, who owned a London stationery firm, discovered that he could create a lace texture on paper during the 1830s. This is often considered a major discovery in the evolution of the valentine.

With his discovery, lace paper became extremely popular and the technique of creating doilies spread among English stationers. In no time, they were competing to create the most elaborate doilies to mimic real lace as closely as possible.

A John Addenbrook valentine

Recipients of valentines would often judge the elaborateness of the cards to determine how much their suitors really felt about them. The more cupids or hearts on a card could be the difference between “like” and “love.” In fact, men could spend up to a month’s wages to purchase an elaborate valentine, especially when purchasing a “proposal valentine” that often depicted a church or a ring.

According to Victorian etiquette, it was improper for a woman to give a valentine to a man.

Over the remainder of the 19th Century, stationers experimented with other methods of printing and embellishing the lace-paper valentines.

Esther Howland, credited as being the Mother of the American Valentine

Around 1847, Esther Howland, a young woman from Massachusetts, received a valentine. It was a pretty typical English valentine, but she was inspired by it and set out to make her own. Lucky for her, her father was a stationer and soon enough she had an order of lace-paper and other materials to make her own cards. She did so well that she started her own business making valentines, The New England Valentine Company.

A card believed to have been designed by Esther Howland


Look at the amazing detail in these cards! No wonder they cost a month's wages. All made by hand.

Esther is often credited as the Mother of the American Valentine. After the cards she made sold so well (over five thousand orders!), Esther began the first assembly-line of valentines. And she wasn’t selling these things cheaply either. With such elaborate and delicate details in her cards, all made and assembled by hand (just like ours!), they would cost between $5 and $10 through the late 1800’s, some cards cost upward of $50! Put that in the inflation calculator and she was making over $100 per card in today’s dollars. It is estimated her business made her over $100,000 a year! 

Thanks to the early work and creativity of Addenbrooke and Howland, Valentine’s Day cards are second only to Christmas cards as the most popular seasonal cards to purchase.

We are Twilight fans

We have a confession to make, we are closet Twilight fans. We are very much looking forward to Breaking Dawn, the 4th instalment of the Twilight movie saga, coming out in mid-November.

However when we saw the trailer a while ago, we were stunned when they showed the actual Bella & Edward invitation in the trailer. Why? It was so….blah.

Thus came the idea to redesign the Twilight wedding invitation. We asked our Facebook fans which motifs they thought we should take inspiration from, and they mostly agreed that the meadow was the best motif since Edward and Bella spent so much time there together.

We didn’t set out to create a real wedding invitation, but rather something the fans could get excited about which is why we decided to include the actual characters on the wedding invitation. We rarely illustrate human figures on our wedding invitations, but in this case we thought it would be more fun for the fans to feature the characters on the invitation.

And thus the Twilight invitation was reborn, by the hand of Chantal herself (who illustrated the whole thing), complete with New Moon font.

The Papillon Press version of the Twilight invitation
The invitation from the movie version. BORING.

Now comes the really exciting part…you can buy it!

We’re currently taking pre-orders in our Etsy shop. The last day to order will be October 28th,  and the invitation will ship on November 1st, just in time for all your Twilight wedding parties (no pun intended). We’re also offering your name handwritten in calligraphy on the front of the envelope and offering the shipping option of having it sent directly to you as if you were one of Edward’s and Bella’s guests.

It’s a limited edition and the amount of pre-orders we get will determine the edition number (meaning once that deadline is up, this invitation will never be made again!) So make sure to tell your fan friends!

Check it out in the shop

Glitter sold separately 😉

From the Inspiration File: early 20th-century colour photos

A few years ago I  (Chantal) discovered a website showing the photographs of a certain Russian photographer, Prokudin-Gorskii, that were all developed in colour! It was the most amazing thing ever, to see authentic scenes from over 100 years ago in full colour. Apparently he had developed a special process for developing in colour, but the photos were subsequently lost during the Russian Revolution and only resurfaced later. I often use theses images for reference because they are so vivid.

There is also a very interesting section on the website about re-creating his colour process but using digital methods.

We tend to think of the past in black and white or in sepia tones, so to see it in colour reminds us that those people in the photos really did exist. Here is a selection of favourites:

self portrait of the photographer

Awesome cast iron machinery

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