Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Studio Update - Crawling to the Finish Line

It's been painfully slow but we are nearly there. Nearly.
Today is Snagging Day and anyone who has ever commissioned building work will know that this is when you print out an endless list of unfinished items and wait on the doorstep for a suitably large team to come and tackle them. I did this. They sent 2 guys. Who don't speak very good English. And no electrician. He's coming later. Later? Sigh.
Meanwhile, the shower room looks gorgeous and I appear to have decorated the snug to match my Cornish holiday paintings.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Studio Update

So, a couple (or three) deadlines have passed, I'm no nearer to moving in and the garden is still in chaos. The main problem has been not having a foreman on site so important details have been missed and mistakes made. Yesterday, while I was at Uni, having fun...
MA Illustration eating Day of the Dead sugar skulls.
... Mum and Dad were dealing with yet another no show from the builders. Really frustrating! They had to call Green Studios HQ again to complain about the lack of communication and the state of the site. My poor parents are well and truly fed up with the mess and the repeated delays.
Anyway, the plastering is done, the oak floor is down and the electrician has completed most of the second fix. But, outside it's a different story, with cladding and facia boards to finish, roof tiles to be cemented and a lot of rubbish that needs to be cleared.
We have two lovely guys here today (after Dad's phone call to the boss, I expect) dealing with the utilities trench and generally giving the garden a well-needed tidy-up. One of them is digging the hole for the enormous 2m tank. BY HAND! The earth is a nightmare, mostly clay at that depth and full of enormous flints. His mate keeps checking on him to make sure he'd OK. He's still smiling. Just about.
I'm not sure what the revised completion date is but I doubt it will be 4th Nov. Anyone anticipating that studio-warming party invitation appearing on their doormat, might be waiting a while longer.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

How to Build a Kit House

After that horribly slow first week, the studio is now taking shape at lightning speed. I've been compiling a folder of before during and after photos and the transformation is incredibly exciting.
Just look at these!
The garden has gone from this...
...to this (levelling the site and moving the summer house)...
...to this (36 holes dug and filled again)...
...to this (the 'kit' arrives on site, all at once!)...
...to this (the 'kit' is assembled')...
...to this. All since this time last year!
Those last two shots were just days apart. Amazing, isn't it?
I'm actually due to get the keys by the end of next week so pop back for the final reveal.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Stress and Sunshine

Thank goodness for the sunshine! I'm so stressed this weekend that I think more bad weather might have pushed me over the edge. The sunshine has cast a nice warm glow over everything which is making it easier to deal with studio build scheduling nightmares, project deadlines and a scary MA workload.
Here's some more good news that's (just about) keeping me sane. The cover proof for ELECTRIGIRL 2,' Electrigirl and the Deadly Swarm', arrived in the post this morning. I was almost knocked off my feet by the powerful fluorescent orange background (which you can't really see in this photo so you'll just have to imagine it).

These two books (and more, we hope) are sure to be the brightest things on the bookshelves next year. I can't wait!
Published by Oxford University Press in February and August 2016

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Furniture but no house!

In just over a week the builders will arrive on site! Hurrah! In the meantime I've been choosing flooring, scheduling plumbers and buying taps. I've also become slightly addicted to eBay which is a bit of a problem as I've run out of storage space. This week I bought two beautiful Ercol armchairs and a massive chest of drawers which just about fill the dining room. Then yesterday two more chairs arrived - a birthday gift from Mum and Dad - and, although they are meant for the garden, I've brought them in to the conservatory while I finish oiling them. I think the 'rents are now rather eager for the studio to be completed so they can have their house back!

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Green Light!

Ready, steady... BUILD!
I've designed the kitchen, calculated U-values, sourced sockets, signed off the final plans and paid the deposit! We are ready to build on 14th September.
In the meantime I've got two books to write and illustrate, a holiday to take and an MA to prepare for!!!

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Call Bomb Disposal!

Great excitement at the site this week. I raked up a 'bomb'. Well, something that was suspiciously bomb-like and therefore quite alarming.
I was tackling the dust bowl left by the weekend's excavation. Work on site will take a summer break before the proper build begins in September, so I was making the garden more summer-friendly by clearing stones and reseeding the lawn. I'd just begun raking when an object I thought was a root flipped over on the soil. I was about to yank it out and throw it in to the wheelbarrow with all the other roots until something made me paused. I had a bad feeling. 
A root is not metallic. A root does not bulge in the middle. A root doesn't have a perfectly smooth collar at one end. A root doesn't rust.
The bad feeling grew.
Better to be safe than sorry, I thought.
I called the police...
... who also thought it was suspicious. They emailed pictures. The recipient also thought it was suspicious. Mortar or cocktail shaker? Better to be safe than sorry. Warn the neighbours not to go in their gardens and call Bomb Disposal...
...who arrived (blue lights and sirens all the way from Aldershot) and took a look. They didn't know what it was either. After picking it up (carefully), peering at it, x-raying it and finally cleaning it up with a wire brush...
... It was decided that it WASN'T a bomb or a mortar or even a cocktail shaker. It was probably part of an electric motor.
Better to be safe than sorry, they said.
The cops were really disappointed. They were hoping for a controlled explosion!

Friday, 3 July 2015


I just realised it's been almost a month since my last post. I have an excuse. I've been super busy moving out of my cottage and doing someimportant ELECTRIGIRL stuff. The cottage sale negotiations are STILL ongoing (so I won't go there) but here, at 'the site', the first real work is about to begin.
Look! The digger has arrived!
They start work early tomorrow morning so I've been measuring the plot and painting new white guide lines on the grass. 

All the soil will be redistributed around the garden so we are all preparing ourselves for no lawn and lots of mud and dust for the rest of the year.
Poor Dad is upset about the loss of his lawn. What WILL he do with his weekends from now on?

Sunday, 7 June 2015


Moving to a new studio (eventually!) has made me look back on all the projects I have completed at Abinger Cottage. My first published books and many illustration commissions were created in my tiny second bedroom or on my renovated gate leg dining room table (that I'm about to put on eBay!).
It will be hard to leave the house where my characters were born; where Ember Fury's conversations with her invisible friend in a WW2 bomb shelter made me giggle 'til my sides ached; where I punched the air when Verity Fibbs escaped from two miserable goth assassins by driving over the Millenium Bridge; where Esther Armstrong and her brothers broke my heart and made me cry for hours. 
More recently, that (solid oak, great condition and yours for 99p) dining room table was where Jo Cotterill and I worked out some of our early ideas for ELECTRIGIRL, our exciting new collaboration (published Feb and Aug 2016 by OUP).
All this nostalgia deserves a retrospective, so here are the last 12 years in pictures...
...Ember, Ned and Finn set out on their 'adventure' (EMBER FURY, Headline 2009)...

...JP, Rip, Psycho and Taz about to get a serious fright (SCARLETT DEDD, Headline 2010)...

...JP and psycho making horror movies...

...My first three girls (with HEADLINE), Em, Scar and Vee...

...doing festivals (meeting Sarah McIntyre and many other author pals at Hay)...

...Northumberland National Park 2013...

...Esther making me cry (EVERYTHING IS FINE AND OTHER LIES I TELL MYSELF, Headline 2013)...

...and surfers in peril...

...Joe and his dangerous sketchbook (GRAPHIC, Barrington Stoke 2014)...

...Illustrating for some of my fave author friends like Karen McCombie (Barrington Stoke 2014)...

...twice (HONEY AND ME, Barrington Stoke 2015)...

...Michaela Morgan x4 (STAR SCHOOL, Edition Didier)...

...Melvin Burgess (PERSIST, Barrington Stoke 2015)...

...and my brilliant ELECTRIGIRL co-creator, Jo Cotterill.

More tomorrow...

Monday, 11 May 2015

The story so far...

Hedge planted...
Shed painted...
'Stumpery' filled with hostas and ferns...
New fence built...

Phew, no wonder I'm sleeping well!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015


I've been packing my life into cardboard boxes ready for the move.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Day Out

I know I said I wouldn't be posting about school visits for a while but I had a day off yesterday at a local school and it was so much fun I wanted to share.
Here's the cake some clever person baked for the grand opening of their library. Isn't it awesome?!
Danes Hill School have a brand new library and they invited me to be artist and writer in residence for a day to celebrate. During the course of that day I met every pupil in years 2 to 6! Hundreds of them! And they were all really impressed with their beautiful new library and super enthusiastic about reading all the book on its shelves. Hurrah!
I had made a mural for the wall leaving space for the children to add their own characters and book designs to it. The younger groups made Pocket Bockett bookmarks which shall no doubt be popping up in books all around the school.
This is a Bockett.
I enjoyed the day so much. It was exhausting but just what I needed.
I set my usual Live Drawing Challenge too. Here are two of the results, a golfing dog with wings and a moustache and a purple punk penguin.
Back to building the studio tomorrow.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Building my house... 1:25 scale

This morning I had some boring site preparation admin to complete. I really didn't feel in the mood to do it but simply had to. So I decided to reward myself by spending the rest of the day constructing a model of the studio out of foam board.
I LOVE making models. Before I studied fashion I was always going to be a theatre designer. I'd done work experience in a theatre when I was sixteen and got to be a goffer backstage and in the rehearsal studio (later I returned to that theatre as assistant scenic artist). In my first week of work experience I became obsessed with the set designer's office which was full of models from past productions. They were gorgeous! So it was decided. I definitely wanted to be a set designer! Definitely!
The second week I was sent upstairs to the costume department and everything changed. I switched my obsession to clothes that week but I never forgot those models.
I've made models of 'dream houses' before but this is the first time the dream will be realised. Once it's finished I'll be able to look through those 1:25 scale windows and imagine myself in the space. It's so much better than flat drawings or even the 'walk through' video made by my contractor. I hope it will be just like gazing into those gorgeous models in the theatre designers office.
The studio with the office wall missing. I'm just making that...
Right to left. Lobby wall and door to entrance, kitchen with low window, bedroom and through to shower room at the back. That tiny window above will be a sleeping platform for visitors. Any takers?