The crafted object : Cardboard Safari

When Chris Jessee first interviewed Luis Rodrigalvarez to come on board his fledgling laser-cutting business building model kits for model train enthusiasts, Spanish-born Luis could barely speak English. Chris was dubious.

But then Luis showed Chris his portfolio, which was enormous and full of amazing things. Luis and Chris have been working together ever since.


cardboard safari - bucky

cardboard safari – bucky


Chris was always a drawer and maker from a young age, and credits his brother with urging him to draw and pushing him to work at making his drawings better and better. He continued drawing, making models and handmade gifts for friends and family, and before he’d even hit the teenage years, knew that he wanted to make a living by building things.

He studied architecture and spent several years working for architecture firms. It was while working as an architect that he realised the power of CAD and added a degree in computing to his repertoire. Then in 2003 he pulled it all together and took the big leap to starting his own business making the model kits.


carboard safari - bucky jr - modern art print

carboard safari – bucky jr – modern art print


It was  few years later later that an architect approached him to make a topography model, and so Chris in turn went to his cousin who worked for a cardboard manufacturer. The cousin was a keen deer hunter, and so the conversation pretty quickly turned to trophies… and Cardboard Safari was born.

‘Bucky’ was the first of the product line in 2006, and Cardboard Safari started on Etsy on 2009. Since then, they have developed a whole menagerie – moose, deer, lion, unicorn… “Safari is equal parts adventure and animal observation.”


carboard safari - juliette

carboard safari – juliette


ardboard safari - eyan jr - pop art

ardboard safari – eyan jr – pop art


Based in Charlottesville, Virginia and surrounded by the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, they now have stockists around the world from London to Sydney. Getting Cardboard Safari to this point has been a big journey, and Chris is immensely grateful to Amy Gardner of Scarpa in Charlottesville. “She was the first retail shop to carry our products in 2007 and urged me to exhibit at gift shows, which greatly expanded our presence in retail stores such as Urban Outfitters.”


cardboard safari - jack

cardboard safari – jack


carboard safari - micro vince

carboard safari – micro vince


Each new design takes months of process. “We brainstorm about new ideas and listen to customer feedback about what new products they would like to see.  Our ideas and customer suggestions become a list and we sort and reshuffle, weighing the merits of each product to determine what we do next. Then we research through web searches of photographs and then build the model in the computer. Lastly there are many cycles or iterations to refine the design so it is visually pleasing and easy to assemble.”

Visually pleasing they are! Most designs are available in various sizes, and now they’ve added the extra option of having them cut from printed card – Pop, Mondrian-style, or pixelated camouflage – the variations are almost endless. Pink with that? Sure!


cardboard safari - rocket table

cardboard safari – rocket table


After all these years and hundreds of new designs, does Chris have a favourite? Yes; he is pretty definite on this – Bucky always holds a special place for him as the genesis of his product line.


cardboard safari - merlin jr - stars and snowflakes unicorn

cardboard safari – merlin jr – stars and snowflakes unicorn


His best piece of advice? “Life is a thinking man’s game.”

You can find more of Cardboard Safari in their Etsy shop CardboardSafari, and on their own website, {which also includes links to their stockists around the world).


The crafted object : iheartfink {clothing}

Kristen is the one-woman show behind iheartfink. Starting with sourcing the remnant and recycled fabrics she uses, she designs and makes her own silkscreens, mixes her own water-based inks, handprints the fabrics, and then sews them into her original designs, which she then models and photographs herself with the aid of a timer.

And how absolutely fabulous is the end result!? Wonderful, comfortable cotton jersey, printed with bright, graphic, linear patterns, stitched into easy-wearing tops, dresses and more; they are bold and distinctive.


iheartfink - bring the noise - cowl neck top

iheartfink – bring the noise – cowl neck top


Kristen studied fine art in her 20s and involved herself in various disciplines – animation, bookbinding, sculpture, painting, drawing, photography and music. She learned to sew with a sewing machine in her early 30s, experimenting first with hats and accessories.


iheartfink - cassette single - top

iheartfink – cassette single – top


Fink {Fashion + ink}  started over 6 years ago as a collaboration of two, but is now one. “I am a self taught seamstress so it has been so exciting to discover magical things through process without manuals/instructions/patterns ~ hoods, sleeve formations and varieties, necklines…so much fun to meet the challenge of making these creations wearable, comfortable and user friendly.” She continues to make each garment one by one without the use of sewing patterns. “This keeps each piece totally unique and special and keeps the creative vibe of each garment alive and magical.”

Of course, working in this way comes with its fair share of things that don’t go as planned. “I have had some doozies as far as failures go ~ and continue to have failures frequently both printing and sewing…and drawing ~ but I have learned that in those times, when I fail, I have often discovered the best ideas. For me it’s hard to know when to stop working on something that doesn’t seem to work at all. I try to practice putting “failures” aside and usually can come back to it later. Making “failures” work is one of the most exciting parts of design for me!”


iheartfink - chain of comman - cowl dress

iheartfink – chain of comman – cowl dress



“In times of stress imagine that you are a cork floating on the sea and situations are objects floating around you and bumping up against you and then floating away. Situations do not define you and the possibilities in life are as endless as the sea.”



iheartfink - great expectations - bell sleeve top

iheartfink – great expectations – bell sleeve top


As a little girl she constantly drew horses, winning many drawing contests in school, and this encouraged her to keep the pencils moving. She hasn’t stopped drawing since (although she’s moved on from horses). “I found out very early in life that getting lost in creativity was very fulfilling and still is.”

“Inspiration for me comes from just about everything ~ people watching, music, movies, daydreams, books…everywhere I look pretty much. I love passionate people and their energy is the most inspiring rather than a particular style, so I can be just as inspired by an object I find on the road as I can by a beautiful poem, painting or song.”

It’s this creative energy that drives Fink clothing. “I believe if you only bring beautiful (and by beautiful I mean soulfully gorgeous/emotionally inspiring) things into your life then it will look and feel beautiful even when it’s a mess.”


iheartfink - riverside - top

iheartfink – riverside – top


You can find more of Fink clothing on Etsy at iheartfink, and on tumblr.


The illustrated object : Louise Jenkins


Today I’m going into shady territory. As you know, I love all things craft, surface design and photography, and I usually leave illustration and graphic design to other folk better qualified to talk about them than I. However, Louise Jenkins has such a lovely piece that comes with a compelling story, I just had to share.

Illustrator and artist, Louise hails from Worcester in the middle of England. She’s had quite a career already, working as a senior designer for Royal Worcester Porcelain, where she some time working closely with Jamie Oliver around the time of his first series The Naked Chef. “He was incredibly enthusiastic and we had regular meetings with him in the early days and I really enjoyed the whole process. He helped get designs through the studio that would have never left our desks previously.” She has also worked for Royal Doulton and Wedgewood.

But really, what I’d like to show you is this recent piece of beautiful work from Louise, and talk about how it has come about.


Louise Jenkins - Patterns of Nature

Louise Jenkins – Patterns of Nature


Louise loves animals (as attested to by the number of animals in her illustrations!), and is a big supporter of all things environment.

She introduced me to ONCA [One Network for Conservation and the Arts] and told me a little bit about them – they are a non-profit group dedicated to working with artists and communities to raise awareness about climate change and conservation through art.

She had worked with them previously, and then late last year found out their next project was to focus on the Arctic. “I had been doing some personal illustration of Arctic animals, and I was eager to find out more. When the brief was put on the ONCA website I contacted them again and my artists proposal was accepted.”


Louise Jenkins - Patterns of Nature  (detail)

Louise Jenkins – Patterns of Nature (detail)


This very beautiful piece of work is entitled Patterns of Nature and is the result of the commission for their current exhibition Our Time In Ice.  The work features the face of an Arctic fox at its centre, and is surrounded by patterns inspired by Inuit beadwork and embroidery.  The layers of pattern are also reminiscent of the strata of ice layers, and are built up using gouache, watercolour and cut paper.


Louise Jenkins - Patterns of Nature  (detail)

Louise Jenkins – Patterns of Nature (detail)


I love its gentle blue-grey hues, and of course, how can I resist those layers of pattern?

The artwork is for sale from the ONCA gallery, with 50% of the proceeds going to the charity.


You can see more of Louise’s own work on her website, and on her Facebook page.

You can find out more about ONCA and this current exhibition here.




All fresh for the new year


The last day of the year? Really, it’s just another day. Ask your dog if it’s special – I’m sure their answer would be “Huh? What’s for dinner?”

However. We humans do like to ascribe meaning to events; it’s a way of defining and making sense of our world; it gives us some kind of measure. (It’s the same type of urge that makes us like to name things, and to understand the processes behind natural phenomena – we like to have a base from which to manipulate our environments according to our own desires.)

New Year’s Eve is not a time for making promises to ourselves that we can’t keep. It is a time for looking back at the year that was, of self-assessment, of understanding what it is that is important to us. Of figuring out where to go from here.

The new year holds the promise of newness and freshness, of great possibilities. And yes, this is true! But keep in mind you are not infinitely malleable. Like materials – paper, glass, metal, fabric – each has its own true nature, capable of many wonderful and amazing things, but not everything. Be kind to yourself – understand who you are, go your own direction, climb your own mountain.

I wish you all the very best for the fresh year.

Julie x


taylorseclectic – lime grove earrings – 925 silver, paper


svsoaps – citrus bliss


cksstudio80 – citrus and sunshine


clayswan – tea for two – ceramic


uneekglassfusions – coral shoots bowl – glass

From here to there and a best of 2012


It’s been a big year for me folks! And that’s for several reasons – first and foremost is that my youngest children, my twin boys, started school this year – which left me with a few hours spare during the day to pursue tractorgirl stuff with a bit more focus. And this in turn has meant getting the blog to its present state. I have really learnt a lot, but most of all, how much more I need to learn. >_<

This blog. Wow! what fabulous stuff I have had the privilege of seeing, what wonderful, intriguing people I have met along the way, to share their stories with you and to show you what they are capable of has been an absolute honour.  So here are some of my highlight picks for the year (and let me tell you, it has been a HARD choice). Enjoy.


Kat Selvocki, pie-baking, yoga-teaching, photograph-taking world traveller took off from the U.S. late last year, visited numerous places en route to Australia, and returned home just before Xmas. She shared a wonderful series of images of Morocco, and you can find some more of them here.

Kat Selvocki – Morocco 2


Elin Thomas, the daughter of an organic chemist, became fascinated by the lichens and molds seen under her father’s microscope. Her micro-crochet has also meant a struggle with RSI. You can find more about Elin and her work here.

ElinArt – moldy madness 3 – brooch


Jonathon McCabe, by his own admission, is a computer geek. His stunning computer-generated surface designs are made using algorithms that mimic the processes used by the skins of animals in forming spots and stripes. He’s got some videos showing these processes in action – it’s completely fascinating to watch. You can find more about him here.

Jonathon McCabe – origami butterfly 0060 – surface design


Sandra Darling uses layered and enhanced photographic images to produce her sumptuous large scale surface designs. What I love about these is the possibilities of placement when using these beautiful fabrics for clothing and furniture. You can find Sandra and her work here.

Sandra Darling – Aquaplume (detail)


When I first contacted Melitina Balabin, she was staying on a tiny Estonian island, and had to travel 45kms for internet. It reminded me that despite technology, it’s still a big, big world out there. There’s more of Melitina and her gorgeous jewellery here.

Melitina Balabin – floreat – brooch


Walter Helena Photography is only part of Nadine Boyd, who more frequently works as an industrial designer. Her images are dense and rich, dreamlike and spare, much like her writing. You can find more about her here.

Walter Helena Photography – Turquoise 011


Mirjam Hiller’s jewellery pieces are technically amazing, as well as very beautiful. Each piece is hand-cut from a single sheet of metal, before being twisted and assembled into their final form. More of Mirjam here.

mirjam hiller – bovenas pink – brooch


Third Half Studios. Well of course they do great surface design, witty and fresh – but Sarah’s was one of the stories that touched me the most – of spending your adolescent years caring for your Alzheimers-ridden grandmother, of living on the street and being plucked from obscurity to work as artist’s assistant in an established studio. You can read more about Sarah & Lori here. 

Third Half Studios – putting a point on it (turquoise lime)


And SO much more fabulousness… These few are by no means my definitive list of loves. There is much more, so much more beauty in the world. I look forward to sharing it with you.

Julie x