Bullet Journalling is Not What You Think!

I have always been interested in the idea of bullet journalling, but the stunningly neat, excruciatingly time-consuming planner spreads shown all over social media put me off starting. That’s not me, I thought; I won’t be able to do that! I have found a ‘messy’ style helps me keep my perfectionism at bay and it would have a field day with those sort of pages. Not to mention that I’d soon get bored with measuring and using rulers.

A video by the original bullet journaler Ryder Carroll popped up on my YouTube suggestions recently and I was quite shocked by the difference between his journals and the ones I’d seen before, no pretty pictures, no super complicated planning pages, in fact he designed it to be quicker than normal journalling. He actually designed it as a system to help him with his ADHD. As someone who struggles to remember things and binge-watches/listens to a ton of podcasts and YouTube videos, having a way to reflect and remember these sources as well as keeping track of my habit change journey, this idea sounds really promising. He has developed a proper system of keeping track of the ideas and information he has recorded without it just becoming a random bin of information. You can watch the video here.

Are you like me….you have 50 notebooks all with 3 pages completed in each? I’ve not been great at consistency. As someone who has really struggled to create and maintain any useful habits in my life, I’m hoping 2023 is the year I crack it (not all of them you understand, but one, maybe two of them) and I’m hoping bullet journalling might be the answer.

So what am I starting with? I’m actually choosing 3. The household chore which is my biggest nemesis, a daily creative practice and journalling (which should help me with the other 2).

Now I’m not starting from scratch. At the beginning of this year I found a very useful resource which I have been using almost daily since early January (this is a record for me!). I’m using a printed version of the digital ‘Hero’s Journal’ (you can find it here).

I picked it because it is different every day. I’d already thought about using a gamification method (and I love fantasy quests) to try and make boring habits more fun and this seemed like a perfect way of doing it. And so far it has been pretty perfect (along with a couple of other methods of rewards for doing the boring chores). However I want a way of incorporating my daily sketches and reflections into my journalling practice and this page doesn’t quite give me enough space. So what can I do?

So as I usually don’t finish things, I’ve decided to continue with the hero’s journal for the 3 months it is designed for, adding extra pages with ‘collections’ of my sketches and ideas from the BuJo system and using a diary with it to plan. I ordered some lovely bullet journals to transition into afterwards.

I need to come up with a way to keep the novelty and I really want to keep up the fantasy quest theme. I’m wondering if I use a D&D or dark arts concept and maybe create myself a sketching or journalling challenge deck of cards to keep things fun and different.

Wish me luck!!



P.S I’d love to hear what you’ve tried and if something has really worked for you!

Ever Heard of the Necronomicon?

I hadn’t either until decided to create a special gift for my best friend Phil’s 40th birthday (which incidentally was the day before my 40th birthday).

Phil really loves the work of the writer H.P. Lovecraft, an American ‘weird fiction’ writer.

This is a portrait of H.P. Lovecraft I did for the book.

Lovecraft wrote about a fictional book bound in human skin called the Necronomicon. So of course, I decided to create a junk journal representing a book made out of human skin (I happened to have some tan coloured leather offcuts and thought…why wouldn’t I?).

I did some research online and there are actually some real books in existence which are bound in human skin, although not as many as is rumoured. Binding books using human skin is known as anthropodermic bibliopegy. There is one kept in the UK bound in the skin of a murderer, 18 year old John Horwood.

Another book is bound in the skin of John Burke, of the famous body snatchers duo, Burke and Hare.

You can find more about books bound in human skin here.

I decided to work the stories into the junk journal and added a note in French about one of the books as a little puzzle for Phil.

I also started looking up some of the monsters from Lovecraft, but I didn’t want to veer too far away from my own style by producing grizzly monster scenes, so I decided instead to pick some other themes. I chose the Miskatonic University, gothic imagery and other writers with gothic or weird fiction themes.

Loosely based on the Cthulhu monster, I used gelli printing to give an octopus-likes suggestion.

The Miskatonic University has featured in Lovecraft and a lot of other writers have taken it on and used it in their own work. I decided to create cards about a number of professors, using characters from original Lovecraft and some of the new stuff. I used random photos cut out of a vintage encyclopaedia and my own backgrounds created using Unsplash images. I really like how the Miskatonic University logo came out. It was very fiddly to sketch the letters out and make them fit the circle. I did quite a few cards and added them to the journal with pockets and tuck spots.

One of the university professor cards I created for the journal.

Of course I had to include Edgar Allan Poe.

This was one of my first goes at machine embroidery (free-hand) in 20 odd years! I learnt a lot (apparently you need plenty of layers of paper and I could have done with a larger stitch length)

I had to add some other dark/gothic imagery. This was a digital collage of some of my digital papers and some unsplash images.

I collect antique books and it’s a hobby Phil has always helped me with. One of the first books I got was about the first editions of Charles Dickens, so I had to add Dickens and I found a great caricature of him in an old book, so that had to go in. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of it.

I also wanted to include some of the history of our friendship and shared interests. I added some of the code we worked on from a treasure hunt event we did in Scunthorpe a few years ago (we were hunting miniature gold statues). You can see it here on the right of the picture. Unfortunately, for the challenge we chose, the statue had already been found by a random member of the public so it remains unsolved! You can see the statues and read more about the treasure hunt here.

You can also see a tag with a clown on it. His name was Joseph Grimaldi and he was the first true clown, appearing first in 1805. Charles Dickens actually wrote his memoirs, so oddly he popped up twice when I was coming up with images for the journal.

This blog post could go on forever! I had all sorts of other things, from poisonous mushrooms (he once told me off for picking a mushroom we found out later was either really poisonous or completely harmless) to weird TV and films we’ve enjoyed together (such as Stranger Things and Pan’s Labyrinth).

I could have done a journal twice the size with all the ideas I didn’t manage to get in the journal. It was still a beast and actually it wouldn’t have closed if I had added any more.

In true Jemma style, I was still finishing it as Phil was driving down. During my birthday weekend, I was deafening my Mum and myself hammering the copper rivets (definitely not as easy to use as Youtube would have you believe).

And the best thing was, Phil had absolutely no idea. I thought I’d given the game away a few times and I was a bit worried that he might wonder why I’d stopped sending him photos of the latest craft stuff I was working on….but no. I think he was a bit overwhelmed by it. Hopefully he enjoys it as much as I enjoyed making it.

What is the biggest project you have worked on for someone close to you? I’d love to hear about it.



What Has Happened to Instagram?

I’ve been working on new listings for my Etsy shop so I’ve been a bit quieter on Instagram. I saw a comment from someone saying they are no longer seeing much of the accounts they are following in their feed. I thought they might be being a bit dramatic, but I’ve realised they are totally right. I am now only seeing the hashtags I follow and people I don’t follow even popping up in my feed.

Also, I really like photos and I want to carry on posting photos, but they dont get anywhere near the reach they used to and it’s a real shame because I feel like we’ve you’ve lost that community element that we had before.

So where do we go from here? I’m thinking if transferring to a different platform. Maybe YouTube (scary) or this blog (more than once a year!)

I would also like to share more of my personality on social media. I found out about #marchmeetthemaker in April 😭 but I like the idea of sharing some more of my randomness with the world. Perhaps my next post will be on that. Though not today as I’ve lost my eyebrow tweezers and I look a little too yeti-like for any photos right now!! 😉 One random fact for now…. I still have a bit if a lump on my forehead from accidentally headbutting the back of a dining chair over a week ago (it came up as an egg-shaped lump within 5 seconds)… I’m hoping it fully goes away eventually. Mental note to self…. Turn the light on in the corridor before turning the lounge lamp off and never bend to pick something up in the dark!!



Why I Chose the Name Spindle Tree Studio

Image from Familiar Wild Flowers Volume 1, by F. Edward Hulme

I had a friend discuss with me how to name her business. It reminded me of why I chose the name “Spindle Tree Studio” as the name of my business.

I looked at loads and loads of names to start with. I wanted something quirky and different, but something that somehow tied in to what I do. A big part of it for me though was to pick something which wouldn’t be limited to one art form. I know it’s often suggested that you describe what you sell in your business name, but, rightly or wrongly I decided against that.

So I started off writing a list of ideas for names. I thought it might be good to have an interesting ‘thing’ and then a descriptive word in front of it, however everything I was coming up with had someone else already using it. I would have to go more off piste!

I adore vintage and antique illustrated books and I was in the middle of an eco printing binge so I started going through my set of books on British wild flowers for name ideas. Now clearly a lot weren’t suitable, I don’t think ‘Fleabane’ is a very attractive company name (apologies if that’s your company name 😮), but eventually I came across the ‘Spindle Tree’ page. I’d never heard of it, but it turns out my parents actually have one in their garden.

The book which describes it has some lovely information about the history of the Spindle Tree, which is actually a shrub rather than a tree. It has delicate white and green flowers in the Spring and lovely red seed capsules with round orange fruits in Winter (however the fruits are poisonous). I love that it’s quirky and different. The wood was used to create spindles and for artists’ charcoal (or sometimes it was used in the fabrication of gunpowder!) I thought this was great to represent my love of mixed media – referring to cotton or wool, wood and charcoal (and explosions when one of my trials goes badly wrong). The other thing that sold it to me was that the berries were supposedly used in dyeing (although the book author does not recommend it 😂). Also, the proper name Euonymous Europeus comes from Euonyme in classic mythology (mother of the Furies).

I’m still desperate to get hold of some photos of the berries, which I can use to do some sketches. I agreed with a new friend I was going to go and take some photos of her Spindle Tree, but the weather was terrible and now all the beautiful fruit has gone, so I will have to wait.

I’ve have even bought some ‘Winged Spindle Tree’ seeds to grow in the garden. I really ought to look at how you actually grow them!!

So hopefully you think I made a good choice. I would love to hear your stories for how you decided on a company name. I bet there are some great stories out there!



I’m Still Alive

One of my latest Instagram images.

To be fair in this current climate, I probably shouldn’t joke about it. Covid deaths are at a record high (over 1600 today) in the UK. It’s terrifying. 

What I mean is that life somewhat got in the way of my blogging journey. Since I last posted I’ve moved house, started a new Instagram account (actually 2) and opened an Etsy shop selling digital downloads. Find my Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/spindletreestudio/

My Etsy shop is: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SpindleTreeStudio

So, I may be changing the purpose of my blog a bit. My new goals are to continue sharing my experiments with different crafting techniques, but I’m going to attempt to either use more of my own designs or make extra efforts to give details of the products and stamps I’m using. I might also talk a bit about my work and how I created it.

Welcome to my exciting new creative journey.



Disclaimer: from today as I will now be posting about designing products for my shop and about my other work, I will take extra effort to credit to products I use. All posts prior to this point were created as an amateur crafter and not as someone selling craft supplies.

Bursting Birthday Card

birthday card

I made this card for my best friend. His birthday was yesterday. It actually took a while to make. I sprayed some tissue with water, added brushos and then saturated it with water and left it to dry. Once dry I added it to the front of the card blank, sprayed it with water again and left it to dry. Once dry, I peeled the tissue off so it left a subtle impression.

Then I stamped with lots of different stamps and added embossing powders to small areas using a clear ink embossing pen.

I love how with brushos, each background comes out differently.