The Great Inktober Auction

I’m seizing this International Women’s Day to give my London Marathon fundraising for Refuge a boost. I loved running the marathon so much last year that I rashly signed up to Team Refuge again, the freezing February training runs a hazy memory when I filled out my application back in May (this past week I’ve clambered through two snow drifts in an attempt to keep my legs on track, that’s worth a couple of quid, surely?).

Anyway, my main news is that I’ve listed lots of the #inktober paintings I made last year on Ebay, with 100% of the profits going to Refuge. Refuge is committed to a world where domestic violence and violence against women and girls is not tolerated and where women and children can live in safety. Please take a look, spread the word on social media and bid, bid, BID for your favourite. The auction will run until Sunday evening. Good luck!

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The same way that the #inktober challenge spurred me on to push my work in a new direction, training for last year's marathon gave my brain the boost it needed at a really difficult time. 12 months ago I found it so painful to say that I had experienced an abusive relationship. Fundraising for Refuge has really helped me talk about it more openly. It shouldn’t be this hard — 1 in 4 women in the UK will experience domestic abuse — but I still occasionally have days when I give in and blame myself for failing. My strategy for those days (which are happily much, much fewer and farther between than they were 12 months ago) is to replay things that my incredible, no-nonsense therapist told me until I can hear my own voice again (that and do some yoga). Thanks to the support of extraordinary friends and family (and the aforementioned incredible therapist) I have rediscovered who I am and I know why I want to stay alive. This probably all sounds a bit self-indulgent, but I just wanted to try to explain what abuse does — it will take away everything you thought you knew for certain and turn everything you thought was good about being you into something unbearable. And it can happen to anyone.

This is why women and children need Refuge. I am shamelessly asking you to sponsor me again, or to bid on a painting, or just to share this on Twitter / Instagram / Facebook / anywhere, to help other women who aren't as lucky as I am.

There are many forms of violence and abuse. Refuge offers specialist support to women and children who may be experiencing a variety of forms of gender-based violence including: domestic violence; rape and sexual abuse; forced marriage; so-called ‘honour’-based violence; human trafficking and modern slavery; prostitution; and female genital mutilation (FGM).

You can find my sponsorship page here and the ebay auction here.

Thank you so much for anything you can give. London Marathon - here I come! x

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Talking

Public speaking is not my favourite thing. Another one of those universally acknowledged truths being that most illustrators choose to be illustrators because they are more comfortable huddled behind their desk, telling stories on paper, than they are speaking them out loud. Having said that, there is nothing quite like surprising yourself, so occasionally I like to throw caution to the wind, my arms up into the air and stand up in front of a room full of people (like a very enthusiastic, possibly slightly unhinged puppeteer) and TALK.

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A couple of weeks ago I went to the Cambridge School of Visual and Performing Arts and did just that. One of my university friends, lovely Ann Sun, is now a tutor on the illustration BA and asked me in to tell the students about my work. I had such a lovely day, it was nicely relaxed and informal, and the students asked LOADS of questions, which was really great. There's a CSVPA blog here about my visit, with a short Q&A at the end.

Top Drawer

When I applied for a space at Spotted, Top Drawer's new talent section, I really hadn't thought it through. I recklessly decided to take part in the UK's biggest home and gift trade show on the spur of the moment, and was quite surprised when I was offered a place.

Thankfully, it's amazing what you can achieve in a couple of weeks! This summer has been a bit of a tough one, and while I kept trying to pull myself together and get stuff done, mostly I didn't do anything useful at all. Fortunately, after a restorative break in beautiful Paris, I suddenly launched into action at the end of August and managed to get most of the planning and preparation done in about a fortnight. I've always loved a deadline.

So, this is how my not-so-grand not-a-plan came together:

1. Quick! Design more cards. In an ideal world, I would have launched a brand new range of super stylish homeware and stationery to make buyers weep tears of joy. Instead I decided that all my wares would be new to Top Drawer, so I concentrated on filling a few gaps instead. I had a few new patterns ready that slotted into my existing wrapping paper collections and designed a some more cards, beginning with this gorilla (happily marrying my love of both great apes and Carole King's Tapestry album). Things were off to a good start.

2. Pick a colour. Any colour. I ignored millions of emails from the exhibition build company asking me what colour I'd like my stand painted (and would I like special flooring/shelves/plug sockets for the price of the energy bill of a small country/beautiful women to come and help me sell), then suddenly decided at the last minute that I probably should paint it, because most of my patterns have a white background and I wanted them to stand out. After seeking the advice of a friend, I plumped for panels of mustard yellow (panels because I would now have to paint it myself and didn't think I'd have time to do the whole thing).

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3. Whip up a catalogue. Thankfully, I'd already had lots of help from my friend Tina who designed my first wholesale catalogue earlier this year, so I used that as a template. It still took a lot longer than I thought to update, but, after staying up all night, I managed to get it to the printer with less than a week to go! I also had postcards printed and even concocted a press release which made everything sound a lot better planned than it was! (Although in retrospect I really didn't need the press releases, a few postcards in the press room would have been fine.)

4. Mock up my stand. I commandeered a section of the hall at home and all sorts of pieces of furniture until I had an idea of what I could fit in the space. After thoroughly combing Pinterest for ideas I stuck everything to the wall with masking tape and enlisted my family to help me with all the drilling and painting, doing as much in advance as possible to make it easy to install on the day. Mocking everything up at home was so worthwhile - I did stick to my plan, and it looked OK! The most difficult part was accepting that it wasn't possible to display every single product I have. Less is more, apparently.

Overall, I was quite pleased with how it turned out (although the mustard is difficult to photograph!). Set up day went surprisingly smoothly. My two pieces of advice would be to take someone to help you (I had my brilliant mum and sister) and a trolley to ferry everything up from the car (Olympia is ENORMOUS).

 (My sister, @FelicitySlater, Instagrams like a pro; here I am, rolling mustard in my hi-vis.)

(My sister, @FelicitySlater, Instagrams like a pro; here I am, rolling mustard in my hi-vis.)

I wouldn't exactly recommend such a slap-dash approach, but I'm really glad I managed to get everything together somehow. There's so much I couldn't have learned any other way than by just being at Top Drawer. I even had one LOVELY customer on the first day who gave me lots of advice while I took her order. Here are a few tips that spring to mind:

1. Always invoice pro forma. Not just for the first order like I'd written in my catalogue T&Cs, because unless it's someone massive like John Lewis, you should always make sure you've been paid before you deliver.

2. Use a simple carbon copy order book to take orders, don't faff around with an iPad (which is what I was doing).

3. Sell everything in packs; 6 cards, 12 sheets of wrap etc. I knew this was what bigger companies would do, but as a first time exhibitor, I thought it would encourage buyers to take a chance on me if I was more flexible. I'm still not sure on this one, I've definitely had a couple of shops place orders for just 3 of one design, but I suppose there's also something to be said for acting like you're already a well established brand and perhaps inspiring more confidence that way?


The best thing about the whole experience was making friends with my Spotted neighbours. It was so good to meet other designers at a similar stage in their career and it wouldn't have been half as much fun without them. In fact, probably no fun at all.

Here are MAIRI HELENA, me, Zanna from PAPIO PRESS, KATIE KEITH, Anastassia of FOREVER FUNNY and Victoria from BOBBIE PRINT. Catherine from MOTTAINAI TEXTILES, Rachel from LITTLE WOLF and Ana from ABALON STAR were all busy with customers and missed out on the photo!


Before I went to Top Drawer, I read this Design Trust article which is full of useful advice! Patricia (everyone's favourite design business guru) says, "note that especially trade buyers will want to see you a couple of seasons or years before they actually will order from you, so don’t be too optimistic in that area", so I had very low expectations about receiving any orders at all! Happily, I have had a few as a result of exhibiting, all from lovely, independent shops. I did spot buyers from John Lewis and Harrods, but they didn't spend much time in the Spotted section! The show was actually a bit quieter than I expected; it was quite comforting when one of the big companies downstairs in the main gift area told me it had been the same for them. The downside of being in Spotted was that a lot of people didn't seem to make it upstairs to where we were; Olympia is so vast, it would be very easy to miss the whole section. On the other hand I hadn't done any networking beforehand; if I'd worked harder in advance to make contacts and build relationships with buyers, it probably have helped.

So, after three very long days and a renewed passion for caffeinated drinks, I packed up and trundled back to Staffordshire in the car. Special mention must go to wonderful Katie Keith, designer and Spotted-neighbour extraordinaire, who helped me wheel the entire contents of my stand a mile through Hammersmith on my little rusty trolley, all so I didn't have pack up, walk to fetch my car, queue to get back in etc... There's no way I could have managed it without her - thank you, Katie!

Collage Workshops on the Farm

I'm really excited to announce that from July I'll be hosting regular collage workshops here on the farm in Newborough, Staffordshire, where my studio is based.

Whether you’re a keen crafter or a complete novice, you can spend a few peaceful hours in a beautiful countryside setting and indulge your inner artist! Workshops take place in the farmhouse but you're very welcome to have a behind-the-scenes peek at my studio too.

For more information, to book and to see lots more photos from my first workshop click here.

The beautiful photography is by Holly Booth, who, as always, did a brilliant job of capturing the day!

The Little Red Hen

My third children's book, The Little Red Hen, was published on Tuesday by the wonderful Barefoot Books! The Little Red Hen © Kate Slater

I'm so thrilled with how this book turned out, I love the hardback matte cover and the lovely paperback with flaps. There's a story CD narrated by Debra Messing and the traditional tale is beautifully retold by Mary Finch.

Here's a sneak peek of what is probably my favourite illustration, where, as a reviewer in Publisher's Weekly noted, "the rooster briefly wears a cooking pot on his head."

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You can buy here from Barefoot, here from your local indie or come along to The Book Barge at Barton Marina, Staffordshire on Saturday 12th October and have your book signed by yours truly!

 

Blue Peter visits the Farnes Flock!

Finally, at the grand age of seven-and-twenty, I am the very proud owner of a Blue Peter badge! A couple of weeks ago, on my birthday in fact, I was heading into the Peak District for a celebratory luncheon, enjoying the sunshine and generally revelling in the fact that I had not one single bird to cut out, when my telephone rang. It was Blue Peter's director asking if I could go up to the Farne Islands that very evening to be part of a feature they had planned the following day! What would Diane Louise Jordan* do? I asked myself, and quickly said YES before I had chance to get too nervous. So, after a quick sandwich, we hot-footed it back home for a slice of birthday battenburg (homemade with lots of marzipan - my favourite!) before I caught the train back up to the Farnes, just three days after I returned home from hanging the exhibition.

It's very exciting having your travel arranged for you by someone else. I spent a good chunk of the journey quickly trying to get to the part of Susan Cain's Quiet where she enlightens introverts on how to deal with public speaking. It turns out you need 1) practice: "Aaargh, I have no time to practice!" and 2) a passion for your subject: "BIRDS! COLLAGE! BLUE PETER! YES!" Everything would be ok, I promised myself, my jar of Night Time Kalms rattling reassuringly in my pocket.

In fact, everything was super. It should come as no surprise that people who work on Blue Peter are very lovely people indeed. They even gave me a special HAT. Anyone who knows just how much I love a good hat will not be surprised by my delight in having such a fine, green M&S specimen to add to my collection.

The children from the local middle school in Seahouses were brilliant. They asked some great questions about my exhibition and made lovely bird collages in a really short space of time. We also did quite a lot of walking in and out of the chapel, donning our hats at the appropriate moment, and a good deal of pointing at puffins:

 Blue Peter

Blue Peter

It was broadcast today and you can now see the whole programme here if you're in the UK, it will probably be available for a week or so and the Farnes bit is about 19 minutes in.

I'll be back on the Farnes during the summer holidays to run some children's collage workshops (as seen on Blue Peter!), I'll keep you posted and should have some definite dates lined up soon.

 Diane Louise Jordan

Diane Louise Jordan

*My absolute favourite Blue Peter presenter when I was young:

A Chapel Full of Birds

I have some really exciting news which I can finally tell you ALL about! In August last year, I had THE BEST work day out, ever. It involved travelling up to Seahouses in Northumberland to meet some lovely people from the National Trust, taking a tiny boat across the sea on a beautiful, sunny day, eating cake delivered by post, a tour of a beautiful island and a really unique exhibition space, all topped off by a seal watching expedition (and fish and chips for tea)! It really will take some beating, although I am, of course, open to offers.

The result of all this northern adventuring is that from the end of June until the end of October this year, a lovely chapel on the National Trust's beautiful Farne Islands will be filled with a vast flock of my life-size, collaged birds! Similar to those I created for Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2010, but at least ten times as many and only species which can be seen on the islands (no flamingos this time), the birds will be suspended from the beams in the chapel so you'll be able to walk amongst them as they swoop to and fro!

The Farne Islands are a tiny group of islands just off the coast of Northumberland in the north-east of England. They're one of the most magical places I have ever visited, this is the breathtaking view looking back towards the mainland from the Farnes, with Bamburgh Castle on the coast and the Cheviot Hills in the background.

The islands are most famous for their incredible bird life - they have 23 species, including around 37,000 pairs of puffin! Look - it is impossible to keep yourself from beaming with joy at the sight of ONE, let alone 37,000 pairs:

Luckily, I'd been to the Farnes on holiday in my teens, so I knew a bit about them when Simon Lee, the manager for this area of the Northumberland coast, contacted me about creating a flock especially for this space. Somehow one of my dream commissions has become reality - a seaside, bird-based reality! It really couldn't be better.

The chapel is on Inner Farne which was once home to St Cuthbert in 678 AD. Built in 1370, the chapel is dedicated to the saint and stands alongside the Pele Tower which once housed monks and is now home to some of the National Trust rangers!

Imagine this space filled to the rafters with birds!

Chapel Exterior 1

Here are some more photos I took of the islands:

Look - SEALS! Unfortunately my camera failed at the last minute and I didn't get many photos of them. Huge thanks to Simon, David, Claire and everyone else for making it such a super day!

You can see more photos on the Pinterest board I've created here. Also well worth a look is the rangers' blog - they live on Inner Farne for eight months of the year (check out the photos of their mammoth supermarket shop just before they ventured out for the new season!).

You can follow @Northumb_Coast (National Trust's Northumberland Coast group of properties) and @NTSteely (head ranger for the islands).

I feel a puffin brooch in the offing. More importantly, I have A LOT of birds to collage...