How to carve a Christmas stamp

Christmas is the perfect time of year to indulge in some guilt free crafting. I have tried my mittened hand at wreath making and easy festive felt decorations, this year I decided to host my own Christmas crafternoon complete with home-made mince pies (surprisingly easy and delicious) and mulled cider.

Katy Bloss how to carve a Christmas stamp

I wanted to make hand printed cards and gift tags without the typical mess and arm ache that goes with carving a lino block.

Katy Bloss how to carve a Christmas stamp best tools

I turned to one of my favourite craft books EVER for some help with carving Christmas stamps – Making an Impression: Designing & Creating Artful Stamps by Geninne Zlatkis. Geninne’s blog is bursting with inspiration and she has a very handy stamp carving video on Vimeo for you to watch before you get started.

Katy Bloss how to carve a Christmas stamp Making an Impression book by Gennine Zlatkis

What you need

  • Sketch book and black fineliner pen
  • Tracing paper and soft leaded pencil
  • Linoleum cutter with different tips – I find a Speedball lino cutter is best for carving stamps, their tips are really fine for detail.
  • Rubber carving blocks – it is quite hard to get carving blocks in the UK, personally I find the Speedball blocks are not very thick and prefer to use something like these carving blocks on,

What you do

1. Draw a design in black pen, I like using Micron pens but any fineliner will do.

2. Trace over your drawing onto a sheet of tracing paper using a soft leaded pencil, such as a 4B.

3. Turn the tracing paper pencil side down onto your rubber carving block and rub with the back of a spoon, side of a penny or bone folder.

4. Using a fine carving tip, start carving out the inner lines of your drawing. Once this is done, use a larger carving tip to hollow out the outline and any larger areas within your design. Ta-dah your stamp is ready!

5. Ink up you stamp and do a test print, refine the stamp with your cutters if it needs it – before you start stamping every surface.

Festive Tip: If you stamp your design on your card, then immediately sprinkle the ink with glitter before it dries, the glitter will stick – you’re left with a glittery design!

To finish off your card Letraset Transfers are an easy way to add the perfect message,  be careful they are quite addictive! For making tags I love to use a Woodware Punch, they come in lots of different shapes and are a great way to recycle old Christmas cards into tags for next year too!

Happy stamping!

Katy x


Do you have any Christmas crafts that you simply can’t make enough of? Share in the comments. You might also like to take a peep at these merry mess free Christmas card ideas.

Keep in touch via my Katy Bloss Facebook Page or my tweets on Twitter @katy_bloss.

Meeting Angelina Ballerina at Seven Stories

If heaven exists then I am sure it looks something like Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books in Ouseburn.

Katy Bloss National Centre for Children's Books


I went along on a week day so it was really quiet, although I was told the weekends are quite a different story! The ground floor hosts the largest children’s book shop I have ever seen, the staff were so helpful. I got a full tour of which books were parents favorites versus the kids choices, which books were most popular during daily story time in the Artist’s Attic and who was reading what snuggled down in the Book Den.


Angelina Ballerina at Seven Stories


On the Story Lab floor,  Twists and Tails – the Story of Angelina Ballerina is an amazing insight into how Angelina and friends came to be, through the words of Katharine Holabird and the illustrations of Helen Craik. I grew up reading Angelina Ballerina books, which have now morphed into a true super brand including a CGI telelvision series and a host of branded products. I loved reading the handwritten notes going between author, illustrator and publisher as the first ever Angelina book was written. Also, seeing Helen Craik’s illustration process (before computers!) was inspiring and daunting in equal measure. The artworks were a lot larger than I was expecting and so detailed, Helen starts with very rough layouts which she refines again and again and again before moving on to colour.


Katy Bloss Seven Stories Exhibition Page to Screen


On the 5th floor, in the Robert Westall Gallery, Moving Stories Children’s Books from Page to Screen, documented the process of turning classic tales such as Snow White and The Borrowers into film and television adaptations. This exhibition was really interactive, with objects on display, doorways to creep through and carriages to ride in.

Two highlight of my visit were seeing The Gruffalo original book cover roughs by Axel Scheffler and also Oliver Jeffers notes to the STUDIO AKA who made the animated version of Lost and Found.


Katy Bloss at Seven Stories exhibition Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland Quote


Seven Stories is now one of my favourite places to visit in the UK, I can’t wait to see what they have coming up in 2015.

Katy x


Do you have any favourite children’s book exhibtions that you have seen? Let me know in the comments.

Keep in touch via my Katy Bloss Facebook Page or my tweets on Twitter @katy_bloss.

Nosy Crow’s Children’s Book Publishing Conference

I recently attended the catchily-titled ‘Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Children’s Publishing (But Were Afraid to Ask)‘, a conference hosted by Children’s Publishers Nosy Crow.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Children’s Publishing (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Kate Wilson, Nosy Crow’s founder was an unstoppable ball of energy throughout the whole day, getting the crowd laughing and keeping the energy up throughout – a mean feat. Kate also gave her time generously during the breaks and at the close of the conference, answering questions and giving individual advice. She even baked cupcakes herself for all the attendees for goodness sake!

My best bits…

I will definitely be paying more attention to The Bookseller’s UK children’s book market coverage, after getting an insight from Charlotte Eyre. Going down – Pirates and fairies; Going up – Princesses and dinosaurs. I didn’t even nod off when it came to the number crunching, who knew stats could be vaguely interesting?

Author Tracey Corderoy enlightened me to the importance of events when you are launching a new book, whether going on a school visit, library talk or bookshop crafternoon. The effort she puts in is like a second job in itself (you can tell she used to be a teacher with her sandwich bag organisation skills and love for pipe cleaners). It’s not just about boosting sales, it gets you out of your comfort zone and most importantly creates memories for the little people attending.

While listening to dynamic author and entrepreneur Jeff Norton, I felt like a was at TEDTalks, it’s really exciting to listen to someone who is inspired by bringing together new technology and publishing. I had barely left the conference before I was reading Creativity Inc. Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
at Jeff’s recommendation. Jeff’s talk really synced up well with highlighting what Nosy Crow are trying to achieve with their apps and software development.

What I wanted more of…

I had hoped for a bit more information on writing actual stories! Many of the attendees I spoke to were already writers, journalists or ex-teachers, adept at rattling out a story or two. Louise Bolongaro, Head of Picture Books at Nosy Crow, gave 45 minutes of dos and don’ts when writing a book, I could have had a whole day listening to her advice. Sadly time ran out and I was left studying her hand-outs, many of which focussed on rhyming, the Julia Donaldson effect.

This is definitely one of the better events I have been to. There is a really friendly feel, maybe because it was only the second time the conference has been held and all the speakers are really excited about sharing their knowledge, not just getting a pay check and more social media followers. I hope they hang on to that feeling next year! Chatting with the other attendees, I was struck with how lonely a writer/illustrator profession can be if you forget to leave your studio/desk/notebook all day. The internet is so great for making connections, but nothing beats a face-to-face chat or idea swap – you get back what you give out after all.

Katy x

P.S. Here’s a few doodles of some of the rather stylish speakers – I was still listening intently – promise!

Nosy Crow Conference Style Tips


I would love to hear what your favourite illustration or writing events are? Let me know in the comments.

Keep in touch via my Katy Bloss Facebook Page or my tweets on Twitter @katy_bloss.

House of Illustration and Quentin Blake: Inside Stories

Quentin Blake Inside Stories Illustration

A walk along the canal, followed by coffee in Granary Square, just got a whole lot better with arrival of the House of Illustration. Tucked away behind the University of the Arts London building, their opening exhibition Quentin Blake: Inside Stories did not disappoint.

Quentin Blake The Twits

Being an uber fan, I have read a lot of Quentin Blake books, ‘Mr Magnolia’ and ‘Clown’ being favourites, and I easily devoured ‘Words and Pictures’ in one sitting. Most of the artwork at the exhibition was not that new to me, but it was still wonderful seeing the illustrations in the flesh, as it were, not just in print (‘The Twits’ were a highlight). Check out this video of Sir Quentin Blake preparing for the exhibition, plus, there are lots more videos over on too, it’s amazing how generous he is with his illustration knowledge.

There is nothing quite like imposing your interests onto family members, so I dragged my little sis along with the lure of pizza and hot chocolate from Caravan. To be fair she is one arty little lady too, but more into poetry and palm reading, rather than children’s book illustration. Make sure you go and see Quentin’s work before the exhibition closes on 2 November 2014, although after that we have Paddington Bear’s illustrations and animations to look forward to! Right, I’m off to make a marmalade sandwich…

Katy x


Don’t forget to keep in touch via my Katy Bloss Facebook Page, tweets on Twitter @katy_bloss or latest pics on Instagram @katybloss.

Insider’s Guide to a Career in Illustration with Emma Block and Stacie Swift

Illustration Seminar Emma block and Stacie Swift

Before the bank holiday, I took a seminar Insider’s Guide to a Career in Illustration run by two lovely illustrating ladies, Emma Block and Stacie Swift at the gorgous Smug lifestyle store.

I have been a fan of Emma’s illustrations for a quite a while (remember the Lemon Teacake recipe from her Tea & Cake book) and it was lovely to discover a new illustrator in Stacie.

Here are a few of the topics they covered:

  • Portfolios – What should you really have in yours? Quality over quantity.
  • Events, Craft & Trade Fairs – The benefits of attending events such as Top Draw, Pulse, Bologna Children’s Book Fair.
  • Online Tools – social media, your website, networking
  • Your products – sourcing suppliers, wholesale pricing
  • Freelancing – agents, licensing, royalties
  • The ‘boring’ stuff – tax returns, invoicing
  • & more!

Emma and Stacie were really generous sharing their knowledge and answering any questions. I have personally found, there is very little support and business advice in succeeding in the ‘real’ world as a creative professional. Luckily Emma and Stacie have more seminars in the pipeline, delving deeper into more specific areas such as using social media with your illustrating business. Oh, I nearly forgot… you get to eat cake too!

The whole of Campbell Children’s Books department (an imprint of Macmillan) were also at the seminar! Insiders info – they are looking for illustrators interested in board books for very young children at the moment!

– Katy x

illustrate // Zodiac – Roller Skating Gemini

Katy Bloss Zodiac Twins on Rollerboots

I always thought it would be nice to be a twin – although my roller skating skills are zero.

I have been trying out some new watercolour techniques, combining warm and cool colours in a different way. The paper I used isn’t great for this, so the outcome is a little blotchy, but I find it’s great to try new things and keep refreshing my colour theory.

I also made the roller skating twins using watercolour, gouache and coloured pencils to compare. I like the brighter colours, it’s a little more ‘cartoony’.

Katy Bloss Zodiac Twins Mixed Media Illustration

Let me know which you prefer?

– Katy x

P.S. Just in case you are interested here’s my original sketch…

Katy Bloss Zodiac Gemini Pencil Sketch