18 years image


Friday I came home from hospital after a week of being on the covid ward.

But Friday also marked a special day, 18 years of sobriety.

I often wonder whether still counting the years is worth it, I mean, after all this time the chances of me wandering off for a bottle of vodka is slim to non, and yet… the reality is, you never can risk it again.

On the whole alcohol or lack of, doesn’t have any effect in the day to day of things, but it’s those moment when you’re not expecting it that hits me even after these years.

In this world of covid I’ve had to carry my own scented hand sanitiser because many of the ones in shop doorways and even in churches give off an alcohol scent and when not expecting it, rubbing alcohol on your hands is tough.

Another problem I have is cough medicine, yep, many have alcohol as a base and it’s can be a bit of a problem for me.

Anyway, less about those old days, they’re gone and forgotten, and that’s kind of a new attitude I’ve developed about the past. Maybe more on that another time.

I decided I would draw a sketch in celebration of my sobriety. It’s in a similar style to my last image, whimsy with mice!

But the theme is one I’ve wanted to draw for a long time. There’s the old tales of Salvation Army open airs where a drunken man came to Christ and the drum was laid down as a mercy seat (place of prayer).

There are some old images of scenes like this and I’ve liked the idea that any place can become a mercy seat when needed.

I also added a mother standing aside, perhaps watching her son come home, for all the parents who’ve had to leave their children in the hands of the Lord. I called it ‘a mother’s prayer’ and I hope you like it.

Now what to do about it, I’m wondering whether to get it professionally printed and sell it as a limited run, with proceeds to Wakefield Salvation Army (a small Corps with big ideas and a place I love). But printing even at A5 size costs quite a bit.

A novel idea is to get it printed on something like a water bottle or mug, it’d be the same price as a print, but the whimsical style might suit that better.

The final option is to turn it into cards and sell them.

Anyway, it’d be interesting to see what people think and any ideas to what I could do with it.

Hospital Drawing


I’m currently in hospital with this dreaded covid. Thankfully I brought my travel drawing supplies and iPad, so I’m ok.

At first I decided to just draw anything, which is not how I work, I like to have in mind what to draw, but one of the side effects of this thing I’m finding is my mind is a bit foggy.

It was really difficult, I spent quite a bit of time not even drawing a straight line, then I started to draw insects, cute bumblebees, but found a very thin line between cute and disturbing when I tried to put a stinger on my bee and well… not good and to be frank he looked rather sleazy. The more I tried to make it look like a stinger the more it looked like something else. I share it with you for the laughter but even the cute face turns a little sinister. Oh dear me, no!

Then I started drawing mice, then elements, just trees in a style of drawing I’m starting to really like. My thinking was maybe I can develop a little library of motifs I can just use between a series of drawing

One thing I didn’t want to do is pull up a load of Pinterest images and start looking at mice and what they looked like and in the end I came up with a little sketch I liked.

I quite liked that, and continued with my little watercolour kit to paint it in…

Finally I took it into Procreate and worked on it in there. They’ve just updated Procreate with a few little features and one makes saving your favourite brushes so much easier to do.

Anyway, after hours of working on it, it’s finished.

I really like it, don’t yet know what to do with it but I feel like I’m finding my style which is a good place to be. It reminds me of the usborne books from my childhood full of animals in clothes going about their normal business.

I also started singing the song about the mouse in a windmill, so next I want to look at Amsterdam and how a mouse in a windmill in Amsterdam might look.

Sharing your lunch


My first finger puppet set is finished, the pattern is written and on Ravelry and Etsy and a complete set is ready to go on sale on Etsy.

The set is almost everything you need to tell the story of the feeding of the 5000… yep, I say almost because I’m not about to make 5000 men (plus women and children) and enough crochet fish and bread to feed them all. Some things will have to be left for your imagination.

It’s an interesting story, a crowd of 5000 men and their wives and kids followed Jesus until he stopped and spoke to them.

It was a long sermon I suppose because it was lunchtime by the time he finished (pretty much like most Sundays).

Everyone was getting hungry and Jesus asked about feeding them.

Finger puppet disciple

Now, apparently this wasn’t the first time this situation had happened, the Bible has another telling where there were 4000 fed.

I don’t know why the disciples didn’t just look at Jesus and ask him to just produce the food like last time, but they didn’t.

Instead they found a boy with his lunch, five loaves and two little fish.

Boy with his packed lunch

So the boy gave them his lunch.

Now, I don’t know how that happened, did he offer the lunch? Was he earwigging and hear they needed food? How did they know he had food… and that he alone had food?

I once read a commentary on this story and the suggestion was made that it wasn’t a miracle where Jesus created food. Rather the crowd all had lunch, but were keeping their food for themselves.

When the crowd saw the willingness of the boy to give what he had they decided to go in their own pockets and pull out their own lunches and add them to the basket. That’s how they all had enough, no miracle, just people admitting they had what was needed all along.

But that left me thinking, if everyone ate bread and fish, and the commenter was right, then 5000 people decided that lunch for that day would be fish and bread.

Not one fellow woke up that morning, turned to his wife and said, “my dear, I fancy chicken for lunch”.

Not one wife, slipped in a slice of cake or a piece of fruit.

The thought of 5000 men all deciding that today they’d have a fish sandwich for lunch is more of a miracle.

And then, where did the baskets come from?

Did people just turn up with empty baskets waiting to be filled?

Basket with bread and fish

Or did they miraculously appear as well?

Anyway, how ever it happened, a boy offered what he had and Jesus used it to help thousands.

Lots of fish

Whether the story is about miracles, or giving what little you have or that we can feed the world if we all share, it’s a story worth telling.

Bible Story Finger Puppets


I’ve two little people who have recently entered my life, one is my nephews baby, which was a wonderful gift during lockdown after loosing my parents last year.

The other is the daughter of a friend who has been visiting me throughout lockdown. As a doll maker and doll collector I’ve quickly had to seperate dolls she can play with and dolls she can’t and now have a dedicated box in the living room with toys waiting for my 3-year old visitor.

It’s actually done wonders for me and admit I could listen to her play with the dolls and make up her little stories all day long. I’m currently waiting for a plastic tea set to arrive and am looking forward to my first cup of pretend tea.

It has also left me looking at how we tell stories to children and a new crochet pattern, Jesus – the finger puppet.

You can already buy Jesus dolls and I admit I thought they were a bit strange and the thought of a child taking a Cloth Jesus doll to bed with them made me a little uncomfortable.

Jesus Doll and Picture Bible SetSoft Cloth Handmade 18 inch image 0
https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/513002286/jesus-doll-and-picture-bible-setsoft?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=jesus+doll&ref=sc_gallery-1-1&plkey=3d281876eb11f5064fe24f0746dfce7753527c5a%3A513002286

Above is just one of several Jesus dolls you can buy from Etsy.

But with little ones in my life it has made me think about how we tell stories from the bible to children.

At the same time I was looking at making some finger puppets for my nephews little one, for when he’s old enough to like a good story and thought, why not make a Jesus finger puppet, so I did.

Jesus finger puppet

Then I thought, really, you can’t just have Jesus on his own, you need a cast of characters to tell a story…

And that’s how the idea of Bible story finger puppets came about.

The first story is based on the loaves and fishes, or the feeding of the 5,000, or the little boy who gave away his lunch. However you tell the story you can now have finger puppets to help you.

Loaves and fishes

At the moment, only the pattern is ready to buy, but I hope to have some finished story sets made soon.

I also plan on starting another story this week… Adam and Eve.

The pattern is available on Ravelry and on Etsy (link below)

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/bettyvirago

Rabby – Character Design


I’ve recently started drawing some characters that I hope to turn into childrens birthday cards. Each animal character is an animal found in the English countryside.

I started by looking at photographs of rabbits and hares and sketching some of the characteristics I found.

I was mainly trying to get the head shape because the body I wanted would be almost human in shape.

You can see by the bottom right sketch that I’d come up with some style of rabbit head that I liked. I also used Cathy Wu’s six components to a cuter character in the design. You can watch some of her tutorials on Skillshare.

Click this link for a two week free skillshare trial: https://skl.sh/2RiEAQA

The cuter character components are 6 body and face changes that add to the cuteness of any character.

  1. A more rounded body
  2. Small limbs
  3. Large head
  4. High forehead
  5. Wider eye settings
  6. Larger pupil

Once I had decided on a basic style I liked I scanned the sketched into Procreate and started turning the sketch into a final piece.

I added clothing, but then decided I liked the idea of having clothing as a cut out, I’m a child of the 70s so remember the joy of getting my weekly Bunty comic and cutting out the dress up doll that came free each week.

When it came to naming the rabbit I decided I’d choose what I imagined a toddler would call a rabbit, I had a bit of a consultation with a family member who has become a new mum and the name Rabby was chosen.

So, here is Rabby, not yet at the printers, but soon to be my latest series of Birthday cards…

I’ve been working on a fox the past couple days and actually was able to ask a two year old how she would say fox… I’m sure many parents will be laughing already, but I need a different approach, my fox can’t be called a swear word!

Anyway, let me know what you think.

Can’t Draw? No Problem!


If you’ve been looking at my Instagram feed for some time you might have noticed I use a lot of botanical line drawings. (Oh, my instagram is @bettyvirago)

Vintage Florals design

Each flower is hand drawn by me and scanned into my computer and to be honest, it’s taken a long time to get to the point where I can say I like my drawings.

One tutor at uni would say regularly that we should draw everyday, but it was only after university that I finally started to take that seriously.

Am I a cheapskate for using every last bit of the eraser?

I often hear people tell me how talented I am, but it dismisses the hard work and hours of sketching that I do.

Talent? Yes, perhaps, but also hours and hours of practice.

Some time ago I found a website called Creative Market. It’s a place where you can buy items from other creative people for use in your own work.

I’ve used it to buy watercolour brushes for photoshop and some fun procreate templates to play with. One of the best things about creative market is that there are 3 payment prices for items also called licenses.

The cheapest is the personal price or licence. This allows you to use the files for your own personal use, so if you’re just wanting images to colour in then you can pick up some great designs for less than £5.

The next licence is commercial. It allows you to use the files on a number of items for sale and one social media account.

Then the most expensive is an Extended Licence, which gives you an incredible amount of freedom with the images.

For more about the licence types click this link: https://creativemarket.com/licenses/general

If you’re a small independent designer you can purchase a range of illustrations for under £20 and have the licence to add them to your own items. Great for those who want an artstyle they can’t yet do themselves and great for the artist who is paid for their work.

It sounded like a good deal I draw far more flowers than I could use myself and I liked that as an artist I am protected with licenses.

And so, I’ve just opened a shop on creative market.

Tulip Botanical Illustrations

So for just over £10 you can buy a bunch of flowers in both jpg and png files for your own personal use, or for a few pounds more you can buy the licence to put the images on mugs and t-shirt and cards and sell them yourselves.

You can find the shop here: https://creativemarket.com/BettyVirago

Mothering Sunday


This year the UK celebrates Mother’s day on the 14th of March. It changes dates each year but is celebrated on the fourth Sunday in Lent.

There are records of a celebration of mothers going as far back as Ancient Greece, but was a celebration of the Rhea, the mother of the gods and goddesses. In the UK it has origins in the Catholic church that celebrated it as a day to give thanks for the Virgin Mary also known as Mother Mary.

In Victorian years it was a day when servants were given time off to visit their own mothers and for many servants it was the one day of the year they got to spend with their family. There was even a Mothers cake often made with the masters permission that was made to be taken to their mothers.

Traditionally in the UK it was called Mothering Sunday and I think it’s a shame we’ve lost that term.

Being a mother has never been something I’ve felt called to, but I have friends who longed to be mother and yet, were never given the opportunity and for them, Mother’s day has sometimes given them a sense of failure that there was one thing in life they didn’t achieve. On the other hand, there are people who I have tried to be a ‘mother figure’ to.

I’ve mentioned my dad several times and mentioned that he died a few months ago, but perhaps not so much mentioned my mum, who also died a few months before dad.

This year, for me and many others, will be the first year when Mothers day, will be more difficult and I wonder whether churches will consider that in their services in a few weeks time. To be honest though, I’ll probably just give that Sunday a miss.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 196349_1009827096225_1810_n.jpg

But it does make me wonder whether we should make a return to Mothering Sunday over Mothers day.

I’ve had one Mother, it wasn’t always a perfect relationship, but she wouldn’t be replaced in my eyes. On the other hand, throughout my life there have been many men and women who have come into my life and taken on a role of ‘mothering’ and ‘fathering’.

Although I only had one set of parents there were many ‘parental’ figures without whom I probably would not have survived.

Mothering Sunday (and possibly Fathering Sunday) would add a nod to the people in our lives who come alongside us when we need them most.

I won’t name them, simply because I’d embarrass some of them who did their part without wanting recognition…

besides, I know I’d miss one or two out!

Women who took me into their homes and fed me, who counselled me and built up my confidence. One woman who convinced a landlord to take a risk and rent a flat to me, another who took a risk and offered me a job. The women who years later, still make regular contact with me which has been so invaluable in lockdown.

We can’t all be mothers, but we can all give the gift of mothering to someone who needs us, and perhaps so much more this year than ever before. People are needing someone who makes regular phone calls just to ask how your week has been. A person on their own needs to be invited into your family as part of their support bubble (I am so grateful that I was invited into a support bubble), Young adults might need inviting to your home for Sunday dinner.

While each year we sit (in my opinion) through Mothers day sermons on how grateful we are for our Mothers, perhaps the sermon should be how we can look out for those who need a bit of mothering! Maybe we should be changing our focus from being inwardly thankful to outwardly seeking someone to help.

Run to the Father


The next card on my list is the Fathers card, based on the song by Colonel Edward Joy.

Is there a heart o’erbound by sorrow?
Is there a life weighed down by care?
Come to the cross, each burden bearing;
All your anxiety, leave it there.

CHORUS:
All your anxiety, all your care,
Bring to the mercy seat, leave it there;
Never a burden He cannot bear,
Never a friend like Jesus.

No other friend so keen to help you;
No other friend so quick to hear;
No other place to leave your burden;
No other one to hear your prayer.

Come, then, at once; delay no longer;
Heed His entreaty, kind and sweet;
You need not fear a disappointment;
You shall find peace at the mercy seat.

Salvationists know the gift of physically going to the ‘mercy seat’ to talk with God, but we also know that our Father isn’t tied to a wooden bench.

We can, at anytime, run to the Father with our needs, hopes and concerns.

The image in the card is that of a child running to the Father

Inside the card is the words of the hymn as well as a bible verse

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:7

Again, if you want to buy the card here is a link to the Etsy shop.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/bettyvirago

The Potters Card


I’ve spoken several times about the cards I call Hymn cards.

They’re a series of cards I designed, perhaps in memory of my dad, but certainly because of him and his love of old hymns and Salvation Army songs.

I recently made the decision to get the cards professionally printed and list them on Etsy. Well this morning a couple boxes of cards and wrapping paper arrived and I’m slowly sorting them out and writing the many listings for Etsy.

It’s going to be quite a job, but hopefully soon all cards and items will be in the shop for you to buy.

I’ve decided to write a post about every card design I’ve ordered and show them to you.

So firstly… The potters card.

The Potters card

The imagery of a potter at the wheel is mentioned several times in the Bible, even in Genesis there is a sense of God mixing dirt with water to make clay to form Adam.

The image on the card is of a master potter, working with the clay to turn it into a final piece, the same hands that made the goblet for the king made the begging bowl for the pauper.

But the message of the story isn’t only in the greatness of the potter, but in the process of the clay.

In 1902, A young woman named Adelaide sat in a prayer meeting feeling very discouraged. She had dreams and plans of going to Africa to serve as a missionary. It was a worthy but costly goal and she hadn’t managed to get the funding needed to travel.

I can imagine her thoughts, Why would God call me to Africa and not provide the means to go?

So many of us have had disappointments this year.

Education has been disrupted, employment has disappeared, our daily routines have been changed beyond recognition. Fear of catching a virus, fear of not seeing family and friends in time, uncertainty and loss have been companions for so many of us.

The Potters Card

I can relate to Adelaide.

As she sat in that prayer meeting wondering why this was happening? having big dreams and little means, and wondering whether something can come from this, she heard an older woman speaking out.

“It really doesn’t matter what you do with us, Lord. Just have your own way with our lives.”

That night Adelaide walked home and thought of what the woman said. She thought about the imagery in Jeremiah 18:3, of clay in the hands of a potter.

She went home and wrote this hymn:

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me, I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.

– Adelaide A. Pollard

Pottery

I don’t know whether Adelaide made it to Africa, but I know her words and poetry went there, and went much further. We don’t know what God has in store for us, Adelaide had a big dream of speaking about God in one country, but God had plans that meant Adelaide communicated far beyond her lifetime.

And so, the first of the card is listed.

If you are interested in buying a card the link is here:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/964760353/thou-art-the-potter-christian?ref=shop_home_active_1&frs=1

Highest Heaven


It’s been a little over a year since I sat through the night in A&E with both my parents. What followed was hours and hours of sitting beside hospital beds.

I’ve said before that most people wouldn’t know my dad as a singer, but for me, his singing is what I remember best about him. For many Salvationists the song book sits beside the Bible and is a part of their worship and for dad the words of the hymns and choruses were especially important.

Lockdown brought a lot of pain, not being allowed to see my parents, my parents not being allowed to see each other, and their eventual promotions to Glory.

Before they got ill I had been working on a quilt with the words of Dads favourite song, ‘O Boundless Salvation’ embroidered into it.

O Boundless Salvation quilt

I finished the quilt and it sat on dads bed in the hospital for a little while before the lockdown forced me to remove it.

Before Lockdown I had sat with dad on several occasions and sang his many favourite songs to him. I had also started adding words to hymns and choruses to images I had drawn and had some printed out for dad to read in hospital. I hoped that though I was unable to be with him, he could read the words and see my sketches and know my heart was with him.

I’m not alone in ending 2020 in grief, nor am I alone in starting 2021 in further grief of friends.

Many of us have lost so much in the past 12 months and many of us have more to come, and the sense of loss, whether from family and friends or from employment and opportunities will be long-lasting.

On the whole, I’ve been strong, but as I started the week learning of another friends passing I realised I had lost more friends and family in the past 12 months than I had in the whole of my life. I found myself falling into depression and struggling to find the strength or will to pull myself out.

And then, after a few days of inactivity, the words of an old Salvation Army chorus came to me and what my dad had instilled in me throughout my life, came into effect. I started singing…

Prayer gently lifts me to highest Heaven,
From Earth’s confusion to Jesus’ breast;
My sin and weakness, my doubt and sorrow,
Are lost forever in sweetest rest.

I could add a video of a talented pianist playing the tune, or an arrangement by an Army band, but I found this video, it’s how I think it should be sung, not in great skill and show, but humbly and in quietness.

And suddenly I realised what I’d been missing, I’ve been carrying all this weight on my shoulders and forgetting to lay it at the feet of Jesus in prayer.

I created a sketch some time ago, but hadn’t found the right words to it, but the chorus fitted so perfectly.

To Highest Heaven

I’ve been working on having my artwork professionally produced onto cards for a long time. It’s helped me, it helped my dad, and perhaps sending hymns and my artwork can help others.

It’s taken a long time, I’ve been worrying whether others will feel the same way I do about the cards. However, after again finding strength from the words of the chorus this week I emailed the printers and I’m going ahead with producing cards.

Below are just 2 of the cards I’ll be producing.

Prayer gently lifts me
In His time

I hope others will find the comfort through hymns and choruses as much as my dad did, and as much as I have done.

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