Martha R. Ford : Illustration

A collection of works-in-progress, works-finished and 'things' I like.

New Online Shop!

Image of Whales in the River - Unframed Giclee Print

Finally! I now have an online shop and as a little celebration (and an ‘I’m back!), everyone gets 15% off everything in the shop during September (offer lasts until 30/09/14 midnight).

The discount code is: SEPTOPEN15
(Enter at checkout in the discount box before you get transferred to Paypal)

Image of Party Time - Greetings Card

Currently selling cards and prints in A3, A4 and A5 sizes. I am still developing my illustrated jewellery collection but the lockets will be returning soon!

Image of Through the Two Mountains - Unframed Giclee PrintImage of Fishing - Unframed Giclee Print


So a while ago, as part of my teacher training, I had to develop new skills in an area of art and design I was not confident in and create new work for an exhibition at the university. As I have now finished my teacher training (yes!), I decided it was about time I blogged about this new passion of mine…papercutting.

I love it. I love the fragile, tactile, lace-like nature of the cut paper; I love the beautiful, ethereal imagery and I love the therapeutic, hypnotic, meditative process of paper cutting. (However, what I love less are the 5 small spiders I just found crawling up my leg as I write this!).

Before this project, I had previously worked in the Paper Scissors Stone/Made in Bristol shops with the very talented Sarah Dennis (

sarah3 sarahsarah1

Her work, the work of Michael Lomax (a fellow undergraduate- and the popular Rob Ryan, first introduced me to this artform.

Have an oggle at some of the other fantastic paper artists I researched before attempting my own paper cuts:

Elsa Mora:

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 Zim and Zou:

zim and zou4  zim and zou2

 Emma Van Leest:

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Peter Callesen:












Anna-Wili Highfield:













Lisa Nilsson:

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So after experimenting with quilling and 3d paper sculpture techniques, I began to develop my paper cutting skills. What started as just an assignment, has now become a bit of an obsession and I am looking forward to honing and pushing my (currently quite limited) skills.

Work-in-progress in the lead up to the deadline:




















Finished work:































Although I enjoyed the process and like the final outcomes, they were created during a busy teaching placement and alongside masters level essays and therefore I don’t think the ideas behind them are very well developed; more decorative ‘experiments’.

The final piece I completed for the exhibition is the girl’s head with the brambles and the branches. This has a more developed concept. I was beginning to explore low self-confidence and anxiety through this image, something I was feeling a lot during the course and like many people, have had to deal with in the past, and I think this is something I will explore further soon.



The exhibition itself was a brilliant experience. I have exhibited with other illustrators before but not with such a variety of different artists. Ceramicists-turned-textile designers were displayed next to graphic designers-turned-printmakers next to lighting designers-turned-painters and so on. It was also an interesting exercise; learning a completely new skill and analysing how you learn, how different learners work through creative problems and how this can then translate into art and design teaching.


RED Exhibition


A new digital illustration I created for the RED exhibition at the Tobacco Factory, Bristol in aid of British Red Cross. A percentage of artwork sales will be donated to the Red Cross and it will help raise awareness of the amazing work carried out by the people in this organisation. The theme of the exhibition is(you guessed it) the colour red.

I wanted a red focal point and something that hinted at adventure and overcoming obstacles to reach a seemingly impossible goal to tie in with the Red Cross.

In my mind, I had those old illustrations of lonely, ancient, ivy-covered towers in the middle of gnarled, dark forests but lately, I’ve also been re-reading Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn, so there were a lot of bleak swampy/boggy images floating around in there too. The image just evolved and came together over time.

The opening night of the exhibition went really well. The live drawing by Dave Bain, Paul Roberts, Liv Bargman, Loch Ness and Katy Christianson was great and the work on the walls was varied and interesting. The more charity exhibitions, the better!

Birthday Post!

It’s my birthday today and to celebrate, I am blogging! No, not really, I am going to the cinema, eating lots of food, drinking and playing geeky boardgames. Roll on Dominion and Gloom(both great games, give them a go!), oh and I think there will be a lot of Articulate going down later. Wild.


Anyway, so there’s this exhibition called ‘Beat the Blues’ coming up at St George’s (Bristol), running alongside the Acoustic Music Festival and I will be exhibiting alongside some really talented illustrators and artists.

Although I am sure some of you will see them in the exhibition(and there is an old piece in there), here are the three I shall be exhibiting.

The old ‘Rest in the Dark Woods’ I painted for my ‘Little Places’ series:


I created a new piece called ‘Home’. It’s mostly pencil and watercolours but then I have done my usual digital fiddling.

House on the island

And the third piece I will be showing is ‘Whales in the River'(and yes, I know Whales do not usually swim in rivers). This is a mostly digital piece although all the elements were drawn beforehand and scanned in.

Whales in the River

The print for this last one is a lot darker than I had intended but it should still look nice once hung. These images are pretty much just about cozy spaces. And isolation:D

Kevin from Edge2edge framing once again did an amazing job on my frames and they were all delivered to St George’s yesterday. Looking forward to the opening!


Hello poor neglected blog, I’m back and I have been busy.

I have had some new christmas cards in the Watershed. I was also artist of the month in Hamilton House’s December Programme and this little Rabbit Girl got her time to shine on the cover(she’s very happy):

Martha Ford_Rabbit girl

December 1st- My first craft market since I was a child. This time, instead of helping my grandparents sell their wooden bowls and little cabinets, I was selling my own cards, lockets, prints and hand-painted tree decorations. How grown-up 😉


The event was the Magpies & I Vintage and Handmade Market at the Spiegeltent on the Harbourside in Bristol. It was beautiful and space issues aside, was the perfect first venue for me to test the waters. I will openly admit to being a bit of a pessimist sometimes so although I was excited, I also thought: I wouldn’t sell a thing, there wouldn’t be room for me, my table would collapse, the other sellers would shun me, someone would steal my float whilst I was distracted by something shiny, that sort of thing.

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My table did wobble every time someone walked past and my stall did create a bit of a bottleneck (whenever two buggies turned up, it turned into a tiny double parked road with a car coming from either end). And I did have a few people walk by less than impressed, my favourite was a little older lady who, when her daughter pointed and said “Oh these are lovely, what do you think?”, said with a great dismissive wave across my stall, “I don’t like ANY of them”.  Can’t win ’em all eh? But generally, my artwork and products went down brilliantly (toot toot own horn)- lockets, decorations and cards were the most popular but a fair few prints sold too.

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Saw many friends and friendly acquaintances and most of my family turned up to help. I absolutely loved it and if I wasn’t working in Forbidden Planet at the weekends, I would probably become a market junkie. Also, hot spiced apple juice and caramel crumble cakes are delicious.


Since then, I have been a guest in the vol.3 and 4 of Paper Scissors Stone and then was asked to come back for the Volume 5 over Christmas which was AMAZING. Really enjoyed meeting some new people and equally, working with some familiar faces. I had a few new designs in the shop and sold most of my stock which was, as you can imagine, VERY nice and will hopefully alleviate some of my post-christmas financial woes!


It also led on to a lovely opportunity. I am now selling my products in a co-operative shop above BS8 on Park Street in Bristol with 6 other talented people. I think I might do a little post about Upstairs at BS8 and my colleagues once I have settled in a little more.


Maybe not as interesting for some of you but I have also spent a good amount of my time volunteering in a college and a secondary school back in Swindon. The ESOL department of New College and the Art Department of Isambard Community School both took me in and let me help with a bunch of projects and classes. Absolutely loved it. The ESOL classes were lively and chaotic, with teenagers from all over the world coming together and showing that despite cultural differences, teens are always going to be teens:) I feel old.

Brisfest 2012

Walking back from work the other day all wrapped up in my massive scarf and jumper, I smelled woodsmoke in the air and realised Summer is over, Autumn has arrived and Winter is not far off. I wondered where my summer months had gone. Then I had a good think and realised I have actually filled my Summer to the brim, I just haven’t blogged about it…

So…as well as going on a couple of (parent funded family) holidays to Disneyland (yes, we are all big kids), Yorkshire(with kites!) and Greece (for a good friend’s wedding), creating my lockets and taking part in the Paper Scissors Stone pop-up shop in Cabot Circus; I have been working part-time in the super ‘geek’ paradise (I love it so much) that is Forbidden Planet, working on new designs and illustrations ready for a crazy crafty Christmas and volunteering in the decor team for Brisfest.

Fairground in the morning

Brisfest is a volunteer-maintained, community music and arts festival in Bristol with an emphasis on showcasing new and local creative talents. After five years, the festival has returned to the beautiful surroundings of Ashton Court and from what I could see and hear yesterday, has been a great success. It should be coming to an end about now-ish and although I decided to go home and read a book, I am hoping the more energetic festival goers fared okay with the bad weather!

My finished woodland seating area(most of the seating is out of shot!)

After volunteering for the decor team last year and having great fun, I was asked back as a core team member this year. I wasn’t able to give as much time as I would have liked in the first half of the year, but I did manage to free up quite a bit in the lead up to the festival. My personal decor projects were finished in time and I even got to help on a few other bits and pieces.

My contribution to the festival was a collection of painted wooden animals. We had next to no budget for decor so I made use of old graff. boards and our limited paint supplies(as well as adding some of my own). For me, this was painting on a big scale, something which I don’t often do. I do do a lot of work with traditional techniques and media but more and more, I am making good use of the computer to edit my artwork so I found myself  frequently surprised when I couldn’t just ‘undo edit’ something(fingers would occasionally twitch towards an imaginary cmd + z).

I had a good time exploring pattern and colour with these and it’s the first time in a while I have really explored how I depict animals.

A slightly sad looking stag

Wolfy wolf no.1

My two favourites

Originally meant for the Chill out zone and at the last-minute moved to a fence by the endangered beetles enclosure. Pretty lo brow stuff, no deep underlying message to these creatures, just fun and a little weird for a festival that was very fun and very weird. I loved making them and from the feedback I was getting, people loved looking at them so…success!

Family of foxes

And here’s a slideshow with a few more pics, take a gander:

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Illustrated Lockets

At the beginning of June, I finished my first collection of illustrated lockets which went on sale in the pop-up shop ‘Paper Scissors Stone’. Luckily for me, they were very popular and I am now perfecting my process and working on some new designs!

Here is a lovely blog post written about my lockets on the Made in Bristol website:

Product Stories: Martha Ford’s Lockets

By now most of our readers will be familiar with the wonderful work of Martha Ford. As an illustrator and Drawn in Bristol member, she is known for her inky illustrations featuring eery scenes, characters and animals, in strikingly powerful compositions.
As if Martha hadn’t impressed us enough, she’s now unveiled a collection of illustrated lockets and pendants. They’re striking and unique, and we’re extremely excited to be able to stock them within the Paper • Scissors • Stone temporium. We caught up with the busy artist to ask her about her new venture, and find out more about her jewellery line.

We love these!

Hello Martha! How did the idea to start making jewellery first come about?

I had been selling prints for a while but wanted to branch out and put my illustrations onto other surfaces; the idea of people being able to wear my artwork really appealed to me. Lockets are lovely mysterious artefacts and I thought they tied in nicely with my occasionally off-key and surreal artwork so those instantly became my little canvases.

Tell us about your inspiration behind your new jewellery range?

It’s not really a cohesive collection at this point although that is something I would definitely like to create in the future. It’s more a small assortment of quirky designs inspired by the natural world. The whale, the fox and the jellyfish are all creatures that feature quite heavily in my sketchbooks but until now, I hadn’t really included them in my work. The blue tent locket is a little abstract but is actually directly inspired by one of my earlier illustrations, ‘Rest in the Dark Woods’. And my ‘space shuttle’ locket doesn’t really fit into the set at all but as I have such an interest in all things Space-related and a big Sci-fi reader to boot, I couldn’t resist creating something along those lines.

Do you see any links between the discipline of illustration, and of jewellery?

Well they are obviously both very creative disciplines. There is definitely a big crossover between the two when we are talking items such as illustrated lockets and badges/pins as these are direct little copies of your artwork. I think one of the main reasons illustrators branch out into disciplines like T-shirt or Jewellery design is because it allows them to reach a wider audience. Not everyone buys artwork and prints for their walls, some people prefer to wear their favourite images on their person.

Have you taken inspiration from any existing jewellers?

I have always loved old lockets so this jewellery format was an obvious choice for me. Being a mostly paper-based artist, when I first started exploring jewellery-making, I had no idea how I was going to transfer my images to metal, in this case brass. I didn’t even really know if it was possible so I had to do a lot of research.

I came across this wonderful artist, Lee May Foster-Wilson whilst reading Lionheart magazine (find our interview with editor Helen Martins here) and I actually despaired just a tiny bit as her little lockets are lovely and exactly what I was aspiring to; striking compositions, quirky dreamy designs and a professional finish. Her jewellery was definitely a big inspiration and her illustration work is stunning too.

Other illustrators-turned-jewellery-makers closer to home like Sally Haysom of MyBearHands were both an inspiration and a big help. Sally pointed me in the direction of shrink plastic (hopefully to be used in the future) and decal paper, which I am using to create the lockets at the moment. I also own a couple of her pieces and wear them religiously!

What’s the process of designing a new piece of jewellery from start to finish?

I wouldn’t call myself a jewellery designer as such as my specialism is image-making not jewellery-making and so my personal process for designing jewellery is very similar to my illustration process. It always begins with a mess of words and little drawings, quickly jotted down into a sketchbook. From this, I draw tiny rough sketches and work out which ones might work well in the small round format of the lockets.

When I started, I had a lot of drawings of cities and landscapes and some fairly detailed concepts but after a while I realised the simpler the design the better. I whittled all these ideas down until I had just 5 remaining and then turned these into my 5 illustrations to transfer onto the lockets. The finish on the lockets was something I experimented a lot with too. I really like the polished finish on other lockets but I felt for mine, I wanted a more textured, hand painted feel. I achieved this by playing around with different varnishes. Beads and charms were also carefully chosen to complement each design.

Where do you see your work progressing in the future?

More variety. I have been hunting down different brass lockets, different shapes and sizes, to transfer my images onto. As I said earlier, in future, I would definitely like to create a more cohesive collection. Creating a collection of quirky brooches really appeals to me too so I think that might be coming soon. I have a few designs ready, I am just experimenting with materials and production techniques. Aside from the jewellery, I am looking into further developing my illustrations for prints, cards and other paper goods. Although I will work to hone my craft skills further, for me it’s always about the image-making and these are all ways I can get my illustrations out to other people, to hopefully be enjoyed.


New image, fresh off the…computer.

Again, a mixture of traditional and digital techniques.

Paper, Scissors, Stone Vol.2 Launch

Busy busy busy.

New shop, Paper Scissors Stone Vol.2, has now opened at Cabot Circus and I am crazy happy to be a part of it. The launch went really well and during my shift the day after, I sold my first locket!

Here are a few images from the launch(photos all courtesy of Rosalind Howard and Matthew Whittle)-

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I particularly loved the StuffedNonsense products:

Myths & Legends Exhibition

As part of the inaugural Bristol Biennial, Drawn in Bristol will be presenting an exhibition celebrating myths and legends from around the world. I’m one of 22 illustrators who have created pieces for the exhibition and they can all be seen(and bought!) in the main hub of the festival, The Showroom, on College Green from June 10th-16th.

For those who cannot make the exhibition, here’s my finished piece. I chose Nixies, female water sprites/river mermaids from German mythology, as my subject. These creatures, like many water-based mythological humanoids, often tried to drown people by luring them into the depths using their beauty and their enchanting voices. Nixies could be malicious or friendly, depending on the tale.