“Tell the Bees” Folklore Zine

Tell the Bees is a 32 page fully illustrated folklore zine launched in 2023. It is a zine born from a love of folklore, grisly tales, strange facts and alternative art. Each issue features a tapas board of illustrated tales, mysteries and traditions. All handpicked along the themes of the supernatural, the macabre and the unexplained.

Telling the Bees

The title of the zine comes from the custom of informing hives of bees of any deaths within the family. This is to ensure that the bees accept their new masters and remain productive. It’s also to let them know that they should produce extra wax for the funerary service.

In Celtic mythology Bees are regarded to be a link between the worlds of the living and the dead. In telling a message to the bees they are then able to pass this message to loved ones beyond the veil. Within the tradition of ‘telling the bees’ the bees themselves are expected to share within the mourning. It is traditional to drape black cloth on the hives, and indeed believed that there are risks to withholding from this practice.

The bees are traditionally told also of more celebratory events such as births and marriages. It is considered bad luck not to tell the bees of a big family event. This risks the death of the colony or their abandonment of the hive.  In some instances bees would be simply told of the news and in others it is asked that the news be sung to them. Each hive is required to be told in turn. In a tradition known as ‘ricking’ upon the death of their master the family’s eldest son must move the hives to show that a change has taken place.

The Zine

I first began researching articles and creating illustrations for the zine in 2021. I knew that I wanted to create something that shared my love of folklore combined with my work as an illustrator. As a lifelong lover of the weird and unusual I knew I also wanted to make sure that the zine always focused on the stories that stood out to me the most. Whether because they are really unusual, they are fascinating stories or they show us something about particular places or people. 

My interest in folklore is one that I shared wholeheartedly with my mother. The stories contained within issue 1 are all tales that myself and my mum shared. Stories that she told me like the tales of the fairy folk, or that I told her. It features instances of the bizarre that we discussed together, the tale of the Red Barn Murder.

You can find out more details about the zine and purchase copies over at https://thisissianellis.Etsy.com 

York Nutcracker Trail 2023

York Nutcracker Trail 2023

I was recently commissioned by York BID to create ten painted 6ft tall nutcracker sculptures for their Nutcracker Trail 2023. The trail runs across York city centre from 16 November 2023 – January 4 2024. The sculpture trail is the first time that a single artist has been commissioned by York BID to create bespoke designs for each of the ten sculptures. It’s also the first time I have ever painted an entire sculpture trail too! York is a magical city at Christmas, famous for it’s cosy cobbled streets and expansive Christmas market, to be asked to design an entire art trail for the city during it’s most enchanting season has been incredible.

The Designs

5 of the designs are based on York at Christmas time, featuring festive iconography such as baubles, gingerbread men and snowmen and highlighting landmarks of the city in Winter.  One design features the transformation of Merchants Hall from a blizzard at night to a snow covered morning, whilst another shows Santa and his reindeer flying over the Shambles. 

A further 5 nutcrackers were designed inspired by drawings from schools and community groups including York Mind, Wigginton Primary School, St Wilfred’s RC Primary School and Changing Lives.

One design inspired by submissions from the charity MySight features an intricate tactile snowflake design that has been devised so that the multi-sensory design can be enjoyed by members of the public with visual impairments. 

This is the first time that I have created a tactile sculpture for public display and I’m really pleased with how it’s come out and it’s role in making the trail more accessible. This is also the first time I’ve painted an entire trail and it was an enjoyable challenge to take the same shape ten times over and come up with something new to paint on each one whilst remaining true to the Christmas in York theme and incorporating the designs from the community groups along the way. 

Maps of the free trail can be collected from the Visit York information centre or viewed online on the York Bid site. 

My Sculpture Painting Journey So Far

Painting the sculptures for this trail now brings the total of sculptures I have painted up to a whopping 29 with the charity amount fundraiser through the sales of my artworks at auction now exceeds £102,000 as of November 2023. 

I absolutely love sculpture painting and seeing how much people love them when they are out in the streets is always a really rewarding feeling. It’s great to see them adding so much festivity to York’s historic streets and it makes me even more excited for the Snooks with Books 2024 trail where 22 other artists will join me in creating bespoke literary themed artworks on the characterful Snook sculpture that Make It York commissioned me to design. 

York Nutcracker Trail 2023 Gingerbread Sculpture

Snooks with Books Sculpture Trail York 2024

I am delighted to announce that in February 2024 the Snooks with Books sculpture trail will go live in York, featuring my original character design the Snooks with Books. The trail is run by the team at Make it York who have been busy finding sponsors and generating a fantastic buzz about the project.

The Trail

Over 20 sculptures featuring designs inspired by Yorkshire Authors and Yorkshire stories will be painted by artists in York before being displayed around the city throughout Spring 2024. When the trail ends each sculpture will be sold at auction and profits raised from the sales will be split between St Leonards Hospice and a new fund with Make It York to fund upcoming creative projects in the city.

The Snooks

If you aren’t familiar with the Snooks legend has it that they have resided in York longer than any of the historical structures that the city is famous for, but their penchant for reading in dark corners has kept them well hidden (until now).

Recently sightings of Snooks have skyrocketed, and it looks like these friendly folk have been enjoying some sightseeing around the city walls.

Old habits dye hard though and you aren’t likely to spot a Snook without a book in its’ hands. 

It could be a novel, an anthology or a playbook but it might also be a guide to bird spotting, a family photo album, an instruction manual for building a rocket or a travel diary and sketchbook. The Snook is the artists’ canvas and each book is too, each artwork with its own story to tell.

I cannot wait to see the different personalities that each of the Snooks are given once they are paired up with their artist and sponsors, and see what incredible creative talent will be on display. I am absolutely itching to pick up my paintbrush and bring a Snook to life, for the first time painting a sculpture that already feels like an old friend.

I hope that you can all share some of my excitement in meeting the very first of the Snooks and that you are all, as I am, looking forward to seeing these friendly faces on the streets of York in 2024.

Find out more about the Snooks with Books trail here

“Dinos on the Loose” Immersive Illustrated Storybook Trail comes to Lincoln this Easter Holiday

I am so excited to be bringing his train to Lincoln for 2 weeks in April 2023! This is in collaboration with my friends at Lincoln BIG as part of their ‘Lincoln Creates’ programme of events.

This immersive storybook trail follows a motley crew of cheeky dinos as they get up to mischief around Lincoln’s Cornhill Quarter. Can you catch all of the escaped Dino babies in Sharpe’s Sweets? Have you got what it takes to join the Dino band over in HMV? Or could you possible help out a fashion challenged friend with a makeover over in the Joules store? There are lots of activities to do and laughs to be had as you follow our escapees escapades!

The trail comprises of original artwork and illustrations, story and concept all designed by myself. You can follow the progress of the trails design and installation over on Instagram

Each of the 8 locations can be discovered using the official trail map. Which also gives you more details about sister events happening simultaneously across the quarter. This includes the epic Dino Dig complete with animatronic life size t-Rex. Plus, the chance to make your own comforter Dino bar with our friends at Lush.

A huge thank you to Lincoln BIG and all 8 participating businesses for helping to bring the trail to life.
This includes Joules, Sharpe’s Sweets, Burnett’s Sandwiches, HMV Lincoln, Lush, Doughnotts, Tortilla and The Card Factory.

Download your official trail map for free over at the Lincoln BIG website or to find out more about how we can work together to host your own illustrated storybook trail just get in touch!

Make Your Own Krampus

Today’s Coutndown to Christmas is a free downloadable craft to make and get in the creepy festive mood.

For best results you should print him in A5 size, but if you want a bigger (albeit skinnier) Krampus you can print him in A4 and put two toilet rolls together to stick him on. I made mine to go on top of my studio Christmas tree but he makes a good shelf sitter too (just give his legs and tale a little bend).

Krampus is a Christmas character in Central Europe who comes to punish naughty children. A horned goat like creature he might hit you with a switch or carry you off to his lair in the underworld if you have been particularly badly behaved. Basically the anti-Santa, his name derives from the German word ‘Krampen’ meaning ‘claw’.

Follow the download link to access the file

This download is available for personal use only, so just a quick reminder not to reproduce it or use the design for anything other than creepying up your Christmassy homes and personal spaces. Thanks!

31 Spooky Stories Collab with Notebook of Ghosts

I am super stoked and excited to share these spooky story record sheets with you as part of a collaboration with Ash from Notebook of Ghosts!

I first took part in one of her Spooky Stories reading challenges last year when she ran her #25spookystories festive reading challenge. Now we all know how much I love a Ghost Story at Christmas and last year I read 25 under the challenge and got myself into a suitably spooky Christmas mood! So much so that I started buying more festive collections in January, ready for this year!

This October launches the #31spookystories challenge where participants can read 13 or 31 short stories during the month of October. If you head over to https://notebookofghosts.com you can find info on the background to the challenge and a whole host of free resources to find your spooky reads without spending a penny. Plus lots of amazing ghostly tales on the blog too!

I’ve downloaded these progress sheets as an accompaniment to the challenge. Just pick whether you’d like the 13 stories or 31 stories sheet and use them as a place to jot down each spooky story you read so that you can see your challenge progress and revisit the stories at a future date. Last year I tracked my progress on the notes app on my phone, but I couldn’t help but think that there must be a much funner way to do it, and so the progress sheets were born!

You can download copies here as well as on the https://notebookofghosts.com website. And remember to use the #31spookystories to share your Halloween reads! I’ll be sharing mine too over at https://instagram.com/thisissianellis so head over and give me and @notebookofghosts a follow to follow the challenge.

Illustrated Ghost Stories: The Severed Arm of Overwater

A curious and grisly ghostly tale in which to this day I still can’t decide whether Overwater Hall and it’s neighbouring tarn are haunted by one ghost or two. This one’s not for the squeamish that’s for sure!

The Seeds of a Scandal

In the Lake District in 1814 Joseph Gillbanks procured the Whitfield estate and the estates that surrounded it. Where once stood Whitfield House Gillbanks decided to build what is now known as Overwater Hall, presumably named for the tarn that it neighboured. Gillbanks had made his fortune by sailing to Jamaica at the age of 20 in the pursuit of riches. Whilst there he found love and married Mary Jackson, the niece of the Chief Justice of Jamaica at the time. Armed with vast sums of cash and a new bride, Gillbanks returned to the UK to build his new home and become the firs tof the halls many characterful occupants.

The tale goes that when Joseph and Mary set course for Cumbria they were unknowingly being pursued. It is said that Joseph had taken a mistress whilst in Jamaica and that this mistress had given birth to an illegitimate child. Not content to see Joseph flee his responsibilities the mistress too set course for England. Upon tracking Gillbanks down she revealed to him that they had conceived a child. This was deemed to be a huge scandal that Gilbanks would do anything to avoid, and so he began to scheme. Joseph took his mistress out onto the lake by boat where he preceded to attempt to drown the poor woman who had mothered his child. When she tried to clamber back aboard it is said that Joseph severed her arms so that she no longer had the agency to save herself from the terrible fate of drowning. The coward Gillbanks left his armless victim in the lake to die a grisly and cruel death. 

Now Joseph was never charged for the murder but it is said that the story was well known around the locality and it was no secret of the terrible deed that Gillbanks had done. That Gillbanks never faced justice for his crime which is perhaps how the stories of the ghost of Overwater Hall began.

A Restless Spirit

It is said that within the walls of a hall the ghost of a woman can be seen. She is described as being a black woman with no arms. One famous account of the ghost is that by one of the Hall’s subsequent owners Charles Norman De Courcy Parry, an eccentric ex-chief constable who was famous in his own right for aprehending and killing the infamous war time criminal Percy Toplis, and who claimed to have purchased the hall when drunk. De Courcy Parry wrote about his time in the hall for the magazine ‘Horse and Hound’ in 1934*

“I (Parry) was assured that the old house was haunted by the ghost of a black woman, who had met her sad ending by being drowned in the lake at the bottom of the garden (Over Water).

It was her husband who did the horrid deed, and when she came to the surface and clutched the side of the boat, then the brute up with a chopper and cut off her hands and down went she to the pike and weeds, bubble, bubble, bubble, goodbye!

A nasty tale without a doubt, and no wonder the black lady walks the house and has terrified a great many people. Apparently, it is the lack of her hands that gives them the willies. No maids would sleep here and so cottages were bulit at the end of the back drive for them to sleep in peace.

Naturally, I was a little curious to see this unhappy phenomenon, and I was very surprised indeed on a Friday in August at twenty-past twelve of the clock… to see her pass noiselessly up the stairs and go into our best bedroom without opening the door. Right through the panels she went, whoosh!

She could not have opened the door, it sticks with age, and apart from that she had no hands to turn the knob!” 

From this account we can see that alongside the haunting’s origin being that of a grisly one, our ghost herself is quite frightening to behold. Silently traversing the hall with missing arms, ready to surprise anyone who should live within, visit or work in the home.

However our tale doesnt end here and and our haunting becomes evermore peculiar. Whilst our poor spirit wanders the hall incomplete legend goes that her arms haunt another part of the grounds, the lake where they were severed. The belief that is held in folklore is that the tarn never freezes because when ice begins to form on it’s surface the severed arm appears, balls it’s fist and punches it’s way through the freezing formation.

Today Overwater Hall is open to the public operating as a hotel. Would you dare to spend the night and risk to see the apparition? Or would you settle to walk by the tarn on a frosty winter day, wondering perhaps why the ice does not form upon it’s top…

*Cited from www.overlookhall.co.uk

A Guide to Arts Trails I have Painted for in 2021

Last Friday I put my paintbrushes down after a solid two months of sculpture painting for public art trails. After the year we’ve had it was an absolute dream! I’ve been working sculpture painting commissions back to back. I am knackered but as a mural artist I wouldn’t have it any other way! So today I’m going to share with you a little bit about the trails where you can find my work on display this year.

Moor Otters

The first trail to launch this Summer is the Moor Otters trail this Friday. My Sir David Ottenborough design has already been revealed. Inspired by the great man himself and the lifelong love of learning about the animal kingdom that he inspires. This sculpture was painted back in March 2020 so the trail has been a long time coming. He’ll be on display in Dartmoor at the pannier market in Tavistock from May 28th 2021.

Cows About Cambridge

Now this sculpture has been under wraps the longest. I finished painting my cambridge Cow in November 2019. Although I do know where this one will be displayed I suspect it’s top secret currently but you can find out this Summer. The Cambridge Cows will be raising money for the charity Break and their work with young people. They will be displayed around the beautiful green belt city, inspired by the cows that roam free there. I’ve also teamed up with Thameslink and Mind to paint a second mini sculpture for the trail too.

Bears of Sheffield

As a Sheffield Based artist I am absolutely buzzing to have a sculpture in this trail! Last time there was a trail in Sheffield was before I knew anything about Wild in Art and the amazing trails they run. To work along other talented local illustrators from Sheffield, South Yorkshire and beyond has been a dream. The sculpture itself is a familiar design based on the bronze one that lives in the bear pit in the Botanical Gardens. The trail is raising money for Sheffield Childrens’ Hospital. I am very excited that I’ll be able to see my bright bold design stand out on my local streets soon. 

Worcester’s Big Parade

This design is still under wraps but I will say that this design is going to look right at home in the monochromatic tudor architecture that the city is famous for. The elephant I have painted is sponsored by Worcester News and certainly bound to make an impact. Seeing this particular design hit the streets of such a beautiful historic city is going to make my spooky little heart very happy this summer.

Big Trunk Trail Luton

The first of my double trouble parades is the Big Trunk Trail. I’ll have 2 colourful elephants hitting the streets there this year. That’s 3 elephant sculptures total that I’ve painted these last 2 months. They couldn’t all look more different though!

Stockport’s Giant Leap

These frog sculptures were bursting with character before they ever had a lick of paint! The designs are secret but I will say that they are bursting with charm. I’ve painted two sculptures for this trail and it always amazes me how different the same sculpture can look with a different paint job. 

So that’s a whopping 9 sculptures I’ve painted to be on display this summer around the UK. I can’t wait to share with you what I’ll be working on next. Keep an eye on my social media for the full sculpture design reveals and auction details later on in the year.

Navigating the Pandemic as a Creator of Public Art

During lockdown 2020 I was writing twice weekly blogs on my mural art, sculpture painting & illustration work. I was happy to be busy as an illustrator and mural artist. Although I did have a backlog of news to share about exciting sculpture trails, collaborations and street art commissions. I had been hired to create a number of painted artworks in Sheffield, Yorkshire and across the UK and I wanted to tell you all about it. A weekly blog meant that there was too much to share so I doubled my post output.

However this meant twice the work writing and in August 2020 I became an artist full time. I had to step up my game as a business woman and as opportunities began to arise again after a truly tumultuous year, the blog writing took a backseat.

Mural Art Opportunities During the Pandemic

It’s been such a relief to be so busy. In these last few months I have been working flat out, mainly on painting sculptures for a number of public art sculpture trails across the UK. This is a huge difference from 2020. Although I found some notable local painting projects to work on including the Bears of Sheffield sculpture trail and the Whirlow Hall Farm chicken shed mural this was a drastic decrease in painting projects for me. My online shop took precedence as did my digital illustration commission work. I am proud that I was able to pivot my business to refocus on these areas to survive the pandemic, but oh boy did I miss painting!

Unfortunately, with public spaces quieter than ever, events cancelled and a surge in people working from home, who had any incentive to commission a mural painting?

2021 So far

In the first 4 months of 2021 I’ve already been commissioned to paint more than twice what I was commissioned in 2020. A huge part of this has been sculpture trails. This follows Wild in Art and many other trails having postponed projects scheduled for 2020 until Summer 2021. This means that I will have 9 sculptures on display this Summer and I have already run my own recycled monsters sculpture trail in collaboration with Art Waves Bridlington and had a painted bird sculpture displayed in the town too.

I am optimistic that the Summer will bring some more mural painting opportunities. However this time I’ll make sure not to neglect my blog quite so much too.

If you are interested in following my progress and seeing where all my artworks will be on display in 2021 remember to check out my blog next week when I cover them all or visit my instagram account @sianellisartist

The Januariest January; Finding Motivation in Lockdown

Sorry that it’s been so long! I don’t think I have posted a single blog piece so far in 2021. But I’m back now baby! Today I’m going to chat about climbing the big ole mountain of 2021. 

The Arduous start to a Perilous Ascent

OK so I am being dramatic but you know what? I FEEL dramatic. 2020 had such a negative cultural identity and so much was pinned on 2021. But the truth is I have been more scared of 2021 myself. January is always a bit miserable. This is the first January since the pandemic. The first in lockdown. The first since brexshit. For me it is the first where my art income was my only income in a notoriously quiet month. January 2021 has been one scary dot on my horizon and now it’s here. 

I KNOW things will get better. I KNOW that there are barriers we had in 2020 that we will overcome. But it’s been a hard start to the year because things are still hard. Except they are harder now and it’s freezing bloody cold! Between navigating the implications of brexit, working out where my income will come from this month, hospital trips and a general feeling of malaise; blogs were the last thing on my mind. Feeling creative was a struggle. I couldn’t help but feel that hibernating would have been a good choice this winter (and at very least would have saved me from the horrorshows on the news).

A Solo Expedition

The reason I am writing this slightly whiney blog (it’ll turn positive I promise) is that motivating yourself when you are self employed is a big issue for all freelancers at some point. On one hand it is great to be able to give yourself that breathing space when you need it. Especially when you have a creative job that demands new and original ideas from you constantly. I have my best ideas when I am not working. When I give myself a break. When my brain isn’t trying to focus on something right in front of me.

Giving myself space and working on my own schedule is generally positive. But everyone needs a kick up the backside every now and again, right? Especially after a gloomy start to a new year. When you are self employed, who wears that boot? It can be too easy to slip into a bit of a rut.

So how do you cope? Are you hard on yourself? Do you promise yourself a treat at the end? Carrot or stick? I took a slightly risky decision this January, I indulged myself. I let myself have a break. My days began with too many lie ins, I ate Mcdonalds, I bought some fun new notebooks as a cheer up treat. I treated myself kindly and I didnt blame myself for just not feeling up to much. I did this because I know that I can only stomach so much wallowing. If I give myself a little bit of it I quickly become sick of it. When I am sick of it I jump up and I want to work. I have drive and energy. Plus in that little gap between wallowing and jumping back on the saddle… I get loads of new ideas!

Importantly though I am really passionate about my business succeeding. Of course I don’t want to burnout, but I also really want to work! I knew January was always going to be stressful so I made the important decision to budget carefully in 2020 so that my business can withstand a quiet winter. I built the infrastructure to have the time off if I needed it. I’ve had a break but I’ve never missed a deadline. In this game, foresight is everything.

The View from the Summit

You may have noticed that I am back writing my blog. This was the last piece in the puzzle of restarting my business again. I am on top of my emails, I am on top of my workload, I am working on new projects and I have been creating Illustrated Ghost Story videos for the new year. Despite having more relaxed attitude to work  I have kept my shop running all winter and posted out all of my orders quickly.

I’ve now got a new lease for life again. I’ve taken on a quiet month by scheduling a shop update of a number of brand new products. I have taken the initiative to make my own opportunities. I’ve scouted out potential opportunities for the rest of the year. I’ve looked at different modes and opportunities for funding. Best of all I can see the end in sight and the points of the year to look forward too. There are exciting dates in my diary again. I have work scheduled to be released into the world, finally! 

What else will 2021 have in store? I don’t know. I am going to focus on my plans for the year. Next up I am going to set some new goals.  Goals that I would love to share with you guys when I am done. I’m sorry I was away from here for so long, but it’s really nice to be back 😀