My tools of the trade

Co written with Eva Swanson :)

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a Spirograph Cyclex set of course!

That’s just one of the essential items I use to create my designs, and you’ll learn more about it (and my other trusty products) in today’s blog. I’ve always loved spirograph but I enjoy trying as many different art mediums as possible. Over the years I’ve produced work with various sets, which in turn meant new ideas.
I get as much of my kit as I can second-hand and from charity shops (planet and wallet-saving) but my backup is Amazon or eBay. When you have a fantastic piece of equipment, your creative power is quite literally in your hands.

Today you’ll discover what I use, including:

  • The spirograph sets, both physical and digital

  • The pens

  • Other materials

You’ll also learn about how I store my materials and why alcohol and art are a perfect combination (but not in the way you might think!). I’m super excited to share this with you so let’s dive in…

Spirograph sets

Let’s talk vintage. This retro gem isn’t sold anymore (boo) but I got it on eBay and it’s still a dream to use. As it says on the (somewhat tattered) box, this Super Spirograph boasts more new colours than the previous version. Well, new in the 70s, classic now. Funkier patterns too. Denys Fisher knew he was onto a good thing when he invented the spirograph. Learn more about Mr Fisher in my History of Spirograph blog

Well, it’s certainly the spirograph set that most people know. This set has been newly branded but has all the features you’d expect:

  • Re-usable (eco-friendly win!) Spiro-Putty to hold the Spirograph pieces in place

  • Precision wheels, rings, rack and storage tray

  • Handy guide book to inspire plenty of awesome designs

You can’t go wrong with this one (but if you do, don’t worry; you can always start again).

Ah, the Cyclex. I have a real fondness for this one. I started spirographing when my parents got me sets when I was little - it was an obsession even then! The Cyclex includes rotating stencil wheels and was the first one I used. It’s also the one people really like. They’re great for kids and those just starting (or indeed restarting from their childhood). As well as the standard size, I have a handy little one; who doesn’t love a miniature? Cute and functional.

A little bit of searching can go a long way in boosting your creative circle (or spiral). Nervous to reach out to strangers? Please don’t be. As an artist, I love it when new people ask about my work. With that in mind, I found Dave on Facebook and he’s fab. Dave Worx Wood (and he works it very well) handmade me some custom shapes that I absolutely love. I was thrilled to use new shapes to create even more intricate work and #bonus, Dave and I are now online friends.

Wild Gears is like a newer version of a spirograph. The original made ‘better’. I may disagree but there’s a wide range of shape choices on this site that I’ve tried out. Each gear set is made from acrylic which is laser-cut to produce the gears and rings.

Be warned though: These shapes are not for beginners. They do let me experiment more with my work but they’re occasional use rather than my ride-or-die products.

I love my faithful hold-in-your-hand spirograph sets, but sometimes I think “Wouldn’t a digital version would be AMAZING?” If only someone invented a spirograph app… Step forward, Nathan Friend, who did just that. This app is all my spirally dreams come true and works especially well on iPad. When I want to get an idea from my head to the world RIGHT NOW, you can’t beat Inspiral. I like using it to make digital designs because, frankly, creating works with the sets can be a time-sucker. To put it in perspective, my canvas pieces can take months with the physical set. With the app? Days. Total lifesaver.
Oh, and Nathan is a lovely guy; always nice to know the creator is a good ‘un.


The Pens

These fine liner pens really are the business. And gosh are they fine. Some of you may know that spirographing can be fiddly work (but so worth it). That’s why I need a super slim tip for outlining and to make my art as neat as possible.
Why STABILO? The German company has been around for over 160 years so I can totally trust their nifty nibs. They’re available in over 55 colours (I’m aiming to try them all) and are ideal for the detailed world of spirograph creations.

As a 90s kid, I have to mention my love for glitter pens. The sparkly sheen really pops in design and I love using them when I want a lil something extra. Of course, I then have to colour in my creations and for that I use…

Fade Free: I started out using water-based pens and many of my artworks faded. That was a cruel lesson. But no use crying over dried ink, so I went over them again with alcohol-based pens (I told you alcohol and art are perfect partners, right?). These are my favourites for colouring in but I can also outline as they’re twin-tipped: broad on one end and narrow on the other.

Other materials

Not-so-blank Canvas: Charity shops are an excellent source for canvases. It’s an easy win as it means I’m upcycling, plus saving my wallet. And I get to paint over the er, ‘unique’ existing artwork…

Finishing Touch

I finish my canvas items with resin to protect them from fading (yes, fading again; it’s a thing in the art world). Oh, and I do love a big canvas but for reasons explained earlier, prefer a digital version sometimes!

So how do I store my treasured tools?

Space. Oh, To Have More of It

Pens

I have a refurbished CD rack (the 90s called again) that I store all my pens in, organised by colour:

This storage method means I can see all of the colours rather than rummaging around and making a mess. It really helps my ADHD - I’m very much an out-of-sight/out-of-mind kinda thinker!

Canvases

Some of my canvases are up to 2 metres wide; they could take over the whole room if I’m not careful. My solutions?

1) I have under-the-bed storage

2) I sell them!

Have a blank wall just waiting for some eye-popping art? Looking for a gorgeous gift idea? Check out my shop!

Spirograph sets

I hang them up on hooks on the wall, which means they’re far less likely to get stuck in together. As they’re displayed in front of me, I don’t have to go searching around for them. The cogs are kept in pretty mason jars and I have a fold-down spirograph desk to save space - it’s been a life changer