Blog Gem - MimiLove Forever

Hola! Yay, it's Blog Gem time! I'm sooooooo excited to be introducing this month's Blog Gem. I absolutely love her work! In fact, it's fair to say I'm a HUGE fan! This is one talented lady, so without further ado, lets find out more about her! 

Hello there, who be the face behind the blog?

Hello! I’m Karen Grenfell aka MimiLove Forever!  I combine watercolours or acrylics with embroidery to produce a unique portrait service…or “ruin perfectly good paintings with knitting” as my husband says…he’s a constant source of support! :)

After a spell at uni, various jobs and the advent of internet, Mimilove was born!  I had always provided a portrait service, selling on ebay, word of mouth etc and had been pretty successful, including a few celeb's signings and even selling a painting at Sotheby's, but I just felt there was something missing.

I have never really been taught to you can probably tell ;-) ... but always felt it was something I wanted to do even from an early age.

I remember watching a programme on TV, way back in the mists of time in the 70's about stitching, handicrafts and so forth; a kind of a "Paint Along with Nancy" but with sewing!  That whetted my appetite.Then as time passed, pocket money increased and I was allowed access to sharp objects, I decided to stitch myself a bed cover. I had visions of flowers in all sorts of glorious colours, encrusted with jewels and sequins etc.  Unfortunately, I bit off a bit more than I could chew and alI I managed was a very ropey satin stitch "rose" and when push came to shove the pocket money invariably went on the latest Smash Hits or Jackie and that was the beginning/end of my stitching career until fairly recently!
My nan and dad were pretty nifty with a needle, (my dad made some of my mum's maternity clothes when she was pregnant with me, so it could be osmosis!) and I've since found out that a great uncle was also a dab hand at embroidery, which was a surprise, so it's in the genes...and jeans! :-)
So, I've always had a love of embroidery/stitching but never actually got round to trying it again; I just felt a bit intimidated by it after the bed sheet experience!  It's been a slow development though and there have been all sorts of factors and inspirational folks that led to taking up embroidery and now it just doesn't seem right if I do a painting without it!
The past few years things have really blossomed and my work was shortlisted for the Great British Maker’s award, has appeared in various magazines and books, exhibited both at home and abroad and in the not too distant future is to be included in a textile/art book for schools and colleges in Brazil! Woohoo!

What's your creative space like? 

Oh I’d love to say it’s an oasis of calm and creativeness but really it’s despicable!  We have a conservatory (I use the term loosely!) which I have recently taken over and although I do try and keep it tidy, it never quite happens!  There’s piles of fabrics, threads and general stitchy bits on one side, then paints, easels, general painting paraphernalia on another.  In amongst all that there’s a walloping great bookcase jammed with books, canvasses and goodness knows what else and that’s not to mention computer, printers, heat press and sewing machine… all that is usually topped off by two cats either sleeping or fighting and if my husband can get away with it, his junk!  I’ll be honest though, I’m a bit of a nomad so if it’s a nice day I’ll park myself in garden with my work, if it’s horrible/cold etc then in bed or by the fire with jimjams on!

If you had to take only one art/craft tool to a desert island, what would it be and why? 

ONE?! EEEK! It would have to be my little watercolour paint box.  It’s not much to look at, just black plastic and paint spattered but my Mum and Dad brought it for me when I was about 18 and I still use it…I’m 43 now! :)

How do you work and get inspired? 

Considering the chaos that’s usually going on around me, fairly quietly and methodically, albeit messy!  I’m afraid my floss and paints are a jumbled, tangled mess of colours but I prefer to work like that. I adore colour and when they’re all mixed up like that I find some really accidentally, joyous combos that I maybe wouldn’t have put together!
Anything and everything can spark the inspiration off but music plays a big part, I draw on a lot of childhood memories too and of course animals.
I’ve been painting pet portraits for as long as I can remember so it's been a natural continuation of that really...I do people and other stuff too...I just think I've got a better understanding/more of an affinity with animals!  
I've shared my life with furry, feathery chums as far back as I can remember and I'm still surrounded by them!  It just feels right and look at them; colours, textures, character, they've got it all going on,  plus they're less likely to complain that I've made them look too old/double chinned etc :)
If I’m working on a commission piece I try to incorporate everything I know/been told about the subject to make it extra special, so that includes the time getting to know the subject in question, deciding with the client on photo's, pose etc and researching any other details they'd like me to include.  I then draw out and make sure my client’s happy, then paint, once I get the thumbs up the stitching starts!

What top tips would you give to anyone starting a blog and online shop? 

Well I’m the probably the world’s worst blogger and hideously lax at keeping up to date!  So yes, keep up to date! Seriously though, I find it very difficult to balance promoting and marketing with actual sitting down and creating.
I do try to set aside a fixed time of day where I try and catch up with all email, social media etc, especially important if you have an online shop.  Try to be disciplined in your networking and marketing.  I used to get easily sidetracked and then realise I’d spent about 4 hours chatting to friends on Facebook or watching funny cat video’s on You Tube! 

Is there a story behind the name 'MimiLove Forever'?

Oh I wish I could tell you my real name is Mimi, but unfortunately my folks weren’t that exotic!  But yes Mimi was my much loved and dearly missed kitty.  You can read a bit about her here.

If you could go to a Creative Blog Award dinner with any 5 people/fictional characters (dead or alive), who would you choose? 

1.My bestie mate - keeps me sane, makes me laugh and I just love her.
2. On that same note my stitchy bestie mate Viv, as above and also adore her work and she’s chock full of information and inspiration.
3.Caravaggio, a favourite of mine and as my husband says he was “a bit of a boy” in his day, so he’d liven it up a bit!
4. Tony Hart from HartBeat…childhood hero..although would insist on Morph being his plus one.
5. Brian Sewell…I figure he’d probably rip my work to utter shreds but I adore his voice and just think he’s outrageously wicked! :)

And and tea or film and wine? 
Both please! :-)
Oh Karen, thank you so much for giving us such a wonderful insight into your equally wonderfully, creative world!I love the sound of your rather reminds me of my Mum's :-) What brilliant advice - don't get distracted when it comes to social media and marketing!! I bet we can all relate to suddenly seeing 4 hours go by! And wowza, that "paint along with nancy" style sewing show of the 70s sounds A.MA.ZING! Thanks again Karen!

I hope you've all enjoyed this month's Blog Gem. Don't forget to check out Karen's gorgeous online shop and her website too! June's Blog Gem promises to be another goody! As ever, I can't wait!

Coming up this week - a great jewellery tutorial by a lovely guest blogger! Stay tuned!

All of the images and interview answers are the copyright of Karen at MimiLove Forever. Please do not use without seeking permission first. Thank you.