Maybe because the weather turned cold again, maybe because memories of loved ones past took hold and became overwhelming, my mood this month has been blue.
These are the times when nature soothes and lifts the spirits. I walked in fields of blue, through great swathes of bluebells and forget-me-nots which carpet the woodlands around my home.
and of course nothing on earth keeps a person more grounded than walking with a dog.
There have been lots to keep me busy in my studio, cards and prints to make and post, new paintings to begin and artwork to scan. Listing a new item takes almost as long as its creation followed by the photo shoots. I have to confess to enjoying playing around with the later. As a child I always wanted a shop of my own and am having great fun with my online version.
Last but not least, I have been in the process of making some of my children’s books available as digital applications and have become a creative partner with Auryn Inc. I hope to see the first title “White is the Moon” available soon and am excited about the new opportunities this partnership may bring. Auryn have some beautiful titles on their list, my absolute favourite is “The Little Mermaid” as told by Hans Christian Andersen and illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger. Auryn’s version has the most beautiful underwater effects complete with splashing fishes and rippling waves. You can download a short free version just to try out, you will be amazed at how very lovely it is.
The time has come to pick a winner for my blog giveaway. All the names have been put into Miss Mouse's Easter Bonnet and the first name out of the hat is Charisse, who incidentally was the first person to enter the draw. Well done Charisse! In case you don't know this very talented lady you might like to visit her blog The Faerie Patch
It was so nice to read all your kind comments from friends old and new, so thank you each and every one xxx.
In case you are wondering, the illustration above was one I created many years ago as a greeting card for Camden Graphics Ltd.
We recently returned from a family holiday in The Lake District where we did a little walking and visited old haunts. The weather had finally turned from bitingly cold to warmer and wetter, more typically bright and breezy days. The fells were dotted with newborn lambs and daffodils dutifully danced in the breeze.
It was my first time to climb to the top of Orrest Head; that is me in the photograph, hanging on for dear life as it was extremely windy and head staggeringly high, although the image looks deceptive. The view from the top is wonderful and you can see for miles in all directions. Hills, mountains, lakes and valleys with Lake Windermere being the closest. Wainwright said of this place “Those few hours on Orrest Head cast a spell that changed my life forever”.
I have always loved the Lake District and have fond memories of childhood visits with my parents and later as a pupil. Our school had a house on the shores of Lake Coniston and we would stay there on field trips. Years later we went as students and visited Dove Cottage. It was the garden at Dove Cottage that made a lasting impression on me, so much so that I was reluctant to visit again in case the spell was broken. It was the home of the poet Wordsworth where he lived with his sister Dorothy and it was here that she wrote her now famous journal and shared the delights of her beloved garden.
I particularly loved the view of the garden from the little kitchen window. The garden is very steep and climbs up the hillside in such a way as to present the viewer with a green tapestry, filling the window frame with layer upon layer of lush vegetation. This time it was daffodils but the first time I went the entire garden seemed to have been embroidered with wild strawberries. When you climb to the top of the garden path you can see way above the rooftops to Grassmere and the surrounding mountains. Wordsworth loved this place and referred to it as “a love within a love”.
I wonder if Dorothy would have kept a blog had she been alive today? She certainly had many interests; her love of nature, her garden and poetry would have been well suited to the medium of the blog. All of which brings me to my little celebration; on the 25th of this month this little blog will be five years old! I have never been very good at journal keeping and any diary I have attempted to write has been short lived, so it has been interesting to look back on the past five years via these posts. I thought it called for something of a celebration and so I am having a little give away. On offer is a “Little Lamb” (see above) print of an illustration I did for “A Book of Days” which was first published in 1984. Goodness how time flies, my work is now vintage!
You can read a little more about the print here in my Etsy shop.
If you wish to take part in the giveaway, please leave me a comment indicating your wish to do so. If you have a special place that you hold dear maybe you would like to share it with us? I will choose a winner on Sunday May 5th.
We recently visited The Staffordshire Hoard exhibition at the Potteries Museum in Hanley. The largest and most valuable Anglo-Saxon treasure ever found. You might expect work done so long ago in “The Dark Ages” to be lacking in finesse, nothing could be further from the truth. The level of craftsmanship in this beautiful collection of gold and garnet artifacts is quite staggering. It put me in mind of “The Byzantium” exhibition we saw at the Royal Academy some time ago. Fortunately I had invested in a copy of the book which was sold alongside the show, it was good to be able to use it for reference to a new project that I am working on.
Both exhibitions feature delicate and very decorative gold crosses and I decided to make this a starting point for a new design. I incorporated spring flowers, giving them a very formal, symmetrical structure. You can see a glimpse of the work in progress here. I added gold ink decoration at a later stage.
The temperatures around here have been unusually cold and my poor old mum has been complaining of very cold feet. All the shops are full of spring attire so I decided to pick up my knitting needles again and have a go at making some. I found this pattern called “Aunt Maggie’s slippers” by Beverly A Qualheim on the Ravelry site available as a free download. I have to thank Annie from Knitsofacto for inspiring me to knit again after many years of abstinence, although I haven't been brave enough to tackle her patterns yet. I think I need to brush up on my skills somewhat but I have my eye on her Downton Hat. Isn’t the internet a wondrous thing? I think I gave up knitting when the local wool shops closed their doors.
The little shoe/slipper pattern is ingenious and very easy, knitted on just two needles. Miraculously it sews up into a little shoe. I can imagine these little slippers to be made of chain mail and worn way back in “The Dark Ages” or am I being a little too fanciful? Maybe.
Blue skies and sunshine at last, after an unusually cold winter, spring is trying its best this Good Friday. Before I speak too soon and scare the sun away, may I wish you and your loved ones a very Happy Easter. We are looking forward to seeing our family and exchanging Easter eggs and treats.
I made a little time for bookbinding, inspired by some patterned papers I printed, using designs I made for textiles. I only have an A4 printer so am restricted to small-scale books. I even found a use for some old buttons from my collection; I seem unable to pass a charity shop these days without foraging for such treasures. If you click on the photo’s you will see more detail. I also made a few books for my Etsy shop too whilst I was playing.
Last weekend we had a trip to London, taking along our camera minus the battery. I had intended to show you all the lovely things we encountered on our walk along the Thames starting at Hammersmith and ending in Chiswick. We walked past Hammersmith Bridge where the book binder and co-founder of The Dove Press, Cobden Sanderson, stood before throwing the type from the press into the Thames. (You can read what drove him to this barbaric act here.)
We saw properties once owned by William Morris and his friend and mentor Emery Walker. Further along the bank we saw and the home of Ravilious and stood awhile under the blue plaque on wall. The level of the Thames was dangerously high and in places spilled over the banks, threatening many properties and gardens. We explored the very spooky graveyard around the church at Chiswick before exploring Hogarth’s House complete with spring garden filled with daffodils and violets. All of which I intended to photograph, now you will just have to take my word for it!
The weather could not have been colder and icy wind chilled us to the marrow. We decided to take refuge in The British Museum where we saw, rather appropriately I thought, an exhibition about art in the Ice Age. I had no expectations about this, thinking that there would be little art surviving from over 40,000 years ago. The art on display was extraordinary, original pieces from ancient civilizations displayed alongside contemporary pieces by artists inspired by the primitive. There was a quote by John Berger written on the wall, next to the exhibits that stuck in my mind- “Art, it would seem, is born like a foal that can walk straight away..”
Perhaps the creative spirit is something, which has always existed in the human brain, so too I believe, is the sense of the aesthetic and the ability feel uplifted by beauty. Many of the exhibits were carvings on bone, depicting the animals that lived alongside Cro-Magnon man. There was a suggestion that because the drawings were sequenced this was maybe an attempt at animation and that maybe the artist was trying to depict movement. Maybe he was making an attempt at pattern design?
We came away from the exhibition feeling enthralled and amazed by this window into an ancient world. So seldom do I feel so uplifted after visiting contemporary art exhibitions, which seems to have an obsession with the shock factor and ideas over substance. Ice Age man would have found survival difficult enough and yet found a place for art, decoration, jewelry, music and beauty.
And now, for something a little more down to earth. I found two lovely old Pelican Books on Wild Flowers and felt inspired to make some sketches of plant forms. I wanted to keep the drawings very simple in order to incorporate them into a new design group inspired by lino printing and nineteen thirties textiles. Apart from the hand drawn plant shapes the designs were made digitally. I tried to keep the colours very subtle and slightly faded, my husband remarked that they reminded him of remnants of wallpapers which appeared under layers of papers when we decorated our 1930’s house. Wouldn’t it be a good idea if everyone kept a scrapbook of the décor of their home complete with fabric samples and photographs of the interior and exterior?
When I was a student in the seventies I studied printed textiles at “The Manchester School of Art” which was then part of Manchester Polytechnic and is now known as Manchester Metropolitan University. As a student I fell under the spell of the practitioners of The Arts and Crafts Movement, a fascination that has lasted a lifetime. Manchester School of Art had strong links with the Pre-Raphaelites and exponents of Art Nouveau; many treasures are now on display in an exhibition “Art Nouveau” at the Sir Kenneth Green Library. If you are a fan of Archibald Knox, Jessie M King and Aubrey Beardsley or the like you will find this exhibition most interesting.
I owe much to my time at Manchester, in particular to the excellent teaching we received. There was always a strong emphasis on drawing both from life and from plant forms. One of the more celebrated teachers was Adolphe Valette, a French painter who was at the school from 1907 to 1920 and taught L S Lowry. The great designer and illustrator Walter Crane was also director in the eighteen nineties and left a legacy of drawing directly from nature.
It is always strange visiting old haunts; my student days are so fresh in my mind it is hard to believe that over thirty-eight years have passed since I studied there. Much of the old buildings remain although many new ones have been added, the character of the place seems unchanged. I decided to take some photographs to share with you some of the decorative details of the old Art School building.
The modern glass buildings across the park now house the beautiful Sir Kenneth Green Library where you can find The Special Collections Library which includes artist books, decorated papers, a children's book collection: featuring 19th and 20th century children's book illustration and book collections exploring aspects of the book as an artifact. There is also a collection of Victorian ephemera featuring 19th century albums and scrapbooks.
I spent many happy and inspiring hours in the art school library and am delighted to say that some of my illustrated children’s books and artist books now have a home there.
I’ve been playing around with a few new ideas and have created a set of three printed ACEO’s for my shop and am in the process of offering some original artwork in that form too. I have always been drawn to miniatures and have always had a tendency to paint on a very tiny scale. My husband jokes that is because I have always been so poor and art materials so expensive. I think he may have had a point!
The lovely green Celtic binding decorates a volume of Irish literature, a book I bought whilst in the student area in Manchester at a roadside sale. I really don’t have room for any more books but that cover was talking to me, I am sure you know the feeling.
I am an illustrator and designer of textiles and surface pattern. This blog is a place to share inspiration and ideas. I have a special interest in book arts, including illustration, decoration and binding.