This Christmas my thoughts and prayers are with my family and friends, some are young, some very old, some are near, others are far away and one is very sick right now. Some are coming to terms with bereavement and separation and some have worries about job security, ill health and have safety concerns for loved ones in war torn areas. I know from reading your blogs that many of you have the same worries, so I would like to echo the words of William Shakespeare and say to everyone-
The weather has now turned, today has been frosty and bright, a welcome change from the damp and dreary days of last week. I have been busy in much the same way as most people, trying to organize shopping and present wrapping, card writing, housekeeping, working and party going.
I bought some mistletoe at the supermarket and decided to do some studies of it before it dried up too much. I had forgotten how nice it is to draw a subject just for pleasure.
My poor garden has been sadly neglected but I did manage to trim the overgrown Virginia creeper and made a simple wreath out of the twisted stems. I saw a television show about bird feeding, which was rather alarming, until now I have been hanging up fat balls for the sparrows but it seems that they can injure their feet on the nylon mesh! I have now purchased a fat ball holder and the birds seem to like it.
Tony and I have now consumed three Christmas dinners, not all at the same time I hasten to add! The most recent one at Keele Hall, a rather grand old house which now belongs to the university in Staffordshire. There was a huge log fire, carol singers, a library decorated in Victorian splendor, all of which proved to be a good excuse to change out of my usual dog walking attire!
Will you be watching Panorama’s “Can’t deliver, won’t deliver” on BBC One this evening? I have it bookmarked and shall watch with interest.
I enjoy sending and receiving cards and letters and go to special lengths to select an appropriate card for each recipient. Recently though, I have been dismayed that some of these cards have not reached their destination despite being properly addressed and having the correct postage stamps. Is it a coincidence that the cards that failed to arrive had unusual envelopes and were slightly fatter than a standard card? Have you had similar experiences with missing mail? If you have ever tried to complete a complaint form you will probably have been put off by the fact that you cannot prove that you sent the letter in the first place, so I suspect the problem is under reported.
Over the years I have enjoyed working with many greeting card companies, in fact, there have been times when this has been the only kind of work available to me and as a freelance artist, an outlet on which I have become to rely. If we loose confidence in our postal service we will look for alternatives, e-cards are looking like a more attractive alternative which will be bad news for the many people like me who make their living in the greeting card industries.
Our own regular postman is lovely, he goes out of his way to provide a good service but I fear that his job is being made very difficult by the volume of junk mail he is expected to carry and by other staffing problems.
There was a time, not so very long ago, when the post arrived first thing in the morning, when stamps did not cost an arm and a leg and we had two deliveries a day. Letters hardly ever went missing and first class post arrived the next day. I would like those days back again please dear Santa. I am becoming a grumpy old woman, sorry for the rant.
Judith Glover is an artist/designer and garden fanatic, whose work I have admired for many years now. I have purchased dozens of her calendars in the past and cannot bring myself to throw them away! Her work has been translated onto many products including greeting cards, fabric, ceramics, stationery, dated products and tinware. In October 2005 her first book 'In a Zen Garden' was published and in October 2009 her first range of animated, musical e-greetings was launched.
Now, I have a good reason to encourage you to visit her site, where you can preview and play her delightful and unique e-cards because our son James has composed the music for two of them! One is the “Little Snowman” and the other is “Little Angel”. Do go and have a play, they are enchanting.
All we need now is a light sprinkling of snow and we are all set!
Our nearest major city and favourite place to shop is Manchester, now at its busiest. Festooned with lights and crowded with shoppers, museum goers and theatre lovers, the streets are filled with Christmas markets and delicious smells. We managed to buy almost all of our presents over the weekend and had time to fit in a bookbinding exhibition and an evening dining with friends.
The illustration above is taken from my "Gardener's Scrapbook Calendar" 2010, which has reprinted this year and am told will also be available for 2011. I have a very limited supply now in my shop, they are also available in UK high street shops, I even spotted some in our local Post Office!
The waiting is over; the names have been put into my dog-walking hat. Ted has overseen the whole event to make sure that no cheating took place! Two lucky winners have been drawn, they are…. Eli and Jane Moxey. Congratulations to Eli from Italy and Jane from the USA. Your parcels will be on their way as soon as you email me your postal address and a big "Thank you" to all who took part.
Several of you have asked how to obtain the fabrics, you can of course visit your nearest quilt shop and ask for “Buttercup farm”, in the UK and Europe this will be distributed by Makower UK
I have just returned from the printers with a box of newly printed Christmas cards after much deliberation. The usual dilemma, do I print on demand just enough for my own needs, expensive but easy, or do I bring down the cost per card by printing in quantity?
I decided to bite the bullet this year and go for option number two. I will probably send or give most of these cards myself but I have saved some for the shop, so if anyone is interested please have a look here.
The design features our native robin, one of my favourite birds. One like this lives in my garden and appears every time I start to dig, which isn’t very often now the weather has turned chilly. When the weather turns really cold they fluff out their feathers and appear to be spherical though I haven’t noticed them doing that this year...yet.
All of which is a good excuse to include this traditional rhyme-
The north wind doth blow And we shall have snow, And what will poor robin do then poor thing? He’ll sit in a barn, And keep himself warm And hide his head under his wing Poor thing.
(and who could blame him?)
By the way, thank you to all those who have entered my fabric giveaway. I will be back on Monday to draw two names out of the hat.
I have two bundles of fabric to giveaway to celebrate the launch of my new fabric collection “Buttercup Farm” for Makower UK, (Andover USA).
Each bundle consists of four different fat quarters of top quality cotton fabric suitable for quilting and crafting. If you would like to win one of these bundles please indicate your wish to take part and I will put your name into the hat. Two lucky winners will be drawn on Monday the seventh of December. You may even have time to make a last minute Christmas present out of them?
We have been getting into festive mood here in my little home town in Cheshire, Sunday saw the switching on of the Christmas lights together with a Christmas fair and firework display. I am not sure what our baby grandson thought of the lights but he certainly enjoyed playing on his mat, he has just started to smile so I had to sneak this picture onto the blog. I have been busy sewing up a stocking for him from a printed panel, as you can see it is big enough to double up as a sleeping bag for a spare guest!
Thank you “Milly” from Drawings From Nature for my lovely set of art cards which arrived in the post earlier this week. I first came across the work of this artist/illustrator Eileen Postlethwaite when she was featured in Country Living magazine. Eileen has a website which features her nature inspired artwork, feathers, leaves and shells etc found around her home in the beautiful English Lake District.
Country Living magazine also features the work of another artist this month, that is Celia Hart from Purple Podded Peas. Celia is an illustrator and printmaker who has a bold and colourful contemporary style. She also has hand bound children’s books in her Etsy shop and I simply could not resist buying this little treasure, I still have a set of her tree decorations from last year which I am looking forward to displaying.
Last but not least, artist Frances Tyrrell from Fairy Lanterns has the most exquisite, hand bound fairy inspired books on her website and as it is Christmas and I do so love hand bound books, I had to have a set. My Christmas present to me from me, you do understand don't you?
Before you go, one more thing, I will be having a blog giveaway in my next post. A set of fat quarters for all of you quilters and crafters so watch this space!
In an effort to make a little bit of much needed space, I decided to venture where no cleaning lady has gone before, that’s right the spare room. (Under the bed in the spare room to be precise). To my amazement I stumbled upon a box of my books, previously published but now out of print children’s picture books.
I sometimes get asked for these titles so I have taken the plunge and opened up yet another shop, this one run by Big Cartel, so far so good. I have placed my very limited and probably unrepeatable stock of three titles of children’s books here. You can see these in my sidebar. The books are signed and I am offering them at their original price. They are “Down the Lane”, “The Acorn’s Story” and “Where’s my Share?”
“Down the Lane” is a hardback book and was printed in quite a small edition run, maybe collectable one day, who knows? These “Down the Lane” titles are first edition, signed copies and when they are gone they are gone!
And now, where did I leave my duster?
PS, I have now fixed the shipping problem, the shop (that is me) will ship from my house (now a dust free zone!) to anywhere in the world. Sorry I got it wrong.
I have been feeling inspired to sew again after indulging in a bit of retail therapy after visiting this delightful blog. The exquisite hand embroidered pincushion is the work of Mouse whose shop I have been raiding recently. Mouse makes the most beautiful bags and adds lovely hand embroidered details, making each one into a little work of art. My excuse was an attempt to make a head start on Christmas shopping but I have found that I cannot bear to part with all of my purchases!
The fabrics were bought here at Clothaholics. Helen Smith is a self confessed clothaholic, who writes candidly about her addiction on her website-
“My addiction to cloth began in Canada with an old LeClerc table loom that I came across in a second hand shop. I bought it and taught myself to weave with the aid of a few books. I began to collect cloth: embroidered linens, damask, crochet lace, tapestry fragments, hand-woven coverlets, old American hooked rugs - everything that had been formed by a maker's hands. Then I saw some small bolts of indigo blue and white fabric at an antique fair. I began some research and discovered that the fabrics were Japanese and were for making kimono. A few months later I managed to acquire some kimono silks. I had never handled such exquisite fabric in my life. I couldn't get enough of these scrumptious fabrics or the kimono that they were made into, and that's how clothaholics.com was born.”
Helen sells Japanese Kimono, jackets, (great for Christmas parties) bags and fabrics, all of which are very reasonably priced. She also puts together little bags of fabrics for people who do patchwork. If you decide to visit, beware, the addiction is catching!
Somebody once said to me, “I know where you live, the cows are the same colour as the architecture”. Well, this is not entirely true but there are rather a lot of timbered buildings around these parts and a great many cows of the black and white variety.
The book illustration shows a typical Cheshire scene, this is taken from my book “Animals at Home”. This book was intended for babies, I know I got carried away with the very decorative border but people tell me that their babies enjoy the book and I certainly had fun. Many of the churches and farmhouses have black and white timber framed sections mixed with brick. Some are entirely timber framed and date back to the Elizabethan period.
The design on my desk is part of a new “farm collection” which was intended for fabrics for Makower. The final version does however look very different to my original. It has been changed quite drastically, the over scale daisies have been removed and a bright green background has taken over from the cream ground shown here. You can see the whole finished collection here; I will leave it up to you to decide which version you prefer!
The black and white crooked house is Little Moreton Hall, our nearest National Trust property, it is said to be one of the finest examples of timber framed domestic buildings in Europe and dates back to 1450. It has been added to by various generations of the Moreton family until 1580. The thing I really love about this house is its Elizabethan knot garden and enclosed cobbled courtyard.
You can see some lovely photographs, like the one below by (copyright owner John Beres) by clicking this link.
"Slow down, you move too fast, you've got to make the morning last Just kickin' down the cobble-stones, lookin' for fun and feelin' groovy"
( Simon and Garfunkel )
I have received some samples of my A3 pocket notes calendar, it's always nice to see the final product but, as with all dated products, fills me full of alarm. As I have got older it seems as if time has speeded up and now we are well into the final quarter of the year. It seems no time at all since I hung my 2009 calendar and yesterday I completed images for a 2011 calendar! Now I am looking at the clock and thinking yet again, what have I done today? Not a lot.
We have a busy week ahead with little time for reading or creating new blog posts so I will leave you with some photographs of a recent trip to London.
Despite having visited London fairly frequently in the past, I have never before visited Westminster Cathedral, often described as one of London’s best-kept secrets. If you get off the tube at Victoria and walk down Victoria Street you will be amazed to see a this Byzantine like cathedral set in a Venetian style piazza. Inside you can admire the many richly decorated chapels, perhaps light a candle and be enveloped in the most beautiful, tranquil and spiritual atmosphere that is both warm and welcoming. (click the photographs for a closer look)
Do not leave the Cathedral before you have taken the lift to the top of the tower where the most fantastic bird’s eye view of London is to be had. On the morning of our visit the sky was crystal clear and we could see for miles and miles. I am sure most visitors to London head for Westminster Abbey and Saint Paul’s and forget about Westminster Cathedral, which is a great pity. You can learn more about the Cathedral here and listen to some of the music of its celebrated choir.
No trip to London would be complete without exploring the many back streets and alley ways, peering into shop windows and admiring the many window boxes and small garden plantings. (click to enlarge)
Making books by hand is not for the faint hearted; I should also add that it is not profit driven, it is more a labour of love than anything else. It is however deliciously satisfying when you hold the finished volume in your hand and that makes all the trials and tribulations worth while.
I have spent the last couple of days restocking my little bookshop with the addition of a brand new title “Barleycroft Farm”. I thought I would show you just some of the steps that go into their making.
When the illustrations have been finished they are scanned and saved onto a digital file, next comes the designing of the pages and then the printing, with many frustrating and annoying things that get in the way such as running out of ink or paper at a crucial moment. Space has to be found on my constantly cluttered table, and then the pages are laid out to dry.
Next comes the scouring for the folded edges, this is done with the help of a metal ruler and a nice pointy bone folder. The pages are then cut with the “Think twice, cut once” motto in mind. (Learnt the hard way, I might add).
Folding and assembling the pages is next, followed by the bit that I dread, the gluing. I cannot tell you how many times, particularly with the alphabet book, that I have stuck pages together upside down or in the wrong order. The glued pieces are then carefully dried under weights, making sure that they don’t stick to the table, (also learnt the hard way). Finally, after all the folding, gluing and assembling have been finished the book is coaxed into shape and pressed in the nipping press.
Finally, a card folder is made; the book is signed and numbered, photographed, listed and placed in the shop window. Phew!
I was contacted some time ago by Ian Stacey who is organizing a charity art auction, the proceeds of which will go towards research done by the transplant team at Great Ormond Street Hospital. The charity has set up a blog, which explains a little more about the auction scheduled for Christmas.
Ian and Christine Stacey are only too aware of the fantastic work being carried out at the hospital, as their son Tom was the youngest person ever to survive a heart transplant at less than five weeks old. You can read the full story here.
We drove over to Harrogate at the weekend to visit Mike Emeny from Books Illustrated, in order to pick up some old artwork and hand over some fresh pieces. Mike was exhibiting at the Harrogate Antiques Fair and was showing work by old and contemporary illustrators.There were pieces of original book illustration by Kate Greenaway, Annie French, Honor Charlotte Appleton as well as newer pieces by Yvonne Gilbert, Peter Malone and Charles Van Sandwyk to name just a few. I had one piece in this show, a painting of fungi, leaves and grasses painted in watercolour and taken from my book “Down the Lane”. You can just about spot it in the corner in the photograph.
One piece that caught my eye was by an artist called Una Woodruff, see the painting of the harp in the photograph, you can see it here in more detail by clicking on the link. Hours, weeks, months of painstaking work have gone into the creation of this modern masterpiece. I gazed in awe at the tiny feathers, butterflies wings, mosses and ivy leaves all painted with a dedication and mastery seldom seen today.
Our time was limited which was a shame as Harrogate is a very beautiful town but we wanted to make sure we had time to call in for a cuddle of this little chap.
On the way home a perfect harvest moon lit up the sky, all in all a beautiful day.
"When the moon hits Your eye Like a big pizza pie -that's amore." Lyric by Jack Brooks (1953)
This post is a bit of a hotch potch of things that have happened here in no particular order. The first picture is of a recently completed baby quilt, (I am resisting the temptation of turning this into a grandma boasting blog!) but I suppose this is sort of work related. I used bits and pieces mainly from my “Nestled in Springtime” collection, plus a few bits salvaged from the new grandfather’s shirts, and a bit of “Herb Garden” thrown in for good measure. I did all of the piecing on my sewing machine but had help with the quilting part, my excuse was lack of time but lack of skill and courage also played a part.
As we have spent so much time away from home recently, we have become increasingly dependant on a good friend of ours who minds Ted, our dog. This friend is a country man born and bred and despite the fact that he is now in his seventies, spends most of his days dog walking and making walking sticks. He was given this fallow dear antler by another dog walker who thought it might be of use for stick making, our friend however had other ideas, he thought it would be nice to have the name “Badger” painted on it and had the idea to present this to Badger’s owner to hang above his kennel. I should explain that Badger the spaniel, sleeps in a kennel inside a barn. It was for this reason that it came in my possession, I was asked to help with the lettering. Painting on an antler was a new experience for me, it was a bit daunting using acrylic paint, and I was definitely out of my comfort zone, as was the poor deer that lost his antler no doubt! I was reassured to hear that this is a natural process and no deers were harmed in any way. I have not heard what Badger thinks of his new nameplate, Ted looked rather disdainful when he found out that it was not for him.
Whilst we are on the subject of nature, I thought that I would show you this most gruesome spectacle that happened in my garden earlier today. I was sitting at my desk painting away, when all of a sudden I heard screeching and alarm sounds outside. A sparrow hawk had swooped down on an unsuspecting sparrow and clasped it between its claws. I managed to grab my camera but the shot is very poor I am afraid. I tried to take a closer shot but the bird flew off still clutching its prey, leaving a pile of feathers in its wake. I suppose the hawk has hungry mouths to feed too but I am feeling very guilty now for keeping a bird bath in front of my window. I love to see the sparrows splashing about in the water, I think they were having so much fun they forgot to keep watch. Click on the photo for all the gory details.
The wonderful news is that our precious grandson will be going home today with his mummy and daddy to start their lives together as a family and Tony and I can breathe a sigh of relief that our prayers have been answered.
The painting above is an illustration I made for a new baby card some years ago, I used our son James (the new daddy) as a model, now the debate continues as to who baby George looks like. I think he definitely has his daddy's nose, judging by this recent photograph!
Speak to Us of Children (by Kahlil Gibran)
Your children are not your children They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterdays. You are bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer seeks the mark upon the path of the infinite, And he bends you with His might that His arrow may go swift and far. Let your blending in the archer’s hand be for goodness. For even as He loves the arrow that flies, So He loves the bow that is stable.
This little baby is our beautiful, precious grandson who was born on Thursday the 17th September, his name is George Gareth. The photograph was taken shortly after he was born. He has been in a special care baby unit ever since after developing breathing problems, he is now much improved but still being cared for in hospital. Understandably it has been a very difficult time for us but we are hopeful that he will soon be home where he belongs with his mummy and daddy. We are so proud of them for coping so well under very difficult circumstances.
I love September for the richness of colour found in the hedges and gardens; an unexpected warm day is an added bonus and tempts us to walk further afield. The canal towpath walk means a short five-minute drive from our house so you can imagine that we walk it often. Ted loves walking here because there are so many interesting smells, I on the other hand live in a more sight orientated world so appreciate the visual delights of red berries and butterflies, observing the progress of this years signets and ducklings and enjoying the sight of barges making their leisurely progress through the many locks here on the canal.
This stretch of the Trent and Mersey canal dates back to 1777 and was one of the earliest inland waterways to be navigable in Great Britain and would have served the nearby pottery industry at Stoke-on-Trent. By the way, the water appears to be a chocolate brown colour as a result of mineral deposits, in case you’re wondering!
On a recent visit to London we were delighted to find the rarest of all treasures, an independent bookshop by the name of John Sandoe Books Ltd. If I lived a bit nearer I think I would haunt this 18th Century bookshop, it is as if the owners have had secret access to your wish list of books and placed them strategically on view.
It was here that I found a paperback edition of “The Man Who Planted Trees” by Jean Giono and illustrated with wood engravings by Harry Brockway published by Harvill. I bought the book mainly because of its illustrations but the story is charming and for just £5.99 I think would make the perfect stocking filler for any bookworm.
Interestingly Harry Brockway trained as a stonemason and I think that his wood engravings have the qualities of a sculptor; they have a certain solidity to their form if that makes sense? You can see more of his work here.
Whilst I am on the subject of book illustration I have just heard from Mike Emeny at Books Illustrated that they will be making an appearance on the new BBC2 programme of ‘Trust me I’m a Dealer’ which is showing over the next few weeks on weekdays at 6:30pm. It is a programme where Paul Martin raises much needed funds for families with special plans.They will be involved with selling an Alice in Wonderland painting by Angel Dominguez as well as a Rupert Bear ink drawing by Mary Tourtel.
Those of you who love doing jigsaw puzzles may be interested to know that Wentworth puzzles have included "sleeping hedgehog" in their latest Autumn Catalogue. Wentworth makes wooden jigsaws, which are rather unusual as they contain special “Whimsies” pieces. These are puzzle pieces cut into the shape of an object, for example a garden themed jigsaw would have some pieces cut in the shape of a garden tool, a plant, a gardener leaning on a spade etc. Nowadays these puzzles are cut by laser but in the past they were cut by using a jigsaw, what else? It took ages before I made that connection. The “whimsies” were so called because they were cut on a whim.
As jigsaw puzzles go, these are quite expensive items but they are made to last and should provide hours of pleasure to generations. Some of them even achieve a cult-like status and become collector’s items, changing hands for very high prices.
When I was a child I had a jigsaw puzzle, which had a picture of ice skaters in an ice rink. I have the image firmly fixed in my mind; I must have stared at each piece for so many hours on rainy afternoons. It was my job to collect together all the straight edged pieces, paying particular attention to those precious corner pieces. I loved those special times when my father, brother or sister would join in and finish a bit for me. I even remember the doctor calling by and helping! I wonder what became of that puzzle?
Alan Cutts is an Irish musician and composer who, amongst other things, has created a musical interpretation of “White is the Moon”. Alan composed the music for a fifteen minute ballet designed for young players ranging from grade 3 to grade 8. This musical extravaganza was first performed at the Wexford Festival in 1993 by the Wexford School of Music and the Wexford School of Ballet and Modern Dance.
As luck would have it I did not get the chance to attend so can only imagine the evening, how I wish I had a time machine! Alan now tells me that he has a website and has made the music available- in script form only… sigh. However he has promised that he will, one day, make an audio file so I live in hope.
I felt deeply honoured that my little book inspired a musician, many of the images were in turn inspired by the landscape and wildlife of Eire so it was pleasant to consider the work being performed in Wexford.
If you visit his website you can hear some of his audio files, I have been smitten by the heavenly choral music Suantrai (Irish Lulaby), such exquisite singing, well worth a visit.
Look what came in the post, I was the lucky winner of Joy's blog giveaway and now I am the proud owner of this lovely painting. This is the first year as far as I can remember when we have not ventured to the coast but this colourful harbour painting will be a pleasant reminder of happy days spent pottering around fishing villages in Britain and Ireland. I have already found a place for it in my bathroom, next to a print which I bought in St Ives.
Joy also has some lovely work on her art blog, I especially like her colouful narrative style which has a joyous quality, which is just what you would expect from an artist called Joy!
My name is Valerie Greeley. I am an artist, surface pattern/textile designer and illustrator. I have a special interest in the book arts including illustration, bookbinding, printmaking and artist books. I also have an interest in quilting, nature and bumblebees.