Bluebell wood

I had plans this week to paint bluebells, as you can see they are at their best right now. Sunday was so mild and pleasant, walking through our local wood with birds busy nesting and bumblebees humming. Everywhere great drifts of bluebells as far as the eye could see.

Instead I am painting holly and poinsettia for a client in a hurry. These are the joys of being a freelancer, still, where would we be without Christmas? So whilst I am away please feel free to wander through our little wood, but please don't tell anyone else because it's our secret!


A "cuppa" interview with illustrator Celia Hart.

My blog will be one year old this week and I have been reflecting on how it felt to post my first entry, it was a bit like talking to the ether! I cannot tell you how exciting it was to get my first comment but then again you will no doubt have had the same feeling yourself. I wanted to create a place where I could share inspiration, a meeting place of like minds and also I wanted an inexpensive and easy way to link to my website information about work and products etc.

Working from my studio, a.k.a. my dining room can be lonely at times and apart from dog walkers and neighbours, opportunities to meet new people are few and far between. Since I have started my blog however, I have found a whole new world of artists, gardeners, writers, dog walkers, designers, quilters, bookbinders and all round lovely people who have enriched my life and brought great joy and that all important ingredient to the life of any creative individual, that is inspiration; so for that ladies and gentlemen I thank you and invite you all to share a “cuppa” with my special guest artist Celia Hart, otherwise known as Magic Cochin from her blog Purple Podded Peas. When I first saw Celia’s blog I felt so inspired that I went out and bought myself some lino! This will be my third such interview to date so whatever your nationality, wherever in the world you have traveled from, pull up a chair and pour yourself a nice cup of tea on this Saint George’s Day.

Q1) How do you take your tea and in what kind of cup do you like it served?

Today I’m drinking Clipper Organic Everyday Tea with semi-skimmed milk, no sugar; in an Emma Bridgewater Birds mug – this one has Fieldfares on it.

Q2) If you could choose anyone, past, present or future, who would be joining us for tea.

I’d like to invite William Morris and David Hockney to join us to tea. Morris was one of the first designers I really got enthusiastic about, I think we could chat to him about gardens and wildflowers; textiles and furniture; poetry and illustration; typefaces and book binding. Hockney could tell us about how he uses a computer to help him work on his paintings and about the optical instruments used by artists in the past. I think they’d both be partial to a cup of tea and a toasted tea cake – don’t you?

Q3) Tell me a little about your background in art and design.

I went to Brighton College of Art & Design, my degree course was called ‘Visual Communication’ – which covered typography, graphic design, illustration, photography, advertising, etc. It was just before the advent of Desk Top Publishing so everything I’ve learnt about digital illustration and DTP has been hands on, for ‘real’ publishing projects. Today I use my computer as just another tool to achieve an end result – for instance my prints start as a sketch, the designs are worked up digitally, then they become hand-carved blocks before I print each colour by hand.

Q4) Where are you based and does it influence your work?

I work in an office and studio which is attached to our house. The building was once a Victorian billiard hall and it is within a walled garden. My latest set of prints are inspired by working in the garden this spring and include our six hens. I tend to think about a possible print for a long time before actually starting work – this is an indulgence, as by contrast commissioned work is usually done to a very tight deadline with no ‘thinking time’ allowed. I love going for long walks and the things I see as I walk inspire ideas for new prints: hares and deer running over the fields; the textures of trees and field furrows; a flock of birds landing in a hedge.

Q5) What have you been doing/working on today?

Today I have been completing some digital illustrations for a GCSE Spanish student’s book for a major UK publisher (sounds boring – but I enjoyed working on these ‘vector’ illustrations). Later I will finalise the pages of the May edition of the village magazine – I’ll also need to take a photo for the cover, which will mean going for a walk to search out a good ‘May’ scene. Sadly, there’s no time for printmaking today, but there are prints hanging up in the studio ready to be numbered and signed. And I need to get the framed prints ready for an exhibition in Norwich. I should think I’ll fit in some gardening too, I usually do.

Q6) I hope that you have brought along something wonderful to show us, what is it?

(Let’s pretend it’s July) I’ve brought some Purple Podded Peas from my vegetable garden – one of the ten varieties of pea I’m growing this year. I’ve also brought along a cast iron fish which sits on my drawing board, I bought it in Japan. It’s both a brush rest and paper weight. I think the pea-pods and the fish are both beautiful and useful so Mr Morris would approve! And both sometimes appear in my prints too.

Well thanks so much for being my guest Celia, I know we have lots in common, we share a love of William Morris and David Hockney, of Japanese prints and country gardens. I am very envious of your walled garden, that is my idea of the perfect garden and something I have tried to create here. I am sure your work will continue to inspire and delight fans old and new.


England's green and pleasant land.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountain green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

William Blake

Did England ever look more lovely than she does now in the week that we that we celebrate Shakespeare and St George?


Sew be it!

I have been feeling very inspired to sew after reading some wonderful crafty sewing blogs, many of which have free tutorials. If you haven’t already visited Tiny Happy then you are missing a treat. Not only does this lady make the most adorable things for her shop, she also has excellent easy to follow sewing patterns for bags and home accents.

Ever since I started designing fabric for Makower I have begun to accumulate a growing selection of fabric samples, my only obstacle is finding the time to sew. The thought of making a full size bed quilt is still very daunting so I have been concentrating on smaller projects. I bought a large quantity of linen in France a few years ago and have been wondering what to do with it, so after much deliberation I finally got around to making some extra large table mats, two of which act as a table runner. I thought I might be able to use them singly for picnics in the summer if the opportunity arose. I made each one about 18 inches by 30 inches and started by neatening the edges with a zig zag stitch, then I cut some borders from my "Herb Garden" fabric and simply top stitched them along the side edges, hey presto, it was as easy as that!

The little baby shoes were also made using fabric from the same "Herb Garden" collection. We are having something of a baby boom in our family at the moment starting with the imminent arrival of a great niece in May. If you would like to make some of these reversible baby shoes there is a great tutorial here by Rhiannon Vining.

The little baby bib was my first attempt at this style of free machine quilting using a darning foot. I got the idea from reading Crazy Mom Quilts, she has some very easy to follow tutorials and lots of other inspirational projects. I used my “Nestled in Springtime” fabrics for this bib and I was pleased with the result even though the underside turned out a bit wonky! I found that a project of this size is a good way to start as it takes a while to get the hang of freehand quilting or stippling. At first my tension was all wrong and so had practice first on a few scraps, I found that I had to increase the tension because I kept on getting loops on the underside.

If you feel inspired to have a go yourself you can use any fabric that you have in your stash, or you can find “Herb Garden” and “Nestled in Springtime” here at The Tabby Cat online shop.

So thank you to Tiny Happy, Crazy Mom Quilts and Rhiannon Vining and for taking the time to post inspirational tutorials.



I hope no one is offended by my offering for April, I have been told that the language that Shakespeare used is not altogether “proper” for today’s readers, but it is Shakespeare and I for one am not going to attempt to change his words.

Today, whilst walking Ted, I saw my first cowslip of the year, lots of primroses and joy of joys, a red tailed queen bumblebee! And did I have my camera at the ready? No, our eldest son has taken it with him on holiday to America. Ah well….

If you click on the image you will see more detail.


Needlewomen of note

Following on from my last post I would like to introduce to you two remarkable ladies who create unusual and original art using needle and thread. The first is Art4Sol who stitches folk art inspired collages, decorated with lots of hand stitches. I particularly love her fabric dolls pictured here.

The second is Kaylacoo who paints with fibres and threads, translating pages from her sketchbook into embroidery pieces using hand and machine embroidery.

It is always interesting to see how other artists work and to see the creative process in action. Fortunately both ladies have inspiring blogs which show work in progress, from early sketches, through to the finished article which are both instructive and informative.


Spotlight on Sweet Tidings

Over the next few weeks I hope to shine a little light on some of the wonderful bloggy places and people that I have come across recently in order to share with you inspiration. It is a constant source of delight to me just how individual each blog is both in content and appearance.

As I have now begun to amass a good selection of fabrics, mostly samples from my quilt collections, I have been naturally drawn to the crafters who sew and quilt. Also, for the first time in my life, I have a room where I can leave my sewing machine set up without having to tidy everything away. Yes, there are some advantages to being an empty nester!

My first port of call is Sweet Tidings, this creative lady resides in the Philippines, and the thing I love about her blog the most is her sense of style. She is also something of a philosopher and apart from having a multitude of interesting links, this week wabi-sabi, she also has a craft supply shop called Happy Handmades. I have a terrible addiction to craft books and anything Japanese so when I saw her book on Zakka crafts I had to have it.

The first photograph shows how beautifully she wrapped my book and the second shows one of her sewn creations. There is always something to make me smile on her site, why don’t you pop over and say hi?