We are in the grip of winter now and my garden has been visited with many different species of birds, feasting on windfall apples and berries. With Christmas looming ever closer, despite my love for this season, it has the habit of filling me with mild panic. I have done hardly any shopping, have no tree or decoration in place and have been stricken with a horrible allergic skin condition which is driving me slowly crazy.
So instead of focusing on the negative I thought I would share with you some things that I have noticed and that you might enjoy. In my last few posts I have told you about my plans to publish my children’s books and over on the website of Martin West, my former publisher and now my mentor, I came across this charming book. You know how it is when you see something so simple and yet so clever and you say to yourself “I wish I had thought of that”? Here is a lovely picture book about a pair of socks; it is the brainchild of Japanese artist Noriko Matsubara. Bocchi and Pocchi are no ordinary pair of socks. They are the best of friends; then one night Pocchi disappears!
Now I know that many of my friends in the blogosphere are keen knitters, Noriko has a free pattern to knit these charming character socks. Would that not make a very special Christmas gift, a book and sock combo?
Whilst on the subject of gifts and knitting, my friend Frances has opened her Etsy shop. I am the proud owner of a pair of her wrist warmers, shown on a previous post. I also looked on as she knit the most beautiful scarf whilst in her stay in the UK.
Meanwhile, I have been busy with my granny squares, to date 30 pink and 30 white, for me something of a record. I hope to update you all on that soon.
We enjoyed a little break in a country cottage in Cumbria, taking the dog for some long and invigorating lakeshore walks and taking lots of photographs for future reference. Whilst taking a little R and R I bought myself a copy of Country Living December issue, and who should be featured there but none other than Celia Hart who came to a virtual tea party not so long ago!
The cottage had an Aga cooker in a rather small kitchen; the effect was a little overpowering. Anybody who has tried to cook a full English breakfast on an Aga will understand the phrase “slaving over a hot stove”, so when life gets you all hot and bothered, what better image than an expanse of tranquil water. And now, I shall take my leave, bye for now. x
I have been doing a lot of counting recently, brought about the recent celebration of my 60th birthday. There, I have owned up to being in my sixties. If I say it often enough the fact may actually sink in.
I have been counting my blessings, of which there are many. Counting the many places on my “to visit” list with the aid of my Senior Railcard, a third off discounts, hooray!
Counting the days to the arrival of a very special baby in the spring…..
and counting the days till the publication of Acornmoon’s first title- “White is the Moon”.
The advance title information has been prepared here and the publication date set for 24th April 2014.
Apart from that, my time has been taken by caring for an elderly family member who had a very nasty fall. We are all counting ourselves very lucky to have had excellent care from our wonderful NHS.
It’s been an exciting week for many reasons, where do I start?
Well, for ages now I have been deliberating as to the wisdom of publishing my own books. I did have a foray down that path and tried out print on demand. It was an education if nothing else. I learned many new things but felt that the overall quality of the books fell short of expectation. I have been too worried about all the practicalities of warehousing, sales and distribution to go it entirely on my own but now, I see a way forward. Like everything in life, this new venture of mine will be a gamble but I feel confident enough to have taken the first steps. Not entirely alone, I will be guided by an old and trusted friend whose company will handle all the tricky bits like storage, distribution etc. more of this later…
For now, I am the proud owner of Acornmoon Books complete with ten ISBN’s, a new logo and, fingers crossed, will see the first children’s picture book in the spring next year. I am hoping that given the right conditions, this tiny acorn sized venture will grow and thrive and if it falls at the first hurdle, well at least I will have tried.
I have also started to illustrate another book for a well known publisher, this time for an established writer who I admire enormously who also sometimes publishes her own titles. I dare not say too much about this as so much is still to be sorted and as they say, “There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip.” Hopefully I will be able to tell you more soon.
On the theme of acorns, I met up with two friends from the blog world -
Gretel from “Middle of Nowhere” and Frances from "City Views Country Dreams".
We met in Ludlow and had lunch and explored the town. Gretel, who makes the most wonderful needle felted creations gave me this exquisite acorn. The gorgeous stripy knitted gloves are the work of Frances from New York who was playing her very own version of “Miss Marple” whilst staying in a very old and quirky hotel in Ludlow. I have never met Frances before so it was an extra treat for me, and lovely to share some time with two very creative and interesting ladies.
Ludlow has much to offer, it has the most marvelous position but the inclement weather stopped us walking far. Amongst its many interesting shops we found a bindery shop and of course we had to venture inside for a spot of retail therapy. Well, could you resist hand-marbled paper? No, nor could I. We admired the many old black and white buildings, had a stroll around the castle, decided that the fallen leaves looked exactly like a Japanese Kimono pattern until all too soon, we had to say our goodbyes before heading home.
As the sun shines on this glorious summer I have been sitting at my desk painting Christmas candy canes and St Nicholas himself, none of which I can show alas!
However, we found time to return to London and revisit Hammersmith, this time with camera and ticket to visit Emery Walker’s House, possibly the most well preserved Arts and Crafts House in Britain. Although there are no doubt grander houses, to step through the doors of No 7 Hammersmith Terrace is to enter the world not only of Emery Walker, William Morris, Rossetti and Cobden Sanderson but to enter a more domestic, feminine world that made this house into a home.
Emery Walker was a typographer, printer and mentor to William Morris; they met through their shared political ideals and became great friends. Emery helped in the establishment of The Kelmscott Press and was a partner in The Dove Press with Cobden-Sanderson. If you visit the house you will be taken back to the days when Emery was a married man with a young daughter Dorothy, who continued to live in the house for the rest of her life. When Dorothy grew older she had a young Dutch companion who also remained there until her death, thus ensuring the continuity of both the house and its contents. You get a real sense of homeliness here, not only are there original Arts and Crafts furnishings, wallpapers etc but also paintings, prints, books and all the paraphernalia of life - an eclectic mix of possessions which make this a home rather than a museum.
You can wander through the garden which fronts the river Thames and get a glimpse of Hammersmith Bridge where Cobden-Sanderson was believed to have stood before he threw the entire type from the Dove Press into the water below after a bitter dispute with Emery. I wonder if it is still there in the muddy depths and what ghostly tales it could tell?
After taking some refreshment at The Black Lion, we continued our walk to Kelsmcott House where we saw some prints being made on William’s lovely old Albion Press. I came home with some purchased for the bargain price of £1 each!
And now for my news; goodness knows what William would have made of our modern world but, the first of my picture books has been made digital and is in the app store now. You can see it here- “White is the Moon” (Auryn Inc) has moved into a new millennium complete with sounds and words, which appear when you touch different parts of the illustrations. For example, if you touch the moon, the written word appears and a voice says “Moon”, how exciting is that? William must be turning in his grave! I hope not.
By now you will all have heard the news about Prince George, a great name don't you think? Of course there is only room for one Prince George so we will have to start calling our own dear grandson Prince George the first. No, my exciting news is the winner of my blog giveaway is Frances.
Sorry this post is short but sweet, we have just returned from our travels, hope to see you soon.x
The picnic illustration is taken from ‘Where’s My Share?” one of my picture books which is in the process of being made into an App by Auryn Inc- more news of that to come soon!
After what seems like an eternal winter we finally have our much longed for summer and we have been out and about.
Firstly, a quick visit to our son in London and a walk along the river and a chance to admire the open space and fresh air. We found an array of interesting sights, buildings old and new and a small garden themed exhibition. It is heartwarming to see how pleasant the Thames is now and how nature can regenerate if we give it a chance. This quote was written on a metal container filled with plants and formed part of a larger garden display.
“There are indeed many good things in life which may be unequally apportioned and no such serious loss arise, but the need of quiet, the need of air, the need of exercise, and I believe, the sight of sky and of things growing, seem human needs, common to all.” By Octavia Hill who did so much to protect our green spaces and went on to found The National Trust.
Further along the river we visited the Bankside gallery, which was hosting an exhibition celebrating fifty years of wood engravings by Simon Brett. Inside we found Simon sitting quietly working and demonstrating his craft. I even had the chance to chat to him for a while and he gave me some advice on hand burnishing. I have admired his work for many years now so it was very pleasant to actually meet him in person and to watch how he engraves his blocks using a vast array of engraving tools.
Simon has a website here where you can learn more about his life and work.
On our return from London the lure of the summer sun won over indoor pursuits, we took Ted (foot now healed) on a lovely long walk up Bickerton Hill and and remembered the words of Octavia Hill as we admired the beautiful view across the Cheshire Plain. We packed a small picnic and ate our lunch to the hum of the bees and sound of birdsong. It really is a most lovely spot.
I attended another bookbinding workshop, this one was all about headbands and how to sew them. Our instructor was Nicky Oliver from Black Fox Bindery
It was an enjoyable and very companiable day, in the morning we made a single core headband and in the afternoon we made one with a double core. Like so many bookbinding skills it is easy when you know how. Nicky made it look so easy but I struggled to make a neat job, still I am determined to practise some more. Here are some photographs from the day and the work of class members.
Finally, I was contacted again by Novica who asked if we would like to have another giveaway, to which I answered, “Yes please!” Novica supports the work of craftsmen and women from around the world. I have a $50 gift voucher to give away, if you would like to take part in the draw please leave a comment which includes your desire to take participate and I will pick a winner from random in two weeks time- that will be on Tuesday 30th. Please bear in mind that the gift certificate does not cover the cost of postage and there may be taxes to pay depending on where you live.
On the way home from our last trip mentioned in my last post, we decided to explore some of the lovely old towns along the way. Ludlow was one of the picturesque towns en route, famous for its castle and medieval buildings, it has the most beautiful position perched on a cliff above the River Teme in south Shropshire close to the Welsh border.
I found some books in one of the old bookshops we visited and ignored my earlier resolve not to buy any more books! How could I not buy the King Penguin book on Elizabethan Miniatures?
We also visited Berrington Hall and found some wonderful examples of miniatures there too. In fact, by the end of the trip I felt very inspired to create some miniatures of my own.
I decided to try my hand at pendant making, using my prints under glass cabochons. I have to say that it was a steep learning curve required great patience. If you decide to try for yourself, take my advice and buy lots of extra pieces of glass.
I managed to finish four, which I felt happy enough to put in my Etsy shop, you can see them here-
I was very pleased with the results and enjoyed the way the glass acted as a sort of magnifier. One of the prints I used was taken from a painting I did some time ago. “Fairy Brighteyes” was painted in watercolour onto a piece of Kelmscott Vellum.
This is a beautifully smooth surface to paint onto, it is also very expensive but perfect for miniatures.
Last but not least, our little dog Ted hurt his foot chasing a cat. After three visits to the vets and a hefty bill, I am pleased to say that he is back to his normal cheerful self. The jury is still out as to lessons learned on that score.
If you are in the Gloucestershire area might I suggest a visit to this most extraordinary exhibition of paintings by John and Fiona Owen. I have written before on this blog about my admiration for these artists in particular the work of Fiona Owen who paints in miniature on gilded wooden panels. She paints in oils with teeny tiny watercolour brushes and produces the most wonderful work. You can see their work in more detail here- on their website and learn about their inspirations, however nothing compares with seeing the paintings up close. I know many of you live oversees so I have put together a little selection of images to give you an idea of the exhibition.
Details of the dates and opening times are to be found on their website.
The artists live in a converted chapel high up a green and wooded hillside overlooking the village of Chalford. You climb the steep stone steps and enter through the chapel gate, past pots of plants, through the ancient doorway and up the stairs to the studio.
Prepare to be dazzled, the walls are painted and gilded with images of friends and family worthy of Benozzo Gozzoli.
There are works of art on globes,
You might see the artists at work, here is Fiona working on a gilded panel. Firstly she prepares the wood with gesso. She then transfers the design and prepares the areas to be gilded. The gilding has to be done before the painting begins, as the gold would stick to the paint. Finally she is ready to paint in the details using oil paint applied with very fine watercolour brushes.
And after the studio visit you are free to wander through the garden and to admire the spectacular views. The garden has many “rooms” each has its own character which are a delight to discover as you climb up the hillside.
But don’t take my word for it, go and see it for yourself!
Thank goodness for a bit of sunshine at last, doesn’t it do the heart good?
It is hard to stay indoors when the garden beckons and a recent visit from an artist friend from oversees proved the perfect excuse to revisit Tatton Park.
You may remember my interview with Celeste from not so long ago?
It was fun to meet up again and the hours flew by as we chatted non-stop about gardens and art and everything else besides!
The walled and knot gardens are perhaps my favourite, I love the repetition of form, the patterns made by brick and box hedges and the way that the herbs and plants therein appear like tiny embroidered jewels. I was so inspired by the garden that I decided to create a new notebook called “The Knot Garden” It contains decorative endpapers and twelve small illustrations scattered about the pages and you can see it here-
The gardens at Tatton and the surrounding parkland have always been an inspiration to me. I based lots of my illustrations from “The Acorn’s Story” on the trees and deer, insects and flowers to be found here including this fallow deer painting. I am in the process of converting this book to make it into an application for the iPad, and other digital readers but before I can send the images to Auryn Inc I need to prepare the files, a long but necessary job.
The lovely town of Knutsford is very close by, childhood home of Elizabeth Gaskell and the setting for the town of “Cranford”.
It also has the very best charity shops, possibly because it has a very affluent catchment area. I have been busy buying up old picture frames and finally got around to framing my print collection, it took so long to arrange them, what a difficult task it proved to be! up a bit, down a bit, left a bit etc….
So you can see I am torn between my garden and my computer and never quite manage to get the balance right. There are so many jobs to be done, all the rain and now the sun’s warming rays have caused a huge growth spurt and everything is bursting with life. The aquilegias are particularly pretty at the moment and have spread into every available nook and cranny. It has been lovely to see the return of the bumblebees and butterflies, including a Yellow Brimstone, I haven’t seen one of those in ages. My cup floweth over!
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.