Lost and Found

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Just to let you know the little muse is dead. Seems like the final straw to be honest … A tiny loss in the greater scheme of things but anyway.

Strange really to be so affected by the loss of such a solitary, inscrutable creature… I cried less when the cat died!

Not all who wander…

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You know how some times things are; one minute you’re busy making new things, getting excited about the ripening tomato crop and hoping for the best and the next your tortoise breaks out of his cage and the rain comes along with the bills, and the specially tailored suit of optimism dissolves into a puddle of despondency round your ankles. Yes it’s good to start a new blog post on a note of gloom, especially when writing has been long over due. Don’t be put off.

So I have been sending the chickens out as a search party, looking for the escapee but they are silly fluffy birds and only care about food and fawning over their flashy brother/boyfriend. I have named them Clarice and Cora (the twins from Gormenghast) and Tortoise never did get a name so can not answer when I call him even if he wanted too. It’s very sad.

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The search meant that I missed going to the Home and Gift Trade Fair in Harrogate where my cards were once again on show with Natural Partners Ltd. My “Girl and Bear” image seems to be quite popular and they’d used it as a poster on the stand as part of the Best of British Showcase Trail. Hopefully they took plenty of orders…

Meanwhile I’m flitting from one thing to another, making some new lino prints and building a small herd of bears. The bears are needle felted, a new obsession after a lesson from Susie of Drawn By Badgers ( she made me the lovely polar bear you might have seen in previous posts). This feather winged and beaded polar bear is my first attempt… ( see, those chicks are useful )

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I normally re- read my last post before writing but the internet is so slow that I didn’t bother this time, so I’ve forgotten where left you… before Willowman I think? This is a lesson to me that I must either write frequently of not at all because I now have too much to say and not enough time without lulling you ( and me) to sleep as I ramble on. Instead I will make yet another resolution to write more often and try to be a bit more inspiring. A giveaway competition perhaps to thank those of you who still keep in touch.

I’m off to draw squirrels now for a possible illustration commission and tomorrow will see me on my hands and knees in the long grass, searching for a tiny, perfectly camouflaged creature. Wish me luck. x

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What Happened to May?

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Well I’ve been lost down a rabbit hole again, or maybe underneath a tree, asleep like Rip Van Winkle. How is it June already?! How is it SIX years since I graduated from CCAD, and I’m still here in a kitchen full of ideas, waiting for it all to take off. Meanwhile another batch of hopefuls prepare their degree show, which opens this week . I recently invested my last pennies in a metre of cotton velvet, digitally printed at Glasgow School of Art’s Centre for Advanced Textiles. It’s pure luxury and I can’t wait to order more as soon as I can….my finances may not be the only problem though; it was awful to hear about the fire at the Art School last month and I did shed a tear for the poor students who had all their hard work destroyed, not to mention the beautiful Rennie Macintosh building. Anyway, to all students graduating this Summer I wish you the very best of luck.

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May also saw me in a last minute panic as I prepared for Art in the Shed, the lovely event organised each year by Jane Thorniley-Walker to raise money for Street Child Africa. The weather was typical English Bank Holiday torrential rain most of the time but it was an amazing success. I felt more involved this year,  since I wasn’t having to go to work as well and it was so good to spend time chatting with old friends and feeling overwhealmed with gratitude for the new friends who made the time to come and visit.

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We raised nearly £750 for the charity and I sold enough to pay a few bills so I feel happy and proud to have been part of it.

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Now I have to restock ready for Willowman Festival later this month where I will be selling a slightly different range of pretty, hippy, festival things as well as dancing a lot and embarrassing my family. Then preparations for Art For Youth North. This is another charity event and a little daunting as some rather big names are taking part and it would be letting the side down if none of my work sold after being invited to take part.

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So today is a day for sewing velvet cushions, tye-dyeing knickers and making plans for bees… here I am, looking like I know what I’m doing (ha!), on a recent day out with the local honey man Trevor Swales ( see previous posts about cold remedies!). This was only my first experience of the bees and it was wonderful but I’m still a little terrified and haven’t been stung for years ( famous last words) so no firm decisions have been made. I read the British Beekeepers Association‘s Facebook page and feel fascinated and daunted; there is so much to learn. I like to have my childhood hero Sherlock Holmes as my role model though and he kept bees in the end ….so that’ll be me with my pipe and 7% solution.

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The Wide Blue Yonder

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Last week saw me feeling small in a big landscape, carrying my faithful Millican bag and eating a lot of chocolate (you have an excuse when it’s Easter and you need to keep your strength up). Visiting the The Lake District on Easter bank holiday weekend may seem crazy unless you like traffic jams but it was amazing to walk away from the crowds into the mountains and feel a real sense of solitude and remoteness. There was even a slight sense of panic as we reached our camping spot and I looked back at the way we’d come, to see quite how far I’d have to walk back the next day! Waking up to a bowl of porridge in the wilderness on a sunny morning is pretty unbeatable.

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Easter Sunday didn’t involve chicks and eggs or bunnies in any way; instead I was treated to nearly 3,000′ of almost vertical rock ( a path apparently!) which made my legs itchy with fear and my head dizzy, followed by reaching the summit of Grasmoor bent double against the wind while my oversized “outdoor gear” inflated like a balloon and threatened to throw me back down. We looked down on Buzzards and ate a lot more chocolate and it was beautiful

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Days of sunshine have meant some lovely results with cyanotype printing and the garden is full of bees, new shoots and over excited chicks who race about like little girls in tutus. And it is little girls mostly … because the naughty, unfaithful cockerel disappeared while I was out one night. The circumstances are highly suspicious… there are no foxes here ( too many gamekeepers), no body has been found and he is not with my neighbour’s hens. Ah well, he has only himself to blame for venturing out of the garden and imagining that the grass was greener …

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Last week I finally got around to delivering some work to the lovely Lockton Tea Rooms and Gallery.Last time we visited Janilaine and Kevin were frantically decorating and building so it was amazing to see the results of all their hard work. A little gem in the middle of the North York Moors and I’m proud to have my work there along with some other very talented artists and craftspeople.

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So, another weekend is almost upon us and I’m way behind in my blog writing, festival stock preparing and gardening. I’m about to write a post for Festival of Thrift about the cheese I’ve been making but first I need to test it …maybe sitting in the greenhouse with a pot of tea! Festival of Thrift recently won a big award at the Journal Culture Awards in Newcastle so congratulations…I can’t wait for this year’s event. I’m also looking forward to visiting Rounton Coffee Roasters in their newly refurbished Granary next week so watch this space ..and if I go quiet, give me a kick, I’m probably just sleeping off all that chocolate! x

Reading:- “The Little Sister” Raymond Chandler Listening To:- “The Take Off and Landing of Everything” elbow

 

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It’s taken me a while to get around to writing this post but rarity makes things more valuable, right? Since my last confession I’ve been out and about; prised out of my nest to visit the mountains, walk my feet off in the city and even go to a concert (Elbow in Leeds this weekend). I’ve been bombarded with sights and sounds and contrasts and it’s taken me over a week to recover!

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I love London. It feels like home but it also feels like another country. My daughter and I spent 4 days in the Barbican , surrounded by “brutalist” architecture and modernist furniture. It’s always fun to exchange the life of a country hermit for that of a city explorer and this time we explored places we’d never been to before; discovering the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey (where we also found the perfect building for a dream business premises- see below), the Book Art Bookshop in Shoreditch and dodging over friendly squirrels Kensington Gardens. The thing that did my head in was Liberty’s…

We’ve been to Liberty’s loads of times and particularly enjoy squeezing the balls of wool and marveling at the outrageous prices but, perhaps because I’ve never been so poor in all my life, this time it just seemed depressing. How can a mug be £150? If it’s made by an artist? By hand out of precious materials? The ceramics were gorgeous but not that gorgeous that a set would cost the same as a small kiln and you’d want to shoot your friends if they chipped one… or is it just me, am I just getting resentful? The contrast between real life for most people and the conspicuous show of excessive luxury just seemed too harsh. The ceramics company is called John Derian if you want to check them out and put me straight (or it’s my birthday next week and I rather like the teapot!…) Anyway, we both managed to survive the temptations of our trip with the only extravagance being some vintage fabric ribbons from the Cloth Shop on Portabello Road and the fact that we were staying in a rather swish flat in the Barbican which feels a bit like a piece of the Overlook Hotel ( a fact that stopped us roaming the corridors alone at night).

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And so home to the moors, where I’ve been rediscovering my love of cyanptype. Combining hand drawn pen and ink transparencies with natural elements such as leaves and flowers to make prints on the rare and precious sunny days. Gradually I’m getting better at it;  realising now that is must be sunny and that I probably need to save up for an exposure unit or move to Mexico. I’ve been using some wonderful, extremely thick Arches watercolour paper…off-cuts donated by my dad.

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And in between rushing about with plates of glass and rinsing prints with bated breath I sit in my new favourite place, the Freecycle greenhouse, where me and the tortoise listen to the radio and keep ourselves to ourselves…he has his dandelions and I’m happy so long as there’s coffee and cake.

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A Voyage Behind the Radiator and Other Stories

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The day began with a drama and a tragedy narrowly averted. Everyone here has become full of the joys of spring and hell bent on escape, so while the tortoise has grown big enough to climb out of his pen and fall flat on his face on the windowsill, the newest chicks have discovered their wings and this morning the little black one dived headfirst down the back of the radiator. Well thank goodness for austerity measures and my decision to stop having the heating on in the mornings! Jake and Beth were able to fashion a chick lasso out of bailer twine and scoop him out of his prison and so a horrible and distressing disaster was avoided.

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This has been such a fast week, is it really Friday again tomorrow? Am I speeding down hill towards my birthday next month? A week ago we collected a pile of bent aluminium, glass sheets and a bag of random nuts and bolts with no instructions other than a photo of when it had once been a greenhouse. Less than a week later and thanks to Freecycle and my son’s genius with things like Meccano and Lego ( never underestimate the power of learning through play!) I have a greenhouse! This has been possibly the top of my wish list for years….along with a job designing things. So THANK YOU Jake, Rupert, Stewart and the man who didn’t want a greenhouse anymore!

Now… back to the design dream…

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I entered a competition at OhhDeer who are a company specialising in products featuring illustration and quirky designs. You only get three goes and it was hard to choose, Jake wanted me to use the wolf but I’d already uploaded my 3 choices. Anyway the idea is that while the competition is in progress the designs are FOR SALE and you can see what they would look like on a variety of garments. I’d love to be able to buy one of each just to put in a portfolio but …. Catch22….unless I start selling some of my designs I won’t be getting any new clothes anytime soon!

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So, the thing is to get as many people as possible to visit your product page and like, share, favourite or better still buy your design and I think the winner gets to work with the company on new designs in the future based on the fact that their popularity has been tested… well you know what I’m going to ask… please take a look and I’d love to know what you think, good or bad. You should be able to click on the images to reach the appropriate page.

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Also this week I visited the wonderful SkyBlueRed Studio in the nearby town of Guisborough. It’s a rare kind of place for around here:independent, crafty, full of vintage charm and really really friendly. They run workshops everyday so when I arrived the cafe was full of people painting and decorating wooden boxes while the studio area was being prepared for a felting class.  The cakes were yummy and the shop was full of treasures…ALL handmade by local designer makers (so refreshing after my recent experiences in retail). A small selection of my framed work is on display now and I’m looking forward to my next visit and a coffee with the charming Nicholas who is responsible for the eclectic interior design style. It’s so important that places like this continue to exist, at the moment most of the staff are voluntary and I couldn’t help thinking that if it were in Bristol or London it would be thriving but Guisborough is a small town in the North East, trapped between Middlesbrough and the North York Moors. If you get a chance pop in or say hello on Facebook, ( may I recommend the caramel shortbread)…

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Maybe I should book myself in for Mother’s Day…

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Little Bessie and the History of March

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I’m listening to some late night 6music and looking back at five years worth of writing in and about March. Patterns emerge and there are constant threads, dreams and hopes. So as this year’s vernal equinox heralds another spring on Witchmountain I can see that March has traditionally been a bit of a monster as well as a thing of great excitement and optimism.Pick me up and shoot me down seems to be the constant refrain! This year I have been told by the estate that my long running fantasy of running a small business from the roadside building (see previous March posts) is “not viable” but today I have also been offered a greenhouse on Freecycle so it seems that the glass is neither half full nor half empty but precariously balanced in an uncomfortable limbo on the edge of the bar.

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Meanwhile I am becoming Charlotte Lucas from “Pride and Prejudice” . My little flock of bantam chicks now includes three new little people… one of whom I had to fashion corrective boots for as it had “spraddle” legs. I cut a bright pink sticking plaster up and made a kind of splint to hold its silly legs in the right position – it worked thank goodness, but the poor thing did spend a couple of days falling flat on its face like a drunk. So, there you are, the perfect Spring thing for Spring Equinox 2014.

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I’m still busy making all sorts of festival things including these feathery, flowery crowns and hair accessories. Some of the fabrics are from a bag of lovely print and dye samples my college friend Carl brought me when we met up earlier in the week. We spent a good few hours drinking green tea in Costa ( sorry but I’m a bit down on independant coffee shops in Northallerton at the moment…the feeling is mutual I’m sure), putting the world to rights and planning our belated takeover of the surface pattern design world….keep your eye on Fold Creative. , Carl is very talented and deserves a break.

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Lyndsay McBean was there too,taking a break from design work to be a mummy to her super cute baby Noah. I feel like an honorary granny, and even dusted off the old baby boot pattern to make him a pair out of a rather posh woolen throw that I’d accidentally felted in the wash! It’s been a good week for keeping in touch with old friends and meeting little new ones.

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So much to write about, but it’s nearly tomorrow and I need to test the apricot jam I just made ( with a hot buttered crumpet) before going to my nest to read and find another dream to replace this one. Oh, before I forget…an artist friend is doing something similar here in the North York Moors. Opening soon, the Lockton Tea Rooms and Gallery looks like it will be wonderful so if you get a chance to visit, pop in and say Hi to Janilaine and Kevin. Good luck with the new venture you two.

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If anyone knows how Little Bessie did it please drop me a line … x