Unwritten Fairytales and Lost Horizons

I’m blaming my new glasses for the time it has taken me to settle down to write tonight- that and the mountain of pancakes I made (it’s Pancake Day here in the UK) even though I’m home alone (banana with maple syrup and whipped cream, mmmmm ). I got new varifocals last week and they make me feel like somebody else; somebody I don’t like the look of, who most probably took a large dose of Mescaline or whatever makes the carpet come to life in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; the floor now ripples in a disconcertingly trippy way! The new frames, which I’d hoped would make me look more à la mode, remind me of my first pair of NHS glasses when I was about 8; the world has a frame around it again and I’m reliving all my childhood hangups about being the kid with glasses.

*I just looked up à la mode and it can also mean “topped with ice cream” …

February has been beautiful so far and a little bit of motivation has returned. The late winter snow seems to be an inspiration every year and I’ve been busy making new things, doing some drawings in my digital sketchbook and going on  small winter adventures. Last week we went up Carrock Fell and, after worrying my way up the steep bit, I lost myself in admiring the scattered diamonds, wind etched snow fields and iced bun rocks. We drank hot tea in a shelter cairn and I  galumphed along following Rupert’s footprints on the stumbly trek back down. There was a cloud full of snow behind us, the wind spun powder in to our faces and the snow was up to my knees in places; I couldn’t stop thinking of the film Lost Horizon. In the picture above, you can just see the sunbeam hitting a group of trees at Skiddaw House, one of the most remote hostels in the country, miles from any road- perfect spot for an artist’s retreat!

I’ve been making new lampshades and making the most of bright days to photograph them- which seems a little back to front. Each one took longer than ever to make as I got carried away with the embroidered details and deciding, after continuing with the exercises in my Dream Plan Do book, that what I enjoy most about my work is making something really special that can sometimes take days to complete. The shades and lamps have just as much work in them as a framed piece,  so that although pricing will always be difficult, I have made a promise to myself that I will stop undervaluing these pieces.

I’ve had a complete creative block lately and felt really quite low but in the last couple of days I’ve made time to mess about with my Wacom drawing tablet and found myself doing what I always used to do as a child which was drawing stories  just for fun and escapism. The little house, above, started off after driving past the white climbing hut at Stair. As I drew and played with the Kyle T. Webster brushes, the hut evolved into strange a fairytale that hasn’t quite been put in to words yet….

Today my lovely friend Susie , from Glaisdale where we both grew up, shared a picture of her mum who would have been 100 today. The picture was of a small girl with big boots and an enormous hair ribbon. Anyway I had some more fun doodling my imaginary version, perhaps she lives in the little white house? perhaps she’s just going to visit? Either way it’s nice to retreat into your imagination when it’s cold outside and your glasses are upsetting you.

Now, I have promised myself that I’ll print two more pieces of fabric tonight ready for stitching tomorrow so I’ll start to pipe down. The room smells of snowdrops and it’s time for a cup of something warm. There are other things to talk about… how it’s easy to get cocky and mess up all but one of your printed tiles by forgetting to rotate the writing, how the one mythical chilblains become a real thing when taking photographs in the snow and how it is possible, even when feeling a bit fed up , that some excellent fiddle playing might cause you to stop the car to dance a jig on the darkened fell side like the shadow of the girl  you used to be.

Reading: “Wildwood-a Journey Through Trees” Roger Deakin.   Listening to: The Gloaming  and ” The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock” Imogen Hermes Gowar (Audio book)

 

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Intentional Dreaming – sugared almonds, paper houses & a year of colour.

I’m under my special blanket, by the stove, wrapped in 117 woollen squares knitted by my Great Grandma for my parent’s wedding in 1962 (which turned out to be a famously cold winter so I’m sure it was welcomed). I’ve been watching the snow covered mountain tops, behind the house, turn all shades of rosy, sugared almond pink, against a sky of ice blue, as the sun set; wishing I’d timed my short walk up the valley better and knew more about camera settings. Never mind, I did that thing we should all do more of and just looked and said “ooooh” and was “present in the moment”. Now night has fallen, the cat is snoring and my fingers have just about thawed out enough to type…but I feel a bit stuck if I’m honest. The pressure to maintain an upbeat public persona and maintain a stiff upper lip in times of adversity can be stifling (and dishonest in my opinion). Nobody wants even more gloom in the gloomiest month of the year but, for the record, 2018 so far has been … difficult. I’m fully prepared to be optimistic , it would just be nice to have a little balance for a change, a “good news, bad news” situation instead of a general trend towards worry, jumping when the phone rings and eating way too much rice pudding as comfort food. Anyway, here is a seasonal antidote, something really fun and absorbing that I found yesterday on the Makelight website. Emily Quinton and her husband Stef have developed an app. called #YearOfColour which extracts the colours from your Instagram pictures and creates really interesting palettes of colour, grouped according to popularity, time of year and so on. I found it fascinating and surprising to see the results for Witchmountain (where did all that sandy beige come from?!) and it’s a really useful design tool.

I’ve been tempted to do one of Emily’s online photography courses so that next time I won’t miss catching the mountain glow.In the meantime I tried to take advantage of some beautiful winter sunlight today to take a few pictures of prints which have recently come back from an exhibition in Keswick and need to be listed on my website. I noticed an ancient, painted over nail on the porch of the cottage next door so I made a little outdoor gallery and wrestled with reflections. What a beautiful afternoon though; the kind of air that feels like a cool drink and signs of spring everywhere.

 The exhibition had been in Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake and it was encouraging  to receive a few website sales this month, from people who had seen work there.
The bumpy start to the year and my decision not to do British Craft Trade Fair has left me feeling as though I’m drifting a bit but that’s not always a bad thing… who knows what opportunities and inspirations will be found wherever  that current takes me.

I mentioned the Dream, Plan, Do journal in my last post and last week I made a start on the first sections of the book which aim “to help you focus on your vision, future and values.” So here’s a confession… I couldn’t do it. I felt intimidated by my apparent lack of focus and clear direction after nearly 10 years of being “Witchmountain” but most of all I was unable to contemplate the question ” How old will you be in 2030, how about your parents, children, partner?”. As I say, it’s been difficult lately (the stuff that makes us human – love, loss, ageing …you don’t need to know the details) and I still have’t got used to being 50 let alone been able to imagine being 62! To cut a long story short I closed the book, retreated into another good story (The Night Circus) and decided to peek warily at the Facebook group that runs along side the planner instead. And here is why it’s sometimes ok to admit when things are crappy and your life isn’t looking like a styled Instagram shot; because it turned out I wasn’t alone. Loads of other people were saying the same things or asking similar questions, dealing with all sorts of bad stuff and supporting each other. Encouragement and understanding and practical solutions abound in groups like that, and yes, you can end up spending too much time Dreaming and not enough time Doing if you’re not careful, but I picked the planner up again and didn’t feel quite so alone (so thanks Patricia and the Dream,Plan,Do team). I got a similar feeling to the one I got last summer, packing up after Art in the Pen, which was that I was slightly awestruck by the resilience and determination of so many creative people who are usually juggling all sorts of plates, some with jagged edges, and without those people the world really would be eternally January.

In other news I gave away a lovely original hare print last month as part of my Newsletter Subscribers Draw and this month there will be another (nice) surprise for somebody so do subscribe if you haven’t already (and tell all your friends). I’m also going to be doing lots of other random giveaways throughout the year as part of my celebration of 10 years of writing this blog.
The little paper houses in the picture above are a FREE pdf download on my website in the Cards section of the shop where, should you be in the market for one, you could also find some perfect cards for Valentines Day 😉

Enough sales talk, I’m off to stitch tiny cross stitches into paper whilst watching whodunnits on Netflix.One final thing about that planner…I haven’t reached the page yet but I’ve gathered that people have to choose a keyword for the year. I have come up with two (because I fancy being self indulgent) they are RESILIENCE and CONNECTION, I don’t think you can have the first without the second so this is the year I want to spend more time with the people I care about, keep in touch with old friends and building connections with new ones. If you’re reading this then that includes you. Thank you x

Reading: “The Mitford Murders” Jessica Fellowes. Listening To : “How to Stop Time” Matt Haig ( on Audible) and “Charlotte Anne” Julian Cope

 

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Re-emergence

Here I sit on the 3rd day of the year, a nuthatch is attacking the bird feeder,  and apart from the kettle bubbling on the stove, the house is momentarily empty and quiet. I’m trying to gather some thoughts to cobble together this blog post but after nearly a month with no phone or internet, combined with the blurring together of days over Christmas, I feel as though I’ve emerged like Rip Van Winkle, blinking and out of time. Yesterday the phone was finally fixed (a giant battle with EE for compensation begins) and I am so joyful at being able to speak to my family in a warm room instead of shivering half way down the lane. I  missed Christmas as far as my work goes … no access to the website or ability to promote myself through social media has probably resulted in fewer sales,  but the radio silence has made me even more acutely aware that it is the connections we make with other people that really matter in life. Isolation can be a terrible thing and cannot be compared to chosen solitude. Anyway, all communications are working again now, I didn’t have to start training pigeons and the new year stretches ahead like a clean sheet of paper. I’m sharpening metaphorical pencils and preparing to make the first marks.

We had some sparkling days in December, when the path to the reservoir was studded with emeralds and rocks in the Scope Beck were encased and smoothed by shells of ice. Lakes reflected skies like water colours and kept reminding me of  my dad’s paintings, as I wandered about being over emotional and nostalgic – a side effect os the season.

I had that “end of term” feeling in December as the last of the year’s orders went out. It’s a good feeling, to have cleared my desk, done the tax return and temporarily downed tools but also tends towards panic as the pressure to build on this year’s successes grows. I made the decision not to do British Craft Trade Fair this year which means I’m going to have to work really hard to be visible (the internet outage couldn’t have come at a worse time!) and hopefully keep the galleries I’ve worked with in 2017 interested as well as finding some new opportunities. Art in the Pen was so good for me that this year I’m hoping to do a few more similar events as well as getting my act together with the plan to run small workshops here. I like the idea of hosting small groups, running informal “kitchen table” style workshops and finally being able to use my “Brownie Guide Hostess Badge” skills (endless cups of tea and cake) .

Really I should have spent the month of no internet working on a new collection of designs and pouring over my  “Dream, Plan,Do” journal ( setting “juicy goals ” ugh, no! ) but instead I retreated in to a book and it was the best thing I could have done. I’d wanted to join in a Twitter read along thing dreamed up by Robert Macfarlane and Julia Bird, the idea was to read  “The Dark is Rising“, a children’s classic by Susan Cooper, mirroring in real time the days described in the story, starting on Winter Solstice eve. I managed to find a hideous 1990’s copy in Oxfam which included all five books in the sequence ( The Dark is Rising is the second but they all could stand alone) and set about retreating from real life for a while. It was a shame I couldn’t join in with the #TheDarkIsReading discussions online but I feel as though it was perfectly timed ; descriptions of winter landscapes, dark lanes, ominous crows and battles with “the Dark” came easily to mind as I spent many hours standing alone in the pitch dark and bitter cold trying to make phone calls!  There is something comforting about reading books associated with childhood and I raced through all five volumes, able to briefly forget my worries. It reminds me of the winters of 2009/2010 when the heavy snow meant enforced seclusion and retreat (on that occasion in to  Tove Jansson’s Moominland Midwinter) ; I think we all need this escape/hibernation from time to time and it has left me more able to face the January chill and the uncertainties of another year so thanks for the prompt Robert and Julia.

 

Goodness, the fire is a disgrace; despite frantic wood collection and much sawing by Rupert and his brother over the past few days (the woodpile got wet when the basement flooded last night during Storm Eleanor). My fingers have gone numb. It’s time for me to think about supper and finding something dry to burn… or another jumper…

Happy 2018 to you and thank you as always, for reading . This blog will have it’s tenth birthday in April so there will be things to win and tiny celebrations. For now I will leave you with this “Best9” image that seems to sum up 2017 in all its beautiful shades of blue, green and grey.

Reading; “The Night Circus”  by Erin Morgenstern  Listening to: “How to Stop Time ” by Matt Haig ( audio book) and trying to forget the hours of Christmas tunes played in a loop by EE customer services.

“Tracking Treasure Down”

This week has been a particularly odd one ( in good ways)  and I blame Jackie Morris. If you’ve been reading this blog for long enough you’ll know that almost exactly 7 Novembers ago I spoke about discovering Jackie’s work, whilst contemplating the universal imagery of  “the bear and the girl”. My own “bear thing” was caused by a mix up in which I had my heart broken by a young bear-man who went to Canada, just after I’d based my entire final collection at University on bear related myths and legends. It was a weird time, including the worst winter for years, being snowbound in my beautiful cottage and subsisting on a diet of whisky, cigarettes and fruit cake. By the time I wrote that blog post I was starting to emerge from the forest and had begun to visit the Lake District with Rupert ( at which point I quickly realised it was unpleasant to climb hills with a hangover and downing neat rum before heading up Haystacks isn’t advised)

So, fast forward and somehow I’m living by these lakes and mountains, still dreaming of bears, still feeling a little lost in my new world, wondering who to be now that I’m grown-up, uprooted, finding myself, as if by magic, an occasional bookseller in the tiny treasure of a bookshop and then… who’s coming in to sign books but Ms Morris (that’s her pretending to be a snow leopard in the squeaky bookselling chair)

Ok, to be fair its not all Jackie’s fault. When I knew she was coming to Sam Read’s and that I’d be working that day I had tried to work out when I’d first mentioned her work on this blog and of course that meant I trawled through the past and my net came up full of  pictures of “home” so my memory was jabbed  and I lay awake all night listening to the owls conversing on the window ledge and lived most of the lines from that Talking Heads song …”this is not my beautiful life…how did I get here?” Anyway, Jackie and Robin arrived in the bookshop and we talked and drank coffee from Lucia’s and ate the peculiar bear shaped biscuits that I’d made and I’m pretty sure I was completely uncool, like an overenthusiastic puppy (I am excited about so many things and it’s a shame that shyness makes that feel awkward, I wish it was considered un-cool to be cool and that people could really feel free to express their joy without worrying that they appeared foolish and agonising about it afterwards). It was lovely to talk about art and nature, printing blocks, sketchbook paper, conkers, and the book “The Lost Words” ( a subject Rupert has often talked about as he returns from work sometimes with stories about children not knowing the names of trees, or animals, calling the lake a river or a pheasant a “ginger squirrel”!).

We also talked about some pictures she’d posted on Twitter of a painted stone hidden in a tree and so today I set off on a quest because I was pretty sure I knew where it was.

Even though I know being outside will lift my spirits and that walking is the best way to work through ideas and emotions, it is often the hardest thing for me to do. Actually motivating myself to leave the house can feel like wading through bread dough and yet, and yet…it never fails to work subtle magic, mood lifts and thoughts start to race. Today, because I wanted so much to find and photograph the stone I was not only inspired to get out but observing everything around me even more carefully. I had a mission, like arty geocashing, no wonder Masquerade caused such a stir.  The first sight of the lake made me gasp out loud, it was one of those perfect, oily mirror days that send you off balance and made me wish more than anything that I’d brought my swimming stuff. Viscous water, that’s what it is; you can almost see the surface tension and imagine that it would hold you. I used all my Landscape Detective skills, learned in geography lessons where  we were given a photograph and an OS map and asked to pinpoint the view. I got it wrong and set off from the wrong side of the lake.

I nearly gave up but then I worked it out and there, nestling in the crook of a branch was the golden treasure! Well hidden, not at all obvious if you weren’t looking. I invented a quick spell, toasted with a flask of coffee, which will hopefully channel some of Jackie’s skill and success into my own work via my “I am an artist” ring.  Well, you never know. Of course I replaced the stone, making sure no-one but the raven saw me, because I’d had such a lovely time searching that I hoped other people would too. Returning, I passed another tree that had had flowers and a plastic notice tied to it with red ribbon last time I’d walked this path. It was a memorial to a lost loved one and moving in it’s own way but it made me think how many of us feel the need to leave these offerings and memorials and how fine the line is between honouring a place and damaging it. The red ribbon was all that remained on the tree, jarring in the soft winter light and what happened to the plastic? Jackie’s stone was as natural as the tree it rested in and will weather and fade, if allowed to, but people who find it will feel a little joy at their discovery.

On the way back to the car I lost my bearings and found a tiny creature on a wooden bench, another little treasure, on a path I would never otherwise have discovered. That sounds a little bit like life, so, now, by the stove (which needs another log) I’m trying to find the words to express this magical walk without straying into the sickly realm of motivational quotes and New Age, pseudo pagan bullshit but actually I’m not sure I can (talk about Lost Words eh) To me it feels as though it reinforced the fact that everything is connected , that getting lost can help you find what you really need and that the treasure you find, however tiny, is the reward for all the bad stuff.

Look, this bear found treasure too…

The kettle is about to boil and I have a parcel to carefully wrap as these two lamps are heading to new homes in the far North this week. I’ve added a custom order section to the website so it’s now possible to easily commission your own bespoke lamp to light up your winter. I’m also entering the Wraptious competition which was a spur of the moment thing so I’m not all that worried, but you’ll be able to vote and for a short time buy the designs on their website. It’s worth looking because there are some beautiful designs by loads of different artists (I’ve voted for lots already). Until next time x

Reading : ” The Keeper of Lost Things” Ruth Hogan    Listening to: ” The Amber Spyglass” Phillip Pullman ( Audio Book) oh and this… “Tracking Treasure Down” Gabriel and Dresden ….my heart missed a beat, more memories and some kind of residual ecstatic rush.

“But there is always a November space after the leaves have fallen…”

Dark nights and solitude- apart from a sleeping cat and a humming wood stove- are just the right conditions for writing introspective blogs and getting lost in wandering tunnels of thought. I’ve had quite a few magical , seasonal experiences lately but it’s funny how, sitting here wondering where to begin, things suddenly surface that I hadn’t consciously dug up. It can take me ages to write a few lines because I keep half remembering things and looking back at old posts to see what I was thinking about in other Novembers, other nights by stoves; times when writing about my day seemed so trivial in the face of world events or the guilt/ frustration at being ok, but feeling not ok, made writing a personal blog seem self-indulgent (well so it is) and even embarrassing. This week there have been more shootings in Texas, half the world is discussing climate change in Bonn and the rest are chucking plastic into the oceans, forgetting that there is no such thing as “away”. It’s easy to be overwhelmed , stunned into silence and I’m feeling uncomfortable because what I wanted to write about was the water and the stars and and maybe even try to sell you some cards. I’m going to hold on to the naive idea that sharing some beautiful, joyful things somehow leaves a tiny bit less space for the evil, negative ones, I hope that’s ok? Just for now while we keep looking for answers to the bigger things?

My fuzzy picture and this superb one by James Kirby were taken on the last weekend in October when I dragged myself out of my nest, with a tin of warm-from- the- oven banana bread, to take part in a Halloween swim in Derwent Water organised by Suzanna Cruikshank . I didn’t know anyone taking part, I only knew Suzanna in the virtual world, it was cold and I’m shy but it was more than worth the effort. The jetty at Ashness was all decorated with fairy lights and tow floats with torches inside so it glowed beautifully as the light faded and we shivered in to our wetsuits . When it was really dark and everyone was ready we tiptoed in to the black water with our illuminated floats and glow sticks and swam out into smooth icy water. In the photographs there seems to be a woman with my colour hair and many, many chins, looking like an overstuffed inner tube but I have no idea who she was, I was too busy drifting in the dark being a polar bear or maybe a water spirit.  The Great Bear in the sky above us and the half moon in the trees towards Watendlath were the perfect finishing touches. I thought I’d be scared, too cold to use my hands or unable to keep up but the whole experience was quite gentle and atmospheric- much easier to forget about the DEEP and possible (probable) monsters, when you’re in the dark, quietly chatting to someone in full halloween makeup and a miniature top hat. I had such a good time and though I will never recognise the people I shared that experience with again ( face paint/pitch dark/ brain freeze)  I don’t think any of us will forget it. I suppose in its own way it was a kind of virtual reality chat room and joking aside there is something almost spiritual about being in those elements, in the dark – celebrating the change of seasons, and the beginning of winter.

Yesterday after 4 days of migraine ( not connected to the swim) and wondering if I might die in the night and be eaten by the cat, I stumbled up the lane to stand in the beck hoping the cold would do something to shift the headache- I think it did a bit but it might have been all the pills. Migraines really are peculiar things ( I’ve had cravings for cinnamon lately as well as Brinjal pickle sandwiches- symptom or cause?)  and the moment when you realise it’s leaving is such a relief that there is an almost manic burst of energy. I walked around the valley, being shouted at by a territorial wren who followed me for ages, hopping along the drystone wall beside the path. My camera ran out of batteries so I just stood and looked at all the fields striped and cross hatched with long diagonal shadows, the low sun painting the fells orange and sending all the craggy bits into high contrast, like an over edited Instagram filter. How to capture that in words or paint or pixels? I certainly don’t have the skills. Anyway, it felt amazing to be alive again so I made cards, lined cupboards doors with recipes from the Guardian, sawed some wood, wrote letters and listened to Northern Lights and the Book of Dust until late in to the night.

I’m pleased with the cards, they come in little boxes of 10 and are wintery rather than christmassy so hopefully much more versatile – I like cards that make you want to keep them, use them as bookmarks or tie them up in with ribbon in a box of secrets, not the sort chosen in haste and sent out of duty, just to be recycled in January. You can find these in the card section of my website.

I’ve been to post orders today ( including this handsome owl)  and changed my third wheel in just over a week. I think my car is testing my self reliance by waiting until Rupert is in Nepal before getting a puncture in 3 out of 4 tyres. It’s made me realise how important it is to know how to do these things and my blue curses and fury today were tempered by a little smug self confidence in my own abilities. Anyway, the novelty of my new skill has worn off now so unless F1 want give me a pit stop job I’ll be very happy never to have to change a wheel again thank you.

It’s been a rambling, mash up of a blog post and I don’t blame you if you left to put the kettle on hours ago. I think I have in mind the fact that 10years is a long time to be sending these musings out in to the world and the way I feel about it has changed, does change… ten Novembers, it’s not surprising really.

Enjoy November, its brittle days and long nights- time to read and listen and dream.

Reading : Hag -Seed – Margaret Atwood   Listening to : The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman

Leaning North

Cinnamon toast and a large mug of tea by the stove are my fuel for this bit of writing. It’s the last day of British Summer Time and at 4pm the fading light means I’m allowed to indulge my bear like nature doesn’t it? My nest is cozy; everything outside is leaning slightly to the right, to North, shaped by the prevailing wind that funnels down this valley. Leaves race past and collect in drifts or scratch at the window like Catherine Earnshaw’s ghost. I made myself go outside though, before building my den and I galloped down the valley in my clumpy boots with unbrushed hair, chased by swirling mist that poured through the gap on Robinson like milk. I should have taken a picture for you , I wish I could have painted it. Yesterday by contrast, was a day of such sparkling champagne light that it hardly seems like the same country !

Rupert is on an adventure in the Himalayas so I’m having to be extra self- motivated when it comes to my own outdoor adventures. Yesterday was easy, I packed a picnic, flask of strong coffee, my wetsuit and a sketchbook and set off to Scales Hill, Crummock Water because I’m greedy and I wanted Autumn trees, smooth swimmable water and mountain views ( all without having to walk uphill with a heavy rucksack). I walked and looked and breathed and braved a tiny dip (longer getting in and out of the wetsuit than in the water). I swam in little circles, using fallen leaves floating on the glassy surface as my markers, edging away from the shallows and trying not to think of the Great Deep; I wanted to float on my back to watch the clouds but October lake water in the ears isn’t nice and after the cold water hives thing at Rydal in the “summer” I’m very careful. After my swim I sat on the pebbly beach eating sandwiches, looking across at the boat house with Grasmoor looking enormous behind it and wondered if I would ever dare swim that far; then feeling that I should be less hard on myself  because I may not be a long distance swimmer or a Himalayan adventurer but after all  I have been up Grasmoor the hard way and been brave enough to get in to a bottomless lake, on my own in October.

Walking back to the car through the woods I suddenly thought, look at me, in all my outdoor gear, what’s happened?! Who am I? And then I saw my shadow and it was ok because as you can see, I’m actually still a bear…

Things have started to feel good in the work department, dare I say that? The exhibition n Grasmere was disappointingly quiet but I sold a print and made some good contacts, while the Exhibition in Shetland at Bonhoga Gallery ( part of Shetland Arts)  has already resulted in sales and lots of lovely comments online. The gallery is really beautiful and I’d never seen my work displayed so well… in that it was given space and light and not lost amongst all the other work, I felt like a real artist ( in times like these most independent shops and galleries need to use all their available wall and display space to maximise potential sales, so space, as in all things, is a luxury). It is interesting that almost all my online sales and commissions recently have come from Scotland and the Islands in particular; perhaps my love of the idea of North, however vague, really does come out in the work somehow?

The gallery staff at Bonhoga took this photograph of a hare lamp which made me very happy because I’d never actually seen one illuminated before and it does have an etherial, wintery feel to it whilst still feeling warm and cozy.

I’ve also been having some wonderful days in the bookshop in Grasmere; filling in on odd days and trying to avoid buying ALL the books. They are long days, especially with the drive, but so unlike any other work I’ve done in retail. Being in Grasmere there are some parts of it that are fairly unique, such as the customers wanting to know the best route up Helvellyn on a wet, foggy day, but there is a joy in solving a mystery for the person who says ” I don’t know the title or the author but…” or seeing all the kids during half term so keen to read real books, even in an age of Tablets and Kindles. Still, my book addiction needs to be controlled; I felt so guilty about spending money on a beautiful new Moomin book when the car needed fixing, that I didn’t unwrap it for a week. Anyway, the Library is now doing well out of me too and after agonising for ages I’ve chosen to listen to Phillip Pullman’s “The Book of Dust” on Audible rather than buying the hardback book. It will keep me company in the quiet house.

Now it is 6pm and the sky has changed through shades of bruise, made pastel by the low mist. There must have been a great sunset somewhere higher up but here it reminded me of  paint water- I had to leave you for a moment to stand on the doorstep in the eerie warm wind. Anyway, it’s taken me two hours to cobble this together, not counting the bits when I got up to put a log on the stove or put some supper in the oven. It’s time to draw the curtains against the night.

Reading: Hag Seed- Margaret Atwood    Listening to: The Book of Dust – Phillip Pullman (unabridged version) and ( in the car) Blue Aeroplanes “Your Ages”  , I’ve always loved this, it’s a painting in words..”in ten years everything will bleach to primer and we’ll lie in the light…”

Rumble Strip

 

It’s the perfect day for sitting under a blanket with coffee and a stash of biscuits, looking at more photogenic versions of Autumn than the one currently outside my window, all windlashed,rain sodden and dripping. As usual I uploaded the pictures days ago and then got distracted by stuff so that I’ve almost forgotten why I chose them. I also had to re-read my last post to remind myself of where things stood back then (September for goodness sake!).
Its a shame I got distracted because I know I chose this title and some of what I wanted to write about when I was walking alone on the fells this Tuesday which happened to be #WorldMentalHealthDay. I’d been reading this story  about the yoga teacher Michael Stone and trying to sort out all the tangled assumptions and conclusions I’d come to when I first read it; an initial thought that it is often those with insurmountable problems of their own who end up in professions where they are attempting to help others, physician heal thyself. His is a sad story of a struggle with mental illness that he felt he had to keep secret and my own lazy reaction, despite my own struggles with the black dog, proves that “Culturally, we don’t have enough language to talk about this. Rather than feel the shame and tragedy of it, can we find questions? … What can we do for ourselves and others who have impulses or behaviours we cannot understand?” (statement by relatives)

So, as I walked I thought about how we’re all just doing our best to navigate the waters and sometimes it’s really not that easy- or easy to own up to our crappy navigation skills. We’re little islands full of hopes, fears, dreams, histories and insecurities and we all deal with it differently. Rumble strip? Well you know when you go a bit off course on the motorway and there’s that bit that makes it feel as though the wheel’s about to fall off and jolts you into consciousness? I felt a bit like that last month and the rumbling told me that I needed to stop being quite so hard on myself for not being “The Most Successful Artist Ever” or “Having the perfect job that enables me to pay back the parents and bail out the kids” and take on board a bit of the new age bullshit… trying to be outdoors (a little bit) everyday, doing yoga, eating green things and writing honestly.

Meanwhile in the idyllic edited highlights of the year we went paddling over  a mirrored lake, so smooth that it was possible to feel vertigo as it appeared as though we were actually in the sky. The surface tension of the water held downy feathers, bone dry as if still falling through air and it seemed to curve up and away from us like the meniscus on an overfilled spirit measure. I did feel dizzy and being in the middle of the lake in the eerie stillness I had half a thought that Rupert might be planing to throw me in or what if the boat got a hole or what if it got foggy and we were lost, what if…? On the journey back from the pub it was almost dark and bats flittered about hunting, I hadn’t thought they would fly so far out over water. It felt like the last night of summer, like a night in a story and so in the dark, on the pebbly shore I jumped out of my clothes for a dip in the black water, giggling like a maniac.

Back on dry land the digital “painting” of the Jack Daw in the September blog post became a stencil for a print which will be at the Cumbria Printmakers/Cumbrian Sculptors “Poetic Vision“exhibition in Grasmere which opens on Sunday. It’s going to include some poetry chosen by the Wordsworth Trust and poetry readings. I’m really honoured that Polly Atkin allowed me to use her book title “Basic Nest Architecture” for this piece and will hopefully be reading from her poem Jack Daw.

After making my fingers very sore piercing and sewing the paper I have now found a proper tool for piercing holes which takes a bit of the pain away and makes the sewing part much more fun. I’ve got completely carried away on the more recent prints and it’s part of my new plan to make less work but to spend longer on each piece.

I found the perfect poem to go with this hare print, just a little too late to be included in the reading on the night but it will be credited on the print and in its title “The Leap From The Lea”  none the less, with kind permission. It is by the writer Dom Conlon, a Twitter connection and can be seen here 

Now you know the nights are drawing in and although it’s only 4.30 pm the weather has made it feel later. It’s time to make a cup of tea and bully the stove into life. It’s going to be a busy weekend and I’m really looking forward to it. Hopefully this little person will visit again at some point…

She is a Goldcrest, called Regulus regulus or King of Birds and I’ve never seen such a tiny little fairy bird in all my life. She banged her head on the window which is why she sat for long enough for me to grapple with my camera ( not long enough for me to learn how to focus obviously) but happily she was soon recovered and flew away.

Reading : Autumn by Ali Smith and this blog post  by Laura from Elsie & Nell which says a lot of what also I feel about the difficulties of being a small creative business.