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.

Introspection and Indiscretions

Mid September and I’m trying to be still, to take stock of the year so far and also recognise how far have I come from that sunny September day (3 years today) when my life was turned upside down by a chance remark – and how far I have yet to go towards accepting my new reality. A recent spur of the moment decision to visit family and friends at “home” in Yorkshire left me with a terrible feeling of not belonging anywhere (yet) – old friends were away and too much had changed. I walked around Town like a deer in the hunting season, all full of adreneline, in case I should see Enemies (at one point retreating to my car for a few tears and the coffee I’d hastily tipped into a flask to escape the loneliness of a window seat for one). It’s pretty hard for people to understand because on the face of it life here in the Lakes is pretty bloody idyllic and I can’t argue with the fact that the enforced change has opened doors to exciting places and brought unimagined new joys … but thats not the point, it wasn’t my free choice to leave at that time. The prodded, still raw, emotions made me overflow with empathy for displaced people everywhere and wish more than anything that I could be of use somehow.In Costa, where the only newspapers were the Daily Mail and the Sun I felt like an outsider, even me with my privileged, white, middle class cappuccino, wondering how much worse it would feel to be a refugee or asylum seeker. Homesick for a place that no longer exists. I try to raise money for charities like Shelterbox but it doesn’t seem enough; one bleeding heart idealist giving the odd tenner, however it is an amazing thing they do, so if my brief wallow in the past informs one person about their work then that’s good isn’t it? ( theres also a very neglected post on my Facebook Page which has some things for sale to raise money for them)

And so the colour palette changes again – hot pink, steel grey, purple blacks, russet and velvet brown-  and I wish and wish I was a painter – or at least was able to express what I feel and see in some satisfying way. The Rosebay Willow Herb has climbed to the top of its stems and the last few magenta flowers are held above downy clouds of seed feathers, bright memories of a summer that seemed to be over before it had started. The joyful discovery of this summer was swimming without a wetsuit ( the wetsuit gives me floaty legs and I end up in a skydiving position with a crick in my neck – I’m really not a good swimmer!) and I can hardly believe that this picture, taken just a few weeks ago was probably the last one before next spring. There’s been so much rain that all the water temperatures have dropped and since I do it so infrequently there’s no chance to get acclimatised to the cold like some of the real swimmers are. Still, I might give it a go and I’m hoping one day to get  some tips from local swimming guru  Susanna Cruikshank who has just set up a new business as a swim guide and might help me progress from being a head up dipper to someone who can swim more than 25 metres without getting hiccoughs. (EDIT we went and swam in Ullswater last night as I was half way through writing this and I got in again for a moment or two after the wetsuit bit – it was chilly but bliss).

Continuing to assess the year;  as far as work goes I’ve been up and down and round in circles and back up again. Sometimes things have worked really well and I feel quite surprised at myself; the digitally doodled Jackdaw I drew the other night for example or this hare print which is now a lamp, heading to Shetland, Bonhoga Gallery  next week. Other times I feel so cross with the whole thing I just wish I could get a regular job as a gardener or bake cakes for a living- everybody likes cake and gardens never stop growing but people don’t always NEED a card or a piece of art, its undoubtably a luxury. I was really excited by the response to the “Just A Card Blog” interview I did earlier in the month, it had been a bit of an ambition to get some nice exposure and help promote their campaign message. On Twitter at least, I felt briefly famous and successful … it’s only when I tell you that barely 3 people looked at my website because of it and there were no extra sales that you start to realise that our social media bubbles are like a hall of mirrors, reflecting distorted versions of your own thoughts back at you … the brutal reality is we need to reach customers not just other creatives.

Its also vital that people realise why work is priced as it is – I’m probably being terribly indiscreet and unbusinesslike ( what’s new) but 0n Saturday at a wonderful open studio in the Eden Valley I got into discussion with a visitor who praised my work but said it was “too expensive” in her opinion. I’ve said it so many times, and I know I’m preaching to the converted because you’re here reading this, so you probably understand, but listen – a piece of art or anything you see in any shop probably has at least a 50% mark up (shops and galleries have bills to pay too) that means that if you half the price of a print which retails at  £70 you’re left with £35 from which to take the cost of materials (the paper alone can be about £6 a sheet), time, framing or mounting and all the other expenses ( including the years of learning the technique, making preliminary sketches, thinking and planning). Nobody’s getting rich quick like that.Having said that we recently walked in on a customer in an outdoor equipment shop rudely accusing the staff of  “just wanting to make money like all the other shops in this town” which was pretty crazy when you think about it, so maybe its not jus a problem in the creative industries.

September 28th has been planned as #JustACard Day ; a chance to really spread the word about the importance of even apparently small sales to keeping independent shops thriving in our high streets and supporting artists and makers – if only by spreading more understanding of the issues around this kind of business. There are a few ways to get involved so do follow the link and see what it’s all about.

I almost lost my nerve a bit while thinking about what to write this time. There is a strong case for the whole “keeping up appearances/positivity attracts positivity/you’re in business so don’t be so open” school of thought but actually I’m bored with that kind of dishonesty; the extreme end of which is “fake news” and other evils of these unsettling Trumpian Times. Anyway, it is what it is and I’ll end by singing about the good things… the walks in the now familiar fells (who have shaken the moths out of their brown velvet coats and scented them with woodsmoke), the postman arriving with surprise, unsolicited book gifts, the re-discovery of yoga ( yeah, like the rest of the world we’re rolling around on the carpet most days trying to follow Adriene Mishler videos without falling over or getting attacked by the cat or distracted by the mousetrap going off) , the excitement of new exhibition plans with Cumbria Printmakers. It’s not Utopia but sometimes when you’re standing up as tall as you can on top of a hill and pretending to be a mountain it gets pretty close. x

Reading: ” A Pocketful of Crows” Joanne Harris (one of those happy moments when social media works as it should and the lovely @likewinterblue from Sam Read Booksellers, Grasmere sent me a surprise pre-publication proof after seeing that it was on my wish list. Some people are just friendly and kind and that makes up for the rest!)  I’m loving it and making it last longer by also reading “The Ladies of Grace Adieu” by Susanna Clarke.

Listening to: owls and there deepening breath ( ha ha! not really I’m just trying to get in the yoga mood)

Edge of Autumn

Nothing specific happens but it suddenly doesn’t feel like summer anymore; an awareness of the tiny changes in the smell of the air or the particular shades of green seems to awaken some ancient instinct to begin baking cakes with cinnamon, checking the store cupboards and worrying about logs (* I started writing this post about 2 weeks ago now so the logs have been delivered and stacked; one thing less to worry about).  You imagine August to be all sunny corn fields, blue skies and ice creams on the beach but it seems more often to be jungly shades of Hookers Green as the shoulder high bracken completes its takeover of the fells and the trees balance darkly on the edge of Autumn. It feels like the moment when you just can’t wait to get the decorations down and clear up after Christmas- anticipating the new season and the fresh inspiration it might bring.  Now, a couple of weeks since I initially started  this post, you can definitely see the first russet tones creeping over the green brackeny slopes … like the roots starting to show through on dyed hair ( I pinched that line from Rupert who has been fretting about the weather after a summer spent getting wet and drying out soggy tents with bunches of NCS kids). The cusp of a changing season is such a special time and as I write I’m hoping for a bright crisp Autumn full of rich colour and clear skies, an excuse to bake comfort food and the smell of woodsmoke and fallen leaves.

I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to complete this post; I can only put it down to a massive bout of inertia ( and some truly evil migraines) that arrived as soon as I got back from Skipton Art in the Pen… suddenly there was a gap in deadlines and I had a bit of a dip in confidence and motivation- despite both shows combined being a big success. I had some really interesting conversations with people visiting my pen, including several people who immediately “got” the references and shared the same passion for bears, and the stories associated with them, The Owl Service by Alan Garner and even one person who noted a Japanese influence (which I initially denied before remembering my obsession with Haruki Murakami novels). It was also really wonderful to spend time with other artists and makers, particularly Penny Hunt (whose beautiful Yorkshire Dales house I stayed at), Debbie Yare and Hester Cox  – working in isolation, it is always such a relief to realise that we all share many of the same doubts, fears and joys that come with this job ( and life in general). I had a LOT of people asking me HOW I made my work  (or explaining to each other without asking) and it’s taken me these past few weeks to organise how I feel about that … being naturally super friendly, approachable ( I hope you’ll agree) and (a little too) open,  it seemed rude not to share- and I did, in detail- but the more I was asked the more I wanted to say… but it’s just a technique, don’t you like what I did with it? Did you notice the drawing and careful composition? You wouldn’t ask a painter how they made a painting or walk in to a cafe and ask for the recipe to their most popular dish without even ordering a coffee  Sometimes I spent ages explaining after which the visitor declared they would order the chemicals online and try it themselves before walking off without even buying a card (of this more later). I LOVE sharing what I do, including how and why, but from now on I will be trying to be a little more businesslike and promoting workshops… if you want to learn about cyanotype, get in touch ( there will be cake).

I was really excited, on my return, to find an e-mail inviting me to be interviewed for the Just A Card blog. You might have noticed me going on about the campaign at various events, and on here, ever since I first heard about it, in 2014. It aims to raise awareness of the difference that we can all make by choosing to support independent shops, artists and makers by making even small purchases, such as greetings cards, which help keep people in business. Certainly most of my income over the weekend at Skipton was earned by selling cards…sometimes just one , but each one carefully chosen by the customer and each sale so very important to me. The combined card sales meant I could come home knowing I had made enough profit and would be able to continue doing what I love.

You can read my interview on the Just a Card blog on September 1st. Let me know what you think.

Hmmm, I’m sitting here trying to choose pictures to illustrate this post and getting cross because my silly iPhone photo-stream won’t synch with my laptop. This means I can’t share the picture of  a fairytale swim I had this week. It also shows how annoying technology can be…except that I’m currently in love with my new Wacom pen and tablet which has reawakened my love of sketching and doodling and just playing with colours and lines and the stories in my head. As someone who loves simple, real things, bakes their own bread and likes to make jam, it feels a little wrong to be spending so much time with a “pretend” sketchbook when I could be using real paints and any of the gorgeous materials I have stockpiled since childhood. Is it cheating? Or is it playing and enjoying mark making ( which is the first thing they make you do at art school) ? Either way I’m having fun and it makes things much easier than my ham fisted drawing with a normal mouse or trackpad.

Now I’m being told my battery is low, it’s 3 o’clock and I promised myself I’d walk down the lane to see if there were any blackberries. As usual I want to write more and I’ve left it too long between posts so I think I’m going to leave this one here and try to be more disciplined about writing in future. I need to tell you about that swim and the cold water hives episode and the absolute joy of it all.

If you subscribe to my website newsletter you will have got a message about this month’s shop discount code and the fact that I’m donating a percentage of all web sales this month to Shelterbox who provide practical  help in disaster zones and areas of conflict. Home and “shelter” are subjects close to my heart so please take a look at what they do.

Until next time x


Reading :    “The Remains of the Day”  Kazuo Ishiguro   Listening to: My treat this moth has been to subscribe to Audible so I’m currently 7 hours in to the 19 of Kafka on the Shore byHaruki Murakami.I listen to it in the bath while practicing my underwater swimming technique!