Tag Archives: Art

Setbacks and Sideways Stars …

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Today I have spent quite a lot of time standing next to the wood stove with my hands on the tin kettle, trying to warm them up enough to type or attempt another cyanotype print. Cold paws are really upsetting when you want to do things with them other than cradle mugs of hot coffee or rest them on the smooth kettle which radiates heat like a warm, bald head. I know I should go outside and brave the icy wind and occasional snow flurry so that I feel warm in contrast on my return… but my outdoor motivator is in Scotland doing winter mountain things and, since I have the house to myself, the plan was to get a lot of work done. Cheerfully, this blog post is about work, vulnerability and failure… because I recently heard someone on the radio say something along the lines of ” Success teaches you nothing, failure is valuable because that is how you learn”.

love owls design by Kim Tillyer

Perhaps it’s something about January and February … all the muses are stubbornly hibernating and those over optimistic resolutions made in the warm flush of New Year seem forgotten, especially in the disturbing dawn of the Trump era. For a long time – as long as I’ve been keeping this blog/journal/thing – I’ve been conflicted about the need to present a jolly, polite, professional public face, so that I might sell work/get a job and pay bills, and the real desire to share the gritty, uncomfortable bits because they are real life, they are the “cracks that let the light in” according to Leonard Cohen. I’ve talked about it before… the fear of over sharing, of being to open, of being the one who doesn’t realise their skirt is tucked in their knickers until they get home from the party. Anyway this week I had the rare treat of spending a lot of time with other artists, in various real life, coffee -and -cake situations. Lots of talking and sharing, encouraging and admitting to hopes and fears as well as comparing the realities of working days and financial concerns lurking behind the forced grin of social media profiles. I also read this wonderful blog by The Pale Rook which I only hesitate to share because it’s so good you’ll probably forget to come back and read my jumbled offerings.

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Here are some of the things we asked ourselves (in the context of our creative practises) … if you had a million pounds to invest and guaranteed success, what would you choose to do? If you didn’t have to think about selling your work to make a living what kind of work would you make? Is it harder for women to be artists in a single minded way or are we hobbled by some weird domestic guilt that persists even though we can apparently “have it all”? and even the dreaded question “are you an artist?”

Well I didn’t say there were any answers but in having the conversations I reflected on how I feel about where I am at the moment. In a world where there is too much of everything (except peace and kindness) and a bombardment of visual images from all directions, is there room for me and is it important to have a message – are the “decorative arts” just as valid?

from the winter garden

And so to failure… in an upbeat way. Have you ever had a cup of Yogi tea? The teabags all have little words of wisdom on them and the one taped into my planner says “Share your strengths not your weaknesses” (which may contradict everything I just said but never mind this isn’t a dissertation) I’m writing this down so that I don’t forget this lesson … it is strength that takes you back to your work over and over again, despite setbacks and minor disasters; what makes artists weird and superhuman is that they don’t stop, and can’t even if they wanted too. What is visible to the outside world, whether it’s a masterpiece of modern art, a book of poems, a hand thrown pot or a greetings card with a sketchy fox on it, is only the tip of a huge iceberg. Under the surface are a thousand failures, experiments with technique, frustrated walks when the landscape seems to taunt you with your lack of ability to capture what you want to say. Days when the coffee tipped on the drawing board or, for me this week, when a whole batch of prints on fabric washed completely away for no apparent reason leaving me with cracked dry hands and a pile of soggy calico. A whole day’s work crumpled in the sink, a new idea potentially on the scrap heap. I beat myself up and feel like a useless creature, tell myself nobody else is as hopeless, look at other people’s beautiful flawless work and weep…  but the next day I’ll do it all again, solve the problem (a batch of calico with a coating of some sort that reacted with the cyanotype chemicals) and try to take heart from what I know to be true; it takes a kind stubborn courage to keep putting yourself through this. That is why creative people, in all disceplines, are a valuable asset to society, even when they keep odd hours or struggle with tax returns or appear to be constantly barking up the wrong tree …they are the ones who look at life sideways and glimpse the stars you can’t see if you look at them directly.

Jump for Joy Etsy Greetings C

And so, today instead of feeling guilty because I haven’t made a print or finished editing the catalogue for BCTF, or sold the week’s quota of cards on Etsy, I’m going to accept that sitting by the fire on a freezing Sunday in February is perfectly acceptable thing to do.

Reading:-“Swing Time” Zadie Smith ListeningTo: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett on Radio4.  Inspiring Websites: Two of the artists who I spent time with last week were Penny Hunt and Jane Carlisle Bellerby

 

A Week of Rainbows

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” this quotation from “Anne of Green Gables seemed like the perfect opening line as I sit here musing about Autumn and October for the 9th year of writing this blog. The week began with the most perfect Autumn days, the kind that leave you with that chilly, fresh, energised feeling that I’ve only experienced before after emerging from a perfect swim in cold water… or a certain kind of bubbling, chemical induced excitement which I’ll pretend I’ve only read about. The air feels and smells different and it’s quieter here now that the summer is over; it’s a golden time before the winter begins. I’ve been taking stock, looking back at previous Octobers and thinking about the future.

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The week was especially special because I had a pretty magical day out with my son. Normally whenever Jake visits me here in the Lakes it’s raining but this time it was warm and fizzy with light and colour. We drove over to Ullswater and Aira Force which I’d never seen before; it was beautiful – beams of sunlight through amber ale coloured pools, diamond droplets caught on moss and shifting rainbows hovering above the falls. There were also lots of acorns which I find it hard to resist childishly stuffing my pockets with when I’m out walking, but Jake told me I had to leave them for the squirrels (who were sensibly hiding from the tourists).

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Ae well as wandering about constantly marvelling at the wonder of this place I’ve found myself living in I’ve been busy preparing work for a couple of really lovely galleries and their winter exhibitions. A set of cyanotypes with embroidered details- including this owl- went of to Emporium Gallery in Lichfield last week and tomorrow I’m off to the big city of Lancaster to deliver work to Arteria for their Hygge exhibition. As my  three month stint as guest artist at Cherrydidi in Keswick comes to an end I’m hoping to fill the gaps by really concentrating on my online shops which now include Artfinder for framed and mounted originals.

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Now, the cat is beaming messages at me about something ( probably biscuits) and Rupert has suggested I meet him from his cycle ride at Crummock Water with the wetsuits so I’ll reluctantly leave you for now (and next time I’ll let you know whether swimming in a northern lake after sunset in October was a good idea… it doesn’t feel tempting from my cozy velvet cushioned nest just now). x

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Listening to : Actually I couldn’t listen in case I got cross but I sent an e-mail which was read out on this radio programme about evictions. I also listened ( and danced about) live to the Carl Cox session from the closing event at Space which felt odd , alone in my house but connected by the magic of internet!

Honesty, Owls and the value of things.

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I’m back in my box room nest with a mug of freshly brewed coffee, while the autumn wind shakes the Sycamore tree outside the window. I’ve been in that edgy, change of seasons mood lately; not sleeping well, writing whole novels in my head in the small hours, only to forget that perfect opening sentence and the motivation to capture it,  as soon as I’m properly awake. An owl has been calling in the branch right outside the bedroom and I imagine that it could look in through the arrow slit windows and see me, sleepless and lost in a world of memories, half baked plans and good intentions. I hear it screeching “terrrr-wit” and wait for the answering whispery “hoooo” that sounds as if it could be coming from right next to me, perched on the headboard like in Mr Magnolia by Quentin Blake.

mug by Witchmountain

The fells seemed to turn burnt umber overnight, the air is spicy with autumn scents and my favourite time of year in the Lake District has begun. The only thing I’m missing is the long days that meant there was time to swim after work; as it is we are wondering how long we will be brave enough to brave the cold water (or more importantly the cold wind on the shore as you try to struggle out of your wetsuit in a polite but speedy manner, stumbling about, bent double,often hobbled at the ankles by skin tight neoprene.) It’s ok once you’re in though and I’ve become a big fan of swimming in the rain when the water becomes spiky and textured like sparkling Artex and the raindrops momentarily stay on the surface like little pearls.  I want to be able to paint it, or film it or capture it somehow so I can show you.

Honesty

Back in the “studio”  I’ve been busy getting things ready for a couple of exhibitions. Unsold work has been returned safely and sold work has been invoiced, allowing me to realise that I have made the basic error of royally ripping myself off by paying too much for framing and not charging enough to allow for gallery commission – which in some cases is over 50%. One piece which sold for £175 actually earned me £6 after all expenses!  I am not a businesswoman obsessed with making a fortune but I’m learning the hard way and after discussing this over and over again with other artists and makers the conclusion is always the same… just because we can’t afford the art/craft we love, it doesn’t mean we should devalue our own. A good friend of mine makes beautiful mosaic birds…she cuts the wooden bird silhouette, uses hand picked and cut fragments (often rare glass with precious metals), grouts, seals and adds hanging hooks. Each bird is beautiful, unique and  takes at least a day and a half to make… what is a fair price? We are so used to things being “affordable” by which we usually mean mass produced by low paid workers in other countries, that even in the gift shop where I work I regularly hear people muttering that something is too expensive when it is really a very fairly priced item, mass produced in England! We seem to have lost sight of “value” in anything other than monetary terms. I’m not sure what the answer is.

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Well I do apologise for getting on my soap box as usual, I could tie myself in knots and, being over sensitive and ridiculously passionate I’m likely to slip on the soap and fall flat on my face.  Better to keep stitching and muddling through.

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Well, its almost time to go hunting in the kitchen for supper and in the hope that Rupert has decided to bake something fabulous to fatten us up for winter. The oven fused all the house electrics last week so we spent last night on the floor with our heads in the oven, fitting a new element and feeling pretty smug about being able to mend stuff. It took two people though, not like the instruction video on Youtube and I felt as though I was channeling Sylvia Plath at one point but honestly, how did people ever know how to do anything before the internet?

velvet owl cushion by Kim Tillyer

I’ve just found out about an exhibition inspired by Alan Garner’s “the Owl Service” book and had just listed this cushion called “She wants to be flowers” in my Etsy shop. It is definitely one of my very favourite books, written in the year I was born, so I’ll be making every effort to visit the exhibition as well as Blackden House. Thanks to Natalie for the information.

Until next time, a belated happy autumn equinox to you all where ever you may be. x

Buttermere sunset

“September’s coming soon, pining for the moon…”

Towaards Blencathra and Skiddaw

“Nourish yourself with grand and austere ideas of beauty that feed the soul… Seek solitude,”  Delacroix.                                                                                          I’ve been wondering what exactly is keeping me from writing more frequently….or making new work for that matter and I can only assume it must be that I now have company in my rural idyll. Solitude is important to many creative people and even though I still have loads of time to myself, only work part time in the day job and have my own small space to retreat to, the balance has shifted now that Rupert is also living and working here. I’m spending less time wandering lonely as a cloud and more time going on mini adventures together after work; more importantly for the writing of this blog, I’m not sitting up all night drinking shed loads of coffee alone with the radio (actually its never been the same since Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour got moved to daytime; I blame the BBC). I must find a new routine and the discipline to go with it because the reality of  living in a draughty barn is that it’s much nicer when there’s company.

rainbow over Crummock Water

Daily routine and self motivation when you’re self employed is a subject that fascinates me because to the outside world it can look like you’re doing nothing and achieving even less… the idea of “working from home” often being a euphemism for laziness or sitting around in your pyjamas. I enjoyed the series of essays in the Guardian called “My Writing Day” which gave an insight into how successful writers actually get stuff done. In contrast my writing “day” means I uploaded the pictures for this post last week, started writing it, got distracted, had to go to work, had house guests and now a week later I have spent most of today looking at the rain, sorting old clothes for the charity shop, half starting an order for a gallery and suddenly deciding to spring clean the bathroom while my computer sits forlorn and resentful next to a pile of neatly cut out prints and calico squares for covering notebooks ( I am dressed though). I assume I’m not alone in behaving like this but it’s hard to tell when you’re halfway up a mountain and only have social media to compare notes with.

Home in the Woods Kim Tillyer

The summer seems to be flying by and some of the exhibitions I’ve been showing work in are almost over before I’ve had a chance to tell you about them. Despite all that  I lost when I was forced to move I have to admit that this year has opened up so many opportunities for me. Until early September you can find these two pieces (and more) in the Byard Gallery, opposite Kings College in Cambridge!  (when I was small I once accompanied my dad on a day trip to Cambridge where he was showing work at the Hobson Gallery; I remember telling him I planned to go to Cambridge, meaning the University of course but this almost makes up for my turning out to be more of a drop out than a high flyer!). There are also prints and jewellery in the Leeds Craft and Design Centre, cards and notebooks in the Leaping Hare Gallery, Easingwold and of course Cherrydidi in Keswick who have a small selection of eveything.

Lakeland Garden Kim Tillyer

A couple of weeks ago I ran my second cyanotype workshop at the Greystoke Cycle Cafe. I have to admit I was dreading it as the forecast was for horrible weather and the forecast was right, it was dark and wet. In the end though, and looking back, I really enjoyed it- and so did they I hope. We managed to make loads of really lovely prints even in low light and with only a very small exposure unit between eight people; braving the weather to rinse prints under a gazebo with a hosepipe. Sometimes it feels a bit mad to be telling people how you make your work but it’s been so satisfying to have students get in touch with images of things they’ve made since the course and know that they were inspired and excited by what they learnt. One of my students was an artist called Tracey Escolme who makes paper cuts, she is part of next month’s C-Art if you are in Cumbria during September. A few people have asked if I’m doing any more courses and I’m hoping Annie will ask me back next summer; I’m also thinking about maybe doing some small half days here (mostly as an excuse to make coffee and cake) so do get in touch if you’d like to be added to a possible list of participants.

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Have you noticed how I’ve been really good and not mentioned swimming? Well I have to just a little because I was pretty brave the other day and swam with Rupert to a little island on Derwent Water called Otterbield Island. Its not far and I won’t be qualifying for the Olympics but it was a small breakthrough in distance and conquering fear- the vertigo of swimming in bottomless dark water. I felt a bit tired and slightly panicky at one point and had to rest on my tow float (I got it for this reason because it allows me a moment to pause and have a word with myself as well as making sure the launch doesn’t run us down) but the water was mirror smooth and the evening was perfect, sunset and moonrise and “Nightswimming” by REM in my head. I also had a fun swim in the River Avon at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire, with my daughter recently… very different to Lake swimming and one of the best days I’ve had for ages.; a miniature holiday that felt very special.

Wistful in the mountains!

Anyway, the day today is not conducive to swimming today and it’s almost time for tea so I’m going to do a spot of baking and build some extra layers of insulating blubber for my next outing! Here is a rare self portrait of me pondering solitude and creativity by the water a few weeks ago.

Reading:- “The Gap of Time” Jeanette Winterson  Listening To:- Nightswimming REM

“Just put your feet down child, the water is only waist high, I’ll let go of you gently, then you can swim to me.”

kitchen studio

I made myself a nest of velvet pillows, a strong coffee and promised I’d write while it rains the now customary July deluge outside. I think it’s probably been the longest gap in my blog posts since I began 8 years ago but at least this gap has been a relatively good one and not caused by rotten boyfriends or evil landowners.  Since April I have been in a strange place… simultaneously showered with positive comments and opportunities, whilst wracked with a deeper than ever lack of self belief and confidence. No sooner had I returned from British Trade Craft Fair with a book full of contacts and exhibition offers then I panicked and started looking for part time work, any work that was regular REAL work. I think it’s called Imposter Syndrome and it’s very common apparently, especially amongst us over sensitive “arty types”! Anyway, I ended up with a part time job at the Herdy Shop, some regular stockists for my work, some exhibitions and even occasional workshop teaching, so of course I’ve been rushed off my feet and become rich beyond my wildest dreams. That’s a lie, I’ve been pinned to my chair by inertia on the days I don’t work at the shop and bursting with frustrated creative energy on the days that I do; well I’ve always been a fickle creature. On balance though I have to say things have been moving slowly in the right direction since BCTF and really ever since moving to the Lakes. Things have been happening and nothing has stayed the same which is probably why I’m not always comfortable… I’ve been compared to a limpet, hard to shift from the security of my “home scar”.

cyanotype by Kim Tillyer

There is a little house on the side of Cat Bells which looks from a distance as though it is totally isolated and empty; in fact it’s quite hard to see, framed by trees and slate grey like the mountainside (not like this little white cottage of my imagination). I wonder who lives there… more than anything else I imagine myself living there as I do with lots of the idyllic places here in the Lake District. A home, a place to dig and plant and light a stove for bread and coffee. It makes me sad to see empty places and the culture of property as investment, I’m a romantic idealist with no understanding of economics which is probably why I will never own my own home and will always wish I did.

 

Needlefelt sheep by Kim TillyerThe best investment I’ve made this year was made on a muggy day in May when I had been feeling really low and anxious about returning to Osmotherley for Art in the Shed. Rupert was driving us through Ambleside when on an impulse I demanded we stop and look in the outdoor swimming shop and maybe find out about wetsuits. Before I knew what was happening we were stripped off and being politely squeezed into black rubbery suits in the tiny warm shop and trying not to panic (I’ve been trapped in changing rooms before unable to extricate myself from a too tight top so I was wary). Rupert, being shy, left his shirt on which gave the bizarre impression that his wetsuit had a collar and was maybe a little more formal than mine. Anyway, Pete from “Swim the Lakes” was wonderful and patient while we giggled and struggled and we left the shop £300 lighter with two big pizza style boxes containing our shiny new wetsuits and that giddy feeling when you’ve done something a bit naughty.

It was over a week before we finally got to immerse the wetsuits for the first time (Art in the Shed turned out to be a great success and I was reminded -though I never really forget -how important my old friends are to me and that community of supportive women that I miss so much in my new life.) We were cautious, I’m the kind of person who swims at the edge of the pool and still worries that someone may release sharks through the air vents (blame James Bond and several bad swimming instructors in the the 1970s) The moored boats which looked so close suddenly seemed miles away. Swimming in the open air is so different … everything is moving around you, clouds, trees in the wind, ripples on the surface and it feels as though you’re not getting anywhere; only the mountains stand still. The wetsuits give you a strange buoyancy and it took me a while to realise that the best thing to do was relax, slow right down and just enjoy the sensuality of it, I’m doing it for pleasure not sport. Kelly Kettle tea and Digestive biscuits are part of the deal, taking part in triathlons is not.

swimming in Bassenthwaite

Since the first tentative dip I am slowly gaining a little confidence. I’m not particularly fit and I’d like to be before I risk swimming too far but it is the test of mental strength that interests me more. In Loughrigg Tarn the shady bank, warm, silty mud and waving tendrils of water plants initially worried me …what is below me? what if I can’t touch the bottom? What if a swan gets angry? Fear of the unknown, of the dark, of trusting in your own abilities. It’s a kind of vertigo and the only way I can deal with it is to concentrate on what I see above the water… I am surrounded by water lilies, yellow flag irises and reeds with clumps of slimy eggs like frog spawn (water snail? fish?). I am Ophelia in a Pre-Raphaelite painting,  I’m no longer a dumpy middle aged woman in unflattering Neoprene. The water is holding me up and I swim further than before. In Blea Tarn we swam in the rain, mesmerized by the patterns of concentric circles as the raindrops fell. It felt ancient as though something from the ice age could still be lurking and I could feel the stroke of soft weeds on my ankles.  Suddenly Rupert stood up, the water wasn’t as deep as I had thought, the comedy of it lost as he told me the rock we had been aiming for was actually a drowned calf! Still it was exhilarating and somehow all the better for the rain.

infinity pool, Lake District

And so, before you run away because you really didn’t want to read about swimming, here is the reservoir above the house (I’m not sure if you’re allowed to swim really but its our drinking water so…). Icy cold infinity pool and deeper than anything. I have walked past it when the surface was crystallizing to ice before my eyes and it was deep in the shadow of the fells but conquering my fear and swimming across its bottomless depths has been a real achievement for me. The picture below was taken by James from Cumbria House B&B in Keswick. He and Ruth joined us one afternoon for the comedy of “changing into wetsuits in public without revealing your bum”. I was again transformed into a small black pudding while Ruth actually does look like a Pre-Raphaelite painting and is the most lovely person. making me feel welcome when I first came here and knew nobody.

Swimming, picture by Ruth Burgess, Cumbria House B&B

Well, I’ve managed to spend all day pondering over this writing, no wonder I don’t do it very often, it’s time to cook and make more coffee. I promise I will write again soon with an update on exhibitions and stockists and arty things and I (probably) won’t mention water once…

Reading: “Dip” by Andrew Fusek Peters    Listening To:   “The Fog” Kate Bush

British Craft Trade Fair 2016

Newlands Valley blossom

I feel as though I’ve been caught in a time warp, it doesn’t seem possible that just a week ago I was setting off across the country, full of nerves and excitement, my poor old car packed to the roof with work and stand props. The British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate has been a background preoccupation and worry for the past 2 years  (ever since I had to postpone taking part due to the house trauma) and it seems unreal that it’s now over and actually the real work is only just beginning. I imagine I’m feeling a little bit like a couple returning from their expensive wedding and honeymoon; so much planning and heaps of money just for one special event but it’s what happens next that really matters. I had a fantastic time pretending to be Agatha Christie in the Old Swan but it feels so good to be back on the mountain after an emotional return to North Yorkshire. We are a little behind with the seasons, Hawthorne and Sycamore buds are still only just emerging, Daffodils are at their Wordsworthian peak with Bluebell spears poised to take their place. It all has the air of something about to burst… a little sunny nudge and the whole thing will be freewheeling towards summer abundance.

setting up at British Craft Trade Fair

There is so much I want to say about the experience of BCTF, I haven’t yet worked out exactly how much it cost but I will let you know in a future post because I think might be really useful if anyone was thinking of doing a trade show. I really wish I had done it sooner… within a year or two of graduating, mostly because it has been a really useful lesson in planning, pricing, logistics and PR. It was a massive relief that the calico panels fitted the space (after a tiny adjustment to the wooden rods with a borrowed hacksaw) and everything looked almost as I had imagined it. I was envious of some of the more minimalist stands, they looked so slick and professional but overall I was very happy and relieved. It took 3 hours to set up and one to break it all down again!

Kim Tillyer stand N27 British Trade Craft Fair 2016

My glamorous and wonderful assistant Sara was totally invaluable. I really couldn’t have done it without her (partly because my hips kept seizing up so I could hardly move after 7 hours of standing with a clip board). Sara kept me straight when I drifted in to typical artist “down talk”, reminding me that the work was was unique and perfectionist not experimental and “hit and miss”; she also correctly predicted the winner of the “Wow Factor” award, another CCAD graduate Joanna Coupland .We met so many interesting people and agreed that being a buyer or a trend forecaster must be a great job.

Sara Tillyer Smith at British Trade Craft Fair

The list of artists and makers that we met and whose work we fell in love with is too long to mention, I’ll list a few at the end, but the whole event reinforced my passionate belief that the skills and talents of these people should be celebrated and nurtured. Many artists and makers rely on the sale of cards for example, while they wait for the bigger pieces to sell, galleries too, which is why the Just a Card campaign is such a good idea. We don’t need a world full of mass produced cheap crap, we need fewer but more beautifully made things and an education system that values the arts and the contribution art and craft makes to society.

greetings card display

The wall I was most pleased with was my card wall with embroidered details and a quote from Haruki Murakami. I love receiving real handwritten letters (nice ones not upsetting ones) and it seems that the greetings card is not dead; people still spend money on lovely cards to keep or send.  I was hoping the show would push me in one direction or another but in the end there was interest in ALL the products from original framed pieces to mugs and velvet cushions so after this I’m off to continue following up the contacts I made, evaluating all the feedback and making a start on some new cyanotypes and drawings.

witchmountain stand N27

Thank you so much to everyone who visited the stand or sent good wishes from afar. It’s been wonderful to meet so many people and talk non stop for 4 days – a complete contrast to where I sit now, listening to the buzzards circling above the valley… and an owl just then… oh and the sun is just breaking through.

Some of my my lovely stand neighbours :

Melissa Yarlett– gorgeous jewellery inspired by mosses and lichens             Stephanie Hopkins – copper bowls and jewellery ( award winner at the show)  Holly Argyll – Bright, quirky illustrations on textiles and giftware                       Katie Edwards – Fellow member of Cumbria Printmakers

“Hang up your chairs to better sweep, Clear the floor to dance…”

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It is a lovely feeling to clear the table and tidy up at the end of a long project. Apart from a few last minute finishing off jobs, yet another lost delivery (hint to van  drivers…use a map not satnav when looking for barns in the middle of nowhere) and a painfully slow internet, I’m all packed and ready to set up for BCTF on Saturday. Ok, we have run out of heating oil, I melted my printer, blew up the hoover and the power’s due to go off at any minute but it still feels good to be able to say, “I’m ready… as ready as I’ll ever be”. The kettle is on the stove and I’m going to have a gallon of tea and maybe even make some scones for old times sake (before the power goes off!).

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On Friday I’ll be heading back to North Yorkshire for the first time in over a year, hoping it feels more friendly than when I left it. It will also be the first time I’ve spent much time in Harrogate since I lived there when I first left home, for a rather disastrous foundation year at Harrogate School of Art. Sara is coming up to be my assistant so we are combining it with a kind of belated/early birthday treat and staying in the hotel that Agatha Christie stayed in when she went missing in 1926. Originally I was going to camp in the van on the showground but decided to make a holiday of it. I hope they let me in with a ruck sack as I seem to have mislaid all my monogrammed luggage and hatboxes.

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Preparing for this event has been an all consuming preoccupation since I first had to postpone taking part last year but, even if it’s not a huge financial success, I do feel as though I’ve learnt so much from it already and it has certainly focused the way I work. No doubt I will come back next week with plenty of new ideas and information and it will certainly make a change from sitting here watching the woodpeckers and chatting to the cat. One of the things I’ve discovered is that many of the odd things I have needed can be found and supplied by small quirky, local shops and businesses and I’ve really made an effort to do this, particularly following the floods of 2015.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’m currently multi tasking by sitting on hold to an EE call centre who are trying to work out why the internet keeps going off… they don’t believe me when I tell them it’s because the wire from Braithwaite keeps getting wet.  I will let you know how BCTF went next time I write and if  you’re visiting the show don’t forget I’ll be on stand N27…also Good Luck to all the other amazing artists and crafts people taking part, I hope it’s a big success.