Tag Archives: Autumn

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!




White Horses


This week I am practicing the philosophy and art of hygge, or gezellig if you want an even harder word to pronounce, because its definitely Autumn now and the average temperature in this house during the day (even with the stove on) is 16-18℃. I’m creating the illusion of warmth and coziness by building a nest in my little room and wrapping up in a friendly old, orange wool blanket.It’s silly that my fingers are so cold and it’s not even winter yet but I can warm them up by slipping my hands under the laptop, which is on my knee like a hot water bottle.

I’ve been driven a little bit mad by technology lately and the fact that I now have a computer that is so out of date the browser won’t even load Wikipedia (I’m keeping my fingers crossed WordPress stays as it is) and an iPhone with a splodgy camera lens and a battery life shorter than a goldfish’s memory (since it updated to ios10 it lasts about an hour). These are actually tools of my trade so I really need to think about investing in replacements but built in obsolescence infuriates me; constant software upgrades and “improvements” never seem to be worth it and always seem like a plot to force sales but maybe I’m the problem; reaching a point where I’m resistant to change and all fuzzy in the head from lack of brain stimulation. The thought of setting up a new computer makes me feel exhausted so I struggle on with Hot-water-bottle-Mac and Goldfish Phone and may as well be using a Box Brownie and a ZX81…besides I can’t afford it just now.


After I finished writing the last blog post I was so wide awake that I ended up watching old TV programmes on You Tube (which I never do) until 3am, before reading in bed until 4. The thing I watched was “The Moon Stallion” which was a BBC childrens’ TV series from 1978. I was on my own in the house that night, curled up by the fire watching something from my childhood- ultimate gezellig. I was struck by how much it had affected me at the time – when I was 11 and living in Wiltshire not far from the places in the story. It was slightly spooky. I think I was terribly serious and geeky about it when I was 11 which must have been either funny or annoying for my family, so watching it now I cringed a little in memory of my younger self and I wondered how a child of 11 would feel about it today; apart from a slightly cheesy fight scene it had aged quite well and will always be important to me, perhaps because it was part of  a year that marked the almost imperceptible “beginning of the end” of childhood. I remember being taken to see the White Horse at Uffington and Wayland’s Smithy and frightening myself by trying to climb the steep grassy banks… it’s an amazing place where it’s easy to believe in magic. I’ve been back several times over the years and even took my children there, one hot summer day, to spin around 3 times in the horse’s eye (don’t tell English Heritage).


You can see a little etching I did from around about that time in this post from 2012. I can see the etching from where I sit and the house does look so much like “home”.

Meanwhile in another century a woman on the cusp of 50 draws galloping white horses and lonely bears surrounded by papery flowers and wonders where the time went. You can see a little etching I did from around about that time in this post from 2012. I can see the etching from where I sit and the


I’ve been slowly adding more pictures to my Artfinder shop as well as listing some new Winter Snow Bears cards on Etsy which are selling really well so THANK YOU to everyone who has ordered so far. It really is true that “Just a Card” can make a big difference – not just financially but by boosting confidence too, making it so much easier when people ask “what do you do”. I’ve been baking too, making this stupidly delicious Ginger Crunch slice from the recipe given to me by Lucia’s in Grasmere. More addictive than crack but hopefully better for you, despite the butter and sugar, it makes me feel happy when I eat it because it reminds me that some people are kind and generous and friendly in a world that isn’t always so ( also a lot of these people seem to live in the Lake District). However I will soon be too enormous to fit in my wetsuit so I may have to learn self control.


I hope you are feeling gezellig where ever you are. Until next time x


Honesty, Owls and the value of things.


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.


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.

hand embroidery on paper

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.

cyanotype and embroidery

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

The Fleetwith Pony and other stories

This time last week I was readjusting to the rural North after a long weekend of culture in the city. This week I am recovering from a short trip to the beautiful Lake District,which usually means aching legs but a happy heart and a longing to be able to paint landscapes.I spent quite a lot of Saturday in a car park waiting for Rupert to return with a new bicycle pump after he had accidentally let my tyres down…yes, I was strangely pleased and half hoping the shops would be closed. In the end the bike ride was wonderful; following the old railway track, lined with silver birch and passing Castlerigg Stone Circle which seemed to be hosting some sort of Eastern European camera club ( I felt self conscious getting my phone out surrounded by all those tripods and massive macro lenses). Autumn is definitely my favorite time to be in the Lakes and this weekend felt like a pastiche of everything Autumnal- the smell of woodsmoke and leaf mould, the shades of orange and brown, the splashes of red, the spicy chai lattes ,the long shadows.

We climbed Fleetwith Pike on Sunday with the intention of whizzing back down to the car on our bikes which we’d left at the top of Honister Pass. I once did this, many years ago, on a sponsored bike ride for Greenpeace and remembered having to walk down the hills as well as up them as the road is so steep…luckily for me Rupert had forgotten the keys to the bike lock!

The summit was breathtaking ( I was,quite literally without breath) with views that could make you burst into tears and try to write poetry. The air was delicious -once the ability to breathe returned. And so we made our way back down,on foot, past Dubs Hut which looks like a great place to spend a misty night with a few friends and a case of whiskey …or not!

Along the way we spotted a sheep, with a longer than normal tail, who turned out to be a tiny,lonely pony. I made the mistake of using my magical horse whispering powers and he trotted along beside us,about knee high, occasionally threatening to take a bite out of my arm.

And now I am home, the stove is lit, the shopping has been done and the rest of this week I will be sewing and printing and making. Some of these are already in my Etsy shop. and I’m looking forward to posting some parcels because I just got my new stamps from the English Stamp Co. and I’m keen to stamp everything in sight.

This is my latest cushion design; a patchwork of cyanotype monoprints with vintage ticking and blanket wool.I think its my favorite so far as it has so much going on, it could be a story pillow…what do you think the story is…?

Time to go now and sew it all together. Perhaps a little late night coffee and the treat of ” A Charles Paris Mystery” with Bill Nighy on the radio.

“Where will we be When the summer’s gone?”

October already and I’ve noticed that everybody seems to be sighing with relief that the “summer which never arrived” is definitely not going to arrive now and we can all enjoy Autumn without any fear that it won’t live up to expectations. Facebook and Twitter were full of people posting about baking and comfort cooking last week ;when it rained so much the schools closed and villages around here were cut off by flood water.The trees are slowly turning golden and some primal instinct seems to be making us want to do cozy stuff like making chutney, start knitting projects that will lurk about ,half done, for years and bake …lots of baking.Its not just old hermits like me, the young folk are at it too; friends in their twenties brandishing balls of wool and fresh from the oven fairy cakes.

So, I’m writing this from my usual spot on the kitchen bench, watching the most amazing floating pink island of a cloud make its way across a rapidly darkening sky. Its wild and windy and I’m feeling very smug and rustic because today I made cheese for the first time!I had tried some fresh cheese at the weekend, made by a young man who works at Moro and he gave me this very simple recipe :  Take a 500g tub of plain yoghurt ( good quality Greek works well) , mix with salt ( to taste) and any other flavourings you choose ( I used chives, flat leaved parsley and thyme from the garden but you could add garlic, lemon, black pepper…) and then spoon into a muslin bag and leave to hang over a bowl overnight. In the morning the bowl will be full of liquid and the bag will be full of delicious soft cheese that needs you to spread it thickly on hot buttered bagels, mmmmm.    


Before you start to worry that this has become a substandard version of Mrs Beeton or Martha Stewart, don’t worry, I’m still making inedible things too and as usual agonizing over the whole marketing/pricing thing.This time of year, when the cafe job ends, always sends me in to a panic because it is only then that I really need to look at my work in a dispassionate way and ask myself some tough questions. Anyway,as someone who can’t blow her own tin whistle let alone a trumpet I have to say, these are some of the nicest things I’ve made yet. Its been fun getting the kitchen covered in screen printing ink and finding an beautiful way to  use my great grandma’s blanket!


Both these bags are in my Etsy shop at the moment but not for long because if they don’t sell within a couple of weeks my next idea is to send them as samples to some of the lovely new magazines that are around at the moment ( The Simple Things, Oh Comely, Mollie Makes…) Now for some cake…



If you look at it a certain way the cake appears to have a rather cheeky expression …oh dear, I have been on the moors too long! Its a good job I have booked my train tickets and will be visiting London in two weeks time, to be reunited with my Sketchbook Project book.It has been all around the USA and visited Canada too ( have a look at my books and you can see that this is significant) and this will be my last opportunity to see it and look at some of the other amazing sketchbooks before they head back to New York.

Well, time has slipped away as usual, the pink cloud disappeared long ago and I even have different coloured hair from when I started writing this , thanks to my lovely friend Becca.I’m desperate to get back to some sewing so I’ll leave you with these beautiful purples from the Walled Garden and some work in progress…


Clouds and Shadows

It has become Autumn and no amount of Indian Summer sunshine can hide the fact that everything is changing colour and the air smells different. All my good intentions to get fit over the summer…swimming, walking, climbing and surviving on nothing but green tea and quinoa, have fallen by the wayside.It has become necessary to get on my bike and drag myself up the hill and back in order to justify all that toast and butter and all the comfort food I intend to eat during my winter hibernation.

Its been a good week for clouds here. I actually had to stop the car several times on the way to the village on Tuesday, even though I was late,to try and capture them with my silly phone camera. They were breathtaking and I did find myself saying “wow look at those!” out loud, even though I was on my own and no one but sheep could hear me. I quite like this grainy picture… heaps of mashed potato clouds, bubbling up on the horizon. It looks like a still from a film, I wonder what the story is…

I did a lot of experimenting and playing this week, coming up with some new brooch designs as well as trying out some printed designs on leather off-cuts.This is part of my problem…I have so many ideas and things I want to try out, when really I guess I should have a more structured approach that would mean I had loads of stock to take round galleries and shops; a production line is needed, or maybe some elves. Anyway, you can buy these sweet little brooches here and I will be having a Sample Sale soon on Facebook.

Meanwhile my exhibition at the Dutch House ended last week and I have collected my work, exchanging it for cushions and bags ,like the new one below, which will now be for sale in the cafe/gallery there. It really is a lovely place, you should visit if you’re ever in the area. Now the moment you’ve been waiting for. I’ve written all the names on pieces of paper, folded them and put them in an origami box, made from a pattern in Ohcomely Magazine ….I shall dip in with my left hand , while cleverly typing with my right…and the winner of my celebratory 500 giveaway is…Kat Lakie. Congratulations ( send me a message with your postal address ).Thank you so much to everybody who entered, left lovely comments and “liked” the dreaded Facebook Page, you are all very treasured. Now, I must drink more Rose Garden tea and rest because it’s the Autumn Fair at the Walled Garden tomorrow and there will be hoards of people demanding cake and delicious vegetarian lunches.

ps. Happy Autumn Equinox.

Autumn Blues

This weekend I have been scuffling through Autumn leaves, dreaming up plans and making interesting “mistakes” with cyanotype. Sandwiched between two days of Novembery grey gloom, Sunday was the kind of day that makes you feel fizzy with excitment and possibilities. Perfect weather and a stunningly beautiful walk in a big circle around my house; sometimes its good to really explore the place where you live. From the top of Hawnby Moor, Witchmountain was a tiny dot and by the time we got home , through ancient oak woods, prickly dried heather, ink black pools and slippery wooden footbridges, it was dark and I could hardly bend to untie my poor old green DM’s!

I had to keep stopping to sniff the air and the leaves, Autumn smells so good…although perhaps the flask of hot Marmite slowly leaking in my backpack was confusing things a little.

Back to today, a flat grey Monday that finds me still sitting here struggling with motivation at lunchtime. I went to bed so full of ideas and plans but sometimes its hard to keep up the optimism and drive when nobody seems to want what you have to offer. Hard times eveywhere at the moment and a bit of personal re invention may be called for soon or I will be growing a beard, wearing pyjamas all day and only conversing with the birds!

So, the cyanotype is turning out to be lots of fun, although , as I said before,I do need some form of light which is the hardest part just now!I also need my printer to stop being so stroppy and spitting out the acetate complaining of a paper jam! The pieces I left on the windowsill to develop yesterday initially made me very sad; no design showed up and they were pale green instead of blue. I forgot about the “happy accidents” that often occur in printing and dying. After ironing dry, the most beautiful subtle patterns appeared and I can only assume this was because I was using wool instead of cotton. I just hope the designs don’t evaporate like invisible ink, a case of the emperor’s new clothes..

Goodness, its so dark now, and not even 4o’clock yet. I’d better have a run around the garden to soak up the last dregs of daylight before plugging in the sewing machine and making more coffee.

What is Autumn like where you are?