The colour is just seeping back in to the day, as the morning snow gives way to more seasonal rain and I’ve settled by the stove to write. Slowly, outside the big window, the delicate prettiness of pink blossom and ice has returned to over saturated green and yellow ( is it a crime to live in the Lake District and not like daffodils? shhh, don’t tell ). It’s been a day of little tasks, printing order forms and making price labels, sorting out boxes of exhibition “stuff”; the kind of things that make it seem as though I’ve been busy all day but haven’t achieved very much. It was exciting to wake up to snow this morning and the cat was beside herself with joy, skittering about like a kitten, staring wide eyed through the window and asking to go out ( and immediately back in again) at least 20 times. Cat has always loved snow but there seems to be much less of it these days and certainly less than some of the winters in our old home. I miss it and the strange excitement and magic it brings. But it’s unseasonal now, and mostly I suppose, unwelcome after all the celebrations of the first day of Spring. Yesterday was so cold I gave in and put the heating on early. I’d spent the morning sharing a chair and a hot water bottle with that cat- neither of us normally so affectionate- until the Archers came on the radio and the sound of hounds sent her clawing herself free to hide under the table.
Some really lovely things have been happening lately. I’m now recognised in Keswick Post Office, or at least the red bear stamp on most of my parcels is, which must mean that sales are getting a bit more regular. This week for the first time since leaving the Herdy shop I earned the same as I would have done had I stayed – a combined income from my own sales and the almost unbelievable treat of a day’s work at Sam Read’s Bookshop in Grasmere. I think you could begin to understand the strangeness of finding myself looking OUT of the bookshop from behind the desk, rather than IN through the postcardy door, if you looked back at previous posts or searched “Grasmere” in the side bar. The happy/sad of being here in the Lakes instead of “home”, the feeling of unreality and uprootedness that comes from building a new life where there are no familiar touchstones, the lack of confidence after various “work” events – sometimes something nice happens out of the blue and you find yourself looking over your shoulder to check for Fairy Godmothers. Anyway, it was a fun day and I’m very grateful to Will for thinking I might be able to help out… especially as we only really know each other through Twitter and there was that time I was in the shop and mentioned the possibility of assassinating him so I could steal his job (social anxiety can make you say the dumbest things).
Well, I’m sure all work can become mundane (and I’ve always resisted applying for jobs in places I really love in case familiarity breeds contempt) but it was so nice to have interesting conversations and learn new things and it seemed auspicious that as I drove over Dunmail Raise, before the signal gave out, someone was reading Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” on the radio.
Back on Witchmountain with less than two weeks until Harrogate I’m busily doing last minute preparations for the show as well as trying to learn how to use my new camera… an early birthday present to myself because I’m suppose to try and take proper product photographs. The wooden jewellery has been really popular and I can’t wait to get some more designs made. The special “design sample” price ends this weekend but I’m sure will still want them at the real RRP. which properly reflects the costs. How I wish I was a hardened business woman with no qualms about pricing, instead of a bit of a hippy idealist with a basic mistrust of Capitalism! Yesterday I listened to a radio programme that talked about spending and “peak stuff” and found that I agreed so much with the philosophy that we all have too much “stuff” and that we buy too much, waste too much. How can I reconcile this with trying to sell my own stuff?! I wanted to call the programme and say that maybe if people chose to buy more from smaller independent businesses, to choose for love rather than being on the “upgrade” treadmill – could that work? Perhaps I need to look for a good book on economics and philosophy…
The hungry stove is asking for another log, the radio’s brought unwelcome news from London and Rupert has just got back from a chilly day at work in the mines across the valley (as an outdoor educator not a miner) so it’s time for tea. Apparently the sun will reappear later this week and the brief brake on Spring will be released.
Reading:- “Basic Nest Architecture” Polly Atkin ( from Grasmere – poems that have kept me awake at night searching the internet for Moon pianos and memories of home) and “Swell, A Waterbiography” Jenny Landreth ( to be published on May 4th )
March is upon us; the wheel is turning again, creaking at first as the brave new buds appear but before you know it we’ll be rushing headlong towards summer and taking it all for granted. Do you ever wish you could slow it down, press pause at a certain point; the first snowdrops maybe, or bluebell time? In melancholy mood I want to savour every moment, my 50th spring; when you put it like that each new season has a greater value – how many times will I see the wild garlic or the willow flowers?- and I know I’m so lucky to live in a place where those seasonal signposts are a daily joy. My dad recently told my brother he had lost his feeling for where he was in the year, unsure if it was snowdrop time yet, since moving from the farm to the town and so spending less time outside. As for me, I’ve been in the next door garden this week, discovering the Victorian “Barley Twist” edges of the lawn which I doubt have been seen for years under the overgrown borders and tumbled rockeries. The garden isn’t mine, it has strange plants that I don’t recognise and it makes me miss “home” and my own lost garden again, but it’s a haven and I’m glad of it. I’m never happier than when I’m lost in a garden.
Apart from my occasional trips in to the garden, to gather sticks or hack through the undergrowth, I’ve been busy with all sorts of odd BCTF preparations, whilst wrestling with guilt trips about my lack of a regular income. I call myself so many mean names before I’ve even got out of bed that it’s not surprising confidence is low… but so far I’m managing to meet all the targets I’ve set for myself, new work is happening every day, spread sheets, catalogues and even the odd drawing are being created and I’m starting to really look forward to April.
One useful thing I discovered whilst filling in last month’s sections of The Makers Business Toolkit planner was that many of the people who buy from me via my Etsy shop or Facebook are people who have followed Witchmountain in one way or another for a long time. I really love that I feel as though I’ve known some of you for years, what would I do without you?! But, in trying to train myself to be more businesslike, I realise that I need to reach new people too; BCTF will hopefully do that but I wonder how else to do it? I’ve made a little survey just for fun and it would be great if you could take the time to fill it in , it’s multiple choice, anonymous and very quick. Thank you.
Now the night has crept upon me and the fire has got low, it’s time to think about sleeping and talk to the cat about her plans for the evening; it’s raining outside but I don’t want waking up at 4am by beast scratching at the bedroom door like a demon.
Reading: “Dip” by Andrew FusekPeters Listening To: “Dead in the Boot” elbow
Website: Wooden-boy the arty adventures of musician Sycamore Sykes, including my favourite greetings card of the moment for book lovers and introverts everywhere 🙂
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
I’ve shut myself in the small room with the high window so as not to be distracted from writing to you; I can spend hours, lost in thought just looking out of the window at the birds or the mountains so I’m trying to be more disciplined this week.There’s so much to do. I’m cozy under a blanket with a hot water bottle because it’s freezing and blowing a gale outside… and inside actually, through every gap in the ancient stonework. This building never lets you forget it was a barn! Lately though there have been several perfect days when it hasn’t rained and the snow on the mountain tops was pristine and dazzling; I love the way the snow highlights all the details of the fells and in different ways depending on the direction of the wind, it messes with perspective and distance too so that the same view is endlessly interesting. On a good day those mountains are almost as orange as my homemade marmalade with hints of dark chocolate and icing sugar…
I felt a bit bad after my last writing; someone pointed out (in a very kind and honest way) that I’d made “The Last of England” sound depressing and because I already felt a bit low it made me really sad and worried that I sound like Eeyore the entire time! It was an interesting discussion and at least two important things emerged, 1. Art in whatever form it takes, from painting to music and writing, is hugely personal and emotive which is why it’s so important and vital to us as humans. The fact that a painting or a song can evoke diverse and often overwhelming, emotions (and often not those intended or felt by the artist) is pretty wonderful I think; “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” 2. It’s very easy to assume everyone knows what you’re talking about and feels the same way. I’ve been writing this blog for 7 years now and I do forget that I’m not talking to an old friend over a cup of tea and a cake…some of you have been here from the start but some of you may have just stumbled through the door right now and have no idea who I am or what the backstory is, so you shuffle back out awkwardly refusing all offers of cake. I’ve always been aware of this but as BCTF approaches I decided I should reinstate my website at www.witchmountain.co.uk so that prospective buyers and stockists aren’t confused (or put off) by occasional emotional outpourings about evictions, politics, creative block or the loneliness of a person in beautiful exile.
I hope always to write honestly and openly though, I can’t see the point if you sugar coat everything, delicious as that may be.
Well today I tried to re-photograph some things for Etsy and also for the trade catalogue which I’m currently putting together. It’s been so dark lately that alot of my pictures had an unhealthy sodium yellow tint. Hurray for sunlight but not so hurray for the iPhone camera and an out of date browser (that can’t be updated because my computer is old which is pretty disgusting built in obsolescence if you ask me). My plans and preparations continue with some fairly expensive mistakes ( a metre of velvet that didn’t print properly and which I’d not left big enough seam margins on) and the realisation that if you want to present good , well finished work there is a high rate of wastage and “failure” initially. I remember reading about ceramicist Clare Humphry ,whose work I loved in the gallery, she says the results of firing are so unpredictable that only a small proportion of bowls came out as she had wanted and was happy with and this must be the same for many makers and artists. Quality control is a good thing…its just a shame it costs so much (and another reason why the value of a handmade object is so hard to put a price on)!
Anyway, it’s time to tend to the stove now and possibly do a bit of jumping around to warm up and increase my woeful daily step count on my Fitbit. Sara and I both have one as we thought it would encourage us to get more active if we challenged each other… instead we are in denial, rarely reaching 10,ooo steps and still less able to resist toast and butter. I think music is the answer, I just discovered one of my favourite bands, Blue Aeroplanes, is still around after all so I’m off to play it loud and dance like nobody’s watching (sorry cat) whilst waiting for some thick, fresh bread to toast…
Reading: “Murder on the Home Front” by Molly Lefebure ( who lived here ) lent to me by our rather lovely log man, Tim.
Listening to: “Colour Me” and “Tolerance” Blue Aeroplanes . “Colour me with burnt sienna, show me where my heart is…”
Yesterday was the anniversary of the momentous day when we finally said goodbye to North Yorkshire and, with a heavy heart, headed in to the unknown -Cumbria. Me and the cat journeyed West with the last of the moving boxes crammed into the trusty old Golf, and while Cat seemed quite content watching the windscreen wipers ( yes it was raining ) I was travelling with very mixed feelings…until we reached that magical stretch of the A66 when the mountains suddenly appear, all majestic and snow topped, telling me to snap out of it. Anyway, a year has passed, this picture has been on my mind “The Last of England” by Pre-Raphaelite, Ford Madox Brown, mostly because of the title and the sentiment- the look of massive resentment and resignation on their faces… I haven’t set foot in North Yorkshire since but maybe it’s time I did, to acclimatise before I go to Harrogate in April!
We have celebrated this weekend with a retro Black Forest Gateau, a trip to Cockermouth (more cake) and finally fixing the road to Grasmere … sorry only kidding, just the jigsaw version which Rupert finished at last (it’s kept him busy and driven him mad every weekend since Christmas). There is going to be a bus to Grasmere soon though, over a temporary bridge and I can’t wait to visit again.
This morning after nailing up a new bird house and hanging up a selection of nuts and seeds to attract some feathery friends, I put all your names in a mug and asked Rupert to pick one… so the winner of my anniversary giveaway is Lucy McLaurin! Congratulations to you and thank you every one else for your comments. If you send me your address Lucy I’ll go to the post office this week. I’ll also be adding these new bear necklaces and some design samples to my Etsy shop later… I’d love to know what you think. The necklaces are a new and improved version of some I used to make a few years ago, these have sterling silver chains and findings and I’ve been doing rigorous testing (scrubbing with hot water, soap and a washing-up scourer) to make sure they’re robust enough to be sent out in to the world.
Well, its a little chilly on this side of the room so I’m going to say goodbye for now and head over to the stove to have a think about more designs… perhaps Spring, Summer and Autumn to go with these wintery bears.
Reading: ” The Illustrated Herdwick Shepherd” James Rebanks (for historical reasons I’m nervous about sheep farmers but I was given this for Christmas and it is actually quite lovely with some great thoughts on the landscape and education and the importance of “running free”) Listening To: “Lost and Found” Steve Mason ( The video is filmed in Snowdonia but it reminds me so much of here and driving in the rain and certain times and friends from the past)
Today the wind dropped and the day was reasonably dry and warm so I’ve just come in from an hour of stick collecting and branch cutting (laying a hedge to let in more light hopefully). Today is Imbolc… the first day of spring, Groundhog Day or St. Brigid’s Day and so, good weather and wood collecting are not necessarily a good thing. The Cailleach collects the rest of her winter fire wood at Imbolc if she intends to make the season last a good while longer (bad weather on this day was seen as a sign that the Cailleach was asleep and that winter would soon be over). Anyway, it was good to be busy outside, it was still light at five, the snowdrops have emerged and as you can see I’ve been catching blue sky in bottles this week to save for a rainy day!
On Sunday I discovered this little home in a tree on the side of Buttermere; I’m not sure if it had been washed there by the floods or if it fell from higher up but it looked rather sad and in need of a new roof. We walked around the lake, which I’d never done before. The path goes through a tunnel in the rock at one point and it was all very quiet and beautiful; a dusting of snow on the tops and the lake very still and green with orange bracken slopes, bright green moss and young silver birches with pink and white bark – quite a colour scheme despite the late winter gloom.
Meanwhile in my “studio” the colour scheme is very blue and white as I continue to plan what to take to BCFT in April. I bought some lovely Pink Pig sketchbooks and have been printing and embroidering covers for them on heavy calico. I was so pleased and flattered when they were spotted by the company on Twitter; they were really complimentary which is always such a nice thing when you’re working in isolation in a barn and have no one to get feedback from except the cat!
The days are racing on and by the time I’ve finished typing this it will already be almost halfway through another week and only four days before I pick a winner for the giveaway in the last post… so if you haven’t left a comment there’s still time and if you have then thank you ( and good luck).
This is only a short offering today, I have to try and finish designing the catalogue and price list I’m making so that I can post it out to the galleries who have already requested one. I have to continue with product development and working out prices and terms and conditions and how to stick my stand together and most importantly I have to feed the stove because its getting dark and cold now and I need a cozy nest to work or I just huddle and go sleepy like a bear in a cave hoping to hibernate. The wind is picking up again so maybe the Cailleach is stirring…
Snuggled by the stove with the last of the Christmas cake, a slab of Stilton and a pot of strong coffee. The cat is asleep in a perfect curl on the round footstool and I can’t hear anything but the crackle of the fire (ok thats a lie, the computer is whirring annoyingly but I didn’t want to spoil the picture … actually if you could see the picture it would be spoiled by the fact that my head is caked in hot henna and wrapped in cling-film and a bobble hat- but for the moment you must imagine I’m looking glamourous in some sort of cashmere lounging outfit). Proper Winter came and changed everything; even if it was for just a weekend. It’s easy to be cynical and mock the sudden glut of snow scenes on people’s Facebook pages, the childlike excitement when snow is forecast, the birth of hundreds of slightly muddy, doomed snowmen but here in rainy grey England there’s no denying it is an event that can still seem magical… so long as you don’t have to travel anywhere and it doesn’t go on too long.
On Thursday, waking up to the transformed landscape, I took myself on a tiny first winter ascent of Snab Bank, I had the whole valley to myself, virgin snow, spirals of spindrift and shocking blue skies not seen for months. Its nearly a year since I came here in deep distress and it felt unbelievably good to be standing in this wonderful place soaking up the light and vitamin D ( although I keep wondering how on earth all those polar explorers managed to keep going- I was exhausted and realised I would be the first to be eaten in a disaster scenario).
Last week I mentioned the fact that I was missing my snowed-in time and how important it is to me for some reason. My brother read the whole of “The Long Winter” by Laura Ingalls Wilder when he was here at Christmas and I’m sure it’s books like that as well as a kind of Northern race memory (?) that makes winter such a special and potentially creative time; perhaps its just the enforced stillness. Anyway, I was freezing last week, trying to save firewood, so I finally got around to making a little work space in the small room. It’s like a cell or an old fashioned school room… no distracting view through the window when I’m at my desk. I drew things and listened to Howard’s End on the radio and got excited by cyanotype again. “Only connect”
I am easily distracted and who can blame me with a head full of bears and icing sugar mountains outside the window?
So this week I am trying to be more organised and practical… my tax return is done, velvet has been ordered from Glasgow, ceramic printing experiments continue and I’ve paid the final installment for my stand at BCTF this April. Now I can’t sleep with worry and excitement and ideas and panic but as Rupert said this weekend, whatever happens something will happen and it needs to because I can’t survive on occasional Etsy sales so it’ll either make me realise I have to change direction or encourage me to keep going. The show is in Harrogate from April 10th – 12th and I think my stand is N27 so come and say hello if you’re there.
Now I think it’s time for some music while I wait for the henna to do it’s herbal alchemy. Recurring in my head at the moment …”blue, blue electric blue…”
Reading: ‘Feral” by George Monbiot Listening to: “Sound and Vision” David Bowie