Tag Archives: Birds

French Grey and the Haunted Bernina

Goodness, I don’t mean to sound like a stuck record but the eternal rain is getting ridiculous now.Its early evening, midsummer and the sky is French Grey.Last week I had to go to Hartlepool to collect my new sewing machine (of which more later) and just caught the edge of the biblical storms that flooded Newcastle, turning skate parks into swimming pools and roads into rivers. I love wild weather but guess its no fun if you can’t get home, your car starts floating or you get stuck on the Tyne Bridge for hours.

Its not so much the rain as the lack of light and its no surprise that not one edible thing has emerged from the vegetable plot, unless you count smails. However, it has been an exciting week, meeting lovely new people at a little girl’s birthday party,being offered the chance to do a guest blog for Trend Bible and coming face to face with the two swallows who live in the shed! A man, who I know only as “The Swallow Man”, has been studying and ringing the Snilesworth Swallows for over 12 years now, and we get a letter each year telling us which pairs have raised young, where they were born and where they return to. I was able to see them close up, so tiny and delicate, perfect and beautiful…but so much more beautiful on the wing, acrobatic and free.

Its been an amazing week for “things in the post”. I’d taken up the offer of a free mug from Doris & Co Ltd in return for a small advert and was overjoyed when it arrived, all packed in rosebuds and the very one I would have chosen if I’d had the money to buy one! The mug reads, ” A Reward for Innocence and Truth” and I really felt like it was! I also got some of Helen Steven’s beautiful Surfacephilia cards as a surprise gift and the newly translated book by Tove Jansson.

And so to the Haunted Sewing Machine…I couldn’t believe my luck, a Bernina Minimatic 707, my hearts desire ( well you know, when I’m in that kind of mood…) and it was only 20 minutes away. I’d been looking for one for years and couldn’t believe my luck when I was the only bidder on Ebay and it was about £100 too cheap. Sara and I drove to Hartlepool to collect it and came back via the weird industrial landscape of Seal Sands and Seaton Carew. It was hot and the air was heavy with the coming storm and the smell of chemicals, so I started to feel pretty strange and we hurried back to the moors. The machine looked perfect when we got it home, only missing a bobbin case, so it stayed on the table while I cooked tea and Sara used the computer….and then she asked me in a worried voice how the machine was going when I wasn’t near it.

It started slowly and then raced at full speed while we stared in horror, wondering if it was possessed by the spirit of the “old dear” who’d sold it to the Ebay man. Then the foot peddle caught fire. Its ok now, I found a new one and it still seems to be a bargain, if only I can find a bobbin case. I’m hoping the “old dear” will be pleased that Bernina has found a loving home and will watch over me as I try to make some lovely things with her.Perhaps I’ll name her Doris?

Reading :- “Art in Nature” Tove Jansson  Listening To:-  Guy Garvey http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01kby3j


The Long and Winding Road

Dear loyal readers of Witchmountain I would like to wish you a slightly belated Happy New Year and hope that,for you, the year ahead is full of love and success. I’m writing this while distracted by the oak tree, wondering how it doesn’t break in this wild wind, the sky is yellow and grey and the stove is burning too fiercely. I’ve been looking at this picture (taken on the way down from Causey Pike) and it seems to sum up so much of what I’m feeling as a new year begins…a long uphill struggle or an exciting path to somewhere new? The fact that you can see the whole way to the top ,with every relentless meander and  zig zag, makes the climb unappealing ; a journey is always more interesting when you don’t know what’s around the next bend in the path, even though that makes it more frightening- well, it could be a hungry bear after all.

Gosh, that was a bit philosophical for the first post of the year! Here, as a counter balance, are some beautiful cakes from one of the nicest mornings I spent last year…

Vicky Trainor’s vintage coffee morning was a little oasis of prettiness and kindness with mountains of cake and plenty of coffee. I met some lovely people, all full of good advice, encouragement and inspiration.Since Vicky specialises in Wedding stationery many of the people there were photographers, make -up artists, designers and bakers of beautiful cakes. ( This photo is by Becky Mitchell and those cakes are available mail order from Daisy Cupcakes…I wish I’d eaten one now!) I think I need to design a range of things for weddings, what do you think?

So, I was advised that “Twitter is the thing” and reluctantly added ANOTHER online profile to my list. So far it has managed to do nothing more than steal my time as I now have yet another distraction( the most fun bit has been following Fell Top Assessors just for the curiosity value of reading a weather report from the top of Helvellyn , don’t ask me why, I’ve never even been there!) Anyway, Sara and I cobbled together this lovely “button” and if you would like it for your blog or website I will be glad to send you the html ( ooh! get me with the technical terms!) .

Its time to make some coffee in my new Folklore coffee pot ( THANK YOU Jane!) and make a start on the dreaded tax return. Batten the hatches, its stormy out there.



Rare Days and Temporary Measures

Near the top of High Stile, with Scafell Pike in the far distance ( I think)

The Easter holidays are drawing to a close. Within a week the hedgerows have sprung into full bloom; bluebells and violets replacing the brash yellow of daffodils, forget-me-knots and red campion fighting to rise above the fast growing grass verges.The swallows are back and cuckoos now join the curlew in the daily symphony of garden sounds ( these also include croaky transsexual chickens, whinging gardeners, coughing lawnmowers and occassional gunfire from the neighbours).

Castlerigg Stone Circle, Keswick (with Blencathra behind)

I had another magical trip to the Lakes last week,where I was taken ( cursing and fearful) to the top of High Stile and Red Pike .This had to be the best view yet with distant peaks still showing patches of snow. The weather was unbelievable, so clear you could see the Isle of Man. Standing in a country lane dressed in a pink wetsuit, life jacket and bicycle helmet was a little less poetic but “gill scrambling” was such good fun it made up for the indignity! ( This picture isn’t me but it gives you an idea…)

So, the holidays have been blissful and my birthday this last weekend was made extra special by the sunshine and my wonderful family and friends. Guess what! My old rusty Mac was magically transformed into a beautiful sleek MacBook by my brother who pretended to be “updating” some running system or other. I’m a very lucky little old lady and must now try extra hard to make some pennies out of these birds and bears.

Bird necklace with vintage key on a hand painted notice board

My new favorite is the little Air Mail bird below, in red white and blue, a perfect way to send a bit of love to someone in a distant land…

I haven’t re-stocked my Etsy shop lately but  I will be soon, now that uploading pictures is less painful!Oh… I almost forgot!! Two wonderful places you MUST visit if you’re ever in Keswick, first the Lakeland Pedlar for a veggie sausage ciabatta and secondly Temporary Measure which is a treasure of a shop and tea room full of handmade loveliness,mother of pearl buttons and soft as a cloud balls of wool as well as canvasses made by illustrator and writer Emma- take a look at her blog and you’ll see why I love it!  Much love to you all and thank you for reading. xx

“…looking back is for the birds”

Today the wind is battering Witchmountain and I haven’t dared look outside in the garden yet. I just know all my newly planted pots of seeds will have blown away, along with the silly plastic greenhouse ( one of those mini ones the size of a doll’s house) and the remains of my stove flue pipe.Everything is pretty grey,from what I can see through the kitchen window , with violent splashes of yellow where the daffodils are doing their best to brighten things up a bit.

I “finished” (for now…) my little bird canvass and got some lovely feedback on Facebook. The picture features lyrics from a favorite Elbow song and my little friend the blue bird , who seems to get everywhere. As I worked I suddenly remembered another bluebird which had inspired me and so I took a virtual trip to Italy to take another look. The space where KT40 should have been was empty and after a little detective work and  some international communication I realised that there was a problem. I don’t know the details( nor should I) but I know that a lot of KT40’s online friends are sending her good wishes and I hope she returns soon. Kind comments on here have made me feel as though she is someone I know personally and care very much about. The thing I love about her work is the stories behind each piece and the way they are written.It was hard to find any images as everything has been removed but here is a link to a recent exhibition of her work at the Rivergarden Gallery.

Now you really must let me go. I have had my work accepted in two different exhibition spaces this week and the Tiny Gallery is up to something in Notting Hill . I also have a few orders for bird necklaces to finish so really no excuse to be lounging around …ah but I just need a coffee first!

Blue and White

Lovely March…a roller coaster month raising spirits one moment and then dashing them from a great height the next. Yesterday the sun was shining and the first Curlew flew over the garden as I was defending my vegetable patch from next door’s chickens ( when I saw it I actually shouted “Hurray!”). It was a beautiful day – until I got a phonecall from the oil supplier telling me my payments would have to go up by 70% ! And this morning it was snowing, good grief.

So, I have issues with March, getting over excited about spring too soon often leads to disappointment . Still, this morning I got a little parcel in the post containing this lovely old enamel measuring jug which I bought from The HopeTree in the Etsy BNR event the other week, it’s perfect for snowdrops to snap me out of my grumpy mood.

I’m still busy with the shrink plastic , I bought some frosted stuff which takes the colour very well but which I seem to keep cooking at the wrong temperature so that it gets too brittle and won’t go flat. I’m hoping that a shop owned by another graduate from the Textiles and Surface Design Degree course will take some of my stock ;so I’ve been making bird necklaces all day, as well as a particularly mad looking hare…( did I mention the hare treasury I made on Etsy?)

Now, I think it’s probably time for a warm bath and some hot milk because I’ve been drinking coffee and eating chili chocolate ALL day so I won’t sleep till morning at this rate! I wish I could feel like this in the mornings…



Hello, I hope you all had a lovely Valentines Day, or at least survived it unscathed if you weren’t in the mood- it can be torment for the “lonely and the rum”. I was given a cheese ; which was wonderful both as a comment on the nature of Valentines Day and because, well, I do love cheese!

I’m feeling a little guilty today because after reading and being inspired by A Journal of The Handmade Year, Alexis Southam’s wonderful  blog, I went out yesterday and bought some shrink plastic to have a go myself.In my defense I have to say that my work in no way resembles hers which is made using proper silver-smithing techniques,whereas I have utilized newly learnt climbing knot skills! I’m totally hooked (and it’s a good excuse to have the oven on since the stove is broken). My only worries are … it’s plastic ( with all the environmental concerns that brings), because it’s plastic does it look a bit tacky, and is my current obsession another example of my scatter-gun approach to creativity!?

So yes, its not very cozy here at the moment. Having spent the weekend with my arm up the stove pipe ( like something out of a veterinary documentary) while Rupert ascended the west ridge of Witchmountain in full climbing gear , we admitted (temporary) defeat. The stove is disconnected and sulking in the corner,while  the chimney sweeping brush is still sticking out of the chimney pot. A good job Sara bought me a Moomin hot-water bottle the other day.

Well, It will soon be time to go to work. I thought I’d share this picture with you since I was going on about the Owl Service a few weeks ago. This is the plate that was the inspiration behind the story, attributed to Christopher Dresser,the design can be traced off the plate and made into a 3D model of an owl…if you dare. Or perhaps it is just flowers- what do you see?

To celebrate over 100 followers on Facebook, my daughter’s birthday and the first green shoots of spring I am going to GIVEAWAY one of my new necklaces to one lucky reader selected at random. Just leave a comment on this post and I will pick the winner on Saturday the 19th. (If you “Like” British Sellers on Etsy or The Tiny Gallery on Facebook , and mention Witchmountain you can have two entries!!).

Finally, here is a link to some real ART which you can go and see until March 10th if you are in London  x


KIM TILLYER “Beware of Getting Involved” 2010

Today I was offered a lift into the village by my neighbour and was glad to be able to stock up on Marmite and have coffee and conversation with Jane, who has been busy painting snow scenes and putting me to shame!

However, this might sound odd, but I’m actually really loving the enforced seclusion and almost hope it gets worse…( I’m not really snowed-in if people can get here,it only proves I have the wrong type of car for the conditions and am therefore irresponsible!) No,the silence and the removal of any necessity to “go” anywhere is giving me time for quiet contemplation- I’m a hermit in a little shack, a bear in a cave…


Ok, its not all roses but its not the end of the world and it makes you appreciate the small pleasures in life; the smell of bread in the oven, the stove heating a pot of coffee,a good book read by candlelight while the moon turns the snowscape outside my window blue.Maybe when I emerge back into civilization I will have discovered the secret of happiness and contentment? More likely I will have grown a long beard and a wild look in my eye!

(Reading:- “The People’s Act of Love” James Meek. Listening To:- Silence )

Ps. The excellent Canadian design blog Poppytalk has just launched a virtual awards event where you can nominate your favorite artists, bloggers, designers etc.in various categories.There’s just so much wonderful stuff out there I don’t know how to begin deciding who to nominate but it’s a fun way to discover some new places to visit.