Tag Archives: Cyanotype

Water, Trees and Make Believe

Last week began with two day’s wonderfully frantic, bank holiday bookselling at Sam Read’s Grasmere and ended with a magical walk through ambrosial woodland; complete with red squirrel and iridescent purple beetles (and, less romantically, an evil sheep tick which wasn’t discovered until bath time!). In the middle of the week I took a spur of the moment trip to Bristol to visit my daughter. We decided that we needed a bit of ancient perspective on recent events so we drove to Avebury, always a favourite place since the children were small, to wander around the stones barefoot and invent our own ritual for peace, love and good luck, which involved making a charm out of bits of found wool and flowers to hang in the Clootie Tree. The tree was festooned with ribbons, shoelaces, pieces of string, bells, paper notes and one or two “natural” offerings like ours. There’s a long tradition of this kind of “wishing tree” in British folklore and it is also interesting that the practice is found in some form all over the world. I thought the tree looked beautiful and it felt very serene sitting underneath in the baking Wiltshire sun, while some of the charms jingled and flapped gently in the breeze. It’s a fine aesthetic line though…is it harmless decoration and votive offering or unsightly,non biodegradable litter? I guess it’s down to personal opinion but  I found an interesting point of view on this blog and feel happy that our magic charm won’t cause offence as it was entirely made from found natural objects and has probably blown away by now – I just hope it works and brings us a bit of good luck.

Wiltshire has been part of my life since we lived there for a year when I was about 11 (you can see the funny little etching I made when I lived there in this old post) It’s funny to think that it is now Sara’s “home” and my brother has lived there for over 20 years too.

The Wiltshire landscape is such a contrast to the Lake District, with enormous skies and smooth rolling hills dotted with isolated clumps of trees- sacred groves and mounds- and in my mind it is always summer and we areaways slightly too hot!. Sara and I swam in the river at Lacock again (shoals of tiny fish, fresh water mussels and damsel flies but also a lot of litter and still burning barbecues which breaks my heart) and also treated ourselves toa swim at Bristol Lido ( my birthday present ) which made me very happy. Another version of me- the one with the money and rosy stone villa in Clifton- could quite happily live in Bristol, and spend my days down the allotment growing vegetables, before an evening swim and tapas at the Lido. It’s fun to pretend.

Back in the mountains the rain has returned, which in a way is good because it means I have no distractions from work. I really have got to start thinking about how much work I will need for Art in the Pen next month and how I’m going to display it. Everything needs to fit in to my ancient VWGolf and be easy for me to construct on my own with a dodgy shoulder and those wobbly heirloom ladders I’ve mentioned before. I got myself a credit card reader specially and keep meaning to test it by charging Rupert for his supper but instead I get regular e-mails from iZettle along the lines of ” we notice you haven’t accepted any payments yet…can we help?”- well yes actually, I want to reply, you could buy some artwork thank you very much, just a card would do 😉 If all else fails I’m going to batch bake pizza and cakes to sell to passing walkers; I even have a sticker that says which major credit cards I accept, it’s like playing shops!

Some new prints have emerged including the Fell Pony, which is actually my friend’s pony Rocky, and more owls with various bits of added stitching. My adventures cyanotype continue with no two days or two prints the same. I sometimes get disheartened when I struggle to achieve the same results in each print, as you might if it were Lino printing or etching for example, but I’m slowly forcing myself to accept that the beauty is in the variability and that is what has kept my interest in the process. As part of Cumbria Printmakers I’ll be taking part in an exhibition at The Witham, Barnard Castle, opening on the 22nd June. The exhibition will include lots of information about the techniques used by the group members and the unique way each person works. Cyanotype seems to be very much in vogue at the moment, with some wonderful examples and experimental techniques popping up as I browse Instagram; I really do have to keep reminding myself sternly that it is just a tool that each person will use differently and smack down that doubting voice that keeps telling me others do it “better”.

Now it’s time I went to retrieve the print I left soaking in the bath and try to light the fire because unlike this picture of Castle Crag with velvet fields and blue skies, today is so wet I couldn’t even get out of the door and Rupert has been canoeing with a group on the lake so might need to dry his socks…

Reading: Ernest Journal Issue 6    Listening To: a leaking gutter overflowing into a galvanised watering can ( any music suggestions welcome…)

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Snowglobe

Newlands Church

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).

towards Keswick from Snab Bank

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”

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I am easily distracted and who can blame me with a head full of bears and icing sugar mountains outside the window?

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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.

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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

 

Biscuits and Birdsong

Home made Jammie Dodgers from The Guardian recipe

Another weekend is over and the house is silent apart from the sound of me munching my way through a second batch of homemade Jammie Dodgers (even though I tried to trap them in this dome). Worryingly this picture got more attention on my Instagram and Facebook pages than any artwork I’ve posted recently, maybe I should start drawing biscuits? Or just go and work in a bakery and knock all this art nonsense on the head! Anyway, I even switched the radio off today and just opened up the sliding doors to enjoy the birdsong… sunshine at last.

cyanotype work in progress

And so with the sunshine comes my annual attempt at consistent cyanotype print making. I’d already messed up on the one sunny day last week so I recoated the paper and tried to be more scientific ( setting my phone’s stopwatch and then forgetting it was on silent). The results were fun; adding another layer to the pale. washed out print underneath. Then I coated some more paper and of course the sun went in; seems I will have to get a proper exposure unit set up if I want to keep doing this, it’s just too hit and miss relying  on Northern sunlight.

Shelter Design ©Kim Tillyer

Still, in the moments when I’m not banging my head on the table in despair, I’m thinking about ideas for BCTF and wrestling with the sewing machine because I want to make silk things and the corners are impossible! This week I also discovered the Cumbrian Printmakers group who have a Kickstarter campaign to open a studio space not too far from here. They also do group exhibitions and events so I’m hoping they meet their target so maybe I can do some etching or screen printing in the future. At the moment they’re looking for the person furthest away from Cumbria to back them ( just a pound ) … could it be you?

Looking towards Catbells from Scope Beck, Newlands

The landscape is changing colour almost daily and the little black Herdwick lambs now have white spectacles as they start to get their grown up coats, they look so funny and a little bit naughty. This weekend was spent well away from water and canoes… we climbed Robinson again and picnicked on homemade cheese and rocket bread, hot spicy apple drinks and those addictive Jammie Dodgers. The previous evening we’d had a bit of a horrific sheep incident when Rupert and his friend discovered a big fat Swaledale hanging at an improbable angle from its spindly leg, which was trapped in a tree root on the bank side. He got the saw and managed to cut it free ( the root not the sheep’s leg!) but it was clearly snapped like a twig; poor thing (although it hobbled off when I lifted it to it’s feet). A neighbour called the farmer but he didn’t come that night…or the next. Now in the old days, when I was naive and trusted people I would have called again … but my experience with aggressive farmers in Snilesworth, who hate you just for being there, have scarred me for life and I’m just hoping they’ve taken it today.

Bantam hen and chick

In happier nature news Mrs Frazzle has two little chicks now … one hatched so late that I almost threw the egg away thinking it was a dud but it turned out to be a really sweet black and white chick (and they both have smooth feathers thank goodness so fingers crossed they’re not cockerels!)

Other happy news is the fabulous graduation of my wonderfully amazing daughter who managed to get it all together for her final illustration project.It was nail biting at times as she perfected the techniques and ideas but I think the work is beautiful and thoughtful and the message behind it is really important. The exhibition is on at UWE, Bower Ashton, Bristol until June 11th and then at Free Range in London on the 25th. Well done Sara.

Sara Tillyer Smith

 

Looking at the Big Skies

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Already the wild and windy moors are starting to hint at Autumn and I’m tucked up in my kitchen with the stove on and “Mother Earth” by Underworld teasing me from the radio “6mix”… its Friday night why aren’t you dancing? Well actually that’s one of the perks of living alone in the middle of nowhere… no one can see me or complain about the volume.

I have lots of exciting news to tell you since the last few tragic tales of woe. Firstly we returned to the Lakes to try and erase the memory of that awful bike ride. I’ve been reading “Rogue Herries” by Hugh Walpole and wanted to see what Stye Head ( Styhead?) was like in real life. Well it was wonderful and despite threats of hurricanes it was a perfect day … the kind of skies that remind me of theatre lighting; much more atmospheric than perfect blue days don’t you think. Here is Wasdale in the spotlight before we turned away and headed up to Sprinkling Tarn and the way down via Grains Gill ( ? ) .

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Back home on my own imaginary mountain I had been making some new cyanotypes on some gorgeous off cuts of thick handmade water colour paper that my dad gave me. The paper is so lovely that these will have to be framed carefully to make sure none of the texture and rough edges are lost behind mounts. I really enjoyed making these and like the odd, slightly dreamlike, unfinished white cottage; although part of me wants to do something else to them…stitch maybe…hmmm. My favourite is the one with the willow dome.

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And so, carried away with blue and the idea of home…

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…Until the sunshine and heat of July gave way to wet, grey August and premature thoughts of log stacks and winter nesting … or should that be hibernation?

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Anyway the main news is that I have done a slightly mad thing and got myself a stand at next April’s BCTF in Harrogate. I now have 7 months to panic and worry but at least I have something to aim for and I wish I’d done it years ago when I was less jaded and more optimistic! I have exactly no pennies to invest in product development but I’m going to take a risk, give it one more big chance before retraining as a plumber or drystone waller… I’m lucky to have some lovely friends who are full of good advice and experience so we’ll see what happens I guess.

IMG_1250People were very kind on Facebook and over 1,000 lovely people now follow my page which meant I gave away one of my needle felt bears. He jetted off to the USA last week leaving these two characters on the Etsy shop shelf.

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Now I really should turn this music down and head off up the apples and pears, I’m sure I’ve forgotten to tell you something; must write more often x

Reading: “Rogue Herries” Hugh Walpole  Listening To:   “Confessions of a Dancer”  Doorly and “Lily” Kate Bush …come on, who got me a ticket? Hey?

 

 

 

 

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It’s taken me a while to get around to writing this post but rarity makes things more valuable, right? Since my last confession I’ve been out and about; prised out of my nest to visit the mountains, walk my feet off in the city and even go to a concert (Elbow in Leeds this weekend). I’ve been bombarded with sights and sounds and contrasts and it’s taken me over a week to recover!

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I love London. It feels like home but it also feels like another country. My daughter and I spent 4 days in the Barbican , surrounded by “brutalist” architecture and modernist furniture. It’s always fun to exchange the life of a country hermit for that of a city explorer and this time we explored places we’d never been to before; discovering the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey (where we also found the perfect building for a dream business premises- see below), the Book Art Bookshop in Shoreditch and dodging over friendly squirrels Kensington Gardens. The thing that did my head in was Liberty’s…

We’ve been to Liberty’s loads of times and particularly enjoy squeezing the balls of wool and marveling at the outrageous prices but, perhaps because I’ve never been so poor in all my life, this time it just seemed depressing. How can a mug be £150? If it’s made by an artist? By hand out of precious materials? The ceramics were gorgeous but not that gorgeous that a set would cost the same as a small kiln and you’d want to shoot your friends if they chipped one… or is it just me, am I just getting resentful? The contrast between real life for most people and the conspicuous show of excessive luxury just seemed too harsh. The ceramics company is called John Derian if you want to check them out and put me straight (or it’s my birthday next week and I rather like the teapot!…) Anyway, we both managed to survive the temptations of our trip with the only extravagance being some vintage fabric ribbons from the Cloth Shop on Portabello Road and the fact that we were staying in a rather swish flat in the Barbican which feels a bit like a piece of the Overlook Hotel ( a fact that stopped us roaming the corridors alone at night).

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And so home to the moors, where I’ve been rediscovering my love of cyanptype. Combining hand drawn pen and ink transparencies with natural elements such as leaves and flowers to make prints on the rare and precious sunny days. Gradually I’m getting better at it;  realising now that is must be sunny and that I probably need to save up for an exposure unit or move to Mexico. I’ve been using some wonderful, extremely thick Arches watercolour paper…off-cuts donated by my dad.

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And in between rushing about with plates of glass and rinsing prints with bated breath I sit in my new favourite place, the Freecycle greenhouse, where me and the tortoise listen to the radio and keep ourselves to ourselves…he has his dandelions and I’m happy so long as there’s coffee and cake.

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Protest and survive

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Here is a little late night blog post created with the help of chamomile tea rather than coffee, because it’s late and I really need a good night’s sleep. I’ve had such a busy few days and keep forgetting to drink water which means I’ve been headachey and shriveled and resentful. However, today was saved by the fact that although I had to work on a rare sunny Saturday, I was at work on the day when my friend Susie was doing her needlefelting workshop in the gallery. I am a very lucky person because my friends are made of pure priceless gold and Susie made my day by handing me a stripey paper bag with this person inside…

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Isn’t he amazing, such expression in his beady eyes! She really is a very clever and beautiful person (and a small group of animals stayed behind at the gallery looking for new homes…). Susie’s business is called Drawn by Badgers which is very topical at the moment as today was the day that the badger cull became legal; I have friends who are dairy farmers and I’m a lifetime listener to the Archers -an English documentary about rural life ;0) – but surely this isn’t the way to solve the problem? I don’t know if it’s middle age making me angry or just that so much is happening at the moment that makes me what to shout and stamp my foot and protest. I haven’t felt like this since I was a teenager going on CND marches and Greenpeace bike rides. Today’s good news was that the anti- badger culling protest march in London got more support than the EDL , BNP hate mongerers trying to cash in on a tragic event, these attitudes make me despair.

Ok, enough soap box stuff. I’m a hippy at heart and just wonder why we can’t just be nice to each other and have a bit of respect. Naive I suppose.

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I’m hoping that tomorrow the sun will shine and I will be able to make cyanotypes, smell some bluebells and watch the tortoise exploring the garden…providing I don’t just sleep all day. Simple things.

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Time for bed now and sleep with no alarm set…luxury. Happy June to you.

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.