Tag Archives: embroidery

For Love or Money


I thought I would share with you the first signs of Spring on my windowsill this week. This probably seems overly optimistic to those of you in the USA and Canada, trapped in a polar vortex and worried about your eyeballs freezing. Would it be silly to wish for a little of that weather to head over here… I do feel that it’s important for me to have at least a week of snowed-in-ness every year? As I write I am defrosting the fridge and preparing a box of earth for Mr Tortoise to hibernate in. It feels like I’m burying him alive but apparently they need this time in the cold to sleep and think and I guess I’m a bit the same. A bit of crispy winter with bright snow light and the illusion of wedding cake perfection instead of dark greyness and mud.


I ran a little competition on my Facebook page last week to try and promote the fabric I made on Spoonflower. For the first time I actually paid ( the minimum amount) to promote the post and it did make a slight difference to the number of people who saw it…or so Facebook tell me. Anyway, I’m please top say that the winner was Anna-Karin Lilleengen, a photographer whose work is rather special. She also tells me she has lived in a little red house in Sweden with a “Moomin Stove” so I’m pretty jealous and wishing I could go back to the beautiful place we stayed in when I was small; the forests were full of fly agaric mushrooms and chanterelle and we swam in sandy bottomed lakes, getting milk from the farm and searching for kittens in the hay stack ( actually a harsh introduction to the realities of rural life as apparently they were later drowned- we’d been tricked!) . Everything tasted of cardamom and I was obsessed with a wooden hobby horse that lived in the barn and narrowly avoided eating horse meat sausage in the deli! So, thank you to everyone who took part and to evey one who went and had a look at the fabric/paper on my Spoonflower page. I would love to see someone make something out of a fabric I’ve designed…


This is just a short post because I have to get my celebratory chocolate cake out of the oven and then go to Carlton to see if I can still climb a little bit after all that Christmas pudding and specially strong Brandy sauce I accidentally had to eat  ! I’m celebrating because I’ve just been accepted on to an MA course at Newcastle University! It sounds so exciting and I’m really pleased but obviously funding is going to be a major problem and I need to start working on making some kind of income pretty damn quick! You may have noticed I’ve been re jigging some of the things on this blog and I’m planning to have another go at making it work for me in a more practical way, by offering to promote other people’s businesses and events…not in a  way that compromises the themes of Witchmountain but hopefully in a way that you’ll find interesting. I’d love to hear what you think and if you have a project, business or product you’d like to feature here then get do in touch. Have a look at the “Keeping the Wolf From the Door” page for some previous contributors.

Well, the scent of cake is filling the kitchen and already the sun is starting to go down. Keep warm where ever you are and thank you for reading.  x



ART with big letters…and some owls.

IMAG2637 It’s been hard not to walk around glowing with pride, wishing I had made a t-shirt with “William Tillyer is my daddy” emblazoned across the front, because last week was the long awaited opening of the exhibition at Mima. It was such a special day with so many wonderful people turning out … lovely to see our small family all together in one place and so many of my parent’s friends from their college days in Middlesbrough in the 50’s ( the artist Peter Hicks and former student, Len Tabner amongst them). The mayor, Ray Mallon gave a moving speech as did another college friend Peter Murray OBE ( Director of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park), it felt like a real celebration. Later in the week we travelled to Gateshead’s beautiful  Sage building, where daddy was interviewed by the lovely Sharuna Sagar as part of Radio 3’s “Free Thinking Festival” …I confess I was nervous; seeing your parent performing in front of a crowd is quite odd, particularly when he is known for being ” The Quiet Man of the art world”, hard to separate “Daddy” from “The Artist”.  He was actually pretty good and I can’t wait to hear it when it’s broadcast on November 14th ( I think).

BX6O4Z8IMAAGVVq Away from the glamour and excitement of the Art World I have been working hard at the cafe thing, attempting to express my frustrated creativity through the medium of cakes and pumpkin lanterns. I’ve been so busy that I still haven’t had a chance to look around the gallery to see the new exhibitions but tomorrow I’m going to leave the scones to their own devices for a moment while I visit the Lake District by way of Peter Leeming and Ruth Fairbrother’s new work in the Gallery Within. IMAG2616 It’s been wonderful to spend some time outdoors today, it’s so important to get muddy hands and breathe in some Autumn air before the working week begins again. I’m still trying to work out a way to gain some balance in my life so that I have a little more time to do my own work. After all, there is a danger that this could become a blog about baking and the joys of cafe life but that’s not why you’re here. My determination was strengthened by a wonderful day last week when a couple came in and bought TWO of my pictures, including this owl… DSCF1466 Days like that compensate for the days when the urge to answer back become almost unbearable…                                                                                                        customer:- ” let me educate you on dairy free baking”                                                 me:- ( in my head) “No thanks, I have a degree in design and have been making cakes since I was 10 so would like you like to please stop being so patronising”     customer:- ” I was going to have a scone but those don’t look very inspiring”          me:- ( in my head) ” They don’t inspire me either but I spent all morning making them and they taste bloody good so bugger off somewhere else if you have to be so rude”. Don’t get me wrong, some days are fun and I’m working on my attitude, honest I am. DSCF1465 So, since I last wrote, a terrible thing has happened which is that Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour is now no longer on Sunday nights ( it’s been moved to lunchtime). A little sign post in the week has been turned around leaving me a bit lost, so I have to report that this time I am writing in silence. I could put on a cd I suppose, but I have to be careful; these things have a habit of transporting you back to a certain time or place and the emotional jolt can be a bit much for “over sensitive” types like me! Instead it is time make a pot of tea and watch some Sunday evening comfort tv. about train journeys in Italy… might even have a biscuit. Have a happy week and thank you so much for all your kind comments on my last couple of posts. 1381832582710

Soup Dragon


October has begun to act as it should and I’m curling my toes with pleasure as I re-live old rituals… the stove is lit, coffee has been ground and set on the hot plate in the Moka pot while the windows darken and the silhouette of the big oak tree blends slowly into the night. I’m having a day off tomorrow which means I can drink coffee and listen to 6Music all night, like in the days before the gallery,  with no fear of nodding off on the drive to work.                                                             The month began in a most unpleasant way and for one reason or another which I won’t go in to, I am now in the Gallery Cafe full time which was exactly the polar opposite outcome to the one I had hoped for. I’ve been soul searching and over analysing and wondering what my problem is but I can only conclude that I have the unfortunate combination of cripplingly low self esteem and an over-inflated ego! Maybe I’ve been wrong all along… but what was the point of doing my degree, all that time and effort when all anyone wants me for is soup and scones ?


Anyway, the good news is that my “Keats’ commission is at last ready to wing its way south to its new home. Sometimes, while attempting to combine work with trying to be creative I have been struck down with inertia and it was interesting to read this article in the Guardian last week. It made me look back at  times when I feel I was very productive creatively ( relative to now I mean)  and ironically it was probably when I was living a much less structured life; sleeping until late and working long in to the night with lots of coffee, whiskey and cigarettes combined with emotional upheaval!  There is an argument that working the “day job” makes free time more precious and therefore less likely to be wasted but I obviously lack stamina as I just want to sleep like a bear.


So, it’s time to start a new project…any requests? My first is to make myself an apron for work, since this is now my lot. I shall embroider it with messages to cheer me up when the going gets tough and the scones come out flat. It will have big pockets and a built in oven timer ( so far this week I have burnt:- a pan of pasta, a tray of squash, a bulb of garlic and 6 red peppers ).


I will leave you now with this cup of coffee… my one success from a brilliant evening at LMDC Espresso Bar in Harrogate. Lauren and I went for a barista training session last week and had such a good time; I can’t recommend them highly enough…thanks for a great night Lesley. Mostly I made a mess and laughed so much the coffee spilled all over my hand ( that could have been the effects of all the caffeine ) but this fern did eventually emerge from the foam and attempting to recreate it at work is going to keep me busy for a while…my aim is to be able to make bears in the latte.


Reading: “I Capture the Castle” Dodie Smith       Listening to :  “Bohemian Like You” Dandy Warhols

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.


Its one of those lovely Autumn days which is making the choice between being inside or out very difficult.I’ve just come in from chopping some wood and I thought I’d keep myself warm with the Macbook for a while because those logs are strictly rationed…yes cutting wood does warm you twice but that’s not the point, its hard work and even the sheep were wondering why I didn’t just drive to the garage and buy a net bag full..or at least get a new blade for the bow saw.

Its nearly the end of the season at Helmsley Walled Garden but it still looks beautiful.This amazing display of pumpkins and gourds had been set up in the cafe when I arrived for work yesterday and I took home a tiny bunch of delicious strawberry grapes (Vitis vinifera “Fragola”) which are pale pink and taste sweet as honey,with a subtle strawberryish flavour.I’m wondering if it would be possible to grow them here without a greenhouse, I may have to write to Bob Flowerdew!  Meanwhile, indoors and inspired, I’ve been making lots of new bags which involved using the kitchen floor as a screen printing table and making an ironing board out of a plank and a blanket, balanced over the oven ( remembering not to accidentally turn one of the rings on) .Here is the bear design I showed you last time, complete with compass to help him find his way home…

I’m so pleased with the results that I haven’t decided what to do with them yet…list on Etsy where they will instantly get lost in the crowd or take the plunge and send them off to magazine editors in the hope of a publicity breakthrough?

I’ve also perfected my purse making skills, learning how to cover zip ends which looks much neater and is easier to sew and playing with the free machine embroidery which is what I originally bought the Bernina for.I’m having lots of fun anyway. I must admit the job search has been a bit soul destroying; so far I’ve been interviewed for “graduate jobs” that disappeared from the website, mysteriously mutating into apprenticeships (for 16-25 year olds…ie:saddly not me!) and spent hours preparing images for an embroidery design job, advertised on Twitter as being in the North East that turned out to be unpaid internships in Brighton!

Right, I’m going to make another coffee and then see if there is anymore blanket left to do some printing. If you look at the kitchen floor in a certain light you can see foxes and magpies and messages about mad excess; yes I should mop more often but where’s the fun in that.

Don’t forget the Sketchbook Project in London…if anyone wants to see the original of some of my designs  get yourselves along to the Canada Water Library and ask for 174L.2-4 “Fears and Tears” I thought it would be interesting to run a little competition so if you take a photograph of yourself  with my book I’ll enter you in a draw to win a special prize. Upload the picture to my Facebook page or e-mail via http://www.witchmountain.co.uk.

Also in London next weekend there is a demo to Save Cork Street. A developer is planning to demolish part of this street of art galleries ,which has historically been the heart of the art world in London, to build appartments. My father has been with the Bernard Jacobson Gallery on Cork Street for over 40 years so I thought I’d better go and show my support…I expect it will be quite a civilized demo…Saturday October 13th at mid day outside “Native Land” offices on Cork Street.See you there?

I hope you’re enjoying a beautiful and colourful weekend. Here is that odd purple and yellow colour scheme again. Thank you for reading my ramblings x


“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.