Tag Archives: Fox

Fox in the Chicken House


Happy New Year to you all from Witchmountain.


2014 is not yet a week old; the wheel of the year is creaking forward again with clunking gears and what sounds like the squeal of sticking brakes. Witchmountain has felt full and busy over the past few weeks and it seems like much longer than 2 months since I left the gallery. By living more slowly and simply- like Mr Tortoise- perhaps it is possible to slow down time? I find myself wishing for a simpler life that is more in tune with the landscape…sleeping more in Winter, growing food, collecting firewood, making things to sell but setting little store by money.

Well, tomorrow everyone returns to work, university or reality and the decorations will be carefully wrapped in tissue for another year. The cobwebs have been well and truly blown away by some beautiful days out on the hills and the kitchen currently looks like a lino print production line.


Sara and I have been experimenting with lino printing as part of her latest project at UWE where she’s studying Illustration. I spent ages carving a very detailed bear which failed to print properly and almost put me off the whole process. We spent ages trying to work out the stages Angie Lewin uses to print her gorgeous multi-layered images and got our brains in a twist. I always seem to cut out the wrong bit and I think you have to be able to think back to front…the kind of people who can do cryptic crosswords probably find printing easy! Anyway, we decided that bold, simple designs work best and I forced myself to keep this strange Superhero Fox as simple as I could. ( Actually maybe he’s a Robber Fox not a superhero…)


I’m going to make a big effort to get to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park this month so that I can see Angie Lewin’s exhibition there, hopefully it will inspire me rather than intimidate!


And so it is time to put the kettle on and watch the new members of staff out of the kitchen window. A cockerel and his two lady friends have come to live at Witchmountain, they try their best to wake us up early in the mornings but we are night owls here and like to print foxes late into the ungodly hours, sorry chickens.


We’re hoping for some fluffy yellow chicks for Spring. Fingers crossed….

Oh, I forgot to mention, one of my designs is now for sale on Spoonflower…what do you think?  http://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/witchmountain


“…Looking through her red box of memories…”

I’m taking a break to write you this little note and drink some coffee. I’ve been painting the bedroom floor white as part of The Big Sort Out and I’m imagining it looking like John Lennon’s room in the “Imagine” video rather than the mad cluttered affair, with hand me down furniture, that its been for the past 12 years.I may be hoping for too much from a £5.99 tin of White Silk emulsion and a few trips to the charity shop with bags of “stuff”.Still, these past few weeks have been all about dealing with “stuff”, memories and attachments for me.

Friends and family are on the move which has meant venturing into attics, both real and metaphorical, to see what really needs keeping and what must be let go of. I’m not a hoarder but letting go of things with emotional significance is very hard for me; so I was surprised, if not a little shocked, to watch the ease with which Jake disguarded his childhood drawings,once coveted toys and books.Taking part in a car boot sale yesterday just reinforced the fact that we are drowning in a sea of stuff! It has been quite cathartic to lose the excess baggage but it has made me ponder the bigger picture in a quite unsettling way…why do we keep things? If we throw away our memories (letters, diaries etc) how will anyone remember us- and does it matter? Why do we need so much stuff , and shouldn’t what we do have be either practical or truly beautiful? As a very good friend of mine asked recently, “What do you do about letters from the Tooth Fairy?”. I suppose its all a question of editing.

After all that it seems odd to show pictures of my cushions to you, in the hope that someone might want to have a little more “stuff” in their lives! However, so much love and time and effort has gone into these that I think even William Morris might approve…

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

It is a sad fact of life that I have made more money this week by selling old rubbish and broken toys than I have by selling the things that I make and I know a lot of people who feel the same about their own work. I would like to buy something from an artist,designer or craftsperson every month but need to start selling my own work first….

So, for now the rain has stopped and the sun has even made an appearance for the start of the Summer Holidays. The white paint has covered over the imperfections, the memories are packed away in boxes and its time to get busy with the next chapter. I’ve just listed some new things in my Etsy shop and I’m going to make a SALE page on Facebook for these Airmail brooches later this week…

Not waving but drowning

It suddenly became May and my birthday in the Lakes seems so long ago. May has been all about the important men in my life; with birthdays for my son, brother and lover all within a few days of each other, while my famous artist daddy had a new exhibition opening this last weekend (more on this later). Its  been a tough month so far, apart from these celebrations. The harsh reality of  a precarious financial situation has really started to hit home,along with a blanket of grim weather smothering most of England and a nasty attack by the “Black Dog” who refuses to become a nicely trained ,cute, curly puppy and will insist on whispering in my ear ( in a nasty dog-breathy kind of way) ” stop it, nobody wants your stuff, why bother, why not give up..”. Naughty dog!

It all came to a head when I discovered that the beautiful nest of tiny blue eggs I’d seen in the old clematis had been abandoned, probably before I’d even found it. And still it rained.And there seemed to be no break in the clouds.

But, I’m quite stubborn once roused and I decided to make the best of things,like Pollyanna. I  wrote to Mr Flint ,who runs HSBC bank, and sent him a little print along with a suggestion that he may like to buy one of my fabulous, unique cushions if he couldn’t give me an overdraft. He hasn’t replied yet but it made me feel better. Then I went to work one day and was shown a huge portfolio of these beautiful Japanese “Katagami” which reminded me how much I love textiles, design and amazing craftsmanship.

Each paper stencil is hand cut and these were collected in the late 1800s so there were no lasers or computers to make the job easy. The designs are all done in repeat, with pin hole registration marks so that long lengths can be printed to make kimonos. the detail is incredible and I was lucky enough to be loaned two katagami sheets to experiment with. The results on cyanotype fabric were wonderful but I was nervous of damaging them with any wet media ,or heat during heat transfer.

Since I last wrote I have also been to the “Print Club” at CCAD where I made silk screens and once again wished I had the luxury of another three years to re-do my degree with all that I now know! It would be wonderful to really experiment with print, colour and technique without the restrictions of time, money and the need to sell, sell, sell.

So, yes, I have been lying low and maybe you wondered where I’d gone…or maybe not, its a big world. I just thought I’d write and let you know that I’m still quietly “making stuff” and enjoying the process while trying to remove it from the need to make a living;in fact, I accidentally got a part time job as a pony treking leader last week which is hilarious (only don’t make me laugh because I’m still aching all over and in unmentionable places!).However, I’m working on this orange and dusty green cushion square tonight while eating violet cremes and watching the swallows against the egg blue sky.

Just a little final bit about the Inspired Landscape exhibition to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of the North York Moors National Park which opened on Friday. My dad had chosen to show a set of photographs from “The Furnished Landscape” which I can remember him taking in the 1970s, not knowing at the time that these would document a lost way of life … who can remember the days when milk came in churns not tankers? There were also screen prints and etchings from that time inspired ,variously,by my grandparent’s garden, the big skies of the moors and the miscellaneous structures that have become part of the landscape such as stiles, gates and garden trellises. The exhibition runs until July so if you’re in the North it really is not to be missed; the work, by the 6 artists involved is all so different and yet so evocative of this wonderful place. Oh, and if you would like a signed copy of the re-published book “The Furnished Landscape” I think they are about £13.50 + postage so let me know and I’ll see if I can get you one.

I hope May is full of sunshine and the scent of bluebells wherever you are. Here is a blog I’m really enjoying at the moment…a little sunshine from the rainy city!


The Reckoning of Time

“What a difference a day makes…24 little hours…” Last week I was in the garden, avoiding wasps and baring my poor old wintery legs to the world. Yesterday was a sideways blizzard which caused the stove to belch wood smoke into the kitchen and eventually cut off the electricity, phone and radio signal for about 14 hours. So this morning I made tea and porridge on the wood stove, worried about the poor plants, (newly emerged and 3 days ago basking in 20℃ heat) and wrapped a sleeping bag around the fish tank to try and keep the long suffering tropical fish from freezing to death. All this, combined with last week’s Pointless Petrol Panic, has given me the feeling that we are living on the edge.An open fire means we can at least keep warm and boil a kettle but the ideal would be solar panels, back boilers and a wind turbine. Even the radio failed until I switched it back to FM from DAB…

Goodness, I’ve really decided to embrace middle age, listen to me ranting on! But seriously, I’m really looking at the way I live and trying to make it more sustainable.The good thing about horrible weather is that it keeps you inside and I spent much of yesterday making  “kodatrace” colour separations, ready for doing some screen printing at CCAD after Easter. I can’t wait to have a day printing. The fox design will be two colours and then I’ll add embroidery before making them up in to cushions and possibly t-shirts.

Oh how I wish I had a slice of that cake left…I sometimes think I should have become a baker instead of going to art college. When “The Great Witchmountain Shed Project” gets off the ground I will be able to combine the two and we will draw and sew and print and eat cake all day long.

Now, before I go and draw some more foxes I thought I’d remind you about the strangeness of the Yorkshire weather by showing you these pictures I took on Sunday. Bridget’s blog about Port Mulgrave was so lovely that we went over to Runswick Bay and walked along the beach and the cliff top path to look down on the  little collection of fishermen’s huts.It was a glorious day and the rock pools were sparkling with pearly shells,and polished stones. I could have sat all day with a hamper of tea and sandwiches and a sketchbook ( I had neither unfortunately). Instead we skipped and slipped about on the seaweed covered rocks, searched for fossils and battled with brambles in a shortcut up the cliff.

I plan to have a lot of picnics this year and resolve to always carry a small sketchbook and pencil ,as I’m forever complaining that I wish I’d brought one. So, I leave you dreaming of warmer days and hoping that the cold snap has got the wasps but spared my plants! Don’t forget to have a look at From the Wilde and let me know what you think. Have a wonderful Easter.

Drawing and Dreaming

Well its been an eventful few days. My wish came true and the fog was blown away by gales ; which also blew away chunks of peeling paint and bits of the window frames. Its ok, no real damage and anyway, the insides of the windows are all neat and freshly painted…you can’t even tell which bits are actually held together with scrumpled up Guardian newspapers and wood filler.

This weekend I helped Kev and Viv of ArtVanGo set up and take down, their stand at the Knitting &Stitching Show in Harrogate.It was hard work but even harder work resisting the urge to buy one of everything.Mountains of pristine sketchbooks and papers, racks of paints and dyes the colour of precious jewels, bottles of mysterious potions and brand new virgin silk screens. ArtVanGo also run a stand called Artists in Action where you can see …erm….artists in action, and talk to them about techniques, materials and so on. I was sorry to miss Dionne Swift ( who got me the job), but I did meet Ruth Issett who was demonstrating mixed media techniques ( here is a video from a previous year ) and who has written quite a few books on the subject. Jill Flower was another artist who specialises in textile applications on paper, making intricate lacey pieces inspired by Elizabethan ruffs.

Well, I was tempted in to buying the new issue of Selvedge Magazine , mostly because the cover fitted so perfectly with my idealised vision of Witchmountain, I would love to swan about in vintage lace and cozy wool with my pack of huskies and a few tame polar bears, before returning to my roaring fire to drink brandy coffee and eat turkish delight…oh hang on… I AM sitting by a roaring fire, drinking coffee and obviously when I next look in the mirror I’ll look just like the model in the pictures!

So, I’ve also been busy with this year’s Sketchbook Project and really enjoying using a combination of pen and ink with cyanotype.The subject is “Tears and Fears” but I’m being quite vague about it. I wish I had been able to afford some of those lovely inks and things from ArtVanGo but to be honest I don’t know what half of then are for! My other treat was a pack of inkjet printable cotton which will be used for making some more little wallets, probably, and a skein of beautiful orange wool which I’m trying to knit yoga socks with!!! ( no pattern and little patience)

Now I must leave you to do something productive, it is hard to set my mind to one task and tempting to go outside and do some strimming while the weather holds. This time last year I was snowed in, I feel quite nostalgic for those sparkly days of ice and isolation.

I’m sure there was more I wanted to tell you but it really is time to make more coffee and set up the sewing machine. Oh, but I just wondered, what is Cyber Monday?

Bank Holiday Weekend

In the dark forest, collage and drawing
Hello again. I don’t know if anyone is still reading this but I’d just like to say to everyone at Cleveland College of Art, Good Luck getting everything finished this week! I have a huge list of things I want to do as soon as this project is handed in, its going to be so nice to be outside in the garden or actually doing some exercise instead of being glued to the kitchen chair sewing and drinking too much coffee.

Today I have been sorting out my sketch books which, as I speak, are still looking like a big pile of waste paper on the kitchen floor, with no covers, because I’m printing and embroidering some fabric to cover them. Today’s picture is a page from my visual studies book which includes collage, watercolour and a photograph I took of the woods nearby ( it looked like bears may live in there).I really liked the drawing of the foxy wolf thing but decided it might be a bit sinister to use in children’s wear ( I used to be terrified of the fox who lived at the bottom of my bed and bit my toes when I was little…I think now it might have been pins and needles!)
Well, the grass is growing and covered in blue Speedwell (?), I want to go outside but must return to the needle and thread.
More soon.