Tag Archives: Handmade

…that which cannot remain silent”

the view from Snab Bank, Newlands Valley

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…

Marmalade "Shelfie"

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.

Bear necklace

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)!

floral necklace

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…”




Blood and Bilberries

Bilberry picking

The rain has just returned, hammering at the moss covered roof and leaking noisily from the broken gutter. Earlier, it was the picture perfect summers day and  I wandered up the valley, in the steamy August heat that has been so rare lately, playing at being a bear foraging for berries, growling at annoying sheep and dying my hands and knees purple with juice. Bilberry, Bleaberry… what do you call them where you are? There is something very primitive and comforting about gathering wild food and filling the store cupboards like a squirrel or a Moomin…  I’d already made 8 jars of red gooseberry jelly in the morning after discovering that I’d gone to work by mistake.

The  day started like this… morning sunshine making the inside of the black painted front door hot to the touch as I dashed out to work with my carefully packed lunch, rarely brushed hair and a day of selling wonderful art to lovely people ahead of me. Only I hadn’t read the calendar and had forgotten that I’m working on Sunday instead, silly me, I could have stayed in bed. I put all the lights on anyway and collected my newly framed work for C-Art which had been left in the gallery and headed back to the hills – at least I was up and about early and it was a ridiculously perfect day … as I drove back I thought, as I often do, how it is SO pretty here it feels unreal, like a fairy tale.

felted nests

After the gooseberry jelly was safely in its jars I took myself to the garden of the  house next door (which I pretend is mine when they are away) with a straw hat and a pile of things to make into nests. Some tiny bronze birds had come in to the gallery last week and I just thought they needed nests. I also just wanted to make something methodical because it stops me thinking too much. So there I sat, with a buzzard crying overhead and the mountains all around me and people rushing past looking hot, with heavy rucksacks saying “ooh isn’t it lovely, you are lucky” and feeling guilty for being lucky and also edgy because I’ve felt like this before about a place and look how that turned out.

a felted nest

Nest building is a lot harder than it looks and the birds were probably laughing at me but tomorrow I’m going to put the bronze wren in one and that will make it worth while. nest in the mountains

So, all the time I was picking bilberries and breathing in the smell of heather and bracken and warm mud and mountain air I was thinking about how to write it down so that you could get a sense of how lovely it all was. I came back and began to cook supper, feeling content in the way that you only can in summer when its warm enough to pad around in bare feet and a scruffy sundress, with the windows open… and then…the horrible sound of banging and squawking and panic and feathers and in the chicken house the mean old stoat. My favourite little chick was killed and Mr Stoat is so fearless that I know he will be back. I’m quite tough- I had to complete the job to make sure she was dead, you do these things in the countryside, I try not to be sentimental but I’m sad and I find the smallest thing hits me hard these days. I won’t trap the stoat, it was here first and probably has young to feed. Maybe I can fence him out, but anyway, thats how the day ended.  Sometimes I feel a bit like this …


Now I’m off to bed to read a little bit and try not to dwell on the possibility that I may be suffering from the Jam Makers Curse ( I remember life taking a sharp turn for the worse after a certain batch of Plum Jam back in the Joe Cornish Gallery days AND there was the Apple and Bramble Jelly that failed to save me from eviction !) I don’t even eat that much jam, I prefer Marmite 🙂

Reading :- “Haweswater” by Sarah Hall    Listening to :- “Stolen Car” Beth Orton and RAIN

Little Bessie and the History of March


I’m listening to some late night 6music and looking back at five years worth of writing in and about March. Patterns emerge and there are constant threads, dreams and hopes. So as this year’s vernal equinox heralds another spring on Witchmountain I can see that March has traditionally been a bit of a monster as well as a thing of great excitement and optimism.Pick me up and shoot me down seems to be the constant refrain! This year I have been told by the estate that my long running fantasy of running a small business from the roadside building (see previous March posts) is “not viable” but today I have also been offered a greenhouse on Freecycle so it seems that the glass is neither half full nor half empty but precariously balanced in an uncomfortable limbo on the edge of the bar.


Meanwhile I am becoming Charlotte Lucas from “Pride and Prejudice” . My little flock of bantam chicks now includes three new little people… one of whom I had to fashion corrective boots for as it had “spraddle” legs. I cut a bright pink sticking plaster up and made a kind of splint to hold its silly legs in the right position – it worked thank goodness, but the poor thing did spend a couple of days falling flat on its face like a drunk. So, there you are, the perfect Spring thing for Spring Equinox 2014.


I’m still busy making all sorts of festival things including these feathery, flowery crowns and hair accessories. Some of the fabrics are from a bag of lovely print and dye samples my college friend Carl brought me when we met up earlier in the week. We spent a good few hours drinking green tea in Costa ( sorry but I’m a bit down on independant coffee shops in Northallerton at the moment…the feeling is mutual I’m sure), putting the world to rights and planning our belated takeover of the surface pattern design world….keep your eye on Fold Creative. , Carl is very talented and deserves a break.


Lyndsay McBean was there too,taking a break from design work to be a mummy to her super cute baby Noah. I feel like an honorary granny, and even dusted off the old baby boot pattern to make him a pair out of a rather posh woolen throw that I’d accidentally felted in the wash! It’s been a good week for keeping in touch with old friends and meeting little new ones.


So much to write about, but it’s nearly tomorrow and I need to test the apricot jam I just made ( with a hot buttered crumpet) before going to my nest to read and find another dream to replace this one. Oh, before I forget…an artist friend is doing something similar here in the North York Moors. Opening soon, the Lockton Tea Rooms and Gallery looks like it will be wonderful so if you get a chance to visit, pop in and say Hi to Janilaine and Kevin. Good luck with the new venture you two.


If anyone knows how Little Bessie did it please drop me a line … x



“How can the bird that is born for joy…”


This week the long awaited curlews returned to the moor. Getting home from work in the rain and fumbling with my key in the lock, I was stopped short by the mournful, undulating song of the bird that, more than any other, symbolizes spring on Witchmountain. Suddenly the drizzle didn’t seem so depressing, I stood there smiling,getting wet and breathing in the warm damp air. Well, March is cruel and likes to tease, so today I turned my back for a moment only to look out of the window and see huge flakes of snow, falling fast and in time to the music on the radio! The world was soon blanketed again, leaving my “spring cleaned” rugs gathering a covering of snow where I had hung them on the line earlier. I’ve left them there and retreated to the kitchen to bake a chocolate cake and try to remember what sunshine felt like.


It’s been nearly six months now since I started working at the gallery and if anyone is still reading this blog it will be a miracle!Posts are becoming few and far between and I still haven’t achieved the balance between my own work and payed work that would be ideal. I am learning a lot about the realities of selling work however … record keeping, VAT rates, trying to display things properly. This week I decided to try one last time with some new necklaces I’ve been making… just for fun…well, they will fill a gap in the shop until some new stock comes in.


One of the best things about being in the gallery is when new things arrive and it’s been so exciting to get this little display together from three of the people who are also running workshop days. Muddy Fingers Pottery, Hunt and Gather Designs and Jenny Pepper Felt all make beautiful work which it is a genuine pleasure to talk to customers about. I really hope their workshops are a success for all our sakes!!


Now I’m going to take a look outside and see what has become of the world. Tomorrow I bet this sudden snowstorm will have melted away leaving nothing but a slightly stressful drive to work. Meanwhile I’m going to look for something good on the radio, make a pot of tea and daydream about the day when I have my own little gallery with coffee on the Sweetheart stove and a garden full of birds. Here is a link to my Pinterest page where you can see the shape my daydream is taking!

Reading :- “Waiting for Sunrise” William Boyd  Listening To :- birdsong


“All About Chemistry”

I meant to write this last week, I uploaded the pictures and then I suppose life got in the way.After two weeks of snowed-in-ness I came down to earth with a bump which included blocked drains, colds, broken hearts , engine warning lights and grim, icy mud. I’m quite proud that I seem to have accidentally invented a substance which sets harder than concrete, or any other substance known to man, by mixing various sink un-blockers ( it clearly states on the packets that this is highly dangerous so do not attempt to copy my experiments !).

More creative experiments resulted in the two drawings (above) which were my last fling with the Gocco Machine. I chose to use the Bear design( for a change you sigh) and while the process worked beautifully I wasn’t so pleased with the printed results. So, the jury is still out on Gocco, the single use nature of the supplies makes me too precious about how I use it, however I have had some useful advice and information from The Cloud Commission who seem to know what they are talking about.

Inspired by the weather, I also made myself these “Sami” mittens which have become a something of a joke in my house as they are a bit like oven gloves and only my very tiny hands fit in them.I like the embroidery though, just need to improve the shape!

So the festive season is upon us and I’m wondering if the weather will trap me again. I have stuck to my Handmade Pledge fairly well which is why I was dismayed at work last night to hear some of the locals COMPLAINING that they had received “homemade cards”!! I thought it was odd and a bit depressing to think that people assume that something handmade is a cheap option.Surely anything that someone has made shows so much more thought and care, love even?

Well, on that note I will throw another log on the fire and think about my next invention.Hmmmmm…… x

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The Elves and the Shoemaker

As I write this I am still doped up on Ibuprofen and and wearing a very cozy heat pack on my poorly neck.Its been frustrating to be physically hobbled just as I was starting to enjoy a bit of fresh air and exercise( actually I blame the exercise!) . But being unable to go to work at the pub has also freed me to be more creative.I’ve been getting carried away making these little baby slippers which are cute as pie. I wish I had had the time to make some for my own babies before they grew giant feet!

I’m now starting to worry that my supply of old cream wool blankets is running low and the grey (fake) lambskin was given to me by a college friend, so I will have to go on a materials hunt soon. I want to make the soles non slip without using leather, any ideas?

This week I’ve also been listing a few new things on Etsy. Trouble is there is so much I want to make but I don’t think my workspace (or my mind) is organized enough! I wish I had a spare room so that things could be left out without the risk of a pin in the pasta…

Anyway, at the moment I’m feeling quite energetic as far as the creative side of things goes; just annoyed that I will soon have to down tools and drag my aching neck/shoulder/arm to work lifting plates of steak and kidney!Time to become more disciplined and make a huge effort to earn some money through my little stitching fingers! Oh that reminds me, Rachel Powell has just set up Thread which is a new site for members of the North East Fashion Network. Have a look and get signed up if you want to be part of the “happening” scene up here in the North!

Just time to thank Lyndsay McBean , talented poster and card designer, for her kind blog post about my little boots!Spread the Love ( as it says on Marmite jars)  x

Poppies and Forget-Me-Nots

“Forget-Me-Not” Kim Tillyer 2010

Happy February! I can’t quite believe it is this time of year again and in 19 days time my little daughter will be EIGHTEEN!!! ….Quickly moving on before you start doing the maths and buying me a zimmer frame…

I have now finished #4 of the Traveling Bear series and have been selected for a place in PoppyTalk’s themed Handmade Market. I decided to take part in this online market ( you pay for a “virtual” table which is then promoted on the blog) because the theme was based on the fact that the Winter Olympics 2010 are being held in Vancouver, home of “PoppyTalk” and also, as some of you know, the reason and inspiration behind much of my work….( Grrrr!).My work will be on its virtual table from February 15th until March 12th.

“Let Go” Kim Tillyer 2010

Last night after a day at work and a nasty headache, I got carried away doodling with some pen and ink and this is the result.I’m going to steal the pens from Jake’s room later and see if the effect works just as well with other colours…

So, since I’m paying good money I’d better get busy making sure I have more than two things to exhibit at PoppyTalk! I’ve also got lots more brooches to make for The March Hare, so bye for now.

(Listening to: Lily the Black Bear‘s cub,”chittering” )