Tag Archives: Snow

Blossom and Ice

The colour is just seeping back in to the day, as the morning snow gives way to more seasonal rain and I’ve settled by the stove to write. Slowly, outside the big window, the delicate prettiness of pink blossom and ice has returned to over saturated green and yellow ( is it a crime to live in the Lake District and not like daffodils? shhh, don’t tell ).  It’s been a day of little tasks, printing order forms and making price labels, sorting out boxes of exhibition “stuff”; the kind of things that make it seem as though I’ve been busy all day but haven’t achieved very much. It was exciting to wake up to snow this morning and the cat was beside herself with joy, skittering about like a kitten, staring wide eyed through the window and asking to go out ( and immediately back in again) at least 20 times. Cat has always loved snow but there seems to be much less of it these days and certainly less than some of the winters  in our old  home. I miss it and the strange excitement and magic it brings. But it’s unseasonal now, and mostly I suppose, unwelcome after all the celebrations of the first day of Spring. Yesterday was so cold I gave in and put the heating on early. I’d spent the morning sharing a chair and a hot water bottle with that cat- neither of us normally so affectionate- until the Archers came on the radio and the sound of hounds sent her clawing herself free to hide under the table.

Some really lovely things have been happening lately. I’m now recognised in Keswick Post Office, or at least the red bear stamp on most of my parcels is, which must mean that sales are getting a bit more regular. This week for the first time since leaving the Herdy shop I earned the same as I would have done had I stayed – a combined income from my own sales and the almost unbelievable treat of a day’s work at Sam Read’s Bookshop in Grasmere. I think you could begin to understand the strangeness of finding myself looking OUT of the bookshop from behind the desk, rather than IN through the postcardy door, if you looked back at previous posts or searched “Grasmere” in the side bar. The happy/sad of being here in the Lakes instead of “home”, the feeling of unreality and uprootedness that comes from building a new life where there are no familiar touchstones, the lack of confidence after various “work” events – sometimes something nice happens out of the blue and you find yourself looking over your shoulder to check for Fairy Godmothers. Anyway, it was a fun day and I’m very grateful to Will for thinking I might be able to help out… especially as we only really know each other through Twitter and there was that time I was in the shop and mentioned the possibility of assassinating him so I could steal his job (social anxiety can make you say the dumbest things).

Well, I’m sure all work can become mundane (and I’ve always resisted applying for jobs in places I really love in case familiarity breeds contempt) but it was so nice to have interesting conversations and learn new things and it seemed auspicious that as I drove over Dunmail Raise, before the signal gave out, someone was reading Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” on the radio.

Back on Witchmountain with less than two weeks until Harrogate I’m busily doing last minute preparations for the show as well as trying to learn how to use my new camera… an early birthday present to myself because I’m suppose to try and take proper product photographs. The wooden jewellery has been really popular and I can’t wait to get some more designs made. The special “design sample” price ends this weekend but I’m sure will still want them at the real RRP. which properly reflects the costs. How I wish I was a hardened business woman with no qualms about pricing, instead of a bit of a hippy idealist with a basic mistrust of Capitalism! Yesterday I listened to a radio programme that talked about spending and “peak stuff” and found that I agreed so much with the philosophy that we all have too much “stuff” and that we buy too much, waste too much. How can I reconcile this with trying to sell my own stuff?! I wanted to call the programme and say that maybe if people chose to buy more from smaller independent businesses, to choose for love rather than being on the “upgrade” treadmill – could that work? Perhaps I need to look for a good book on economics and philosophy…

The hungry stove is asking for another log, the radio’s brought unwelcome news from London and Rupert has just got back from a chilly day at work in the mines across the valley (as an outdoor educator not a miner) so it’s time for tea. Apparently the sun will reappear later this week and the brief brake on Spring will be released.

Reading:- “Basic Nest Architecture” Polly Atkin ( from Grasmere – poems that have kept me awake at night searching the internet for Moon pianos and memories of home) and “Swell, A Waterbiography” Jenny Landreth ( to be published on May 4th )



hedgehogs by Kim Tillyer

I’m writing this by the stove wearing mittens and several jumpers, facing the big sliding glass doors that replace what would once have been the barn doors to the top floor of a traditional Cumbrian bank barn. The ground rises steeply so that, while the other side of the house looks out on to the tops of trees and it’s like being in a tree house, this view puts me at mole’s-eye-level, watching the birds hopping about in the fallen leaves above my head. A wren like a fat mouse, two woodpeckers, whose scarlet feathers look pretty flashy for a Northern bird, nuthatches, tree creepers and all the usual bird feeder suspects just busy “being”. Meanwhile, inside, the cat has been precariously and unusually (she’s not cuddly) balanced on my leg, perfecting the art of looking casually relaxed in the most uncomfortable situations whilst I sit and wrestle with the meaning of life, a thousand forms of self inflicted angst and the awful guilt of needing to move my leg.

Winter came a couple of days after I wrote the previous post and I think I’m missing the calming effects of swimming because I decided to hand my notice in at work yesterday after reasoning that life is too short for battles over dusters and it wasn’t fair on either of us. Yet again I have cast myself adrift on a sea of ideology and land looks a long way off!


Perhaps Rupert has made the link between swimming and my emotions because last night he was reading up on cold water acclimatization and pricing up neoprene gloves and hats… maybe I’d better snap out of my blue mood quickly!  Cold water swimming seems to be one of those things that are in vogue at the moment, a bit like the sudden popularity of the term Hygge. The connections with mental health are fairly well documented; I don’t think it’s surprising that various ideas of “self care” and ways of tuning in to, and finding solace in, the natural world are popular at the moment- a time when the world seems particularly precarious and ideological divisions are widening.

Cards by Kim Tillyer

Here in this corner of the Cumbrian mountains the snow came like a gift to a million Instagrammers. Experienced mountain types dashed out to enjoy the alpine conditions from the tops while at lake level the rest of us had trouble getting anything done because there was too much lovliness everywhere you looked…dazzling snow with firey autumn leaves, azure skies, frosted rose hips and pink alpenglow evenings.

sunset, Langdale

If you have been reading this blog for more than one winter you will know that snow and winter are a special time for me – despite the constant moaning about cold fingers and trying to feed a ravenous stove. I’m hoping that inspiration will strike as it often does in the long winter nights; time to reflect and reassess is part of the creative process but it often feels self indulgent and it’s easy to feel guilty when you’re not as busy as those birds outside the window.

Last week I had a huge last minute treat which was a place on a “Quirky Workshop” in Greystoke with Emma Redfern. We spent all day being shown how to make messenger bags, being fed and indulging in the luxury of taking time to make something. I used a half finished embroidery project I hastily took with me as well as some pieces of Spoonflower fabric; luckily Emma and my table neighbour Tara were able to let me use some of their lovely fabrics too as I hadn’t had time to get any myself. A guilty pleasure or a vital reminder of the importance of companionship, craft and simple pleasures? I certainly felt inspired and happy that evening and more than ever aware of the dangers of too much solitude and creative isolation.

embroidered messenger bag by Kim Tillyer

Now it’s getting dark outside and the trees are just silhouettes against an elephant grey sky. Time to close the curtains, stoke up the fire and get busy in the real world instead of this virtual one. Thank you for reading x


Reading: “Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow” Peter Høeg and “What They Didn’t Teach You in in Art School”  Rosalind Davis & Annabel Tilley

Listening To: I’ve been listening to “Carrie’s War” by Nina Bawden on the radio, in the bath, because nothing quite beats warm bubbly water and a story from your childhood to make life seem proper cozy 🙂


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”

2bears cyanotype

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

snow scene

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.

bear hug cyanotype

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


Human Behaviour


Today has been almost perfect. It snowed last night,as forecast and I had planned ahead by bringing some work home with me on Friday. I still feel a little guilty for not braving the roads but for the first time I’ve probably achieved my ideal… being paid to do something useful, from home! I even got dressed properly and stayed at “my desk” without being tempted too much by the eternal excitement of slowly falling snowflakes;inconvenient it may be, but snow never ceases to be magical.


Working in a photographic gallery hasn’t improved my technical skills with the phone camera I’m afraid but I overheard Joe talking the other day and he said something about the most important starting point being the “feeling” not the method or the equipment -so that’s a relief, feeling is not something I’m short of!


So, I’m sitting here under my green blanket with the Moomin hot-water-bottle tucked up my jumper and a warm MacBook on my knee. The stove has been going all day but for some reason, perhaps the atmosphere outside, it is throwing out little heat. I’ve switched the radio off and all I can hear are various electrical hums and crackling logs. Chai tea and left over Christmas biscuits by my side, I feel happier than I have for days; like a bear in its den, shutting out the rest of the world. A nasty experience with Twitter last week (details withheld, or I would be no better than them) left me seriously questioning, not the social networking platforms specifically but the need for some people to provoke, bad-mouth others and be generally aggressive and ignorant in a public space.It’s disheartening that while you can gain so much support and inspiration from internet connections it can also serve as a wall for people to hide behind while throwing their rubbish and worse still, that this seems to be human nature.


Enough of this negative speak! My somewhat lowered mood and attack by a small “black dog” ( probably just a miniature poodle rather than an actual hound of hell) seemed to spur me in to creative action and I found myself scribbling on the back of envelopes, dripping ink and drawing  bears at half past three in the morning. This makes me wonder about the link between some sort of inner turmoil and the need to create, since there is no doubt that I have been drawing less since I became fat and contented!( This is not said to tempt fate!)


Some of the quick doodles that people have reacted to with the most positive comments  have been done when I’m in the worst kind of mood…What do you think? I’m probably talking rubbish and feeding the myth of unbalanced, over emotional “arty” types? Right, I’m off to drink some Absinthe and smoke a few Gauloise while I wash my smock and beret! I hope you’re keeping warm where ever you are.


I will be giving away a print of this bear when I reach 600 “likes” on Facebook. No rush.

Listening To: “In Search of Peter Pan” Kate Bush ,for the line …” she tells me I’m too sensitive; it makes me sad.”
Reading: Not quite yet but I’m looking forward to reading “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” illustrated by Jackie Morris. Look here for a very,very special prize draw!                                                                                                                         Watching :   Moominland Tales: The Life of Tove Jansson.


Where to Spend the Winter


Today I got up for work in the dark and ate my Marmite toast and green tea while reading a three day old newspaper. In the review section was a piece by Esther Freud about Tove Jansson’s first Moomin book “The Moomins and the Great Flood”. The piece was called “Where to Spend the Winter” and it made me even more nostalgic for the winters when being snowed-in filled me with energy and inspiration rather than the dread of trying to drive to work on icy roads. It’s snowing as I write and I have just spent a weeks wages on winter tyres.The car is stocked with blankets,shovel,ice scrapers,wellies and even a box with flapjack and nuts… I love working at the gallery but goodness I really wish I had been able to make working from home a success !


I haven’t written for ages because I had no new work to share and it was almost always dark so no photographs of outdoors were possible either.Then last week it snowed and the sun shone and everything on Witchmountain was magical.


The kind of winter sunshine that makes you want to clean all the windows. The kind of days that make you want to bring home branches to paint white and hang up pine cones and fill the house with spicy, boozy smells and brew coffee on the stove while listening to The Count of Monte Cristo on the radio.


Somewhere in the middle of this I was taken to Salt’s Mill in Saltaire, near Bradford where there was a fabulous bookshop and then,through a door we weren’t going to open, a huge room which smelled of linseed oil and vetiver,pencils and print. I bought myself the promised sketchbook and some ink…hoping something good would come of it. So far just an angry fox and the realisation that my handwriting is ambiguous…I had written “Orange” but to me it now reads “Change”


Things have been listed on Etsy as planned and Lindsey and I took part in the most godawful craft fair on the planet which seemed to involve a few people eating bacon sandwiches and drinking tea in a freezing cold village hall, whilst keeping a safe distance from the five sorry and dejected stalls. The whole proceedings were watched over by a selection of five (one for each stall holder) depressed or insane looking ,stuffed wildebeest/antelope/deer creatures whose antlers were draped in tinsel. All in all, it is a relief to know that I am not relying on sales to feed me this winter , it is so much easier to enthusiastically sell other people’s work; I’m just regretting not signing up for the Sketchbook Project again  as it has become a bit of a Winter tradition.


Now I must go and tend to my raspberry vinegar, put the kettle on and spend a moment with that ink and a clean page.

Reading :- Last weeks papers  Listening To :- Beth Orton “Call me the Breeze”

” In a little woollen box..On the peg of a small cloud…”

It always feels a bit like waking from a dream, when the snow melts and I have no excuse left for avoiding a trip in to “civilization”. Today I dashed out to post Etsy orders and buy some essential supplies (an assortment of coloured zips, some beer, some coffee and some avocado pears) before beating a hasty retreat from the half term madness back to my kitchen table where a large mug of coffee and a mountain of biscuits will sustain me as I write ( the biscuit recipe is from Daisy Cupcakes where Alison bakes the most gorgeous cakes you have ever seen).

Anyway my weekend was made perfect-despite the evil cold I was given as a present last week- by some fantastic atmospheric radio. I don’t think they could have imagined a more perfect audience for “Company of Wolves” than me in my isolated cottage, surrounded by snow and ice,embroidering a baby shoe and contemplating love, past and present. I was spell bound from the first lonely howl of the wolves and was considering bolting the door if it weren’t for the fact that I was waiting for Rupert to return from his climbing trip in Spain.These days I suppose I’m more likely to play the part of the granny who gets eaten up by the werewolf rather than the girl who tames him into submission, sleeping “sweet and sound between the paws of the tender wolf ” .

Clockwise from top left :- Ed Boxall, Julia Manning,Peter Gabriel”Ovo” album cover by Nils-Udo, Etsy blog, Birdsnest Stadium,Beijing by Herzog&de Meuron, Empty nest in apple tree.

This weekend I also started putting together some moodboards for inspiration. Always a favorite task at college, it is a wonderful way of gathering ideas for a creative project and ,as I said last week , I’ve been looking at empty nests in the bare winter branches and  thinking about the concept of nest building.It was lovely to discover the work of Ed Boxall whose beautiful lino cuts “Big Prints About Being Alone” have made me desperate to get lino printing again. At the same time I was painstakingly putting my collection of images together I was reminded about Pinterest and now have yet another online profile to maintain …only this one is for me myself, to feast my eyes upon a world of visual gorgeousness and I shan’t feel at all sad or lonely if nobody wants to  join me!

So, the icicles may have turned to puddles and the snow has been replaced by mud but I managed to get some good pictures of my latest creations while it lasted, perfectly wintery and in fact so cold that the cushions and purses were freezing to the table while I wrestled with my camera and crampons on the treacherous ground!

So now I have to leave you because I’m working on another bear cushion and I’m dying to rinse out the cyanotype fabric that’s been developing on the windowsill all day. I’m sure it must be time for another coffee too.By the way, if you forgot to go to the shops for a Valentine card (although hand made is ALWAYS best) I’ve put some of my old card designs on a page entitled Free Things, so all you have to do is print one off (or all three if you have a hectic love life) and maybe add a few extra buttons or sparkle to make it your own. There, don’t say I never give you anything!

I will be taking all my new creations to this Vintage Fair in March and I’m really looking forward to it as a few very good friends will be there too. It would be great to see some of you there…

A Girl in Winter

We are a funny lot, us English folk,we moan about the weather constantly, especially in Winter,yet I can’t ever remember snow causing so much excitement and anticipation. There was such an accurate advance warning and since it was the weekend there seemed to be hardly any of the usual doom and gloom about stranded motorists and travel chaos.Exchanging pine cones and seaweed for Twitter and Radio4,I was able to work out that I had just enough time to dash in to Helmsley for the paper and a quick rummage in the charity shops before getting back exactly as the first flakes drifted half heartedly down.

I  do so love being snowed-in  and with everyone away I was all alone in my little fantasy world…perhaps those footprints belong to a bear? Perhaps I will jump on his back and fly East of the Sun and West of the Moon? This stone in the field reminded me of a scene in The Owl Service and if I lined myself up properly my house was perfectly framed in the circle. The rest of the time I sewed and listened to murder mysteries on the radio, read the papers and baked bread, feeling all the while that I NEED this. In the same way that some seeds need to be left out in the frost in order to germinate, or that some people need to give up booze for a month; snowed-in-ness is my January detox ( in February).

Part of my feeling of outrageous contentment comes from working on something which I am actually really proud of. This cushion was a special commission and the brief was so open that I wasn’t really looking forward to it. I had to make a cushion that would really be a piece of art, for someone who wasn’t allowed to hang paintings on their walls.

I couldn’t have wished for more perfect conditions to photograph my newly finished polar bear cushion and I’m so pleased with it, in all its recycled wool and soft pom-pom edged glory! Resting on a piece of lovely vintage linen I found in the charity shop (along with a huge bag of assorted lace, tapestry wool and teddy bear fur) I think it sums up all that I love about Winter and also put me in mind of some beautiful mood boards and photoshoots by What Katy Did Next and Vicky Trainor,as well as Issue 43 of Selvedge Magazine.

I must leave you now as I’m supposed to be trying to make stock for this fair in March and I already have two new bear cushions waiting for their embroidery details,as well as a pile of purses and prints to finish. I hope you enjoyed the snow, if any landed near you, and I wish you a very happy new week from Witchmountain.

Reading:- The last chapter of “IQ84 ” Haruki Murakami  Listening To:- ” New Blood” Peter Gabriel, ” Odelay” Beck. Singing:– “Oh England, My Lionheart” Kate Bush (because I can when I’m alone!).

Happy Wedding Anniversary this week to the Tillyer parents, inspirational, unusual and generally wonderful.