Tag Archives: The Sketchbook Project

The Magpie Told Me…

Last week I decided to believe in magic again; after being reminded about the strange story of the sketchbook that foretold my future . It all seems so unlikely –  a Dorian Gray kind of spell – except instead of getting eternal youth (sadly) the picture seemed to have been an oracle leading me on a journey far removed from my own chosen direction and wishes at the time.

So now I’m looking for small everyday magic and finding it as I walk ; from the friendly face I spotted in the tree this evening, to the hare gently loping along the path in front of me, before slipping into the long grass and invisibility. I’ve been inspired by some of the people I’ve “met” on Instagram such as Milla, “The Woman who Married a Bear“, to rekindle an interest in plants and herbs; mixing a potion that works wonders on tired fellwandery feet and, who knows, maybe if I fill a sketchbook with my hopes and dreams they might come true someday (better practise drawing pretty houses with vegetable gardens and swimming ponds…and some kind of representation of world peace of course.) Meanwhile I continue to dawdle on my walks, saying the names out loud – Tormentil, Bog Asphodel, Silverweed and Usnea; and tonight, purple-ing my fingers with surprise bilberries up by the reservoir; where I wasn’t brave enough to swim alone. It was the first time I’d walked alone for a while (feeling fat and sluggish after being left in charge of my poor self control and one of Rupert’s coffee cakes while he camps out on soaking wet islands, inspiring groups of NCS students) and I thought, or resolved perhaps, to do it more often. To lose myself in thought and daydreams…

As well as all that wandering about with my head in the clouds or my nose in a bilberry bush, I’m getting organised for Art in the Pen Thirsk, which is in just two weeks time. I hope I can fit everything in the car and even more, I hope it all sells so I can buy the materials needed for Art in the Pen Skipton the following month, as well as some more exhibitions I’m sending work to. It’s been a bit of a flurry of activity the last few weeks with some very happy days in Sam Read Booksellers preventing me from becoming a total hermit and work delivered to three lovely galleries for summer exhibitions ( The Witham, Byard Art and Obsidian Art)

As usual I’ve left this writing until late and all the stories wanted to tell you will have to wait because none of us has the attention span we once did and I need to soak my midge bitten body in some cool water before bed and book time. Remind me to tell you about the evil grey squirrel who scampered below the lazy cat, snoozing on a bench and absolutely didn’t give a damn about the danger ( the squirrel warden has been notified) ; or how I let myself down in Loughrigg  by wallowing in the waterlilies when my prescription goggles steamed up.

Reading: Letters From Klara by Tove Jansson and “Waterlog” Roger Deakin Listening To: White Horses by Jakie Lee (this has been on the radio lately as the theme to Eddie Izzard’s autobiography and I remember loving the series when I was small- which makes me almost as old as these hills)


“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…


“Up The Hill Backwards”

I’m thinking of changing the name of this blog to “Which Mountain” as I seem to be spending as much time going on about my days in the hills as my days in the studio ( * for studio read kitchen table ). I hope you don’t mind? Anyway, I have finally found a good use for Twitter; the ability to find out from locals whether it is worth the drive from East to West. A good weather report on Friday evening turned us in to a fast response team, dashing over to Keswick for breakfast,then to Rannerdale to climb Whiteless Pike.

Oh, I wasn’t feeling at my best and it felt like the hardest yet but goodness, its always worth it when you reach the top! My photography skills let me down though; its impossible to capture on a mobile phone camera, the amazing beauty  that unfolded on all sides.We ate chocolate cake on the summit and almost lost the flask, like a Morris pattern missile, hurtling down the steep ice slope. As Rupert fitted crampons to his boots I began to fear I may go the same way as the flask, despite the ice axe I was given to use as a miniature walking stick!Wearing 80’s style legwarmers and some secondhand boots, I still behave like a toddler tackling the stairs and prefer to go on all fours, sitting down occasionally.

A beautiful, beautiful place and I would love to return in the Spring when Rannerdale is full of bluebells- preferably with a wicker hamper full of picnic , a tartan rug and sketch book! I shall wear something floaty and totally unsuitable shoes…

Talking of sketchbooks, mine is off to New York tomorrow.I’m spending the rest of today making prints, photographing and generally getting ready to part with it.I’ve really enjoyed this year’s book and while it is sad to know I may never see it again I do hope we will meet again in London at the end of the year.

These prints have been made on Khadi paper and stitched together on the sewing machine. They will be a limited edition available in my Etsy shop soon. I’ve also made a miniature version of the book, for myself, which I wish I’d done last year. I love books and feel inspired to do another very soon; I’ve also been looking into finding a way into freelance illustration…

So, don’t forget the giveaway competition ends on Wednesday. Thank you so much for all the lovely comments and new followers. Have a good week where ever you are. Just one more thing,if you live in the United Kingdom and have fond memories of school trips, enjoying the outdoors, building shelters, falling in water, getting muddy and having midnight feasts you may be interested in signing this petition to save Outdoor Education Centres  . Joking aside, the emphasis here is on education and the vital work these places do, inspiring children’s learning through interaction with the world around them;encouraging self awareness and building self esteem. Saddly,I missed my school trip…where did you go?