Tag Archives: Tove Jansson


I should have written notes while I was away, or I should have spent the evenings writing instead of watching murder mysteries, because now, less than a week since got home, I’ve so much to tell you but it’s all jumbled up with how it feels to be home. Things have burst into flower and leaf , houseplants are leaning towards the light and people have moved into the birdhouse we put up last spring – they have been busy dusting and bringing in new nesting equipment.

The return to Witchmountain, after British Craft Trade Fair, was delayed by a trip to London; so that altogether I was out of my nest for nine whole days! This only happens once a year and I should probably do it more often so that the feelings anxiety beforehand and unsettled flatness afterwards are less intense. I had such a good time and so many adventures. After all the build up to a big event it’s not surprising it feels a little odd to be back with no imminent deadlines and just a sleeping cat for company during the day (and the owl who likes to hoot in the daytime).

This year BCTF was back in a permanent hall rather than a marquee and we’d been given an extra metre of space due to a cancellation, so it was a massive relief that the calico backdrops I’d made last year fitted perfectly. We found it much easier to set up this year, although it’s never quite how you imagine it on paper.I’d mended the ladders with string but they still felt pretty dodgy and my mum told me yesterday that my grandad made them himself in the war or something…no wonder they were wobbly. Here are three generations of Tillyer women- I need to work on my body language a little don’t I, you can see the discomfort in my white knuckled, clenched fist!

Of course I got severe stand envy as I looked around at what other people had done and it’s the hardest thing in the world not to compare and lose confidence; it is for me anyway. My friend Bridget Wilkinson was there for the first time and the simplicity and neatness of her stand design really let her work shine … it was also easier to set up, so If I do the show again I may do some reinventing ( mine was done with fabric, mostly because I have no power tools except a sewing machine and my dreadful measuring skills are more easily forgiven in fabric ).

Well we had a good show and met so many lovely, inspiring people – makers and gallery owners- I can’t even begin to list them all (but I will be adding new dates and stockists to the exhibitions page on the website soon)  I began to think I should give London a miss and head straight home to start on orders. This year is going to be busy and exciting; I just hope it starts to even out financially because there’s no doubt it’s been an expensive journey. BCTF is cheap compared to the bigger events like Top Drawer but I reckon it cost over £1,000 to stand, which is an awful lot when you don’t have a guaranteed income. We treated ourselves to a hotel with a pool and I swam every night, imagining myself looking like Esther Williams until I put my glasses back on and saw the reality-sometimes it’s better to live inside your head and dream.

And so from Harrogate to London where the weather made everything seem like we could have been in Italy. We ate tiny overpriced cakes cut into 3 pieces in the Royal Academy members rooms, marvelled at the marmalade at Fortnum’s , lusted over everything in Anthropologie and visited the Bernard Jacobson Gallery where there was an exhibition by a rather special artist.  London glittered in the sunlight and I insisted we went to Kew Gardens after a tip off there might be Moomins there. We must have walked for miles and I do wish I was able to go everyday for a month with a sketchbook and a picnic and a good map and plant guide.

There was a Moomin event at Kew but the real reason we were in London was to go to the Southbank Centre’s Adventures in Moominland. Ok, I may have lost you by now; to a lot of people the Moomins was just a slightly creepy kids cartoon or a childhood paperback but I didn’t even discover the books by Tove Jansson, apart from the semi autobiographical  “The Summer Book”,  until I was 42. For some reason we missed them as children so my first Moomin experience is of  reading all the stories one deep, white winter, with a bottle or two of whisky for company, snowed in and  heartbroken after a relationship breakup. They are children’s stories yes, but as the exhibition makes clear they are also about existential crisis,  fear and loss, love and friendship, family and acceptance of difference, home and security. Many of the stories are actually about Tove’s own life and relationships. Lots of the characters are misfits and outsiders but all are welcomed into the “family”. Don’t tell anyone but at a couple of points along the guided “adventure” I nearly cried- it was so beautifly done, with little illuminated tableaux in each room containing exquisite original drawings… some hidden in suitcases like Thingumy and Bob’s “content”, the love that they kept secret. There were no filming or photography allowed which I can understand but I wish I could show you how magical it was to literally walk into a favourite book; the whole experience was gentle and tactile with the smell of woodsmoke and clever use of light and sound. It could have been tacky and theme parky, or full of cynical kids but in our group of 15 there were only two very sweet children and the rest were grown ups – which just goes to prove my point.

Tove Jansson’s niece, Sophia Jansson
Photo: Vic Frankowski

Almost every year and in times of need I re-read Tove Jansson’s books, especially Moominland Midwinter and feel grateful for the magic of a story that can transport you to another reality and put a different spin on your own. I think it’s no exaggeration to say those books saved my life that winter, because whilst reading it was as though I pressed “pause” and took the time out  I needed to feel  stronger.

OK, enough of the soppy stuff. I’m back in the Lakes now and busily making orders to send to all the lovely new galleries. There is a giveaway on my Facebook page at the moment to win a candle lantern… it’s in the spirit of Hobbit birthdays  because I’ll be picking a winner at random the day after my birthday next week. If you have time have a look… you’re in with a good chance because despite paying to promote the post only about 11 people have entered! The mysteries of Facebook algorithms.

Happy Spring, Easter, Eostre – whatever you celebrate x

Reading: “The Bear and the Nightingale” Katherine Arden and ” Work and Love” Tuula Karjalainen Website: I met Heidi Vilkman at BCTF, she is from Finland and apart from her art she has built the most amazing little cottage which could easily have been in a Tove Jansson book- honestly you have to look! http://cobdreams.blogspot.co.uk


Waldeinsamkeit : The feeling of being alone in the woods


The hills are brown velvet and dirty lace, with their dusting of half hearted snow melting fast and adding to the frothy beer coloured streams and puddles. I don’t think it is possible for things to be any wetter. Everything is either green, grey or brown as if somebody has applied some new Instagram filter to the view. I’ve been looking after my neighbour’s farm this weekend and as I walked back after skating around in 50 shades of mud for an hour I thought what a shock to my eyes it would be if I were suddenly transported to somewhere hot and bright and vibrant…Mexico maybe.


Last week I treated myself to books. One was full of photographs of owls and the other was “Sculptor’s Daughter” by Tove Jansson which is wonderful. In one chapter she describes the correct way to draw forests and mentions John Bauer who is probably one of my very favourite artists…I knew exactly which pictures she was describing and when I couldn’t sleep last night I spent an hour or two reading about him and looking at the mossy stones and dark woods filled with bears and trolls and tiny golden haired princesses. It’s easier to live in a world of make believe because in the real one logs piles run low and phone companies mess you about and cars break down and cost so much to fix that it doesn’t even matter if you spent all your money on books because that was just a drop in the ocean anyway.


I’ve been doing lots of drawing and pattern making and getting excited that Spring Fair is next week and the fact that my cards are going to be there as part of “Natural Partners” collection makes me feel like a “real” artist. It would be fantastic if some shops chose to stock them. (If you happen to be a buyer for  Anthropologie or Paperchase or a gorgeous independent gallery shop then the stand number is 4J21!)


Well, I am itching to get some more designs on Spoonflower so I’m going to throw another log on the stove, get some coffee ground and draw some more owls. I think a cake needs to be baked too; January is definitely a time for indulging and lying low until the first bright colours arrive.


Listening to: ” Sunset “Kate Bush Reading: “Sculptor’s Daughter” Tove Jansson

A Bear in the Flowers

Like walking through treacle I’m slowly forcing myself in to better habits .Today, ignoring the sacks of mouse stained fabrics and the garden begging for water, I finished and listed two more Etsy items.The  Polar Bear Brooch, filled with Lavender looked perfect in the bright bright PINK Dianthus deltoides by the front door ( I just looked that up and it said a major problem with these flowers is chipmunks,I wish!)

I started making this purse ages ago, inspired by the bags and purses designed by PaperPlane , any of their things would be a lovely present thank you! (but of course the Witchmountain version is 100% unique so …) I still have a thing about letters and post, despite some nasty surprizes, nothing beats a hand written letter delivered by “snail mail”. A close second being a  book I’d forgotten that I’d ordered months ago arriving today…”Travelling Light” by Tove Jansson, I can’t wait to find somewhere peaceful and sunny to lose myself in that book.

“Poet for Sale”

This time the snow took me by surprise ; so much so that there was actually washing on the line, frozen solid and dusted with white! Sara and Jake had to miss school today so we walked down to look at the icicles at Blow Gill and take photographs with the birthday camera.

Sara has kindly taken loads of new pictures of my work for me, which involved standing outside in the freezing cold for ages, so “Thank You” Sara.Now I just need to re-size some of them and get a couple more things listed on Etsy. making some pennies has become urgent now as I seem to have developed a very expensive book habit ! I’m also lusting after a bag and purse made by Paper Plane …they would come in very handy if i could ever get it together to do a bit of travelling!( I just love post, and letter writing and stamps as I’ve said before so these would be perfect…hint hint!)

I got an e-mail from a college friend today telling me about “We Are Open” a pop-up-shop that she will be running during March.The shop will showcase surface design and textile /fashion designers and makers from the area and will be at 5 Newport Road , Middlesbrough (Next to Jessop’s photo shop opposite Binns).The link above is for their Facebook group and has more information.It sounds such a good idea.

Now, I must curl up with my coffee and begin my new books “Tove Jansson Rediscovered” and Book 1 of the Moomin comic strip…its been a very emotionally trying weekend and I’m hoping these will sooth my troubled soul. Don’t forget to have a look over at Poppytalk Handmade, there is some lovely stuff to be found there.

(Listening to: Faze Action “Samba”(Roger Sanchez Darkstar mix) and “Poet for Sale” Daevid Allen/Gong )

Kitchen Confidential

Here is the corner of my kitchen with pin-board and wine crate bookshelf. Sometimes it feels as though my whole world has shrunk to just this room and the ever changing view from the window…today mostly obscured by misty condensation. This time last year it was getting ready to snow but hopefully this year it’ll wait awhile…at least till I sort out why the car is rattling and find some hay for the ponies!

Today I have been catching up with Lyndsay McBean and wondering yet again if we’ve all been heading in the right direction. College now seems SO long ago.Lyndsay has been working on her online portfolio at Carbonmade so lets hope lots of job offers come flooding in :@); I particularly like her nightclub promotion posters…

The Zillah Bell Gallery e-mailed me yesterday because they had been sent a piece of my work by Les Prince. A nice surprise and beyond the call of duty ( he really is a remarkable man). So anyway, I think its going to be in their Christmas exhibition which opens with a private view tomorrow night. I also finally got around to contacting a few other galleries ; so I’m kind of hoping that in the new year things may start to look a bit brighter.

Well, the stove is almost out and the last dregs of coffee have turned to syrup in the pan so I’d better head up the apples and pears to bed. I finished reading “About a Boy” by Nick Hornby this morning ,which means I’m heading back to the magical world of Tove Jansson and “The True Deceiver” . Then what? Any ideas?

Bleak House

Driving in the dark; the black road is edged in orange and russet as the larch needles fall like snow.Its wild and windy and a catalogue of small disasters has made it a bit bleak up here on Witchmountain ( the heating has stopped working, the washing has blown away and Jake accidentally knocked over a bottle of water in my room so that it has actually been raining on me ,INDOORS, smudging my drawing and almost killing my poor old computer!!)I can’t stop eating toast either, I’m going to end up big as a house.

Apart from all that, my new Gocco stuff came the other day ,so tomorrow I’m going to have another go with a new design and some fabric inks…as well as continuing to play with the old heat transfer dyes. This bird is a little doodle I’m going to try out tomorrow as well…that’s if I can brave the freezing house and don’t get tempted to stay snuggled up with Tove Jannson. I’m watching for the postman too because my Moo cards should be arriving soon….

( Reading “Who Will Comfort Toffle?” Tove Jansson. Listening to: the wind)

Snow Bear


Today I have: – made bread, cleaned the leaves out of the drains, designed and ordered cards and stickers from Moo, done a mass of washing and eaten almost a whole packet of Oreos. I decided to use this image for my cards as it’s one of my favorite pieces and I miss it since the Golden Lion bought it for their guest room.I know you’ve seen it before but its so dark today I couldn’t take any pictures.

I found a lot of hoof prints near the car when I ventured into the ” lost world” behind the house to investigate the drains. There must have been some sort of stampede this morning while I was snoozing;I’d been reading “The Summer Book” by Tove Jansson and was therefore miles away in a different nettle patch altogether.

Lindsey and I made cards and drank whiskey coffee all night, oh and great news… Sara came home from college with a new printer and an ipod which she had won! She got second prize in a mural competition for BT , hurray!! I’ve never won a thing in my life ( except a tray of meat at pony club when I’d just turned vegetarian!!).

Well Done Sara, have a great weekend everyone.x