Tag Archives: work


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 🙂


“…good books, and a sleepy conscience”

at Moss Eccles with Millican backpack

November arrived in great style with rustling piles of crispy leaves, the kind you can jump in and throw about, seldom seen in recent soggy years. Autumn colours almost worthy of a New England Fall and blue mirror lakes reflecting impossibly blue skies. It may seem as though I’m constantly swanning about having photogenic adventures in perfect landscapes while the rest of the world knuckles down to an honest day’s work… I can assure you this is mostly down to editing and curating, but recently I have to admit it’s all felt like living in a Disney Autumn scene.Last week we had another emergency visit to the bookshop, a torchlit climb up Wansfell and an atmospheric Halloween night spent in the van on the side of Coniston. The photo above is a before shot; before swimming out to the little island in Moss Eccles Tarn,with icicle fingers, discovering a perfect red and white toadstool in the middle of the fairy kingdom and swimming back feeling smug (for being brave enough to brave it on November 1st) and blissful with the sun in our faces. I don’t think the fairies minded being disturbed but I think I heard them laughing.

Beatrix Potter's House

After the swim we walked around the garden of Beatrix Potter’s house Hill Top. The house was closed for the winter but what a treat to have the garden almost to ourselves… last time we visited it was so busy with groups of people and tour guides that we had to queue in the garden listening to an introductory talk and Sara had a spectacular attack of suppressed giggles so that tears were streaming down her face by the time we got in. What a perfect little house and garden, I could sit and draw there all day.

Hedgehog drawing by Kim Tillyer

Channeling my inner Beatrix (I’m getting to be almost her shape these days too) I’ve been drawing hedgehogs in quiet moments at work and expecting to be told off at any moment.

A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.–Neil Gaiman

Last week I was told I must clean shelves at all times and reading was banned even during the quietest days when everything was sparkling… this week I was told off for cleaning while customers were in. I’m a confused and resentful rebel; the teenager who wouldn’t eat fish pie at school, the child who got in trouble at primary school for putting her hands in a tray of seed compost because she wanted to see how it felt, the frustrated artist disguised as a middle aged shop assistant! I’ve mused a lot about work in this blog and of course I’m aware that potential employers may read this and give the naughty troublemaker a wide berth but actually I think they’d be missing the point and the potential. Rules and regulations should also allow for imagination and inventiveness which is how things advance and grow and without which we are extras in a Samuel Beckett play or living a scene in Catch 22. I read this meme recently “people don’t leave good jobs they leave bad managers” and looking back now I actually miss (the early years) working in a pub in Osmotherley when despite the long hours and low pay I would gladly have done just about anything for the manager Helen who had a healthy cynicism about our bosses, the job and a real skill in asking rather than telling. Helen now runs TeaCakes of Yorkshire, a lovely online tea company and I miss her loads.

Crummock in Autumn

Hey ho, the perils of over sharing in a public arena… but life’s too short not to say what you mean just so long as you’re not nasty. Now it’s almost time for me to throw some more logs on the stove and find another pair of socks to put on over the other two – November is showing its other face today, it’s cold and damp and the leaves are mushy gold on the doorstep. Last night we went up Catbells in the dark to watch the fireworks, it was so clear and bitingly cold, sitting on the rocks drinking hot blackcurrant and Brandy and contemplating almost two years in Newlands Valley.

Autumn sketch

I dug out this old sketch which I’d made after one of our weekend trips here from “home”;  it seems so long ago now but the drawing feels more special now that I’m living surrounded by those colours , today the fells are just as black and topped with mist. Meanwhile in the land of blue and white more horses have emerged and a bear has left the Artfinder shop which is fantastic news and really encouraging.

Keep warm where ever you are and enjoy the last of Autumn x

cyanotype horse

Reading: “When the Floods Came” Clare Morrall Listening to:  “Paper Moon” Ella Fitzgerald after listening to Ali Smith on Desert Island Discs

Lost in the Fog with Monsters

Needle felted polar bear

A bear with a jar full of stars, a valley full of chiffon mist, celestial blue skies; if only life could always be filled with such magic and beauty. I feet like retreating into my inner land of make believe this week and potentially that may be the safest place.

Mist in the Lake District

It’s been the most unbelievably atmospheric Autumn here in the Lake District so far. Clouds and mists rise and fall, flowing down the valleys and draping themselves over the tops like gossamer bridal veils – forgive the flowery language but you can see why all those poets got carried away with it around here. Sunday’s walk was a perfect example … beginning in sun dappled forests smelling of pine and mushrooms and earth (Shinrin-yoku), enduring a slog up a boggy hillside in thick fog (navigation practice, hmmm) to emerge on an eerily lit summit where an almost biblical revelation occurred as the mist slid away in stages to reveal layer upon layer of heartbreakingly gorgeous landscape.

Towards Causey Pike in the mist

I hear it’s been like that above a certain height all week but for one reason or another I have been unable to reach up to the sunlight through the fog.

Skiddaw in the mist

I had been due to start my new job at the Museum yesterday. As I said in my last post it had meant that at last I would be earning enough to justify my existence on the planet but not only that; I was hoping it would mean meeting more people over here, drawing me out of what has become an increasingly hermit like existence. I also really liked the Museum. I got an email on Saturday asking me to “pop in on Monday for a chat”.

mug designs by Kim Tillyer

I had been offered the job on the merit of my interview and the carefully prepared presentation on ” The Benefits of Working with Volunteers”, the gallery in Keswick provided a good reference and I had all the dates on the calendar and my shoes polished for day one. Only I did a stupid thing. I trusted in honesty and good intentions.

mug designs by Kim Tillyer

I’d given Joe Cornish ( the photographer not the comedian ) as a referee, believing in my naivety that, despite all the difficulties in the cafe towards the end of my time there, I’d loved my work organising the creative workshops and that I had done a good job, been a dedicated and effective member of staff and that Joe himself was a man of integrity and an artistic soul (as his website claims). I was very wrong. Joe was too busy packing for a trip to write anything so his partner suggested they ask the gallery. Joni (who had cried when I left and apologised for her mismanagement of the situation) wrote a reference that made me sound like a lovable village idiot who could just about make a cappuccino but was unlikely to manage anything too taxing involving any “attention to detail”, numeracy, organisation or reliability… and thus I was sent away humiliated and shell shocked, the job offer withdrawn. I am indeed an idiot, I expect people to act fairly and compassionately and they don’t. The past is a hole thinly covered with branches on a sunlit path and inside the hole there are spikes and mud and monsters.

I also found out that Joe is again running his exclusive residential workshops from the lovely North York Moors surroundings of ….wait for it…. Snilesworth Lodge, shooting estate and home of the delightful and kind Toby Horton, UKIP landowner. I felt like I’d been beaten up.

mug designs by Kim Tillyer

I’ve moaned at you and it’s a massive turn off but sometimes things need saying and the cat wasn’t really being very responsive. In other news I’ve been printing mugs and lurking about in my pyjamas in next door’s porch trying to photograph them ( the mugs not the pyjamas) in the morning light, I’ve been listening to Elbow and trying to play my mandolin and getting trapped in corners by spitting alpacas… not all at the same time though. I won’t always be moaning so please come back soon, thank you for listening. x

Reading :-“Nature Cure” – Richard Mabey  Listening To:- Real Life (Angel) –  Elbow



How to Create a Life Worth Living



Once upon a time there was an old, grey, stone house on a hill where there lived a small person with cobwebs in her hair. She surrounded herself with paper and fabrics and half finished things made of wool or sticks; books towered on every surface and the cupboards were so full of “things that might be useful one day” that it was unsafe to open doors for fear of avalanche or dangerous distraction from the task at hand. In the nearby woods lurked an imaginary black dog who howled rudely in the mornings and said mean things in the night but was usually frightened away by the smell of coffee at elevenses. After lunch a friendly but wistful bear would lumber into the garden, curl into a ball around a tree and refuse to move; even when offered cake. He had no desire to travel far and was happy just watching the garden as it grew around him.


Well, it’s been a funny old week and quite eventful. We looked after a lovely puppy who didn’t realise that cockerels aren’t play things and couldn’t resist the flapping, panic stricken thing who eventually had to play dead (or perhaps he fainted) leaving a trail of feathers like an exploded pillow. Only his pride was hurt luckily and I’m sure his tail will grow back- thought it was awful to imagine his hens sniggering behind his back ( they stayed safely in bed of course). In other chicken news  Egg1 is due to hatch on Thursday and Egg2 the following week. If it works I’m hoping to send off for some rare breed eggs to start my new empire. Then bees, bees are next because thats what Sherlock Holmes did when he retired. Is it too soon for that?


It was fantastic to get a couple of exciting commissions last week and an invitation today to meet a couple of artists whose work I love. Solitude suits me but sometimes it is vital to actually venture out into the world to exchange experiences with other creative people and try to remember table manners and how to converse in a two way exchange. So many of us sit alone in our work spaces trying to make and create in relative isolation- so communication with each other, real or virtual, can be the bright spark in the day.


Anyway, desperation and several evil bills sent me out last week for a “trial” at a nice coffee shop in town. Part time hours sounded good and I loved the place …however, having washed up for nothing for nearly 4 hours I was asked to come in for a couple of hours one evening ( this involved buying uniform as I’d optimistically binned all my old black and whites when I got the job at the gallery). Half an hour before going in I got a call saying the job had gone to a “young lad” so there was no need. Ah, the job market is a fickle thing and I can only hope it was a reminder not to give up on creativity rather than a sign that businesses will always chose someone on the lower rate of minimum wage over one with experience and can basically get unemployed people to work for nothing if they call it a “trial”.


Enough vitriol. The sun shone today and I cut firewood in the garden, watching the increasingly excitable birds on the feeders and the daffodil buds poking through the earth and daring it to snow. I listened to murder mysteries on the radio and finished a couple of cushions with a hot water bottle up my jumper and really thats pretty much perfect.


Until next time x

Last Day of the Year 2013


Dear neglected readers of Witchmountain, this New Year’s Eve finds me sitting by the stove with my feet on the table reflecting on the passing of the year and what the future may hold. I’m also drinking  strong, freshly ground coffee in an Anthropologie mug with a slab of home made stollen and a wedge of Stilton…telling you this makes me ponder the impression we give to others of our lives, through heavily self censored social media, blogging and everything. It is possible to become totally hung up on how fun packed and perfect everyone else’s lives appear to be because no one shares the grimmer, less photogenic bits. Still, writing this blog I can present my life on Witchmountain as I would wish it to be and how I hope it would seem if you called round for coffee – you’re welcome any time ( turn a blind eye to the muddy drive, the dusty floor and un-plastered wall, the rising fears about paying the bills and the sometimes crippling discontent and look instead at the view of rain soaked hills, an arrangement of branches on the table ready to be drawn, reflected rainbows from the window crystals or the new chickens tidying up what the blue tits drop from their feeder).


It was an even quieter than normal Christmas this year, with my small family at different ends of the country for the first time. I spent the day with my “grown up” children flying kites, playing “once a year” board games and keeping family traditions alive by setting fire to puddings, trying to get my son to eat sprouts and all that. Father Christmas did actually land on the roof on Christmas Eve, I heard him skid to a halt and slide a bit, perhaps too many whiskies? I’m sure it was him and nothing to do with the lumps of roof mortar I found on the grass in the morning.


And so tomorrow will be 2014 and it will be over 5 years since I graduated and 2 months since I left the gallery. I’m currently in agonies of indecision and turmoil as, predictably, the perfect job cannot be found in time (either the wrong job nearby or the perfect job too far away) and the luxury of time and savings to invest in my own work are just a dream still. I live in hope though.


After a lovely few days in the Lakes this week it was good to get back with a bag of new brushes, ink and pens from the Heaton Cooper Gallery shop and to find a parcel from Spoonflower waiting in the shed. I love the fabric and roll of wrapping paper that I had printed by them and my frustration is only that I know I should be out earning a wage not drawing owls and bears…unless … unless…


Anyway, it is time to fetch more logs and cook something delicious for a new Year’s Eve treat. I hope you all have the very best 2014, thank you for reading and commenting and generally being so wonderful and kind and supportive. Don’t forget, if you’re in the North I still have a small selection of work at the Joe Cornish Gallery , along with Jane Thorniley-Walker; our space is upstairs and we’d love you to visit!


Finally here is my Witchmountain New Year’s Honours List, just some of the wonderful people who have made 2013 for me… Charlotte Bezzant, Hunt and Gather Design ( Moira), Jenny Pepper, Mima , Peter Leeming and Ruth Fairbrother and “Rockyhud” and Mr Voakes! Thank you all and so many more.

Happy New Year and much love. x

Reading: “The Tiger’s Wife” Téa Obreht   Listening To : “Vespertine” Bjork

Soup Dragon


October has begun to act as it should and I’m curling my toes with pleasure as I re-live old rituals… the stove is lit, coffee has been ground and set on the hot plate in the Moka pot while the windows darken and the silhouette of the big oak tree blends slowly into the night. I’m having a day off tomorrow which means I can drink coffee and listen to 6Music all night, like in the days before the gallery,  with no fear of nodding off on the drive to work.                                                             The month began in a most unpleasant way and for one reason or another which I won’t go in to, I am now in the Gallery Cafe full time which was exactly the polar opposite outcome to the one I had hoped for. I’ve been soul searching and over analysing and wondering what my problem is but I can only conclude that I have the unfortunate combination of cripplingly low self esteem and an over-inflated ego! Maybe I’ve been wrong all along… but what was the point of doing my degree, all that time and effort when all anyone wants me for is soup and scones ?


Anyway, the good news is that my “Keats’ commission is at last ready to wing its way south to its new home. Sometimes, while attempting to combine work with trying to be creative I have been struck down with inertia and it was interesting to read this article in the Guardian last week. It made me look back at  times when I feel I was very productive creatively ( relative to now I mean)  and ironically it was probably when I was living a much less structured life; sleeping until late and working long in to the night with lots of coffee, whiskey and cigarettes combined with emotional upheaval!  There is an argument that working the “day job” makes free time more precious and therefore less likely to be wasted but I obviously lack stamina as I just want to sleep like a bear.


So, it’s time to start a new project…any requests? My first is to make myself an apron for work, since this is now my lot. I shall embroider it with messages to cheer me up when the going gets tough and the scones come out flat. It will have big pockets and a built in oven timer ( so far this week I have burnt:- a pan of pasta, a tray of squash, a bulb of garlic and 6 red peppers ).


I will leave you now with this cup of coffee… my one success from a brilliant evening at LMDC Espresso Bar in Harrogate. Lauren and I went for a barista training session last week and had such a good time; I can’t recommend them highly enough…thanks for a great night Lesley. Mostly I made a mess and laughed so much the coffee spilled all over my hand ( that could have been the effects of all the caffeine ) but this fern did eventually emerge from the foam and attempting to recreate it at work is going to keep me busy for a while…my aim is to be able to make bears in the latte.


Reading: “I Capture the Castle” Dodie Smith       Listening to :  “Bohemian Like You” Dandy Warhols


Suddenly the world outside the window is a big green explosion with everything bursting into life and singing its heart out.It feels like being part of that speeded up nature film, with leaves unfolding before your very eyes and seasonal flowers urgently rushing from bud to bloom in a day, to make up for their late arrival. Unfortunately I’m also part of this, feeling that time is passing so quickly that there isn’t a moment left to get everything done…after work one can either write or draw or garden but not all three (and these more often give way to cooking and trying to hold back the tsunami of neglected housework ). This is my apology for neglecting Witchmountain and allowing the gallery to steal my life. I miss my days of hermitage.

blueowlStill,I guess most of us are discontented and frustrated by the day job and I’m lucky that at least mine has some perks… I was recently able to use my “Wren” design on some bags printed to promote the gallery’s creative workshops and now that the cafe is almost complete, the shiny new coffee machine is helping to feed my addiction, while my own stove top “Mooka”pot sits lonely and cold on the shelf at home.                                                                                                                At the moment I’m making some digital prints ready for Art in the Shed in Osmotherley on Bank Holiday Weekend which is now in its third year, raising money for Street Child Africa and celebrating a wide variety of talent from the village. The same weekend sees the opening of the cafe at the Joe Cornish Gallery with a talk by Joe, so I imagine I’ll be living on cake and coffee. And meanwhile, whenever the sun shines in the evenings I’m flitting in and out making cyanotype prints and getting carried away digging the garden and dreaming of new planting schemes.


So you see I have been wanting to write and share Spring thoughts from the Moors for weeks but always ended up doing gallery stuff and wasting hours looking at other people’s lives on Facebook instead of living my own. It may sound selfish or arrogant or even lazy but from now on I’m promising to be nice to myself and I will leave work behind at 5pm, take a deep breath and head for the hills…after all my heart and soul belong to Witchmountain not my weekly wage cheque.


I wanted to tell you all about the wonderful birthday trip to the Lakes, of scrambling about in icy cold becks wearing unflattering wetsuits, of eating flapjack in a hailstorm on the top of Rannerdale Knotts with my daughter, of the swallows return and the arrival of buzzards, of Lomography experiments and cake accidents… but already the windows are dark-as-night-blue and the heating has clicked off. I think I can hear a curlew outside but it must be flying home to bed.


Thank you for reading where ever you are.

Reading:- “The Hobbit” J.R.R.Tolkein  Listening To:- “Kaleidophonica” Spiro