The next step towards business

As hard as it is setting up a business, I'm enjoying doing it. I would have been quicker had I not already been working full time as a teacher. It's exciting, I love what I'm doing, it's in its infancy but I'm hopeful.

I am now back to working on it in the evenings or at the weekends so that I have enough time to evaluate and not rush through ideas. Blogging is harder when you are doing multiple jobs but, I am optimistic that it will be easier. Eventually!

The Hannah Peschar Sculpture park.

What a wonderful place so full of wildlife, living alongside sculpture which has been expertly chosen to sit within the landscape. It truly is a wonderful place of curiosity, wonder, tranquility and beauty.

Visiting here is like going on a mini adventure. Hidden within the leafy B roads of Surrey. The Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden is not necessarily a well known place. We visited on a damp yet mild May day and had a truly wonderful time. The mixture of materials and processes involved in creating the sculptures and the care and attention to the positioning of them means that every turn and corner reveals a different viewpoint and dimension to each piece. There's a timeless almost ethereal quality to the space- it's rhythms determined by the weather and how it affects the light and the movement of the sculptures and the landscape they are becoming part of. You are most welcome to follow a set route however we veered of and found our own, exploring the undergrowth and lesser trodden paths.

It is well worth the time and effort to find so do visit the website for summer opening times.

http://www.hannahpescharsculpture.com

Husbands Photography

Brutalist Architecture and Floral abstracts... Rough, tough bloke, gentle insides ! 

My Husband takes photos. He doesn't just take them, he angles, sources the light, technically analyses and sets up the photos. He enjoys the science and tech nerdary behind the processes. He has qualifications in Photography, various software packages and is a bone fide Apple enthusiast/obsessive with a 25+yr career within the advertising and wider technologies industries.

He is also better than he thinks. Aren't we all?  I hear you say- well no. Quite simply some people have no idea how untalented they are- it's the human inability to be realistically self reflective. Im exactly the same.

He has no exhibitions under his belt but we're in discussions currently.

He has won competitions (international and local) people applaud his photos wherever we go. Whenever they see them.  I know I'm biased so I defer judgement to others and hope he listens to them.

Brutalist architecture appeals to his engineering brain. It is clean, stark and clever. It draws you in, it does a job and it is unashamedly there. In your face. He gets brilliant angles, viewpoints and perspectives. The tonal quality is amazing, the concrete, glass and steel.

On the flip side to this is the delicacy and form of the macro natural world photography he does. Mainly flora, occasionally insects but the abstraction he can achieve is mind blowing. The vivid nature of the colour, the dew drops with reflections and the focus, I like that he plays around with that. 

 

 

 

springing into action

Enthused by the recent acquisition of a new phone and the excitement of realising that the camera is as good as the last, I have an increased enthusiasm to post Instagram pictures and renew my sketching for the year. This is the year Id like to begin to sell my work. 

It is the beginning of the next step.

 

Autumnal reflections in early spring

As the summer draws in and the colours become so amazingly vibrant, I reluctantly spend less and less time just sitting in the garden watching things continue with their everyday. The colours of the garden constantly fill me with a primeval joy- the subtle difference between the tones of the  ochres and russets from the grasses at their majestic heights, the dead seed heads I leave for the birds showing black against the dullness of the mist or drizzle and the fact our Cherry tree flowers again in December regardless of the weather or temperature!

I do love the Autumn, specifically for the colours and the layers within them. We got married in Autumn. It was no coincidence that we had gorgeous flowers in many rich and varied colours and textures from thistles to roses and then highlighted beautifully and romantically with candlelight. It all matched my husbands family tartan quiet nicely which was, I suppose, the beginning point for me. I think Chattan Ancient is the name but I'll have to check! 

I have been collecting natures hoard- seed heads, kernels, husks all to draw and Ive managed some of them too! Its been harder since Im working full time too but eventually the balance will shift. I hope.

 

Knit one, solder one...

A little promotion of Mothers skills here follows.

Mother’s skills in the craft arena are clearly one of the roots of my own interest. For my entire childhood we were bedecked in hand knitted jumpers (I complained of scratchy wool) and Clothkits clothing as I have mentioned before. Currently I have the most fabulous jumper knitted a couple of years ago for me, which has to almost have finished her off it was so complex.

We had soft toys made for us at Christmas and there was a continual stream of Blue Peter inspired gifts that we made for extremely grateful grandparents (who knew dried flower calendars were so exciting in the 1970’s)!

Macramé hit the scene, as did upholstery and more besides. These days I share the love of gardening with Mother as well as fabrics, haberdashery and ceramics, however our own skills have never really collided.

Mother goes from strength to strength with her knitting complexity and has in recent years become a dab hand at creating the most beautiful stained glass windows, fire screens and hangings.

I have tried making a stained glass panel before - it’s not remotely easy but she has the patience and the train of thought which works out these things methodically and mathematically. Far too long-winded for me.

She began small - little stars for Christmas tree decorations and then as a wedding present she did the most unbelievable window panel for us of the deep purple Irises we have around the pond. She has moved into making window panels for all their internal doors, some for the front door, a fire screen, a couple of window screens for friends and copious more smaller gifts both 3D and 2D. The choice of glass is exquisite and truly only when the light shines through can you really appreciate the effect of the minute differences in glass depth and texture. It is the precision I am so in awe of, it takes method and skill but also dedication, determination and of course it takes creativity to have the idea in the first place. So here I celebrate the skill and creativity of Mother who continues to make glass things but hasn’t yet started blowing her own!

If you would like a quote for a similar piece to any below, please email me. Prices will vary but start at £100 spending on size and complexity.

a little bit crafty

A few weeks ago saw the return of Kirstie Allsop’s Handmade Fair at Hampton Court. I visited the first one two years ago, which was within the palace grounds. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that the fair was dedicated to all things crafty from pompom making to knitting to paper crafts to artisan chocolate brownies. It was about time that those of us who enjoy such low-fi pastimes can get together and revel in them for a whole day.

This year I went with two friends both of whom share the love of Kirstie but also doing “craft”. We dabbled in wood block printing a tea towel, made a needle felt bee, attended a talk from Liz Earle, the natural wellbeing guru, and much more besides. It is such a fantastic springboard for so many people's desires to craft or exhibit that I sincerely hope it remains. Well done Kirstie for starting something big and well done us for continuing to go and spend time and money there! I picked up so many business cards again that I think I will struggle to research all of them with any kind of speed. 

Poetry

Pebbles by Margaret Atwood from her essays - Some objects of Wood and Stone.

This poem speaks to me in a way that I can almost imagine walking along the beach listening to the rhythm of the sea in the rhythm of the words. I have tried to find a link to a web page with the poem on but to no avail so, imagine the ebb and flow of the waves and then that is the rhythm I can hear. I found it in a copy of Shorelines- A collection of poems selected by Janie Hextall and Barbara McNaught.

The book is full of evocative, funny, sensitive and joyful poems all about pebbles, the sea and the coast. 

 

 

Countryfile Live show- Blenheim Palace

 We stayed in The Old Swan and Minster Mill at Minster Lovell- to go to the Countryfile Live show.  We got there early, sampled the chaos surrounding the parking, ambled in to the showgrounds and headed for an old Citroen van serving fine Barista coffee. We do that. It's a way to plan our route, gain some idea of space and collect our thoughts. It was well laid out in the beautiful grounds at Blenheim and easily wide enough walk ways and avenues through each sector: farming in action, livestock/ equine/ rural craft/ timber sports/ large plant machinery, you name it, it was there. As I'm always on the look out for interesting crafts or artists so I make it my duty to collect as many business cards or postcards as possible. 

En route to the massive tractors and timber sports arena I browsed the great array of crafts stalls and chatted to some amazing people. I spoke to one half of the creative duo behind My Visible Object- some simple yet really effective powdered coated, laser cut metal work /art for the garden. He was generous with his time and thoroughly enthusiastic as designers and artisans should be at these things. Along a bit I also came across Sarah Cemmick- a lino printer recently returned to her craft and producing equally delicious artwork, equally chatty and quite frankly an inspiration. Then came the biggest surprise...

 The Little bunny Studio

As I wandered around the first corner in the last craft marquee  I recognised a familiar voice, a friend from Uni - P, who qualified at Plymouth in Textiles too. We have both travelled similar paths of Teaching whilst trying to keep the flame of design/artistry alive. We caught up in approximately 40 mins of substantial surprise, as if we'd never spent 17 yrs out of touch. What is lovely is that we are now of course back in touch and I can proudly show off her work on this blog. 

 

 

 

 

Pastels then and now

I found out that Lefranc & Bourgeois are the oldest artists’  high quality colour men in France. They share the same parent company as Winsor & Newton which is why the inside of the box lid of my set of pastels, says LeFranc Winsor & Newton. It is probably only interesting to me and a select few but; 

the following passage explains it perfectly and for the full article do visit the website via the link:

The Rise of Pastel in the Eighteenth Century; July 5, 2011; Marjorie Shelley, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge, Sherman Fairchild Centre for Works on Paper and Photograph Conservation

What Makes Up a Pastel?


The basic constituents of pastel are a pigment, a filler (a white mineral which serves to give opacity and body), and a binder (a weak adhesive) that loosely holds the two powdery substances together so that they may be formed into a crayon for use. In the eighteenth century, the ideal crayon was to be sufficiently firm so it could be grasped between the fingers without breaking, yet powdery and soft enough to crumble when stroked across a support. A relatively small range of pigments (mostly the same as those used for oil painting) was used in forming an innumerable array of colors, a feature of the medium still characteristic of today’s pastel box. These pigments were combined to produce the desired hue, with proportional amounts of filler added to produce the tints. This multitude of hues allowed pastelists to work in gradations of tone rather than in color mixtures so as to produce the greatest brilliance. 
The process of fabricating pastels in the eighteenth century was complex. Many steps had to be carried out by hand and were varied according to the composition of the color, starting with the preparation of the pigment by grinding and washing. Because pigments have distinctive properties (such as cohesiveness, softness, brittleness), each had to be coordinated with a particular filler (selected from a range of materials, such as chalk, tobacco pipe clay, gypsum, and alabaster) and a suitable binder (among them, gum tragacanth, oatmeal whey, or skim milk) to produce crayons of satisfactory texture. After the ingredients were mixed together the paste was divided and rolled into crayons, cut to length, and carefully dried by air or with heat to avoid imperfections and cracks.

So, looking at the above processes and ingredients it is little wonder then, that these pastels remain the best I have ever used. They are silky to use - artists and drawers among you will know what I mean, they glide effortlessly across the paper, they blend beautifully with minimal effort and they are still mainly in one piece, only cracking when enthusiastic pressure is applied. There is no surface scratching like hard pastels can create, the subtle nature of hue variation is really very pleasing to the eye and there are probably another 100 or so years left in them given my infrequent usage.

My box of Pastels row by row still in perfectly useable condition.

My box of Pastels row by row still in perfectly useable condition.

 

So I am now considering either a) using them sporadically again or b) drawing them in situ or c) if I ever get round to doing either, maybe both!

 

 

Artisan, craftsmanship and skills

I refer you back to my blog about my pastels and palettes. Towards the end of that, I mentioned my love of Artisan craftsmen. Here, Becky Pearce is quoted beautifully in an article about just that.   http://blog.folksy.com/2016/07/04/becky-pearce-jewellery

I refer you back to my blog about my pastels and palettes. Towards the end of that, I mentioned my love of Artisan craftsmen. Here, Becky Pearce is quoted beautifully in an article about just that.

http://blog.folksy.com/2016/07/04/becky-pearce-jewellery

The love of the tactile quality of items is part of their charm. Occasionally you come across a wooden bowl as smooth as silk which makes you go ooo or you may find that Cashmere is the fabric which makes you feel like wiggling your toes with glee. There will be something different for everyone even if we're not aware of it yet. This will boil down to how it makes us feel, as well as how it feels, how it handles, how it works or what it looks like or tastes like. Sometimes we can't even isolate the reason.

Whichever senses are alerted to the simplicity or the beauty of an item, are the ones which forever will be heightened by the presence of the similar textures, colours or mechanisms, almost a subconscious awareness of craftsmanship. A brain muscle memory.

I like wooden items, stone items, wool items and paper items and although it sounds like a list from a dating profile for medieval England or Baldric, it is the simplicity that I love and sometimes the sheer brilliance of what is achievable by a true craftsman. A craftsman who has an innate skill, a natural affinity with the materials they are working. It's a bit like watching a Plasterer or master baker do icing - unbelievably difficult to create such a smooth surface on the vertical or horizontal yet they make it look so very easy. 

Small selection of my books ranging from the small scale to the large Artisan designers makers and skilled craftsmen.

Small selection of my books ranging from the small scale to the large Artisan designers makers and skilled craftsmen.

I am continually attracted to basketry or fine wood turning, weaving or ceramics yet my chosen medium is pen. 

Pastels and palettes

I have inherited both my Great-grandfather's pastels and Granny's mixing palettes..... both of these pieces of art equipment really have stayed the test of time.  There are very few pieces of equipment which I feel the need to preserve- the brushes from Great-grandfather have all started to deteriorate substantially, the watercolour paints from Granny have all solidified and cracked and started to powder. 

My paternal Great-grandfather owned and ran a stationers shop on Dorking High street. He was also a self published local of Rambling routes around Leith Hill, Box Hill, Westhumble and the like - some of his publications still exist at Father's house. He had obviously built up a fair amount of stock especially for demonstrations or travelling sales pitches. The pastels I gather, were one such item. Nan gave them to me when I was studying Art at college- I was a little reticent of using such finery for my stumblings, yet I found that their quality and ease of use was simply irresistible. I haven't used them much recently but I will not be parting with them given a like for like replacement would be nearer £200 than £20! Equally, they are Edwardian. That appeals to my romantic side enormously. They are LeFranc Winsor Newton soft pastels. 

Granny's palettes are ceramic watercolour palettes which I was also given by her when studying. She had spent a considerable portion of her life painting and sketching and I think it is articles such as these which show the patina of years of gentle use, which really are quite special. They have a crackle glaze surface now after years of jostling in bags or boxes and it adds a bizarre authenticity to them. They feel more real than the plastic, more disposable ones. 

Both items, because they were well made, because they have family connections and because they have stood the test of time are testament to the craftsmanship which went into them, regardless of whether at the time they were mass manufactured items. 

That is the kind of craftsmanship I love today in this resurgence of Artisan making. The rugged almost imperceptible flaws in some pieces of ceramic, wood or metal work is delightfully real. 

 

 

My Shed

I love my Shed. Husband refers to it as the shop. Either is fine but it's my space and I appreciate it. An exciting and tiring morning in Ikea led to it being kitted out with the basics but this was only after we'd cleaned it out, primed it, painted the interior, waterproofed, insulated and stuck carpet tiles down. Its only a shed but I have to be snug in it so I have a little heater on a timer and a deep pile rug for my toes under the desk. It is a little bit of garden room luxury which I am happy to have given myself.

The natural light is good I have electricity for when it is not as good and the best thing is, if I can't draw or run out of steam, I can read, paint my nails, listen to the radio or sit and watch the birds.

Poetry

Poetry is painting with words. So many people have used this analogy it's not new but it fits.

I'm rubbish at writing it, Husband loves Haiku, I often stumble.

Cringe...

I do love to listen to and read poetry though.

I recently had a conversation with a dear friend on that very topic and we discussed how the love of particular poetry is as unique to the individual as a fingerprint. I fell in love with Benjamin Zephaniah and Seamus Heaney when I was at Secondary school. Very different poets yet exceptionally evocative of time and place. Since then I have amassed a small but very personal collection which I believe is how it should be. Ted Hughes, Robert Browning, Dylan Thomas and Helen Dunmore to name a few. I also discovered and now follow George the Poet- amazing talent, lyrical, rhythmic, socially motivated and intelligent.

Having been brought up on a diet of grandparents liking The Goons, parents liking Monty Python, everyone in the family liking Shakespeare be it comedy or tragedy, the inevitable happened when Edward Lear and his magical Quango Wangle came into my life. It is a poem I still adore, I may even attempt my own illustrations one day, just for me you understand, I wouldn't want to offend!

Pebble Homage, Aldeburgh Beach, Suffolk

What a wonderful day we had, trundling along the coast at Aldeburgh in Suffolk. Husband and I braced against the coastal breeze in October 2015 to see the wonders of the Martello Tower and the Scallop sculpture amongst other things. We'd been to RSPB Minsemere the previous day and totally fulfilled our bird nerdery. The Westleton Crown pub was the ideal place to stay and we are planning a return as soon as we can.

Today though, was coastal town exploration day. Fabulous place Aldeburgh if you haven't been before, a length of beach edged by multi coloured houses come B&Bs and hotels, a grand old mixture of cafes, restaurants, bakeries, chippies, pubs and quite high end, high street shops. 

I had researched a little, as is my want, and I knew the Maggi Hambling Scallop sculpture was down the beach and the Martello tower with an Antony Gormley man was up the beach - or vice versa depending on your direction! I also knew we would enjoy ourselves. Husband wasn't sure - it was cold, biting in fact. Still, we persevered. We then spoke to an extremely friendly local with a strong Suffolk accent. I love hearing regional dialect or accents but many are disappearing, like my home county- Sussex. That is a shame and I may revisit this in a later post. So then we wandered Martello Tower way. We passed some marvellous places en route, bright and colourful wonderful house fronts and little alleyways. And then we stumbled across the Pebble Homage at the South beach Lookout. What an amazing little place, find out more at the link below;

http://www.aldeburghbeachlookout.com/page/4585889774

 

Pebble Homage instructions

Pebble Homage instructions

I stood and read the instructions and then did pebble collecting.

Some of the messages already left were really moving, like people had opened their souls to the sea.

Some were more succinct, childish, rude or simply daft. That was the joy of it.

I selected a pebble for me and one for Husband. We wrote our messages and then left them, piled up with others ready to accumulate for the following year. 

I'm writing this now because the year is just finished. There will be millions of pebbles hopefully with individual messages on them, scattered across this beach and then along the coast and, long-shore drift permitting, around the coastline. Some never to be seen again. How wonderful. 

 

Beach

The freedom of the open space allows the imagination to run wild. The beach is an inspirational setting for dreams and ideas, mindful existence and stillness. As a child, living only 3 miles from the beach, it was to the beach we went, nearly every weekend from March to October when we were taken to enjoy it on pain of death regardless of the wind, shingle, seaweed, flies, sand hoppers or dead fish. But, I loved it. We'd return weary and sandy and sometimes blue with cold but we'd sleep so, so well. This is where I learnt to sit and watch. We didn't have mobile phones or tablets so I took a book but it got soggy, so I'd observe. To be interested in the small things, worm casts, shells, whose dog is that? and good grief, are they really going to try to change clothes under THAT towel.......

All of this helps no end when you are having a busy time and need to collect more pieces to draw or thoughts to let go. Because you can let everything go on the beach. It is vast the sky, and the sea meets it pleasingly. It is a solace from the built up busy nature of our towns and cities. Comfort in nothingness. But it's not nothingness.

You see so much. I have never seen as much wildlife as I do along the coast. 

Beach huts. Another wonderful seaside tradition.

Beach huts. Another wonderful seaside tradition.

 

 

The garden

The weather has turned from dismal to inviting and to celebrate I cut the grass!