Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Metalwork in the Midlands

Do you know where this is? I'm sure some of you do, but for this who don't, it's The Library of Birmingham
Yesterday we had a day out for my Birthday - we visited Birmingham. I wanted to see the new Library and also the even newer New Street Station, as well as revisiting the Staffordshire Hoard in its new gallery in the Museum and visiting the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter.

We parked near the Library, you can't miss it - a huge silver and gold block covered in steel filigree. The golden dome on the top houses a room saved from the original Victorian library, a Gothic extravaganza of remarkable craftsmanship in wood, plaster, ceramics and metalwork.

The shelves house books and documents relating to a local Midlands lad called Will Shakespeare; it's a shrine in the sky to the bard.

I was really impressed with the new Library, inside had an atmosphere of relaxed calmness and on floors 7 and 3 there are outside terraces with beautifully planted gardens.

There are lovely spaces to relax and look out over the busy city square below.

The recently opened new New Street Station is equally impressive and even more shiny, in fact it is very very shiny - clad in undulating polished steel that reflects the surrounding buildings like ripping water (dazzled by the shinyness, I completely failed to take a photo!) Inside it's like every other airport or shopping centre.

On to the Staffordshire Hoard, we'd visited the Museum to see the hoard when it was first put on public display (another birthday treat) now it was interesting to see how the jewels had been cleaned and interpreted. The hoard is a huge pile of scrap bling, probably looted from a battlefield and intended to be presented to a victorious warlord. It's anyone's guess as to why it got hidden by a main road and never retrieved. The exhibits explain what is known about life 1300 years ago and what the hoard consists of - basically it's man bling - warrior's swanky accessories. Again I didn't take photos but I did buy this book and I'm looking forward to reading it - because THE astounding thing about the Staffordshire hoard is the craftsmanship, the mind-blowing intricate patterns made of gold and garnets.

We then walked to the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, I'd heard it was interesting but wasn't prepared for such a treat ... if you go, you MUST go on the guided tour! Behind the small museum galleries and tea shop is a time warp - the Smith & Pepper jewellery business which was in business for nearly a century and closed its doors in 1981, leaving everything untouched.

Smith & Pepper kept everything, it might come in useful! all the paper work and records, all the engraved blocked for their illustrated catalogues, all the moulds and punches for stamping out components for brooches and lockets, bangles and pendants lined up on slightly wonky shelves which cover the walls.

The craftsmens' benches are left as if they're having a tea break and will return to carry on work.

I was impressed that Birmingham has two glorious new shiny metal-clad buildings - it seems very apt in a city built on the talent of Midlands metal workers and they have given the city energy and pizazz.

I'll finish with a photo of my present from Cliff - a quirky curvy flower brick. Cliff spotted it when we were looking around a bric-a-brac shop on our holiday in Provence last month and he bought it for my birthday present. It's perfect for making a few flowers picked from the garden look fabulous!


Sunday, 13 September 2015

R.I.P. Phoebe 2006 – 2015


November 2006 – September 2015

Our beautiful speckledy Coucou Marans hen has died at the grand old age of 8 years and 9 months . . . which in hen-years is very old indeed. A few weeks ago she lost the use of one leg (no visible sign of injury or swelling, it may have been paralysis after a stroke) in all other respects she retained her indomitable spirit and quiet determination. But I knew this would be her last summer.

Phoebe's first appearance on this blog was on Saturday 17 March 2007, my third ever blog post. I paid tribute to her on the 6th anniversary of her arrival in our garden, when she shared a special cake. She was an old lady then, we were so lucky she went on to enjoy two and a half more years laying the occasional egg, giving the younger hens old-fashioned looks and skilfully chasing and catching flies on the lawn before going to bed.

What a privilege it has been to get to know her so well (she loved porridge oats but wasn't keen on potato or anything sticky). I'll miss stroking her feathers, which were as soft and silky as a vintage Hermès silk scarf, while I thought through a problem and put things in perspective – Phoebe was a good listener.

R.I.P. dear Great Aunt Phoebe


Thursday, 27 August 2015

My illustration for September Gardens Illustrated - hands up! who loves Alchemilla mollis?

I know it's not quite September, but the September edition of Gardens Illustrated has already been published and is on the news stands, so I'll tell you my thoughts as I devised the the illustration for Frank Ronan's column 'The Writer's Plot'

Frank now spends most of the year at his home in California, but this month his inspiration is from his English garden in Worcestershire. Having been away, Frank appreciates its coolness as summer draws to a close.

The illustration needed to depict particular plants and celebrate their shapes . . .

I don't have Heleniums in my garden, so had to use photographs for reference (note to self: plant Heleniums!)

The other plants I could sketch from life . . .


Oriental Poppy leaves

and last but definitely not least . . .

Alchemilla mollis or Lady's Mantle

Frank was - how can I put this gently? - not particularly polite about its virtues and claims that "You hardly see it anywhere now". Gosh! Really?!
So, hands up! who loves Alchemilla mollis, or Lady's Mantle to give it the more romantic English name, ?
Between you and me, I suspect Frank doesn't pick posies of flowers and put them in jam jars, because if he did he'd appreciate those frothy lime green flowers and blue-green velvety leaves and know how very very useful they are. I think I'll start a Lady's Mantle Apreciation Society :-) who's in?

Now I needed to entwine the plants together, I took my inspiration from William Morris fabrics and created and vignette with Alchemilla mollis is prime position. I played around with negative and positive shapes and transitioning one into the other - I think this is one of the things I most enjoy doing and why working in a single colour is so interesting.

The finished linocut is printed in a mossy green. Like all my Gardens Illustrated designs, after 6 months it will be available as a limited edition original hand-burnished print. Card designs will follow too.


Monday, 24 August 2015

A bit of a to-do in Suffolk – FolkEast 2015

"A fresh approach to a timeless tradition . . .on the ancient parkland at Glemham Hall, where, for three days of the year, the folk of the East and their families gather for a bit of a to-do" 

Today I'm tired (understatement!) late last night Cliff and I got home after 3 days at FolkEast where I had a stall in the Art Arcade – we were in the long marquee you can see in the background of this photo . . .

As you can see, this year the dance floor for the Morris Dancers is located right in the centre of the Art Arcade, which meant we were almost constantly entertained with very energetic dancing (video by paper cut artist Claire Knight), music, clashing sticks and thudding drums. It made us feel even more part of the festival.

That huge domes tent is the home of The Social Knitworks, oh how I wish I'd had time to spend inside! Early on Saturday before the Art Arcade opened for business, I ran across to take a peep inside . . . LOOK! a beautiful cool shady world - an allotment, guinea pigs in a hutch, a shed! all created in yarn AND they were serving proper pots of tea at lovely little tables.

Most of the time I was demonstrating linocutting and chatting to lots of lovely interested and interesting people – that's what is so fabulous about FolkEast, the people! Musicians, dancers, techies, crew, stallholders and visitors were all such a great bunch.

This was my view for most of the weekend while Cliff restocked the stall with cards and served customers.

If there was a quieter moment one of us looked after my stand while the other dashed round to grab some food and have a quick look around. On one such circuit I met some delightful Suffolk residents . . . 

. . . donkeys revelling in the sunshine, taking time out to snack on the grass

. . . and this gorgeous lady, Olive the Suffolk Punch mare, isn't she so beautiful?! She was wonderfully placid and her air of calm as she muched her hay in the sunshine, seemed to sum up the mood of the weekend.

After closing up our stall at around 6.30pm we were free to wander round and enjoy the music. There were 5 stages this year, above you can see the aptly named Sunset Stage with the Suffolk sky on Friday evening almost upstaging the performances.

For most of the weekend we basked (almost melted) in the hottest temperatures of this summer. But on Sunday afternoon the heavens spectacularly opened with a deluge! The dancers took cover, some in our marquee, but the performances continued in the rain. There were a lot of very soggy costumes!

Over the weekend, inspired by the array of head wear that paraded past my stall, I cut a set of small blocks featuring folk dancers' hats. I think they turned out well, so I'll make some prints and maybe cards from these.

It was difficult to choose what to buy as a souvenir of the weekend, there were beautiful ceramic cups and saucers, baskets, hats, sea-glass jewellery . . . in the end I bought a snowdrop card from my neighbouring stall holder Sue Sullivan; a pen fashioned from a Golden Syrup tin and a Ribboned Ash wood spoon by Ed Mitchell-Finch; and a hand woven purse made from plant-dyed yarns and waste fibres by Zoe Wood.

The rain stopped before the final evening performances so we could sit outside to eat our supper and enjoy the music in the misty darkness. I particularly enjoyed the energetic music of the French-Canadian trio Ten Strings and a Goat Skin - you can find a taster of their music here.

Thank you to Mandy Walden for organising the Art Arcade, to John and Becky for marvellously inventing FolkEast and making it better and better each year and the thousands of folk who gathered together to make it happen.