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.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Winter Evening in Bull's Wood - linocut and cards

Last year's festive season was only just out of the way when I was contacted to talk Christmas Cards for 2014! It was a request from Suffolk Wildlife Trust for a donated image suitable for one of their cards.

I had a think . . . my prints suitable for Christmas cards were already being sold as one of my own card designs; in 2013 I'd produced some Christmas cards in the most economical way I could without compromising quality and I realised that customers either wanted much cheaper cards OR preferred to buy Charity Cards. So as Suffolk Wildlife Trust is one of my favourite charities, I decided to offer a brand new design and invited them choose a subject.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust suggested I illustrated a winter scene in one of their lesser known reserves – I selected one that was not too far from my studio . . .

Bull's Wood

It was a mild late January afternoon that I arrived at Bull's Wood . . . of rather, a farm yard where I could park 'tidily' before heading off down a track towards woodland a couple of fields away.

Stepping into Bull's Wood is like being transported back in time, it is a small remnant (about 30 acres) of 'the many woods of Cockfield' which where recorded in the Hundred Rolls in 1279, and those woods had probably existed for centuries before then and were in constant use by villagers who harvested poles and timber, grazed animals, foraged and hunted. The ecosystem of the woodland is entwined with lives of the people. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the woodland was destroyed as fields were enclosed and ploughed up to plant crops. Somehow Bull's Wood survived and today it is managed by volunteers who coppice the Ash and Hazel just as it has been done for a millennium.

I walked around the wood getting to know its specialness. The strange shapes of the ancient Ash stumps, the textures of the branches and the scale of the tall Oaks. I took photographs for reference of particular details, but mainly I let a composition come together in my mind.

I wanted to depict Bull's Wood on a cold winter's evening, so would need to do some research and work from experience and imagination. At home I put down my ideas in my sketch book, including animals I knew would be in the wood on a December evening . . . a Tawny Owl roosting in an Ivy covered tree, a Roe Deer in a clearing near the pond and a flock of Redwings arriving from Scandinavia to feast on the berries.

It was Spring when I carved the detailed lino block and a wood block from which to print the red colour to make the trees glow in the setting sun.

I decided to wait until Autumn before selling the prints, to coincide with Suffolk Wildlife Trust publicising their new cards for Christmas 2014. These are two of the finished original prints ready for the Market Place Gallery in Olney and my exhibition at the Church Street Gallery in Saffron Walden this month.

And here's another I framed last night to replace one in my exhibition that has already sold.

Winter Evening in Bull's Wood

The cards are available from many shops around Suffolk and here on the Suffolk Wildlife Trust web site. They are blank inside, so if you'd prefer a seasonal message you could use a rubber stamp (either buy one or make one - I'll try to blog about how to do this when I'm making one for the cards I'll be sending).

I'm very happy that this year the proceeds from these 100% donated cards will help target conservation efforts to turn around the fortunes of Suffolk’s hedgehogs.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

An abundance of pears!

 Freshly picked pears in a bowl we bought from David McDowell who made us promise to use it in our kitchen.

A few years ago . . . I think 4, maybe 5? . . . I decided our garden wall needed a pear tree. I did some research and decided to buy a bear-rooted one from Ken Muir, we drove down to the nursery in Essex and selected a 'Beurre Hardy' pear suitable for training as an espalier against a wall.

I'm ashamed to say I neglected to train in correctly in its early years, but I've tried to get it under control and it sort of looks 'trained' in a relaxed sort of way.

Up until this year the most pears its had is 6. This year there are far too many to count! We have an abundance of pears!

Pear - 'Beurre Hardy'

Pears have been cultivated for centuries, but it was in France that juicy, butter-soft, dessert pears were bred in the 17th and 18th centuries. 'Beurre Hardy' originates from around 1820 in Boulogne and is named after M. Hardy who was the Director of Aboriculture at the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris. In the US you may know it as the 'French Butter Pear'.

The fruit need to be picked in mid-September, just before they ripen. If allowed to mature on the tree the flesh spoils and becomes brown and grainy; but harvested while they are still firm and carefully stored for a few weeks in a cool place, they will become juicy and sweet, with the texture of butter!

I can't wait!

Mmmm! Pear and frangipane tart, with blue cheese and walnuts, ice cream . . .

or eaten in the garden with juice dribbling down your chin!

what's your favourite pear recipe?


Monday, 8 September 2014

Exhibitions in Saffron Walden and Olney

It was as I was about to go on holiday early in June, that Helen at the Church Street Gallery in Saffron Walden asked me if I'd like to have a solo exhibition . . . in September. So, taking out my trip to Alaska and recovering from the virus I'd caught while out there and preparing and going to Folk East, that gave me 8 weeks to get over 30 prints framed - if possible some completely new work - and lots of unframed prints packed and more greetings cards printed. 

The past couple of months have been very busy!

I delivered all the work to the gallery on Friday afternoon. I had nothing to do until Sunday afternoon when the doors opened for the "Preview", thank you to everyone who turned up, especially as it was a beautiful warm sunny late summer Sunday that would be perfect for sitting outside in a garden instead of coming into town. It was great to see some Twitter friends 'in real life' and also someone I worked with a very long time ago!

My exhibition continues until October 4th and is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. 

My work is in the the front area of the gallery and Helen has arranged complementary ceramics, crafts and gifts to style the area. The back room has the gallery's usual wonderful selection of artists work, so there's lots to see.

For those of you who live in the East Midlands, the Market Place Gallery in Olney has a selection of my work in their 'Selected British Printmakers' exhibition.

Olney, like Saffron Walden, is a quintessential small market town, surrounded by lovely countryside, with lots of interesting indie shops and some lovely foodie places for lunch. Both are worth a day out.

So what next? . . . 

I need to get my head around stocking my online shop and meeting the requests from galleries for Christmas (there! I said the C word but very quietly!) But mainly I need a few days to recharge my batteries so this week I'm tidying up my studio, getting out in the garden and enjoying the fabulous weather . . . maybe I'll actually have time to use my brand new box of watercolours? You never know!


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

FolkEast 2014 . . . much more than music

Driving to FolkEast early last Friday morning I listened to BBC Radio Suffolk and heard an interview with John Marshall-Potter, the brains and energy behind the three day festival. He emphasised that FolkEast isn't only a festival of folk music but also a celebration of the people who live in the East and their arts, food, culture and traditions.

The festival site is on the estate of Glemham Hall and apart from a couple of hefty downpours on the first day we had glorious weather. The vast Suffolk skies with ever-changing parades of clouds would had made John Constable's heart skip!

Of course there was music . . . on the three stages and in the various workshops and accompanying the dancers, so there was always a background soundtrack drifting into the Art Arcade marquee.

I should have taken more photos of the dozen or more artists in the Art Arcade . . . but of course I was caught up in arranging my stall and talking to customers.

I was lovely to meet new people, next to me were Jane and Ed, here's Jane busy painting alphabet pebbles with intricate patterns and in the background Ed is working on another wooden spoon.

Here's me holding onto my hat! In a photo taken by Claire Knight who was selling her beautiful paper cut pictures at the other end of the tent. The cheery bunting was a last minute purchase from one of my card stockists, Blue Dog, a great investment . . . thank you Sarah!

I took along my latest prints, the four linocuts of a cockerel with his hens and the large print 'Winter Evening in Bull's Wood' . . . Suffolk Wildlife Trust will be selling cards of this for Christmas.

This year there were loads of art activities for festival goers of all ages to get involved in . . . everyone seemed o be having lots of fun and getting totally engrossed.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust were promoting their new campaign to find out more about and to help Hedgehogs. Isn't that wicker hedgehog fantastic?! 

As I'm a keen supporter of the Wildlife Trust, I handed out Hedgehog Survey leaflet to my customers and worked on a new small lino block featuring a hedgehog making its winter nest. I hope to complete this print in time for my exhibition next month.

I didn't take my oil based inks and rollers, so printing the new lino block wasn't possible. However I had some rubber stamp inks with me, so I cut a stamp and made some Festival Hedgehog cards.

Here's another photo of my stall, this one was taken by Mandy Walden who had organised the Art Arcade for the festival and had a stall opposite mine with her prints and cards of Suffolk coastal scenes. Mandy took lots of photos but seemed to avoid having her own photo taken!

Here's another rubber stamp I carved while at my stall to demonstrate how lettering has to be done backwards so it prints forwards . . .

At the end of each day after packing up the stall so it was safe for the night, Cliff (my assistant stall keeper) and I had a lovely time listening to the bands and savouring the food. There were so much to enjoy, so many great musicians, but after a long day on the stall I think we liked the quirky 'Soapbox Stage' best hidden among the trees and laughing along to the ever-so-slightly-bonkers local duo, The Pancakes.

A huge thank you to the organisers Becky and John and their vast team of helpers. They did Suffolk proud!

If you came along and said hello to me on my stall, thank you, it made the weekend worthwhile and was it lovely to meet the people who buy my cards and prints at various galleries and shops.

It's all going to happen again next August, so if you want to spent a weekend with the East Folk in glorious Suffolk then follow FolkEast on Facebook and keep an eye out for ticket offers early next year ;-)