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, 22 May 2015

May time on Mersea Island

You may remember that at the end of last year I blogged about our visit to Mersea Island in winter, today we returned ... it's our nearest seaside, an hour and a quarter drive away, and one of our favourite places for a relaxing day out on the coast.

Today we explored East Mersea, the smaller of the two villages on the island...

Our first stop was Mehalah's for lunch, a delightful relaxed restaurant specialising in local seafood. There were shelves of cook books and local history books to browse through while the chef prepared the food. 
The name may sound exotic but it's actually named after the eponymous heroine of a novel written by the local vicar Sabine Baring-Gould in 1880. I haven't yet read the whole story but it begins with a lovely description of the Mersea Island landscape - the whole novel is free online http://www.allthingsransome.net/literary/meh_top.htm

After our lunch, Cliff had crab salad and I had scallops and chorizo, we set off on a walk along the sea wall - an earth bank that prevents the North Sea from engulfing the island at high tide.
On the inland side of the bank, cows grazed on the lush meadows.
On the most easterly side the island are cliffs, we walked along the beach at this point as the cliff top path has been closed for safety reasons.
Can you see the wooden posts in the water? These are polders, brushwood fences which trap the silt which is suspended in the water and hopefully create mudflats which will slow down the waves and therefore protect the island from further erosion. It will be interesting to see how this landscape changes over the coming years.
As you can see, the cliffs are eroding pretty dramatically. The crumbly sandy silty clay layers contain fossils of animals which once roamed the area ... including hippos!
Past the cliffs and we were on a shingle bank with mud flats behind, another fragile environment... and home to adders.

We turned inland, through a caravan park (almost deserted, the lull before the Bank Holiday!) and walked along a leafy lane to East Mersea church, dedicated to St Edmund the martyred East Anglian king. 
The palm tree in the churchyard is evidence of Mersea Islands mild climate. 
Inside the church is surprisingly light and plain, but it's an ancient place - Roman building materials were reused in the walls. The first recorded rector was Martin De Bockinge in 1200 but the most renowned was Sabine Baring-Gould, if you hadn't heard of his novel Mehalah before today you will have undoubtedly heard of another of his works... the hymn 'Onward Christian Soldiers'. He also wrote a memoire in which he described his Mersea Island parishioners:
"Essex peasants are dull, shy, reserved and suspicious. I never managed to understand them, nor they to understand me." 
Also in the church were some rather nice needlepoint hassocks depicting local birds.

Before heading home we went to another favourite place, the Art Cafe in West Mersea, for tea and cake. And a couple of treats - a plant (I couldn't resist a bargain) and a pork pie from the butchers for our supper.

Whatever you have planned for the Bank Holiday weekend I hope you have fun


PS this blog post was written on my iPad, I'll tidy it up and add more links later

Sunday, 3 May 2015

May Gardens Illustrated – and The Artful Hare

I've now completed three linocuts for Gardens Illustrated magazine . . . I work about two months ahead of the publication date. I showed a behind the scenes look at my working process last month, so I won't repeat that each month but I thought I'd show you my sketches and a few thoughts.

For his May article, Frank Ronan writes about leaving his English garden untended and the joys of May in England when every ditch, verge and hedgerow looks beautiful.

The heading 'Momentary Magic' alludes to Frank's mention of
"the 'little moment' that Shakespeare spoke of" . . . so, if like me, your knowledge of the bard's works isn't as in depth as Frank's; this refers to Sonnet 15. Before starting work on ideas for the illustration I copied it out in my sketch book.

I then spent a happy afternoon drawing detailed drawings of the wildflowers mentioned in the article.

I considered including a Dunnock (also known as a Hedge Sparrow) but he didn't make the final version  . . .

Yesterday Cliff and I went for a walk along undulating chalky/flinty paths on the West Suffolk/Cambridgeshire border. The verges were spangled with Stitchwort just as described in Frank's May article for Gardens Illustrated (there's a nice article about Frank in there too).

Early May really is a beautiful time to enjoy a walk in the English countryside, yesterday we walked through Bluebell woods and along field verges awash with Cowslips.
We were also lucky to see a number of hares, one was sitting washing its whiskers only a short way away form where we sat eating tangerines - and of course it was the day I wasn't carrying my camera! but we both had binoclars so we enjoyed quietly watching.

Which brings me onto this . . . The Artful Hare is a beautiful hardback book compiled by Alan Marshall, of images of hares by British printmakers

including me . . . 

Alan and Marion called in to my studio with some boxes of books which are available to UK customers only (sorry but postage costs don't allow for overseas shipping) via my online shop.

Wishing you all a happy May Bank Holiday weekend and if it rains the gardens and fields will look all the greener!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Plants & Crafts at Wyken

Before I get immersed in work I'll tell you about the event I was part of on Sunday . . .

Plants & Crafts in the Garden at Wyken 2015

Wyken Vineyards is in West Suffolk, about 50 minutes drive from my studio, I've visited many times and it is lovely!

After last week's glorious warm sunshine it was a shame the weather turned back to grey and very chilly for the weekend, on Saturday night the heavens opened and we got the rain – the first for 6 weeks! It was an early start for me and just after 8am I was setting up my stall in the 'Farmers' Market' cart sheds. I just had time to visit the exhibitors' loo, located in the cute little red cottage above, and run round the end of the cart sheds past ranks of pre-loved buckets and garden spades and forks before the customers started streaming in! 

Here's a quick snap of part of my pitch, I'm pleased to say the cards attracted lots of people and I was constantly restocking the stand.

This was my view for most of the day . . .

I had agreed to demonstrate linocutting, I hadn't anything planned or sketched out so I quickly drew sone Auriculas in pots directly onto the lino and got cutting – the lino was icy cold and hard! 

I used small ink pads to ink the block and took prints at stages to show progress. By the end of the day I'd almost completed a small print . . . I'll do a few tweaks and print an edition of these next week.

This was a lovely event, I hope I'll be invited back next year. The only downside was the weather, by the end of the day I was chilled and stiff - so it was a wonderful surprise to see Cliff arrive to help me pack up and load up the car.

After a hot bath, a glass of red wine and supper of rib eye steak and lots of vegetables, I was much revived.

The best thing about the day was all the lovely interesting people that I met and chatted with. 

I came home with a few treats for myself and our garden:
a Campanula pyramidalis Alba plant from Sue of Bellflower Nursery; a made to measure leather belt to hold up my jeans, from Mark of White Buffalo Crafts; a pretty spotty jug from Rob Wheeler and a beautiful yellow Auricula from John Hewson.

This week I'm up against a deadline for completion of two large woodcuts for the back and front of a book jacket . . . a lot of carving to do!

Look out for Gardens Illustrated, I loved working on the illustration for the May issue – I'll be back with a blog about that soon.


Monday, 20 April 2015

Heading South West

We've been down to Cornwall for a few days

This was the view from our hotel room in St Ives.

I loved the view from the harbour when the tide was out.

Along the coast towards Land's End we found this
beautiful spot high on Trevean Cliff.

 Barbara Hepworth's studio and garden tucked away behind high stone walls in St Ives town is an inspiring haven.

 The view from the Tate gallery out over the roof tops.

A walk to Carbis Bay through ancient woods.

We enjoyed a wander around the Lost Gardens of Heligan.

And exploring the Eden Project . . .

the huge steamy jungle in the Rainforest Biome

and the terraces and vineyard in the Mediterranean Biome.

If you've been watching Poldark on TV, you might recognise Charlestown harbour.

Lots of lovely fish and seafood too!

No drawing or knitting.
A break from routine.

Now I'm back in the studio, I've just completed the illustration for the June issue of Gardens Illustrated and I need to get things together for my stall at Plants & Crafts in the Garden at Wyken Hall on Sunday 26 April.