This morning I was in Newmarket delivering some of my limited edition prints for displays promoting Cambridge Open Studios 2007. Newmarket is a lovely market town and well worth a visit whether you like horseracing or not; it has a unique character - there aren't many places with special horse lanes on the footpaths! The "Memories of Japan" print series will be on display in Scribbles - the lovely pottery painting shop in Park Lane. A selection of unframed prints as well as framed "Pasque Flower" prints are displayed in the Tourist Information shop at Palace House - the beautifully restored 17th house that was the Newmarket home of horseracing-mad King Charles II.
I'm in the process of cutting the block for the new linocut "Spring Garden". I based the design on the sketch shown on the June 5th posting, working over a scan of the sketch using Photoshop. The design was then transferred to the lino block - a mirror image of the final print. Now I am cutting away the areas I don't want to ink. There's only one chance to get this right, mistakes will have to be adapted, so it takes concentration. It's very calming and methodical, the pleasure is in using particular cutting tools to make just the right sort of cut in the block - you get to know exactly which tool to use to suit the mark you want to make. The original sketch takes on a new character, becuase the lines are now made of cut marks they have a uniformity. The next stage, inking and printing the block, will add a further dimension - the texture of the ink pressed onto the paper. More of that later...
The grand tradition of the Village Fete, in a country with changeable and increasingly extreme weather, must seem bizaare to anyone living in a country with guaranteed summer sunshine. But with true grit and faith (and a borrowed marquee and giant gazebo) we knew it would be alright on the day. With an hour to go to opening the heavens opened and accompanied by thunder and lightning the road outside the Fete venue disappeared under muddy water!
Undeterred the Fete opened on time, the sun came out and we all had a grand time: cream teas, bottle stall, bowls, hoopla, brass bands - all the usual Village Fete stuff that happens every Saturday afternoon in villages up and down the country. We had mud too, but not on the scale of Glastonbury. Our Plant Stall looked fantastic and made £167 for the local church. Of course you have to buy things as well as sell them - so I've come home with lots of plants including an orchid and a tree peony seedling.
Lots of shiny cars accompany the artwork on display at this year's Open Studios Launch Exhibition. It's at the very stylish Jaguar Showroom (opposite Cambridge Airport) and is open all this weekend. So if you're near Cambridge and you need a wet-weather plan, please go along to see a selection of work by artists taking part in Cambridge Open Studios 2007. Visitors will also be able to watch demonstrations by artists on Saturday 23 June: 11 am - 12 noon Elisa Quevedo (textile artist) Claire McGinley (painter) 2 - 3 pm Geoff Thwaites (glass engraver) Mishtu Austin (batik painter)
After last nights storms, this morning seems especially bright and clear - maybe the heavy rain has cleaned the air. No damage in the vegetable plot, just everything refreshed and growing vigorously. Runner beans about to climb up the giant "Bean Arch", courgettes in circles on stones, mange touts, mixed Italian salad leaves, florence fennel, edible chrysanthemums, lettuces, borage, vines, potatoes, artichokes, cardoons: a cornucopia of vegetables.
The artichokes looked particularly statuesque in the early morning sunlight. These are the best I've grown and I'm looking forward to sampling them tonight.
Tonight I picked pods from the Purple Podded Peas and also from the Reuzensuiker mangetout - they looked almost too good to cook. But cooked quickly in a pan with bacon and mushrooms with a big spoonful of creme fraiche they made a great pasta sauce - and the purple pods stayed purple!
Last night we walked along the River Cam just to the north of Cambridge to watch the May Bumps. For those of you not familiar with this annual Cambridge river ritual, these are kind of tag boat races. On the other side of town the river flows out through Granchester Meadows, and this was the inspiration for a large sketch from memory of all the things I'd seen on a hot Sunday afternoon punting on the river. This print is based on part of the sketch - ducks among the water-lilies.
Early this morning I took photos of the different pea plants in the garden. The flowers above are (from right to left) Purple Podded; Reuzensuiker; Carouby de Mausanne. Beautiful flowers with subtle vein patterning and delicate petals - worth growing for these alone - but with the bonus of delicious pods to follow. (If you click on the photo you'll get an enlarged version.)
Here they are - little Purple Podded Peas. They need to get a little bigger, then they can be added to a stir fry and hopefully they will keep some of their beautiful colour.
And a surprise - a Golden Podded Pea which self-sowed from last year and has appeared among the broad beans. This was another vegetable from the Heritage Seed Library, it didn't do well last year and I decided not to save the seed - but it's back! so I'll save some seeds for next year.
This year's Open Studio guides are here and being distributed all round the county and beyond. Find an artist whose work you like and plan your visit; look on the map and find nearby studios and find some surprises.
My studio is number 139 and is open on 14th/15th and 21st/22nd July. If you can't get hold of the guide look on the Cambridge Open Studios website (link on the right).
These are not just strawberries - they are freshly picked strawberries from my own garden; long pointy Gariguette with a sharp clean flavour and round, plump, sweet Cambridge Favourite.
The roses are magnificent this year - huge, luscious, lip-stick coloured, heavily scented roses. The oriental poppies are equally vivid, their colours made more dramatic by the black velvet centres. Big blowsey flowers seem to back in fashion - I love the clashing loudness of the intense pinks and reds.
And high above the roses the Purple Podded Peas are flowering - beautiful two-tone purple butterfly-like flowers. As pretty as sweet-peas but with the added bonus of edible purple pods to follow.
This is the sketch for one of my new linocut prints "Spring Garden" - a typical scene in my vegetable garden on a late spring evening. The "Winter Garden" print is the image I chose to be next to my entry in the Cambridge Open Studios 2007 Guide. If you live in and around Cambridge you'll soon see the distinctive long, narrow, yellow guide books listing all the studios and exhibitions that will take place. It also has the contact details and an example of their work of about 250 artists working in all types of media, so it's a great book for browsing through. The first date in my diary is the Launch Exhibition on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th June at the Jaguar Showroom, Marshalls, Newmarket Road, Cambridge. This is a chance to see a selection of work from the artists taking part this year and perhaps make a list of the studios you really want to visit to see more. My own studio will be open on 14th & 15th July and 21st & 22nd July as well as seeing all the paraphernalia that an artist accumulates, there will be limited edition prints (framed and unframed) and cards for sale. Click on the Cambridge Open Studios link on the right to find more information about all events and location maps.
Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) or Oyster Plant is one of those veg that is interesting to grow but a bit of a disappointment - the edible roots have a delicate flavour but are not that interesting and I think they are fiddly to prepare. But what most cook books don't mention is that the flower buds are delicious in stir fries, the flowers are beautiful and the seed heads are amazing giant "dandelion clocks". So now I have self-seeded plants all around the garden and I don't bother about harvesting the roots.
Another odd veg that I love to grow is the Tree Onion. Instead of flowers, little tiny onion bulbs develop on the top of the main stalk and sometimes they in turn have tiny bulblets on the top too. The result is a wild green sculpture (the little onion bulbs can be broken off and scattered in salads - they have quite a kick!)
And here are the Purple Podded Peas, this year they have pride of place in the rose bed climbing up new metal obelisks. They are looking really healthy and I'm looking forward to the mauve and purple flowers and then the purple pods.
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