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 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 . . .
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.