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.

Wednesday 31 October 2007

URGENT! for your immediate attention . . .

She's soooooooh busy this week! What does a studio-assistant need to do to get some attention around here? :)

Thursday 25 October 2007

Pumpkins. . . Squash. . . Cucurbits. . .

Whatever you call them they are the vegetable of the season. This is our 2007 Squash Harvest. The huge dark green one is the fabulously tasty "Zucca Marina di Chioggia" (and with a name like that so it should be!), such a shame there's only one. The lovely stripy yellow ones are "Winter Festival" - not quite as flavourful but a good size to cook stuffed. The lovely dark orange one with the grey/green centre was a bit of a surprise! Either I lost the label or it was a rogue seed. If anyone recognises it, please let me know.

On a cold dark autumn evening what could be better than squash risotto, or squash and potato mash, or squash soup, or squash added to a curry or tagine, or these squash, raisin and pecan muffins.

Hannah has requested that I post the recipe (I'm in awe of Hannah's baking skills, so if you want to see some treats visit her blog). So here goes, I haven't time to unscramble the mixed measurements - this is just how I do it!
In a bowl sift 5 oz plain flour (I used half wholemeal/half white), half a desertspoon of baking powder, 1 and a bit oz caster sugar and a sprinkle of mixed spice.
In another bowl put 2 eggs, a third of a cup of sunflower oil, two thirds of a cup of semi-skimmed milk, about two cups (I didn't measure this) of cooked squash (I bake squash in the oven then de-seed and skin). Beat together with a balloon whisk.
Sift the dry ingredients into the wet ones. And fold gently together, add some raisins as you do this, you must not stir too much, leaving bits unmixed is good.
Spoon into muffin tins and decorate with pecans. Cook at about 190 C until they have risen and smell delicious and a bamboo skewer stabbed into the middle comes out clean! Enjoy!

On 30th October 2007 that amazingly talented gardener, Matron of 'Down on the Allotment', is hosting a Squashblog, a chance to see cucurbits of every shape and colour from garden bloggers around the world!

31st October 2007 . . .
And this is our Halloween Pumpkin - a "Winter Festival" squash baked whole in the oven. Carefully cut off the lid and scoop out the seeds and fill with the flesh from the lid . . . and . . . izzy-whizzy!!!*!*!*!*!*! An instant ready-filled pumpkin tureen!

Thursday 18 October 2007

'Leaf Doodle' papers

It's intriguing how marks made by tools are like handwriting - the identity of the maker is displayed. It's the use of favourite tools in a specific satisfying way that results in a personal visual language. I've been doodling on a block of lino, a quick scribble with a pencil then cutting with my favourite little cheap chinese cutting tool. Last month I saw some stunning eighteenth century crewel embroidered hangings at Nunnington Hall in Yorkshire and I think they must have been in the back of my mind; first I cut the large leaves, then the little seed shapes, I filled the background with flowing lines letting the tool make the tapering shapes like a calligraphy pen.

I used the block to print Indian and Japanese coloured papers in pink, orange and indigo.

And this is why I needed printed papers - endpapers for some little books bound in Sudbury Jacquard Silk. A good excuse for enjoying using my Victorian Copy Press to press the covered book boards.

Tuesday 16 October 2007

20 years ago today . . . it was a bit windy

October 16th 1987
I had slept through the sound of the biggest storm to hit Southern England for 300 years, even though my flat was on the top floor. But I knew something was up when I turned on 'Today' on Radio 4 and they seemed to be broadcasting from a torchlit studio in a bunker in an apocalyptic wasteland! I was working for a publishing company in Harlow, Essex and I decided to take the main road to work rather than my usual countryside route, in case of fallen trees. Huge branches dangled precariously over the cars and terrified horses galloped around the commuter traffic jam. At the office the power was off but in true "spirit of the blitz" fashion the canteen staff had somehow made bacon sandwiches for the plucky few who made it to their desks!

It was far worse south of London, an estimated 15 million trees had been uprooted by winds gusting to over 100 miles/hour and the parks, gardens and countryside had been changed forever.

Do you have a Great Storm memory?

Friday 12 October 2007

An intruder in the vegetable garden

There are signs that an intruder has been walking over the raised beds in the vegetable garden. Neat triangular hoofprints.

The studio assistant was keen to show me that her paws could not have made the prints - she has been ruled out of the inquiry.

This is the main suspect.

Tuesday 9 October 2007

Shhhh! we're hiding!

The studio assistants had arrived for 'work', but had disappeared. I could hear Chester snoring, and had briefly searched the office without success (he sometimes sleeps behind the printer). The weather has suddenly changed from glorious Autumnal sunshine to drippy grey drizzle and the forecast says it's set in for the rest of the day, it's the sort of day when a cup of hot tea is essential for creativity. On my way to the kitchen I spotted two furry tassels* at the bottom of the sashiko throw that's covering a small bookcase!

I discovered Sashiko on my visit to Japan a few years ago. While in Takayama I found bundles of indigo dyed fabric remnants for sale in a market; later, in a street of traditional wooden buildings I came across a shop specialising in sashiko - so I bought some thread and a folder of patterns. Back home I transformed the fabric remnants into a sampler of sashiko stitching - my Takayama holiday souvenir.

* For those of you who have read the tale of the tail, you may have noticed that Chester now has a magnificently fluffy ginger tail of which he is very proud.

Friday 5 October 2007

Sculptural Romanesco

There's a vegetable stall in a farm gateway on the outskirts of one of the fen-edge villages I often drive through, and this is my favourite place to shop for fresh local veg. The stall (a converted shed) has been closed for the summer (holidays and harvest time), but today it was open. For £5 I bought a bag of large red onions, a bag of parsnips, a huge bunch of extra long leeks, 3 giant sweetcorn and this - a beautiful Romanesco Broccoli or Summer Cauliflower. What a fantastic geometric sculpture of a vegetable!

I've just finished reading Seed to Seed: The Secret Life of Plants by Nicholas Harberd and as I drove home I began to think about the sequence of growth that must have created the Romanesco flower head. I'd picked the book up in a bookshop which had a "3 for 2" offer and needed another book to add to the latest "Number One Ladies' Detective Agency" story and a wartime romance for my mother; it looked intriguing and the blurb on the back had enthusiastic reviews by those respected gardeners Penelope Hobhouse and Anna Pavord. It's written as a diary over the course of one year and is an insight into the thoughts of a research scientist and his discoveries about how plants grow. Anna Pavord sums this up far better than I can:
'It's another world. Another language. But Harberd has the gift of connecting us with it . . . What Harberd's book gives us clueless amateurs is a huge sense of awe at the extraordinary and brilliant machinery that regulates plant growth'.

Monday 1 October 2007

It's grand and wild up north!

We've been on holiday to the South and East Ridings of Yorkshire - starting off in Wakefield (not a place that springs to mind as a holiday destination, I admit). The reason behind this was to visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park during its 30th birthday year and while the Andy Goldworthy exhibition was on. The magnificent parkland is a perfect setting for large scale sculptures like this one by Henry Moore; it takes over four hours to walk around the park and the galleries which are on opposite sides of the park two miles apart. The experience of walking up the steady incline to the Longside Gallery is like following a pilgrim route to a shrine, Andy Goldsworthy's work spanning the past 30 years is exhibited in all the galleries and there are three new outdoor installations in the park - including the "Hanging Trees" built into the sunken ha-ha wall along Oxley Bank. It's hard to pick out favourite works by Andy Goldsworthy because they are all uniquely intriguing, but the "Leaf Stalk Room" with its dividing curtain made of leaf stalks held together with thorns - beautiful and fragile like a perfect spider's web, and the vast self supporting structure "Stacked Oak" were the highlights for me.

We stayed at the Waterton Park Hotel, chosen for it's convenience for the Sculpture Park and they had a 'Special Offer'; we assumed we would have a room in the modern annexe but on arrival it was announced that our room was in the Georgian mansion on the island, the only access via a narrow bridge over the lake and when we entered our room we had another surprise - a grand four poster bed! (Unfortunately, no nice surprises with the food.)

Between the Hotel and Wakefield, tucked behind suburban streets is Sandal Castle - we saw a postcard in the Wakefield Tourist Info Office and decided to take a look. This was Richard III's dad's castle - and local tradition says he was 'The Grand Old Duke of York' and his castle stands at the top of the hill he marched up and down with his ten thousand men before losing the Battle of Wakefield to Margaret of Lancaster (all described by Shakespeare in 'Henry III part iii').

We sheltered from the wind in the Sandal Castle Visitor Centre where the knowledgeable man at the desk recommended that we should visit Wakefield Museum as they have a gallery about Charles Waterton and Waterton Park where we were staying. I have to admit I'd never heard of Charles Waterton before last week, but as we were staying in his house we thought we'd find out more. Squire Waterton had ideas well ahead of his time - which gave him the reputation of being a complete nutcase - today he'd probably be on TV co-hosting 'Spring Watch' with Kate Humble! He travelled to South America to manage his family's sugar plantations and while there saw the amazing birds and animals of the rainforest, on his return he built a wall all round his estate to keep the poachers out and make a wildlife sanctuary; he enlarged the moat around his house to make a huge lake for water birds; he paid local children to bring him live hedgehogs to live within his estate; he planted dense hedges, left hollow fallen trees in the woods and was the first person to build nest boxes for birds of all kinds to nest in; he also invited the inmates of the local asylum to come into the estate to enjoy watching nature and he served them tea in a grotto.

There is now a Waterton Trail - a circular walk from Waterton Park following the route of the Barnsley Canal, through woodland and farmland to Anglers Country Park - this area was once one of the deepest open cast coal mines in Europe, now landscaped (the massive lake has a pond liner!) it is a haven for wildlife and open for anyone to enjoy. In the grounds of Waterton Park we looked for the grave of Charles Waterton and eventually found it overgrown with ivy and fallen branches - a squirrel has left the husks from his lunch of nuts at the foot of the cross.
In the 'Suggested Places to Visit' folder in the Waterton Park Hotel there was no mention of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Sandal Castle, Wakefield Museum or the Waterton Trail and Anglers Country Park (right on its doorstep).

Another reason for the location of our holiday was a visit to Scampston Walled Gardens near Malton and a chance to see the work of plantsman and designer Piet Oudolf - a master of modern design and exuberant perennial planting - and how a ten acre walled garden has been transformed into a series of nine 'rooms' each with a different character. All the plants are numbered and listed in a booklet (there are 1333 named plants!) - top of my list to plant in my own garden is Sedum 'Matrona'.

This is the 'Drifts of Grass' garden with wavy drifts of Molina grass constantly moving and rustling in the breeze.

The 'Perennial Meadow', with the yellowing leaves of the 'Katsura Grove' as a backdrop, was a mix of fading colours and complex textures.

We moved on to stay at a B&B at the Stained Glass Centre between Scarborough and Filey on the coast (warm, comfy and scrummy full English breakfasts). The Yorkshire coast is being constantly nibbled away by the surging North Sea, last week it was probably being munched in huge chunks! We escaped inland to a walk we knew well - Rievaulx Terrace. Orchestrating the landscape on a grand scale isn't new - 18th century Yorkshire landowners were keen to show off their wealth and the picturesque views they could create. In 1758 Thomas Duncombe III built a terraced promenade along an escarpment overlooking the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey (no need to build a folly - he had the real thing!), walking the length of the meandering terrace backed by woodland a series of vistas open up revealing a view of the Abbey in the valley below, each view like a perfect Claude Lorrain picturesque scene.

Wrapped up warm in hats and coats we went for a evening walk on the front at Filey - high tide and the waves are crashing into Filey Bay.

The next day we drove to Flamborough Head - a jagged headland jutting out into the North Sea and sculpted into stacks, bays and caves. Holding onto our hats and fighting to stand against the force of the wind we walked along the cliff top near the lighthouse - a plaque displaying a map of the coast noted "Here fought the British and American ships in 1779", good grief! Almost 228 years to the day since The Battle of Flamborough Head in September 1779, when the people of Filey and Bridlington gathered on the cliff tops to see the Continental Navy (French and American) under Commodore John Paul Jones, attack a British convoy of 44 merchant ships and two escorts - 520 British prisoners were taken, the merchant ships got away.

Along the coast south of Flamborough Head, Bridlington Old Town is enjoying a revival, it's Victorian High Street is a hive of creative activity - galleries and workshops side by side with the little bakeries, pubs and shops. This is the home town of David Hockney's family and his base when working on his Yorkshire landscapes. Fish and chips is the traditional fare (and served with excellent mushy peas) - but for a change we had lunch at Bean There where we had a huge platters of wholesome salads and quiche. The fantastic array of cakes on the counter looked very tempting - but we just couldn't fit them in!
In the evening we searched for a good place for the final dinner of our holiday - driving through the rain along the Scarborough to Pickering road we spotted an inviting looking inn, The Coachman. Taking shelter from the wild weather we realised we'd stumbled upon a charming jolly bar, full of people enjoying a Friday evening drink and the food was delicious - with a creative twist, the venison with lavender and blackcurrant was superb and the strawberry and port jelly was served with little meringues studded with pink geranium petals, dried fruits and nuts. We certainly dined in style!