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.

Monday 27 April 2009

A busy week ahead

'I got into the studio early this morning, knowing that there's lots of things to get organised and ready for her exhibition in Norwich. She must remember to pack everything she needs – Norwich is a long drive away and I won't be there to help.

So, where is she? Getting distracted no doubt! Come on – get on with it!

She needs to take notice of the motto above her desk . . .'

The ginger studio assistant

by Deadly Dezigns
bought in Harare, Zimbabwe 1994

Thursday 23 April 2009

An invitation and a nice cup of tea

It's St George's Day and to celebrate I joined acornmoon for a nice cup of tea and chat, so pop over to Valerie's blog and join us and our virtual guests for a very English St George's Day celebratory cuppa.

In the post this morning I received some more invitations – lovely cards to invite you to an exhibition of my linocuts at Verandah in Norwich.

If you can get to Norwich next Thursday evening do come and say hello. The exhibition continues throughout May, Verandah is full of delightful goodies all sourced from artists and makers in Norfolk and Suffolk; and Norwich is a beautiful historic city (and just a short drive to the broads and the coast) so just right for a day trip.

I'll tell you more about it next week. Now back to the studio to get everything ready . . .

Monday 20 April 2009

Persian carpet colours

I have distant memories of standing in my Grandparent's garden among a carpet of softly perfumed flowers with colours like a magical Persian carpet. I wanted a colourful carpet of Polyanthus just like that, not the short stemmed solid coloured flowers of municipal park bedding schemes, but a loose heads of soft yellow eyed blooms on tall stems – just right for picking and displaying in chunky ceramic jugs in the house.

Then I discovered Barnhaven Primroses – these were the Polyanthus I'd been searching for, The 'Silver Dollar' strains developed by Florence Bellis must have been the seeds my Gran sowed to grow her plants. The collection of gorgeous Primroses, Polyanthus and Auriculas relocated to Brittany in 1990 but it's easy to buy seed from them via their web site; I'll warn you – it's like visiting a hand-made chocolate shop! How do you choose between the colour collections? 'Desert Sunset' 'Grand Canyon' 'Violet Victorians' 'Striped Victorians' . . .

The photograph shows some of my favourite colours, picked this lunch time – I particularly like the deep velvety ginger-brown shade (Henry VIII's doublet colour) alongside the deep salmon pinks.

Sunday 19 April 2009

Pasque pilgrimage

One of the Britain's rarest and loveliest wild flowers grows in Cambridgeshire, but I've never been lucky enough to see it growing in the wild – that is until today. Last summer a visitor to my studio let me into a secret, he told me where the Pasqueflowers grow on the Devil's Dyke.

Even though Cliff and I were weary after spending the whole day putting up new fencing along the boundary of a small addition to our garden (more about our 'wild wood' at another time) this evening while the rabbit casserole was cooking, we went on a pilgrimage to find the Pasqueflowers.

After a short walk we spotted some purple flowers nestling in the grass near the path along the top of the Dyke.

Pasqueflowers were first recorded growing on the Gog Magog Hills by John Ray, the son of a blacksmith and his wife – a herbalist, from Braintree in Essex; who studied and then lectured at Trinity College in Cambridge. While recovering from an illness he took long walks in the countryside around the town and was inspired to write his first book Catalogus plantarum circa Cantabrigian nascentium which was published in 1660. This small pocket book gave descriptions of 626 plants and their exact locations. This is the reason the Pasqueflower was selected as the County Flower of Cambridgeshire.

We sat on the steep grassy bank looking out over the farmland on one side and Newmaket Race-course on the other. Up close we could see just how beautiful the little purple flowers are - finely veined translucent petals; soft downy stalks and leaves; vivid yellow stamens. Shiny black pollen beetles scurried among the stamens.

According to legend, Pasqueflowers spring from the blood of Romans or Danes - their rarity and this story enhances their mystery. This myth seems believable because they like to grow on chalky ground with thin undisturbed soil, the few remaining sites are on ancient earthworks such as barrows and banks around hillforts, and on the Devil's Dyke - a thin strip of timeless wild-flower-jewelled turf.

Thursday 16 April 2009

An excuse for a party . . .

This lunchtime I put down my pen; locked up the studio; packed some bags and a basket with goodies and drove south of Cambridge to a . . .

Cupcake and Crochet Party
at Gina's, with Emma, Val and the little Pebbles and Cookies.

There were more than enough cupcakes and
dotty-cookies for everyone . . .

and we even did some crochet (eventually)

Lots of fun!

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Birds of a feather flock together

Just before Easter the postman delivered a fat yellow package, it was from the United States, at first I was puzzled – then I realised what was inside . . .

Terry had sent me a signed copy of her beautiful new children's book Tillie lays an egg. As well as being a professional cook and author, Terry is one many hen-keepers who I've stumbled upon via PPPs and my Etsy shop, like our hens we flock together, pleased to find others who aren't bored witless by chicken chat. The photographs in Tillie lays an egg are wonderful, full of chicken decorated vintage delights to keep hen lovers of any age amused; I know from experience just how much work goes into setting up a photo for a book – Terry and Ben deserve a gold star.

Terry's hens can even be viewed via the Hen-cam; and 'the actress who plays Tillie' is a star of page, screen and library.

Sunday 12 April 2009

Happy Easter-ly

Yesterday we'd planned a day out, but at the last minute we checked the weather forecast and our faces fell – it would probably more cloudy and rainy than at home. "Try further East", I typed in various locations until I hit the jackpot,
Bungay = SUNSHINE :-)

We arrived in Bungay and the sun was indeed shining, making the flints sparkle on the walls. I spotted this shop, full of lovely tempting things (one of which I couldn't resist buying). Just opposite was the Earsham Street Café, the menu looked tempting and we felt hungry. We sat in the sunny walled yard at the back and ate our delicious salads. A card on the table said Earsham Street Café is one of 'The Times Top 10 Cafés in the UK', and well deserved it is too.

The sunshine was glorious as we drove down lanes past little round towered churches to here . . .

. . . mmmm? – great! A road to 'Gulliver' the wind turbine, between the Bird's Eye factory and the sea defences. Looks a bit dangerous!

But it's here you'll find this . . .

and you can have fun walking round the big outer circle and imagining places far away across the sea.

Back home, in the cloudy drizzly middle bit of the UK, I spent the evening baking and decorating eggs. Oh yes, that's my purchase from Bells of Suffolk – a wire-work egg basket in the shape of a hen.



Wednesday 8 April 2009

Reasons to be cheerful . . .

Gardening is about hope and enjoying this moment

The Peas in the greenhouse –
Purple Podded, Reuzensuiker,
Golden Sweet, Tutankamun,
Carouby de Maussanne
and Carlin

The Polyanthus at the end of the vegetable plot –
Violet Victorians, Silver Dollar,
Marine Blues, Old Rose Victorians
and Chartreuse

The first spear of asparagus –
will it be
dipped in melted butter?
roast with olive oil?
coated with runny egg yolk?

The Greengage blossom about to open –
will the sun keep shining, bringing the bees?
will this be a 'Greengage Summer'?
green blushed,
honey sweet
eaten outside straight off the tree

All photographed in the garden this afternoon.

Tuesday 7 April 2009

I know that tune . . .

I've finished printing the first of my new set of designs and now I'm busy carving the blocks for the other two designs. I should have time for some lengthy sessions immersed in the details, because clients have been told that booking for work to be finished before Easter is now closed – I hope there's something good on the radio!

The first print is finished – when I scanned it I loved noticing the details and how the colours overlap. Transforming a sketch, through a planned design to a print from the hand carved blocks is like hearing a familiar tune played on a different instrument . . .

I've decided not to post the complete finished print today – they have a special date for unveiling, more about that another time.

Saturday 4 April 2009

Hand made

This afternoon I drove into Cambridge, I knew it was going to be busy in town, the glorious spring sunshine would attract the tourists in swarms. But as a local I know a few likely parking spots - and yes, I was lucky today. The walk into the centre is along a lane which propably hasn't changed for centuries, a route that once crossed boggy meadows now passes alongside playing fields and college gardens to a narrow bridge over the busy river and into lanes between ancient walls, emerging near the market square. I was heading for the Guildhall to the Handmade Craft Fair, surprisingly there were no signs advertising it was taking place until I was near the side entrance. I followed the arrows to the 'Large Hall' upstairs and found a room full of table top displays of colourful wares. Lots of vintage style and retro chic, I'd called in to say hello to Jon and Sarah of The Lapwing Printworks and see their lovely prints and paper goods. I couldn't resist buying the tiny Norfolk landscape wood engraving by Jon.

Just along the aisle from Jon and Sarah's stall my eye was caught by some subtle coloured jewellery - Quercus Silver is the work of talented designer Su . She combines skillful silver work with beautiful coloured resins - it was difficult to choose which design I liked best, in the end I plumped for a pair of earrings in a soft jade green - love the smart packaging.

A super day for driving home - blossom, flowers, birds, blue sky. Tea and hot-cross buns in the garden when I got home. Perfect :-)

Friday 3 April 2009

Early April garden update

It's been a glorious week for gardening, in between ticking off the work on the 'to do' list in the studio, I've been working hard in the vegetable garden.

Ta-daaaaa! Just a teeny tiny corner to finish off and it's all spick and span. This has been achieved without any help from the under-gardeners – in fact, it looks so tidy because the hens have been banned from working in the vegetable garden. They couldn't resist scratching the soil back over the paths, I had to put my foot down with a firm hand!

Some of the beds are already planted with shallots ('Pikant' and 'Golden Gourmet'), tree-onions, garlic chives; but no large onions this year, they've been a struggle to grow successfully in the recent wet summers.

This bed is planted with 'Crimson Flowered' broad beans which were started off in the greenhouse. I saved seed from last year and planted only the pale green beans as these tend to have the best crimson flowers. At the other end of this bed is the strawberry patch.

In the heated propogator in the greenhouse the tomato seedlings are ready for pricking out. No sign of 'Lisa King', never mind. Lots of 'Liguria', these have a fantastic flavour when cooked; and this year's pick from the HSL catalogue 'Tiger Tom' is looking good too.

This year's strategy is to sow little and often and keep the crops coming right through the summer and continue into winter and plan for next spring (I've said this before, will I succed this year?). Here's a small batch of chard 'Bright Lights' ready to prick out.

It's not just veg – the salvias grown from RHS free seed are doing well. The hardier varieties are in the cold frame and the tender ones are still in the greenhouse benefiting from the heat of the propagator during the chilly nights. They are in their second year and I'm looking forward to creating a salvia border – it will be well protected with twiggy sticks to deflect the attention of the under-gardeners!