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 30 November 2011

Blending in

Has anyone ever done any experiments investigating the domestic cat's camouflage instinct?

The studio assistants have decided that my studio is too scattered with stuff for them to find a place to blend in and settle down for the day, so they've selected the room next door – also rather 'junked-up' with the things brought home from the Pick'n'Mix Market.

I didn't spot them at first!


The ginger one has selected a folded piece of hessian on a faded yellow Lloyd-loom chair.

and the tabby one picked the bundle of black cotton sheeting.

I've just returned from a trip to the post office and it looks like the tabby one has disappeared, perhaps she has decided to go outside in the sunshine . . .

or has she?


Monday 28 November 2011

What a wonderful Handmade (Pick'n') Mix!

After all that planning and making, Saturday was reality day for the Christmas Pick'n'Mix Makers' Market in Holt. I was feeling pleased about my improved system of packing everything into 'the tardis' and was in a happy mood as I drove across the Gallops and headed towards Norfolk. But, as Burns wrote, "the best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley" and I'd not planned for a barricade across my route, "ROAD CLOSED" signs and yellow diversion arrows!

Now, that would be easy-ish to cope with in a town; but on the Suffolk/Norfolk border, where river and railway crossing points are few and far between, the result was long, long, long drive along roads with no signposts or any indication that this was still the alternative route or where it was heading! 'The Tardis' doesn't have SatNav, but I concluded that so long as I kept the pinky-gold sky on my right, I would be heading North to North Norfolk (after 20 years walking in the countryside with Cliff, something useful had rubbed off!).

And then, ta-dah! not too behind schedule I was in Holt, unpacked and arranging my stall :-) Look at all that focused activity going on!


Here's my stall (looking just like the one I set up back home) all ready for the doors to open.


There was just enough time to hand in my "free cuppa" ticket to Daisy Boo in tea-shop corner. I also sampled a warm Stilton and Walnut Scone, and can report that it was divine! But I hardly had time for a small bite before I had a flurry of customers.


And here's a taster of some of the other stalls . . .

Sasha Allan's characterful fabric toys.

 James & Joanna's vintage linen furnishings
and recycled wooden decorations.

 Moobaacluck – Gabriella Buckingham's
handpainted signs, decorations and cards.

 Ripping Yarns' appropriate tweedy banner :-)

 Planet Penny's Christmas Tree

I wanted to take photos of all the stalls, but only managed a few. However I've noticed that Penny has lots more photos of other stalls over on her blog.)

Thank you Lisa for once again picking a lovely eclectic quality mix!

And thank you to everyone who came along to buys things from all the stalls . . . it made all the hard work worth while.


Friday 25 November 2011

All ready for the Christmas Pick'n'Mix


Saturday 26th November
10am to 4pm

Pick'n'Mix Makers' Market
A unique and exciting shopping experience
celebrating the best of local creativity.
A showcase of handmade, vintage
and eclectic pieces.

St. Andrew's Hall
Church Street
NR25 6BB

I'm almost ready . . . I'm going to work through my checklist . . . and when everything is ticked, I'll pack it very carefully and load it all in my my car/van/tardis all ready for a very early start tomorrow morning.

As well as myself the line-up is: 

Bobo Bun – Lisa the colourful crochet queen and organiser of this superb event
Daisy Boo's Kitchen – with her delicious savouries and cakes in tea-shop corner 
Baby Loves Vintage – unique retro tee-shirts for little ones 
Emma Mitchell Jewellery – handmade silver and beady treasures from Mrs Silver Pebble
Faded Splendour – vintage clothes and accessories made by Tracy from vintage notions
Gabriella Buckingham – with handpainted designs from MooBaaCluck
Glory Days – Norwich based tea plate and doily heaven
High Fibre Design – chunky yarn... and I mean really chunky!
James & Joanna – purveyors of vintage textiles
Laura Lindores – colourful fused glass
Mamphii Button – jewellery made from vintage buttons
Miss Poochie – Norf the Dog and his doggie friends!
Planet Penny – in her colourful needlefelted world
Ripping Yarns – Retro Fairisle and Scandinavian inspired knits
Sasha Allan – and her quirky creatures, handmade from colourful fabrics
Gosh! I can't wait to see what's on all those stalls, they sound very exciting – all the makers are East Anglian based small businesses.

It looks like the weather is set fair, so what could be nicer than a day out in North Norfolk? I can't think of anything better!

Hope to see you there :-)


Sunday 20 November 2011

You can take a girl out of the fen . . .

. . . but you can't take the fen out of the girl

Today I led (with a lot of help from Cliff) my first walking route the Cambridge Rambling Club. I knew that a flat route is sometimes unpopular, but I hoped to win them over with a 14 mile circular route in my native habitat.

The route followed an ancient causeway through the fen before continuing along the banks of the Old West River.


The morning began cold and foggy; and although the sun was always there behind the milky air, the mist would not lift.

It gave the fen a deeply mysterious ambiance; it was easy to imagine Hereward and his followers waiting to ambush the unsuspecting Norman army, or the Fen Tigers* stalking the Dutch drainage engineers!

The ditch-side teasels shimmered with cobwebs spangled with beads of water.

And then the sun came out!

Casting long shadows over the fields.

You can follow the route (and see more photos) on fellow-walker Geoff's Everytrail site here.

Back home, hot bath, delicious Gloucester Old Spot pork chops for supper

and now for some spicy apple and pear crumble and ice-cream :-)


* Fen Tigers = indigenous inhabitants of the Fenland. In the 17th century the Duke of Bedford employed Dutch land drainage engineers to dig a vast system of drainage channels fed by 'windmills' pumping the water off the land. The local population who relied on the fish and water fowl for their survival, sabotaged the work and became known as 'Fen Tigers'.
The term has been adopted by the Mildenhall Speedway team, and more recently applied to 'big cat' sightings around the Cambridge and Fenland area.
True Fen Tigers still exist, Roger Giles has written an excellent description here. While delving around to compile this definition, I came across a song by Hobson's Choice "Fen Tiger and the Quarryman", which coincidentally was inspired by a 'meeting' in Over Fen . . . the afternoon section of my walk, where after major gravel extraction the Fen is being reinstated. You can listen to the song here and read the lyrics here, I think they perfectly describe the defiant character of the Fen Tiger.


Thursday 17 November 2011

Getting ready for the Christmas Pick'n'Mix

On Saturday 26th November
I'll be on the road before dawn
driving up to the pretty little town of
Holt in North Norfolk
for the Pick'n'Mix Makers' Market

I enjoyed it so much last June, I put my hand up to be included in the line up for the Christmas market.

There are some new 'Makers' this time, I getting very excited about seeing their stalls and meeting them – because it's just as much fun for us stallholders as it will be for the customers . . . and did I mention the refreshments? well, they're worth mentioning again – Daisy Boo's Kitchen will be serving up the most yummy scrummy cakes and savouries in 'tea-shop corner'.

The cards stocks from Magic Cochin's Emporium are all ready to go onto my bright red display rack (the one I bought from Woolies when it closed down); prints have been framed and packed and the first of my mixed media 'Mantel Pieces' will be for sale too.

HEN 01 • COCKEREL • 01 • No 0005
vinyl-cut and mixed media collage
each piece individually numbered


Wednesday 16 November 2011

Not looking wintery (yet)

It's so mild for the time of year . . . this was my walk at lunchtime today, it hardly looks wintery at all! But I did see some Fieldfares eating berries in the hedgerow and they know a thing or two about cold weather moving in from the north-east, so I won't be complacent.

I thought I'd look back at my blog posts last November, just to compare the weather conditions – I noticed that early in November 2010 I was amazed at how many flowers were still in bloom in my garden, so that's similar to this year.

But then, it suddenly turned very cold. And when Cliff led a walk at the end of November 2010 it was very cold indeed! -7C when we started walking and below zero all day. We're leading another walk this Sunday . . . I wasn't planning to get out my thermals, but maybe I should be prepared!

November flowers and 'Mantel Pieces'

 There are always distractions . . . I keep stumbling upon blogs that are new to me . . . and they are full of lovely distractions . . .

For instance, I found Annie's blog Knitsofacto, and she led me over to Sue at Backlane Notebook and her thrifty challenge to cut a bunch of flowers from her garden/allotment/hedgerow every week of the year.

Well, I'm not promising to do this every week, but I was inspired to go out in the sunshine, circumnavigate the plot and pick a posy from my garden this morning.

A posy like Liberty Tana Lawn that's come to life on my drawing board


The eagle-eyed among you have probably spotted some new work-in-progress – Mantel Pieces – I'll tell you more about it in the next post. I'm developing a theme inspired by the things on a traditional farm-house mantel-piece; and the connection with things that were once common-place, but are now valued and collected.

The mixed-media pieces are all one-offs, but I'm carefully numbering and recording them, to show the theme as it develops . . . 

and leads to . . . 

. . . well, I don't know where it's leading, but I needed to start putting things down on paper.

Friday 11 November 2011

Night flight

This year I've been so pleased with the small one colour linocuts, printed on a lovely crisp Japanese paper, I just had to add another one – this time inspired by the fields around our village as winter arrives. I find the shorter days and winter light so inspiring; yes I know lots of people feel very gloomy when the light fades, but let me try to convince you to venture outside and be amazed.

The new image had to include a Barn Owl; I see them hunting along the field edges, their huge soft wings are silent like a giant white moth in the moonlight, and I always feel excited by the sight of such a beautiful bird flying as if in slow motion.

It was when Cliff and I were out planning a new walk for the local walking group, that we saw the first arrival of the 'winter thrushes'; you may have read Emma's blog about this spectacle. The flocks of Fieldfares and Redwings fly down from Scandinavia to feast on the fruits in the English hedgerows. Sometimes if you stand outside on a moonlit November night you might hear the sip-sipper chattering of Redwings as they pass overhead.

The East Anglian views open up as the leaves fall from the trees, through their skeletal shapes the distant fields and crouching woods become visible. Now the fields are clear of crops, the hares are once again easy to spot – racing over the furrows in the half-light – completing the picture in my mind . . .

Night flight

This is the image transferred to the lino, I cut the block quickly to keep the spontaneous line.

And here are the prints hanging up to dry in my studio.

The original limited edition unframed print can be ordered by emailing studio@celiahart.co.uk
This is a small edition of 30 prints is printed on Japanese Kikuchi Haini Kozo Koban. The image size is 15 x 15cm, the same size and paper as used for the 'Love in the air' print. Each print is named, signed and numbered in pencil by me.
An unframed print costs £48 (the price includes p&p to addresses in the UK mainland) if you would like the print sent to an overseas address, please ask me for the extra postage cost.

I will be selling cards of the Night flight design in Magic Cochin's Emporium; it was extremely tricky to get an exact colour match (I fiddled and fiddled, but this lovely shade of blue/violet moonlight was especially elusive!) so the cards have printed in a deeper shade, more like dark denim.

Of course framed and unframed prints, and the cards, will be centre stage on my stall at the Pick'n'Mix Makers' Market in Holt (which is one of the loveliest little market towns in North Norfolk, if you didn't know already). If you can come along, I can promise there will be lots and lots of irresistible things to buy, all from the people who actually made them . . . and there will be the most delicious refreshments made by Daisy Boo's Kitchen, like stilton and walnut scones ;-)


Sunday 6 November 2011

It's easy when you know how

I promised to tell you all about my visit to Kettles Yard in Cambridge yesterday . . .

The current exhibition in the gallery space is 'Bridget Riley: Colours, stripes, planes and curves', which I enjoyed greatly; there were a few working drawings, some smaller scale gouache paintings and many large canvasses – all wonderful compositions of colour against colour.

But, what most delighted me was the views through the gallery, with glimpses of parts of paintings seen from oblique angles – which makes the flat paintings become optical sculptures.

Of course, the main reason for me being in Kettles Yard yesterday afternoon, was to see the master Chinese printmaker Yu Chengyou demonstrate his water-based woodcut printing techniques.

Yu Chengyou swiftly got down to work and his translator explained that his home in Heilongjiang in north-east China right on the Russian border is where his inspiration comes from. Printmaking became a major means of expression among the artists in this remote area, as oil painting was seen to be a 'western' medium and this traditional way of working was revived. There was another reason this art-form was popular . . . the materials and equipment needed are relatively cheap and easy to get hold of:
  -   plywood (from a builder's merchant/DIY store – a good fine grained wood like birch, about 8mm thick)
  -   chisels
  -   paper (rice paper or cotton rag, slightly absorbant surface)
  -   water in spray bottle (to dampen the paper and water down the paint)
  -   a sheet of plastic (protects the paper from burnisher and stops paper drying out)
  -   bull-dog clips (to hold the paper in position on the block)
  -   water colour paint (tubes of normal painter's water colour)
  -   brushes (good quality flat ones in a selection of size)
  -   burnisher (a cylindrical piece of plastic, or tubing is good)

And that's it!

Oh, and imagination, creativity, skill and 30 years practice, come in handy too!

Right, then, on with the demonstration of how to do a multi-block water-based woodcut print . . . you'll see Yu Chengyou's hand and brush are blurred in most of these photo – he works very quickly!

In three stages, the first colour has been applied and pressed lightly with the hand to give the speckled texture. The paper has been attached to the second block and the second colour is applied to it . . .

And now the third block, which has the fine detail, is painted with the darker colour . . .

and printed . . .

Instead of printing all the paper in an edition of prints with the first colour, before moving on to the next colour; Yu Chengyou completes a print (all the colours) before starting the next print. No need to have lots of space to hang drying prints, there's only one drying at any time so you can work in a small space!

There was a short discussion about whether we'd like to have a go a printing or see another demonstartion – the consensus was to watch the master at work again (I was itching to have a go!)

This time it's a beautiful intricate carving of a flower, here it is being painted with a pale soft grey . . .

A tiny detail of yellow is added in the centre of the larger flower before moving on to block two, the background . . .

A piece of scrap paper is used to protect the print while it is being rubbed hard with the burnisher . . .

The same block and same colour paint is printed again to get a more intense colour . . .

Now the third and last block, details of leaves to print over the blue background . . .

And there we have it, one beautiful print finished!

It's amazing what you can do in two hours when you know how!

Thank you to ArtChina and St Barnabas Press for inviting Yu Chengyou to show his great skill and unpretentious art here in the UK and arranging such an inspiring workshop.

I'm off to the builder's merchant tomorrow to buy ply-wood ;-)


Friday 4 November 2011

On my own doorstep

I can hardly believe it's November already! I've only just got home from my summer holiday and I spotted over on Planet Penny that the Pick'n'Mix Maker's Market is "in just over 3 weeks time" – yikes! Yes, on Saturday 26th November I'll be driving up to North Norfolk to set out my wares along with lots of other lovely creative folk, so I'd better get cracking and up the productivity rate! Mrs Bobo Bun will be on my tail asking for jpgs of the new and exciting things I promised there would be on my stall – next week Lisa, I promise! 

But I did take a little break from my studio this morning, to pop into town to do some errands . . . there's nothing like travelling to far away places to open your eyes to the wonderful things on your own doorstep – like this . . .

King's College Chapel seen from The Backs, the iconic view that tourists from all over the world come to see; it's on my walking route from parking places that us locals know about to the town centre, and it's easy to take it for granted. But today I was stopped in my tracks Рthe light, the colours were straight from a painting by Constable Рit may be a clich̩, but it struck me how beautiful that view is.

My first stop was to order prints of our holiday photos – not something I would normally do, but I'd treated myself to a new camera in September and the shop had given me a voucher for 300 free prints!
Then I popped into the shop next door to look for a warm winter jacket – and found one for £45 (like this but black) – BARGAIN! :-)

On my way back to my car I had time to call in to Cambridge Contemporary Art to see the exhibition of prints by Angie Lewin and Rob Ryan, which of course was as full of lovely images as you'd expect from two such talented artists; I particularly liked Angie Lewin's pencil and watercolour studies of flowers and Rob Ryan's 'Countless Moons'.

As if that wasn't enough, there was another exhibition I just had to see today, 'Wild North China – an exhibition of woodcuts by Yu Chenyou'. This wasn't on show at one of the smart galleries in the centre of Cambridge, but in an exhibition space at the St Barnabas Press which is located 'the other side of the tracks' (literally!) on an industrial estate behind the railway line on the northern outskirts of Cambridge.

Yu Chengyou is a leading Chinese printmaker, and he's in Cambridge at the moment working with the St Barnabas Press, he was teaching there last weekend (I wish I'd been there) – but the exciting thing is, I have got a place on the afternoon workshop with Yu Chengyou at Kettles Yard tomorrow afternoon – and I'm even more excited about seeing him work, now that I've seen his prints 'in the flesh'! I actually had a sneaky preview of what's in store, because while at St Barnabas this morning I was shown some of the wood blocks and had a chat with James Hill about the techniques Yu Chengyou uses.

The 'Prints of Yu Chengyou' catalogue on my very cluttered desk!

I'll be back soon to tell you all about the workshop and the another exhibition that's also at Kettles Yard this month, 'Bridget Riley: Colours, stripes, planes and curves'.