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.

Saturday 31 December 2011

The sun sets on 2011

Did you have a lovely Christmas? All that preparation and then it's over in a jiffy! Our Christmas was undramatic with some lovely food – which is as it should be really, I was recovering from a cold virus so any plans for more adventurous celebrations were put aside and I concentrated on staying in and getting better by Christmas Day.

The highlight of Christmas morning was a special breakfast treat . . . poached eggs from our Araucana pullet, served on toast with smoked salmon. They were very very good indeed! We read through all the name suggestions sent to me via Twitter and Facebook – there were some very good ones but one stood out as being perfect – Pearl. It was suggested on Twitter by swanimages, which also meant that I discovered Miriam's beautiful photography, you can see it here and her garden photography here.

We've had a busy week since Christmas, visiting friends and relatives, and now here we are at the end of another year . . .


 . . . the sun has set for the last time in 2011


I took these photographs a couple of hours ago as we finished our final check of the 15 mile walking route that Cliff is leading tomorrow.

I wonder if the first sunset of 2012 will treat us to a light show to match the New Year's eve 2011? If you'd like to join us the details are on the walks calendar on The Cambridge Rambling Club website.

Wishing you all a happy New Year's Eve however you plan to celebrate – this year I think I might have an early night and see in 2012 snuggled up in my bed, after all I've got to be up before dawn to eat a big bowl of porridge and make the ham and pickle sarnies for our New Year's Day walk :-)

Thank you for following PPPs over the year and leaving interesting and encouraging comments – I enjoy reading them all and love following the links to new pages and new discoveries. Thank you too for popping over to my facebook page and for the banter on Twitter.

I'm planning lots of new adventures in my studio and garden (and maybe further afield)
so see you in 2012


Friday 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!

 from the cast and crew of Purple Podded Peas
Celia, Cliff, the ginger and tabby studio assistants
and the flock - Tarragon, Sylvie, Phoebe, Ginger, Saffron, Nutmeg,
the Araucana-boys, Araucana-girl and last (but by no means least) Cheep
we'll be back after Christmas

Thursday 22 December 2011

Re-naming and re-cycling

Today marks the Winter Solstice, the shortest day, the turning of the year – although we probably still have the coldest and harshest of winter days to come in January and February, this ancient Winter festival marks the points when we start walking towards the Springtime – renewal and regrowth.

Our young Araucana hen (she's just 5 months old) celebrated the Winter Solstice with her first egg! 

Wasn't that a wonderful surprise . . . a perfect, little teal blue egg, laid carefully in one of the nest boxes in the hen-house.


And then I realised we'd put off giving "Araucana-girl" a grown-up hen's name, so yesterday I asked for some suggestions from my Twitter and Facebook followers . . . there's still time to join in – you can Tweet your suggestion to me @celiahart or leave a comment on my facebook page. You have until midnight today (22nd December 2011 GMT) to join in and we'll select a new name for our pretty Lavender Araucana pullet, over the Christmas weekend.

I've also put some decorations on a twiggy tree – some of my Winter Thrushes tree decorations and these gorgeous paper balls :-) 

I'm so pleased with them! I discovered the tutorial of how to make them via Printed Material, and it was just what I was looking for to use these – Gudrun Sjoden catalogues, I hoard them because the paper is matt yet lovely and crisp and the colours are gorgeous (the clothes are lovely too . . . practical yet quirky and perfect for wearing in the studio or in the garden).

The paper balls are surprisingly simple to make, once you get the knack; and like knitting or patchwork or crocheting grannie squares, they are very addictive!

Wishing you well on the Winter Solstice!


Tuesday 20 December 2011

Making winter tree decorations (for the birds)

Silverpebble and Thrifty Household have been encouraging lots of bloggers to share their Making Winter ideas – and wow! what an amazing array of blogs and creative ideas have tumbled out of blogland! I keep getting distracted following links to lovely blogs which were new to me, so a great big thank you must go to Mrs P and Mrs TH . . .  take a bow ladies!

Mrs TH's latest blogpost was about making Florentines . . . mmmmm! I love Florentines! And while I was dreaming about sitting in a cosy café, sipping a hot cup of tea and nibbling a delicious, sticky-on-one-side / chocolatey-on-the-other Florentine, I had a brain wave!
In my fridge I had a bowl of dripping left over from slow-roasting a belly of wild boar – I admit that I used a teeny 'scrape' to make 'bread and dripping' to remind me of my Grandma (she used to give me this as a treat, liberally sprinkled with pepper, when I called in, on my way home from school, to see her in her little terraced cottage). I didn't want to waste this deluxe dripping, so I decided to make winter treats for the wild birds.

Fat-Florentines for the Birds

Sprinkle nuts and seeds into tart tins
(I used sunflower seed kernels and flaked almonds)
and press some dripping on top,
Place long knotted loops of string across each 'tart'
and add more dripping, then more seeds/nuts.

Place the tin in the freezer over-night to set really hard.

 Lay the very cold tart tin upside down on another larger tin
and gently pour a little boiling water over the tart tin
– this releases the Fat Florentines from the moulds :-)

 Gather up the strings and ta-dah!

All ready to hang outside on the trees or bushes.

A treat for the birds
on the shortest darkest days of the year :-)


Monday 12 December 2011

Making Winter wonderful

I enjoy the winter months but some people find them challenging . . . this winter, fellow East Anglian bloggers Silverpebble (a self confessed hibernophobe?) is making an effort to like the cold dark months with the assistance of (hibernophyle?) Thrifty Household's encouragement to embrace winter and Make Winter wonderful!


Up until last week, the weather in SW Suffolk has been unseasonably mild for the time of year, but we've now had a taster of frosty mornings and sparkly clear moonlit nights. On Saturday Cliff and I were up early, crunching over the icy gravel to start a day-trip to Merseyside by train.

Passing through the Peak District the weather closed in, sleet skitted along the train's windows and we looked out over the snowy hills with their tops shrouded in icy clouds – that's a real winter landscape!

I was happy to be settled down with my knitting, watching the view; fortified with my packed lunch of home-made soda bread, beef and horseradish sandwiches :-)

So for Making Winter, here's how I make my soda bread . . . it's an amalgam of Nigel's Lazy Loaf and Woman's Hour - Cook the Perfect Soda Bread. My tip is to buy the best wholemeal flour you can, I get mine from the Daily Bread Co-op in Cambridge – they have lots to choose from so you can experiment and find the one you like best.

Soda Bread
(blast! I spelled casserole wrong!!!!)

I used Cultured Buttermilk.
You can cook this without it being in an iron casserole - look at the Woman's Hour recipe link
but I find the casserole method makes a softer textured loaf.

Nigel's Loaf uses baking soda, but I prefer the flavour of the baking powder only recipe.

The 'dough' is more like a thick, gunky cake mix, so you can't shape it as such – just nudge it out of the bowl with a spatula and plop it into the floured hot, cast-iron casserole. Bung on the lid and half an hour or so later you'll smell cooked bread . . . mmmmmm!

It's lovely just buttered, delicious with a bowl of soup and the sweet nuttiness is heavenly toasted with butter and honey . . . have a go and make winter wonderful :-)

This month's Making Winter Blog Hop is hosted by Thrifty Household, where you'll find links to lots of other ways for Making Winter wonderful, please feel free to join in and add your link to the Blog Hop while you're there.

There's also a Making Winter Flickr Pool where you'll find all kinds of winter delights to inspire you on a cold December day.


Friday 9 December 2011

Known unknown craftsmen

Yesterday I went to two exhibitions that had been at the top of my 'must see' list . . . both were in London and I combined the trip with delivering some unframed linocuts to Edwards & Todd in Museum Street.

My next stop was just across the road and through the big gates of the British Museum . . .


. . . to see Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman, I'd been looking forward to seeing this for many months so I hoped it wasn't going to disappoint – it didn't!

The concept behind the exhibition is best described by the artist himself and there are some excellent photos here. I immediately warmed to the opening statement . . .

"Do not look too hard for meaning here.
I am not a historian,
I am an artist"

I'd been given permission to look and enjoy everything in the exhibition without the trappings of historical context or academic knowledge . . . they were here to tell a new story and one that involved the exhibition visitor on a pilgrimage to the tomb of the unknown craftsman – a representative maker who, like the unknown soldier in Westminster Abbey, represents all the men and women who skillfully created the thousands of artifacts in the collections of the British Museum.

Alongside the artifacts selected by Grayson Perry from the galleries and storerooms of the museum, there are his new artworks created to comment on themes: shrines, pilgrimage, relics, gender, craftsmanship, the patina of age . . . 

The gallery was busy (but not over-crowded) with visitors, all intently looking at the exhibits which are beautifully displayed and simply labelled in classic museum style, whether they were ancient artifacts or new works made for the exhibition . . . another very enjoyable part of the experience was overhearing the comments . . .

"You look and ask which are ancient,
I can't guess which are which!"

The accompanying catalogue and the shop at the end is as much a part of the exhibition as the main exhibits, Grayson Perry had a hand in the content and design of both. 

I won't try to describe the exhibits, but just highly recommend that you visit – it's engrossing, thought provoking and inspiring on many levels.

The second exhibition I was excited to see was here . . .

. . . The Poster King at the Estorick Collection in Islington – I hadn't heard of it either! The way I found out about this exhibition is a long story, I'll tell you a brief version, one day earlier this year, I received an email which wasn't meant for me but I recognised the name of the sender – it was a gentleman, with a very distinctive name, whom I'd interviewed for my final year art history project at art college! I decided to let him know his email had gone astray and after exchanging further emails, I admitted that I had regretted my choice of subject for the project and wished I'd continued my 2nd year studies about the work of Edward McKnight Kauffer. A month or so passed and I received another email from him, telling me that there was a major exhibition of McKnight Kauffer's work in London this autumn and he hoped I'd be able to go along to see it!

Edward McKnight Kauffer is today a known unknown of he art world – many of you will recognise his work, and many more will have been influenced by his ground breaking graphic design and typography, but few know his name.

You can read a short biography of Edward McKnight Kauffer and see some of his posters on the Estorick Collection web site. The exhibition filled two galleries and comprised of original posters, gouache designs for posters, book illustrations and other graphic material, sketches and photographs – it was fascinating. EMKK was a pioneer in his field, among many innovations he was probably the first graphic designer to use photo-montage in his poster designs.

Edward McKnight Kauffer, BP Ethyl Controls Horse-power (1933) © BP Archive
He was influencial in the Fauvist, Surrealist and Constructivist art movements, a friend of writers and poets including Aldous Huxley, John Betjeman and TS Eliot, in England between the two World Wars, he was a celebrity.

I could go on . . . but I'll stop eulogising. I'll share with you a series of poster designs from the early 1920s entitled "Winter Sales are best  reached by underground" – they were particularly apt on a wet and windswept day in streets of London devoid of traditional festive cheer.

In the inter-war years EMKK brought modern art to the streets and tunnels of London and a smile to commuters' faces.

The Poster King continues at the Estorick Collection for another week, closing on 18th December, it's well worth a visit if you're interested in graphic art and/or social history. If you're interested in 20th Century Italian art (or just love a good Italian café) it's well worth a visit any time.

I would very much like to find out more about how EMKK's gouche designs were translated into the large-scale posters by the printers . . . something I'm going to try to research, so if you can help or send me in the right direction, please let me know.


Thursday 1 December 2011

Secrets and silence

The special exhibitions at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, seem to get better and better – the latest is Vermeer's Women: Secrets and Silence.


The exhibition explores the domestic world of women in 17th Century Holland – which sounds a bit boring, so I'll forgive the Fitz for calling the show Vermeer's Women, when in fact only 4 of the paintings are by Vermeer! You can read more about it in this excellent review by Alastair Sooke;


The Fitz seemed rather quiet when I arrived this morning, the exhibition is free to go in but I decided to pay for an audio guide contraption as I was curious to hear what would be said about the paintings. There was a sign by the entrance warning that at busy times one may be asked to wait – pah! I thought . . . and then I opened the door! it was packed out! There was also a gallery talk in progress, which added to the jam of visitors and general noise.

I really wish I'd made notes of the artists and pictures I particularly liked, I bought this pack of postcards but they are very disappointing – the reproductions are very dark and those cream borders completely kill the colours, and there were so many more beautiful pictures in the exhibition.

One of my all time favourite paintings, Pieter de Hooch's The Courtyard of a House in Delft has been loaned by the National Gallery, I could sit and look at that painting for hours . . . wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to sit in a comfy chair and really have time to study all the textures and details.

New to me is Gerard ter Borch, his pictures are not included in the post card pack but I've tracked down images of two paintings that I particularly liked – Woman Sewing by a Cradle and Woman Peeling Apples. They weren't displayed together in the exhibition – but I noticed they show the same woman wearing the same sage green dress with black ribbon trim.

"Secrets" yes, the paintings depict private scenes behind curtains and peeping around half open doors; but "Silence"? the pictures have a quiet stillness, but in my mind I could hear the wooden shoes clattering on the tiled floors, the shovel scraping in the grate, pet dogs pattering along polished wooden corridors, babies crying, children giggling, a girl practicing playing the virginals, the rustle of skirts and click of lace bobbins.

Of course the star of the show is the little lace maker, Vermeer's masterpiece which has been loaned to the Fitz by the Louvre. It's small and mounted in a wide wooden frame which is inlaid with coloured veneers in a design of sinuous leaves; it's painted with transluscent layers of pigment on rough linen, you can imagine Vermeer applying the liquid paint with a fine brush – allowing the paint to drip onto the surface in sparkling dribbles of colour.

Outside in Trumpington Street, my eye was still tuned in to see views through gateways, leading to archways; weathered brickwork and cobbled courtyards with modest plants in simple terracotta pots.

A steeple viewed between brickwork gables, gateways, windows and tall narrow houses

Back home, I walked in through a 'de Hooch' composition of a door in a red brick wall and stone paving leading to another gateway.

A broom resting again the wall and brick paving leading to our front door.

A brick floor, outdoor shoes on a mat and a basket of apples – a domestic still life.


If you visit Cambridge to see Vermeer's Women, there is another exhibition in the Fitzwilliam which opened this week: Grey matters: Graphite – the power of the pencil; don't miss this! There are works in pencil by Toulouse Lautrec, Degas, Ingres, Lowry, Barbara Hepworth and many more – and it's simply wonderful.

And, of course, you'll be a short dawdle from Fitzbillies – the cake shop that very nearly vanished forever but has been given a new lease of life much to the relief of everyone who has ever tasted a real Fitzbillies Chelsea bun! (read the story here)


I'm trying to resist eating these until Cliff comes home . . .

. . . but in the interests of research, I've nibbled a little from the side of one of the Chelsea buns and can report that they are as sticky and spicy as ever – so a little bit of Cambridge food heritage lives on ;-)