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 31 December 2012

Farewell 2012 – Welcome 2013

I hope you had a peaceful and happy Christmas, the festivities came and went before I realised that I hadn't put a Chritsmas post here on PPPs. The weeks before Christmas were for me, busier than I could have foreseen – but thanks to my very efficient and reliable frame maker, I was able to keep the galleries supplied with framed prints for their Christmas/New Year exhibitions. Then, in the week before Christmas two non-festive things happened . . . we were woken in the night to learn that Cliff's elderly aunt had passed away, she was frail and approached her life's end slowly but although her passing was inevitable we were sad. Then, just two days later, a dear friend, weakened by past cancer treatment, lost his battle to withstand a chest infection . . . his death was a jolt and saddened us much more.

So Christmas for us was a quiet and reflective time.

We are now at the turning of the year . . . a time for new beginnings and looking forward, which is just what I need.

Here's to an inspiring and creative 2013,


Wednesday 12 December 2012

Frost after fog + sunshine = magic

This week began grey and foggy, what few hours of daylight we get at this time of year was filtered through a double layer of dirty 'nets'. Yesterday I went for a walk with friends before having lunch in the local pub, we walked over fields frozen solid and dusted with frost – like icing sugar on a giant chocolate log cake.

In the evening I had to drive over the border into Cambridgeshire, along dark winding lanes; visibility was about 20 metres and the car warning message continuously flashed to remind me of "danger of ice" . . . it was -3C. On the way home I sensed that something strange was happening, in places the fog was becoming thinner and the trees seemed different . . . white and glittery!

This morning the fog had completely gone! Overnight all the tiny droplets of water in the air had formed ice crystals attached to every twig and leaf . . . this was a opportunity not to be missed, after breakfast I went out for a walk with my camera.

I crossed the road opposite my studio and walked down the path behind behind the village church . . .

. . . and emerged into a magical glittering ice-crystal world . . .

As I returned along the field edges I heard a strange sound – the crackling, splintering, tinkling sound of ice crystals falling from the branches high above.

The winter sun's warmth was enough to melt the crystals and they fell like snow all around me, onto the frozen ground.


Monday 10 December 2012

Magic Cochin's Emporium closed for a major refit

I've decided to make a few changes to my "online presence" so I have closed my Etsy shop until early in 2013 to give it a major refit. The new look shop will still stock the best-selling card designs but there will be new cards . . . the first of these will be new prints and cards for Valentine's Day :-)

And I'm thinking of giving the shop a new name . . . what do you think?

The little red hen will still be part of my brand logo, but she will no-longer work as my online-agent – it's time to blog and run the shop as the real me.


Sunday 2 December 2012

Fen . . . it's all about how you look at it

Winter has arrived . . . in the morning the grass and roofs are white with frost and the hens' water is frozen. This morning it would have been very easy to snuggle down into the blankets and stay there – BUT is was sunny! A glorious deep blue sky and a low winter sun was just too good to waste

. . . we went for a walk . . .

Cliff is planning a route for the local walking group, for the last Sunday in the year; it's a Fen walk, so we've been checking out a network of Fen tracks and droves (after 20 years I think I've convinced him that there's more to the Fens than just flat fields).

I'm proud to say I'm a "Fenwoman; I know that may provoke snorks of derision and mentions of webbed feet and dubious ancestry, and I don't care! The Fens are unique and they are made by the people that have lived and worked there for centuries. Not just since the drainage of the Fens but Dutch drainage engineers in the 17th Century; the Fen story goes back longer than that: Medieval trading ports; Roman canals taking goods to the far reaches of empire and Neolithic fur traders all played their part.

Today, what can we see? Water held back from the land by strong straight earth banks; the long deep waterways are called 'lodes', they take water from the smaller 'dykes' and feed it into the 'levels' – those long man-made rivers that take the water to the The Wash (the large bay on the North Sea coast). East Anglia has been spared the torrential rain of recent weeks and although water levels are high there has been very little flooding. You can see the water in the lode is much higher than the fields on the right.

Fens are a landscape of air, water and earth; you have to accept that mud, "slub", "clag" is a fact of life. The beauty is in the details, you need to learn to look and to listen. The wind through the reeds which line the edge of the lodes and dykes, is like the rustle of taffeta or the whispers of a hushed crowd.

The air is rarely empty . . . skeins of migrating swans, charms of goldfinches and here – a flapping flock of lapwings cross the sky.

The grey and brown tangles of dead vegetation are alive with birds, like this female reed bunting.

And occasionally along the lode you will see a magnificent mute swan in full sail.

Have I convinced you to look at the Fens?


Tuesday 27 November 2012

New galleries, exhibitions, a magazine feature and something completely different

The last few weeks have been busy – and even more that I expected!

Just before we went on holiday in September, the arts journalist Hazel Foxon spent a morning with me in my studio to research an article she was writing for the 'arts in the east' magazine Venue. If you live in Beds, Cambs, Essex, Herts, London, Norfolk or Suffolk look out for it in libraries, galleries and theatres – it's a glossy colour mag with David Bowie on the cover and it's FREE
. . . or you can see the article here.

I've framed prints and packed unframed work in time for the pre-Christmas rush and delivered it to Edwards & Todd in London; the Jessica Muir Gallery in Long Melford and Smiths Row in Bury St Edmunds.

My work will be included in a special exhibition of "Smaller Pictures" at the Church Street Gallery in Saffron Walden, starting on 1st December and continuing throughout December.

I am very excited to have been invited to exhibit in two lovely galleries . . .
Cambridge Contemporary Art is a beautiful bright exhibition space within sight of King's College Chapel right in the historic centre of Cambridge. I will also be delivering some framed work for inclusion in their Christmas exhibition which runs through December.
The other venue is in Suffolk but right over on the coast – it's The Gallery at Snape Maltings, I've delivered my prints just in time to be included in the Winter exhibtion. This is probably Suffolk's most famous arts venue in a beautiful setting beside the River Alde at the end of a long estuary. The concert halls, shops, galleries and restaurants attract lots of visitors throughout the year; if the sun is shining (as it was yesterday!) the views of the river and the boats are stunning.

As you can imagine, I've been spending lots of time framing prints and writing lists; but among all the requests from galleries I received an invite from Southwold Life Boat Crew:
"We're having a tweetup on 24/11 would love it if you came.
If you can't make up your mind then how does tea,
cake & lifeboat display sound?"
Well, although I live in Suffolk and enjoy reading the morning weather tweets from the life boat station right over in the diagonally opposite corner of the county, a 150mile road trip for cake was a bit keen! I politely declined. Then I received a message from a photographer who lives only a few miles from me "I'm going, I'll give you a lift" and before I knew it I had a place reserved on a boat to go out on a training exercise with the life boat crew! You can read what happened and see Celia Bartlett's fantastic photo-essay of the day with Southwold RNLI.

Celia Bartlett ready for action at sea!

Well they say 'a change is as good as a rest', and being bounced over the grey waves of the north sea with salt water waves crashing into my face certainly blew the cobwebs away! If that's what a 'calm day' is like the volunteer life boat crews have my full respect for going out in all weathers to rescue those in danger off the Suffolk coast. Please consider giving your support to the RNLI.


Monday 19 November 2012

There once was a tree . . .

Well we ummed and aaaahed and eventually decided that the large Corsican Pine had to go. Why hadn't we just chopped it down 13 years ago when we moved here! Why had we let it grow so huge that it blocked the light and the view from our bedroom, living room and kitchen? Why had we waited until it need planning permission and a team of expert tree fellers to do the job?

Today the deed was done . . .

. . . and now I can make plans for two new large flower beds :-) and Cheep and the flock will have to relocate their winter HQ to another sheltered place in the garden.


Sunday 11 November 2012

Saturday 10 November 2012

A review of the John Moores Painting Prize 2012

On Friday I had 45 minutes to spare before catching my train home from Liverpool, so I went to the Walker Art Gallery which is conveniently just across the road from Lime Street Station, to see the John Moores Painting Prize 2012.

You can see all the paintings online here, although I think the most interesting things about the real paintings are their size, texture and physical presence - this doesn't come across in the digital reproductions.

My notes:

Overall impression -  lots of war, violence - all feels very troubled.

The winner: Sarah Pickstone 'Stevie Smith and the willow' like an enlarged doodle. OK... ish.

Biggs & Collings 'The Greater Light' - clever in a Bridget Riley way, I like the way it's painted but is it surface pattern design rather than 'a painting' ?

Narbi Price 'Untitled Kerbstone Painting' - one of many gritty urban subjects but this one is painted with a light touch.

Dan Perfect 'Future Sun' - this is a huge painting like a grafitti wall. I liked the colours and different paints overlapping. Could look at this for a long time.

Cullinan Richards 'Collapse into Abstract' - my 2nd favourite; I like the thick cream paint on the intense black background.

James Bloomfield 'Collatoral Damage' - this was my favourite; from across the gallery it is like a black and white photo in a newspaper, probably of a middle eastern war torn town - close up it is almost random brush marks with white and grey paint on a damaged piece of plaster board. I sensed there was a seriousness about this work, it was telling a story.

Most pretentious piece: John Liversidge 'Proposal for the Jury of the John Moores Painting Prize 2012' ... in my opinion it is not clever, it's just stupid.

The Chinese work - big on technique over all else. But I did like 'Waiting' by Zheng Jiang.

Maybe I should read the artists' notes about their work and call in again next time I'm in Liverpool? Or should art be enjoyed without the need of complex explanations?

Have you been to the exhibition? and if so, what did you think of it?


Saturday 3 November 2012

Timberline – a hand-made inspiration

There is one place we visited on our road trip that I really must tell you a little about . . .

It's a ski lodge on Mount Hood and if the weather is clear you can see this magical view across the Cascade Mountains; it was the location for an iconic US chiller 'The Shining', but that has nothing to do with it's real history . . . which is much more interesting.

Timberline was built when America was struggling to pull itself out of an economic depression; thousands were unemployed, businesses had failed, families were finding it hard to make ends meet and people were sleeping on the streets. Sounds familiar, dosesn't it?

However, I not talking about present day USA, this was the early 1930s and a federal agency, the WPA (Works Progress Administration) was set up in 1933 to create projects to provide jobs for thousands of desperate Americans. In the state of Oregon a small team of experienced foremen were employed to teach the skills needed to hundreds of labourers who lived in a tent encampment on the lower slopes of Mount Hood. They were paid and decent wage and given three nutritious hot meals a day. They learnt new skills that would enable them to get work in the future.

But above all else, in less than 18 months the workforce of men and women created not just a building but a work of art; using craft skills in timber and stone they made a building which is timeless, it sits on the mountain side, becoming part of the landscape - afterall it is made of the same rock and timber as its surroundings.

All the furniture, fittings and interior decor was also hand crafted and are unique to Timberline; the drive and imagination behind the designs was an interior designer from Portland, Margery Hoffman Smith. She had just over a year to complete the task, there was no time to draw up ideas and dither around, under her guidance teams of older women made applique curatins and rag rugs from scrap fabrics; joiners made sturdy functional furniture; artists created murals from broken tiles and carved wood. Old telegraph poles were given a new lease of life as newel posts for the staircases, each one carved with a forest animal. Old railway tracks were skillfully forged into fire-dogs for the huge fireplace at the heart of the lodge.

This is part of a mural by Douglas Lynch, it is carved linoleum which has been coloured with transparent glazes of oil paint. Like everything else at Timberline, this artwork has been lovingly restored to near it's original condition by The Friends of Timberline.

Every single room in the lodge is furnished in much the same way as it was in 1937 when President Roosevelt opened the building (of course there has been a few modernisatins to the bathrooms and other modern facilities added but they are styled in keeping with the original decor.)

We were lucky there was a room available, so we stayed for just one night - it was my birthday. We had a little room with a view towards the summit of Mount Hood. This was the telephone in our bedroom, the watercolour above it is one of many botanical studies of local plants which were painted by a German artist who had been living in a cardboard box on the streets of Portland, existing on dried beans he soaked in cold water.

The furnishings may not be the original fabrics, hand woven by the eager to learn team of workers from Oregon wool and linen thread, but they are in the spirit of Timberline and all the curtains and cushions are still hand stitched by local makers.

Every square inch of Timberline is a legacy of a huge team effort and an example of what can be done in difficult times to raise morale by making something beautiful by hand.

You can read more about Timberline Lodge here.