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 30 January 2012

Perfect winter weekend = walk + bake + knit

On Saturday we decided to venture west for a walk in the Midlands, Cliff did a quick search on the web and found a good location . . . Pitsford Water in Northamptonshire.


We started our walk at the popular Brixworth Country Park visitors centre and circumnavigated the southern half of the reservoir, a total distance of 7.5 miles – just the right sort of distance to blow the cobwebs out of the mind and put roses in our cheeks!

On the way we passed some recently done hedge-laying . . .

and lots of birdlife, including a large flock of Lapwings (including one of two Golden Plovers) and these beautifully plumaged Greylag Geese . . .

After our walk we went into Brixworth village to see the church, it's set on the edge of the village on the crest of a ridge which overlooks the surrounding farmland, and it is huge . . . and very very old!

Brixworth church was build at least 1200 years ago, only a couple of hundred years after the the Romans upped and left Britain; the Saxon builders reused Roman terracotta tiles to make the massive semicircular archways. The large ground level arches (which have been infilled with stone and windows) where originally interior entrances into small side rooms, chapels or shrines off the main nave of this great basilica, maybe built when Offa was king of Mercia.

Just think how long it's stood here . . . it was over 300 years old when the Normans invaded Britain! Look at how carefully the tiles and stones have been placed to make those simple archways.

Maybe I was still thinking about those Saxon arches when I made this pear up-side down cake for our Sunday lunch?

It was easy to make . . .
- spread creamed butter and soft brown sugar over the base of a lined cake tin;
- over it, lay slices of pear and glacé cherries in pattern;
- make a sponge mixture (100g softened unsalted butter/100g caster sugar/2 eggs/100g self-raising flour) and spoon carefully over the fruit;
- bake at 180˚C for about 40 minutes until the sponge is firm;
- cool slightly and turn out onto a plate;
- eat with a generous helping of freshly made custard.

. . . and even easier to eat!

On Sunday evening I finished the shawl I've been knitting from Kauni yarn; I've been knitting this for months; it has been knitted and unraveled a couple of times because it wasn't quite right and I'm a perfectionist; it has traveled with me on trains down to London and up to Liverpool many times, until it became far to big to carry easily.

The shape and size were inspired by the shawls in a Kaffe Fassett knitting book from the 1980s. I chose two colourways of the Kauni yarn and then used a Fair Isle technique to create the patterns, which I made up as I went along and then repeated a few times.

Let's see it outside in natural light where the wintery colours really glow . . .

I was fun to knit, and became cosy and organic as it grew and grew. I worked on 1 metre long double pins, but by the end it was quite a struggle to manipulate all the stitches; so although I still have some yarn over, I decided it was big enough. I probably have enough to make a hat with the leftovers.

And lastly . . .

Thank you to everyone who signed up to get my studio newsletters, there are over twenty who missed the mailing, so I'll be sending out another batch later this evening. Then the next one will be sent at the end of February.


Friday 20 January 2012

Studio newsletter

I've been playing with Mail Chimp!

It's part of my plan to keep in regular contact with the galleries that sell my prints and cards . . . then I thought, perhaps I should send a newsletter to previous customers and maybe followers of my blog? So I'm experimenting with setting up a mailing list specifically to receive monthly news from my studio by email . . . with links to Magic Cochin's Emporium and PPPs and my website and galleries and anything else that I'm excited about.

Above is a preview of this month's newsletter – it hasn't been posted yet, so if you'd like to add you name to the mailing list just fill in this little form (you can unsubscribe at any time, of course and I won't share your details with anyone else or deluge you with messages).


Tuesday 17 January 2012

Three cheers for Phoebe!

My senior under-gardeners are 5 years old, they came to live in our garden in March 2007 and at the beginning of April Phoebe was the first of our flock to lay an egg.

Phoebe is a Coucou Marans hybrid (Marans x Rhode Island Red) and she has the most perfect tail shape – she can manoeuvre it like a rudder. Her feathers are luxuriously smooth like an expensive silk twill scarf, and she has thick downy underwear – most practical on a day like today!

I estimate that Phoebe has laid about 200 eggs each year, so that means she has produced 1000 eggs! I didn't mind at all when late last October she stopped laying because she was moulting – she does this dramatically . . . one day one or two feathers fall out, the next day she shakes herself and stands there almost naked!!! I wouldn't have minded it she never laid another egg, we will care for her for as long as she wants to enjoy life fossicking around our garden. We've got to know her funny little ways – she spends ages laying her eggs, really taking her time and she hates any food that is sticky like plums or porridge or boiled potatoes.

 Today Phoebe laid her first egg in 2012 . . .

. . .  a beautiful brown egg just like her first one in 2007.


Friday 13 January 2012

The birds' wedding day

One of my aims for this year is to produce one of my small single colour linocut each month . . . I decided that the January print should be a 'Valentine's' design – last year's 'Love in the air' print was very popular (there are just 3 left) and so is the card.

I began  by doodling in my sketchbook . . .

 . . . using my fountain pen :-)


You see, I'd read about Poshyarns' Christmas present and scurried off to rummage in a drawer for my fountain pen – the one my parents bought for me when I went to secondary school (in the days when we had to write all our essays in ink with a proper pen). I remember choosing the brushed steel Parker 25, it looked very modern and space-age! Now it looks funky retro and I've discovered that people collect them. All those exam essays it got me through are water under the bridge, but now my Parker 25 has a new bottle of Quink blue-black and has a new lease of life!

The doodle which stood out as the one on which to base the new linocut was this one . . .

At this stage I switch to working digitally over a scan of the original sketch, in Photoshop I can work on different layers and add and take away elements quickly and easily. I decided that the two birds should be Mistle Thrushes because in our garden they are the first birds to choose a mate and build their nests – usually in the ancient Yew trees right outside my studio.


The design around the heart shape is made up of primroses, leaves and twigs in a texture which reminds me of Victorian paper lace Valentine's cards. When I was happy with the black line design, I printed it out to the size I needed on my laserprinter and transferred the design to the lino by painting paint-stripper on the reverse of the paper.

Then, my favourite bit, the carving. The design gets altered slightly a the cuts have a style of their own and give the finished block a unique look which is different from the drawn lines.


Ready to take a proof . . .

As you can see I work upside down at this stage. This is so that I can position the straight cut edge of the paper with the marks on the base board on which the the lino block is stuck; the natural deckle edge of the handmade paper is then at the bottom – which looks much nicer. (I think I got that tip from Annie.)

I like using Japanese printmaking paper, this one is very thin and useful for proofs as it's so easy to see how the image is printing as I burnish the reverse of the paper using various implements – my favourites this time were a tiny ceramic cylindrical pot and an antique nickle silver serving spoon.

This is the satisfying bit . . . ta-dah!

All looks good to go!

For the finished linocuts I used a slightly heavier and more textured Japanese paper which is made from Paper Mulberry fibre – I love it's crispness, like the pages of a very special old book.

I worked late to finish all the printing in one session, so this photo of the prints hanging up to dry was taken with the studio lights on.


The original limited edition unframed prints can be ordered by emailing studio@celiahart.co.uk
This is a edition of 30 prints on Japanese Kikuchi Haini Kozo Koban. The image size is 15 x 15cm. Each print is named, signed and numbered in pencil by me. An unframed print costs £48 (which includes p&p to addresses in the UK mainland).

Cards of the design are now available in Magic Cochin's Emporium.

For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day
when every foul cometh ther to choose his mate
From 'Parliament of Foules' by Geoffrey Chaucer 1343 – 1400


Wednesday 11 January 2012


This morning on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, there was an item about the number of wildflowers that were seen to be flowering in Cardiff on New Year's Day, 63 different species! You can read more about it and see the list of species, here.

I had exchanged Tweets with Wessex Reiver and said I'd see what was in flower on my lunch time walk . . .

I began in the garden, the Winter Honeysuckle (lonicera fragrantissima) is in full flower already and the scent is delightful


there are a dozen more plants and shrubs in flower . . .


Pansy; Honesty; Winter Jasmine;
Feverfew; Perrywinkle; Primrose;
Rose; Calendula; Viburnum;
Polyanthus; Flowering Box; Garrya.

Out across the fields self-seeded Rape plants are in bloom, some fields glowed yellow in the sunshine!


My route took me over the fields, following a footpath parallel with the Stour Brook, one of the main feeder steams to to River Stour which divides Suffolk from Essex and winds its way through Constable Country to the North Sea at the port of Harwich. Along the way I spotted a dozen wildflowers in bloom.


White Deadnettle; Groundsel; Mustard;
Rape; Shepherd's Purse; Hogweed;
Chamomile; Dandelion; Yarrow;
Red Deadnettle; Red Campion; Wild Stawberry.

The wide "DEFRA Wildlife Headlands" have had their annual cut by the farm contractors (the sign has been minced too!) I've noticed the birdlife and particularly the raptor populations have seemed to benefit from these areas, as we now regularly see Barn, Tawny and Little Owls as well as Sparrow Hawks, Kestrels, Buzzards and the occasional Marsh Harrier and Red Kite.

The recent storm brought down one of the Crack Willows on the bank of the brook and smashed it down over the footpath. Crack Willows are meant to crack and if left alone the branches smashed into the ground will root and new branches with grow vertically and become new trees. This won't be allowed to happen here, it will soon be moved away and the footpath with be clear again.

Behind the village church are paddocks, normally there are elegant retired race horses, but today – look at these little Shetland ponies racing to say hello!


 Smile for the camera!

The ponies weren't the only creatures enjoying the mild temperatures and sun today . . . or posing for the camera . . .


Do you recognise who this is?

It's Cheep!


Wednesday 4 January 2012

2012 . . . off the blocks!

Here we are in a brand new year, 2012, and for many it means the culmination of years of planning – the Diamond Jubilee, the London Olympics; and then there's the new calenders and diaries ready to be filled with appointments, visits and holidays. There's no time for denial, 2012 has begun.

But first, an introduction . . . meet Pearl . . . here she is posing prettily and waiting patiently for me to tidy the hen house and put more hem-core in the nest box so she has a clean and comfy place to lay her egg.

In the studio, my week is starting with a major tidy-up and tying up of loose ends and making plans. I don't make resolutions but I have sent myself some challenges (maybe that's the same thing, but it seems less of a commitment).

– The small square linocuts, 'Love in the air', 'Night flight', etc have been very popular; so I'm planning to do more this year . . . maybe one a month.
– My main project this year is to work on a series of multi-block woodcuts . . . I may even start a new blog about these . . . does that sound a good idea? or should they stay here mingled with everything else?
– I'll continue the 'Mantel Pieces' project.
– Something I must try to do better is keeping in contact with galleries that sell my work and regularly supplying new work – I need to set up a day or two each month to do this.
– I've an urge to return to sewing – so I'm in the process of finding and sorting out my stash of fabrics; I'll sort out the wool stash too. Then I can start to make things.
– It's high time this blog had a spring clean, so things might move around and look different soon.
– There are other things I'd love to do . . . maybe if I list them here something might happen:
      •  fabric designs
      •  an e-book of walks
      •  illustrated magazine articles - recipes/henkeeping/gardening/walks/wildflowers
      •  work towards an exhibition – maybe of the woodcuts.

Well, I'd better get on with it!

See you soon