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 29 February 2012


There are hares leaping, dancing,
boxing and skipping all over
Magic Cochin's Emporium!

The 'Magical Hares' card bundles are back in stock and there's a brand new card design based on my new linocut 'March hares'.

 March hares

The rooks are repairing their nests high in the tree-tops, the buds in the hedges are about to burst and the 'mad March hares' are dancing over the field furrows. When I'm lucky enough to see the hares 'boxing' . . . the prancing of feet and flurry of paws, it never fails to bring a smile to my face because I know that the cold months are behind us and the spring flowers will soon fill the hedgerows.

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). The original limited edition unframed prints can be ordered by emailing studio@celiahart.co.uk


Friday 24 February 2012

The mad march towards March

The year is marching past at a brisk pace and we're almost at the end of February already . . . and that means the my studio's newsletter will be sent out on Monday.

This month's newsletter will include a discount code for Magic Cochin's Emporium and news of a very special PPP blog-event in March. So, if you'd like to receive one, just sign up by clicking here and filling out the form. (I promise not to deluge you with emails and will never share your details with anyone else.)

I've been busy this week working on a new linocut of mad March hares, the block has been cut and I've just done a quick rubbing to check the carving . . . all on course for printing next week.

Wishing you all a good weekend.


Wednesday 22 February 2012

Giving up and (re)taking up

Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Some years the 40 days of self-denial passes me by; occasionally I have used it as the catalyst . . . to give up taking sugar in tea or to break the sweets and biscuits habit.

Yesterday I stumbled into a blog-post by Mel of Pollo Loco, about hair washing and I thought "I want to try that for Lent"; so today I washed my hair in a solution of baking soda and water. I'm out of Cider Apple Vinegar, so I couldn't do the conditioning rinse – I'll buy a bottle today. But, I can report that my hair feels clean and today won't be a bad-hair day.

My original plan for Lent was a positive taking up, rather than giving up, act . . . more accurately it's a re-taking up of Tai Chi.

For years I attended a local Tai Chi class; the first class I went to was also the teacher's first time teaching, so she and the group moved on together. Then she decided to move to Nepal and now lives and works here, of course we were all excited and supportive about her new adventure but very sad to lose our Tai Chi teacher who had somehow taught us the Short Form and also convince us that less really is more. I began to see Tai Chi practice as a landscape, a very steep hill to start with, then a flatish plain, mountains appeared in the distance and the way became very steep again, I was nearly at the top of the mountain and could just see over the top . . . of what were mere foothills of a vast mountain range stretching as high as the sky.

So this morning I wrote out all the moves that make up the Short Form – I was chuffed that my old skill of perfectly fitting text into a given space by eye hadn't been lost . . . so maybe my body will remember the moves?

Today I'll start by parting the wild horse's mane 

by the end of next week I may have
got to grip with the tiger's ears

and by Easter I hope to have embraced the tiger

and returned to the mountain.


Saturday 18 February 2012

On being a tour guide for the day

Did you guess who Friday's visitor to PPP-HQ was? 

Here are some more clues . .  .

The Very Important Garden Blogger is passionate about vegetables

'Does not do flowers' (you must know by now!)

And has a naughty sense of humour . . .  Oooooo Matron!

Yes, it was indeed Matron of Down on the Allotment who arrived on my doorstep not long after breakfast on Friday morning. After a cuppa and a chat (about veg seeds) Matron joined me to tidy up the hen house and collect the eggs; then we had a tour of my plot – I'll let Matron tell you more about that.

We then jumped in to the 'tardis' and took a scenic route through 'hare country' to Saffron Walden and Audley End House. Matron wanted to see the walled vegetable garden, a showcase for Garden Organic's Heritage vegetables and fruit. The greenhouses are under wraps for repair and there were few vegetables to be seen, but with no leaves to cover the branches the expertly trained and pruned fruit trees and brushes were works of horticultural art.

 My particular favourites were the criss-cross living trellis of old apple varieties.

And the fan-trained pear trees along the high garden wall.

After a quick look in the stables, we were in need of a warming lunch – we headed straight for the Housekeeper's Room for big bowls of broccoli and stilton soup.

We were lucky that our visit coincided with a re-enactment day in the Service Wing.

 There was laundry hanging up to dry . . .

The Dairy Maid was shaping freshly churned butter into pats and pressing them with beautifully carved moulds . . .

And in the kitchen "Everything but the squeak" of a pig was being made into pies, brawns, roasts and jellied stock; presented just as it would have been in the 1880s.

Later in the afternoon we drove to Cambridge; it was fun being a "tourist in my own town" as I waited on Garret Hostel Lane Bridge for Matron to take the iconic tourist shots of the river and bridges and punts.

Along The Backs another iconic Cambridge view is changing . . . trees were being felled behind King's College. But before you throw up your hand in horror, it's all part of a grand plan called The Backs Landscape Strategy, if you follow the link and download The Backs Landscape Report, you'll find a fascinating history of how the land beside the river behind the central Cambridge colleges has evolved over the centuries. Many great landscape architects produced plans and ideas of how it should change, some plans were implemented others weren't. Cambridge University is 900 years old and it sees time in bigger chunks than the life-span of one generation.

You may be surprised to learn that the primary reason for Matron's visit wasn't vegetables, or dogs, but to hear King's College Choir sing in the Chapel – Matron is also passionate about music and in particular choral music.

Not many people realise that anyone can go to Choral Evensong in King's College Chapel, it takes place on most days during the university term times and it cost nothing! You just have to turn up about 15 minutes before the service and join the queue at the door.

Once inside, we took our seats just a few feet from the choir stalls; the light was fading outside and as it did the colours of the huge stained glass windows softened and dissolved into blackness leaving the chapel lit by dozens of candles. The choir quietly processed through the archway under the organ screen and took their places . . . then the service began. We, the congregation, each had our laminated service cards with very precise instructions when to stand, sit, kneel, turn to face the altar. It was a well rehearsed operation – they've done it many times before – just for a few centuries.

Our eyes became accustomed to the darkness so we could see the lacy fan vaulting high above and the choristers' faces as they concentrated hard on following the music . . . 'Erkenne mich, mein Hüter' by Bach; the responses set by Byrd; Psalms 86 set by Atkins and 88 by Colborne; the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis again by Byrd; and finally the anthem 'In the midst of life' by Purcell.

It was sublime! It was like a meditation, so relaxing and uplifting. Where else can you just walk in for free and hear a 45 minutes of the best choral music in the world!? Just marvelous!

So, how do you follow that then? We met Cliff in The Eagle, one of the oldest of Cambridge's many pubs – frequented in the past by RAF pilots in WWII and Watson and Crick when they were mulling over the structure of DNA; and had a drink before walking around the corner to Fitzbillies for supper . . . which definitely didn't disappoint!

Celia, with thanks to Matron for an excuse for a great day.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Like a red red rose . . .

I'm just surfacing briefly, it's been very busy around here.

I was on a nice steady path and then, like you do when you're a freelance, you get offered a job and say yes and all of a sudden it's work overload for a while. It also go a bit colder – well quite a lot colder! In fact last Friday night was the coldest I've ever experienced – not just at home but anywhere (and I once went to see Polar Bears in the Arctic) it was -16C (that's about 3F). And to top it all we were due to travel by train to Liverpool the next morning! Amazingly we managed to catch a train and get there and back for the second very cold night, only -12C this time.

On Monday I worked solidly and got all the digital illustration files uploaded in time for Tuesday morning's deadline; so yesterday, even though I got lots of bitty scrappy things done – like insuring my car and sowing the Crimson Flowered Broad Beans in pots in the greenhouse, I felt a bit spaced out and brain dead.

There was no bouquet of flowers arriving at the door the brighten things up, but Cliff seemed very cheery when he phoned to say he was on his way home from work . . . oh well, Valentine's Day is only some commercial sillyness isn't it?

"so . . . er . . . did you . . . um . . . get some nice flowers?"


"No? . . . oh?!"


Later . . . much later . . .

A weary delivery van driver was found searching for our house in the dark. He handed Cliff a box and then looked at the pile of boxes still in his van, "I'm the courier's IT man, I'm only doing this to help out! There's no way I can find all the houses now, I'm giving up" he said.

Not a bouquet this year, but a beautiful little red rose bush – I hope it goes on to flower every year.

Right then! Must get on . . . a VIGB* is arriving at Purple Podded Peas HQ on Friday and I have to get the spare room ready.

And an email has just arrived with another digital illustration brief . . .


* very important garden blogger

Thursday 9 February 2012

"How do your hens like the snow?"

That's the question I've been asked time and time again this week – well, basically they don't like it.

We've swept some path ways through the snow on the paving outside the back door; and there's an area almost clear of snow, under the large pine tree – they stick to these zones and don't venture across the snowy wastes.

There's a trodden path from the paved area to the hen-house, the track Cliff and I make as we go back and forth to let them out, clean up the hut and collect the eggs; but I noticed another dirty path had appeared in the snow . . . it goes from the area under the pine tree, then halfway to the hut, it stops.

This evening I spotted the flock queuing up along the path . . .

Poor Ginger-Spice, she didn't want to jump/fly did she?! she thought I was going to carry her . . . but YAY! brave Ginger did it in the end :-)

There's a chance we'll get another flurry of snow tonight, but then a thaw is forecast . . . there will be a big sigh of relief from Ginger.


Wednesday 8 February 2012

Pattern cutting not just for tailors

This morning I met up with Gina of Fan My Flame, to see the current exhibition at Smiths Row in Bury St Edmunds; it's called Block Party and is a touring exhibition organised by the Crafts Council. If you are interested in contemporary crafts or have ever done any dressmaking using a paper pattern, then you'll find this fascinating . . . in fact if you've never been to a modern art/makers exhibition and haven't a clue about pattern cutting, I'd recommend that you go along, you'll find all sorts of amazing things from plastic surgery techniques to beautiful ceramic pots and a tweed whale. If you can't get to any of the shows, there is an excellent Block Party website, which is where I found the 'share' button for this excellent introductory film . . .

Negative Space. from Crafts Council on Vimeo.

After the exhibition, Gina and I had a quick look around Smiths Row Shop (where we both sell a selection of our work) before heading off to that hidden gem of caf├ęs – The Lounge in Hatter Street, Bury St Edmunds. Both Gina and I stuck to our 'healthy eating' regime and ignored the cakes! instead we had the delicious Parsnip & Butternut Squash Soup.

What a lovely treat, well worth traveling through the freezing snow-fields of Suffolk for.


PS Gina . . . I admit to succumbing to the temptation of Waitrose's 'essential crumpets' . . . well they did say 'essential' and I needed something to top up my trolly so I qualified for free parking . . . that's my excuse, anyway ;-)

Sunday 5 February 2012

White, not crisp – salted and unsalted

Last night we had tickets to see 'Neighbourhood Watch' at the theatre in Cambridge; snow had been forecast to fall at some time on Saturday and it seemed as if the whole country was 'on amber alert' as the Met Office had labelled it, but undeterred we drove into town and as we neared the outskirts of Cambridge the first skimpy flakes were flying past the car windscreen.

At the interval we bought our ice-creams and stood at the theatre door watching the snow accumulate, the street was white and huddles of bicycles were disappearing under fluffy white blankets of snow. The mood of the audience returning to their seats, was a mix of excitement and slight trepidation of what the journey home would be like . . .


. . . a tad hairy to be honest! Cliff seemed confident driving my 'tardis' with it's new winter wheels, but as we passed a rather crunched little hatchback we worried about whether the car behind us would be able to brake without sliding into the back of us!

As we headed out over the Gog Magog Hills we were almost alone on the road, the snow was coming down thick and fast and by the time we turned down the little country lane to the village we were relieved to have made it to within easy walking distance of home, should we have got stuck . . . which we didn't.

This morning I peeped trough the curtains and this was the scene . . .

Bright sun and freezing temperatures would have made everything sparkle, well you can't have everything . . . the palette of white, greys and umbers has its own beauty. When we saw that the road through the village had actually been gritted! (at 7am it hadn't so Cliff had decided not to join his walking group 20 miles away) we decided to go for walk up through the village and out the other side.

At the top of the hill we had a choice, salted or unsalted . . .

. . . we took the road less traveled

And I had fun taking lots of photos of the twiggy textures and distant woods.

I think this next one is my favourite . . .

Near the village playing field are two trees which always seem to hold on to there fruits right through the winter

and underneath, a Robin was thankful of a snack.

Back home, the snow outlines pruned structures and bright stems glow – the garden is unfamiliar under its coating of snow.

The hens are confused – most of them chose not to leave the hen-house; but Pearl was out and about – but not at all sure of what to make of this snow stuff!

My hunch is the snow won't stay around for long, we'll be back to chilly, muddy February very soon.

In the mean time, I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon sitting by a cosy fire and looking at the snow-scene while it lasts.


PS someone's just mentioned going for another walk to see if we can spot the Barn Owls hunting in the snow - mmm? might be worth doing before I get snuggled down ;-) Naah! tea and biscuits by the fire won!

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Enter February

February has arrived blown in on a chill nor-easterly, plummeting the temperatures to well below freezing by night and only just a little warmer by day; will we have snow? who knows, but today the sunshine is glorious, so despite the cold (and the wind-chill) I decided that a lunchtime walk with my camera would be a good idea.

This is the south-west corner of Suffolk, the views take in the edge of south Cambridgeshire and north Essex; here the countryside is nearly as high as it gets in East Anglia, my short route of a mile and half started at 65ft and took me to 115ft at the wood . . . so around here that's a significant hill! The village is tucked down in the valley, the church tower hardly visible among the trees.

Back home my flock is happy to be in a sheltered garden with a sunny spot under the pine tree; and look who's found a girlfriend? Cheep is inseparable from Pearl and even wants to guard her while she lays her egg!


BTW the music is the gavotte from Gluck's 'Orfeo ed Euridice' played by Les Musiciens du Louvre (my favourite album on my iPhone this winter).