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.

Sunday 29 July 2012

Now you see it . . .

About 18 months ago we scribbled a list of Olympic events we wouldn't mind seeing, then we got distracted and missed the boat . . . to be honest I wasn't that bothered, I'm not a huge sports fan and hate big crowds and queues in confined spaces. But I'd love to see the architecture and meadow landscaping and after reading Curlow Country's blog this morning, I'm now kicking myself for assuming that you could only get in the Olympic Park with a ticket to see a sport event and deleting those email reminders about tickets without a second glance!

Yesterday we had an invite to a party; nothing to do with the Olympics, just a gathering of friends which had been arranged at Christmas just because we hadn't met up for 6 years and thought we ought to. No-one checked the date of the Olympics, it didn't occur to anyone that the Men's Cycling Road Race route would make the venue for the party into an islet cut off from the rest of the universe . . . ooops!

We checked the route of the race and consulted maps . . . we conceived a cunning plan, "if you can't beat them, join them" – when we eventually made it to just within the SW London curve of the M25, we parked the car in a leafy woodland lane near Claygate and set off on foot. It was obvious that we were on track as people looking like extras from a garden fete scene in Midsommer Murders were purposefully marching along heading towards the sound of occasional cheers and clapping.

We reached a road block at a major road intersection, there were thousands of people; it seemed most had arrived by bike . . . the opportunity of cycling safely along traffic free roads was not to be missed!

Everyone was waiting patiently in a very British way . . .

. . .  some had staked a place in prime position and put out the flags!

Maybe it was the surge of national pride after watching Danny Boyle's spectacular the previous evening, like a sound and visual sherry trifle of Britishness to get us in the mood; or maybe it was Bradley Wiggins pedalling his way to victory in the Tour de France? Whatever the cause, it had gone to our heads!

I soon realised that without a kitchen stool or stepladder (dammit, I hadn't got one with me!) I wasn't going to see much; so I set my camera to 'sport/action' mode and held it aloft, when the crescendo of excitement rippled along the crowd and the helicopters came into view I knew it was time to keep clicking the shutter as fast as possible.

Cheers, whistles, horns, sirens and a kaleidoscope of blurred colour shot past – I took lots and lots of photos . . . most look like this . . .

One or two look like this . . .

One snapped a Norwegian cyclist in the leading pack (I have no idea who he is) . . .
I've just got a message on Twitter to tell me this is Alexander Kristoff who went on to win the Bronze Medal.

And, amazingly, one photo caught the action in the peloton very well!


Then it was all over . . . the race sped off into central London, Team GB didn't win but as an opener to the Games it was a spectacular success, the full results are here.

Everyone walked made their way home and we went to a lovely party.


Thursday 26 July 2012

A cauldron of fire

I hope you're enjoying the sunshine . . . someone found the weather switch and flicked it to summer just in time for the summer holidays and the London Olympics. I think the heat setting is a tad too high, but it's lovely to be able to work with the studio door open and not get chilly toes.

To celebrate I weeded and swept the little patio at the back of my studio . . . we've put our 10th Wedding Anniversary Adirondack chairs there, and although they are nearly 10 years old (OMG! I've just worked that out – crikey!) they look lovely and mellow like driftwood (mmm? do Cliff and I look a bit like that too!).

So, I was standing back and admiring my bit of garden 'house-work' and I noticed that the big planter was looking pretty good too . . .

It's been there for three years now, but in March (when we had that teeny taster week of nice weather before the rains of biblical proportions) I was inspired to replant it; I popped along to my favourite local nursery and selected some plants that would look good against the lead grey.

I chose two Heucheras, Actaea Simplex 'Black Negligee' and a pretty Orange flowered trailing Potentilla. The New Zealand Flax was already in the container (I was amazed that it survived the harsh winter and -16C) and I added some plants I already had around the garden – a dark leaved trailing Sedum, a bronze Sedge and a lovely orange flowered poppy, Papaver Atlanticum.

I wasn't thinking about the Olympics when I planted it, but looking at it today in the sunshine it looks like a boiling cauldron of fire . . . very apt for the eve of London 2012.

Did you notice that it's not a real lead cistern?

It's actually an old green plastic water butt that sprung a leak . . . so I cut the top section off and painted it. I've found the photos I took in 2009, so here's how it was done . . .

I used external paint leftover from painting the walls of the house (luckily we had cream and black, so I could mix various shades of grey).

Then I sketched a design in pencil and painted a trompe-l'oeil moulded pattern on one side.

Here's a detail of the central flower . . . you can see the brushwork is quite loose, but it works from a distance.

It's stood outside for three years and amazingly the paint hasn't peeled at all! and I think the new plants make it look even better.

The sun's still out, I'm now going to make the left-over moussaka from last night's supper into pasties for a picnic.

Enjoy the sun and enjoy the Olympics (or avoid them if they're not your thing) who's going to light the cauldron?


Wednesday 11 July 2012

. . . and up and down the City Road

Yesterday I went to London with Caroline Brown, a talented textile artist and very entertaining companion; in town we dodged the showers and hopped on a red London double-decker (Caroline's idea, I 'do' the underground when in London and wish I was more familiar with the buses) and alighted in the City Road.

A soundtrack immediately started playing in my head . . .

da-da-di-daaa  daa-da-da
da-da-da-daaa  da-da-daaa-di-daaa
. . . in and out the Eagle
and up and down the City Road

We were on way to see 'The Vanity of Small Differences' by Grayson Perry at the Victoria Miro gallery in Wharf Road, a narrow lane leading down to the Regent's Canal between old warehouse buildings off the City Road.

As we approached the side of the old warehouse housing the gallery we saw a small crowd of people by a doorway . . . was it a queue? No. It was a gaggle of art students having a fag-break.

We pushed open the solid grey doors and stepped inside a vast exhibition space . . . in the first room were a number of sculptural accumulations of objects by Sarah Sze which looked as if they may start to move around the gallery if someone flicked a switch.

Slim girls in vintage-emporium clothes and young men in tightly cut suits hovered around the edges of the gallery space. Caroline asked where the Grayson Perry tapestries were to be found . . . "through the back, turn right and up the stairs".

"through the back" was outside into a surprising courtyard garden with a decking area overlooking a pond . . . among the duckweed and bullrushes floated dozens of football-sized silver balls.

"up the stairs" was up an immensely steep, narrow and long flight of stairs right to the top floor of the warehouse!

and through a chicane in a grey corridor into here . . .

. . . a room buzzing with excited chit-chatter and a bunch of down-to-earth sorts whose usual habitat is anywhere in middle-England – but hardly ever in an edgy ex-warehouse gallery on the edge of Islington.

What we were all getting excited about were Grayson Perry's latest tapestries which resulted from a 'safari' into the natural habitat of the taste tribes of England – filmed by Channel 4 for the TV series 'In the Best Possible Taste'.

And as with his British Museum exhibition, 'The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman', 'The Vanity of Small Differences' promotes an atmosphere of delighted chatter between strangers and delight in finding familiar references. It also pulls one up short and makes you look at your own 'taste' and 'style'; Grayson Perry has created a mirror in which we can all see ourselves.

Alongside the six huge digitally-woven tapestries, there are two colour drawings and three large pots; this one was our favourite – it made us laugh out loud!

After a very good lunch in the Narrow Boat pub by the canal, we went our separate ways up and down the City Road . . .  I couldn't help but make up new lyrics to 'Oranges and Lemons'Suggs's homage to Ian Dury . . .

. . . well it's raining cats'n'dogs again
three months in a row
in and out the puddles
up and down the City Road . . .

Eventually, and looking very much like a drowned rat, I reached Museum Street – right opposite the British Museum, to pop into Edwards & Todd with more of my linocuts and also cards, for Gary and Jonathan to sell in there lovely shop.

I didn't care about having wet feet . . . because look!!! my 'Easter hen' linocut is there in the window display (bottom right) alongside work by Richard Bawden, Mark Hearld and Kiran Ravilious.

When I was in the shop I promised Jonathan I'd do more 'hare' designs . . . so I'd better get on with it!


BTW… for those of you unfamiliar with real London accents ... listen to Suggs's pronunciation of 'politely' ... pure gold!

Monday 9 July 2012

Yes, I still love growing peas!

There's a reason why this blog is called "Purple Podded Peas" –  I love to grow peas with purple pods

wigwams of beautiful colourful pea-pods make me smile

and this one is my favourite: Victorian Purple Podded

 The flowers are bi-colour, deep purple and bright mauve-pink; they are held on long sturdy stems above the blue-green foliage. The flower-stalks and nodes are burgundy – a giveaway that the pods will be purple.

 The pods are mainly in pairs and as they mature they become mottled with green. The long flower stalks mean that the pods are held away from the foliage, making a beautiful display of long purple pods.

 The average pod size is impressive!

"As alike as peas in a pod."

 As with all purple podded pea varieties, the peas inside the pods are green. 'Victorian Purple Podded' may not be the sweetest of peas but it wins on looks and is very tasty when picked and cooked fresh from the garden.

Not all the peas in my garden have purple pods . . .

here's another favourite: Golden Sweet

 Another wonderfully decorative pea, the flower stems are bright golden yellow, with a little pink tinge at the top and bottom. The foliage is a lovely bright pea-green and has attractive veining. The pink and purple flowers don't open fully and fade to shades of indigo.

You can see that the pods as mostly singles and the plant has a zig-zaggy appearance in contrast to the very up-right 'Victorian Purple Podded'.

 Often marketed as a mangetouts, I've let the pods mature; you can see that these softer pods curl as they grow fatter and the cosh (pod or shell) is soft and breaks easily.

 The small round peas are sweet of course!

  Every gardener needs a helper!


Monday 2 July 2012

Philosophical gardening and strange fruit

I really feel sorry for anyone who has started to 'grow their own' this year or last; you haven't had it easy, it's either been too dry, too hot, too cold or too darn wet. It's easy to moan about what hasn't grown and get very down and fed up about trying to be self-sufficient in fresh fruit and veg.

The thing is, there never is a year when everything grows and produces a wonderful crop, so it's best to grow a variety of the different crops and there's bound to be a few that do quite well. There will probably be one or two that surpass all expectations. You could call it Biodiversity, I'm going to call it Philosophical Gardening.

Here's an example . . . Gooseberries.

Some years, well actually most years, they are a bit tricky to get to crop well. If it's warm and a little bit humid the bushes get mildew and the fruit get covered in a horrid fungal bloom. Then, as if that isn't bad enough, the leaves suddenly disappear! Munched, seemingly overnight, by a marching army of Gooseberry Sawfly larvae.

This year (while we've all been hiding indoors, keeping warm and sheltering from the storms) our 'Invicta' Gooseberry bush has been flourishing, growing big spiny new shoots, lush shiny green leaves and lots and lots of fruit. Untroubled by mildew and wriggly maggots, the fruit have swelled and the branches hung down under the weight of hundreds of plump green bristly berries.

On Saturday afternoon I decided to pick all the Gooseberries from our single bush, the yield was 2.5 kilos! I sat in the shade and while listened to the Wimbledon commentary on TuneIn Radio on my iPhone, I nubbed the Gooseberries.

Spending all that time looking at Gooseberries, made me realise what strange little fruits they are. What was the flower stalk is that thin olive-green stem ending in a tiny trumpet shape; the fruit bit is like a green balloon, the remains of the dry shriveled petals are still attached to the end opposite the stalk.

I put one half of the Gooseberries in the freezer and with the other I made Gooseberry and Elderflower jam (River Cottage recipe as shown here). It smelled gorgeously flowery as it cooked.

I put a dozen Gooseberries aside to be 'life models' . . . I wanted to record how Gooseberries, which you'd think are as similar as peas in a pod, are actually each unique.  I remembered what one of my art college drawing tutors used to say as he paced behind us during life classes, "first, the strange shapes; the strange shapes".

At the end of the day there were five jars (and a bit over for Sunday breakfast) of beautiful, complex, sharp, sweet, Gooseberry and Elderflower jam. A jam of such distinction really deserves some scones and clotted cream!

And here are the strange fruits . . . each one a little different from the others.