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.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

I've made the stuffings and sauces and planned the cooking times... I've even done some work in the garden and pruned the grape vines! Now I can put my feet up, and have a cup of tea and a slice of stollen while I listen to the carols from King's (just up the road in Cambridge).

Wishing you all of you a peaceful and happy Christmas Day!

Thank you for following my adventures on Purple Podded Peas in 2013

If you're travelling stay safe this stormy Christmas.


Sunday 22 December 2013

An interlude of calm at the turning of the year

. . . between the busyness of the pre-Christmas retail extravaganza and the cookathon of Christmas itself . . .

Although for me Christmas is actually a quiet time of year, now that the main focus of my work is selling my prints and cards (rather than working on projects for publishers) I am swept up in the pre-Chritsmas retail extravaganza - and that is well under way by October!

So now there is a little lull. The weather has been relatively mild with only slight frosts and no snow, but a procession of dramatic gales is sweeping across the UK. Here in East Anglia we get the tail end of them, brief periods of heavy rain and strong gusts followed by clear skies again.

This morning we drove to the Fens in bright sunshine under clear blue skies and set out for a walk. But soon the clouds rolled over us and rain fell . . .

. . . swiftly followed by a rainbow. 

As I was carefully picking my way around a muddy area by some fencing, I looked down and spotted a broken stick . . . NO! not a stick, it was an antler . . .

On all the walks I've done over the years I've wished to come across a shed antler and until today, I never had. This antler is quiet small, but beautifully tactile, I guessed it was from a Roe Buck – their mature antlers have 3 prongs, this one has 2 and knob lower down (near the palm of my hand) which means it's one of his second pair of antlers. A Roe Buck sheds his antlers in November and starts to grow the buds of the new antlers in December, he will be starting to grow his first full set this winter.

Near the end of our walk, Cliff spotted movement in a field of rough grass . . . I zoomed in with my camera . . .

Yes, a deer! But I was unsure what sort. Luckily it turned and I got some more close-ups . . .

Large black edged ears, a black muzzle and a white bottom. I'm familiar with a Roe Deer's auburn summer coat, but back home I did some research and this is definitely a Roe Deer with it's grey-brown winter fur.

I can't see any antler buds on its head and it has a large area of white fur beneath its small white tail, it is also fairly small (not much larger than a greyhound) - so this is probably a young female.

Yesterday was the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year – from now the days will start to get longer . . . 

. . . and even though the coldest weather of the winter is yet to come and Spring is 3 months or more away, there is the a tiny hint of optimism in the air – here in our garden the snowdrops are already pushing their way through the decaying leaves.

Whatever Santa brings me for Christmas, I already have 2 lovely presents - a Roe Buck antler and I have mended ankles – thanks to excellent treatment, advice and special insoles from Nats-the-physio and Paul-the-Podiatrist . . . I'm enjoying inspiring winter walks once more :-)

I hope you can find time in the run up to Christmas for an interlude of calm between the storms.


Monday 9 December 2013

Inside the House of Made & Found

Saturday was the day we'd dreamed about and worked hard to make happen; Emma's cunning plan was about to become reality – but would it work? would people turn up and buy things?

I was very grateful that was offered a bed in the Made & Found house, for Friday night; so after supper I packed everything in the tardis and drove down to North London. Although it had been a long day, I set to and arranged my wares at one the end of the kitchen . . .

the brick fireplace was perfect for showing my Christmas cards

and the cards and unframed prints fitted onto a round table.

Saturday early morning was a flurry of activity, Val arrived with her woven willow and set up her stall in the conservatory.

Emma arranged a beautiful cabinet of her silver jewellery, made with precious gems and vintage treasures, in an antique cabinet in the hallway.

Also in the hall was Debbie's shimmering display of hand-dyed yarns.

There was more (but I somehow didn't take photos of them!) 
Karen, Lilli and Claire were in the sitting room; Tracy was in her own sewing room; and next to me in the kitchen was Linda.

Also in the kitchen was this delicious array of food baked by Miss Georgina Worthington . . . and yes it was as scrummy as it looks!

 Can you spot someone wearing golden shoes?
I wonder who it is?

Right from when the Made & Found house opened its doors at 10am, the rooms started to buzz with chatter . . . customers were soon buying things and we knew the cunning plan was working!

As the day progressed Twitter friends appeared and introduced themselves . . . some had driven a very long way to be there! In the cosy snug, impromptu crochet tutorials happened between complete strangers and Val taught people how to make stars . . . this is mine :-)

As the light faded outside the visitors drifted away and we had time to chat with each other and swap information and ideas; bartering and swapping took place too!

I came home with a woven willow tree, the softest most luxurious silk and camel yarn and a beautiful eggcup/vase/cup - all even more special because I know exactly who made them.

Thank you to everyone who came along - it wouldn't have been a success without you!

Maybe the Made & Found house will pop up somewhere else in the spring? 

Now I have boxes to unpack and new work to plan . . . and our own Christmas to think about!


Wednesday 4 December 2013

Cushions for MADE & FOUND on Saturday 7 December

This Saturday is the Made & Found sale of handmade goods in North London. I'll be selling framed and unframed prints as well as my cards... including the Christmas cards. But I thought that I should also have a few items to showcase my fabrics, so yesterday I got out the sewing machine and spent the day stitching.

With apologies for the rather rubbish photos, it is so gloomy and dark! this is the best I could manage taken outdoors!

I made two cushions . . .

With button details on the backs . . .

The Stone Hearts cushion has Sea Sprigs on the reverse and the Sea Hearts has Stone Sprigs . . .

I used some letter stamps to print name tapes and hand stitched them onto the backs . . .

. . . and signed them

It would be nice to spend the whole week sewing, but today I'm back in the studio framing prints.

I hope to meet some of you at Made & Found on Saturday


Tuesday 26 November 2013

Cheep's epic tail

Cheep wants to show off his tail . . . in fact showing off is what Cheep does best, he does it to impress girls! He also guards his patch and warns his girls of any dangers, four legged ones and two! I was very pleased that after a formal introduction to photographer Laura Edwards when she spent a whole day taking photographs for the Country Living Magazine article, he behaved courteously (phew! good boy).

But I think Cheep is a tiny bit disappointed that in the published article he only appears in a small black and white photo and from a back view, he'd secretly been expecting to be on the cover in full colour.

So I'll let Cheep show off in a whole blog post to himself.

Cheep hatched in September 2011 under my neighbour's broody, who instantly decided she didn't want to be a mother hen and tried to kill the newly hatched chick. So Cheep was raised in my studio – he thinks he is human and that I am his mum!

Cheep, on my desk, September 2011

Cheep is now just over two years old, after his near-death experience he regrew his missing feathers and is now fully fledged in his mature plummage. Cockerels are far swankier than hens, they have extra long and dense feathers which drape over the basic plumage which is more or less the same as that of a hen. And as Cheep proved, these long dense feathers can save them from mortal wounds if attacked.

So, as you can see, Cheep has long silky Neck and Saddle Hackles in a beautiful mixture of black, gold, copper and irridescent green. If he wants to be aggressive, he can *raise his hackles* and appear to be three times his normal size! He can really scare unsuspecting visitors to our garden by appearing at their ankles in fully puffed-up mode!

And then there is the magnificent tail! In fact technically the tail is just the stiff straight feathers that sprout from the fleshy stump or 'parson's nose'. What makes a cockerel's tail special are the Tail Coverts – the soft draping feathers at the base of his back, which fall either side of the stiff tail. These feathers have downy fluff at the base which gives extra padding around his hips - rather like something Henry VIII might wear!

And the two very long curved feathers which drape right over the top of the tail, are the Sickles - and they are shaped just like a pair of sickle blades. Bigger really is better in the chicken world!

What does Cheep do all day? He doesn't have to eat continuously to produce eggs, like his girls do. But he keeps himself busy escorting his girls to find the best food, this may mean excavation-projects in the flower-beds . . . but mostly it impresses the girls.

Afterall, that's what it's all about – impressing girls and fertilizing their eggs ;-) 

 "Follow me darling,
I know where there's a nice nest ;-)"

Cheep and me, November 2013

Cheep and I respect each other, I know he could become aggressive but won't if I treat him with respect and care. Shared moments in the garden with Cheep are very special . . . then I let him swagger off to impress his girls.


Saturday 9 November 2013

Sew Me! Take 2 (not just with quilters in mind)

I haven't forgotten to tell you about Cheep's magnificent new tail, the photos have been taken but I have something I must show you first . . .

Remember the Sew Me! project? Well there was another very special secret sewer, Stephanie or as she is know to her many blog, facebook and etsy followers, Madame Millefeuilles. I knew that she would be very busy with her many projects and her lovely family but she's just revealed what she's been making with my fabrics over on the Millefeuilles blog. Thank you so much Stephanie for taking part in Sew Me! xx

In addition to the lovely crisp linen/cotton canvas that Su, Tracy and Gina used and can be seen here on my Sew Me! Pinterest board; I've now added some smaller versions of Stripe and Sprigs with quilters in mind. And to test them out I thought I'd have a bash at machine quilting.

On holiday in Canada in 2001 I bought a book with some lovely ideas for quilting blocks, Scrappy Duos: Color Recipes for Quilting Blocks. Of course it got put on the book shelf and I never did any quilting . . . until this summer!

I had 5 fat quarters of fabric:

From these I was able cut squares for this design

I then machine stitched them together, the book explains this very clearly and it means being very methodical and precise – which is actually very calming and satisfying to do. It doesn't take long to put all the pieces together.

I wanted to try my hand at hand quilting – I don't think any of my vintage sewing machines is cut out for machine quilting and I wanted to work on it while sitting of the sofa in the evenings. I've no idea if this is the 'right' way to do it, but I used a thin cotton batting (actually it's that thermal stuff that's used to make curtains warmer) and backed it with soft well-washed vintage cotton sheeting. The thread is a fine crochet cotton which just happened to be the perfect shade of blue.

I enjoyed working out where the stitching should go to make patterns around the squares.

When the busyness of this pre-Christmas season is over, I'll have time to make it into a large cushion cover/pillow case. 

The fabric is Retired Kona Cotton (quilting weight). Rather frustratingly Spoonflower have introduced a new version of their Kona Cotton with brighter more intense colours. So if you order make sure it's the RETIRED Kona Cotton rather than the new one.

I'll have to do a test swatch and adjust the colours for the new fabric . . . oh well, that's manufacturing for you!

But on a positive note, it's lovely to sew - doesn't slip and irons really easily (though you do have to iron on the reverse or use a protective cloth just in case the heat discolours the fabric).

Mmmmmm this was fun! maybe I'll make a whole king-size bed cover one day?

All my fabrics can be ordered from my Spoonflower shop.

And a huge thank you to Stephanie for adding her needle skills to the Sew Me! project.


Cheep's tail coming next, I promise x

Saturday 2 November 2013

Probably the last seaside ice-cream of 2013

The delivering-work-to-galleries season is here, I always slighting underestimate the amount of time it takes to frame prints, pack cards and compiling itemised lists in duplicate.

But I try to combine taking the work to a gallery with some time for relaxing and enjoying a day out. In the past week I've had a super giggly day out to Norwich with a dear friend who has just dipped her toes back into the blogging pond; a wonderful day showing a very special New York blogger the out of the way corners of Cambridge; and then yesterday Cliff and I had a jaunt to the seaside.

We were blessed with good weather, it was mild with fleeting sunny spells through the broken thin cloud . . . so not bad for 1st November! Our first stop was to deliver my prints and cards to The Gallery at Snape Maltings. I'm still a little excited that my work is in the same gallery as Maggi Hambling's.
I love this tranquil view of the river and reed beds and the quay at the Maltings.

With the delivery done we ferreted around the antiques barn (but resisted buying, mindful that our house is full of 'stuff', we need to sell things rather than buy more!) Then we headed further East to the coast at Aldeburgh and a nice lunch at The Lighthouse, fish and chips of course!

We had to follow that with a walk down to the beach to see the grey North Sea . . . very churned up but calm again after the St Jude's Day Storm.

And we couldn't resist having an ice-cream from the hut by the Boating Pond . . . probably our last seaside ice-cream of 2013.

And then it was the long drive right across Suffolk (a very wide county!) to home and supper of the best potted shrimps from a fisherman's shed on the beach and delicious bread from the Pump Street bakery at Snape to remind us of our day.

I have a little space now to work on a couple of commissions and plan more work . . . and maybe another blog post, Cheep wants to show of his swanky new tail to you!


Monday 28 October 2013

Country Living Magazine - December issue

The cat's out of the bag!

Some of you might have noticed already . . . there's a feature about me and the inspirations for my block prints in this year's Christmas issue of Country Living Magazine. If you subscribe you probably received it last week, but it will be on the news stands very soon.

I'll tell you a few behind the scenes secrets . . .

I've had to keep this under my hat for 10 months.

I designed my "Christmas 2013" designs just before last Christmas (which was weird!)

The photos, were taken by Laura Edwards early last February when Suffolk was under a blanket of snow.

I pretended to draw non-existing birds in a hedge for one of the shots.

Cheep and his hens upstage me in another photo.

The studio assistants refused to co-operate.

Before writing the article, Louise Elliot spent a whole day with me in the summer, both in my studio and visiting some of my favourite local places.

I enjoyed meeting both Louise and Laura, hope you like the feature they put together.


Sunday 27 October 2013

St Jude . . . SuperStorm or storm in a teacup?

The weather forecasters are issuing a warning of a huge storm system sweeping eastwards on the jet-stream over the Altantic. St Jude (it's due to hit land just after midnight on Monday, St Jude's day) may not be as bad as the Great Storm that flattened thousands of trees in 1987 or the Burns Day Storm in 1990, but we've been warned to . . . er? stay indoors and have a cup of tea, or something.

However, today dawned bright and breezy, the sky was a deep blue and clouds scudded briskly across the sky. I felt the need to get out there in the fields, to go for a walk.

I started by walking under the Lime trees in the churchyard opposite my studio, the colours are swiftly changing from green to pale primrose.
Out along the footpath that follows the Stour Brook the gently sloping valley fields are bright green with young shoots of winter wheat and the trees in the woods have barely a tinge of autumnal tints.
I love the framed views through breaks in the hedgerows, as winter creeps toward us I'll look for migrating flocks of birds; and fallow deer and hares nibbling the crops. But today I was enjoying the sunshine, the sound of the wind in the trees and just being happy to stride out in my walking boots. If you follow me on Twitter you'll be aware of my slow recovery from Achilles problems which has meant months of not being able to walk far on uneven ground or to wear my boots. Well, I'm happy to report that I'm on the mend, the damage to the surrounds to my tendons is healing well and as long as I do as I'm told by the physio and the podiatrist, I'll be able to gradually build up to 6 or 7 mile walks this winter.  
This is a huge relief, outside in the fields is where I gather inspiration and walking gently distils the ideas into images I jot down when I get back to my studio. Like the beautiful silver and faded gold of the Crack Willow leaves against the blue sky; or the crouched shapes of the woods.
I walked as far as the derelict WWII Nissan huts where the Barn Owls live.
On the way home I noted the black Sloes in the hedgerows and made a mental note to check whether we have enough gin to make a bottle of Sloe Gin from the Sloes in our garden.
Of course my hand was full of leaves I couldn't resist picking up along the way . . . Oak, Hawthorn, Pear, Lime, Aspen, Dogwood, Gelder Rose and my favourite buttery yellow Field Maple.

So, if you're in the path of the St Jude's Day Storm tonight and tomorrow morning, don't get blown away and stay safe. Let's hope St Jude remains the patron of desperate causes and not synonymous with a devastating weather event. 

"May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be adored, glorified, 
loved and preserved now and forever. 
Sacred Heart of Jesus have mercy on us, 
Saint Jude worker of Miracles, pray for us, 
Saint Jude helper and keeper of the hopeless, pray for us, 
Thank you Saint Jude."