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 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!