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 31 December 2014

A Winter's Day on Mersea Island

Think Essex. Think Seaside.

You probably aren't thinking of a view like this . . .

Today Cliff and I drove down the Stour Valley along the Suffolk/Essex border and then South through Colchester and beyond to a causeway over The Strood to Mersea Island. On the way we stopped to collect Su (of Living on the Edge blog) who was joining us for our day out on the coast.

From East Mersea looking across the Colne Estuary you can see the coloured beach huts of Brightlingsea and yachts silently drifting by.

Then flocks of Wigeon took off from the marshes and gave us an aerobatic display accompanied by their high pitched fluting call and the low vibrating sounds of hundreds of wings (the RSPB has a lovely video here). It was an unexpected natural spectacle.

We then drove to the other side of the island to the village of West Mersea. After lunch at The Victory inn overlooking the Blackwater Estuary, we wandered down the lanes of the original fishing hamlet, the tiny cottages dating back to the 16th century.

After rummaging around an antiques and vintage emporium we were ready for tea and cake at the cosy Art Cafe before heading home.

A lovely day out on the frayed edge of Essex where the land and water mingle and time seems to stand still.


Monday 22 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

It's time for . . .

twinkly lights

cosy evenings

and frosty walks

Wishing you all a peaceful
and happy Christmas


Monday 1 December 2014

Sewing a shirt is like getting back onto a bike

Collar, cuffs, darts, yoke and plackets 
. . . not to mention buttonholes

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you may already know I've been sewing a shirt. It's not my first go at dressmaking, I started making my own clothes when I was about 10 but the habit petered out when life got busier. Apart from curtains and a pair of pyjama trousers, I have done no dressmaking since making my own wedding dress . . . it's been a while!

But the intention was there and about 2 years ago I bought some fabric – Liberty Tana Lawn with a design by Grayson Perry. (I now wish I'd bought all his designs in all the colourway, sadly they are no longer available.)

small detail of 'Flo'
by Grayson Perry 2009
(I think this is my favourite detail)

I dithered and couldn't find the right pattern, I just wanted a simple ladies shirt. Luckily Su spotted just the thing and recommended Simplicity 1538 – it was the kick start I needed . . .

The story of a shirt

Cutting out the pattern pieces brought all my dressmaking memories flooding back . . . this was going to be fun :-) 

I do love a bit of hand-stitching!

And then came the difficult bit . . .

I used my 1970s Singer Starlet electric sewing machine to sew the seams and do the top-stitching but what about the buttonholes?
Starlet does zig-zag stitching and her booklet has instructions for doing a bottonhole, BUT no matter how hard I tried on pieces of scrap fabric, the results weren't neat enough for me. So I got out 'THE book' and practiced hand-stitching buttonholes.

I must have had better eyesight 20 years ago!
Things improved considerably when I decided to use my illuminated desk magnifier! (the one I use when carving lino blocks)

And there it is

Just needs a final press . . .

and some pearls ;-)

I wore it while selling my cards and prints at our village Christmas Bazaar on Saturday morning . . . I'm not sure how many people noticed the quirky fabric . . .

But this exchange on Twitter is one to treasure!

What shall I sew next?
I fancy making a skirt . . . if you know of a nice pattern please let me know.

Celia xx

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Constable Who are you?

Meeting up with people you first 'get to know' via their blogs is invariably a joy and often the friendship, built on shared interests, grows beyond the occasional comments on each other's blogs. Yesterday I went to London to meet up with Gina and Frances, our meeting place was the entrance hall of the V&A.

We were there to see . . . 

Constable: the making of a master

Seascape study with rain cloud by John Constable (1824)

The exhibition looks at the influences on Constable's work, how he studied the work of the 'masters', such as Claude, Ruisdale, Rembrandt, Rubens and Gainsbrough. The original paintings and Constable's copies are hung side by side and a collection of engraved prints reproducing 'old master' paintings that Constable owned and hung on his bedroom walls, has been recreated.

Most telling of all are the many small scale sketches from observation of the landscape, skies and nature. Constable read books on the theory of painting and art and drawing from observation and made meticulous notes and pencil sketches in tiny sketchbooks.

He learned by observing how others had worked but above all he learned from looking at the natural world around him.

The exhibition reveals glimpses of the man behind the too-familiar set piece paintings. Sensitive, serious, hard-working, under pressure to deliver great work, torn between town and country, working hard to make a living.

It is a thoroughly inspiring exhibition.

After that we were in need of a sit down and lunch . . . and a natter. And as bloggers that make stuff do, we exchanged gifts . . . 

Corsage by Gina and tiny Christmas Sweater by Frances

Who Are You?

After saying farewell to Gina and before I headed home, Frances and I decided to go to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Grayson Perry exhibition 'Who Are You?'. I'd already been to see it with Su but it's so good I was more than happy to go again. If you haven't seen the TV series which looks at the subjects of the portraits, I recommend you have a look . . . it is moving and insightful. The thought and care Grayson Perry puts into his work is evident in all the pieces in the exhibition . . . he works very hard.

A lovely moment was watching a 'white middle-aged middle-class man' rush in from the next gallery to find his friends and like an excited child, announce "I now GET Grayson Perry!". Priceless! There are not many exhibitions that can make that happen.

It was such a good day spent with two lovely friends and gave me lots to think about on the way home . . .

. . . my musings on a train . . .

Constable is often described as a 'self-taught' . . . and sometimes I feel art historians/critics use the phrase in a derogatory way. 


I suppose it means someone who didn't have a formal art education, but Constable studied at the Royal Academy . . . I know he was a little older than the other students when he eventually studied painting full time, but don't most art students do lots of work and glean knowledge however and wherever they can before embarking on full time art education. And don't artists continue to teach themselves by looking and reading and practicing, throughout their lives.

And finally . . .

I bought myself a treat from the V&A shop, a lovely watercolour set made up of stacking circles with a palette lid. Inspired by Constable's colour sketches I'm looking forward to using these to paint some Suffolk landscapes.


Thursday 13 November 2014

How to make a Merry Christmas rubber stamp

When I blogged about my 'Winter Evening in Bull's Wood' print and the cards for sale from Suffolk Wildlife Trust, I promised to blog about making a rubber stamp to print a Christmas greeting inside a blank card.

Of course there are many Christmas greetings rubber stamps for sale in craft supply shops and stationery shops, but it's fun to do your own – here's how I did mine . . .

You will need a rubber stamp block (mine is a Speedball Speedy-Carve block) or a large eraser would work too.  

Draw your design then trace it onto tracing paper (or tissue paper) and turn it over so the letters are reversed. Now you need to transfer the design onto the block - I rubbed blue chalk onto the tracing paper then drew around the letters with a hard pencil. This transfers a faint mark, so it's worth inking over the letters with a non-permanent, water-soluble pen.

Now carve away the block around the letters using lino-cutting tools. The rubber block is very easy to cut, but mind your fingers – always keep them behind the blade!

The block (and your fingers) will get a bit messy! So when you've finished carving, give the block a gentle wash with a little hand soap and water then dry it gently with a paper towel.

Before printing, it's best to mount the block onto something firm and perfectly flat – either a block of wood or, as I've done, a couple of pieces of sturdy corrugated card stuck together. I used double sided tape to stick the card together and the rubber stamp on top.

Now, you're ready to print . . .

Either use a large ink stamp pad or a little ink pad that you can dab over the surface of your stamp – I can recommend Versacraft Small Ink Pads, they come in lots of lovely colours and print onto fabric and paper.

If you haven't time to carve complex lettering, try cutting a star or a simple snowflake to decorate inside the card or the envelope.

I hope you have a go.


Sunday 9 November 2014

Sailing along on my bike

I got a new bike for my birthday . . .

my new bike then

It's not my birthday today, the bike was bought back in September a week before my birthday; I was very disappointed that I couldn't ride it away from the shop there and then, I had to wait for a new bicycle to be delivered and put together. The inner 6 year-old me wanted to throw a tantrum in the shop and yell "I want my bike NOW!!!", the grown up me politely said "OK, I'm happy to wait".

On Friday we collected the 'new green bike' from the bike shop . . .

my new bike now

Yesterday was spent buying and putting together the car roof bike carrier, I think Cliff and I earned our "putting stuff together using allen keys" badges. Then in the afternoon it rained a lot, so we stayed indoors in the warm and dry.

But today was dry and sunny . . . it was the day to take 'new green bike' for it's inaugural ride.

Route 11: Wicken Fen to Ely and back

We started our adventure by driving with the bikes, to the National Trust Wicken Fen car park. From here you can choose to follow the National Cycle Network route south to Cambridge or as we did, north out of Wicken Village across the Fens to Ely.

The fen tracks eventually join the route along the high dyke beside the Great Ouse river. You can just see Ely cathedral on the horizon.

The cycle route then crosses the main river bridge and continues along the Riverside, busy with rowers form Cambridge University boat club, narrow boats and river cruisers.

We parked the bikes near a little green outside Peacock's Tearoom and went in for a cuppa and lunch.

Tea comes elegantly served and there is a vast choice of teas! We sat outside in the little front garden to enjoy the sunshine.

Then it was time to cycle back. I was reliving the lovely time I'd had cycling in Holland last year, now I have my very own 'sit up and beg' style bicycle! I was also remembering sailing along on my bike to junior school - I used to pretend my bike was a boat (I was reading all the Swallows and Amazons books at the time).

The sun was sinking low in the November sky but it wasn't cold, it was clear and bright.

As we neared Wicken again, we could just see the higher wooded land on the edge of Suffolk, near Newmarket.

So that was 'new green bike's' first road trip, time to put it/her?* back on top of the car for the drive back home. Cliff's bike has a quick-release front wheel and stows easily inside the car.

I've just checked the distance and to my surprise we had cycled 17 miles! It really didn't seem that far . . . I was enjoying riding 'new green bike' too much to notice!

PS do you think 'new green bike' needs a name? I don't usually name my bike, but she's so lovely. What do you think? Any ideas?

Monday 20 October 2014

Redgrave and Lopham Fen through the seasons

In late April we visited Redgrave and Lopham Fen on the border of Suffolk and Norfolk, it was Spring – the leaves were fresh and bright green, the reeds beds were full of birds, bright flowers spangled the heath and marsh and we heard the calls of the cuckoo and bittern . . . it inspired this linocut.

Yesterday we returned, our intention was to have a long quiet walk – but when we arrived we found dozens of cars in an overflow carpark! Suffolk Wildlife Trust were hosting a Apple Day Fair, it looked like fun so we paid the entrance money and went in for a look around . . .

There were lots of apples!

and some cute hedgehogs!

I bought bargain plants and vintage garden tools

and then we went for our walk . . .

Redgrave and Lopham Fen is large enough to feel like a wilderness; the weather was perfect – warm and breezy – for a day striding out between the rustling reed beds.

I love the textures at Redgrave and Lopham Fen, especially the vertical patterns of the reeds broken up with areas of water that reflect the sky.

The swirling patterns of this willow's bark echoed the movement of the reeds and leaves in the wind.

Sunlight illuminated the vivid olive green lichen on the Elder bushes,

and the russets of the Teasel heads.

Along a green lane outside the reserve we came across the quintessential toadstool – the Fly Agaric

And back inside the nature reserve area we stumbled upon lots of Giant Puffballs  . . . and these really were giants! as you can see compared to our OS map . . .

. . . or to my toes!
The puffball on the left has been munched by something, the one on the right has matured and is puffing out spores.

However tempting the thought of bacon fried with slices of puffball for supper, we left them untouched.

As we made our way back across the fen we met the resident herd of Konik ponies, these were introduced in 1995 to graze the vegetation prevent scrub invading the precious heath and marshy grassland habitats. Native British ponies aren't suited to living in these tough, wet conditions but these Polish ponies thrive. Konik ponies have the characteristics of the now extinct Tarpan – an primitive type of horse that roamed the plains of Europe after the Ice Age. These beautiful stocky ponies look as if they've walked out of a neolithic cave painting! They were very placid and didn't mind a bit that I took loads of photos – I think they'll be appearing in a print inspired by Autumn at Redgrave and Lopham Fen.

I hope you had chance to enjoy the unexpected warm sunny weekend, before we batten down the hatches for the first of the Autumn gales.