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 21 September 2014

The day the people invaded the palaces!

Open House London

Yesterday we spend the day along with hoards of others, invading the rich 'palaces' of London's rich past and present.

Lot's of photos (taken with my phone) and a few brief words about our day . . .

Arriving at the old West India Dock on a misty, grey morning 

A magnificent inscription . . . I loved the emphasis given to certain words, its voice speaks across the centuries

The view behind us towards Canary Wharf, in the past 20 years the derelict docks have been transformed into London's high rise, high tech, commercial centre. The arch-shaped structure bottom left is the roof of the new Crossrail station and the building whose pyramid-shaped top is lost in the mist, is One Canada Square (usually just called 'Canary Wharf as it was the first tower in the development to be built) and where we were heading 

We had been very lucky to get pre-booked tickets for a tour up to near the top of One Canada Square, first to the Marketing Suite on the 30th floor, where we saw some incredible architectural models of the whole site's development - past and future. And then up to the Level 39 which is the home to technology start-up business and is very cool. Photos weren't allowed, which was a shame.

We were allowed to take photos out of the windows . . .

The Thames and the City spread out before us in the grey mist

Another view of the new Canary Wharf Crossrail Station, it's shape is inspired by a ship in dock and will include a roof garden

Other things I loved in One Canada Square but couldn't photograph . . . the sculptures in the foyer by Bridget McCrum and the amazing flower arrangements!

Moving on . . .

Next stop was The Guildhall where we hoped to join a walking tour. Sadly the first-come-first-served system meant all places for the whole day had been snapped up within minutes of the 10am kick-off!

Nevertheless, there was lots to see, firstly we went into the Guildhall Art Gallery to see the Roman Amphitheatre which is in the basement. On the way downstairs we also saw Magna Carta.

We then crossed the square and went into the Guildhall itself, here's the magnificent Great Hall - the entrance guarded by the giants Gog and Magog

In this huge space Mayor Dick Whittington held a banquet for Henry V . . . I wonder if his cat was invited to the party?

Monuments to 'British Heroes' line the walls . . . here is a very sad British Lion and Britannia mourning the death of Lord Nelson, while a lady with nice handwriting writes up a list of his victories on a board

And here is Pitt the Elder surrounded by symbols of his illustrious career, there's Britannia again with a very fluffy British Lion and a bee skip (skep) to represent 'industry' and 'hard work'.

Down in the crypt the stained glass windows, designed in the 1970s, depict different Livery Companies. This one is for the Gardeners' Company, whose motto is -

In the sweat of thy brows shalt thow eat thy bread
(a quotation from the Bible, Genesis Chapter 3 verse 19)
how true!

After a snack eaten perched on a seat in Guildhall Square, we were off again . . . heading down Throgmorton Street with a glimpse in the distance of what was once London's tallest building Tower 42

Just past the clock in the the photo above is Drapers' Hall, along with everyone else we weren't prepared for the magnificence within!

There's Her Majesty looking down on the masses gawping at the splendour of the Drapers' HQ 

The furnishings, furniture, illuminated charters and paintings were splendid! Former Drapers' Company members' wives and children depicted in their best frocks

We were allowed to sit on the sofas in the Drawing Room, wouldn't it be a lovely place for Afternoon Tea?! Sadly no scones appeared

Back out in the City streets and alleys . . . I love these wall plaques marking the Wards of the City of London

We headed towards the river, down Pudding Lane and past The Monument marking the place where the spark in a bake house ignited the Great Fire of London.

In Lower Thames Street we went in The Customs House, the latest of many Customs Houses to occupy this site for nearly 2000 years! and still the home of HM Customs and Revenue today. It was interesting to see the offices and displays inside but very crowded and hot so we didn't stay too long.

On Tower Hill, there's the ancient church of All Hallows by the Tower now dwarfed by the new giants of London's skyline . . . The Walkie-Talkie, The Cheese Grater and The Gherkin . . . Londoners' sense of humour survives in the 21st Century!

And across the water on the south bank of the Thames is The Shard . . . an is currently the tallest building in Europe

The Tower of London guards the entrance to the City as it has for centuries . . . those life-like lions were made from chicken wire by artist Kendra Haste

Before heading home we joined the crowds of people looking over the Tower moat at Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red the installation of ceramic poppies to commemorate the dead of WWI . . . each one of the 888,246 poppies mark a British military fatality in the 1914-1918 conflict. A time to stop and think a while. 

London never fails to surprise and astound. 


Friday 19 September 2014

Winter Evening in Bull's Wood - linocut and cards

Last year's festive season was only just out of the way when I was contacted to talk Christmas Cards for 2014! It was a request from Suffolk Wildlife Trust for a donated image suitable for one of their cards.

I had a think . . . my prints suitable for Christmas cards were already being sold as my own card designs; in 2013 I'd produced some Christmas cards in the most economical way I could without compromising quality and I realised that customers either wanted much cheaper cards OR preferred to buy Charity Cards. So as Suffolk Wildlife Trust is one of my favourite charities, I decided to offer a brand new design and invited them choose a subject.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust suggested I illustrated a winter scene in one of their lesser known reserves – I selected one that was not too far from my studio . . .

Bull's Wood

It was a mild late January afternoon that I arrived at Bull's Wood . . . of rather, a farm yard where I could park 'tidily' before heading off down a track towards woodland a couple of fields away.

Stepping into Bull's Wood is like being transported back in time, it is a small remnant (about 30 acres) of 'the many woods of Cockfield' which where recorded in the Hundred Rolls in 1279, and those woods had probably existed for centuries before then and were in constant use by villagers who harvested poles and timber, grazed animals, foraged and hunted. The ecosystem of the woodland is entwined with lives of the people. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the woodland was destroyed as fields were enclosed and ploughed up to plant crops. Somehow Bull's Wood survived and today it is managed by volunteers who coppice the Ash and Hazel just as it has been done for a millennium.

I walked around the wood getting to know its specialness. The strange shapes of the ancient Ash stumps, the textures of the branches and the scale of the tall Oaks. I took photographs for reference of particular details, but mainly I let a composition come together in my mind.

I wanted to depict Bull's Wood on a cold winter's evening, so would need to do some research and work from experience and imagination. At home I put down my ideas in my sketch book, including animals I knew would be in the wood on a December evening . . . a Tawny Owl roosting in an Ivy covered tree, a Roe Deer in a clearing near the pond and a flock of Redwings arriving from Scandinavia to feast on the berries.

It was Spring when I carved the detailed lino block and a wood block from which to print the red colour to make the trees glow in the setting sun.

I decided to wait until Autumn before selling the prints, to coincide with Suffolk Wildlife Trust publicising their new cards for Christmas 2014. These are two of the finished original prints ready for the Market Place Gallery in Olney and my exhibition at the Church Street Gallery in Saffron Walden this month.

And here's another I framed last night to replace one in my exhibition that has already sold.

Winter Evening in Bull's Wood

The cards are available from many shops around Suffolk and here on the Suffolk Wildlife Trust web site. They are blank inside, so if you'd prefer a seasonal message you could use a rubber stamp (either buy one or make one - I'll try to blog about how to do this when I'm making one for the cards I'll be sending).

I'm very happy that this year the proceeds from these 100% donated cards will help target conservation efforts to turn around the fortunes of Suffolk’s hedgehogs.


Wednesday 10 September 2014

An abundance of pears!

 Freshly picked pears in a bowl we bought from David McDowell who made us promise to use it in our kitchen.

A few years ago . . . I think 4, maybe 5? . . . I decided our garden wall needed a pear tree. I did some research and decided to buy a bear-rooted one from Ken Muir, we drove down to the nursery in Essex and selected a 'Beurre Hardy' pear suitable for training as an espalier against a wall.

I'm ashamed to say I neglected to train in correctly in its early years, but I've tried to get it under control and it sort of looks 'trained' in a relaxed sort of way.

Up until this year the most pears its had is 6. This year there are far too many to count! We have an abundance of pears!

Pear - 'Beurre Hardy'

Pears have been cultivated for centuries, but it was in France that juicy, butter-soft, dessert pears were bred in the 17th and 18th centuries. 'Beurre Hardy' originates from around 1820 in Boulogne and is named after M. Hardy who was the Director of Aboriculture at the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris. In the US you may know it as the 'French Butter Pear'.

The fruit need to be picked in mid-September, just before they ripen. If allowed to mature on the tree the flesh spoils and becomes brown and grainy; but harvested while they are still firm and carefully stored for a few weeks in a cool place, they will become juicy and sweet, with the texture of butter!

I can't wait!

Mmmm! Pear and frangipane tart, with blue cheese and walnuts, ice cream . . .

or eaten in the garden with juice dribbling down your chin!

what's your favourite pear recipe?


Monday 8 September 2014

Exhibitions in Saffron Walden and Olney

It was as I was about to go on holiday early in June, that Helen at the Church Street Gallery in Saffron Walden asked me if I'd like to have a solo exhibition . . . in September. So, taking out my trip to Alaska and recovering from the virus I'd caught while out there and preparing and going to Folk East, that gave me 8 weeks to get over 30 prints framed - if possible some completely new work - and lots of unframed prints packed and more greetings cards printed. 

The past couple of months have been very busy!

I delivered all the work to the gallery on Friday afternoon. I had nothing to do until Sunday afternoon when the doors opened for the "Preview", thank you to everyone who turned up, especially as it was a beautiful warm sunny late summer Sunday that would be perfect for sitting outside in a garden instead of coming into town. It was great to see some Twitter friends 'in real life' and also someone I worked with a very long time ago!

My exhibition continues until October 4th and is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. 

My work is in the the front area of the gallery and Helen has arranged complementary ceramics, crafts and gifts to style the area. The back room has the gallery's usual wonderful selection of artists work, so there's lots to see.

For those of you who live in the East Midlands, the Market Place Gallery in Olney has a selection of my work in their 'Selected British Printmakers' exhibition.

Olney, like Saffron Walden, is a quintessential small market town, surrounded by lovely countryside, with lots of interesting indie shops and some lovely foodie places for lunch. Both are worth a day out.

So what next? . . . 

I need to get my head around stocking my online shop and meeting the requests from galleries for Christmas (there! I said the C word but very quietly!) But mainly I need a few days to recharge my batteries so this week I'm tidying up my studio, getting out in the garden and enjoying the fabulous weather . . . maybe I'll actually have time to use my brand new box of watercolours? You never know!