Saturday, 31 October 2009

ooh la la!

Having an Australian in the house for two weeks has sent me slightly barmy and has resulted in me drawing moustaches on pumpkins.  

There has been a bit of a French theme lately in our household.   My nephew plays rugby for London French.   I had romantically thought that it might be something to do with acknowledging his Scottish ancestry and fostering the Auld Alliance, but having seen his team in action last weekend, I now know it's to do with wearing a beret, singing Alouette and drinking Beaujolais Nouveau.   Actually the rugby match was a bit one-sided and his team won by a huge margin - the most exciting bit was when two of the opposition ran into each other and ended up horizontal for a worryingly long time.   Everyone gathered round the prostrate players, the ref sized the situation up and medical help was summoned with the urgent cry, "Vaseline, quick, Vaseline!".   Those of us on the touchline were left to surmise, through our tears of laughter, what exactly the injuries were.    Chapped lips, perhaps?

But I digress.   The other French thing going on was that the Australian had a day trip to Paris and despite getting trapped in the Egyptology department of the Louvre when trying to find the Mona Lisa, declares herself to be madly in love with the city.     Great.   I'd have been a bit miffed if she'd hated it, being as how we all had to get up at 3.00 a.m. to get her to the station on time to catch the Eurostar!

On Monday morning we're making a pilgrimage up to Scotland to visit the ancestral homelands, via some Beatrix Potter country.   The weather forecast is for wet, cold and windy.   Of course it is.  

So, sorry for the prolonged blogging absence - I blame the Australian.

Happy Halloween and have a lovely weekend, whatever you do!

Thursday, 22 October 2009


photo Shauna Richardson
Leicestershire artist Shauna Richardson has been awarded a commission by the Arts Council (a government-funded body) to crochet three 30ft lions to celebrate the 2012 Olympics, which will take place in London.   The lions will cost £500,000 and take two years to make.    They will be sculpted out of polystyrene and Shauna will crochet 'skins' for them out of Derbyshire Peak District wool.

Read all about it here.

My eyes are watering at the cost of the three lions, but I do love this bunny/hare!  

Monday, 19 October 2009

Apple Day at the mill

Apple Day at Bromham water mill on the River Great Ouse in north Bedfordshire.

Friday, 16 October 2009

A question of quality control!

You may know that we have some hens.   It has been suggested that they are slightly eccentric.   I would even go so far now as to say 'eggcentric'.  

These are three recent offerings.   The lovely little brown egg at the front of the photo is a normal sized one, from Hilda.   The tiny one was obviously a mistake by Madge - no yolk in it.   The eye-wateringly huge one seems to have been laid by a visiting goose!

I cracked it open this morning, thinking that it would be at least a double-yolker.   But guess what, inside there was another normal sized egg!    Just like those nesting Russian dolls.   A matryoshka egg.  

So what on earth was the hen who laid it thinking about?   Had she been sitting on the nest so long she forgot where she was in the production line?   Was she just being a bit 'belt-and'-braces' about things, not wanting to take any chances?    Distracted by something at the crucial moment?   Clearly she lost the plot for some reason, but I think the experience might be one she'll take a lot of trouble not to repeat!

Has any other hen-keeper had anything like it?   I'd love to know!


I hope you have a wonderful weekend, whatever you do!


Thursday, 15 October 2009

nuno playtime with thrifted screenprints

My favourite shop is the Emmaus community depot nearby.   It's set in a delightful rural spot surrounded by fields and ancient villages, has a little restaurant and it's like a department store for the thrifty.   I can come home from a trip there with a big bag full of goodies and still have change from a fiver!   I'm not going to dwell on the 'feel-good factor' for recycling, because that's not primarily why I go, but it's there for the taking if you want it!  

Since I jumped-ship from the world of real work, my wardrobe expenses have taken a welcome nosedive.   The people I see on a regular basis (the postman, the hens, my Dad and the volunteers at the village community shop ... ) are not remotely sniffy (metaphorically-speaking) about me wearing second-hand clothes.   My lilac linen Kalico jacket even got some compliments at a birthday party.   Now THAT'S £2 well-invested!

Mostly, the building I make a beeline for is the one housing the haberdashery.   I rootle through the button tins, snaffling up all the tiny mother-of-pearl ones that have sunk to the bottom and are out of sight of the casual observer.   There are always hand-embroidered tray-cloths and napkins, the careful work of years gone by.   Zips! loads of zips.   Offcuts of material, yardage donated by upholsterers, old net curtains (great for wet-felting), elderly and mostly unused dress patterns.   The thing that always gives me a little twinge of sadness and exposes my sentimentality are the bucket-loads of superannuated knitting needles.   On my last visit I chatted to an elderly lady who was sighing over them and regretting that she could no longer knit because of her arthritis.   "But you probably handed on your skills to the next generation", I tried to console her.   "Oh yes, all my 12 grandchildren know how to knit, including the boys!" 

I nearly choked with excitement on one recent foraging trip when I found yards and yards of someone's screen-printing experiments. A bit blotchy in places, but lovely colours and brave patterns. The materials ranged from wool to tulle to cheescloth/muslin and a kind of chiffon. Just right for some experiments of my own....

So I had me some fun with the cheesecloth one, added some rusty and teal and blue coloured merino and did the old 'rub-a-dub-dub' thing and turned it into a little piece of nuno felt. And I like it! Big thank-you to the anonymous donor of the screen-printed textiles - I'm sorry you didn't want to keep them, but so glad you donated them to my favourite shop!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Bawden at Bedford

We had a wonderful opportunity yesterday at the Bedford Gallery to see close-up the work of Edward Bawden and, in the walking tour, to hear about the life of this brilliant and influential artist and designer.

As a 'snapper-up of unconsidered trifles', for me it is always the commonplace detail, the mundane, the quotidian, which illuminate and delight and allow access to the seemingly out-of-reach.   

For instance, I discovered that Bawden had to print his outsize linocuts on the floor,  transferring the ink to the paper by standing on them and shuffling over them  inch-by inch, hour after hour.    As a result, an edition which was intended to be, perhaps, 200, turned out to be just 50 because Edward got fed up with the foot shuffling!   He might sometimes have returned to them later, but often the ink colours would give the game away, being slightly different shades in the later shuffling sessions.  

And I was touched and impressed too by his pragmatism and practical approach.   When starting out with his linocuts, he first went to the Curwen Press to learn about printing methods, to get to grips with the technicalities of the process.   Only then did he start on his designs.

Do click on this blog link to see details of all the events associated with the exhibition of Bawden's archive and, if you're close enough to visit, do try and come.   I'll be the one crawling around the floor trying to find my treasured Pamela Angus earring I lost yesterday .....

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Edward Bawden archive

Edward Bawden

"The Cecil Higgins Gallery holds a major archive of the work of Edward Bawden comprising works from all periods of his career from 1922 until his death in 1989. This was made possible by Edward Bawden’s generous gift to the gallery of the contents of his studio in 1986. In a letter to the Gallery’s curator he wrote,

“My own wish, would be for all the jigsaw pieces of my life’s work to be together, not scattered willy-nilly to any institution that happened to want this bit or that … I must say I would feel immensely happy if I could be allowed to leave my remains to Bedford.”

The gallery's relationship with Bawden began when he was commissioned to design a tapestry (Bunyan's Dream) for the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977.

Bawden, as painter, printmaker, draughtsman and graphic designer, was among Britain's most original artists. His unique vision of the world around him resulted in a style characteristic of an English eccentric. In a career spanning over 60 years, Bawden produced some of the most influential designs of the 20th century, from advertising material for Shell to ceramics for the Orient Line. The Cecil Higgins Gallery contains over 300 examples of his linocuts and lithographs, as well as material for the London Underground, Fortnum & Mason, Twinings and NatWest Bank to name but a few. In addition, the archive contains Bawden's working drawings, lino blocks and unrealised project designs, which exemplify the work of this leading 20th-century artist and designer."

The gallery is just a few miles up the road from me, so I'm rising from my chaise to go to the first of the lunchtime lectures they are holding today about the Bawden Archive and to take time to look around the exhibition.    We are so lucky to have so much of his work all in one place that it would be criminal not to take the chance to go.   I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Wild Coast of Spain

I was going to write a big old post about our wonderful few days on the Wild Coast of Spain last week, but I've picked up some yukky bug (on the plane probably) that's given me a raging sore throat, earache and achey-pains all over.   So here's some photos to fill in the time while I lie on my chaise-longue with the vapours feeling sorry for myself!