Thursday, 26 February 2009

Story of a Doorstep

Thursday 26 February 2009

Great-granny Elizabeth

I have a rather tenuous connection to my roots, but continuity of place is vital to me and my sense of self. As a military brat, I lived in dozens of houses, but one building alone represents 'home'. In fact, I only stayed there for a few weeks when I was too young to recall it, but it's become a sacred repository of family memories.

It is a tiny stone cottage, part of the workers' ensemble of buildings on a large country estate in southern Scotland. Before the Great War, my paternal grandfather was head coachman to the Laird of this estate. In exchange for his services, he received his accommodation, new livery each year and a very small wage to bring up his three sons. At some stage in the early 1920's, the two-bedroomed cottage housed my grandpa, granny, their three sons, a middle-aged female relative and great-granny Elizabeth, (who seems to have lived in a set-in bed in the kitchen for what remained of her life). Elizabeth is pictured above, in a clean pinny, her best bonnet and with a bunch of violets in her hand.

The doorstep became the chosen site for what few family photographs there are of this time and the next picture is of my grandpa and granny, again in the early 1920's posing in the doorway. Some effort seems to have been made to smarten up for the occasion - a good cap, a string of pearls at the neck.

A few years later, they are all arranged for a family portrait, sitting on the step. (My dad is the lad on the left at his father's elbow.) This seems to have been a rather more impromptu affair, no time to brush anyone's tousled locks, wash a face or two or find the baby's socks and shoes.

A generation on, and it was my turn to take to the step for a photo-shoot, probably early 1952. The door looks like it needs a coat of paint, but the step still seems to be a favourite sunny spot for family and pets alike. I'm not sure how to explain-away my rather pneumatic appearance. Granny seems to be feeding me titbits (first wiped on her apron, I see) and no doubt a chubby baby was thought of as a good thing in post-war, rationed Britain. Well, that's my theory!

So that is the humble house where my family memories are deposited. Or, I should say, was the house. Last year I took my dad, sister and neice up to Scotland to visit some old haunts. Although we knew from previous visits that the buildings (which hadn't been occupied since my grandpa moved out in about 1960) were beginning to fall into disrepair, we were shocked to see that the cottages had been completely demolished, razed to the ground. All that remained were the carriage house, stables and kennels, the roofs collapsed and mother nature reclaiming her territory.

Dad and sis
Although the tale of the doorstep seems to have a sad ending, in a way I am glad that it no longer exists. It has done its job, the generations who posed there for photos are almost vanished too and although it may seem selfish, I am content that it hasn't survived to become part of someone else's story.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Thank You

Wednesday 25 February 2009

First of all, I must say a big 'Thank You' to everyone who has stuck with me during the past couple of weeks when there's hardly been any reason for you to visit my threadbare blog.

I've been unwilling hostess to a virus, which has kept me coughing all day and all night - and anyone who knows me will understand that this lady does not have her sleep interrupted. Not for nobody. Not without somebody pays.

But today I feel I'm on the mend, and I thought that some light duties might not tax my energies too much. Something like a little gentle pressing of the camera shutter button.

So I've taken some photos of the work-in-progress felt vessel that I'm putting together. It's made up of a cylindrical core with three separate wet-felted pieces loosely depicting a geological theme. I'm hoping to get it sewn together soon, as it's destined for an exhibition at our county Women's Institute HQ in a week's time. I suppose I could pull myself together and thread a needle and do some stitching - nothing too strenuous though - it's early days!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

What are 'niminy fingers'?

Thursday 19 February 2009

Unfortunately I've been feeling poorly for a few days, and I haven't been able to do the blogposts I had planned, so please forgive me for simply putting up another photograph.
I haven't ever explained here where 'niminy fingers' came from, but it's in a line from a Walter de la Mare poem about Sweet Annie Maroon. It's a word that usually finds itself hyphenated with 'piminy'. 'Niminy-piminy' indicates an affectation of refinement - what a lovely expression - try and fit it into your conversation today!
The little papier mache heart poem in the photograph is fixed to some vintage Indian muslin and English lace scraps, blinged-up with a mother-of-pearl button, a rhinestone clasp and an old glass something-or-other! A real 'affectation of refinement'!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday 18 February 2009

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Willow weaving workshop

Sunday 15 February 2009

The willow weaving workshop I took part in yesterday was designed to be a learning and experimental session. So what did I learn? Main thing - if you're making a shopping basket, don't make it so big that you can hardly lift it before you've even put your shopping in it! My gently-rounded basket took on a life of its own and ballooned out a lot further than I planned and needed some professional wrestling techniques to wrangle it back in again. I thought I had it pinned down successfully at one stage, with both arms and my left leg, but it had a mind of it's own. After 'three falls or a submission' I gave in! So I am now the proud owner of a basket that would comfortably house a shetland pony.
We were offered so many choices of willow to work with, each with their own particular qualities for weaving. However, I came over all girly and chose ones with nice colours and pretty names.
I loved the colour of the top one in the photograph below (salix nigricans) - it's a rich dark burgundy/black shade. Two of the others I used were Dicky Meadows and Whissender. It was great to know that the willow was all supplied by a local couple, Guy and Jane Lambourne at Wassledine who have such a wonderful website.
I have to confess, though I did really enjoy my willow workshop day, I think I'll be sticking to felting wool for the future - it's so much more biddable and you don't (generally speaking) need to be an octopus to keep it under control!

Friday, 13 February 2009

Sisters, sisters

Friday 13 February 2009

Today's heart-themed post is dedicated to the memory of my late sister Jacqui, who shared my love of crafting, taught me a lot of what I know, imbued me with enthusiasm to try new things and encouraged me in all I did in a very practical and honest way. The hand-made paper heart collage was her present to me on my birthday in 1994 and it hangs on my kitchen wall where I can see it while I'm busy feltmaking at the sink, or being a Domestic Goddess at the stove! Whilst her physical presence is no longer something I am able to enjoy, her influences are around me daily and I still rely on her for support and inspiration. Though I now think of her as a helpmeet through life, there was a time when she was just a pesky little sis. When she was about a year old, she ate most of my treasured stamp collection and gave my favourite dolly a tattoo. On her forehead. With an indelible pen. What a girl!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

I'm a Basket Case

Thursday 12 February 2009

These fantastic baskets by the Danish artist Lise Bech just make me go weak at the knees! I love everything about them, the cuddly pod shape, the fact that they are asymmetrical, the dark colour of the willow. Lise grows her own willow at her home in the southern uplands of her adopted Scotland and exhibits her work all over the world.

In the dim and distant past I did some basket-weaving, and have even planted some varieties of willow as a hedge in my garden (not enough to make a basket yet!). A year ago, I saw a photograph in a magazine of a pod-shaped shopping basket that Lise had made, fell in love and nagged the ranger at the local country park to set up a workshop so that I could be supervised trying to make one! He graciously gave in, cut some willow from the banks of the lake in the park, and on Saturday I will be sitting on the floor willow-wrangling for 8 hours!

Now, haha, I have a head-start in the race to create anything asymmetrical. I am confident that whatever kind of basket I set out to make, my innate ability to end up with something lopsided will stand me in good stead. It will be 'organic', as we crafters say!

Not-Quite-Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday 11 February 2009

I can't do completely wordless, just not in my nature! Anyway, to continue the week's heart theme, here's a picture.

Tomorrow I'm temporarily abandoning hearts because I want to tell you about a workshop I'm going to on Saturday .... watch this space!

In my Christmas stocking

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

My Heart Felting

Tuesday 10 February 2009

A mossy pot and felted heart

Today I've included some quite old pictures of the early days of my felting experiments using a resist to create 3-D vessels and bags. In this method the wool fibres are laid out enclosing a plastic template of the required size and shape. The felting and part of the fulling process takes place with the plastic in situ. As the felt begins to shrink around the template, the felt is cut to release the plastic and the energetic fulling and shrinking continues!
I learnt the technique from books, so it did take one or two frustratingly unsuccessful attempts before I discovered some of the do's and don'ts! There were bulky lumps at the edges where the fibre layers were too thickly overlapped and unnecessarily large holes cut to remove the template, but I think now I understand what's needed, even if I don't always achieve it in practice!

A little brown cache-pot

A denim blue dainty handbag

Monday, 9 February 2009

I'm All Heart for Valentine's Day

Monday 9 February 2009

By Jan Fryer

This week is going to be all hearts! For some reason I don't really understand I am fascinated by heart shapes, especially that Shaker-style prim shape. I have hearts all over the house and my sisters know that any heart-themed present will be loved to pieces! So every day this week will be devoted to hearts, some that I've made, and others that I've found around the house.
Some of my HUGE collection of heart stamps!

And I couldn't leave out one I made myself, now, could I?!

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Never been to Morocco

Saturday 7 February 2009

Nope, never been to Morocco, but I love the food! I'm determined to get there one day as I'm sure the vibrant colours and hectic bazaars with a backdrop of the Atlas Mountains would be thrilling.

So this little experiment is sort-of Marrakesh inspired. I was playing with inserting velvet into a wet-felted piece a while ago, and left it on my work table to see what would happen next. Nothing ... Then I made some bound fabric ropes, with no particular ideas in mind, just fiddling about. That sat on the table too. Then the bead box got joggled and out fell the turquoise chunks. Serendipity, don't you think?!
I love the colours that came accidentally together.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

A Nice Cuppa

Wednesday 4 February 2009

Nothing nicer on a cold winter's day than a steaming cup of Earl Grey and a biscuit (ok, no biscuit). These little ACEO's were fun to make, though I should have been doing more useful things, but, hey!

This one might amuse some Boston friends - now THAT was a tea-party!

The newspaper for this one was wrapped around some tea-bowls I bought in New York a few years ago. Being a hoarder sometimes comes in handy!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Winter Wonderland

Monday 2 February 2009

Since talking about the weather seems to be a British preoccupation, I have an excuse to post some pictures taken in the garden this morning. We have snow, courtesy of the Arctic I'm led to believe, and everything is looking very pretty. That's fine, unless you're trying to get to work, because, of course, the transport systems are at a standstill, the roads unsafe, airports closed and even walking can be treacherous.
But if you're only looking out of the window at the big, soft, pillowy flakes, then it's magical.