Saturday, 27 April 2019

Bluebell Wood Walk

Come with me, come with me!!! Let me take you for a walk through one of my local woods which, at the present time, are absolutely stuffed to the canopy with the most gorgeously blue Bluebells!!!
We really are so lucky to have magical places like this to visit and when I went last weekend I had the woodland almost completely to myself which only seemed to add to the magic and awe of the place. Aside from the birds chirping and twigs cracking underfoot there was no sound, almost as if the trees were holding their breaths, and, as soon as I walked in along the dusty pathway, the scent of the Bluebells was almost overpowering! They aren't really a flower you think of as having a strong scent, but I think they are part of the Hyacinth family (a flower well known for its heavy perfume) and with the thousands and thousands of Bluebells crowded together I suppose the lovely smell is inevitable.

When I first arrived there it was slightly shaded under the trees as the sun was playing hard to get but after a little while the sunshine came out and I actually walked around the wood a second time, following the path carefully so as not to tread on any of the little flowers, because of the shadows and dappled patches of light that were changing the shade of blue on the woodland floor. I won't bore you silly and wax lyrical about my love of Bluebell woods (you've probably already guessed anyway) but please do scroll down for more glorious photos of the Bluebells!!

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Easter Saturday

It's a funny day, the Saturday between Good Friday and East Sunday. You almost want to give it a title to make it seem more of a part of Easter rather than just a stop-gap. So far, this weekend has been glorious; a real sense of summer! The cat has been loving it and spends pretty much all day wandering between sun spots and shade spots depending on how hot he gets. The best position seems to be half and half on the patio but, in the evening sunshine, a comfy chair is the preferred option! Sooo comfy.

Everything was looking lovely this evening. Our Bluebells are coming out and turn a fabulous shade of purple when the light hits them. There is a mixture of both Spanish and English Bluebells throughout our garden, and the English ones also come in pink and white colours which is rather nice. Almost makes me want to start another Bluebell themed Stitchscape, especially with the blue Forget-Me-Knots mingling in with the general woodland vibe we've got going in this flowerbed.

I was actually out and about in the garden trying to photograph these Stitchscape pebbles which I've just finished off. I'd started them as an example for a pebble class I taught last week but I can't leave hoops unfinished so they've been my bus commute project for the last couple of days and are a great, almost mindless project that you can just play around with, trying out new combinations of colour and stitch. I do love the Ladybugs in a pebble!

I also enjoy using the garden as a prop to place and position my pebbles - as you may be able to tell!

We are very lucky to have a bit of a wildlife haven at the very bottom of our garden. It is an intentionally neglected space on its own level (we have a split level garden going down a rather steep incline) where we have let tall grasses, wild primroses, dead nettles and dandelions grow as a nature reserve. Branches and some of our old fence panels have also been left down there in a corner to provide shelter for anything that wants to live there and we have loads of birds, frogs, toads, mice and goodness knows what else coming in and out of the garden. Last year we had a pair of foxes move in and they had a couple of cubs which we enjoyed watching grow. This year they are back again and have five cubs! They are so sweet to watch as they chase each other around, leaping in and out of bushes and between ours and next door's gardens. Our neighbour leaves out food for them so they are often tearing around on her lawn chasing whoever has a mouthful of food. It can be quite noisy but such a pleasure to watch.
Have a very Happy Easter everybody!

Monday, 15 April 2019

Fire Flower Stitchscape Kit

Last night I finished off this little 15cm Stitchscape. It's a re-worked design using the templates I made for the Orange Glow Sunset  kit I designed for The-Stitchery in Lewes. We've now discontinued that particular kit as the fabrics have sold through, but I really loved the design so I've swapped in new fabrics, changed the techniques, added slightly different trimmings and generally mixed things up a little bit. This one will be available from me through my Etsy shop and usual channels when ready.

I love the POW of orange colour that comes with this kit. It's so fiery and really fits the title of this new version I think, especially with a big french knot flowers at the centre! They look like burning lollipops don't they?

There are a couple of additional stitches used in this one as well. The stitch run down is; straight stitch, back stitch, running stitch, whip stitch, stem stitch, satin stitch, seed stitch, detached chain stitch, couching, french knots and bullion knots.
It's a nice piece to be able to get to grips with easy stitches - I try not to make any of my kits particularly hard as I like to show how easy it is to create fantastic effects with the simplest of stitches, just by changing up the materials you use and the colours you choose.

This kit uses a combination of threads which works really well. The majority of threads are Anchor Stranded Cottons which are six thin threads banded together. You can split these down (which I recommend) and I've used combinations of single strand, two strand and three strand to create different weights of line. The thicker threads you can see are DMC Coton Perlé which are a twisted thread that you stitch as it comes. It's slightly more matte so the difference in sheen and width make them really stand out.

I have written the kit booklet but it may be a little while before the kit is fully released as I have to arrange to get the booklets published, cut all of the threads and fabrics to size and package it all together! There aren't enough hours in the day.

Friday, 12 April 2019

I Buy Small Too

I've been meaning to write this blog post for a while, but somehow never got around to collecting all of the things together to photograph! If you follow my Instagram and Facebook accounts I'm afraid I do go on about this sort of thing all the time but I wanted to show you that it isn't all just talk and that I do practice it myself.
I'm talking, of course, about buying from small sellers, independent shops and local artists, whether that be through their websites, Etsy, Folksy, Not On The Highstreet, at markets, craft fairs or through Facebook. Being a small seller and independent artist myself I can really appreciate how time consuming it is to run your own little business. You never switch off and will be answering emails at 10pm, editing prints over breakfast and taking design work with you on holiday. Everything comes back to you and it's amazing the skills you have to pick up along the way; it's not so much multi-tasking as MEGA-tasking!
When I can I try and support others like me by purchasing something from them and also sharing what I have bought on social media, tagging the artist/seller to spread the word about them. Sadly I don't have the funds to be able to buy original pieces all of the time but most people will have different items to suit all budgets and prints can be really high quality!
The above image is one of my very first big pieces of art, bought at the Penshurst Place Craft Fair from watercolour artist, Sheila Gill. She had used the cows on a banner to promote her stand and I absolutely fell in love with them and their characters, immediately asking if she had a print left. Luckily for me, this was the last one (although I have noticed that prints of 'A Moo or Two' are available on her website, linked above)!!

Last year at the Kent County Show, I had a stand opposite my friend (and designer of my logo and blog banner!), Emily Richards who is an amazing illustrator of animal characters. The little alpaca on the left was winking and smiling at me for the entire first day of the show so on the second day I hopped over and bought him! Now he smiles at me as I walk up the stairs.
On the right is a little print from Kate Brazier who I follow on pretty much all social media fronts. She paints the most darling little house scenes and has so much texture in her work. I want everything she makes really but I recently settled on this lovely 'Sunshine On A Rainy Day' print as it reminds me of days spent down by the beach (and looks very much like a Stitchscape don't you think?). I bought it via her Etsy shop and can I just say, I've even kept the packaging the print arrived in! The envelope has a little house drawing done by Kate before posting and her business card was so beautiful it could be framed on it's own.

I often share my work and items listed in Etsy to Pinterest because it's amazing what you can come across on there! During a (procrastinating) flick through Pinterest last year I came across a gorgeous framed needlefelted landscape with cute little sheep. On a closer inspection of the origins of the image I found the artist, Maxine Smith of Tilly Tea Dance, and, more importantly, her Etsy shop! I treated myself to the sheep art on the right side and, for Christmas last year, The Mother bought me the absolutely stunning Sea Pinks frame on the left hand side (top marks for present buying there Mother!). These are very reasonably priced little originals and there is no glass in the frames which means you can have a good old fondle.

Another artist I follow closely on social media is Julie Dumbarton who specialises in enormous and fabulous oil paintings with so much colour and depth you could quite literally fall into them! I wish I lived closer to her because her studio is in a converted church and is regularly open for you to pop in for a cuppa lose yourself in her paintings.
I definitely cannot afford to buy her originals (although I so, so want to!) and content myself with prints of her work which still have the most amazing colour to them! I treated myself to a second print recently (I already have one bought for me by my university friends several years ago) from her website as I saw it pop up on her Facebook page. It's glorious, don't you think? The reflections and sunshine and pops of colour in the moody woods.

I don't just buy prints and framed artworks (there is a limit to the wall space I am allowed). I recently discovered a jewellery shop on Etsy called Curious Owl Shop run by Christine Levis, and really liked these handmade textured stacking rings (set of three). They are really well made and I love the different textures in them. I may also have ordered a couple more which will be dispatched shortly once she has finished making them.

Of course if you can't afford an original, or don't have the space for a print, most artists will also have a range of greetings cards as they are a great multi-functional product. Not only do people buy them from the artist but they will then send it to someone else who will like the image on the front, automatically advertising further afield and potentially creating future sales that way (sneaky I know). I visit the Sussex Guild shop in Lewes quite often and really love the work of Annie Soudain who is a linoprint artist. Her use of colour is really interesting and I love the perspective in her landscapes, the way the fields and hills fall away or drift off to the horizon. I have given a couple of her cards to friends and family but generally I just buy them for me to keep and am thinking of getting one of those collage mount frames so that I can display them all together.

So, I hope that you have enjoyed seeing my little art collection. It's small but growing steadily as I create new contacts within the art world. It really interests me that although I don't particularly care much for painting and drawing myself, most of my purchased art pieces are watercolours or painted works. Still highly textured but, ultimately, flat (most unlike my own work)!
If you are interested in learning more about the reasons for buying from small sellers or independent shops, I am a humble promoter of the Just A Card Campaign which is all about this cause and is run by artists/designers/shop owners/makers etc. It's a growing topic and discussion but well worth following.