There's a track near us that runs along the side of Loch Sween called 'Glean a Gealbhan' pronounced 'Gleneealavan'. It's easy walking, ducking under branches, and there's not often anyone else there so the dogs can roam free. Over the years I have walked along here dozens and dozens of times with different dogs. It's a great spot for gathering rowan berries. It's also, for some reason, where I write storis in my head! The plot for 'my novel' and it's follow up came to me when I was walking along here.
With the loch to one side of the path on the other is steeply sloping hillside, the trees grow tall and straight, towering over the path, bracket fungus and Old Mans Beard lichen adorn trunks and branches.
Waterfall of rocks, moss covered and topped with rushes and bilberry bushes. The path is edged with the swirl and curl of ferns, alongside Argyll’s yellow flags, wild iris, sharp yellow amongst the emerald greens.
Grasses have put on their firework display of seed heads, knee high & starred by umbellifer.
At the far end the path opens to a small clearing with access to the shore - for dogs anyway - although the way back up was a bit steeper than someone thought!
More again soon
Hot, Hot, HOT and Hot Dogs sums up the GWCT Scottish Game Fair weekend earlier this month. Too hot for comfort and really too hot for sales. No-one could be bothered to make a decision, unless it was whether to have an ice cream! However, it was great for dog watching and the stall two down from us did a roaring trade in cool jackets for dogs, and they had a paddling pool especially for dogs, we did, briefly, consider going to stand in it too!
The Homestyle Argyll marquee looked very elegant, and we received many compliments for the wonderful display of cushions, lamp shades, animal heads, seascapes and pretty tinkling glass in the faint breeze we managed to conjure up by opening up the sides of the tent, but mostly I was about the dogs.
All ages and sizes and breeds from Scottish deerhounds to dachshunds and everything in between. Wirehaired German pointers; English and Douglas setters; every type of spaniel; a Rhodesian ridgeback; whippets and greyhounds; Vizslas – smooth, wire haired, and long haired; retriever's – golden, flat & curly coat; Labradors by the barrel load; a pack of nine Irish water spaniel's; Collies; a pug; Jack Russell’s; a couple Fox terriers and several Borders; a standard poodle or two; a Bloodhound, a great Dane; even a wirehaired pointing griffon, and lots more besides. Given just how many there were I was initially astonished at how incredibly quiet it was, until it was pointed out to me that gun dogs are trained to be quiet! And there wasn't a fight to be seen, thankfully. I manged to get to see a wee bit of the Agility trials in the main ring which was great, and as we were situated next to the Scurry we saw lots of retrieving going on (& some not retrieving but having fun anyway!)
We moved some of our stock out into the sunshine on Sunday in order to attract a few more visitors to the marquee. Everyone was happy to wonder around just looking at things in the sunshine. It was far too hot to be carrying handful of shopping bags.
I did do some lampshades and lanterns with the Game show especially in mind, the fishing ones were popular. Huntin' Shootin' Fishin' lampshades
Highland Homewares Catherine & I were staying with B’s cousins nearby which was lovely. We were able to sit in the garden until 9:30pm without midge’s only going in when the last of the sun had left the garden. There wasn’t anything else I felt I should be doing, no dialysis, no washing to process, or dog walking to do, or just feeling like I should be doing something other than sitting doing nothing! It was simply perfect, a super weekend and even hough I was 'working' it felt like bit of a break.
The drive back west to home on Sunday evening was beautiful, even after I realised I’d missed my turning and ended up going home via the very scenic route, which took an additional hour and a half! Ugh! Towing a fully laden trailer meant I wasn’t going much above 40 miles an hour. It was a looong drive, eventually arriving home at 20 to 1 I collapsed into bed!
Now it's back to work, some more sorting out of my cabin going on, concentrating on my sewing room this time as I’ve discovered that my lovely old school drawers were absolutely riddled with woodworm and needed to be thrown out. Yet more organising, rearranging, and consolidating of stuff has been going on this week.
Coming up … there’s a make your own lampshade workshop this month on the 18th and 27th of July. Due to demand I've been asked to do an extra SWI Fabric Collage weekend workshop one will be in September and another in October.
Then I’m out and about with lampshades again with the Homestyle Argyll girls locally this time as we are having a week-long pop up ‘Summer House’ shop in Bellanoch at Smithy House, a bit like the Christmas one, only in the summer and for a week. That’s from Sunday 29th July to the 3rd of August. I was delighted to have been invited to judge the Homecrafts section at the Mid Argyll Show this year, that’s on the 11th of August, then it will be Artmap Open Studios weekend before I know it. It's all go and there seems no time to relax, so it's back on with the sorting then I can get on with the making of some new shades & lamps, and I must also remember to finish off writing my fourth sewing booklet which was promised sometime last year…!
More again soon
On one of my afternoon dog walks last month, we walked along the Forestry Commission path at Loch Coillie-Bharr (pronounced: Coyee Var). Past the abandoned township of Kilmory Oib, and to the ruined mill and back. It was one of those, half dry half wet walks, so familiar here, where you start off in the dry but come home wet.
On the way back with my jacket hood up I mostly looked at the path. The hood is too big on my bright yellow fisherman’s ‘oilskin’ and I have to tip my head back to be able to see.
I knew where I was going, and I was quite happy walking along looking at the raindrops splashing in puddles and running in rivulets between the stones. There was a lot of leaf litter lying on the path. Incongruous in summer to see the lanes strewn with green leaves, it was just after storm Hector and we had been fairly bashed about by winds and buffeted by rainy squalls. As we got closer to the carpark the trees change to forestry pines, tall slender firs, they are better at hanging onto their sharp green needle leaves.
The winds had blown through spring cleaning the branches of dead needles, the pathway was strewn with thousands, hundreds of thousands of needles, in shades of browns. They had gathered along the routes of the rainwater like a ladder, swirled into gullies, fringing the edges of pools. They reminded me of stitches, lots and lots of hand embroidered stitches. A bit longer than a seed stitch, but just as haphazard where they had stuck to the wet stones but appearing to have purpose where they had been caught up by the torrents.
They remind me strongly of the work by textile artist Marna Lunt, one of my textile art heroes. All of her work is done by hand, stitch upon stitch upon stitch. Each one precisely placed but with so many they can seem haphazard. Marna’s layering of coloured thread to shade, to sculpt, to define, is second to none and is something I aspire to, but I know I don't have the patience for.
And then we're back at the car again, biscuit bribes guarantee good, if expectant, behaviour and jumping into the boot of the car, then it’s a short drive home to dry us all off & a large mug of tea.
Until next time ..
I've got at least two half written blogs about recent walks which I will try to post soon but until then have a pome! I wrote this a month or so ago partly because I was doing a Creative Writing evening class and wanted to had something in before it finished (I'd got rather distracted by lampshades). It was inspired, at least the first line was, by a conversation that mum & I had had about cuckoos, and how they manage to learn to cuck & koo if brought up by a bluetit (other bird homes also available).
Who taught the cuckoos to cuck?
Who showed the swallows the way?
Who put the hop in the unicorn’s dance?
Can it have been you? I say
Who painted the robin’s egg blue?
Who made the dragon’s wings to fly?
Who put the skip in the unicorn’s dance?
It can’t have been you, say I
Who gave giraffes their very long necks?
Who made the flamingos sway?
Who put the jump in the unicorn’s dance?
I wish it had been you, I say
Who put the freckle on the breast of the thrush?
Who trained the eagles to soar so high?
Who put the twirl in the unicorn’s dance?
Someone far greater than us, say I
Finding my writing pile and setting up my writing 'nook' has definitely made me want to write more. It's just finding the time & space to do it when there are so many other things that also need & that I want to be doing..... but soon...
Anyway, hope you enjoyed the poem.
'Till next time
I have just been writing a blog for the Homestyle Argyll web page and as I am now in a writing mood I thought I would carry on writing and do one for Needlesmiths.
Since coming back from Warwickshire, and getting better from horrid English virus-y thing, I have been working hard getting sorted in my cabin studio. I have had a MAHOOSIVE clear out of fabrics, and yarn. Having discovered that our local Mary’s Meals charity shop will accept my scrap as well as the good stuff & clothing there have been several drop offs there. One or two runs to the tip for things I simply couldn’t do anything else with. So: 3 boxes of velvet & wools plus 2 large bags of stuffing to a friend; 10 bags of scrap, 6 bags of clothes/fabric pieces, 5 bin bags of yarns, 4 boxes of ‘bits’ to Mary’s Meals and according to my dad you wouldn’t really notice any difference! Cheeky wotsit! But as I can now see the floor I know that there is a big difference, & I haven’t quite finished yet. I need to empty some drawers as I think they have woodworm and so needs to go out, but, the drawers are being replaced by shelving and the shelving has to go to Perth before I can use it in the Cabin!
On one of my trips to the tip I came back with a teeny bureau, at which I am sat as I type. It is not a thing of beauty but it is a thing of immense usefulness and so therefore is very beautiful. It is a circa 1960’s domestic bureau with a display shelf with sliding glass doors and a storage shelf behind sliding wooden doors – might have to take those off as I’ll forget what’s behind them! - and the folding down top section with pigeon holes and it even had its key. Tucked into the pigeon holes were a set of dentures, a medical pink eye patch and two large divan bed screws! I did a little squeak when I found the teeth, dad has taken them for ‘stock’. I am in no doubt at all that they will turn up in a piece of artwork at some point in the future. This is what he did with a previous pair …..
Titled ‘No-where is safe’...
Back to my afternoon & my little bureau. I have set it up in the corner of the sitting room end of the Cabin and although it faces the wall, I can look out of the window to my left at the view down our valley towards Kilmartin glen – on a fine day, you can see hills (& two wind farms ☹). If I faced the window I wouldn’t get anything written for gazing at the hills, birds, sheep ambling past…. I can’t get wi-fi in here, which although can be somewhat frustrating, as I have to wait until I get home to upload anything, it does mean that I don’t, won’t, Can’t, waste time on Facebook et al. so, this wee distraction free writing zone is perfect. I’d love to get back to my novel.... maybe one day…. soonish …
I have hung a small blackboard above the desk and my large pinboard is now also hanging up instead of being balanced on the back of the sofa and occasionally toppling over onto Rosie.
I have already filled the pigeon holes with things that I tend to lose up here and have found the perfect use for the lovely ‘Jamie Oliver’ small glass jars with pastel lids that my cousin gave me, they tone perfectly with the blue enamel caddy & the little flowered J&GMeakin vintage mug pen pot – too small for cups of tea and too pretty to move on.
I have also bossy-ed mum and dad in to opening the Studio Barn & the Annexe for the season. It is so easy to sort things out when the sun is shining, stuff can be dragged outside, dusted off, or a new location found. What a joy it was to sorted fabric whilst standing on the decking at the back of the Cabin. My deadline for organisation completion & Barn opening was Sunday 10th June. And we made it, just. I took the ‘Not’ sign off at a little after 3pm! OK so no-one has made it up the hill yet but if they do they can see the Barn in all its organised glory. My Cabin got to 75% done and will be finished once the shelves arrive. For the rest of this week I will be concentrating on some lampshades especially for the Game fair and doing a commission for two table lamps to be sent out to Spain… Needlesmiths International!
More anon xx
On a sunny morning recently, I took the opportunity to photograph all my large lampshades and felt terribly professional using a tripod & ‘proper’ camera instead of just my phone. It means that there is a consistency in all the photographs which is lovely.
I’m hoping to get them up onto the website very soon. Meanwhile here’s a taste.
Recently, I have accidentally taken a break from all things social media and struggled to keep on top of emails. However, this evening I am feeling better than I have for weeks.
Following the Handmade Fair in May I rather crashed. A combination of exhaustion and some vile viral English bug I brought back with me. Total wipe out. The wind taken out of my sails, the stuffing knocked out of me, the voice from my throat and it felt as though I had been stampeded by a herd of hippos. I had no concentration and no energy, just a sore chest and a head full of cotton wool.
Eventually, I allowed myself to switch off for a while, and whilst worrying about what I wasn’t doing and that the to do list was growing longer by the day, I gave in and did nothing that required thinking about. Since I got back we’ve been having really lovely weather, but I haven’t felt like enjoying it, such a waste as we so rarely get such unbroken stretches of sunshine. Its hard to remember getting any at all last year, I don’t suppose it was 12 months of rain but looking back it does feel like it. We had a bad winter, for the west coast, though nowhere near as bd as some folk, maybe we will have a ‘good’ summer.…
This week has seen an improvement and I have started to clear out and tidy up my studio. It’s been wonderful being able to drag everything out on to the decking (yes my studio has decking, a balcony space big enough for a ceilidh actually!) and sort through it. The clear out count so far is 11 black plastic sacks of scraps and unusable fabric, 6 boxes of clothes/curtains/fabric pieces to the charity shop, 2 bags and a box to go to a friend. There is still more to go but with a rearrangement of furniture I can at least turn around in the sitting room end of the studio now, there’s space to swing a Rosie-dog should I wish to. I have reduced my cardboard box collection to 2 large boxes, but my vintage blanket collection still numbers 6, well stuffed, Ikea bags full. I have cleared out/sorted/put way the content of four bakers trays, 6 supermarket vegetable boxes (not entirely sure where I got these!) excavated the contents of several boxes and many bags. I haven’t started on the room I mostly sew in but there isn’t much to be cleared out, though much to be cleared up and put away properly. It would be good to see the surface of my desk again!
This is still 'during' as I haven't finished and there's still quite a lot of soting to go, but it's getting there. I didn't dare take a real 'before' picture, it was too embarrasing!
We – being me and my M&D – had some unexpected visitor’s up the hill on Thursday evening . Dad & I were just about to go to our creative writing class when a car with 4 adults and 2 children bumped their way up the track. They had visited the Studio Barn gallery last year and even though there wasn’t a sign this year they thought they would chance a return visit. It was lovely to have such friendly, enthusiastic, and complimentary visitors even if we aren’t open for business yet this year. It is a spur to get us going again. No-one will see my lampshades if they lurk in boxes in the corner! Time to get them out and set up and to take photos for the website. What could be seen was admired and the two boys who had been ‘treated’ to a visit in dads workshop last year were eager for a return look see. The smiles on those lads faces stretched from ear to ear, a suppression of joy and awe at their treasures: a couple of roe deer skulls dad had lying around, and a parcel of deer & sheep jaw bones, oh and now one is hankering after his own band saw….. inspiring stuff and a delight to behold. They couldn’t say thank you enough and left full of talk and excitement.
Motivated by this visit I had thought to make a start on setting up the Studio Barn today, but after a late start, getting up is still a struggle, and a holiday cottage changeover, in the end I had a late lunch sitting in the garden and finished a book – I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore. A young adult sci-fi/fantasy type thing. Dad & I share a love of well written YA fantasy fiction and it makes a change to my usual diet of murder/drama and occasional ‘aga saga’. Then I decided that I should mow the grass (I would hesitate to call it lawn, too many buttercups, too much sorrel) front & back, strim some edges, do some general tidying up & process laundry – I love this current weather and being able to hang washing outside, I think I managed it twice last year. Then in to finish off dinner and get B onto his machine.
Now I am sitting, faintly glowing from the sun and following a long soak in a tepid bath (to cool the midge bites and nettle stings), itchy bits have been antihistamine-d for the umpteenth time, the first tiny tick of the season has been removed from my thigh, my feet are up and I’m coolly dressed in my favourite pink & white gingham pyjamas. With my hair down & slightly damp, and a sun-freckled nose, I feel like I’m in a Cath Kidston or Country Living magazine summer photo shoot! I had a sudden desire to write to say hello to the world again. A mug of slightly sweetened tea – which I crave when I’m not feeling well – beside me and the dog dozing on the sofa, I realise I am starting to find myself again. I will sort the barn tomorrow, or maybe Monday, so that we can open for any passing visitors. Then I will allow myself to sit and write lists, get organised, write proper, coherent, overdue emails, and start on the commissions I have waiting, and also some ideas for the Scottish Countryside & Game show which is coming up at the end of the month.
Maybe I’ll take some photographs for Instagram, say hello to friends on Facebook … tomorrow … as the rest of this evening will be spent browsing a couple of months’ worth of unread magazines!
Hello, it’s lovely to be back
Edited to add: I started this a couple of weeks ago but it's taken aaages to actually complete & post
It seems strange to think that, as I type, I had just finished packing up my stand at the Kirstie Allsopp Handmade Fair at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire. Months of anticipation, weeks of hard work, days of final preparations, hours of travelling, three days of Fair then in a blink of an eye, it’s all over and now I’m at home a week later wondering if it happened at all!
I had a fabulous time, being away from home for a week, a complete change of scene. I was staying with my aunt & uncle which was lovely, and I was able to catch up with my cousin too. I met a lot of really lovely people, who had some very nice things to say about lampshades!
2 workshop elves, 187 lampshades, 120 cards, 12 lamp posts, 4 sets of shelves, 26 boxes, 1074.8 miles, 1 transit van, 12 metres of calico, and 2 glamorous assistants (brother & sister in law!) equalled a very busy and exciting and totally exhausting three days.
I arrived at the show ground early on Thursday, a smooth journey, no traffic following the GPS lady's instructions and reaching Ragley Hall in exactly 30 minutes. I thought initially I would just scout about, see what was where, unload later. I was met by smiling & cheery carpark staff who showed me straight down to the unloading bay where I was met and greeted by more smiley happy people, so I decided to take advantage of the extra few hours & parking spot to take my time unloading and setting up.
The weather was spectacular, beautifully clear blue skies and sunshine, quite unlike the still wintery and wet Argyll I had left behind. I also couldn’t get over how green and flowery everywhere was. Our bluebells were barely out underneath the still skeletal trees, and yet there the ground beneath the trees in full leaf, was ablaze with that dazzling, floating haze of blue that can only be bluebells. The edges of the lanes already beginning to froth with cow parsley and wild carrot were we still had dead bracken and the dried husks of last year’s umbellifer.
I arrived early on Sunday and took the chance to have a look around the Fair ground, to see what I was part of. It was lovely wandering about with only a few of the stall holders milling about. There wasn’t anything to do to my stall, the sun was shining and I was finally able to relax a bit.
And then they were gone. All the planning and the making and the setting up is now the taking down and the going home again. It was all worth it though.
It’s taken me a week to post this as, once I had got home on Monday, unloaded and returned the van to Oban on Tuesday, I pretty much collapsed, able to sleep the clock round without any difficulty, I brought back a bug, sore throat & chest and croaky voice. However, normal service needs to resume soonest, and I need to get back to work tomorrow. I had planned to spend the end of last week, tidying up the house – which always explodes when I have something big on and hadn’t recovered from before the Exhibition. Clearing up my studio cabin which rather looks like a fabric atomic bomb has gone off in it. Also sorting out the Studio Barn as it is now full of cardboard boxes of lampshades which need to be stored somewhere else so that workshops and classes can resume. And then there was the plan to photograph the lampshades, lanterns and lamps, to get them on to the ‘shop’ element of my website in time for the hordes of folk who having seen them at the show have now decided that they would like to buy one! Aaah the best laid plans. So, I will have to start it all tomorrow and perhaps at a slower pace than is my usual one. Afternoon naps have featured heavily in the last couple of days!
In an effort to get back to normal and as Saturday was lovely & sunny, Rosie & I went for a short amble along the shore at Crinan harbour.
Actually I didn't get back to 'normal' again and it is now the beginning of june when I press the publish button on this post!
My new exhibition at the Dochas Gallery in Lochgilphead opened last night. At one point I really didn't think I was going to get them all finished but managed it by the skin of my teeth!
After a little over 3 hours of taping frames, at 10pm on Friday night all the shades were still flat! So, I pulled an all nighter and managed to get all but 6 finished. At 10 am I sent Mr B to drop off all the shades at the gallery and went to sleep for an hour. When he came back I went to collect the lamp posts and shelves then went to the gallery to set up. Once I was happy with the way it looked I headed back home, finished the last half dozen got changed chivied Mr B out the door, and was very grateful for that first glass of wine!
Now I have to tidy up the chaos that I have created just about everywhere ... the kitchen, my studio and the Studio Barn, the house has generally been neglected as Mr B hasn't been able to do very much, and I need to 'mend' the vacuum cleaner, which probably just means finding the blockage in the tube...
Work starts for the Handmade Fair on Tuesday!
Easter weekend dawned bright and blue and sunny and I was out with the Homestyle Argyll girls at the Tayvallich Inn with our first pop-up shop.
There was no missing us underneath Catherine's bright purple gazebo! I do enjoy displaying our wares together, although our work is very different individually, we are able to create a harmonious collectionnn.
I have recently started to make cards to tke to an event in May, and thought I would put them out this weekend as a trial run...
Small, slightly abstract landscape images, painted on fabric with some stitched detailling, then mounted onto 100% recycled paper cardstock. I have made a conscious decision not to buy plastic cellophane bags (even compostable ones) but printed a small paper wrapper to keep card and envelope together.
Some more debut pieces, a seasidey muscles and scallops appliqued lantern & a printed and painted spring snowdrops one.
Tomorrow it's back to lamp & lampshade making for my exhibition which starts next week.
And I have already started counting down to the Kirsty Allsopp Handmade Fair at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire in May!
Author - Me!
I am a ‘Creative’ - designer/maker/teacher/writer, Art/Homewares/Creativitea Craft Kits/The Needlesmith.