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!
I was full of good intentions this time last year, then they fell out of my ears and I got distracted and busy. People went in and out of hospital, workshops and courses were worried about, then got booked up, were attended by lots of happy people and lampshades got made, LOTS of lampshades were made, and sold! I was going to blog about it all. Only then I didn't.
And now its March 2018 and I'm up to my ears in lampshades. Beyond my eyebrows in fact. Lampshades for an Easter event.... Lampshades for a new exhibition.... and Lampshades in waiting for the biggest event I've done in years.... the Kirsty Allsopp Handmade Fair, at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire .... in May ..... eek!
These photos are of tealights I made a month or so ago and I'm really pleased with the way the photos I snapped the other day have turned out. Who knew that a dry and dead piece of ragwort could be so photogenic!
Taynish Mill is now the most obvious evidence of historic human habitation in this area, at times you can pick up a fleeting feeling of the lives lived in this area. Of the human essence still caught up in the trees and set in the stones.
My proposal was to illustrate the catching and trapping of the memories, words, feelings and the domestic history of the area, so that it is no longer lost to the wind. A collaborative piece with Artmap Associate member Alexander Hamilton, combining art and literature.
To link the land to the sea, the natural environment to the built environment, I wanted to create a large net-like banner with words, poems and imagined quotes & memories printed and stitched on to fabric entwining it through the ‘net’.
The piece would be situated in the trees at the far side of the picnic area between the mill and the sea, capturing those fleeting moments, preventing them from being swept out to sea.
Quite a lot of research was done about the area and I spent some time looking up images of adverts and newspaper articles of the era to help add to the sense of time and history, to highlight the transience of time.
We had a few difficulties with fixing the fabric banners to the net. I had envisaged, stitching then on but it wasn't a feasible option when it came down to it. there were several trials and errors, and many a method discussed, in the end simple saftey pins were the most effective - lots of them!!
Half way through constructing this piece I lost focus and couldn't work out how it was going to work, what it was I was aiming to achieve, how was it going to look. However, after a bit of brainstorming and dummy layouts, on a very rainy day so we had to suspend the net from the roof of the barn, it started to come together again.
It was exciting to see it in situ, and we were able to finish fastening things in place and adding some of the smaller items.
It's generated a lot of discussion and I am fascinated to hear about the various reactions to it. Incomprehension until the explanation is read and then the understanding that follows and the sharpening of interest as the banners are read.
This has been a very interesting project to do. I haven't done anything as large as this before nor have I done 'concept art' before.
I'm really pleased that I stayed up beyond dawn to get the submissions written and entered in time. I would be being cross with myself now if I hadn't.
The last Bank Holiday in May saw me heading to Fife and South Queensferry again for another wee workshop at the Harbour Lane Studio. This time it was Lino Printing. Last year for my birthday mum and dad gave me a lino printing kit, which sat in its box, all pristine and clean, until shortly before Christmas when I decided that I would lino print my Christmas cards. However, although I produced a creditable design/card, I wasn't entirely happy with it and really needed a bit of guidence.
In the Harbour Lane gallery you are surrounded by inspiration, boats, fish, prints, jewellery, lampshades and pictures abound. Almost too much when you have to think of one image. I had thought that I wanted to carve an artichoke image, however after drawing one out I realised that for a 3hour class it was going to be too complicated to carve out in the time. So it was a quick sketch of what I later described as essence of heron!
Getting inky and printy
With a little extra time to spare I very quickly sketched and carved out this rather lopsided wonky headed puffin!
Inspite of my heron being at bit bosomy, and my puffin being a little wonky, I had a great afternoon doing this workshop and can really recommend it. I picked up lots of hints and tips and my creative m ind went 'wheeeeeee' with excitement and into overdrive at the possibilities, so I am really looking forward to getting into my studio to do a bit more soon.