Rainy evening in Shropshire


My dear little bedroom, where I spend so much time working and resting, has been Spring cleaned and tidied. This is my sanctuary, my safe place, where I am surrounded by everything I love and everything that interests me. 

At the bottom of the bed, I have added an old tool box, placed on its side, so that I can have a changing display of flowers or dried cuttings, to enjoy and study for future painting.

This evening the rain has been steadily moving across from Wales. The field was cut for silage two days ago and birds of all kinds have been gleaning titbits from it, including a skein of swallows, swooping low to collect flies and other delicious treats.

Today has been divided between painting for two of my Patrons and working on a needlefelt commission; it’s time to rest, so I am indulging in some light reading on one of my favourite historical subjects.


Painting the hedgerows

Mid-may and the verges are spattered with Queen Anne’s Lace and sundry other wild pretties, overlooked by copious clouds of foaming hawthorn, which we must not pick and never, ever bring into the house, for fear of bad luck.

Even the ancient, warty Wrekin is softened with the flush of new green growth.

I have aways loved the sight of a narrow country road cutting through the landscape and forging onwards to an invisible end, softly edged by tumbling greenery, blurring the hard edges so that the road, for all its visual dominance, never entirely wins. And here is my own tumbledown cottage, hiding behind the greenery. If you look carefully, further down the lane you can see the lilac tree by the gate of Jean-and-Brian-next-door, 

This is a motif that comes out in my own work again and again, as I reinterpret and simply the landscape around me, most recently in these miniature hills, an edition of two. It is also a firm control of the messy chaos of wool, taming the fibres into a solidly outlined  object.

And there is the contrast again, in this large still life I painted last Sunday, with the hard plaster wall being softened and almost overwhelmed by the exuberance of the paint, depicting Fumitory and Honesty spilling out and escaping the confines of the white ceramic jug.

Here is a return to my early painting days of thirty years ago. A letting go of control, a ‘let’s see what happens if I do this’ and being content with using just a few loose, broad brushstrokes to do the visual heavy lifting of the background.

I cannot express how exhilarated and exhausted I was, by the time I put my brush down and thought ‘that’s it’.


Resurfacing with flowers


Dusting off the dear old blog and decorating it with some pretty hedgerow flowers. I have completely lost track of time, and can’t believe I haven’t posted since February (apologies)  but I’m still here, lost in my quiet bubble of needle felting and painting. 

My new needle felt book is finally due to be published at the end of May and I’ve posted links for pre-orders on my website, including major worldwide sites. Although you can also order it through your local independent bookstore.

I’m so happy with every single one of the twenty patterns, which are mostly seasonal home decor and wearables, with additional decorative elements of darning, stitching and patching. It’s not so much a book about how to needle felt  as a book about what you can do with needle felting and how to expand the creative possibilities. 

This has taken nearly two years to come to fruition, as it was commissioned pre-Covid at the start of 2020. When I finally got the go-ahead, I worked non-stop for months, eventually making over 100 pieces of work for the style photos. I haven’t yet held an actual copy in my hands; only then will it seem real. 


In the lambing shed

My first little adventure of the year and a day away from the cottage, to the other side of Shropshire where Friend One had arranged for Friend Two, her little girl and myself to visit a local sheep farmer who was in the middle of lambing. It was a chilly, wet day with a  keen wind, but warmer in the shelter of the large hangar barn with the sweet scent of straw and wool scenting the air.

Not to mention the gentle bustle of dozens of sheep tending new born lambs, waiting to have lambs and ewes being jumped over (and sometimes on) by older lambs who had found their bouncing legs.

And of course, lambs copiously feeding from their ever patient mothers.

There was also a trio of orphaned lambs, being hand fed by the farmer who was on site all the time to look after his flock at this busy time of the year. Farming is a tough job and often gets a bad press, but this farmer dedicates his life to the welfare of his livestock, and it was very apparent from the way he cares for them. In fact, he almost persuaded me to adopt a friendly stray who followed us around like a little dog. I was a finger's width away from taking him home to keep the grass down, but came to my senses. Although I did decide he was called 'Henry'.

When we'd had our fill of woolly adorableness, we returned to Friend One's lovely house, where she provided us with a delightful lunch - lamb was not on the menu.


Playing with horses

Now that Christmas and January are out of the way for a while, I’m back into a normal work pattern. I’ve been trying to set aside at least one day for playing around with ideas just for the sake of it. Needle felting is very much my ‘day job’ and my only other form of income, apart from my Patreon page, therefore any time spent being randomly creative is a luxury. So last weekend I set my needles aside and riffled through my everyday sketch book, to find a sketch I could work up and colourise. 

This sketch and the larger pastel piece are based on some little textile figures I created a hundred years ago. They form part of an internal world I’ve built up over time and I think of them as ‘the Walkers’ who travel silently and ominously through my imaginary lands (though sometimes I fancy I sense them creeping behind the field hedge at dusk). 

The next morning, I began setting up a scene for a painting I have in mind. I found a small fish motif in another sketch book and cut it out to make a pond.

Then, in need of a night sky, I roughly coloured up half of the backdrop…

…and made each Walker a fish amulet, using some lovely buttons. Worship the Fish! 

All of this is based around another roughly sketched idea, hastily scribbled down before it could escape. 

I took a final shot and edited it to produce the kind of lighting effect I will be aiming for, when I come to do the actual artwork. But playtime is over for a while, so the Walkers sleep until another day.




It’s been nine years since Andy died and while I try to avoid public wallowing, this year it has been particularly difficult. I’ve made my latest Patreon post public for anyone who is interested. Otherwise, I’ll see you next month for a hopefully more cheerful post. Link below. 



The longest night

As I’ve been juggling Christmas orders with bouts of being-in-bed, I’ve made my pre-Christmas Patreon post public for anyone who would like to read small, commonplace goings (and a snapshot of my beloved old teddy bears). Link below.



In search of blue

In search of blue on a November day, I went walking hereabouts. Lowering clouds clung to the cap of Caer Caradoc.

 Across new shoots, a thin patch of sky over an isolated farm.

 Over wintering sheep grazing, fat and content in the emerging sun.
 Farmhouse chimneys, warm and red .

Nearing home. Suddenly the sun sweeps widely across the fields, and all is a blaze of cerulean, green and gold.

And there it is, where you least expect it; a large stone glowing coldly in the dirt path; icy aqua, a glacier in miniature and I have found my blue.


The snail emerges

So, here we are already in November and I’ve been away from here for some time. But, like a seemingly deceased snail that slowly pokes its head out of its shell unexpectedly, it’s time to surface again. There are so many things I have to do, that I get overwhelmed and then tired and then guilty for not having more energy, more organisational skills, something more interesting to say. And then I wonder, would anyone notice if I disappeared from here? But, like the aforementioned snail, I creep on, feeling the weight of my shell and resisting the urge to hide away forever in it’s safe, dark coil. 

I’ve been catching up with the many things that were neglected when my book took precedence over everything. I’ve painted and felted, drawn and designed, rested and read and had the odd bit of socialising.   

There is a mythical part of my future where I am caught up with everything - all my shop stock listed, all my Patreon pledges up to date, all my ideas down on paper and having something original to say every day for the wheel of social media that never stops turning. But for now, I will be content that I have raised my snail head, said hello to my dear old blog and slowly slither on.

For regular weekly postings and a more confidential 'behind the scenes' look at my quiet, cottage life, you can become a 'Seed' subscriber to my Patreon page, for a small monthly contribution of £3 per month or go up a level and save towards one of my needle felted pieces. It's a nice, safe place with friends and helps me pay the bills.


Woolly chaos and catching up


Since sending my boxes of book samples off to be photographed a few weeks ago, I’ve been able to tackle a very long list of things that have been put to one side while I worked - it feels as if the last year has disappeared into a black hole of getting the book done. So this has been the state of my studio as I have been restocking my shop with wools and taking fresh shots which look better than the ones I’ve been using for the last six years. 


Last week my art director Jane Toft (who was the original editor of ‘Mollie Makes’ and who gave me my first magazine break back in 2012) held the book's photo shoot with the professional style photographer Jesse Wilde, who has an impressive portfolio, specialising in artist and craft subjects. Jane emailed me some in-progress snaps of how it was going on the day, which shows stills of my work, the camera being hooked up to her power book. 
Somebody asked me on my Facebook page if there is somebody to take the pattern shots too, and no, there isn't, it would be impossible. A pattern can take at least a week to shoot for all kinds of reasons; the quality (or not) of light, getting a piece from point 1) to point 2) to point 3) and tweaking. So thats all down to me and my trusty old camera and that's why it takes so long. But I'm happy to leave this kind of thing in more expert hands and it's good to have fresh eyes on my work.

It’s rather amazing to see it all, coming together at last, after a year and a half. Quite a lot has happened since then; it’s been over a year since Joe left with his tail between his legs, taking just a  few hurriedly packed bags of clothes and I’m still working through sorting the left-behind stuff out, as he hasn’t bothered to reply to my request to send a van around for it all. Life is so much better without him though, and once the shock had worn off, I soon realised that life was immensely improved by his absence.

I need to get logs chopped and the chimney swept as I spent last winter without using the wood burner, which was not fun, although it has seen a couple of feathered visitors this summer, including this sooty bundle of fluff, who made a quick exit through an open window.

My ‘to-do-list is gradually shrinking, and I have to clear it before my book samples return from their big adventure, when I will be photographing them for my shop, in time for the holiday season. Onward!


Art at the Orangery

I’ve had the pleasure of the company of an old friend recently, who I haven’t seen in person for about three years. We had a lovely couple of days together and I was taken out for meals, some local sight seeing and thoroughly spoilt. (Subscribers to my Patreon blog extra can find a picture packed post about our visit to Attingham Park and house here).

As if this social whirl was not enough, I returned home to find an invitation to an art exhibition which was being held at the nearby Pitchford Estate, at the Orangery. My distant neighbours, Mary and Hugh, who own the Twenty Twenty Gallery in Ludlow, had put together a small but carefully curated weekend show for a handful of artists. And so I took Marjorie out for the ten minute cycle down the road and around the corner, to the long, lime tree walk that leads up to the main entrance of the hall. 

At the bottom of the walk sits the small church where, a lifetime ago, I sat alone and bleak, mourning the recent loss of my beloved Andy. It was good to be returning for a happier occasion. The estate was peppered with the work of local sculptor Sharon Griffin, a couple of her heads seen here beneath the tree house, which is said to be the site of the world's oldest tree house with origins in the 17th century. This is a much later construction, built in the style of the main house itself. (Read more here).

I parked Marjorie near a pair of heads so that she could  soak up some artistic atmosphere as well,  and entered the orangery.

The orangery itself sits to one side of a spacious walled garden, where more of Sharon’s work could be seen.


Inside and feeling a little shy, I was greeted warmly by Mary and introduced to to Sharon herself, who was spending the weekend demonstrating and working on another piece. 

We had a very nice chat, and then I went to look at the paintings, which included a collection of Pitchford Hall interiors by Matthew Wood


 And gorgeous, haunting works by another Shrewsbury artist, Ann McCay

My very favourite was 'Collecting Sticks', which, had it been within my means, I would happily have purchased. But there are boring things such as bills and a large mortgage to pay, so I sighed a little as I told Mary how much I loved it and as it happened, Ann was sat nearby, so we were introduced.  She immediately said 'red shirt' and I replied 'electric bike' and it turned out that we'd seen each other in June when we had all attended a performance of 'Tess of the d'Ubervilles' which was my first post lockdown treat to myself back in June, also held at the Orangery. I (of course) had cycled there on Marjorie and she and her husband had passed us on their much faster electric bikes.  And I had been wearing a red checkered shirt.

After another lovely chat, it was time to head home. I haven't had a social life since moving here nearly nine years ago, but in the last few months, with two new local friends to do things with and now making some more connections, I am starting to feel a little less isolated at last.
One final glimpse of the Elizabethan splendour of Pitchford Hall, glimpsed through the trees as Marjorie and I made our way back to the cottage.