Autumn allsorts

So life potters on here at the cottage, as autumn creeps in. We have had a visitor to the trough, a small toad who obliges us by popping his head up from time to time. Sometimes he gets bath bombed by the sparrows who like to splash about.

I continue to struggle with my long term depression and anxiety. I am still suffering fall out from losing Andy, which continually finds new ways to haunt me. I constantly worry about our ongoing financial situation (while Joe has part time work, I seem to be singularly incapable of earning a living, even at the things I am supposed to be good at). It saps my strength and my silly body is getting a bit older and less useful. So I have good days, bad days and sometimes terrible days when I shut myself off from the world. But I keep as busy as my energy levels will allow and remind myself that my little battles are nothing compared to terrible global events and things could be  (and have been)  a lot worse. Part of the problem with depression is that it's not really the done thing to talk about it and we really should - it is an invisible disease. So I am mentioning it here, holding my hand up and wearing the badge, as it were.

But on to good things - there have been the small pleasures of various crops from the garden. 

And an article published in British Fibre Art magazine. They are, I think, the first UK magazine to dedicate a whole issue to needle felting. Sadly, the entire print run has sold out, but here are some snippets of my feature. 

One of my latest miniature heads, a bit of a one off - 'Sandra' - who reminds me of a 1960s secretary for some reason. 

As it's the season for the inevitable toadstools, I have put together some wool bundles, in suitable colours, which can be bought in my shop here

And finally, I have two last workshops this year, one scheduled to be held at Guthrie and Ghani, in Birmingham, on October the 7th -  dependent on places being booked. And a local workshop in Shrewsbury, on November 16th, which has two places left. Details on my website on the workshops page.


What you can and cannot do

Sometimes you have to jump out of your comfort zone and try something new. I've been waiting for a time in my life when I felt ready to tackle landscape painting and  as I'm not getting any younger, last week I jumped in. I chose a nearby scene, just five minutes away. I was always taught never to paint from photographs, but at this time of year I stand a pretty good chance of being flattened by a tractor if I set up my easel anywhere. I am convinced that if  the great Turner were alive today, he too would be utilising a camera.

After a few scribbles, I did a quick pre-painting pastel sketch. which in the end I liked a lot better than the almost finished painting. 

I had new oils and brushes, bought last year, which I had been saving for the right moment. 

And a small square canvas which was scarily blank. 

I loved painting the sky, and very much enjoyed using oils again. However, the experience wasn't exactly what I expected; to my surprise, despite having a deep love of our British landscape and having taking hundreds of perfectly nice photos of it, I could not find my 'voice'. In the end, I painted a rather dauby, humdrum view which said nothing of what I felt and I know that the barn and trees are particularity poor.

I anguished about it for some time. I posted it to my Instagram account and people were very kind and gentle. But I still hated it; I'm not afraid to admit when I've done disappointing work. I could go on and try again - maybe with a  larger canvas, as this one is so small. (Which maybe why I got too fiddly with the barn).  But I think what's missing is my imagination. I've been painting 'out of my head' for so many years, that normality is a little...well, dull. 
So I've picked myself up and started something new. It does include some landscape work, and again, I am enjoying painting the sky, but this is my inner vision. Hopefully I'll have something more promising to show you soon!


Shropshire lanes

It's been some time since I've been out, so as Joe had pumped Marjorie's tyres up, I went out for a much needed spin. 

Sunday morning is  a good time to cycle, as although the main road looks quiet here, it can be busy, especially at harvest and holiday time.

Off the main road is quieter and takes me up to better views of the far off Shropshire hills. I startled a kestrel, which took flight over my head.

I had brought out art materials, in case I felt the urge to scribble, but the light was quite flat, which makes everything too muted for my taste,  so I settled for snaps.

It was only a short spin, under two hours, what with my stopping every so often with the camera, but it was good to get out. 

The clouds were right, and in the afternoon we had rain. 


Little Arcadias

I have a new shop section for the miniature landscapes I have been making recently. I've really enjoyed making these - even if they are a bit fiddly at times. 

In the piece below, I've tried a new-to-me technique of blending in different wools to suggest falling light. It is even more accentuated when it actually does get caught in the light, and shadows fall.

They are designed so that they can be displayed from any angle. Which sometimes changes the mood of the piece.

This one is my favourite. 

I think of them as tiny escape hatches or contemplation pieces for when things get a bit much and the place you'd really like to be is on a quiet, faraway hill, with a tree or two and maybe a little house to seek refuge in.


The Troubles of Tatters

If one has a very large book collection amassed over many years, it is quite easy to overlook a particular treasure. I have owned this lovely volume, 'The Troubles of Tatters' for a long time and today I took it from the shelf and re-discovered the wonderful illustrations inside.

Very much in the style of it's time - the late 19th century - the artworks are typically Art Nouveau and remind me a little of Toulouse-Lautrec mingled with Arthur Rackham and a smidgen of Aubrey Beardsley. The illustrator was Alice B. Woodward, a prolific and well known illustrator in her time.

If I were being overly critical, I would say that the illustrator's strengths were in the motifs and half page designs. There are many full page plates, such as the one below but in my opinion, while being accomplished, they lack the punch and graphic impact of the smaller decorations, while her animals and insects have more character than the humans depicted.

I also have to confess, I have never actually read the book, being more interested in the wonderful designs.

It is lavishly illustrated and there are too many delightful images to show here, but these are some of my favorites.

Nothing says 'Art Nouveau' more than dragonflies. 


And so we come to the end - for myself, the sign of a beautifully designed book is on the back cover. It's the little details that count.


Slow hedge cutting

The time came ten days ago when I finally felt up to tackling the front yard. As you can see, it is a little overgrown. It has been for a few years. If anything expresses my life as it has been, it is this messy jungle.  So I fetched my secateurs and got to work.


It was a mish mash of mostly  honeysuckle, wild geraniums and some kind of jasmine, with assorted weeds for good measure. As with the rest of the garden, it has just had random things put in it, here and there. And some rocks.

Cutting back a large hedge with small secateurs may seem like a thankless task, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I could have got the shears out, or even borrowed a small hedge cutter, but this way I got to see exactly what was what and to know where everything I wanted to keep was rooted.

After a few sessions, you could actually see the fence and Joe helped me get the weeds out of the cracks. We disturbed an ants nest and one managed to get in my vest. It got its revenge by biting me a couple of times; the bites were tiny but extraordinarily painful for such a small creature.

The (possible) jasmine in the far corner is a bit of a beast, but it does provide cover all year round.

Yesterday, I had an afternoon session and finally cleared it. I just need to get rid of the rotten wooden trough now.

It does look bare, however a lovely person sent me some seeds in the post and hopefully I will be able to plant it up next year. Some are from the Brown Envelope Seed company, and some from the lovely Bealtaine Cottage.

Blessed are the seed givers. I look forward to the time when I too can send someone lovely little packets of garden treasure.