20.1.22

Eggs

 

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. 

READ ‘EGGS’ HERE



21.12.21

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.

SOLSTICE


18.11.21

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.

7.11.21

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.

1.9.21

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!

21.8.21

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.  


28.7.21

Upright before the storm

 


Up the lane to post a little order before the storm came in. The intense, humid heat of the previous week, which I find quite debilitating, has been replaced by restless skies, sudden downpours and flash storms. Everywhere there is a creeping sense that summer is winding down, with blackberries ripening and the dawn chorus starting later each morning. I must try to get the chimney swept before autumn. 

19.7.21

Surfacing for lunch


One of the few good things to come out of the ghastly pandemic is that I have two new lovely Shropshire friends. They booked a few of my Zoom workshops during lockdown; we kept in touch, eventually met up and now it seems as if I’ve known them forever. And life is a little less lonely. 


I have other lovely and much loved friends but they are scattered across the country and so, unless you count the unlamented Joe (which I don’t), I’ve spent the last nine and a half years here at the cottage in near isolation and while I’m very comfortable in my own company, it has been difficult at times.



The other day I was picked up by Friend One and driven towards the Welsh border.  There were lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘has’ as I enjoyed the passing scenery, until we finally reached Friend Two’s gorgeous house. 

We had lunch under a canopy in the garden, as it was a blisteringly hot day. My offering was some rather ominous looking local cheese ‘The Ironbridge’ - part of a cheese box from Moyden’s Cheese, which arrived unexpectedly on my doorstep as a kind present from one of my other distant friends. (It’s actually delicious, despite it’s appearance). 



I was also able to see three of my needle felted ‘heads’ on display, out of direct light and under glass, looking very at home in their stylish surroundings. 



It was such a delight to feel more like a normal person and less like a hermit, with friends to talk to and visit. I came home feeling happier than I have done for a long time and with a squashed but scrumptious cupcake. 




I’ve had a long break from here, due to the pressure of my book deadline. Life is returning to a slightly easier pace now that it’s all finished. I couldn’t have finished it without the support of my Patrons, who have enabled me to pay the bills while I’ve been tied up with book work and in return, I’ve been able to post regularly there, with sneak peeks of my book work and cottage life, and I am now busying myself with fulfilling pledges of needle felt work and paintings. 


As a little summer present, and because I’ve been so absent, I have made one of my July posts open for free and public reading. 


It’s a Wrap




 

25.4.21

Marmalade and a mouse

 


Well, I wasn’t expecting this! A few days ago, this sweetly painted parcel arrived - even the address was beautifully hand scribed and must have taken so much time and care. I’m still in the dark about who it came from, as there was no return address and I suspect the gift giver wanted to remain anonymous. 

I think there may be a clue with the foxgloves and bees, but I may be wrong. Anyhow, it contained two lovely pots of Frank Cooper’s marmalade, including the dark, chunky bitter gold that is the vintage type. The kind of card I love, with a Paddington quote, and an adorable hand knitted mouse, who is now known as ‘Coops’ for obvious reasons. He does look as if he is protecting my jars with a ‘none shall pass’ stance.


So I am hoping that the generous gifter reads this, perhaps having read my previous post about buying a jar on an extravagant whim. And I hope they know how very touched, pleased and smiley their present made me. Coops is now installed in the bedroom, I am going to cut out the painted box front and display it somewhere and I know just what to do with the marmalade...



For my Patreon subscribers, (£3 monthly and upwards) my latest post is a photo packed jamboree called ‘The Way of the Horse’, exploring pastures new, having tiny adventures and discovering lovely Shropshire views. With Marjorie.




18.4.21

Beneath the apple tree

 


This weekend I have been working in the garden during the warm afternoons. It has become rather a jungle and I cannot remember the last time I sat out in it; Joe didn’t like sitting outside, or gardening (which should have told me something) and subsequently, I too became discouraged. I’m still adjusting to the complete freedom to do what I want, when I want, and that can be a difficult thing when you’ve spent most of your life living with one person or another.



As it was so nice, I fetched my three beloved old bears from the bedroom so that they could enjoy the sunshine too. We had a cup of tea and some chocolate buttons that a friend had given me. I needle felted little pears for my book, while the birds fluttered in and out of the willow tree, singing their Spring tunes. Bumble bees droned heavily over the dandelions and as we were sat under the apple tree, there was a faintly acidic smell of cider from last year’s old fruit which are still clinging to the branches. 


The pear tree is coming into full blossom and despite my many imaginary and unaffordable dreams for the garden, I was very content simply to gaze upon my scruffy kingdom, which has become so dear to me. 

 

14.4.21

The birds sing goodnight

 



It’s been a ‘wading through treacle’  kind of day for no good reason, and although I’ve managed to do some of the things that needed to be done, it still doesn’t feel like enough. So it’s time to say goodnight to today, and take comfort in a quiet evening. Things are growing and tonight the birds were singing gloriously, so do turn your volume up, if you can’t hear them. 


Mr Pheasant briefly interrupted this pleasant melodiousness with his inelegant,  croaky squawk, but he is part of home too. Time for bed as the sun sets, country style. 

7.4.21

Gluing myself back together


Post Easter seems as good a time as any to resurrect my blog. It’s been a very difficult winter. I have a tendency to keep things to myself, trying to make the best of whatever problems I have and it’s hard to know what to write without sounding like a whiner (although I have unburdened myself a little in the safety of my Patreon page, where my lovely readers have seen far too many photos of my working in bed).


Apart from battling with the cold, I came close to burn out recently, as I struggled to put my book together and maintain a living with my shop. It just isn’t possible to do these two full time things at the same time; I’m too worn out from the things that life has thrown at me. Sometimes I feel like a pot that has been dropped many times and glued back together and I’m getting to the point where if I’m dropped again, I may fragment into so many little pieces that no amount of glue will put me back together again.



Reluctant to acknowledge how bad I was feeling, I was finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate on anything, my book work was lagging and the prospect of having to put the cottage on the market later in the year loomed over me, which I think would have been the final straw. Suffice to say, I felt useless and it’s been hard to maintain a cheerful presence on my social media.



However, I have been the recipient of some immense and unexpected kindness, just as things seemed quite hopeless. I’ve been able to take some much needed time out to rest and repair over Easter. I have been granted a deadline extension after I explained my difficulties to my lovely editor and a few days ago, I had a garden visit from a new Shropshire friend. Being so isolated, I’ve not been able to form many connections since moving here, but for me, lockdown made me not one but two new friends and this one kindly bought me lovely pinky yellow daffodils, which are cheering the cottage up.



It’s a monumental relief to know that I can finish my book without any extra stress and then throw myself back into making and selling, hopefully making a go of things. I’ve finally started painting again. Ideas are sprouting up. I can tackle the garden, knowing that I am safe for the summer.  Spring is here and remarkably, so am I, and I am so thankful for all of it.