Saturday, 2 October 2010

Brighton Rocks!

Recently I visited my sister for a weekend and flew down to Southampton to celebrate her birthday.  We had a lot of fun together, including a shopping trip to Brighton. I love Brighton, it just gets better with delightful shops and eating places, the pier, the beach and The Pavilion.

The Royal Pavilion is completely over the top - a pastiche on oriental architecture and a mix of Chinese and Islamic styles - but it is the white stone that stops it becoming tacky and tasteless (mind you, you should see some of the interiors)! 

It's such a striking building, built as a holiday home for George IV when he was Prince Regent (wasn't he the one who died on the toilet)? The gardens are quite pretty - although not very imaginative - and, with the busy road outside, it's not a tranquil place. 

However, it has inspired me enough to make a diorama from watercolour paper of the architecture that epitomises The Royal Pavilion.  If you want to make a diorama of your own please visit Made In The UK and follow the simple steps to creating your own. 

Monday, 23 August 2010

Potfest is the best!

It was "Potfest in the Pens" on 6 August and I couldn't wait to get in my car and do the 1 1/2 hour drive to Penrith. I LOVE Potfest because there are over 100 ceramic artists selling their lovely, tactile pots, each pot shouting "buy me"! (and I did).
But this year I had another reason to go to Potfest and that was as an intrepid reporter for 
UK Handmade, the on-line magazine and blog that supports designer makers and hand made artisans. So, with camera and voice recorder in hand(s) I spent  merry day talking to my favourite people - potters. 

One of the most exciting attractions of Potfest is the competition, sponsored by Craft and Design Magazine, where potters submit a ceramic piece on the theme of Altars, Shrines and Markers. I took some pictures of my favourites below. 

Jan Lewis Eccleston - "Cod Above"

Stef Storey - "Shrine to Love" Teeny tiny hearts and wafer thin porcelain - gorgeous!

Jackie Needham - "Pilgrimage" I loved this so much that I bought a little bird. 

I interviewed four of the potters for UK Handmade - John Hudson, Sue Candy, Ben Nicolson and John Townsend - so please click HERE to read the interviews. 

If you are passionate about ceramics then Potfest is well worth visiting for affordable and original pottery. 

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Bonnie Scotland

We just spent a week away in Scotland and a week was not long enough! 

We stayed in a bothy (cow shed) in Tynron, Galloway, not far from the Solway Coast. Despite the weather reports it was quite sunny and warm with only a couple of "dreich" days. Most of the time we walked or played with the dog on the beach.

Behind the Bothy is Tynron Doon, a large partially wooded hill that once had an iron age fort. We climbed up to look at the spectacular view over the Scaur hills (and to get a good phone signal). The route down was fraught with danger - particularly when I fell in a slurry pit and had to walk the lat two miles home covered in cow poo....

Along the Solway Coast and some lovely towns and villages wrth visiting - the best of these has to be Kirkcudbright and Gatehouse of Fleet. Kirkcudbright (Kir-coo-bree) is the "artists' Town" with The Tollbooth Arts Centre and several galleries. THe best of these is the WhiteHouse Gallery.

Because the climate is quite mild in this part of southern Scotland there is plenty of gardens worth visiting. We went to Cally Gardens, which is in the woods at Gatehouse of Fleet. It has some imaginative planting and is quite informal (a bit junglie) which is how I like gardens to look. 

The coast is beautiful. Totally unspoilt - no bucket and spades, no "kiss me quick" hats, no fruit machines or fun fairs. Instead, clean beaches, clear water and plenty of shells. We spent a lovely day at Rockcliffe and another day at Carrick and Brighouse Bays.  We walked across the strand to an island and looked in the rock pools. 

Jackson features in many of our photos - mostly carrying a stick in his mouth - it's not the same stick in every picture! 

Well it was all over too soon and now I am back in Yorkshire, freezing cold and looking forward to my next holiday. To see more photos of Dumfries and Galloway please go to Flickr by clicking on this Link.  

Sunday, 1 August 2010

This is Love,love,love,love....

.... that I'm feeling. OK, so perhaps P J Harvey wasn't singing about lampshades but I am TOTALLY smitten with Lush Designs - particularly their Wild Pig image AND they have a bricks and mortar shop in Greenwich
Pig green

Their designs are fabulous and they also sell on-line. I bought some greeting cards from a small gallery in Brighton and resisted buying a teatowel.


Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Always wanted to be an artist....

Children's TV character Mr Benn

.... ever since my oldest sister went to study foundation art and brought home a signed first edition of her tutor's new book "Mr Benn - red knight".  David McKee's child like drawing and attention to detail had me hooked. 

Book illustrator Pauline Baynes became one of my heroes after I read "The Dictionary of Chivalry" by Grant Uden.  Her beautiful imagery gives Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rackham a run for their money (love them too).  

Although I can fill a sketchbook with spidery drawing I have never been as good at drawing as my sister, who studied illustration, but I have always had a keen interest in repeat pattern and textiles.  So, after foundation, I studied textile design as surface decoration.  In the early 1980s there were some great emerging designers coming out of the post-punk era who had a strong influence on my own work.  One of my favourites is the very graphic-based Timney Fowler with their stark black and white reworkings of classical design and also Candace Bahouth's tapestries.  

A couple of years back I was asked to reproduce some pictures by children's book illustrators onto a library wall in a local school.  It was great fun researching different illustrators and even more fun trying to reinterpret their work using acrylic paint.  Of course, I could never match their skill but copying someone else's work is a good exercise in learning how they create.  You can see how fast Quentin Blake draws with his pen and where his pen has rested before he starts quickly moving the pen across the paper. It was a joy to paint every square in Kipper's blanket (by Mick Inkpen) and also Little Bear's striped pyjamas (by Jane Hissey). 

Here is Little Bear but I don't want to show too much of this project as I don't want to fall foul of an artist's copyright. Suffice to say, the library mural was painted to encourage children to read. 

Book illustrators have always had a huge influence on my art, probably because they help to tell a story and yet they stand up as art in their own right. Although I can't remember the last time I painted on a stretched canvas (it wasn't good art) I really enjoy painting on loose canvas, such as banners, and on walls.  Here is a banner I painted for the ceiling of a primary school.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Summer Garden

This year more plants have become established in my garden, despite the harsh winter.  Although I lost a penstemon and an oriental poppy my flag iris seems to have appreciated the prolonged cold spell and I am rewarded by a show of different poppies too.
These large peachy pink oriental poppies are too large for the garden now so I am going to split them and pass them on.  They are magnificent when they flower but I wish I could prolong the flowering until August. 

Most of these poppies have self seeded from the poppies I grew last year and I have taken quite a bit of poppy seed from field poppies but I did go a bit mad and buy some lavender poppy seed on eBay. 

I planted up a few pots too with pansies and verbena and nasturtiums (nasturtiums are about to flower) just to fill up some gaps and make a bit of a show on the doorstep. I love orange with hot pink. I also planted flowers up with parsley, coriander and basil and they seem to share the space well. 

My dianthus is really thriving this year and has established itself alongside a liatris so I am going to Skipton market this week to buy some more.  I planted it alongside the path and the dog keeps stepping on it but it doesn't appear to mind too much.

However, the thorn in my side is my neighbour's overgrown hedge which has taken all the nutrients from my strawberry bed and blocks the light out too. The only things growing here now are herbs in pots and a few poppies.  I need a plan for this bed.

I am already planning for the autumn and I am going to risk planting a blackcurrant (ribes) in the front toward the back which will hopefully begin to fruit next year. Although I will probably have to share the fruit with the birds!
To see more pictures of my front garden visit my images on Flickr

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Making an Entrance

Hooray! We have a "new" front door which is a huge improvement on the previous front door.  This is a solid wood Edwardian door with two glazed panels with red and clear glass. 

The neighbours were having a new PVC door fitted and the door was out on the street, waiting for the joiner to take it away.  They kindly let me have the door and our joiner-friend Nigel took it away to repair the damage and alter the hinges. Now it's back and has been repainted from bottle green to Farrow and Ball's Cooking Apple green.  It's much more in keeping with the house now and what does Jackson think? He doesn't.....

Sunday, 6 June 2010

A Walk in the Woods

Once a week Jackson and I go on a really looong walk, usually on the moors or down by the river.  But, because it was so hot this week, we went to Middleton Woods in Ilkley instead. 

Middleton Woods is also known locally as "Bluebell Woods" because of the magnificent display of bluebells. During May the woods become a carpet of shimmering blue.

The woods are full of birdsong this time of year - woodpecker, cuckoo, blackbird, thrush, pheasant and crows. 

We had been in the woods the week before I took these photos and the bluebells were fantastic. Unfortunately, this week they are looking faded but I had forgotten the camera the previous week! 

We stopped at a bench for a few minutes to rest before working our way back through the woods on a circular walk. 

And, of course, the woods are full of sticks - Jackson's raison d'etre! 

Copper Beech amongst the beech and silver birch.

At the end of the walk Jackson always gets a dog treat.