Monday, 17 March 2014

Flowery hats (giveaway)

You may have heard me tell of Benjamin Higgledy, his dog Harry Twelvehats and his astonishing flowery skillz. He is a sort of semi-peripatetic cut flower seed farmerer and grows mahoosive drifts of billowy floral wonder in a Cornish field. What he doesn't know about Eschscholzia and Bupleurem isn't worth knowing. 

Ben and friend

Recently he posted his top of the pops of cut flowers. Peter Powell was going to read it out only he had a spot of bother with his Victoria sandwich and he bailed at the last minute. Shame. Still, Benjamin's thorough seedy research showed that the most popular cut flower of the whole of 2013 was 

the cornflower (photo by Karen Wells the Higgledy Researcher). 

It's a no brainer really - they evoke the wheatfields of yore, Cider with Rosie, Lucy Honeychurch, are the colour of Steve Carell's eyes (probably, oof) and have the most exquisite frilly petals that look as though Gran's been at them with the pinking shears.

In celebration of of this fine and dandy flower I have made a a brand new design* - a silver cornflower necklace. It was rather tricky to make - cornflowers are really quite fancy.

You can win it, which is rather exciting. All you have to do is pop over to Higgledy's electronic gaff, have a peep at the cut flower seeds and tell me in your comment which one you'd most like to have made into a hat, for Ascot, or simply to make a trip down Aldi slightly more interesting**. In the picture above Mr Higgledy is sporting a spandy titfer made out of borage. Oh yes. This is so S/S '14.

If you fancy sharing this on your blog/the twit/bookface come back here and let me know and you can have an extra entry. Brill. I'll be making the draw in a week's time, Monday 24th March using

Good luck!

*the cornflower has been made using recyled fine silver, is 2.5 cm across & hangs from a sterling silver minibelcher chain
**actual flower hat not included in the giveaway. Sorry

Saturday, 8 March 2014

En masse

One can lift the spirits,

but when there are 16

 or 79

or simply too many to count

it makes me want to

burst into song. La la la LAAA!

This post is for Helen.

Photographs of: honeybee in a Japanese quince flower, wild violets, hellebores, almond blossom, primroses, cherry blossom, Japanese quince, daffodils and snowdrops.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Nightingales and other voices


My first craft stall was at a plant fair at Wimpole Hall in 2002. I had a tiny trestle table amongst the pots of campanula and dahlias. Some of my pieces were made from gems and beads from my own jewellery that I'd taken apart and reworked. To my huge surprise I sold 15 necklaces in a couple of hours. It was the start of something.

Since then I've had small collections in several galleries in East Anglia, participated in Cambridge Open Studios and organised sales of handmade goods. I had never showed my work in a public venue though. I always thought it was something that 'proper' artists did (the ones with art degrees). I wasn't even sure how to go about holding an exhibition. Wait to be invited? Ring the venue? Just walk in, lay out my jewellery and put up a sign outside? Maybe not.

Nightingale, long-tailed tit

Last year I was invited to the preview of an exhibition by Natasha Newton. You may know her work - exquisitely painted stones, soothing starscapes, landscapes and charismatic birds. It was to be held at Snape Maltings, a place I know well. It's a series of truly lovely shops and cafes in converted barns and oasthouses on the edge of the river Alde in Suffolk. I snooped about on the Snape Maltings website and realised that they had a small building, called The Workshop, next to the river that used to be used by the RSPB and could be hired for exhibitions.

Robin's nest, robin

For some years I've wanted to make a series of necklaces of individual bird species, particularly British songbirds. This was my starting point - you may remember it - a recording I made of a nightingale singing in our village wood in 2009.

I wondered whether another artist may want to show their work with me. I drove to Rutland to drink some tea with Angela Harding. Angela's linocut prints are of garden and coastal birds and she provides seasonal illustrations for BBC Countryfile magazine and Gardens Illustrated.

I love the charisma of her birds and the detail of the plants they sit in and the background scenes. To my delight she was keen to co-exhibit.

We decided that our show would be called 'Nightingales and other voices'.

Over the first weekend of the Easter holidays (April 4th-6th) Angela and I will show our current work in the Snape Maltings Workshop. The exhibition will celebrate the return of Spring through tiny wearable silver versions and prints of our best loved songbirds. We hope to capture the thrill of spotting an oystercatcher on the shore or hearing a wren singing in a hedgerow.

We'll be encouraging visitors to walk into a wood, up a path or stand near a hedge and listen to birdsong. I'll be making a series of silver birdsongs' nests in necklace form, including that of a robin, long-tailed tit and blackbird.

You can find out more about the show here.

Blackbird, Angela's new print: nightingale

Angela and I will also be holding vinyl block printing and silver clay workshops in the two days following our show. The images on the left below are of Spring-inspired pieces made by beginners in some of my previous workshops. On the right are Angela's hands carving one of her blocks.

You can find the workshop details here and here if you'd like to come along.

Just a few weeks after the exhibition, nightingales will return to Britain. Every year they edge closer to being on the endangered list due to loss of their preferred habitat of dense woodland, so it is a huge privilege to hear them singing. A few of them will be in Walberswick woods and a several other sites near Snape. I plan to take a picnic rug, lantern (and perhaps some wine) and go and listen to them.

Monday, 24 February 2014


Half term was approaching and we were all slightly jaded. Despite being the shortest month, February can be rather grey and incessant. Another sheet of maths homework? Some more rain? Spring still not here? Garden still looking like the trenches? Oh. 

The urge to get away struck. We needed a change of scene. The British seaside has become so fashionable in recent years that it's almost become a cliche. Still, I yearned to play chicken with a wave and duck as a seagull tried to burgle my chips. (Inadvertently that sentence has three types of fowl in it).

I knew where we should go. I stayed there for 36 very precious, soothing hours last July

This is one of the first things to be seen as we opened the door: a little driftwood wreath. 

This is on the wall in the kitchen...

...and there are 36 of these. 36! I adore Shaker pegs and rows of old coathooks (see my last post). They're the best kind of hangy storage.

It's a place that is 2 minutes' walk from this

and this (slightly eerie sea buckthorn on the sand dunes)

and this.

It was sunny! There was a tiny spot of warmth! This was the British seaside in February. We were gobsmacked and nearly fell over (only partly due to the slight beach gale that was blowing). 

We flew a kite. Littlest and I made a museum of tiny shells in the sand dunes. No one came to visit it (except Eldest, the Mr and the dog) but we didn't mind.

I discovered some blackthorn flowering. I admit nearly cried a bit when I saw this. Also, I'm rather blown away by the camera on my new phone. Check out those stamens. Phwoar.

It's a place that caused all five of us to exhale with relief as soon as we got through the door. It's called Sandy Nook and is run by Gail and Victoria (and Percy the adorable whiskery-snouted terrier) all three of whom are v v lovely. The thought that they have put into the decor and detail means that it's a sanctuary for tired minds and those needing to sit and knit, make things out of lego and fry Welshcakes (I threw lemon rind and dried cranberries into the mixture for these. They didn't last long). 

The teapot at Sandy Nook is duckegg blue and there's a bowl of pebbles on the windowsill. I needn't say more really. We came home refreshed after a perfect coastal Norfolk fix. 

Note: this is a genuine recommendation. I don't write paid reviews on my blog.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Waving tentatively from behind the curtain

Social media are mysterious things. The images we see on blogs, Pinterest and Twitter can make us gasp with delight and suddenly feel like taking up knitting needles or pliers. Creative inspiration can spread, joyfully. The sight of a posy of snowdrops on someone else's kitchen table really can help to cheer a grey wintry Tuesday afternoon. New skills are learned and real, lasting cackle-inducing-texts-at-11pm friendships made. A photo of a needle felted owl knitting in a tree can lift mood. I speak from experience of all these things.

There is always a dilemma though. When life is tough should it be shared? Some view social media as forms of escapism, for themselves aswell as others. If difficult truths are revealed there are concerns about losing followers, comments, customers, or even others' respect. On some days it's certain that the bare facts of anyone's life would not cheer someone else's morning. 

Sometimes this means that there is little to say. Silence falls.

The last few years have been a mix of utter joy (two babies, creative endeavours) and great sadness for our family. In truth it has been difficult to weather some of the days and yet others have been truly wonderful. I'm beginning to think that this is how life is and Andy and I are relatively new to it. Perhaps the average yearly rate of tricky things has been exceeded. It's impossible to know and pointless to analyse.

I do know that blogging has taught me that on the days that you wish would end as soon as they've begun, noticing tiny details can be a saviour. An emerging primrose, a beautiful skein of yarn, a message from a friend, a small daughter's daft dance to a tune on the radio, a bl**dy good piece of cake. These are not inane, Polyanna-ish, homepsun pieces of nonsense, they are the good parts of life - to be held on to as tightly as you can.

I don't wish to be mawkish and all four of us are well (five if you count the dog). I've sort of been next door, learning how to bake things without gluten and eating them (more on this another day), talking utter nonsense in the very mysterious land of Twitter and being taught by dear dear Dottycookie how to knit in the round (and it's working. I'm gobsmacked).

I've missed the land of blog. Terribly. I was wondering if I could join back in? I miss the stories behind the crochet, the reason for casting on the new pair of socks and the impromptu trips to the teashop to eat a Chelsea bun. I miss the ability to savour photographs without a sort of Saturday afternoon football results (except its cats in cardboard boxes) tickertape going on at the same time. I promise I wont talk about sad things.

Here are some pictures from our newly decorated bedroom. It's only taken us eighteen months to finish it. My dear friend Fleur made my wardrobe curtains from pieces of antique whitework I found in a junk shop in Suffolk. Andy painted the floorboards and put up my Shaker pegs. A crate that was once part of my jewellery stall is now a bedside table and I fetched in my favourite garden chair and an embroidered cushion I found at a carboot sale. These are the ranunculus A bought me for that day on Friday. Secretly I want a frock that looks like one of these. I want to wear it down Tesco's with a tiara but they might usher me out.

The room seems now to be more than the sum of its parts. It's a good place. As is this. So, a belated happy New Year, and onward...

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Nature's decorations

There has been very little frost in recent weeks.

This has meant that the trees and hedgerows are still laden with fruit, berries and seeds.

They haven't yet been softened and bletted by ice crystals,

and there's still plenty left for birds when things get colder.

Another benefit of this is that it seems as though the hedgerows are covered in hundreds of tiny colourful baubles.

The light was beautiful this afternoon - I ventured out with my camera during the so-called golden hour. Everything seemed to glow.

Far prettier than any tinsel.

Note: thankyou SO much for coming along to or helping to spread the word about Made and Found. It was a truly wonderful day. You can read Celia's post about it here.

There are no berries in this photograph but I do love this jackdaw.

Trees/plants in these photographs: cotoneaster, apple, privet, old man's beard (wild clematis), snowberry, rosehip, ivy, malus (?).

Friday, 15 November 2013

Made and Found: a sale of handmade goods, Saturday 7th December

Sometimes a seemingly throwaway comment or suggestion can give birth to an idea. This one stemmed from a chat with Tracy. I was sitting in her kitchen eating cake one summer afternoon and we were talking about the things we made. I commented that her house would make a very lovely venue for a sale of our handmade things. She agreed. Five or six weeks ago we spoke on the phone. 'What about that sale then?' she said. The idea had simmered and rumbled in my head for some months. It was decided and the name popped into my head immediately: Made and Found.

Within a day or two I nipped round to Celia's house. She had made a little house from simple stitches, some embroidered trim and a wisp of wool. I was so thrilled to see it - of course - our sale was to be held in a house. We found some dried seedheads in the garden and stamped some letters onto paper. Then Celia made our flyer by combining the images we had made using some mind boggling Photoshop wizardry. I was agog.

Next I contacted some friends and within a few weeks we had a team of ten designer-makers, and one purveyor of very lovely cut flower seeds.

Then came the very important matter of cake and tea. Thankfully I remembered the delicious cakes that had been served up on the stage of St Augustine's church hall during the Selvedge Fairs that were held there. I took a deep breath and rang High Tea of Highgate. To my delight High Tea's director, Georgina Worthington, agreed to provide delicious baked treats and warming cuppas. The only dilemma was whether she should bring her collection of vintage china teacups.

I love the idea of beautiful things displayed in a real home. Celia's prints will be on the mantelpiece, Linda's bowls will be on the kitchen shelves, Lilli's mittens will be pegged to a curtainrail and Karen's sleeping bags will be draped on a sofa (for snuggling in if you fancy). I plan to convert a vintage sideboard into a tiny jewellery shop. Several of our designers will be making on the day so that you can see how their work is created.

If you're free on 7th December and would like to come along to our little sale then we'd be THRILLED to see you. We're a small, independent group of makers so every single mention on blogs, Facebook or Twitter is a huge help. We have our own Twitter feed, here. Here's the logo that Celia and I made if you fancy grabbing it.

Our makers are:

Linda Bloomfield: Her hand-thrown cake stands and mugs were featured on this season's Great British Bakeoff.
Celia Hart: Her nature-inspired prints are featured in the current issue of Country Living magazine
Karen Boatwright: a handknitted menagerie, handmade linen & floral sleeping bags and subtly beautiful paintings
Lilli Wicks: Contemporary knitwear with geometric and Fairisle designs (including a wonderful fox)
Claire Knight: Intricate paper cut designs depicting small moments
Val Curwen: Baskets and garden structures woven from hedgerow materials
Tracy Dowling: Homewares made using traditional quilting technques with a modern twist
HatchetandBear (EJ Osbourne): beautiful bowls & utensils for everyday adventures, made from foraged wood. She was recently featured in the Observer
SkeinQueen (Debora Orr): Maker and purveyor of luxury hand-dyed yarn, specialising in cashmere.
Higgledy Garden Cut flower seed collections, beautifully packaged and ready to pop in a stocking

Hope to see you there!