Sunday, 28 November 2010

If I only had a brain!

This would have been the perfect picture to go with my previous post but I have only just thought of it. You've seen it before but I love it and make no apologies for showing it again.

Hope you are managing to keep warm and with no broken down boilers to contend with or footballers to support from the sidelines this weekend. I have found the perfect pastime - ragrugging. My rug is coming on well now and I'm very cosy with it spread across my knees as I work on it. It may not get as far as the floor if this weather continues.

The birds are queuing up for breakfast each morning and yesterday we had quite a flock of seagulls swooping down to see what was on offer. There must have been about 30 of them - one or two were brave enough to land on the lawn and help themselves to some bits of bread but most of them just wheeled about and then flew off. Feeding small birds is one thing, but feeding seagulls is asking for trouble - we'd end up with 300 in no time at all.

Friday, 26 November 2010

A ticket for the Poetry Bus.

This week the task is set by Dana, whose blog is 'Bug's Eye View'. She has very kindly given us three options and I found the third one irresistible as I love trees. She asks us to write about winter trees. Here goes:

Leafless, but not lifeless.
Beauty is revealed in their nakedness
as they take a rest before Nature's cycle continues.

Sunlight dapples trunks and branches with shadows,
and frost and raindrops glitter like diamonds
on every twig.

Some are warmly cloaked in ivy,
others wear velvety moss or
close fitting sleeves of lichen.

The light changes throughout each day
to show them as golden and majestic
or sometimes stark and sombre.

Myriad branches and twigs form a fine mesh
which, from a distance, gives the appearance
of fine paper cut-outs silhoutted against the sky.

Best of all, is to see a full moon
rising behind this intricate pattern of lacey limbs.
Every season has it's glories.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Remember this?

As I am between projects at present I decided it was time to work on my rag rug again. I had to abandon it months ago as the dust and fibres from it aggravated a cough I was trying to get rid of and it has been dumped in a corner of my workroom ever since.
It is quite difficult to know how much fabric will be needed to complete a section, or how the colours will react with one another. They all look good wound into balls and placed in a group, but when it comes to working them into the design I have had a few surprises and cause to pull out some sections and rework them. It is an ideal pastime for cold evenings as it keeps my knees beautifully warm!

When I had padded and laced my finished embroidery, I placed a simple gold frame over it to get a better idea how it might finally look. It's a good job I made enquiries about a box frame this morning as it can't be ready till the last week of January! Just in time, thank goodness.
Having heard various weather forecasts all warning of plummeting temperatures, I lined the greenhouse with bubblewrap today. I had been meaning to do it for the past fortnight but the mild days lulled me into a false sense of security. Hopefully my geraniums will survive to add colour to the garden for another summer. Nice to think of summer even if we haven't officially reached winter yet.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

A Miserable Day.

It has been such a dreary grey, wet and dismal day today so I decided to do nice warming things to cheer us up a bit. I made a ginger cake - less exciting than coffee and walnut with butter icing, or a batch of gorgeous brownies, but hopefully kinder on the waistline and cholesterol levels. It is cooling and will be just about ready to cut when I have a cuppa later.

I also made a batch of rolls to go with this ....................
........... it's not soup yet as I have to get all the chicken bones out then blitz it with the hand blender. It would have made sense to have boiled the carcass first, strained it and then added the vegetables which would have made the whole job so much easier, but in my enthusiasm I just plonked everything in together. I shall be able to put the bones in the new handy caddy for cooked food waste - provided by our local council for their new recycling scheme which comes into effect next week. We have a smart and dinky little caddy which sits on the draining board and a larger bin into which it is emptied and when full put out for collection. I can't see us ever filling it as we have hardly any cooked food waste - we usually eat it all!

When I have tidied the kitchen I can do a bit more work on this piece of embroidery which will eventually be framed and glazed, probably triple mounted or in a box frame as I don't want the ribbon roses and beads to be pressed against the glass. It is a birthday present for one of our daughters.
She collects those pretty ceramic Victorian style shoes and will like this I think - I hope!

It started off properly stretched on a frame but some of the stitching was almost impossible like that so I took it off and worked with it in my hand - my preferred way of working even if it is not strictly correct. I am working it on off-white silk muslin bonded to cotton fabric and am wondering whether the texture of the background is too noticeable and that a smooth fabric would have been better. It's a bit late now to worry about that. I will press it very lightly when it is finished and stretch it over a piece of foam board or stiff card and may even add a layer of thin batting to pad it very lightly. I have until the end of January to finish it so there is plenty of time. I came across the design in a back number of Stitch magazine - issue 46, April/May 2007 - and have altered some of the stitch patterns slightly as I didn't have exactly the threads, etc., that were used in the article.

Changing the subject quite a lot - I have just read on the front page of today's Daily Telegraph
that pupils will lose marks in exams for poor spelling, punctuation and grammar. I am horrified that there have obviously been times when these shortcomings have been allowed to become acceptable. Perhaps I am just too old-fashioned, or naive.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Slimbride Wildlife and Wetlands Trust.

It was such a lovely day today that after lunch we decided to go to Slimbridge. The big attraction of course is the birds, but the grounds are so well planted and laid out that even the car park is pleasant to look at. We parked beside this little hawthorn tree which had a young bunch of mistletoe growing on it. I got this nice shot of some of the haws, but the mistletoe didn't show up against the rest of the tree.
Inside the grounds the winter visitors are just beginning to arrive, though all year round there are plenty of wildfowl to be seen.

Here is the founder. This bronze bust of Sir Peter Scott is positioned where he can gaze out over his beloved wetlands beside the River Severn. In the years since his death an enormous amount of work has been done at Slimbridge. I sometimes wonder if he would recognise it now. The facilities are excellent and it has become a world famous learning centre as well as carrying out conservation and breeding programmes for endangered species.

I know I should have been looking at the birds, but this colourful leaf all spangled with water droplets caught my eye.

Isn't she (or he) beautiful?

I always think of Alice in Wonderland when I see flamingoes. I love the reflections they make in this photo.

These were in a different area right beside the cafe - I took this through the window as I have never seen young flamingoes before. They are the ones on the right who have hardly any pink plumage yet. You can't call them beautiful but they do have a strange appeal.

This came as a total surprise and is a new departure for Slimbridge. I took loads of photos but the otters were so quick it was impossible to get really good shots and in the end I gave up and just enjoyed watching them playing in the water.

There was glass or tough perspex all round the pool so I was contending with reflections on that as well as trying to get a good shot with the light behind me.

This one is better. There are four otters here, all female, and they are North American ones. It is hoped to acquire some males and start a breeding programme. These four were rescued when a zoo closed down. I think they'll be a big draw - even on a cold afternoon there was quite a crowd watching them.

Spot the harvest mice! Another surprise in a building that has been put up since my last visit. There were about 20 or more in this large glass case, all tearing about like mad. There are two on the yellow tennis ball which should be easy to see and you might even find a few more. I knew they were small but was surprised by just how small - not as big as my thumb and so pretty. These were another addition to the wildlife here and we would have missed them had it not been for these two beautiful carved window frames -

which were at the entrance to the building which housed the mice and various other exhibits.

There is no livestock in this photo, just the fascinating shapes and textures of bark on the pollarded willows which are all over the grounds. Many of them must be quite old now and have holes in their trunks which makes them even more interesting.
They reminded me of the trees featured in so many of Van Gogh's landscapes.

Lots of hidey holes for small birds, creatures and insects to enjoy.
I'm afraid I got carried away and took quite a lot of photos of these trees with holes in but restrained myself from posting them all.

One final bit of texture - I love the way this fallen tree has weathered to that lovely silver colour.

Friday, 12 November 2010

For those of nervous disposition, look away now!

No, we haven't been burgled and vandalised - this is what come of hastily dumping stuff in one's workroom. I quickly made room for my daughter to use the little bedroom and so several things came into my workroom. I had been meaning to tidy things for some time but it was the last straw when I emptied my two large bags of stuff from the workshop earlier this week. We collected my sewing machine from being serviced yesterday and I couldn't even stand it on it's table. Something had to be done so I got stuck in and now it looks like this ....
There is still too much in this room - I have too many books and too much stuff but if I throw anything away I might need it. At least the other rooms in the house are tidy!
I know the first photo will shock some people, but it might make one or two others feel better. I certainly feel better from looking at the second one. Can I go to bed now please? I promise I'll tidy the computer desk tomorrow.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Down to earth once more.

The two day workshop was wonderful and if I gained nothing else - and I gained a lot - I gained a small degree of confidence. I do hope I can hang on to it! Our mentor, Lis Mann, is an artist from Banbury (BA and MA so she knows what she's talking about) and so generous with her time, skills and materials. Although she kept us busy, there was no pressure and I found it very relaxing and liberating.

Our first exercise was to form into small groups and for each group to look at the same view through a window. We looked for a few minutes then wrote down what each of us had seen. It was astonishing how different our accounts were. A lesson in looking and seeing.

We were then asked to draw a rough geometric shape on brown parcel paper - I drew an oblong - and to write our christian name in lower case letters diagonally across the space, and our surname in capitals below, allowing some of the letters to reach and touch the outer edges of the oblong. Working in black, white, greys and silver we coloured the various new shapes which arose and doodled patterns in some to create a new design.

This exercise was repeated on black paper and coloured with oil pastels. I was surprised by how quickly the lettering disappeared.

We had been asked to take in one or two personal objects which Lis grouped together. We then selected a small area of this grouping, drew it and traced it -

enlarged it by eye and coloured it with whatever medium we chose. I used Promarker pens for speed and quick drying. Again the original shapes disappeared and new ones took over.

Useful discussion followed each exercise and probably took up more time than the tasks themselves. However, they were an important part of the two days.

On the second day we were invited to try materials and techniques we may not have used before. We used clay to find out how it could be modelled, moulded, impressed, carved etc.
I enjoyed handling the clay but it didn't 'ask' to be included in my work, so I returned my lump to the bag it came in and tackled something else.
We had been asked to take photos of landscapes, select one ...........................

make a tracing to simplify the detail ................................

enlarge it by eye and draw it onto primed canvas before collaging onto it ................

I used muslin for the trees in the background and bubble wrap for the rocky foreground and a large tree on the left. This will be removed or covered as I don't like the regularity of the bumps. I have a lot more to do to this before I can start adding paint and stitch and hope to be less realistic than normal and to try to be freer and more abstract.

We had also been asked to take in a large frame warped up with wire, in order that strips of torn fabric, yarns, lace, driftwood or anything else than could be persuaded through, could be woven. When the weaving is complete, it is cut from the frame and the wires secured to each other to hold the weaving in place, and it can be manipulated into a 3D form.
I have quite a lot more weaving to do before I reach that stage and will probably do nothing but fiddle with this piece, but it might lead to a more considered piece of work in the future.
There was no time to take photographs or to look at the wonderful array of art books Lis had brought for us to see. Once I get my nose in a book all sense of time is lost so I didn't dare to indulge myself. I didn't even stop for a cuppa during the day and came home gasping each day!
All in all it was a most satisfactory and enjoyable two days - many thanks to the members of our group who organised it and to Lis who is such a talented and inspiring lady.

I seem to have lost the title space for this post so am not quite sure what it will look like when I click on Publish Post.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Mostly trees.

This hawthorn grows right outside our front garden beside the footpath. It is a bit more fancy than a native hawthorn as the flowers are a deep pinky red instead of the usual creamy white, and the haws are much larger than the wild ones. They last for months as, for some reason, the birds don't like them. It has to be really cold before even the fieldfares will tuck in. I have often been tempted to cut a few sprays to bring inside but I know they would only last a day or two in a warm atmosphere and I can enjoy them every day for weeks through the window.
This year it is laden with fruit and the branches hang right down over the path to shoulder height. This morning, after overnight rain they are weighed down even lower. This was right in front of me as I went for a walk. We were dog-sitting last night as daughter and son-in-law went out and didn't want to leave Poppy alone while fireworks were going off in all directions. Poor little thing - she trembled and panted for about three hours before finally relaxing in sheer exhaustion. There were the usual pops, fizzes and swooshes until about 8 o'clock when we got to the 'heavy bombardment'. Thankfully that didn't last too long and by 9 o'clock things quietened down. It is odd how some animals don't seem to be affected by the noise. Our old cat takes no notice of it, and he's not deaf so can hear it all.

The recent strong winds have blown down many of the leaves. None up there .............

.................... they're all down here. A bit further north from where I live the trees seem to be more colourful. So many round here are still very green. This year it is an odd autumn, quite unlike others I can remember.

These are tiny yellow crab apples not much bigger than cherries - I'm surprised the birds don't eat them. Many of them are rotting after all the rain we have had lately but they still look good from a distance.

I couldn't resist a shot of this colourful carpet. These leaves were on the footpath and just blown into a drift on one side of it.

Moss and lichen growing on a smooth barked tree. I just love mosses and lichens.

At a glance this bark looks silvery grey, but close inspection reveals many more tints and tones, and the textures are amazing.
Another section of the same tree.

And here it is - my favourite tree - a willow which I must have photographed dozens of times and will probably do so again.

The light was wrong for this shot but I wanted one of the moss growing in the angles of the branches. Many of the trees round here have moss growing in their 'elbows', and the larger the tree, the more moss seems to grow forming almost another woodland floor but on a higher level. We got home in double-quick time as someone was shooting rabbits or pigeons over beyond the houses, and Poppy thought it was more fireworks. Her 'Mum' came to collect her soon after we got home so she could really relax again.
I'm off to my two-day workshop tomorrow and Tuesday and will try to remember to take my camera incase I produce anything interesting to show you. There won't be any finished pieces of work as it is more of a design and ways-of-generating-inspiration type workshop. You may not get a post until Wednesday as I will probably be too tired to post earlier.

Batten down the hatches and get your wellies out, the forecast looks grim.