Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

My illustration for September Gardens Illustrated - hands up! who loves Alchemilla mollis?



I know it's not quite September, but the September edition of Gardens Illustrated has already been published and is on the news stands, so I'll tell you my thoughts as I devised the the illustration for Frank Ronan's column 'The Writer's Plot'

Frank now spends most of the year at his home in California, but this month his inspiration is from his English garden in Worcestershire. Having been away, Frank appreciates its coolness as summer draws to a close.

The illustration needed to depict particular plants and celebrate their shapes . . .

I don't have Heleniums in my garden, so had to use photographs for reference (note to self: plant Heleniums!)


The other plants I could sketch from life . . .

Roses



Oriental Poppy leaves

and last but definitely not least . . .

Alchemilla mollis or Lady's Mantle

Frank was - how can I put this gently? - not particularly polite about its virtues and claims that "You hardly see it anywhere now". Gosh! Really?!
So, hands up! who loves Alchemilla mollis, or Lady's Mantle to give it the more romantic English name, ?
Between you and me, I suspect Frank doesn't pick posies of flowers and put them in jam jars, because if he did he'd appreciate those frothy lime green flowers and blue-green velvety leaves and know how very very useful they are. I think I'll start a Lady's Mantle Apreciation Society :-) who's in?


Now I needed to entwine the plants together, I took my inspiration from William Morris fabrics and created and vignette with Alchemilla mollis is prime position. I played around with negative and positive shapes and transitioning one into the other - I think this is one of the things I most enjoy doing and why working in a single colour is so interesting.


The finished linocut is printed in a mossy green. Like all my Gardens Illustrated designs, after 6 months it will be available as a limited edition original hand-burnished print. Card designs will follow too.


Celia
xx


Monday, 24 August 2015

A bit of a to-do in Suffolk – FolkEast 2015



"A fresh approach to a timeless tradition . . .on the ancient parkland at Glemham Hall, where, for three days of the year, the folk of the East and their families gather for a bit of a to-do" 

Today I'm tired (understatement!) late last night Cliff and I got home after 3 days at FolkEast where I had a stall in the Art Arcade – we were in the long marquee you can see in the background of this photo . . .


As you can see, this year the dance floor for the Morris Dancers is located right in the centre of the Art Arcade, which meant we were almost constantly entertained with very energetic dancing (video by paper cut artist Claire Knight), music, clashing sticks and thudding drums. It made us feel even more part of the festival.


That huge domes tent is the home of The Social Knitworks, oh how I wish I'd had time to spend inside! Early on Saturday before the Art Arcade opened for business, I ran across to take a peep inside . . . LOOK! a beautiful cool shady world - an allotment, guinea pigs in a hutch, a shed! all created in yarn AND they were serving proper pots of tea at lovely little tables.


Most of the time I was demonstrating linocutting and chatting to lots of lovely interested and interesting people – that's what is so fabulous about FolkEast, the people! Musicians, dancers, techies, crew, stallholders and visitors were all such a great bunch.

This was my view for most of the weekend while Cliff restocked the stall with cards and served customers.


If there was a quieter moment one of us looked after my stand while the other dashed round to grab some food and have a quick look around. On one such circuit I met some delightful Suffolk residents . . . 



. . . donkeys revelling in the sunshine, taking time out to snack on the grass



. . . and this gorgeous lady, Olive the Suffolk Punch mare, isn't she so beautiful?! She was wonderfully placid and her air of calm as she muched her hay in the sunshine, seemed to sum up the mood of the weekend.



After closing up our stall at around 6.30pm we were free to wander round and enjoy the music. There were 5 stages this year, above you can see the aptly named Sunset Stage with the Suffolk sky on Friday evening almost upstaging the performances.



For most of the weekend we basked (almost melted) in the hottest temperatures of this summer. But on Sunday afternoon the heavens spectacularly opened with a deluge! The dancers took cover, some in our marquee, but the performances continued in the rain. There were a lot of very soggy costumes!


Over the weekend, inspired by the array of head wear that paraded past my stall, I cut a set of small blocks featuring folk dancers' hats. I think they turned out well, so I'll make some prints and maybe cards from these.


It was difficult to choose what to buy as a souvenir of the weekend, there were beautiful ceramic cups and saucers, baskets, hats, sea-glass jewellery . . . in the end I bought a snowdrop card from my neighbouring stall holder Sue Sullivan; a pen fashioned from a Golden Syrup tin and a Ribboned Ash wood spoon by Ed Mitchell-Finch; and a hand woven purse made from plant-dyed yarns and waste fibres by Zoe Wood.

The rain stopped before the final evening performances so we could sit outside to eat our supper and enjoy the music in the misty darkness. I particularly enjoyed the energetic music of the French-Canadian trio Ten Strings and a Goat Skin - you can find a taster of their music here.


Thank you to Mandy Walden for organising the Art Arcade, to John and Becky for marvellously inventing FolkEast and making it better and better each year and the thousands of folk who gathered together to make it happen.

Celia
xx

Thursday, 6 August 2015

August already! another Gardens Illustrated linocut and a feature in the Suffolk Magazine


Welcome! yes I'm still here but there's lots been going on, so make a cuppa and find somewhere cosy to settle down for a read. . .


Because I work on the Gardens Illustrated magazine linocuts about 2 months ahead of publication date, the year speeds by even faster than normal – I've almost completed the October illustration . . . but I can't tell you about that!
However, just published is the August issueand Frank Ronan's column is the one he put aside when his much loved cat passed away – and it's about Pelargoniums.


I love Pelargoniums, but the ones I like best are the scented leaved ones, Smelly Pellies :-) I didn't have any life-models to hand, so I actually went out and bought three loud and flouncy 'Geraniums' from the local DIY store to sketch from life.

The editor had suggested two possible quotes to inspire the illustration; the one I chose was about Frank's memories of Pelargoniums overflowing from window boxes in the Normandy town where he used to live. (I'm not sure why they printed the alternative phrase under the picture in the magazine. Not that it matters.)


I haven't been to Normandy, I needed reference but didn't brave a trip through the tunnel to sketch from life! I relied on the internet and put together a scene very loosely based on the streets of Honfleur.


This month I've sneaked a little Dachshund into the design, he's not mentioned in Frank's column but there was a space that needed something to lead the eye back into the composition and I love the way Dachshunds' ears flutter out behind them as they scurry along, so why not?! And he's a tribute to the adorable Dachshund's owned by many of my Twitter friends (you know who you are! I owe your furry friends a dog biscuit as thanks).


You can see me pretending to work on the sketches for this design in an article published in the August edition of the Suffolk Magazine. As you can see, I had no time to neatly arrange my studio, it is what it is! When the photographer turned up I was working on the design of  new The Daily Telegraph crest, it was top secret so had to be hidden! So I posed pretending to work on the Pelargonium sketches and then inked and took another proof of this linocut.


I will be printing a limited edition of this design which will be available next Spring. All my Gardens Illustrated illustration will also be produced as cards, I will introduce the first of these late this year/early 2016.

In the Suffolk Magazine article Tessa mentions a woodcut for a book cover, I can now reveal it is the cover of 'Woodland Craft' by Ben Law, some of you may recall Ben Law was featured on Grand Designs building his cruck house in a wood. I'll tell you more about working on the woodcut when the book is published in October.


And finally . . . FolkEast
yes it is only a couple of weeks away! I will once again be in the Art Arcade which this year is bigger than ever. There's an Art Arcade Facebook page where you can find out about the artists/makers/craftsfolk who will be there this year and the activities you can take part in . . . there will be so much to do as well as listening to the fabulous line-up of musicians. I hope some of you can come along and say hello.

Celia
xx

Saturday, 25 July 2015

John Clare - a voice for today


Last week I was contacted by the owner of a small gallery, asking if I could supply my cards for her sell. There was no link to the gallery's web site and a google search drew a blank – how unusual for today! 

I sent her my trade order details and my catalogue and swiftly received an order for cards, the gallery's address was in Helpston . . . only an hour and a half drive from my studio, so I decided to deliver the card order in person.



The Annakinn Gallery is a delight, here is the sign with a beautiful design by Carry Ackroyd.


Helpston was the birth place and for much of his life, the home of John Clare. I'd heard of 'the peasant poet' and I was aware of Carry Ackroyd's fascination with Clare, this week reacquainting myself with John Clare's story has made me realise how relevant he is for us today.


On Friday the John Clare Cottage would normally have been open, but due to volunteer staffs' holidays meant it was closed. It looks interesting so I plan to go back on a day when it's open.


Anna at the gallery had very kindly put together a 'John Clare Starter Pack' – she had correctly guessed from my work and my love of walking and the countryside, that I'd relate to Clare's work.


These are beer mats designed for the John Clare Society and The Bluebell pub which is next door to The Cottage and just around the corner from Anna's gallery. Cliff and I had fish and chips for lunch at The Bluebell and I can thoroughly recommend it!


Following directions from Anna, we walked across to St Botolph's church and easily found John Clare's grave, there is a modern marker post visible from across the graveyard.


Sacred to the Memory of
John Clare
The Northamptonshire Peasant Poet
Born July 13 1793 Died May 20 1864

A poet is born not made.


Also in 'the starter pack' were these cards depicting the 'Midsummer Cushions', a tradition of lifting a sward of flowery meadow as a floral decoration. Aptly this is how Helpston schoolchildren commemorate John Clare on his birthday, carrying their Midsummer Cushions through the village to lay around his grave.

The card on the left is an illustration by wildlife artist John Davis, he also illustrated these charming tiny cards depicting birds' nests. They reminded me of the work of Charles Tunnicliffe and those lovely Ladybird books 'What to look for in Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter – I've recently rediscovered mine in a cupboard at my Mum's house.


Anna popped the cards into my 'John Clare Starter Pack' as a thankyou for braving the torrential rain and delivering my cards in person.

Thanks to Anna at the AnnaKinn Gallery in Helpston for reacquainting me with John Clare who was so much more that a peasant poet. Clare observed the countryside and nature in minute detail as he walked the paths and lanes, he observed how changing agricultural practices meant wild places were being lost forever and he knew those things were priceless. 

Clare wasn't an uneducated peasant, he was a clever young man who by circumstance had to leave formal education at a young age and endeavoured to read and educate himself. Sudden fame at a young age and the conflicts of his rural roots with the literary circles he had been elevated to, resulted in his mental health deteriorating. He was cared for by benevolent wealthy friends who tried their best to find the best care available at the time in an asylum in Essex. But pining for his boyhood life he absconded and walked 90 miles back to Helpston. John Clare's final 20 years were spent in an asylum in Northampton.

The life of John Clare has much to teach us about mental well-being, education and the importance of being grounded and aware of the natural world.

And if you are near Helpston, it's in the corner of NW Cambridgeshire between Stamford and Peterborough, please visit the Annakinn Gallery . . . it's full of beautiful things!


Celia
xx