Late summer visitors

Last week we had a very rare happening - visitors! A very nice Welsh Springer Spaniel and his humans came to stay for a couple of days. We didn't do much as it was nice just to take some time off and relax. We did manage a short walk nearby.

It's a funny thing, but even though we are in a very rural part of Shropshire, there are few footpaths and barely any  quiet places to walk. And with this being the busiest bit of the farming year, the little lane we were in had it's fair share of large agricultural vehicles managing (somehow) to make their way through.

So the next day was mostly spent in the garden, with lunch (mostly cheese) and beer.

Knitting was done - my knitting - though not by me. This is something I started and almost finished but couldn't. So my knitting expert friend managed to sort it out for me.

In return, I let my friend have free reign in my studio and she had a couple of impromptu painting lessons.


But play has to end eventually and when they were headed home, I finished off a couple of my own paintings, which are up for sale in my Etsy shop.  I seem to be heading for autumn a little prematurely, but then we are having an upsy downsy summer.

In my big studio tidy up, I also found a box of the last lino prints I made in my previous life, including the popular 'Little Hare. It feels a bit strange and very sad looking at old blog posts like with pictures of of the other cottage, such as 'Printing Little Hare' and 'Monsieur le Roitelet'. So to raise a few pennies, I've put the remainder back up for sale, at single figure prices in my shop print section.

I'm hoping to sell enough to be able to buy some WD40, to get my trusty old printer back on the road, so that I can print again. Sadly it's been in a damp shed for too long and needs some de-rusting before I can use it.

Back when I printed the lino cuts in November 2011, I was trying to juggle needle felting with printing and painting.  Then Andy and I began the big move to Shropshire and just over a year later, Andy was dead. Now my life is back on track, with a different love and I am still needle felting, starting to paint again and hopefully printing soon. In those days I was lucky enough to do it as a part time job. Now it's a life necessity. But I try not to analyse it too much; it's all a bit odd really. Such is life.


Little pond

This is how the so-called 'herb patch' looked a couple of weeks ago, still with the plug-ugly plastic coated washing line post firmly cemented into the earth. So as the weather had picked up, I did my scorched earth weeding and Joe got to work with Brian-next-door's sledge hammer.

After a long tussle and removing lots of rock debris, we tugged and pulled and shoved and eventually we dragged the monster out. We could just about manage it between us. 

Unfortunately, someone DID like the overgrown mess and we found this lovely toad nestling in a pile of bricks. We left her undisturbed, but she vanished overnight. We are hoping that she has found a nearby home.

By the end of the day we had almost cleared everything.

The garden originally came with two little old troughs which were destined to be made into miniature ponds. This is a fairly ordinary cement one, which had been upside down since I moved in over three years ago. I had assumed it was a block of stone until Joe turned it  over and discovered the secret.

The previous owner told me that this bigger one was an antique 'pony trough' which came from a nearby town, but then he told so many fibs about the property that I am inclined to take that with a pinch of salt. It is a nice old thing, anyway and had been languishing uselessly in the drive.

The fun part was putting the stones and pebbles in and filling it.


By now it was early evening and the cows had made their way up the field. They seemed curious, but I don't think they cared about our lovely little pond.

The ponds have provided a source of constant amusement. Despite having to empty them and paint them with concrete sealant. Because we didn't realise that the stone could leak. But since then the garden birds have been enjoying the novelty too. Joe has taken quite a few photos. At first the blue tit was the sole bather. 

But then a tribe of sparrows moved in and claimed both ponds for their own. 

Anyway, to cut this long pond-y story short (forgive the length, neither of us have ever had ponds before), this part of the garden is finally starting to be ours and looking like a proper place. Not a wilderness of weeds. 

Today however we have had rain and I went back to proper work, heralding autumn with this little painting, 'Acorn Cottage' which (naturally) is for sale in my other Etsy shop, 'Lost Arcadia'. *NOW SOLD*



Another studio make over

So the time came when my studio needed a serious make over. It's been a bit of a tidy pickle for the last three years, and there were so many things on the floor that there wasn't enough room for my big feet to move around without stubbing a  toe. Or even work properly.

And this area was particularly confused. I seem to remember that I just shoved a few bits of spare furniture up so that I could unpack some favorite books and it became a bit of a dumping ground. So the mammoth task of sorting out began.

The key to the entire operation was this lovely old (apparently Georgian) bookcase that Joe bought me well over a year ago, for the studio and which had become another dumping ground downstairs. 

We shifted the old futon out and I began reorganising my books. And stuff. 

The first day was complete carnage. 

But by the second day it began to take take shape. And I found I had masses of floor space!


I'm still not sure how I found the energy to blitz it into shape in 48 hours, but I now know where everything is. This is the only area which remained untouched. 

The old fireplace (sadly blocked up by the previous tenants) has been set aside for a printing area. The next task is to renovate my poor old flat bed press.

So I did finally get round to finishing a batch of small paintings and yesterday I reopened my very first Etsy shop which I've had since 2007 and listed them all at £35 (about $45) each. I was amazed to sell two paintings overnight. and somewhat relieved. 

So here I am in yet another studio, painting again and enjoying my books. It's nice but odd, just another layer of things coming around, the same but different. And a little fragile. Like my tiny houses.



A fox at a hen party


Last month I was back in Oxford at at  Hill End, returning after my earlier bear making  workshop two weeks previously. 'The Willows' waited quietly in the already hot morning sun.



This workshop was a little different in that it was for a hen party - bunting was obligatory. I quickly set the workshop up. I like this peaceful part of the day, when I can settle myself and calm my nerves.


 I had some samples ready for inspiration. 

I'd also set up  a display of  work and a collection of photos of my first pieces of work. The photos are useful as I can show people that I myself started somewhere and my early work was far from perfect.

While I was waiting for everyone to arrive, I sat on a  big stone outside and watched baby bunnies creep out of the bramble patch to nibble grass.

 Of course there was also an obligatory robin.

But then I cast my eyes to the left and was amazed to see a young fox slinking out of the undergrowth. He clearly hadn't seen me. I slowly got my camera ready and held my breath as he came towards me.

I have never, ever been so close to a fox before. He got to just a few feet away and then clocked me.

He made a stealthy but quick get away, heading towards the baby bunnies who made an even speedier escape!  

Then the hen party arrived (all ten of them) and it was business as usual. Only one person there, the bride-to-be had needle felted before or even knew what it was. But I gave them a pep talk and got them working. Pink fluffy deely-boppers and all.


And in the end, they all did fantastically. One or two designs became other things - which is why there is a parrot in the flock.


Back home, I have been busy with getting my life back on track - more tidying and unpacking. I did make this little Staffordshire style cat last week, and posted a picture of it being made in progress on my Instagram account, where he was bought at once. That has sorted the electric bill out. I don't have a lot of time to sit down and blog properly, so my IG account is a way of keeping in the loop, as they say.

I have a few workshops left this year, which can be found on my website workshop page.