Wednesday, 30 November 2011

More on the same theme

In two days time, I'll be doing my first ever craft fair. Nothing fancy as it is the Christmas Fair at my son's school, but nevertheless, a real opportunity to get out there and meet the real public and see if they want to buy any of my wares.

Following my first linocut Christmas cards, I have made several more from the same lino block. It is quite easy to get carried away and I now have the following variations:

 Blue ink on white paper

White ink on red paper

Also as a I never entirely happy with the result unless it has that smidgen of embellishment, I am now adding a stitched metallic border and debating on whether there should be a silver or gold pear in the tree. I had intended to cut another design and bought some more lino but have lost my lino cutting tool which is probably why I'm working on the attention to detail! I don't want to spend valuable crafting time looking for something I may never find.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A partridge in a pear tree

I am one of those people who love Christmas. I'm not that keen on the commercial aspect and the hideous emphasis on consumerism resulting in mountains of packaging, paper and unnecessary waste. However I can't get enough of magic of Christmas traditions once December starts. Seriously when else would I even consider eating a mince pie or pickle onion. It's also the period of advent that I adore as opposed to the 12 Days of Christmas. The anticipation of Christmas is so much more exciting than the stress, mess and over eating of Christmas Day and I would sit through a million nativity plays instead of ever having to go back to work in the early days of the new year.

A Christmas tradition that I have followed for as long as I can remember is making my own Christmas cards. I really could not imagine buying cards and my mind automatically starts gathering inspiration in November. One of my favorite artistic skills that I learned at university is lino printing. I like the simplicity of the process and the balance of print and space. The focus required to cut the lino with the tools (mine are still sharp after 20 years) is so demanding that it is relaxing in its intensity: one slip and the design can be ruined or a small hole has been cut into your skin. There has not been a time yet when I haven't cut myself whilst cutting lino and these are no small scratches. 

The 12 days of Christmas has it's origins in religion as each of the twelve gifts are based on religious references. Apparently the first written record of the song is 1780 and that never reliable source Wikipedia has the following to say,

Regardless of the origin of this idea, a number of Christians give the following meanings to the gifts:[17]
"The Twelve Days of Christmas" as a Catechism Song
Gift Interpretation
A partridge in a pear tree Jesus
Two turtle doves The Old and New Testaments
Three French hens The three theological virtues faith, hope and love
Four calling [sic] birds The four Gospels
Five gold rings The Torah or Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament
Six geese a-laying The six days of Creation
Seven swans a-swimming Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
Eight maids a-milking The eight Beatitudes
Nine ladies dancing Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
Ten lords a-leaping The Ten Commandments
Eleven pipers piping The eleven faithful Apostles
Twelve drummers drumming The twelve points of the Apostles' Creed

So here are the results of my research, inspiration, blood, sweat and fortunately no tears so far.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Finished Mittens

I did it, I finished a project. It is amazing what you can actually achieve if you put your mind to it but more importantly, how fantastic it is when you get that sense of achievement. And I can proudly say, as promised, here are the finished project photos.

Monday, 7 November 2011


It really is the time to start making in preparation for Christmas, especially as I intend to have my first craft stall with a friend at Charlie's school Christmas Fair. I have hundreds of ideas thanks to Pinterest and I have started quite a few of them, but as always I'm not doing so well at finishing them.

However with a whole basket full of unfinished projects, yet another inspiring post on Pinterest has caught my attention, a completely adorable mitten Christmas tree decoration. The original creator is devoted to her craft and the inspiration for my project can be found at her Etsy store, Myheartsdesire.
I started cutting the felt yesterday and today I've added the mummy and daddy bird.

I dearly hope that finished project photos (and one of much better quality than above) will be posted shortly.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Fungas Foray

Last Autumn when I went on my first mushroom hunt with the expert Steve Kirk, I naively thought I'd gain enough knowledge to head out with my basket and return with enough foraged mushrooms to make a tasty lunch.

I could not have been more wrong. Today after my second two hour adventure through the ancient woodlands of Wildwood, I have learned one truly valuable piece of information, if you get it wrong, you'll get ill at best and die at the worst. And it really is only to easy to get it wrong. Steve Kirk is a true bush craft hero, with his leather hat, mushroom knife and waistcoat with endless pockets, however it is quite eye opening to see him unsure of what quite a large proportion of the mushrooms are, unless he has carefully examined them. There were also the "little brown jobs", which translate as small mushrooms requiring further investigation under a microscope and reference to all his books.

Mushrooms are so amazing. The visible fruits that appear above the ground in the damp, mild weather of Autumn and just a small part of the plant which remains underground, forever hidden as a web-like mesh. The appearance of mushrooms can drastic vary in one day. Some will only fruit every 10 years. They lay silently under the ground for the most part of a year and only fruit and produce mushrooms when the conditions are right to release millions of spores into the air.

Last year I bought Roger Phillips' Common and Important Mushrooms, which is now out of print but was recommended by Steve as one of the best books for identifying mushrooms. I have my app, Wild Mushrooms by Roger Phillips. I feel confident that I know three mushrooms now and I will be happy if I am just able to identify one mushroom.

 These are ink caps, I think they are common ink caps but it doesn't really matter because if you eat them and then drink alcohol up to two weeks after, they'll make you very unwell. I'm not likely to try them on toast however I quite liked the idea the monks had of boiling them up and using the ink to write. Apparently they used to be fed to alcoholics to discourage them from drinking!

The fly agaric (amanita muscaria) was the most easily recognisable mushroom we saw today. It is beautiful, distinguished, hallucinogenic and deadly poisonous in large quantities. However slugs are able to munch on to them to their hearts content as it is the mammalian liver that is attacked by the poison and slugs do not have livers. I wonder if they hallucinate?? They are rather common at Wildwood as they thrive on the numerous silver birch trees, (fly agarics that is although I have no doubt slugs are also common).

And finally some sort of puff ball (I can't remember the Latin name) which is edible, but only when it is pure white inside. Foraging for mushrooms is a complicated business but the perfect excuse to put on woolly socks, leg warmers and wellies on a drizzly November afternoon.

I have no idea what this one is but I spotted it on a pile of silver birch which I think is called a natural rotting fence. I just thought it was pretty. It could be an artist's fungus (Ganoderma applanatum)? Perhaps I should go ahead and have my first stab at identification and maybe email Steve for confirmation.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

A touch of melancholy

Sometimes sadness isn't always such a bad thing.

Victor Hugo once said, "Melancholy is the happiness of being sad" and I believe that without that sadness, there would be nothing to compliment the happiness. Life is not perfect, but there is the possibility for happiness everywhere.

Moments are precious when spent with those you love, so it's only nature to sometimes reflect on times that are lost in memory.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Gone in a flash

I have finally reached the time in my life that my teacher warned me about all those years ago in a humanities lesson. As a teenage girl, I will readily admit that a larger percentage of my time in lesson was spent talking than listening, but there are somethings I remember so clearly. This teacher told us that our teenage years were not the time of our life, as we had too much to worry about, had too much work to do for our qualifications, no money or freedom from the restrictions imposed on us by our teachers and parents. The time of our lives, in his opinion, would be once we had jobs, left home and had disposable income before responsibilities, bills and worries tied us down and life became complicated.

Those days of having nothing much more to consider than what new outfit to spend my hard earned cash on were gone in a flash and the older I get the more complex my life becomes. For years I loved fireworks, it was the start of the party season, bonfire night ran into friends' birthdays and into my own birthday, Christmas and New Year. Nothing fizzes, sparkles and bangs like a firework and although I still can't resist anything sparkly, life has tarnished bonfire night with sadness. Sometimes sights, sounds and smells can take you right back to beautifully happy memories as well as nightmares and the worst moments of your life. For those whoever lost a loved one, certain anniversaries of moments can be like opening Pandora's box of memories, which is how I now feel about fireworks. I hope that time will ease the pain and I know that it will but for now, on Jack's night, I just want to stay at home with my thoughts. Fireworks are gone in a flash, the simplicity of youth is brief and the spectacular explosions lighting up the November night sky, will forever remind me of the darkest days of my life.