Thursday 21 May 2009

A Lovely Dream

Im delighted to be able to show you my painting 'A Lovely Dream' which I completed today. It is another in the Little Red series, which seems to be building a momentum all of its own as more new ideas for where I can take it descend on me (usually as Im nodding off or cooking tea or doing something mundane when Im nowhere near a sketch book!)

As some of you may already know, Little Red has derived from several sketch drawings of my girl Carys, and for those of you who don't know, my little child is a flame haired, half Welsh firecracker of a tot who inspires me deeply on a daily basis - it seemed natural to include her in my work, and so from the earliest doodles she evolved to this little character, who has a dog, Bo, who has a bird, Dudie, and several other companions to be making an appearance along the way (including the gaggle of fabulous fat geese again).

I already have some ideas for my next painting, but for now Im doing alot of doodling
to get it just right before I put it onto canvas and I'll post some pics of the work in progress, probably next week :)

Well then, I think its time for a cuppa!! :)

Im finding this character work to be very fulfilling. It seems to have turned on a tap for me somewhere in the deepest reaches of my mind and for the first time in an age I am not stuck for new material. I remember many times wanting to paint something, and spending hours dabbling and messing and not really producing anything at all. The emptiness that I felt at those times was profound, and I think its because I was still searching for something that really made me tick. I would like to think that this is it.

Im going to be submitting this picture into a national competition run by an artists magazine. Well, you never know do you?

Im also promising myself an hour or so of crocheting later this evening as the past few days have seen me in a whirl of activity updating websites and general businessy type stuff for the other half and I feel a little bit worn at the edges, a sort of feeling you get when you don't switch off very easily because you're so absorbed in the task at hand.

Practising listening to my little old bod - its demanding a nice bath, preferably with something lovely from Lush and some serious R&R with perhaps the enticing prospect of an iced glass of Limoncello (ooh do try this if you havent, its an italian liquer made from lemons and its like drinking sunshine! Sublime!!!)

Is it summer yet with you? We are still dodging torrential downpours in between wearing sunshades and shedding cardigans as the weather still cant decide what to do. The hens over on the allotment across the road seem equally perturbed by the inclement conditions, ducking in and out of their little hut in mild bewilderment I think!! :)

My sister is coming to visit tomorrow, staying for the weekend and I have much to do to prepare a little birthday bash for a Certain-Little-Someone who turns 2 next week. A day out with her small cousins, Aunt, Uncle, Nannie-Mum & Grandad Joe (and us of course) is planned for sunday, as is a picnic complete with birthday treats and cake!!

Wishing you all a serendipitous bank holiday weekend, hope the sun shines for you - if not, dodge the drops and have fun regardless!

Love J xxx (off to get the long awaited cuppa :)

Tuesday 19 May 2009

After the rain

A stunning blue parrot tulip just in bloom...see the irridescent ring of blue deep inside the flower?
This is for each of you...
THANK YOU to all of you for your lovely comments on my blog of late - and to apologise if I haven't yet had the chance to call in on you, I do so enjoy reading your delicious blogs and often spend far too much time than I ought to devouring favourites and finding new ones. Please know that I treasure every little thought you take the time to write, and that you stop by and read what Im writing...well, I can't express how nice that feels :)

Ive been a little bit busy these last few days, on Sunday though, we had a little ride out into Derbyshire and discovered a little car boot sale at Bamford, before driving on to Castleton (so pretty) and having a rather spontaneous lunch in a nice old pub. It started raining heavily as we were finishing our meal, but on leaving the pub it had eased off somewhat and the sun was smiling weakly through turbulent white clouds above the Winnats Pass. It was one of those lovely moments where you dont mind getting wet - big, fat ploopy blobs of rain splattered on our heads and into the little stream and the air was warm and still. I splashed in puddles (water in the crocs and soaked rainbow socks but caring not a jot -the little one shreiked with delight and held her palms up to catch the drops.

On our return home, I couldn't help but take a picture of this:

Isn't that just beautiful??

And down the garden, spring is bursting out all over the place, thanks to the daily downpours and odd storms we keep getting.

This week finds me making up lots of cards for the cafe, and also (hurrah!) my table at the Candyfloss Summer Fair! Yes, I received the email Id been waiting for to tell me I could indeed take part so now I begin creating like a demon for that - its not til the 18th July so quite a bit of time to get prepared and for any of you who can make it down, its going to be in the Long Gallery at the Millenium Galleries in Sheffield. For more info, you can click on the Craft Candy link there in the side bar and find out all about it.

Talking of cards....

I have just set up a special offer on my art print cards, where you can buy a selection pack of 5 cards (135 x 135mm size) for the lovely price of just £8.00 (individual cards this size are usually £1.95) There is also free P&P with this offer. I print all my images onto archival matte paper, (which is then mounted onto a high quality white card)with archival inks so you might even put them in a little frame, thats if you dont send them to all your friends! :) The other thing about these cards that Id like to mention, is that 50p from the sale of Each One goes to the Down's Syndrome Association. My little nephew Oliver was born with Down's Syndrome and it makes me very happy that I can help to support them after all the help and support they have given to my sister and her family.

If you click on Little Red, the link will take you to the page.

The website had had a little overhaul of late, and Im hoping if you visit, you will find it easier to navigate.

Last but not least....

Today, I was delighted to see that Id been given a blog award from the lovely Mel at 'A Country Dream' Thank you so much dear soul, it was very thoughtful of you to send that to me and its very much appreciated! (happy jigs of joy :)

To keep the joy a-flowing, I would like to send this award out to the following 10 (as say the rules):

That wasn't easy! I wanted to pick all of you.
I hope the sun is shining on you today, its cracking the pavements here (when they're not flooded). Im looking forward to a spot of crochet this evening to unwind, working on two websites tires me out, and Ive got to conserve all my energy-oh yes, the nephews, sis and her hub arrive at the weekend, it is my little girl's 2nd birthday next tuesday and there is a little party to arrange, cakes to be baked (here we go again :) so I need to grab the little moments of solitude when I can this week.
Sending pockets of tranquility to you, rainbow coloured buttons and iced peach tea.
With love
J xxx

Friday 15 May 2009

Having Your Cake and Eating It !

Aha! A sneaky little peek at what Ive been working on - this is a little teeny weeny part of a painting called 'A Lovely Dream' and its still not finished despite 5 hours painting today (ah bliss indeed!). I am sitting typing with acrylic paint all over my hands, for me, painting is the equivalent to several hours at a day spa - it removes me completely from my normal world, I have no concept of time and Im able to lose myself for hours, becoming wonderfully absent minded and forgetting to eat etc!

So, today was a gift of a painting day, and talking of art I would love to pop in a mention about a little sale my fellow artist and friend Niki Jackson is having at her Etsy shop... I hope she wont mind, but Ive borrowed a picture of her gorgeous art to show off here - Niki works with mixed media to create whimsical yet thought provoking art. If you are curious to see more, you can check her out here.

This is one of Niki's art pieces - one of my favourites! :)

Anyway...yesterday saw a rather wet day descend upon our little house, and me and the tot were moved to do a spot of baking. Our first recipie being Cumberland Dream Cake which I had picked up on a postcard from Lucy's of Ambleside
This shop, for those of you have never had the good fortune to have ever visited, is an aladdins cave of deli-licious goodies. It is also a bistro, it is a cooking school - Lucy's is, in a word 'heaven'...anyway, I digress - this little postcard had the recipie of a fabulous little tray bake we nibbled upon with relish during our stay in the lakes, and after 2 years of the said card languishing in the front of a Nigella book, it finally got a testing yesterday and both me and little C declared it very nice indeed (and if you are a fan of walnuts, coconut and sticky sugary goodness with a crispy top then you would too).

The baking frenzy did not stop there. No, we moved on to make a vanilla sponge cake, with vanilla buttercream and (going into Enid Blyton mode here) lashings of Bonne Maman apricot jam in the middle. The tot was in her element licking spoons of cake mixture and the bowl of left over buttercream as I made the decision to be a bit more creative with my icing sugar sprinkling for the top (a quick dusting normally does the trick) and I made a little template out of a bit of card and it turned out like this!

Oh, we could hardly wait to finish our tea before slicing big wedges for afters! I feel a slice coming on right now, with a big mug of hot tea - very necessary after a morning of painting I think!! :)

Well, it seems as if I never stop doesn't it? Indeed I don't - well not at the moment anyway. Yesterday afternoon, mid baking, I had an appointment with a lovely man called Pete who owns a little cafe and who wanted to have a look at my art print cards. We had a chat and he said he would be very happy to stock my cards for me! I was delighted!! The cafe is in a very scenic area, popular with walkers and cyclists and people coming off the Woodhead Pass (one of the main routes over the penines to Manchester) and its often incredibly busy. He also expressed an interest in having a few pictures too, so thats something else to be thinking about!

This is a long post isnt it?

A little while ago I looked out the kitchen window at the pouring rain, and guess what I saw? It made my day - Mamma Duck and Seven little Babies swimming furiously against the swell (river's gone up quite a few inches and is boistrous and brown instead of shallow and calm). They looked like little brown pom-poms, all in a line - just delightful! :)

Im off to get that cuppa and cake, Ive rambled long enough!!

Sending love to you each, for a smashing weekend.

See you soon
J x

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Life and its little luxuries

Oooooh!! Delight and excitement is in the air, I finally have some pictures of my crocheted bag for you all to see!
The last stitch went in last night, and I could hardlly wait for this morning and our trip to the supermarket to road test it!

Here it is in its lovely stripy glory! I was rather inspired by the colours on some strawberry fabric I have (as I think I mentioned before) so picked these vibrant shades from Rowan's handknit cotton dk range. I was rather surprised how fast this bag took shape, I only started it the week before last, but I must admit to sneaking in a row or two whilst the little one played quietly and spending most evenings on it too.

For anyone who is curious, I followed the pattern on Attic24's blog, you can find it here. I have added a slightly different embellishment to the bit where the handles are sewn to the bag, using a pattern from my recent purchase (Crochet Bouquet) for round flowers which I thought were quite nice! My Mum came around with her button tin, and we poured the contents on the table before deciding on some white and blue buttons to finish off the centres. After some late night stitchery (I wasnt going to bed til I'd finished it) I was suddenley sitting with a completed bag in my lap! Im now twiddling my thumbs wondering what to do next, knowing that yes, I still have a blanket and cushion cover on the go...but somehow, there is something lovely about putting together a bag, something you can really use and go out and about with and after watching the little one parading about with it this morning, I decided to make a smaller version for her, something to put teddy in and the 'very necessary things a toddler needs' like a dolly blanket, toy telephone and books.

Do you know what I like best about making something for myself? Its the feeling that there is no other one exactly like it anywhere in the world!
Did you ever think about it like that? It makes our creations feel very luxurious doesn't it? There is also the added lovliness of the sentiment that goes into a handmade item, something that has been crafted with love and care, and possibly very good quality materials. I like the whole experience of creating something; the pleasure from making it, and the enjoyment of using it.

It makes me think, alot of what I think of as 'my little luxuries' are exactly that - little and perhaps very ordinary. They dont cost alot, they're not designer and I don't care - I derive great pleasure from a bunch of pinks or a cheery jam jar full of little daffodils, I like watching sunsets and moonrises, I like the luxury of once a month getting my fix of inspiring magazines...I like to treat myself to a gorgeous bottle of seaweed & arnica bath soak from Neals Yard, and now and then immerse myself with a book, candles and optional glass of wine for a deep and pleasurable home spa experience...I like the deep feeling of satisfaction from baking stuff, from cooking and sharing these goodies with family and friends - I like Green & Blacks chocolate with a mug of their hot chocolate when Im in the need of a real chocolate fix :) and I like clean breeze dried sheets on the bed and fresh jammies...I could list more, but I want to hear yours...

Go on, share...

...What are your favourite little luxuries?

Sending love to you
J x

Monday 11 May 2009


Im very excited...
...I have some fabulous news...!

...Yesterday was selection day for the Great Sheffield Art Show, and all my three pictures were chosen for the exhibition!!! I was - am - delighted!! I couldn't believe it! The art show is in its 22nd year and has a fabulous reputation as the biggest art show in the north! It will be my second chance to exhibit since my daughter was born 2 years ago - Im very, very chuffed to say the least and you'll have to pardon this blatent bit of trumpet blowing for the moment! :)

The three pictures are from the top 'Porthcurno', 'Twilight Daisies' and '9 Days of Summer' - they are all mixed media done with watercolour, crayon and inks.

There will be about 1400 pictures on show, and over 4000 visitors turned up last year so its a great way of getting your work seen. If you want to know a bit more, or are thinking of having a visit yourself you can click here to have a look at their website.

I think I have to say, that this year I decided to impose certain challenges upon myself. As well as being a mum to the most fabulous little girl, I am still Julia and I still have that part of me that likes to paint and create - and I cant ignore it. No. Over the last two years I have slowly come to understand that what was my own personal 24 hours a day, to do with as I wished, was suddenley 100% dedicated to this wee small thing. I was at her beck and call, there to acknowledge her every whim and want. And I love it, I truly do - but Ive had to deal with my 'lost freedom' gradually, and learn how to insert little pockets of time for myself into each day. As she grows, Im finding it a bit easier (as Im also less tired) and most evenings and afternoons I am making or painting something.

Its a necessary staple for me, as essential to my wellbeing as food, water and sleep.

So this year, the little one being almost two, I figured I would set myself a few challenges here and there - one to take part in the Art Show, and the second to run a stall at the Craft Candy Summer Fair. Im still waiting to find out if Ive been chosen to have a table but Im hoping I have. These things make me feel like Im achieving something for myself, and it creates a happy balance. It also makes me feel like Im still capable, Im not sure why but that is important too.

Well, onto other things....the warm weather is slow in coming to this part of Yorkshire. The temperature is still on the chilly side despite the huge blue skies and chubby lambs that are looking more like young sheep with every day that passes. There is a brisk wind today and it feels cold, but on a brighter note Ive heard on the grapevine that we're in for a BBQ summer!! Hurrah!!! Lets hope so!

This vibrantly coloured field is what I pass on the way to my Mum's cottage from our house. It is the most stunning thing and I love it! I love how everything is so vivid at the moment, the myriad of greens that are bursting out of every bud and stem are drenching the land - its a very uplifting time of the year for me!

It has led me to another crochet project - yes, another one. The cushion cover has been stuffed away with the crochet blanket, sidelined and forgotten for the time being whilst I steam ahead with my new bag! Im almost done, but for a few little adornments and I will post a picture of it as soon as its completed. To tempt your curiosity, I will only say that the colour scheme was inspired by a recent purchase of CK strawberry print fabric and its looking delightfully bright and jolly - you will certainly see me coming with it, lets put it that way!! :)

I hope you are all bright and happy yourselves, and that your weekends were relaxing and reviving - talking of which, we have just booked ourselves a week down in beautiful Dorset, at the end of June in a little thatched cottage close to the sea - I cant wait!

Sending you love, a deckchair in a sunny spot, 40 winks and a scoop of tranquility

Til next time,
J xxx

Tuesday 5 May 2009

Delicious Art Day

A cold May morning dawns, yes, the heating is on and there is a steady drizzle from the opaque white sky above but I am not bothered, as today (after a rather long absence) I have a date with my paints and all things arty, and it feels rather marvellous, like Ive been given an extra birthday.

As soon as the little one was on her way to Nannie Mum's house, I eagerly got everything ready and soon it was a hive of activity as I basked in the luxury of an entire day reaching before me, filled with all things colourful and creative. My main goal today was to complete 'Can We Come Too?' ~ a mixed media piece which has been sat on my sideboard top for several weeks now desperately awaiting my attention, and to begin a new one which already has been entitled 'A Lovely Dream' - or at least it has for now :)

the original sketch for 'Can We Come Too?'
Some of you may recall a little snap shot of 'Can We Come Too?' several weeks back when it was only just half way done. Since then I haven't been near it, except to glance at it in passing and several different ways of continuing with it have run through my mind after coming to a stand still and not knowing where to go with it. This happens to me sometimes, and Ive discovered that time is very good at sending you just the right idea when its ready. So today, I got stuck in, acrylic paints and buttery oil pastels, blending, scraping, drawing into...oh it was bliss!

So, after a couple of very absorbing hours, it was finished - ta-daaaaaaa!! Here it is!

'Can We Come Too?'

Oh Im so very pleased with it - I love the rush of euphoria that comes with completing a painting - and right after finishing this one I was to be found hugging a big mug of tea and my sketch journal working on the next piece, 'A Lovely Dream' which I have big plans for - Im going to be entering it into an Illustration competition and it needs to be ready by the end of the month.

I will share more details as I progress with it - suffice to say its going well so far and its nice to have a goal to work to as far as painting goes as just lately I feel that Ive given the majority of my time over to my crochet and baking goodies :) Sometimes my art work is sadly neglected in favour of wool and cake.

(a little close up of Bo the dog and Little Red walking by the lavender fields)

However...I don't think I can neglect my crochet work completely in favour of my painting - its my one big chance to fully chill out and I love squeezing a bit into my day, its like a meditation and there are no expectations with it other than to eventually make something nice for the house. So, imagine my delight when the postie stopped off at my little house this morning and delivered this:

Happy squeals of delight as I flick through the pages - oh theres going to be no stopping me now, everything will be adorned with poppies and pansies just wait and see :)

This book is even more significant in a tiny way, as when I was browsing flowery crochet books and was reading up about them, I was very taken with the fact that this particular author, although American spent 7 years living in Sheffield (which is my city folks) and was heartily inspired by all the different coloured flowers she saw during her time here, which formed the basis of her inspiration for this book! Hurrah!!
Thats about all from me today, Im off to do some much needed website work now - my little one isnt due back til after tea so Im making the most of the quiet to get on with things. Its been good to reconnect with my painting today, kind of wondering why I left it so long actually...but as you know, life gets in the way and time flies!
Til next time, pink sunsets and mango frappes to you :)
Love J xxx

Friday 1 May 2009

Shells & Flowers

Hello there!

Well, after a couple of you asked me how I did the shell stitch which Im using to make my current cushion cover (pic above) I offered to share how I did it. Well, Im afraid Im one of those horribly honest people who fear policemen and anyone in charge so I began to wonder if I would be in trouble for writing out how I did it...anyway, I looked about on the internet a bit, and it seems this is the basic shell stitch and there seems to be quite a few tutorials online for it, so I thought if I write in my words exactly how I did it, it would probably be alright.

So, here we go. I am using American stitch descriptions as that is how I learnt. The stitches you will use are Single Crochet (SC) and Double Crochet (DC)

You will need to find a hook that is suitable for your chosen wool. I am using Sirdar Baby Bamboo DK wool and a hook number 4.

Start your chain by making multiples of 6 then add 2 at the end of your chain.

First of all, you need to do a SC into the second stitch from your hook. Then, miss the next 2 stitches out and DC 5 stitches into the next stitch.

Miss the next 2 stitches and SC into the next stitch. Carry on like this until you reach the end - you should be doing a SC into the last stitch to finish the row.

Turn your work and chain 3 - this will turn out to be the middle of a half shell. Into the SAME stitch, do 2 DC's.

Miss 2 stitches, and then do 1 SC into the next stitch ~ this should be the top of the middle shell that you created in your previous row . Miss the next 2 stitches and then do 5 DC's into the next stitch. Miss the next 2 stitches and SC into the following this to the end of the row - if you've done it right you should be doing 3 DC stitches into the last stitch on this row, to make another half shell.

Turn your work and do a single crochet into the top of the last DC stitch (which is the last stitch of the previous half shell), then miss 2 stitches and work 5 DC's into the next stitch...thats it - just keep repeating the pattern til you're done! You will notice that your single crochet stitches sit on the middle stitch of every shell and that your current shell sits between the two on the row below. This is how the lovely flowing pattern starts to emerge.

To add new colours, finish at the end of each row and just knot your new colour as close to the stitch as possible before carrying on.

Oh I do hope this makes sense and your shells turn out alright!! If you're still a bit confused, and I do apologise for the lack of helpful photographs, you can check out this helpful video tutorial I found for you which should sort out any hiccups :)

Talking of crochet...last night I started to crochet my sunny summer garden blocks together - Im working on the granny square pattern that Lucy shared on Attic24 (that lady has alot to answer for and I hold her completely responsible for my current addiction heehee!!)
Here's how its looking so far - I worked out last night (with a rather large sigh of relief) that it needn't be as big as I was thinking, having laid it out on our rug for size, Ive discovered that instead of 31 more of these blocks, I only really need 21 to make a very good sized blanket! Hurrah!!!
Well May is upon us already, and its the bank holiday - we don't have any plans as such for it right now but if the weather is fine I can feel a picnic near a stream coming on, perhaps a wander round a nice garden centre and a country stroll...I seem to repell against joining long traffic queues on motorways these days as the masses throng to the coast, fight for parking spots, get rained on and drive home in a grump - I don't want to sound miserable but that just ain't my idea of fun, no, Id rather have a peaceful weekend closer to home with my nearest and dearest and leave it up to serendipity what happens.

I hope you all have lovely bank holidays, whatever your plans - and I send you sunshine, warm days, and scoops of extra time for things that delight you.

Love J xxx

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