Thursday 30 January 2014

Mourning the loss

We've had storms like never before recently and it prompted us to take a close look at some of the big trees in the garden. Most of them were here when we moved in over 25 years ago. They've become old friends - sentinels that we imagined would be there long after we're gone. The enormously tall beech have had a bit of a haircut but were declared sound.

Sadly the diagnosis wasn't so great for everything - we were told that three of our ancient cherry trees had to go. They were unsafe and should be cut down before they fell down. We shall miss the blossom come spring.

This is all that's left of one of them after a brutal few hours with a chainsaw. There's more to go so the garden will look worse before it gets better. On the positive side, the log store will soon be full again!

They say wood keeps you warm twice - once when you log it and again when you burn it. These fellows looked warm enough with all the exertion!

You can see why they had to go - the centre of the trunk was like sponge.

Of course, beautiful as the blossom is it's the fruit that we will miss the most.

Look good enough to eat don't they? Some years, if we could beat the squirrels and blackbirds to it,  we'd have so much fruit I'd make jam.

Of course they also turned up in my sketchbook on many occasions. So it's sad to see them go but it's opened up the view and made such a lot of space. Things have to change in a garden and often for the better! The tree surgeon is coming again in a day or two to make a start in the orchard. I'm assured scabby old apple and pear trees can be rejuvenated so with luck they may live to fight another day.

Meanwhile, back in the studio I'm busy getting pieces finished for various exhibitions and shows that will be upon us before we can blink. You know how it is, you book things sometimes years in advance but the day inevitably dawns when you need to be ready. It's important to prioritise to avoid sleepless nights and general panic! The first event on the radar is Fashion, Embroidery and Stitch at the National Exhibition Centre in March. It's a lovely show - one of our favourites because the exhibitions and stands are so varied.

This is one end of our stand last year. We had to battle deep snow and ice to get there each day - fingers crossed this year will be mild and springlike! We'll be demonstrating a variety of techniques and will have the embroidery machine set up and doing its brilliantly creative thing so if you can get to Birmingham please come and see what we're up to or just to say hello. 

Thanks for dropping by - Linda

Thursday 23 January 2014

Onwards and upwards

January is always a difficult time of the year for me. It's often so dark and gloomy that the day feels like it's finished soon after lunch. So few hours of daylight lowers my spirits and I really look forward to the longer days of spring. That's why the sight of these beauties in the garden is such a tonic.

I remember blogging them this time last year too - that just shows how much they mean to me!

Nature always does its best to improve my mood. A stroll round the garden this morning revealed new life everywhere I looked. Hard as it is to believe, these will be a riot of hot colour come the summer.

It would be easy to give into seasonal blues because the English winter can be a melancholy time. Just look at the sombre scene above. I took this photo a couple of days ago during a walk along the riverbank on the outskirts of Laura's new village home. There's no point of reference for scale but that giant hogweed was 10 feet tall at least! Surrounded by starkly bare trees, and with the calls of unseen but noisome birds the only sound, it was moody and menacing. We've had endless rain and the ground is saturated and muddy. Everything smells of the wet earth but only a minute or two later the sun came out and the atmosphere changes completely.

That's what's so fantastic about our unpredictable English climate. The changing quality of the light and how it affects the landscape literally stops me in my tracks. I only wish I could capture that quality of light in paint. The camera on the iPad doesn't do it true justice either - you had to be there!

The grey clouds engulfed us again moments later. Hedges are a dominant feature of the landscape around here. This particular specimen looks pretty ancient to me. It bears the scars of many years of savage hedge cutting but see how the straight, tall shoots already carry the promise of this year's leaf. It too will survive the trials of winter!

At the end of the lane, after a stiff climb up from the valley, is a farm - there's no need to take Amelie to a zoo when there are neighbours like this just waiting to sat hello!

Laura's been making some beautiful drawings of the landscape for a DMTV video this week and I am inspired to try my hand too. It's far outside my comfort zone but I'm determined to have a go - if anything comes of my good intentions I'll let you know!

Thanks for dropping by - I appreciate your company. Talk to you again soon - Linda

Monday 20 January 2014

sad news

It was with great sadness that I heard the news this week that a very talented student of ours here at DesignMatters had died very suddenly. If you are a regular follower of ours you may remember seeing some of the wonderful work Gila produced for her City & Guilds portfolio. It's hard to believe she wrote to us as recently as the 23rd of December to wish us well for Christmas and to show us her latest quilt.

Gila was very excited that her daughter was expecting a baby in the spring and she was to become a grandmother like me. How very sad that she was to miss out on that enormously precious experience!

Gila's family and friends are planning to mount an exhibition of her work in the summer. I'll let you know details when I have them.


Sunday 12 January 2014

How high's the water Momma?

And still it rains........

Actually it's dry again today but this is the river when it burst its banks a couple of days ago. We cross this via a little troll bridge every time we go to Laura's.

With more rain forecast tonight her next door neighbours must be wondering when they'll be able to use their garden path again!

Luckily, the fields can bear the brunt of the floods before any buildings are threatened.

With such a lot of weather about there's a lot to be said for staying home! I've been in the studio today adding the finishing touches to the Greater Spotted Woodpecker.

Although I regularly see both of these birds in my garden I don't suppose I'd ever be lucky enough to see them either side of the same tree!

After this morning's painting session I came into the kitchen to wash brushes and because I've been looking around for a new painting subject I noticed how many jugs I seem to be amassing around the house. Jugs on the kitchen windowsill.....

On kitchen shelves..........

In the sitting room..........

In a bedroom.........

On bookshelves...........

In the conservatory......

And in the storeroom waiting for a home!

This is just a fraction of my collection - more jugs than anyone could possibly need but I justify them all by saying they'll be perfect subjects for a still life. Occasionally that even happens! If you keep your eyes peeled while watching DMTV videos you'll spot some of them from time to time - my obsession must surely be tax deductible? 

I watched a fascinating TV programme this week about the history of still life and I feel very inspired to have another go myself. Can't aspire to that amazing basket of fruit by Caravaggio but everyone improves with practise so I shall persevere. He was only 21 when he painted it and I'm nearly three times that so I may have missed the boat. Oh well, nothing ventured nothing gained.

I hope you're all keeping warm and dry and hopefully finding time to be creative. Talk again soon - Linda