Friday, 24 June 2016

Five on Friday - Two Venues & Three Gifts

During two weeks in June artists and makers open up their studios for Bucks Open Studios. Members of the public are able to visit, explore and talk to artists in their working environment. This year there were over 300 artists covering a whole range of artistic disciplines across Buckinghamshire to visit. For my Five on Friday this week I thought I would share two of the venues I have visited this week and three items I acquired for the gift drawer.

1. Claydon House

On Wednesday I went to the Courtyard at Claydon House which was hosting a number of artists including a printmaker, ceramicist, painters, textiles, sculpture, photographer and silversmiths.

Claydon House is the ancestral home of the Verney family and was built between 1757 and 1771. Sir Ralph Verney gave the house to the National Trust in 1956. Sir Edmund Verney, Ralph's son and a former High Sheriff of Buckingham still lives there. Claydon House has close connections with Florence Nightingale as her sister was married to Sir Harry Verney in the mid 1800's. Florence had her own rooms and spent much time there when not working and travelling.

This is the rear of the house but I love the brickwork and the shape of the windows. It reminds me of a very posh doll's house where the facade could be opened out to reveal beautiful stately rooms. There are beautiful rooms inside with many artefacts from Florence's era, which are well worth a visit.

This side of the house overlooks the Courtyard making up the fourth side of a quadrangle.

This area would have been the stables and has now been converted into artist's studios, gallery, tea shop and gift shop. Although it was a grey, wet day it was lovely to have the opportunity to meet a number of artists and talk about how their work was inspired and created.

2. Westbury Arts Centre

Yesterday I went to Westbury Arts Centre  in Shenley Wood. The Centre is based in an old farm house, parts of which date back to the 17th Century.

 Much of the character of the old building remains although the house has been converted into a community of artist's studios. An old barn next to the farm house is used as an exhibition space and performing arts venue. It is all set in a lovely wild garden with fruit trees, bee hives and chickens scratching around. 

The Centre is very involved in the local community and holds workshops, masterclasses and lectures regularly as well as art performances. I have attended a number of workshops there, including book binding, metalwork with Kate Edwards and I am looking forward to a felt flowers workshop with Hilly Edwards next month.

I find it impossible to visit artist studios without coming home with a few items! There were many beautiful things that I would love to have brought home but finances dictate that they were to be admired not acquired. I was tempted by the following three items on the basis they would make good gifts and would go in the gift drawer ready for friends and family birthdays.

3. Felted scarf

This beautiful hand crafted scarf was created by Sharon Howard at Ichyfingers. It is made from merino wool with gorgeous splodgy, purple flowers.

Although the photo does not really do it justice it is quite fine and wonderfully soft.
Sharon also creates amazing little sculpted animals in needlefelt.

4. Porcelain Pot

Kirsteen Holuj created this beautiful porcelain pot. She explained to me how she creates the ripple effect in the glaze using shellac. 

There were a number of these small pots and everyone was different so it was very difficult to decide which one to choose. A group of three would have been very effective displayed together but I restrained myself.  You can see more of Kirsteen's wonderful work here.

5. Set of Felt Cards.

I was particularly taken by Rosalind Castling's work. Atmospheric landscapes created with felted fibres. There was a large picture, which captured moorland meeting the sea. It reminded me very much of the North York Moors and East Coast of Yorkshire where I spent many holidays as a child. When speaking to Rosalind it transpired that she was from the North East of England and much of her work is inspired by that coastline right up to Northumberland. 

The large picture did not come home with me but I did buy this set of cards. This second card reminds me of the moorland close to where I grew up. It is funny how we are drawn back to our roots despite not living there for many years.

I shall frame the cards and they will possibly (more than likely!) be a gift to myself. 
Well, you have to have treats in life - don't you?????

I plan to visit more Open Studios this weekend so there may be more finds for the gift drawer. There will certainly be more wonderful artists to discover and work to admire.

It is great to join up with Amy at Love Made My Home for Five on Friday.

Friday, 17 June 2016

In the Garden - Five on Friday

Despite the many thunderstorms and rain this week there have been plenty of dry periods to get out in the garden. It is so good to be out in the fresh air and see what is coming into flower and what has seeded itself where. My garden is quite wild and things seed themselves about the place. This is mainly because I do not get round to cutting things back in time to stop seeds spreading and also because I think the seed heads often have a beauty of their own. At least that is my excuse and I am sticking to it! My Five on Friday this week are all garden related.

1. Rain drops on leaves

The Alchemilla Mollis (Lady's Mantle) always capture raindrops beautifully so they look like jewels have been sprinkled on them.

The Polygonatum (Soloman's seal) also captured the raindrops this week, which is something I had not noticed before. Mind you the heavens had opened just before I took this. It is incredible how the weather can change so quickly from thunder and lightening one minute, to sunshine the next.

2. Geraniums 

The Geraniums are a good example of a plant that has spread. I have several different species although I am not sure which one this is. This originally came from my parents garden many years ago as a small cutting. It has now worked its way round much of the garden and I regularly give cuttings of it away. Several clumps have found their way back to my mother's new garden since she moved, so it has gone full circle.

The bees absolutely love it and the garden hums with their presence. The geraniums are next to the path and I am always a little concerned about disturbing the bees as I walk past but they never seem to mind.

3. Iris

The Iris do not flower for long but ohh what beauty for the short time they are around. The complexity of their structure fascinates me. The seed heads are interesting too and and the finches love to come and eat the seeds hopping sideways up the stems to the feast at the top.

4. Poppies

Poppies always create a splash of colour in the border. These Oriental Poppies also came from my parents' garden originally. Field poppies have always grown in the garden ever since I moved here. They were not planted but must have been in the soil since the time this area was farmland. They amuse me the way they pop up in unexpected places.

I love the way the Oriental Poppies unfold themselves and the petals look like screwed up tissue paper before stretching out to capture the sun.

5. Sweet Sultan

The Sweet Sultan get everywhere! They seed themselves into every nook and cranny, including the path. But they were my grandfathers favourite flower and who could resist their determination to spread themselves regardless of where you would like them to grow. 

The bees love them too so that is another good reason for growing them.

I hope the weather improves next week so I can spend even more time out in the garden. All the craft projects are never going to be completed at this rate but I did do some stitching in the garden yesterday between showers!

Joining with Amy at Love Made My Home.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Finishing Off (JETS in June)

Our JETS meeting last Saturday turned out to be more of a finishing off day rather than a mini cottages day. There were just over half our usual number, both in students and volunteers, because so much is going on at this time of year. School Fairs, Swimming Galas, holidays and many more activities make it a very busy time of year. However, we had a very relaxed, happy session with lots of chat and laughter. 

More Cottage Needlecases were completed.

Carefully stitching the inside to the outer cover

L. almost finished

H. was very pleased to finish her cottage

L. had missed a session so did very well to finish her cottage 

I. created a mini cottage to attach to her scissors so she will not loose them. She remembered how to do Lazy Daisy stitch to create her flowers so it will match her Needlecase.

H. decided to get on with a kit of a doll she had been given as a gift. She has really got the hang of blanket stitch. Look at those lovely neat stitches.

C. was busy with her entry for the Regional Day Junior competition. She was concentrating so much I was unable to take a proper photograph of it!

As an extra activity there were materials to make woven butterflies. Lots were made but they flew off before I managed to take pictures of them all!

A. presented me with this one at the end of the session.

It was really kind of her and I think I shall make it into a brooch.

There will be one more meeting in July before the summer break. I am sure everyone will be ready for a rest before thinking of new ideas for September.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Five on Friday - In Miniature

Friday has come round quickly this week and it is time to join Amy at Love Made My Home for Five on Friday.
It has been all about small things this week. Lucy at Attic 24 started it with her lovely Mouse Wreath last week, which I completely fell in love with. Despite all the WIP that are currently in a large pile on the end of the sofa (also down the back of the sofa, but we won't mention those) I had to try out the dear little mouse pattern from Lucy Ravenscar.

1. Mini Mice

I did not have any fawn wool to hand so used a spare ball of grey instead.
I am pleased with the result but slightly troubled by the fact they look a little like rats. Having had a problem with rats over the winter (long story) I am still a bit nervous about them. These Mini Mice really would be better in fawn and so I may need to take a trip to the yarn shop soon.

2. Teeny Tiny Flowers

Once the mice were completed it was time to make a few flowers - just to see how they worked, naturally. The tiny pink and the daisy flowers are from Lucy's patterns here. The blue meconopsis came from Lesley Stanfield's book 100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet. I used a treble cluster instead of a double treble cluster to keep the tiny theme.

3. Little Leaves

Flowers need leaves of course. These too are a combination of Lucy and Lesley's patterns. The fern leaf, although fiddly to start with is really effective so there will probably have to be a few more of those. It is looking as though a mouse wreath of my own may be developing...... Now do I complete that first or go back to the pile of WIP's?!

4. Small Butterflies

These small butterflies are the last part of an embroidered piece for the Embroiderers Guild Regional Day competition in July. The theme for the competition is "From the Heart" and my design is based on heart shapes.  It is not in my nature to be competitive and do not usually enter competitions but last year our Branch hosted the Regional Day. All our members were encouraged to take part in the competition and to my amazement my entry won first prize. Therefore, it seemed bad manners not to enter this year's competition. I shall share the completed piece of embroidery at a later date. Each butterfly has been created in felt and fabric applique finished with hand embroidery. The body and antenna is wire wrapped in embroidery thread. I was really pleased to find some heart sequins and pearl heart embellishments in my stash to decorate them.

5. Cute Cottage 

It is JETS (Junior Embroiderers and Textile Students) tomorrow and the students decided they wanted to make a Miniature Cottage scissor keep to go with their Cottage Needlecases. Here is the prototype which has turned out to be quite cute. I think I may make a few more for the Summer Fete and attach a key ring to the ribbon loop 'chimney'. It will be interesting to see how the students adapt the design with their own creativity. 
I shall report back next week. 

Friday, 3 June 2016

Five on Friday - Bits and Pieces

Here we are again with Five on Friday joining with Amy at Love Made My Home. It has been an odd Bits and Pieces kind of week. Continuing with some projects, starting a few new ones and trying to finish off others.
1. Cards
It was my brother's birthday last week and I was surprised to find the card box was rather low. I generally make cards for friends and family and try to keep a selection in a pretty storage box. It was only when I opened the lid that I remembered I had intended making new ones but had never got round to it. One of those jobs that goes on the list then somehow drops off the bottom! As the weather has been disappointing (cold and wet) it seemed a good time to remedy the situation.

If I could not play in the garden then the next best thing was to create flower cards with pink and purple blooms in applique.

2. Pots
 It has been half term holiday here this week and unfortunately we have been under a thick veil of cloud and had several rainy days. Such a shame for those on holiday as the sun will probably come out when the children are back in school next week. However, after seeing the storms and flooding in some parts of Europe, a little cloud and rain is nothing to complain about. The early part of the week was dry enough to work in the garden and I finally got the pots finished.

The young plants are starting to fill out and hopefully with a little warmth and sunshine they will develop well. I have not had to buy any geraniums this year as I took a lot of cuttings and managed to over-winter last year's plants in the conservatory. I have no idea what colour the cuttings are as my labeling went wrong, so it will be a complete surprise when they do flower. There could be pots of clashing colours, but no matter as they will make me smile whatever happens. I think I like the process of growing things more than the end result, although that's pretty satisfying too.  

The osteospernum and petunias are making a brave attempt to flower despite the rain.

Many of my pots and all the wall baskets (5 at the back of the house and 3 at the front) are cheap and cheerful affairs that are used year after year. The green wall baskets at the back are definitely past their best with lots of scrapes and scratches but I'm hoping the plants will grow abundantly and hid the containers.

3. Treasures
 These vintage linen treasures were found in a small bric-a-brac shop last week for a few pounds.
The top one is a small table cloth and I initially picked it up thinking I would use the crocheted lace edging to decorate a future project. On closer inspection it has been beautifully handmade, with drawn thread-work and hand stitched mitered edges. I do not think I could bring myself to cut it up so it will be kept for summer days in the garden. Perfect for afternoon tea with pretty china. (Probably more likely to be a mug of tea with an oddly shaped fairy cake, but I can dream!)

 The second piece is also exquisitely hand made with drawn thread-work and satin stitch embroidery.
This is just a small piece about 20 cms square and was perhaps part of a dressing table set. I plan to make this into a small cushion.

I love the little shamrock detail and wonder if there was an Irish connection. Old pieces of embroidery and fabric, like old buildings come with their own stories and history. That is probably what fascinates me. What life did they lead and what stories could they tell?

4. CAL progress

The Dance in the Sea CAL I am doing at the moment is growing steadily. I had got behind for a few weeks but managed to catch up last week. That may slip again though because I have not started this week's pattern yet. There are now six sets of four squares.

None of the squares have been blocked yet and I must get started on that task as it will be frustrating at the end. I have learned so much already with new stitches and techniques. My favourite square at the moment is the waves - top left.

It is already possible to see how the colours are going to work together and are real reminder of all the different moods of the sea.

5. Reflection
It has been an odd week, with a general feeling of being unsettled and not very much happening. So it has been good to reflect on what has been achieved and what progress is being made. When I went out in the garden this morning I discovered the two clematis I shared last week are now fully out and showing off.

. It may have been a grey old week but if it had been hot and sunny the flowers would have gone over by now and their petals dropped. 
Perhaps there is something to be said for slow and steady 
- it makes the moment last longer.
(But could we make that the good moments please, not the bad ones!)