Archive for May, 2011

I’ve been busy the past week, but not just with my gardening work.  I’ve been burning the candle at both ends to get a wedding commission finished.

My friend Carla approached me about Save the Date cards, and the brief she gave me was this:

I love the style of the buildings and the colours and the whole time-warp feel. Walking down the streets there was Spanish in the air, bird markets and cigar smoke. It was hot, colourful and laid back, salsa beats heard on nearly every corner and a cold mojitos waiting for you in the cool bars. There was also carnivals that seemed to have impromptu parades though the streets.

Instead of making individual cards, I suggested that I create a painting which she could then use to have cards printed – which also meant that she would have the original piece of art to keep forever.

I really enjoyed working on this.  The research was interesting, and I had a great time finding out about Cuba (having never been I was starting from a complete blank!).  I finished the inkwork first, and then took a scan which I sent to the bride-to-be for approval before I started adding the colour (please click on the image to view a larger version):

I have to say that I do rather like the monochrome version!  Colour was desired though, and that was fun too (although a little scary – I was terrified I’d ruin several days work in a second).  The finished version is this:

I’m really pleased with this piece.  I tried to capture the evocative essence of Cuba, but without falling back on too many clichés (so, no Che Guevara or cigars!).  I knew that Carla wanted something vibrant, but I was hoping to achieve that whilst still maintaining a certain subtlety – and I think I’ve managed it.

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A magical light…

I’ve been wanting to add some fairy lights to my garden since I finished the landscaping phase, but finances have held me back somewhat.  I’m still broke, but I spotted a bargain at the Chelsea Flower show and snapped up two sets of fairy lights (50 lights on a 5 metre string, £10 each – bargaintastic!).  On Friday I painstakingly wound them around two of the posts in my garden (the ones with the Trachelospermum jasminoides and the Clematis cirrhosa, for those who are interested in the fine details), and I loved the effect so much that on Sunday I went out and treated myself to some flower-shaped fairy lights (Sainsburys, £19.99 per set – 20 lights per string – currently on BOGOF).  These were even more troublesome to put up.  I wound one set very carefully into my contorted hazel, and it took the best part of 45 minutes to get just right.

Well worth the effort:

And a photo taken in the daylight to show that they really are just as pretty when they’re not lit:

The fairy lights on the posts have proved much more difficult to photograph, so here is a very bad photograph just because I doubt whether I’ll be able to take a better one:

You’ll just have to trust me when I say that the fairy lights look much prettier in the flesh!  I still have one set of the flower lights, and I’m holding onto them until I’m absolutely certain about where I want to put them.

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I usually take ideas and inspiration away from my annual visits to the Chelsea Flower Show, and this year was no different.  I was very taken by the RBC New Wild Garden and loved the use of the insect habitats.  I made a little insect box years ago, but haven’t made any since.  Don’t ask me why because I haven’t a clue!  However, inspired by the RBC garden at Chelsea I decided to make some this weekend.

I always have leftover bits of timber in varying sizes lying around, and those were used together with bits of old branches taken home from work, old bamboo canes, scrunched up bits of paper and shredded bark (behind the closed sections), and an old book (the covers of which had already been recycled as a new notebook).  The result is aesthetically pleasing and I hope that some beneficial insects will set up home in the new hotels.  I still have lots of timber and other tat lying around so I may make some more of these in the future.

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It’s been another hectic week here in the land of The Gift Shed, mainly full of gardening work.  I had a little bit of time in my studio on Saturday which was blissful and one of the things I made was this Prescription notebook – I’ve made them before, but it definitely seemed like the right time for another.

Amidst all the chaotic running around this week I had my annual outing to the Chelsea Flower Show.  I’ve decided not to blog about the show itself (although there are some bits and pieces I think I’ll be referring back to in future posts), but I have to say I enjoyed a certain release while I was there.  I went with Matt, but we met up with one of my clients for a couple of hours.  She’s an absolute blast, and such fun to shop with.  I found her company immensely therapeutic, and I came home with some beautiful things.

This gorgeous birdcage is my new favourite garden adornment.  Utterly pointless, but so beautiful!  I bought it with the idea of putting a small potted fern inside, but now I’ve popped it on the table by my studio I think I may just leave it empty, it looks so perfect as it is.

Matt bought me a truly lovely keyring, made from New Zealand driftwood:

It has a wonderful form, but more importantly it has feel appeal.  It’s amazingly tactile, and when I’m holding it I can’t stop stroking it with my thumb.  I’ve added a pair of stamped copper tags (purchased three years ago from Windshine) which I think go with it beautifully.  They read ‘amas veritas’ (true love), and were inspired by Practical Magic (which is one of my favourite films and books).

I feel a lot more at peace today than I did a week ago, despite the completely manic and overworked nature of the past week.  I couldn’t give you a specific reason why, I’m just grateful for the release.

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Weekword: Revelations

I’ve been completely rushed off my feet this week, so I’m afraid that my Weekword post is a short and sweet one.  A quote by Oscar Wilde:

It is Art, and Art only, that reveals us to ourselves.

Heather at Cranky Stitch is hosting Weekword this week – pop over to her blog to see who else is playing!

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Weekword: catharsis

A list of all this week’s participants is given at the end of this post

So, I chose ‘catharsis’ as this week’s word…  A catharsis is a purging or release of emotions/tension, and whenever I hear the word catharsis I always think of Coda, a poem by Dorothy Parker:

There’s little in taking or giving,
There’s little in water or wine;
This living, this living, this living
Was never a project of mine.
Oh, hard is the struggle, and sparse is
The gain of the one at the top,
For art is a form of catharsis,
And love is a permanent flop,
And work is the province of cattle,
And rest’s for a clam in a shell,
So I’m thinking of throwing the battle-
Would you kindly direct me to hell?

Because, in truth, it sums up perfectly how I generally feel when I reach the point of catharsis.  Thankfully it’s not often I feel that way, but I think I’m just about there now.  Since September I’ve been keeping going partly through momentum, and mainly through sheer force of will.  There hasn’t been time to give free rein to my emotions, and I’m not my usual balanced self.  Something’s going to give eventually!  I’m still overwhelmed with grief, and I think I’m still trying to push that to the side by focusing on other things instead – but I’m running out of things.  First it was renovating my bedroom, then it was landscaping my garden and building my new studio, then it was going on holiday, and now…?  Now I’m concentrating on catching up with work (gardening), commissions, and all my little personal projects – but I’m running out of steam.  I’m finding it harder and harder to concentrate on things, and I think it’s soon going to be time to give in: to release and recharge.

Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog for this week’s Weekword.  Don’t forget to pop by and see all the other participants too!

I’m also tagging the person who’ll choose the next Weekword, and it is … Heather!  Get your thinking cap on Heather,  you’ll need to post on your blog on Monday to let us know what the new word is 🙂

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The garden is looking remarkably well at the moment, and it’s sheer bliss to sit in it when I’ve finished work for the day.  The climbing roses are filling the air with their fragrance, and to my delight the honeysuckle has just started flowering too.

Honeysuckle is one of my favourites, not least because I love to taste the flowers.  I learned this trick from my father, and it never occurred to me that other people didn’t know about it – until quite recently, when I realised that I hadn’t met anyone who didn’t give me a strange look when I mentioned it in passing.

So, before showing you some more of my latest notebooks, I’ll give you a quick lesson in sampling the sweet delights of honeysuckle.

First, let’s see the flower itself:

These flowers only opened yesterday, so they’re very fresh and not yet as sweet as I like – ideally you want to taste them when they’re a few days old and have matured a bit.  Remove a flower from the plant:

Right, you see the green bit at the base?  You need to use your thumbnail to gently remove that – but don’t cut all the way through, because you’re going to pull that green bit away with the stamen still attached, so that what you end up with looks like this:

When you pull the stamen out, you’ll notice a small bead of fluid being pulled down to the base of the flower:

Click on the photo if you need a closer view.  That drop of liquid is the sweet nectar, and it’s divine.  You don’t get much, but one little drop can lift the spirits marvellously!  Try it, and if you do please report back and let me know!

Back to business, I was actually down in my garden for a reason this afternoon (and not just to relax); I went down to my studio to finish another couple of books:

More stab bindings, as I’m having fun with them at the moment, but there is another project fermenting in my brain so watch this space!

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Sally over at Diario asked me if I would choose this week’s word – so there it is.  Get your thinking caps on folks!

If you’d like to take part in Weekword then please add a comment to this post, and on Friday I will add links to all the participants’ blogs.

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It’s been a very long week.  I had four days of flat-out gardening, then a day of last minute bookbinding and packing for a fair on Saturday (as well as taking care of my own garden), then the fair itself… and finally today I got to relax.  Sort of.  I spent the day in my studio, which is relaxing in a way because I enjoy it, but let’s face it I was still working!

Anyway, I’ve had fun playing with the new papers I bought while I was away, and here are the results…

Pamphlet-style notebooks bound with chiyogami paper chopsticks:

Some miniatures, using origami paper and fabric samples for the covers (there were two more, but they sold on Saturday before I could take photos):

And some books made using the Japanese stab-binding technique:

I’ve pulled all the muscles along my left side, which hurts like hell, so I’m taking the day off from gardening tomorrow to give myself a chance to heal… and which also means I can spend a bit more time in my studio, which isn’t anywhere near as strenuous as gardening!

To purchase any of these, please visit my Etsy Shop – use coupon code blog15052011 to receive a 10% discount on your order.

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Weekword: Sinister

Today’s Weekword was chosen by Sally over at Diario – visit her blog to find out who else is playing this week.

I haven’t taken part in Weekword for absolutely ages, but couldn’t resist when I saw that the chosen word this time was sinister

…it reminded me that, a couple of years ago, I arranged for a rather elaborate practical joke to be played on my partner, Matt.  All because he thinks penguins are sinister.

The site is a little out of date, but if you’d like to read about my sinister practical joke then please click here.

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