It was heartening that so many people missed the mini desk calendars that I produce. They are back… so enjoy the 2014 calendar with (mostly) Oxfordshire countryside. They make good stocking fillers, thank you gifts or to enjoy on your desk depicting the beautiful local countryside. They are approximately 95mm square and you can buy them directly from me for £4.00 (plus p+p). They are also being sold at the Vale and Downland museum at the ‘Gift to Delight Exhibition’.
The low November sun created a eerie and most unexpected shadow with a child’s wire zebra.
Weekly Photo Challenge: Each week WordPress provides a new photographic theme for creative inspiration. We take photographs based on our interpretation of the theme, and post them on our blogs anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme is announced.
A friend recently celebrated her tenth wedding anniversary and commissioned me to create an artwork as a gift for her husband. Over the years, they had collected heart-shaped pebbles and she wanted to incorporate them into a design. I used my wooden letterpress letters to hand stamp a phrase and this was printed onto high quality artpaper as a giclée. The texture of the paper, the natural colours of the stones and the text make a very pleasing piece (although this is hard to capture in the photos). After some experimenting, I chose a landscape format with the final heart in tin of course.
This time last year we went to visit our friends in Leeds. With a special request from me, we caught the steam train from Keighley to Oxenhope with a stopover at Haworth to visit the stamping ground of the Brontës. There is no better time of year than a cold November day to visit their home and the church to understand the bleakness of their surroundings. A visitor in 1850 described the churchyard as ‘a dreary, dreary place, literally paved with rain-blackened tombstones‘ and 150 years later, not much has changed. Another biographer writes that the graves ‘crowd and bristle and conceal the turf; and when it rains, the slab surfaces appal the eye with their unbroken gleam‘. I have never been to a graveyard quite like this, it was so gloomy and menacing and didn’t have any of the gentle time-worn peace of other English churchyards. The other thing that struck me from reading the gravestones was that it wasn’t out of the ordinary for the Brontë sisters to die so tragically young – life was short and harsh in that cold, grim town. For an excellent read about the sisters, try ‘Eminent Victorian Women‘ by Elizabeth Longford.
It wasn’t all hard-core though – we also visited an old apothecary shop and a sweet shop!
An autumn half-term jaunt with my three children turned into a delightful discovery in our backyard. We set off using a map to follow the Letcombe Brook and to enjoy the autumn season – and found a secretive little park called Betjeman Millennium Park. What a pleasure to discover the poetry trail of Sir John Betjeman who had lived in Wantage. I enjoyed the poem in blocks that can only be read if you are in the exact right position and yet the fragments are tantalising in themselves. Interestingly, I didn’t appreciate that it looked like a gravestone until I saw the photographs and wondered at the time why my daughter asked if someone had died there. The cherry on the top was seeing an enamel sign on The Sack House which reads ‘The West of England Sack Hiring Company Ltd’. The building dates back to the early 19th century and served as a depot for hiring sacks to farmers and corn merchants to transport goods. Old signs, graphics, history – and walking with my children bring me so much pleasure and what treasures to discover so unexpectedly. One day I will buy an enamel sign for my home!
What would a holiday be without a souvenir? You can buy a lock and leave it at the Love Bridge in Paris (Pont Des Arts) and of course you throw away the key into The Seine to symbolise your love lasting forever. You can buy a clog from Amsterdam – there were barrelfuls of these – or you can buy a Manneken Pis from Brussels in any size and any colour! We couldn’t help placing ‘Brick’ next them. Brick is a Lego man who travelled around Europe with us and has his own dedicated blog.
As a graphic designer, signage and writing always catches my eye. One of the things I love about travelling is seeing unfamiliar signs and beautiful lettering as well as a few quirky additions to road signs which make me smile. I think that my mum’s friend Brody may have had a hand in the beautiful calligraphic signage found in Bruges. The stone carving at the Tyne Cot Cemetery is sombre and powerful and it was overwhelming to see the thousands of names carved on the Menin Gate. It is hard for us to even imagine the awfulness of The Great War: the mud, the pain, the unrelenting agony and the sheer number of those dead. We must not forget.
I love cycling. I love cycling with friends on Saturday mornings, I love cycling my children to school and I love family bike rides. So when we were in Amsterdam, I was delighted to see so many bicycles in fact there are more bikes than people! When they are not in use, they are chained to fences, trees or in the multi-storey bike park creating a unique cityscape. It’s fantastic that it is the norm for the entire population to cycle – you see smart businessmen on bikes, women on their way to work with children in the ‘bakfiets’ – a wagon affair attached to the front of the bike and ‘free spirits’ with decorated bikes. We joined the love affair by hiring bikes and having a day out along the canals.
We have recently returned from two weeks of ‘Backpacking around Europe’ (well three countries anyway) with our three children aged 10,7 and 4. What a fabulous travelling experience it was; we took what we could carry in backpacks and each person was allowed only one luxury. Mine was my camera and I set myself the ‘The Golden Hour’ photographic challenge aiming to take photos in the early morning and early evening when lighting is at its best. I didn’t feel I fully met the challenge, I blame the cosy bed, a holiday mood and also the sheer energy required to backpack with young children. However, on reviewing my images there are some themes arising which I will share over the next few posts.
I work for a small company that designs and manufacturers high-end sleepwear for pregnant mums, babies and children up to the age of 5. I am involved in all aspects of design from creating the textiles (something new for me) to designing the style of pyjamas and duvets to designing catalogues and adverts and being involved in the website.
One of the most exciting aspects of the job is choosing models, planning and overseeing the photo shoots and then having the photos to design the catalogues. We ‘shot’ Christmas in June in an amazing house with 10 bedrooms for us to pick and choose from. I found it fascinating to work with a superb photographer and a stylist as part of the team. It was hard work but most rewarding to see the photos. I also had to smile and I feel as if the pressure is off to make my own house perfect. In magazines, room scenes looks so peaceful and idyllic but it is mad behind the camera with all excess props chucked to the side. I suppose my house could look perfect if I had a resident stylist continually tweaking and adjusting fabrics and accessories. Photos are not real life! But such fun to create the images and make our products look gorgeous.
Click on the link to have a sneak preview of our new range which will be available to buy in a few weeks time – www.dreamgenii.com
You may have noticed I have become a little patchy about posting. The reason being is that I started this blog as a stay-at-home mum who needed an outlet and wanted to encourage myself to keep thinking creatively and to be answerable to something. If I didn’t do anything creative, then I wouldn’t be able to post anything on my ‘creative journal’.
However, I recently and quite unexpectedly returned to work in February 2013 as a part-time graphic designer and don’t have as much time for my own projects. I was planning to return to work when my youngest went to school this September and I had decided to spend January to September researching what was available and updating my CV and design portfolio. I started research feeling nervous but decided it was best to bite the bullet so typed ‘local graphic design work’ into a search engine. Up came the perfect job which sounded so interesting that I thought I had nothing to lose by applying. Instead of taking 6 months to sort out a CV and portfolio, I took 2 days and before I knew it I had secured an interview and was offered the position.
I knew I would not be a stay-at-home mum forever and I have been able to spend just over 7 years without working formally which has been so precious. The new phase of children combined with an interesting job is just as exciting! A little more about the job in my next post.
I was delighted to see that the Snells Woodland information sign is now mounted in location. It was good to work with such a great team on this project.
In case you hadn’t noticed the elderflower was out late this year – very late. Normally cordial is a delight for June but this year we had to wait until July. I love this new recipe I’ve tried for Elderflower Cordial from the book The Thrifty Forager by Alys Fowler. It is surprisingly easy to make – so easy that I made it with the local pre-school.
Elderflower and Grapefruit Cordial
25 elderflower heads
1.8 litres water
1.35kg granualated sugar
4 oranges or 2 grapefruit sliced
1 lemon sliced
50g citric acid
- Pick the elderflowers, shaking them gently to remove little insects who have made themselves at home.
- Heat two-thirds of the water with the sugar, stirring until it is all dissolved and completely clear. Then allow it to cool.
- In a large bowl, combine the cooled water with the rest of the water, the sliced fruit, the citric acid and the elderflowers.
- Leave it for at least 24 hours and then strain through a muslin. (I allow my mixture to steep for 48 hours for lots of flavour).
- Pour into clean, sterilised bottles and store somewhere cool and dark. It should keep for several months.
I buy super cheap still water from the supermarket and then use the bottles to contain my cordial. They are clean and sterile and I don’t have issues with mould which was a problem a few years ago when I was using ‘posh’ bottles that were very difficult to sterilise.
Don’t wash your elderflower before putting it into the water – you end up washing away the flavour.
You can buy citric acid online from Amazon.
It is signed sealed and delivered. After much time designing the board and fine tuning the details and text, the board is complete and has been printed. We hope to place it in situ in the near future. It is approx 60cm x 90cm.
Snells Woodland – a breathing space
This woodland is part of the Hendred Estate and is rented by East Hendred Parish Council. Hendreds Environment Group looks after the site in which you can see many ground plants, mature and newly planted trees, birds, insects and small animals. The woodland also has a boardwalk running through it which is a ‘Safer Route to School’ path.
Hendreds Environment Group has drawn up a management plan to encourage a greater diversity of wildlife and looks after the site. The group has organised several working parties and along with members of the community have removed the invasive Himalayan balsam plant, planted a hazel coppice and coppiced some of the mature trees. They have attached bird and bat boxes to several trees and clean these boxes annually.
Coppicing is a traditional woodland management technique which involves cutting back British hardwood trees to within six inches of the ground at intervals of 7 to 20 years. The tree then grows back with several trunks called poles. The hazels planted in the woodland and the sycamore trees will be coppiced when ready.