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Monday, 27 January 2014


Like most things, linocut printing is harder than it looks. This is the latest attempt, and there have been a few in between....yes, it's really, really hard! First, there's the carving out of the lino: I started off by trying to draw a picture into the lino using fine lines, but of course that isn't how it works. You need to find a design that works in relief. The carving is tricky, making small marks (flower stalks) was not an easy thing for me to do, sometimes the lino crumbles a bit so you don't get a clean line and then you need to start working on it again. 

Then there is the actual printing, and getting the ink just right, evenly applied, with no splodges...well I didn't crack that one fact, I seem to have ink spots just about everywhere, hands, hair, jeans...

But, I really LOVED doing this. It is a very methodical thing to do, requires total absorption, and is the perfect activity for a rain-lashed weekend like the one that has just passed. I can't wait to have another try and I am also now scouring the area for details of a course that I might be able to do. 
I have two print heroes/heroines. The first is Eric Ravilious. He was a genius, tragically killed in the Second World War at the age of 39. My Dad introduced me to his work years ago, and I have lots of books about him, my latest is this one on his woodcuts.

These are wood engravings, so of course they are very fine and precise. But just look at this:

My print heroine is Angie Lewin, who is a contemporary artist. 

This is from her book Plants and Places, which is beautiful, and highly recommended.

Anyway, I am definitely going to carry on going, conquer the splodges and learn to control those lino cutters. 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Oranges are the only fruit

A murky, January afternoon with a couple of hours to spare lead to a spot of marmalade making. The shops are full of Seville oranges and Twitter, which I've recently joined and am really enjoying, is alive with photos of glowing orange pots photographed by their proud makers. So I thought I'd join in. Rather than buying the oranges and leaving them to wither for a few weeks in a fruit bowl, as is my usual way, I bought and made my batch quickly. Definitely a good idea.

The oranges were so juicy. Citrus oil is often used for its mood enhancing properties and I can see why; that distinctive exotic, peppery smell just says sunshine and good things.  

Marmalade is fiddly, but worth the effort. An empty house, a few choice tunes on the iPod and the time passes very pleasantly indeed.

There were five pots, but one has already been seized upon.

And it looked so pretty, I wanted to paint it. Bold and bright.

P.S. If anyone wants to follow me on Twitter, it's @FCumberpatch 

Friday, 17 January 2014

Relax it's the weekend...

I finished putting together the local magazine this morning, and also completed a deadline for another publication this week, so when a friend suggested that she might pop round for a cup of tea this afternoon, I thought I'd get the best china out to celebrate....

Cherry cake baked. 

Sit down and re-lax. 

Some tea time trivia: this little brown menu hangs in our kitchen. I think it could be from the 50s, possibly earlier, although rationing does not seem to be in evidence. It's one of my favourite finds. A pot of tea, boiled ham, bread and butter all for 1/3. Can't go wrong with that. 
Have a great weekend. 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Thinking printing

I can't stop thinking about printing, so I've finally ordered some inks and a roller from Great Art Supplies. My Dad has given me a set of lino print cutters, and I have some lino already, so I now I just need to work out a design. I did these leaves at the Folksy Summer School last August. 

Of course, it is much harder than it looks! Our tutor had created some amazing designs.

I do love an artists notebook, especially when it looks like this! This is not mine, I hasten to add....

Some of the other people at the summer school had created some amazing designs. Aren't those trees great? Still, you can only improve by getting stuck in and practicing. Rome wasn't built in a day. Etc. Eventually, I would love to do another class, but for now, I think I could do with just experimenting and having a go on my own.

Are you taking up any new skills this year?

Sunday, 12 January 2014


This year, I want to thin out my collections by using them rather than getting rid of them. Yesterday, I decided to try out a few ideas with collage. I set aside a couple of hours, and assembled my materials. First, the fabrics:

All those little scraps I've been saving from my quilt. Bits I bought at car boot sales and table tops last summer.

I also went through a phase of collecting old sheet music and handwritten documents a few years ago, and I have lots left! 

It was very therapeutic, chopping things up, and arranging them. 

My kitchen collections and my current enthusiasm for printing and prints was the source of my ideas. 

The time flew past. So nice to get stuck into something new. And after a couple of weeks off my feet, it was especially good to be doing something constructive again. I was encouraged by a book that I bought last 
year, Mark Hearld's Work Book.

The book is a beautiful mix of prints, collage, and painting. His work is stunning. I also found this book in The Works:

So many fresh prints and bright colours in here to trigger off ideas. 

And these flowers which I bought at the market on Thursday. Although the petals will be difficult to simplify, I'd love to have a go. 

Hope you're having a creative weekend!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

A shot of colour

That's it, I've had enough. I need some colour. I'm rounding up a few images from last year to bring in the sunshine. To be fair, we did have a few rays this morning, but I couldn't take any photos because I am trying to catch up on work, and my son has taken up residence at the kitchen table to revise for his uni exams. He is going back on Saturday, so I hadn't the heart to dislodge him from his perch. 

Spring flowers 2013.

Dreaming of spring, and cake...and marmalade.

That feels better. If you are stuck at home for any reason, illness, caring for someone, looking after children, I hope these injected a bit of brightness into your day. While I've been unwell, I've done lots of reading and I have some great recommendations. They are:

* Longbourn by Jo Baker. This is Pride and Prejudice told from the perspectives of the servants below stairs. Their intrigues, their lives and the gruelling household tasks that had to be performed every day in a Regency household. I haven't finished it yet, but I am gripped. 

* The Silent Wife by ASA Harrison. A thriller, light and pacey, it will keep you turning the pages. 

* All Change by Elizabeth Jane Howard. The last in the series of the Cazalet Chronicles, a must-read if you haven't already. The author died last week, and she will be greatly missed. I love the light touch of her writing, the way she conjours up pre and post Second World War society.

* Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge. I found this in a second hand shop just before Christmas and it's a magical tale (written for children). If you like The Little White Horse, which I've blogged about before) you will love this.

* Autobiography by Morrissey. Well, I am not really sure if I recommend this or not. I love The Smiths and although I don't really enjoy pop star autobiographies as a rule, I was intrigued by his background. But he is a very difficult man to like: if I had travelled to the places he had, met the people he has and had half of his experiences, I really hope I wouldn't have turned out quite so difficult, paranoid and petty. I concluded that fame makes even the best people very weird.... 

Friday, 3 January 2014

What took you so long??

Hello again. Happy New Year and I hope you've all had a lovely festive season and a good break.
Christmas started very well here with a lovely party for friends and neighbours and a great Christmas day with my parents and my brother. But then it all started to go a bit Pete Tong...
Our holiday plans were very exciting as Perry had booked a much longed for skiing break for us and some good friends in the Aosta Valley in Italy. I started feeling poorly on the plane as we descended into Turin and it got a lot worse.  Fortunately, I was the non-skiing member of the party, and my only plans had ever been to potter about in the village and turn my face to the Alpine sunshine whilst sipping a lazy cappuccino. 

I did manage to get up for a short time each day,wrapped up against the cold, and I took short walks around Gressoney St Jean, the village where we were staying. It is so beautiful. Even through my wheezing, coughing and spluttering, I could not fail to be moved.

There had been a fresh snowfall, and the whiteness was pristine.

It reminds me of Narnia (or what I think Narnia might be like). In this tiny mountain village, there are no chain shops or supermarkets. Each day I bought a bit of bread and cheese for my lunch, and was amazed to find how even the tiniest corner shop was crammed full of people buying an incredible selection of produce. Focaccias, a huge choice of salamis and hams sliced freshly, round white cheeses, which were slowly and lovingly wrapped in waxed paper and taken to the till. Here is the shop which looks so ordinary:

I didn't go into the centre at night, but the others said it was very pretty and twinkly with the lights and the snow. But I got a glimpse of it by day. Fortunately, everyone else was fine and they had three days of beautiful skiing and hearty mountain food to come home to. We have stayed in our little hotel before when our families were younger, and it is very sweet, welcoming and comfortable (Hotel Gran Baita if anyone is looking for a stopover!).

We've been home for a few days now, and I've now got antibiotics and all sorts of things from the doctor. It will take a while to feel better, but I am getting there. I've been appreciating my warm bed, a stack of good books and Marmite on toast. 

Here's to a happy and healthy 2014!