Tuesday, 4 April 2017

new season's art days at the barn

I'm getting excited about this summer's art workshop days at the beautiful Birtley Estate in Surrey! I'll be leading small groups of up to six participants, enjoying the peaceful woodland and trying some simple drawing and printmaking techniques.

The poster above shows some of the work produced last year. Birtley is a magical place to be when the flowers are out, and the trees are full of birds. Sometimes there are other 'woody' activities going on too- charcoal burning, or the resident woodsman Merv teaching a pole-lathe turning class.

The days are suitable for adults of any ability, using a monoprinting technique which is easy to learn. At its simplest, water-based ink is rolled onto a smooth surface, paper laid on top and marks made on the paper. When its peeled off, the print is revealed on the ink-down side. It produces unpredictable results, which is part of its charm, and allows each person to produce work that reflects their personality. Other elements can be added too- for instance collaged paper, over-drawing in pastel or pencil, etc.

Maybe you'd like to come along? I still have availability on some of the dates above. Contact me on surprisinglines@gmail.com for details.

Friday, 24 March 2017

giving in to temptation (a tale of slapdashery and swearing)

So, every now and then I am struck with the temptation to make something to wear. Enough time has passed to allow the memory of the last bout of swearing and grinding of teeth to have dimmed and I succumb to the lure of a gorgeous fabric, like this barkcloth from the fabulous emporium that is the Eternal Maker:


Curse you, lovely shop, for being just half an hour away, and for your general fabulous-ness...

The problem with dressmaking is that the finished object has to actually fit, if only after a fashion. You can get away with a lot if you're making a bag or a purse, or even a 3D fabric sculpture of the Eiffel Tower, no doubt. But a skirt has to fit.

As barkcloth frays like the devil, I thought I'd add to the challenge by exhuming my overlocker. It has been gathering dust since I last switched it on months ago, found the tension was all up the swanny, and flung it back on the shelf where the cat has been using it as a climbing frame. Well, maybe it just needed a large black cat to tangle its threads because when I revved it up this time, away it went without a hitch!

Having decided on a very simple skirt, I then entered the seventh circle of hell that is 'How big is my stomach?' Am I the only person who can't decide whether its better to allow a little 'eating room' or to have a more snug fit? And will it be even more snug next week, or if I leave it slightly looser will the whole thing spin round during the day until the side seam is at the front? Aagh.

You wouldn't think a skirt with two seams and four darts could cause such mental agony. I've made this pattern before and actually achieved a skirt I really like and wear a lot so I made sure I used the same seam allowances as before…. and…. it came out too big. 

Aagh again. 

Back onto the overlocker, SO satisfying to chunter away, eating a nice further half an inch off those pesky seams. 

Time for a nice cup of tea.

Repeat all of the above with the lining.

Sew in the zip. Make a hash of sewing in the zip. Unpick stitching. Sew it in again.

More tea.

Getting there. Sew on a bias strip to finish the waist. (Liking the contrasting fabric). Realise I haven't caught in the skirt fabric to the waistband all the way round. Sew it round again. Topstitch.

Tea. BUNS. Swearing. Mr P goes out to his shed and stays there for the rest of the afternoon.

Hem! Button loop! BUTTON!

Finished! And a blind man would be glad to see it, to quote my late Mum.

I bought another piece of irresistible fabric too, so further slapdashery and swearing is on the cards but there will have to be a period of dressmaking cold turkey first…..

Tuesday, 29 November 2016


Last weekend I went to the Country Brocante at Cowdray Park in Sussex. Although I'm a complete Bah Humbug person about Christmas, I have to admit to a strong dose of nostalgia about some of the items for sale- amongst the shabby chic galore, and the trendily-white-painted cupboards exhumed from French pigsties were some gems from my childhood..

My Mum had that Christmas cake ornament Santa, and the little boy on the sledge! They were made from some kind of plaster, and over the years of being stuck into my Mum's rock-hard icing they gradually absorbed the sugar, and took on a spooky coat of crystals. We also had the Christmas trees made out of bristles, although ours were always a bit wonky.

Didn't have one of these dogs on wheels, but always wanted one...

And as for this assortment, wow! Sooty xylophone, definitely had one of those! Beatrix Potter books! Jelly mould in the shape of a rabbit! (and a toffee hammer)

My sister and I also had a whole farm full of lead animals, its a wonder we're here to tell the tale.

I'm sure I heard on radio four that there's just one factory in Bavaria still making these beautiful baubles- I particularly love the ones with the 'dents' in them.

Meanwhile, Jenny in Handmade Happiness has asked me for some Christmassy items for the shop. This year I am giving fairies with fat bottoms a starring role. Why should thin fairies have all the fun? They can be hung on your Christmas tree, or worn as a brooch.


Sunday, 16 October 2016

wood, wood, beautiful wood...

Once upon a time, everyone used wooden or clay bowls and dishes, and the travelling pole lathe turner would go from village to village, making them as people needed them. And as a bowl gets older it becomes more beautiful. We have two made by Mr P that we use for salad, and as the dressing has soaked into them they have acquired a patina you couldn't make any other way. These pots and bowls are in the Tudor kitchen at the Weald and Downland Museum.

Here is Mr P's latest bowl, just released from the lathe. He made it as a demonstration at the Surrey Hills Wood Fair on 2nd October. The thing in the middle is the mandrill, which holds it onto the lathe, with a piece of wood big enough for another bowl left attached. The things that look like tree stumps either side are the supports between which the bowl turns, and of course the power is provided by pedalling. So the whole thing could be loaded onto a cart and taken to the next place.

Some more bowls made by Chris at the wood fair.

I love the simple technology of this ageless way of woodworking. This chopping stump is made with tapered slots so that the legs fit in, and then can be taken out for transporting it. (Also love that great big mallet!)

Of course, wood in itself is beautiful..

And when it needs to be joined (as in this stunning table top) the joints themselves become the best part of the design.

It was a beautiful day on 2nd October for the Wood Fair at Birtley Estate, and there were over 5,000 visitors over the weekend. I met lots of people who were interested in coming to one of my art days next spring and summer, too.

This is my favourite time of year, especially on a sunny day. Last weekend we were at the Weald and Downland Museum for the Autumn show, admiring the magnificent plough horses, and meeting up with other 'woody' friends.  This chap seemed to be enjoying himself too!

A perfect harvest festival day.

Monday, 26 September 2016

come and see me at the Surrey Hills Wood Fair

This Sunday, Mr P and I will be packing up our tent again and heading for the Surrey Hills Wood Fair at Birtley Estate:


I will be demonstrating the monoprinting technique I've been using with participants in my art days at Birtley this summer, and bringing along some of my own pictures. Mr P will be helping to demonstrate bowl turning on a pole lathe. Why not come along and say hello? I'm hoping to find some people who would like to come to art days next summer too.

The wood fair last year was great fun, lots of people came along to join in with autumn pursuits- abseiling up trees, trying the archery, watching the wood turning, browsing the many stalls, or just enjoying a beer or an ice cream.

If you enjoy all things woody, you'll love it. Last year it was also a dog-lover's dream, so many to see and make a fuss of. Bring yours along to me and I can make a quick character sketch!

I've had great fun drawing and printmaking 'al fresco' with lovely people this summer, even when the rain threatened to wash us away. That's the British weather for you- keeping my fingers crossed for sunshine this weekend.

Might see you on Sunday!

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