Saturday, 13 July 2019

Poppies and Peonies

Although the poppies and peonies in the garden are now just a memory, I did remember to take a few photos.  I don't think they particularly enjoyed the rain we had in June, but I did manage to get some images before they were too battered.  Above is a pink poppy which I can't remember the name of - I will check to see if I wrote it down.
I don't remember seeing the red blotches at the base of the petals on this white poppy (Checkers) before - I thought they were black.
 I need to pot this peony on as it is in a small pot.  It was beautiful.
 This white peony took a while to get going but gave me a lot of pleasure once it did.  The blush pink and white petals give it a delicate look, even though it is a very blowsy flower.  This one is in the border next to an allium and miscanthus and seems to be liking it.
Poppies and peonies are the divas of the garden as they don't stay around for long, but there's nothing to compare with them when they are centre stage.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Playing with inks, stamps, stencils and dies

 I have recently started to get hold of some Distress Oxide inks.  These are a mix of pigment ink and dye ink and have a chalky look, but not a chalky feel.  They have been around for a couple of years and I kept seeing them being used to create the most wonderful backgrounds on blogs and youtube, so I thought I should give them a go (better late than never!).  They work really well.  Above is a simple birthday card for my niece with a Distress Oxide background.  The stamp worked beautifully too.
I then made more backgrounds and used stamps I hadn't tried before.
 I was really pleased with the results.
I have started using frames around these smaller images and I think they look really effective.
 I then tried the oxides through a stencil... a couple of different colourways.  I found that the Oxides are a lot easier to blend than the regular Distress Inks. 
The Oxides react to water so you can create some interesting effects such as 'faux bleaching'.
I used a spiral stamp to create the backgrounds above and you can see the effect adding water had.  I used watercolour card for that.
I also ordered some rather fabulous dies which arrived last week.  Oh my goodness, I love them!  I used the Oxides to create the backgrounds although it took me a few goes to get the colours right - (lighter colours around the moon, Ellie!)
 They are so versatile and can be used throughout the year, not just Christmas, although that's my cards sorted for this year!  A fox peers warily through the trees...
 A stag, doe and fawn pause in a glade...
 A barn owl is on the prowl and a rabbit listens...
 You can also build up the layers by making a little pocket for the tags to sit in.
I know I am going to really enjoy using the inks and dies, although more Distress Oxides will need to be purchased, I think.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Art Journaling

 Way back in November 2018, I started work on an art journal, made from cardboard packaging.  You can see how I got started here.
These were my first attempts.
I used paints, paper and stamps.  I enjoyed the process, but then somehow I lost interest and 'fell out of love' with my pages. 
I added more colour to them, but I just wasn't happy and I couldn't work out why.  They got left for a while.  In the meantime, I watched journaling videos on youtube and then, one day, I had a bit of a revelation.  Here's what clicked into place:
  • This is my journal - it's up to me what I put in it.  I don't have to show it to anyone if I don't want to.  I'm not going to be marked on the finished work.
  • Journaling is all about layers.  If I don't like a page, I can just cover it with paint and start again.  I realised that my pages just didn't have enough on them.
  • Pages don't have to have a theme - they can just be about colour, shape, whatever I feel like.
  • There are no rules.
Suddenly feeling enthused again, I picked up my paints, stencils, stamps, acrylic paint pens, glitter etc. and set to work.  Here's what some of the pages look like now:
 Much better!
 This face is one of my favourite stamps and this is one page which didn't change all that much.
 It was lovely to be actually using some of my enormous craft stash too.
 There is a lot of glitter and sparkle on these two pages, but the photo doesn't really pick it up.
I think the pages look so much more interesting now.
 I still might add a little something to this front page - I just haven't decided what yet!
 I do like the mass of colour and pattern on the right hand side.
I may add some more to this page too.
I have started another journal and here are the first two pages I have been working on, again using cardboard destined for recycling.  Not finished by any means, but I am pleased with how they are looking.
I think I am getting the hang of this now (and am loving it again!)
There is a good introduction to what art journaling is here.
I have signed up to an online workshop which is all about creating a directory of papercraft techniques.  I am really excited about this as it will encourage me to keep crafting and will lead to a great resource for card making and journaling. 

Saturday, 22 June 2019

An evening with Ben Aaronovitch

Last Monday evening, we spent a very pleasant one and a half hours in the company of author Ben Aaronovitch (The Rivers of London/Peter Grant series).  He is a large man, both in physical presence and personality.  For those of you not familiar with the Rivers of London series, they centre around the Metropolitan Police in London (usually) and various departments therein but with a magical twist, including River Gods and Goddesses.
He talked about the spin-off series of novellas, of which The October Man is the first.  There are three more to come, so far, one about Abigail, one about Agent Reynolds and one about Nightingale (in the 1920s).  However, an audience member did suggest one about Lady Ty, which he said he hadn't considered before, so you never know.
He talked about being a writer:

  • Write what you love and hope that someone will read it
  • Don't bother going on writing courses where you offer your work to fellow students to critique - give your work to a couple of people whose opinions you trust
  • Keep writing until you find your own voice and style
  • Be nice to booksellers
  • Don't give your characters skills that you don't know anything about, unless you are prepared to research
  • Embrace the Nerd (the reader who contacts you as an author, putting you right on the fact that the Police didn't use the particular sort of baton you mentioned until such and such a time - or any other fact you got wrong).  Apparently, the nerds become writing advisors!
  • Even small characters will take on a life of their own - he said that several characters were just there to open a door, but insisted on taking part (including the foxes)
  • A novel is around 90,000 words and a novella is around 40,000
He also advised would-be novelists to read the book 'How not to write a novel' by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman.  
Apparently, the character of Peter Grant was originally going to be female, called Simone, but then 'Peter' just strolled into view, fully formed (with a chorus of heavenly voices) and that was it.
Of course, all of this was from Mr Aaronovitch's experience and also illustrated with many an anecdote about the publishing world/writing/scriptwriting.
I have read the Rivers of London series and enjoyed them - the next one is due in November 2019 and although he didn't give much away, he did say that the story wouldn't be going where we necessarily thought it would. He also mentioned 'children' (plural) too...  

Thursday, 13 June 2019

RHS Chatsworth 2019 (part two)

Here's the second post about our visit to RHS Chatsworth.  Inside the Floral Marquee are a plethora of stalls selling pretty much any plant you could want.  They are have beautiful displays, showing their plants to perfection.  I thought the Delphinium Peacock above was inspired.
I do like an allium - here they are in serried ranks with no plant out of place.
The peony balls looked so beautiful.
This display of woodland plants and trees stopped me in my tracks - it was the pink cornus in the centre which did it...
A pyramid of lilies and the scent was intoxicating.
A stand of hydrangeas looking so elegant.
Outside, I was very taken by these copper tree water features.
One day, perhaps I'll get one (but it would have to be a bonsai version!)
The exhibit 'The Power of Trees' was one of my favourite areas.  All the trees were in air pots and after the show, would either go back to the nursery or become part of the RHS Bridgewater Garden, their newest garden, currently being developed.
Inside the glade of trees were willow animals and birds and there was a great feeling of quiet and calm.  In fact, it was really noticeable that people were much quieter in here.
We also watched these craftspeople building a dry stone wall.  The precision in their work was incredible.  I liked the little niches they left and the steps they incorporated.
So, that's the photos from a lovely day out.  RHS Chatsworth seems to be improving every year and we're looking forward to the next one in 2020.  
So, what did I buy?
I managed to keep within budget and bought a Dryopteris Erythrosa (lovely hardy evergreen fern).
 Another deep red astrantia, but one which has deep red stems too, called Burgundy Manor.
 A lovely pinky/blue/lilac Magical Revolution Hydrangea.
Edited to add: I forgot to say that I also bought three Allium Globemaster bulbs too.
Originally, I had thought I would like some stained glass abstract flowers on stakes, but when I found the stall, they were just too expensive for me.  I noticed the metal sculpture stall early on, but didn't go back for the metal swirl until we were leaving and it was obviously meant to be because it was the last one!  I am thinking about the perfect place for it now.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

RHS Chatsworth 2019 (part one)

 This is quite a photo heavy post, so sit back, have a cup of tea or coffee and share the show gardens at RHS Chatsworth 2019 with me.  The Wedgewood Garden was awarded best in show and was designed by the youngest designer, Jamie Butterworth.  It was beautiful.
 The colour themes of purple, white and green were featured in lots of the gardens.
 As you can see from the rain on the camera, it was a drizzly day on Saturday, but this didn't dampen our enthusiasm.  I thought the chunky bench and table looked really effective in the slightly sunken part of the garden.
This was the Elements of Sheffield garden by Emily Barnes.  The moss on the beautiful dry stone wall was part of the water feature.
 The Mandala Mindfulness garden by HeldQuin Design Partnership featured lots of patterns and more purple, white and green.
 The Eutierra garden by Neil Sutcliffe had a compressed earth wall which made a lovely backdrop to the planting.  I liked the big stones used as seating too - no worries about maintaining them!
 This was my favourite small Mindfulness garden - Thrive Reflective Mind Garden by Richard Rogers.  For a small space, it was a quiet and meditative space and the serene face added to the feeling of calm.
 The planting was purple, white and green again, with touches of peach.
 I liked the sculpture so much, I though it needed its own photo.
The Space Within garden by Rae Wilkinson won an award and featured a curtain of water coming from the second arch.  The first arch was covered with trachelospermum jasminoides which would have perfumed the air on a sunny day. 
For a complete contrast, there was the Tending the Mind garden by Brent Purtell.  I could imagine this as a roof garden in an urban area.  There were three water features in this garden.
 The Find Yourself...Lost in the Moment garden by Samantha Harvey focused on spirals and also included a touch of orange in the planting and with the seating.  Although the beanbag chairs looked comfy, I think I would have had trouble getting up out of them!
 From Darkness to Light by Lynn Heslop showed the journey through a traumatic experience, with dark planting at the back of the garden, gradually lightening as it opened out into the seating area.
 This was probably my favourite garden, the RHS Garden for Wildlife: Wild Woven garden by Sharon Hockenhull.  It was beautifully planted with insect and bird friendly plants and included a pond, bird tables and insect hotels.
 It was also lovely to look at and was one of the only gardens we could actually walk through.
Despite the rusty coloured water, I really liked the reflections of the planting in the bowl.  It was a really enjoyable show and was also really good to see so many female designers taking part.
Well done for making it through this post! Part two to follow, including the floral marquee, lots of trees and what I bought.
I will finish part one with some professional photos of the RHS Wildlife garden, showing more of it, taken from the RHS Chatsworth website here.

Just stunning!