Spring Gardens

I know I promised a giveaway in my last post, forgive me for my prolonged absence, the giveaway will happen soon when I have caught up with myself.

It has been pleasant to spend time outdoors to enjoy the delights of spring. We have made several journeys, the first being up to Scotland to Gatehouse of Fleet, where we stayed in a small hotel by the river. The hotel was a great favourite of Dorothy L Sayers and I am told she wrote Five Red Herrings there. We travelled to nearby Kirkudbright and met up with Ruthie Redden, it was a great treat to chat with a fellow artist whom I met via this blog. There is so much to see in the hometown of Jessie King, there are art galleries a plenty, in fact Ruthie was busy preparing for a family show at The Harbour Gallery when we met.

We revisited the house and garden of E A Hornel, the garden was looking particularly splendid and we enjoyed strolling down its many paths. Broughton House has a rear view which overlooks the river whilst the front garden is in the town, so it has the best of both worlds. I pictured myself living there, well, we can dream... 

Shortly after our scottish trip we took another journey, this time down to London where we saw more botanical treats. This time at the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace where we saw an exhibition of Maria Merian's Butterflies. It was my first ever visit to the gallery and I was delighted to find this exhibition as I have admired this artist's work for many years. The exhibition runs until October, if you love exquisite detailed paintings of insects and plants combined with fabulous design skills, this exhibition will not disappoint.

Our native bluebells have been splendid this year, in between the very many showers, we managed to enjoy several walks through our nearby bluebell woods. It always amazes me that so few people know of their existence. Two years ago we scattered our little dog's ashes in a quiet corner of the wood so it is always something of a bitter sweet experience to return. This year however I did feel his determined, self assured and inquisitive little spirit walking alongside.

Last but not least, I received a copy of this lovely book by Ann Benson- "A History of Coton Manor and its garden". Ann used a modified image of my artwork on a special bookplate and she very kindly sent me a copy of the book as a gift. Ann told me that she and her mother enjoyed visiting Coton's Bluebell Woods and both enjoyed the therapeutic atmosphere. Sadly I don't live near to Northhamptonshire but I am enjoying reading all about it and it is already on my wish list. You can make a virtual visit here on the website.

Next time I write I will tell you all about a wonderful workshop I took with a Persian Miniature Painter, bye for now.


The quilt of the book of the quilt!

The Dream Quilt, design by Valerie Greeley.

I am pleased to report that I finally finished making a mini quilt composed of images from the book I illustrated- The Dream Quilt. You may remember I wrote about the book here on my blog.

I have been putting the finishing touches to a small fabric collection to enable home sewers to recreate the quilt featured in the book. I am just waiting to approve some fabric samples and then I will share a link to my fabric store. The fabric will be printed as a complete panel all ready to quilt, so no piecing will be necessary, instead you can enjoy stitching and maybe adding a few decorative stitches of embroidery?

One of these days I will learn to use a thimble, the quilt shown here was stitched entirely by hand- my poor hands are in bits!

If you wish you can order a copy of the book here in my Etsy shop, it is £7.99 and you can have it signed and dedicated if you send me a note first.

If the little pink hare in the foreground looks familiar it is the work of Stephanie Boudazin who has a delightful blog here

I'll be back soon with news of a give-away to celebrate the eighth birthday of this blog!


Moving on, older and wiser.

Before I go any further I would just like to say how very touched I was by all the kind words of comfort and condolence. Life moves on wether we want it to or not, although life will never be quite the same again. 

Work has been difficult, there have been so many things to take priority, but it has been a comfort to sit back at my desk again. I managed to complete a new miniature of a Little Owl. 

A dear friend invited me to accompany her to a bookbinding session. This time we made a French link stitch book sewn directly through the leather. It makes a nice criss cross pattern on the spine. You can see my attempt below; (the brown leather book). The tiny book below is a very simple folded structure which needs no glue or stitching although I did add a bit of sewing on the cover for decoration.

Yesterday was World Book Day and I was surprised to find a big box of books on my doorstep. I have put some in my Etsy shop, you can see more views here-https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/270679097/the-dream-quilt-illustrated-book-signed?

The books are copies of The Dream Quilt which I previously mentioned in a post here-http://acornmoon.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/the-dream-quilt.html

I hope to write some more about the book and maybe organise a give away if and when I get my act together, it may be some time!


Enchanted Dreams

You may have guessed by my prolonged absence that my dear mum did not make the recovery we hoped for. She passed from this life to the next in our local hospital, never to return to her beloved flat and home.

My mum had a simple faith, one which she passed on to me. When I was little she would recite this prayer before tucking me up in bed for the night-

Lord, keep us safe this night,
Secure from all our fears;
May angels guard us while we sleep,
Till morning light appears.

This painting by Edward Hughes reminded me of my mum and the prayer she recited. We saw the painting in Birmingham whilst visiting an exhibition called "Enchanted Dreams".

And now, I am no longer the baby of the family, I am Mandma Val. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

I have much to be thankful for.


Que sera, sera.

Hooded Crow
The Hooded Crow was a recent commission for a star gazer in the Netherlands, she tells there is a recognisable pattern in the stars I have drawn. What those stars have to say is a mystery to me, perhaps yet to be revealed. Can we see into the future when we look at the stars or are we only observing the past?

"Que sera, sera, whatever will be will be, the future's not ours to see..." My mum's favourite Doris Day song and one which she sang to me in the fifties. Most of this month so far has been dominated by my mum's health issues. She sustained a very nasty fall and is now in hospital, my thoughts go back to those words as we contemplate an uncertain future. 

Chetham's Library
I have been grateful for small diversions; afternoon tea at Chetham's Library provided a welcome break and a chance to explore a magical and ancient library right in the centre of Manchester. This is the oldest public library in the English speaking world, founded in 1653, although I think the building itself is far older. It certainly had a very Gothic feel and as the January afternoon became darker the mood intensified. We took afternoon tea in the Baronial Hall which was every bit as grand as its name suggests. There we were welcomed by our friend Sue who is the Heritage Manager for the librarybetter known to bloggers as Mouse from Mouse Notebook. I can't imagine a more interesting workplace.

hand quilting
I have also been happy to loose myself in the gentle art of hand quilting, the slow and rhythmic pace of hand stitching has helped ease the anxiety of caring for an elderly loved one. I have been making a start on making an actual fabric version of "The Dream Quilt". After trying several digital printers and after much tweaking and adjusting I now have some actual printed fabric. The designs on the fabric are from the recent book I illustrated, words by Adele Geras. Co-incidentally, the lovely little heart shaped pin cushion is also the work of Mouse. 

BBC Radio 3 recently broadcast "The Pearl Fishers" which was performed at The Met in New York. I stitched this little fish square transported to another place by the famous duet, sobbing and stitching in equal measure. 

And now, I must wish you all a Happy New Year, may all your dreams come true. x


Lighting The Darkness

Illustration from "Can it be true?"
published by Oxfam as a charity Christmas card.

Much as I love Christmas I do dislike the dark and gloomy days of winter and am always cheered by the notion that once we have passed the winter solstice the days will begin to lengthen.

One of the best things about Christmas is that we get time to spend with our loved ones. This year we visited our son and his partner in London. Whilst there we had a multitude of wonderful things to see; as we arrived at Euston station we decided to walk to the British Library. On route we passed St Pancras church and noticed that The Crypt Gallery had an exhibition of paper-cuts, paintings and calligraphy called Lighting the Darkness. There we met the jeweller, engraver and silversmith Alan Craxford who took time out to talk to us about his paper-cuts.

Alan Craxford Paper-cuts

Alan uses various layers to create shadows which change with the light, thus incorporating the dark and the light into each piece.  His paper-cuts are very beautiful, each one delicately cut with an expert hand, if you have time do visit his website, his work is extraordinary.

Fabric of India Exhibition
The next day we had pre-booked tickets to see The Fabric of India exhibition at the V and A.
I was familiar with many of the printed textiles, having encountered some during my studies. I was less familiar with the embroidered and woven pieces. As with all major exhibitions at the V and A, I always feel rather dazzled and overwhelmed by the scale and complexity of the exhibits. I wish I could have made multiple visits over several weeks in order to absorb the artistry of those exquisite fabrics.

The Royal Albert Hall
The grand finale of our visit was a night at the Albert Hall to see and hear the Kings College Choir
which was amazing! We even joined in singing Hark the Herald Angles Sing at the top of our voices, safe in the knowledge that nobody would notice when I sang off key.

The Dream Quilt by Adele Geras illustrated by Valerie Greeley

When we arrived home we found my first sample book had arrived which called for a celebratory glass of wine. Somewhere in the back of a delivery van is a box of books though I know not where.

Wherever you may be I would like to thank you for visiting my blog and wish you a Blessed Christmas and a Bright and Shining New Year.
                                                   CHEERS EVERYONE  X X X


The Dream Quilt

Some of you may remember last year I illustrated a small format, hard cover book called "Can it be True?" for Long Barn Books. Earlier this year I was thrilled to be invited to work on another title for the same publisher. This time for a book entitled The Dream Quilt by Adele Geras.

Perhaps just once in a lifetime a dream job comes along. For a textile designer who also illustrates books this was my dream commission. Each illustration represents one square of a patchwork quilt. Adele Geras's enchanting writing begins:

"I threaded silk through a silver needle to make a cover for your bed.
Rest your head, close your eyes. I’ll stitch you dreams and lullabies."

We start with a house, where everyone sleeps except for a child.....

This is the house, from The Dream Quilt. Illustration by Valerie Greeley

Although the book would sit happily in a Christmas stocking it is not specifically a Christmas title; some of the imagery is summertime, we have shells and beaches, fish and flowers. There are tigers and trains, bears and dolls. Each illustration makes up a part of the final quilt as the characters dream their own dreams.

The illustrations begin as black ink pen drawings; these are then scanned and made into a digital file. I used Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to create the final images, layering textures and embroidered effects to complete the job.
This is the doll, from The Dream Quilt. Illustration by Valerie Greeley.
The publication date is December 12th, in the meantime I hope you enjoy a glimpse into the creative process. I hope to put some copies in my shop as soon as they arrive. I am also waiting to see some fabric samples, more about that later!

This is the ship from The Dream Quilt. Illustration by Valerie Greeley
Adele has written her own account of how she came to write the book, you can read all about it here-

For more information about Adele Geras visit her website, there you will find details of Adele's other works. I can recommend "Cover Your Eyes"- a story about a fashion designer haunted by her past. You may also be interested to know that Adele's daughter is an accomplished writer too, her name is Sophie Hannah. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this commission was that I got to know Adele a little as we discussed the book as it progressed. I have a feeling you will like her too.

To visit Long Barn Books please follow the link.