Caution, scary plant!

The little field of “set aside” where Ted and I often walk is remarkable in that it supports so many different kinds of plant life. Most of these plants are common grasses, clovers, vetches etc, however, just look what we found last week. I am not sure if you will be able to judge the height of this plant from my photograph but it is almost certainly over twelve feet tall. My learned friend informed me that it is a Giant Hogweed, Apiaceae Umbelliferea, beautiful but very dangerous.

It is a member of the parsley and carrot family but can reach heights of twenty feet. The sap from this plant can cause severe burns to the skin so care must be taken when handling any part of it. Ted and I kept well clear!


Mug Monday.

Recently, whilst visiting other blogs I noticed that several people had participated in “Plate Friday” which was originally an idea started by Elizabeth from About New York. I rather lightheartedly suggested that this might be followed by Mug Monday, so here we are and hence this post.

As I am sure you can imagine, our house is full of mugs, samples mainly from the many designs that I have worked on over the years. We never have the need to actually buy new mugs so please forgive me if this post looks like a bit of shameless self-promotion (which of course it is!)

The mug that I have chosen to show you today is a sunflower design featuring my artwork. It consists of garden related motifs and it wraps around a fine bone china mug. The handle and interior also have design elements but unfortunately they don’t show up too well here. It is one of a series that I created for Hudson and Middleton. It is very difficult to photograph bone china as the surface is reflective and I found that natural light worked best, hence the garden shot complete with fly!

The mug has a lovely, stable base, which is wider at the top and the bottom than it is in the middle. I seem to remember that this shape has a name but I am afraid it has escaped my memory at present- could it be a parabola? One of the reasons that I like this mug above all others is because of its shape (which I didn't design). The three dimensional design process is something that fascinates me, although I don’t understand it entirely. As a surface pattern designer I find it impossible to think in three dimensions. I believe it is designed on a computer and then, this is the clever bit, the computer is linked to a machine which makes a three dimensional prototype. Isn’t that clever?

I often get asked how the artwork ends up on the china - I think some people believe that I hand paint each one. The design is first painted in watercolour onto paper in the usual way and careful consideration has to be given to the placing of the design elements within the shape of the decal or transfer. When the design has been approved the artwork is scanned on a high-resolution digital scanner to facilitate the production of the decal or printed transfer. In the case of this mug, the decal must wrap around a shape, which is rather unusual, a straightforward cylinder is much easier and it constantly amazes me how the factory manages to accomplish this seemingly impossible task. When the artwork and the mug are placed side by side it is almost impossible to fault the colour and detail in the reproduction. So many skilled people go into the manufacturing process; it is truly a team effort.

Several people have been asking where they can buy Hudson and Middleton mugs and I have been directing them to their online shop. Unfortunately the company cannot export them to the USA because of legislation relating to lead testing. It seems that this is an expensive operation and one, which the company finds difficult to offset, which seems a great shame to me. I have lived in the “pot bank” for most of my working life and have never come across a problem with lead contamination from well-produced, quality bone china.

And now, I am going to visit everyone else’s blogs to find out what they have chosen. If you would like to join me, here is a list of those who have expressed an interest in Mug Monday. Please forgive me if I have inadvertently left anyone out.

Sweet Tidings
Weaver of Grass
Purple Podded Peas
Willow Manor
Moxey Musings
Raphs ramblings
My Irish Cottage
CJ Stitching and Blooms
Fairy Lanterns
One Pink Goose
City Views, Country Dreams
Beth Niquette
About New York
Merisi’s Vienna for beginners
A Thousand Clapping Hands
Crafty Green Poet
Daughter of the Golden West
All I ever wanted
poetikats invisible keepsakes


The Old Chapel exhibition

John and Fiona Owen are hosting their annual exhibition at the moment in Chalford, England. It is a visual journey of their year recording their walks and travels and is being housed in their Old Chapel home and studio. If you are an art lover and gardener you may like to visit their studio and beautiful garden complete with gothic tower, pond house and box hedged potager. (I am trying not to be jealous as I write this!) Sadly Chalford is quite a distance from here so I shall have to admire the work from their new website. The work featured here is by Fiona.

“Fiona paints in oil on panel and gilds her work with 24ct. English gold leaf in the tradition of the Mediaeval manuscripts. Inspiration for her extraordinarily intricate, lyrical paintings is drawn from her native landscape - the flora and fauna and the changing seasons, and her Celtic inheritance.”

Fiona’s husband John is also a painter whos work is infused with light and atmosphere. ”The great challenge is to create a sense of light, space and volume from paint, transforming an ordinary, everyday image into an extraordinary moment of vision. John paints in both oils and watercolours, making detailed sketches from life, wherever his travels take him, then working up his paintings in the studio.”

The exhibition is on until the 21st June 10-5pm daily.


And the winner is.... and an Invitation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner to my first ever blog giveaway. The first name out of the mug (for want of a hat), selected by my husband is Nettie from a quilt is nice. Congratulations to Nettie and thank you for everyone else for taking part.

And now for the invitation:- After reading about Elizabeth's idea from (About New York) on Weaver of Grass's blog about "Plate Friday" I suggested that perhaps "Mug Monday" might be fun. This idea has rather gathered momentum with lots of eager bloggers keen to show off their special mugs. It seems that many of us get an emotional attachment to a certain mug, the one pictured above is my husband's favourite mug which I bought for him at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, made in Portugal, so you see we are not completely Anglophile!

The date has been set for Monday 22nd June, if you want to participate and would like me to keep track of blogs taking part you can send me an email or leave me a comment, and I will post the list next Monday, that way you can get to see other peoples mugs. I think that Pat from Weaver of Grass will also post a little invitation.


Hudson and Middleton Bone China.

If you haven’t already entered the free draw to win the beautiful braided rug below you have until Monday to do so, when I will pick a winner at random. All you need is a postal address in the USA or Canada and this lovely braided rug could be yours. The company will even ship it to you for free so what are you waiting for? Leave a comment in my last post and I will enter your name into the hat.

My new collection of “designer” mugs is finally ready to buy on-line by following the link in my side bar to the Hudson and Middleton site. They are manufactured in a lovely old Grade II listed building in Stoke-on-Trent, England, which is a bit of a rarity today. The factory has been making exquisite bone china for many years now; it was founded in 1875, which makes it one of the oldest potteries in Britain. It has been touch and go as to whether or not the factory would survive, shortly after I delivered my artwork earlier this year everything looked very bleak and the company went into receivership. Happily the management decided to buy the company and the factory was rescued and many jobs were saved.

I have chosen a design from my bird collection to show you today, there are four birds in this series, blue tit, robin, chaffinch and thrush, all of which are well known in Britain and are some of my favourites. The blue tit (shown here) is one of our most attractive garden birds and can be encouraged to visit by installing peanut feeders, they have a lovely habit of hanging almost upside down when feeding on nuts, caterpillars and seeds. You can learn more about them here on the RSPB website.


First ever blog giveaway!!!

I have been thinking about doing a blog giveaway for some time but for one reason or another have never actually got around to it until now. I have been contacted by CSN Rugs who asked if my readers would like a free rug to which I replied, “Yes please”, never being one to look a gift horse in the mouth! Now the only thing that you need to enter this free blog giveaway is an address in the USA or Canada, that is because the company only ships to these countries and the rug will go directly from them to the lucky winner.

I got to choose the prize rug, which was great fun, and reminiscent of a game I used to play as a child. We called it “bagsy” but my husband called it “jigsy”; the rules were simple, you looked through a catalogue, page by page and if an item caught your eye you had to claim it by shouting out “bagsy” and then you had to place your hand on the picture. There were no actual prizes but it kept us amused for hours! Now this time the prize is real, except I don’t get to keep it, I just get the pleasure of choosing it and hoping that the lucky winner likes it too.

So, what did I choose? Well, it was hard to pick just one of the many rugs on the CSN website but I eventually settled for a lovely braided rug that I am sure will appeal to all you quilting fans. It is a Lynette Jensen’s Thimbleberries Sea Glass “Four Seasons” braided rug by Colonial Mills. It measures 27 inches by 46 inches and has an oval shape. I think its warm, rich colours would fit comfortably into most homes; I hope you agree.

All you have to do is have an address in the USA or Canada (sorry to everyone who lives elsewhere, I will do another giveaway soon which everyone can enter). Just leave me a comment and I will be back soon to pick a winner at random, so come on, don’t be shy, help to make my first giveaway a big success.


Half Term Over

The half term holiday is now over and I am now catching up on all those domestic chores that inevitably follow. Our children left school many years ago but my husband teaches so school holidays are still a part of our lives. We took advantage of a new train service, which now stops close by our house, in order to visit our eldest son in London. As you can see we found a little time to visit the National Portrait Gallery and managed to do a little shopping whilst in the city.

The hedgehog has returned to our garden, Ted alerted us to its presence by yapping and barking, fortunately the hedgehog managed to defend itself in its customary manner. We also have bats, which appear as the sun goes down but so far I have not managed to capture any on film.

And last but not least my niece gave birth to a beautiful baby girl!

I managed to find a little time to make a start on a new book project, which has been on the back burner for more years than I care to remember. I decided to try something new and made the decision to illustrate each page with a pen drawing, this will make reproduction easier when it comes to printing the book, which I plan to do myself. I also have plans to bind the project by hand, but at this rate I shall be in my nineties before I get it finished.