Birds eyes and Alley cats.

We have a busy week ahead with little time for reading or creating new blog posts so I will leave you with some photographs of a recent trip to London.

Despite having visited London fairly frequently in the past, I have never before visited Westminster Cathedral, often described as one of London’s best-kept secrets. If you get off the tube at Victoria and walk down Victoria Street you will be amazed to see a this Byzantine like cathedral set in a Venetian style piazza. Inside you can admire the many richly decorated chapels, perhaps light a candle and be enveloped in the most beautiful, tranquil and spiritual atmosphere that is both warm and welcoming. (click the photographs for a closer look)

Do not leave the Cathedral before you have taken the lift to the top of the tower where the most fantastic bird’s eye view of London is to be had. On the morning of our visit the sky was crystal clear and we could see for miles and miles. I am sure most visitors to London head for Westminster Abbey and Saint Paul’s and forget about Westminster Cathedral, which is a great pity. You can learn more about the Cathedral here and listen to some of the music of its celebrated choir.

No trip to London would be complete without exploring the many back streets and alley ways, peering into shop windows and admiring the many window boxes and small garden plantings. (click to enlarge)


Making books by hand.

Making books by hand is not for the faint hearted; I should also add that it is not profit driven, it is more a labour of love than anything else. It is however deliciously satisfying when you hold the finished volume in your hand and that makes all the trials and tribulations worth while.

I have spent the last couple of days restocking my little bookshop with the addition of a brand new title “Barleycroft Farm”. I thought I would show you just some of the steps that go into their making.

When the illustrations have been finished they are scanned and saved onto a digital file, next comes the designing of the pages and then the printing, with many frustrating and annoying things that get in the way such as running out of ink or paper at a crucial moment. Space has to be found on my constantly cluttered table, and then the pages are laid out to dry.

Next comes the scouring for the folded edges, this is done with the help of a metal ruler and a nice pointy bone folder. The pages are then cut with the “Think twice, cut once” motto in mind. (Learnt the hard way, I might add).

Folding and assembling the pages is next, followed by the bit that I dread, the gluing.
I cannot tell you how many times, particularly with the alphabet book, that I have stuck pages together upside down or in the wrong order. The glued pieces are then carefully dried under weights, making sure that they don’t stick to the table, (also learnt the hard way). Finally, after all the folding, gluing and assembling have been finished the book is coaxed into shape and pressed in the nipping press.

Finally, a card folder is made; the book is signed and numbered, photographed, listed and placed in the shop window. Phew!


Charity art auction.

I was contacted some time ago by Ian Stacey who is organizing a charity art auction, the proceeds of which will go towards research done by the transplant team at Great Ormond Street Hospital. The charity has set up a blog, which explains a little more about the auction scheduled for Christmas.

Ian and Christine Stacey are only too aware of the fantastic work being carried out at the hospital, as their son Tom was the youngest person ever to survive a heart transplant at less than five weeks old. You can read the full story here.


Harrogate Exhibition.

We drove over to Harrogate at the weekend to visit Mike Emeny from Books Illustrated, in order to pick up some old artwork and hand over some fresh pieces. Mike was exhibiting at the Harrogate Antiques Fair and was showing work by old and contemporary illustrators.There were pieces of original book illustration by Kate Greenaway, Annie French, Honor Charlotte Appleton as well as newer pieces by Yvonne Gilbert, Peter Malone and Charles Van Sandwyk to name just a few. I had one piece in this show, a painting of fungi, leaves and grasses painted in watercolour and taken from my book “Down the Lane”. You can just about spot it in the corner in the photograph.

One piece that caught my eye was by an artist called Una Woodruff, see the painting of the harp in the photograph, you can see it here in more detail by clicking on the link. Hours, weeks, months of painstaking work have gone into the creation of this modern masterpiece. I gazed in awe at the tiny feathers, butterflies wings, mosses and ivy leaves all painted with a dedication and mastery seldom seen today.

Our time was limited which was a shame as Harrogate is a very beautiful town but we wanted to make sure we had time to call in for a cuddle of this little chap.

On the way home a perfect harvest moon lit up the sky, all in all a beautiful day.

"When the moon hits Your eye
Like a big pizza pie
-that's amore."
Lyric by Jack Brooks (1953)


Nature and Nurture.

This post is a bit of a hotch potch of things that have happened here in no particular order. The first picture is of a recently completed baby quilt, (I am resisting the temptation of turning this into a grandma boasting blog!) but I suppose this is sort of work related. I used bits and pieces mainly from my “Nestled in Springtime” collection, plus a few bits salvaged from the new grandfather’s shirts, and a bit of “Herb Garden” thrown in for good measure. I did all of the piecing on my sewing machine but had help with the quilting part, my excuse was lack of time but lack of skill and courage also played a part.

As we have spent so much time away from home recently, we have become increasingly dependant on a good friend of ours who minds Ted, our dog. This friend is a country man born and bred and despite the fact that he is now in his seventies, spends most of his days dog walking and making walking sticks. He was given this fallow dear antler by another dog walker who thought it might be of use for stick making, our friend however had other ideas, he thought it would be nice to have the name “Badger” painted on it and had the idea to present this to Badger’s owner to hang above his kennel. I should explain that Badger the spaniel, sleeps in a kennel inside a barn. It was for this reason that it came in my possession, I was asked to help with the lettering. Painting on an antler was a new experience for me, it was a bit daunting using acrylic paint, and I was definitely out of my comfort zone, as was the poor deer that lost his antler no doubt! I was reassured to hear that this is a natural process and no deers were harmed in any way. I have not heard what Badger thinks of his new nameplate, Ted looked rather disdainful when he found out that it was not for him.

Whilst we are on the subject of nature, I thought that I would show you this most gruesome spectacle that happened in my garden earlier today. I was sitting at my desk painting away, when all of a sudden I heard screeching and alarm sounds outside. A sparrow hawk had swooped down on an unsuspecting sparrow and clasped it between its claws. I managed to grab my camera but the shot is very poor I am afraid. I tried to take a closer shot but the bird flew off still clutching its prey, leaving a pile of feathers in its wake. I suppose the hawk has hungry mouths to feed too but I am feeling very guilty now for keeping a bird bath in front of my window. I love to see the sparrows splashing about in the water, I think they were having so much fun they forgot to keep watch. Click on the photo for all the gory details.