Sunday, 7 September 2014

Whortleberries and wood carving

It's my favourite time of year again (well, apart from all the other times that are my favourite when they arrive!)
In these lazy end-days, we pick whortleberries.

Silent meditative hours, picking away, accompanied only by the bees on the heather. And a lizard, which is a rare and precious sight.

The names of the hills run through my head, like poetry, as we walk them.
There is magic in names.
Birch Tor, Chaw Gully, Challacombe Ridge, Golden Dagger, Vitifer , The Warren and Kings Oven.
These are the paths I tread in the last days of Summer.

With a well earned stop for tea. With unexpected whortles in it!

I have also been preparing for Devon Open Studios which is a fantastic county-wide event. It runs from Saturday the 6th of September until Sunday the 21st of September. There are hundreds of artists to visit - it showcases some of the best artwork there is. I am showing mine at Venue 17, Into the Wilds, which it really is! 

You follow the signposts, out, out, farther and farther from civilisation......

Over the beautiful bridge at Lingcombe (where you can also park your car if you don't want to drive along the rough farm track which follows)

through the farmyard

and on along the stony track (avoid the free range cows)

Until you reach Gorselands, at the very end.

This is where Bridget Thomasin lives, she paints and stitches, and writes the most wonderful poetry, all of which reflects beautifully and quietly, the landscape in which she lives so simply.
If you have an opportunity to come out here over the next couple of weeks, please grab it. Bridget doesn't show her work online, and her latest book of poetry, 'a Small Singing', published by Mudlark Press, is only available through her. It's wonderful!

I have framed up some of the 13 moons paintings for the show.
They are not for sale, but it feels good to show them.

Greg Abel is a traditional blacksmith from Moretonhampstead.
His organic looking ironwork is beautiful.


And Sharif Adams is a greenwood worker. He makes these incredibly beautiful turned wood bowls on a pole lathe.

And he carves spoons with an axe!

We will all be showing our work there for the next couple of weeks. It's worth the trip, just to see Bridget's beautiful garden and have a slice of homemade cake!

Friday, 29 August 2014

In which I turn 40.....

I've spent a magical few days at Rivenstone - Festival of Bones,  which takes place on Dartmoor, at the home of  Carolyn Hillyer and Nigel Shaw.
 This year, the theme of the festival was the honouring  of our ancestors, symbolised by the White Horse Hill Woman (an extraordinary recent archeological find here on the moors).
I had a stall there, selling my work, ably assisted by my sister Angharad, and met so many lovely people, even some who knew me through my blog, so Thankyou, for coming to talk to me :)

In the heart of the moor, in the misty rain, wind sang through the heather, buzzards wheeled and mewed overhead, and drums sounded like the earth's heartbeat underfoot.

 I spent three days listening to haunting music that sang of the land, and the sacredness of the earth.

I sat in a smoky roundhouse in the middle of the night, where the story of 'The Uninvited Guest' told by puppets in the firelight, was wondrous indeed! 
I walked in procession by candlelight, and added my voice to the honouring of the ancestors.
And I danced - to English and Breton folktunes, and trancey drumming, and tribal chanting.


On the final day, there were a series of deep immersion workshops. Most of these were journeying workshops, and although I was sorely tempted by Manda Scott's workshop - 'Ancestors of the Island Dreaming', in the roundhouse, I chose to immerse myself in experimental archeology instead and spent the day with Kate Fletcher and Corwen Broch, of Ancient Music, learning how to make reed pipes and deer bone flutes and a whistle from a cow's toe bone!


It was the most fun I've had in a long time - really! Lovely, lovely people, and we laughed all day. I even managed to make a decent sound with my reed pipe and flute, although I couldn't master the toe bone.

And then it was home again, to turn 40, which feels quite momentous and amazing. I feel grown up, wiser and serene, and I can wear my grey hair as a badge of honour. I feel as if I am finally ready to step into my true self.

I am lucky to live a life where I can do the things I love. I can work my garden and grow my herbs. This is White sage (Salvia Apiana) which I have grown from seed. To my surprise, it has grown well and strong, and I have already harvested a small amount for drying and using in smudge sticks. I imagine it will be hard to keep alive over a dartmoor winter, so I am planning to take cuttings and move pots into the cold greenhouse.

Here it is, dried and combined with mugwort, alongside my homemade ginger and rhubarb cordial.

This is oil of St John's Wort, which has been macerating in the sun for the last six weeks. I love the way it has turned the greenish olive oil a rich red colour.

And this is the last harvest of milk thistle seeds from the garden, beautiful and useful plants, but vicious to extract the seeds from!
This is how I am happiest - here on these moors, in the rain and the wind and the sun. Walking and riding, painting and planting. 
I am blessed indeed.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Divination Deck project

It's time to introduce you to my latest project! I've been working on this since the beginning of the year, and I reckon it will take a couple of years to finish.
It is a 'divination deck' - a set of cards for helping to show you the way.
 I've never been particularly fond of Tarot cards. They spooked me a little when I was a child, and I still feel uneasy around them. However, these cards are NOT a tarot deck.

Early this year, while meditating and communing with the muse, this deck was laid out very clearly in my mind's eye. The 3 types of cards, the names of each, and the plant or animal connected to each of the higher cards. I scribbled copious notes and symbols in my sketchbook, while it was still fresh in my mind, and then sat back and thought about it all.

The 2 sets of 'higher 'cards are calendrical. One set of 13 are called 'The Lunar Cards' and they represent the 13 full moons of the year. The other set of 8 are called 'The Wheel Cards' and they represent the wheel of the year, the Celtic festivals and cross quarter days.

It immediately became apparent that I would need to paint each of these images at the correct time, to actually capture the energy and sense of the exact point in the year. This has put the pressure on! Some of the wheel cards are pretty large and complex, and I'm not used to working with such tight time constraints. It's been exhausting at times, but very satisfying.

What has been really interesting is how the meaning of the card has developed as I paint it. I know exactly how the image should look,and usually have a very broad sense of the meaning when I begin, but often it has crystallised into a very specific meaning ( sometimes depending on context) by the time I have finished.

It's endlessly fascinating, as if each card has a life of its own!



The beltane painting was very complex and intricate, and took days to finish!



So, there you are. It's a work in progress, and although I'm pleased to show you the images, I'm reluctant to give away too much detail about the meanings of the cards, and the workings of the pack, as I hope to find a way to publish it once completed.

The downside of this project is that it has left me very little time to create anything else - much less new work to sell, which has been a bit tricky financially. I'm trusting that it will be worth it in the end ;)

However, I do have a few outings to sell my wares over the next few weeks. The first is at Chagford Show, on Thursday 21st August.

Then I head for  Rivenstone festival which I am SO excited about. It's promising to be a wonder-filled weekend, and I'm treating myself to a workshop too, as my 40th birthday present!
I think there are still a few spaces left if you want one :)

And finally, I shall be taking part in Devon Open Studios in September.

Do come and find me to say 'Hello' if you are at any of these events.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

A profusion of wild flowers and herbs (or 'Why I haven't blogged in ages' !)

Well, it seems the cobwebs have been gathering here.
I've been away for so long that I think I may have forgotten how to use Blogger!

I'm sorry to have abandoned you all - I really didn't mean to - it's just I get so caught up in the 'here and now' that there never seems to be enough time to blog. Still, I'm here, and I'm dusting away busily. There is so much to catch up on - new projects afoot, pony news, that I've been scratching my head for weeks and wondering where on earth to start.
So, for today, I thought I'd show you the reason WHY I spend so much time away from my computer. 
There is so much to see and do outside, that I spend almost every waking moment out under the skies, grateful every moment that I live where I do.
These stone lanes, green woods and steep valleys are just bursting with life. It seems there is more this year than ever before. A walk around the footpaths takes hours as I stop to examine each and every new plant, delighted whenever I find a new one.
Today I took my camera with me, so I could document the abundance of wildflowers.

Herb Robert, Foxglove, Dog Rose, Stonecrop, Water Dropwort (I've a story about that - remind me to tell you one day)  Nettles and Goosegrass.

 Honesty, Hogweed, Wood Woundwort ( my least favourite wild flower - it's foliage is truly stinky) Red Campion, California poppy (must have escaped from a garden) and Feverfew.

Beautifully glowing California Poppies.

 Yarrow, Wood Sage, Spear Thistle, Pig Nut and Wild Oat, and Hedge Bedstraw.

Goatsbeard, with their seed heads the size of an orange!

Bumblebee and Bramble

Wormwood, Tansy, Yarrow flower, Tufted Vetch, Honeysuckle and a yellow vetch - I think it's Meadow Vetchling, but I'm not certain.

The path to the stepping stones is overgrown that we had a job to get down it.

Greater Plantain

And a pause to paddle and play in the river in the mid-day sun. The stepping stones are precarious, but it's lovely to wade across. The river is alive with the sound of whirring wings. Dragonflies and damselflies in every colour imaginable dart and swoop across the water.

And we pass the village pool - river fed, and beautiful, nestled in the valley beside the river.


Here, in the large swathes of wildflowers, left in the rougher corner of the hay meadow, is the plant I've come looking for today: St John's Wort

Golden clumps in amongst the many wild flowers.

 More Wood Woundwort (beautiful mixed in with the golden St John's Wort), White Campion, and, to my excitement, a solitary Wild Valerian plant.


We stopped to look at the Beaver Tree, and the names carved therein. We spent our childhood summers in this tree, the limbs spiralling up like a staircase.

Pennywort flowering in the walls.

Bindweed, Green Alkanet, Speedwell, ivy leaved toadflax, and my most favourite wildflower of all, the Orange Hawkbit.


This is what I brought home with me today.

St John's wort is steeping in oil, and the others are on racks to dry.

Next time I'll show you my new work :)


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