A demo, a quiz and a John Piper project.

 

Hey ūüôā How’s your weekend going?

It’s gone crackers here again, springtime is always full of upcoming dates and schemes. Great stuff…but a little daunting if you haven’t got your ducks in a row from the outset. Deep breath…

Yesterday I went to see a local artist demonstrating Daler Rowney acrylics and the many marvellous additions you can buy to make your paint shiny, grainy and slower drying. I learned quite a bit, met¬†a lady from his art sessions and may well pop along to one of their art group meetings before long. They’re walking distance away…funny how it takes so long to find out what’s on your doorstep.

In a similar vein, I only knew about the local annual film and TV quiz in aid of muscular dystrophy through our lovely postman at work. I went along with a couple of friends last night and we had a ball. So funny! By the halfway mark the whole hall was singing along to the theme for Only Fools and Horses. A lovely atmosphere, and a good amount of cash going in the direction of a worthy cause. Hats off to everyone who contributed their time, what a fantastic effort.

So, what’s the John Piper project I hear you ask? It was an opening¬†exercise in this year’s art term, looking at the style and evocative technique used by John Piper to document the war through buildings, stark contrast and mixed media. This sort of thing…

 

John Piper painting

 

Although I prefer this one…

 

John Piper Painting - ruin

 

I chose Angkor Wat in Cambodia as my subject, I’ve never been there but I love the temples and mad trees.

 

John Piper inspired drawing - Angkor Wat archway

 

I’m not a loose painter, as a rule. Being undisciplined is a discipline, and we had a go at allowing pure colour¬†to suggest shapes –¬†as I learned through this project, The Line Is King. Your eye will always defer to it in times of doubt.

 

John Piper inspired Angkor Wat painting

 

A bit of this, a bit of that. This is where it’s at right now. I may tinker with it a bit more, but only when I haven’t looked at it for a week.

 

John Piper inspired Angkor Wat mixed media

 

Or possibly three.

 

The biggest pencil cases you’ve ever seen.

 

Yesterday I broke the rule. The one about not starting Shiny New Projects until you’ve finished at least three…but rules are meant to be broken, yes?

Paul asked for a bag for his new birthday present. He said he wouldn’t mind a drawstring bag, but as he picked out this rather fabulous tie-dyed denim, I thought it may be a bit stiff for pulling a drawstring tight. So off into zipland we went, and I lined it with white cotton¬†too.

 

Tie-dyed denim zip bag with strap

 

Now, if you’re going to make one bag, you’re probably going to wish you’d done a second one to carry around that lovely hardback book on photography, too.

 

Tie-dyed denim zip bags

 

This is what he’ll keep in his bag. Lovely new tai chi shoes, just in time for the championships.

 

Tai chi shoes

 

I’ll admit to a moment’s panic when I handed it over – oh, please tell me it came out the right size!

 

Denim zip bag with tai chi shoes

 

Perfect.

There are a few other things in the pipeline, if you’d like to follow what else I’m making you’ll find me posting work in progress¬†at

https://www.facebook.com/NixieInTheMakery

See you there ūüôā

 

A little venture into Robin Hood Country

 

Happy Sunday! I hope you’re having a good day, whatever you’re up to.

We’ve just spent a few days celebrating Paul’s birthday in Robin Hood country. We stayed at the 18th century¬†Forest Lodge Hotel¬†in Edwinstowe, a charming old building with a history as an inn, fish shop and tea room, spitting distance from the magnificent Sherwood Forest with its fabulous craft centre, unspoilt woodland and of course Major Oak (reputed hidey hole of Robin Hood and his merry men).

Major Oak Sherwood Forest

 

Spectacular. This little guy followed us on our walk through the forest, serenading us ūüôā

 

Sherwood Forest Birdwatching Robin

 

We loved these little houses that have been carved from tree stumps along the way.

 

Sherwood Forest Stump Treehouse

 

This¬†chap fascinated us, trawling the trees for his supper. He’s a treecreeper – the first we’d ever seen. Treecreepers don’t sit still for long, I can tell you that.

 

Sherwood Forest Treecreeper

 

The hotel window faces St Mary’s church, the site of the church where Robin was said to have¬†married Maid Marian, and its restaurant is sited on the original stable block – the archway for the horses remains. It’s a wonderful place to stay, with a cosy bar and glorious food for the winter evenings – perfect for a pint and a game of Quirkle or draughts. We loved it there. And look at the¬†rather delicious¬†birthday present we found in our room!

 

Forest Lodge Wine

 

A rather beautiful room at that.

 

Forest Lodge Buddha Room

 

If you’re in that part of the world, I’d recommend a walk at Creswell Crags.

 

Creswell Crags

 

It’s a stunning gorge and lake with an abundance of eerie and curious-looking caves.

 

Creswell Crags cave

 

We were too late for the last tour of the day after our¬†horsey adventure with Derbyshire Pony Trekking. It’s¬†about 30¬†years since I’ve ridden – we absolutely loved every second of it. Thanks to Rosie and Mr Tubbs for taking such good care of us! Oh my, did we ache later! Totally worth it. You can see four counties from this lookout point.

 

Derbyshire Pony Trekking Four Counties View

 

So it’s back to reality tomorrow…let’s see what this week has in store! There’s a monk, John Piper, a new art class project, Punch and Judy costumes, a few new recipes, a dentist appointment, some pensions paperwork¬†and a time management book on the horizon. I’m going to need that last one.

Fallow January and the fruits of Imbolc

Hey! How’s life treating you?

We’re settling into a routine after all the hoo-hah last month with builders and pipes and other unappealing problems, I’m happy to say. In hindsight, I¬†think it was a good time to implement Fallow January.

What’s Fallow January? Exactly what it says on the tin.¬†It’s my decision to have a month off from normal life, from now until forever.¬†I used to be swept up in the New Year, New You, make some resolutions, get cracking, sort out your life kinda talk. Well, it just¬†doesn’t work in the long run (for me anyway) so I’ve decided to take my lead from the trees, this January and every one from now on. Get off the merry-go-round, allow ideas to¬†percolate, wrap up warm, read, drink tea and talk to friends. I still have to go to work and we have all the usual household business to attend to, but the non-essentials? Let¬†them wait. Rest. While I’m at it, I’m cancelling most of December too. With the best will in the world, I always get behind with Christmas and birthday preparations so we might as well be realistic. December is now officially about baking, giftwrap, festive¬†films¬†and sparkle. Excellent.¬†A ten month year has a certain pleasing quality, wouldn’t you say?

The close of Fallow January falls in line with Imbolc. The pagan new year comes in early February, when the sap is rising and we are starting to feel the first surges of light and growth. I think it makes much more sense to start the year as the earth wakes. We had a beautiful little celebration; candles and evergreens, salt and incense, water and written intentions that we planted in the garden. And so the next cycle begins, and I feel¬†clear-headed and ready for it. Plans are afoot. Let’s get to work. Starting with a new wardrobe for these guys…

 

Wicksteed Park Punch And Judy Puppets

 

…because I’ve started volunteering at Wicksteed Park, where it’s not just about litter picking and directing traffic. Oh, no. There’s a world of adventures there for my creative development, in a land full of trees (which I truly love) and a programme to develop local and traditional craft skills (which I truly¬†love). Watch this space! It’s going to be a fascinating year!

 

 

 

 

 

Excavations

I don’t know about you, but it’s been a strange and eventful start to the year at NixieMade Towers. Is it me, or is there a¬†digging theme hereabouts…

After a three week break from aikido, I was given a surprise grading. I don’t mind admitting that I grade kicking and screaming; I’m sure I can’t do it until I’ve done it. Aikido has been a huge battle with my own¬†mind that has gone on for years, so making it to the middle grades is a massive win. At every milestone, we are asked to dig deep…

 

Aikido Orange Belt

 

I’m told I aced it. I need to remember that.

At¬†about the same time,¬†our neighbour’s boiler packed up. They weren’t allowed a new one because their water pressure was low. We share a supply, and ours is fine…so the problem’s on their side of the T-piece, right? Out comes a builder, who exposes the¬†pipework and¬†finds (a) lead pipe with (b) a leak in it. The water board are contacted…what a mission…but they can’t cope with the idea of two problems in one piece of pipe…so when they eventually send out an assessor, they send a second one at the same time. Getting them to replace the pipe was another battle. When they did, they sent four men. Yep. Four. Then the builders found the next leak (think Italian fountain), so the entire shared pipe has been dug up and replaced. Every time we talk to somebody about this another couple of hundred quid evaporates. Man plans, God laughs. Ever feel a bit like this…

 

Adrift

 

Still, life’s a long journey, the¬†world keeps turning,¬†and there’s always a bigger picture. I have a bit of a thing for social history¬†and¬†I’ve just¬†discovered Bernard Cornwell. I’ve¬†worked with¬†norse runes for a while, and when we went to the St Mary’s book sale I picked up The Last Kingdom, the first in a series¬†about the Danish occupation of England. Loving it. I haven’t enjoyed a book so much in ages, and then a talk on local archaeology came up and my geek gene got all jiggly.

I discovered¬†that¬†a few streets away, ancient lead coffins¬†were unearthed in back gardens (coins had been placed on the eyes of the dead), along with Roman¬†mosaic pieces, pottery with a woman’s name scratched into the base of some¬†bowls, a dog skeleton, a chisel, and brooch pins. In the centre of town, underneath a charity shop, is an old smelting site –¬†two thousand years ago a¬†manufacturing area thrived right on our¬†high street. We didn’t have a local mint, yet there are a lot of locally produced coins, so it looks like there were some busy forgers. A Roman sandal was found in the bottom of a well (what happened to said Roman?); there are three wells in the area that I hadn’t known about. There are pouches of coins and jewellery buried beneath our feet, safely stowed before battles and never retrieved. There are driveways that we know cover untouched artefacts, so one day who knows what else will come to light. All I know is, every time I look out on our garden, I just wonder.

And I wonder what the next few weeks will hold for us, our little lives, as the world turns and we go on…

Have a glorious¬†day. I’m going to eat cake in my¬†pyjames and draw pictures and watch Buffy. When it comes to adult responsibility, this house is a zero tolerance zone right now…

 

Make No. 36: Redwork Feather Bookmarks

 

We’re attending a Christmas craft fair next month,¬†and these little redwork feather bookmarks will be part of our entourage. I’ve been toying with the idea of small embroidery for a while, as we don’t want everything we display to be expensive. Who doesn’t love a stocking filler! It’s also nice to make small things sometimes. Cloaks take up a LOT of lounge floor, and you can never, ever find your scissors while you’re playing Dressmaking Twister.

I love feathers, and I’m loving the redwork and blackwork designs that I’ve seen. So inspiring…I love the idea of turning a doodle into machine embroidery, or screen prints.

 

 

I kinda like ’em! I might just have to make myself a purple one.

 

Make 35: Embroidered Tree Surcoat

 

Paul’s been on about a tree surcoat for his larp character¬†forever. Well, maybe¬†about a year.¬†There was a long debate about fabric.¬†Many sketches ensued. He spent hours and hours getting the design right, and to his credit it’s turned out nicely. I can’t bear a tree with droopy roots…

 

surcoat-3

 

We had lots of fun and games getting the embroidery machine to play ball. We spent an entire evening tearing our hair out, wondering what was amiss. Turns out it was a dodgy spool of thread! Once that was sorted, it was onto the coat design. The basic coat shape came from a Simplicity pattern. I had made one mandarin collar before, but for a different sized coat, so it was literally back to the drawing board.

 

surcoat-1

He¬†wanted side flares to give more swoosh (I reckon he wants to smuggle things. I think smuggle might be my favourite word). Another learning curve for me. I think most of this year has been curved ūüôā

 .                     surcoat-2

 

He’s happy. I’m happy. The embroidery machine is happy. Everyone’s happy! Happy Sunday!

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Winter

Winter

Clouded with snow
The cold winds blow,
And shrill on leafless bough
The robin with its burning breast
Alone sings now.

The rayless sun,
Day’s journey done,
Sheds its last ebbing light
On fields in leagues of beauty spread
Unearthly white.

Thick draws the dark,
And spark by spark,
The frost-fires kindle, and soon
Over that sea of frozen foam
Floats the white moon.

 

Walter de la Mare

Make No. 34: Watercolour Daisies at 100mph

Make 34 was exciting…people, we’re going to paint a watercolour scene. With no sketch. That’s right. You have an hour to:

Paint a sky. Dab out some clouds with an increasingly manky piece of kitchen roll. It’s art, dahling.

Apply masking fluid with a paintbrush, four seconds at a time before your brush becomes utterly unuseable. That joke you just made about rinsing your brush in your tea just cost you a brush, moron. Also, do not rinse your brush in your tea.

Apply masking fluid to the foreground with a credit card, preferably somebody else’s.

Recover consciousness. Masking fluid honks.

Paint a foreground. Rub a candle over the top of the foreground to resist the later wash. Do not worry about the fact that you have No Idea At All where the wax is on the paper.

Paint some trees. (Lollipop trees do not count, apparently.)

Add a mountain, even though you thought your tree line was finished, Because Your Teacher Told You To. I must have been looking too cheerful.

Rub off the masking fluid, trying hard not to think of sunburnt skin.

Paint the centres of the daisies. Do Not Paint Them All Stood Up Straight. Unless you want to paint a field of fried eggs.

And there you have it. (Someone’s having a campfire in the woods. I didn’t smudge it. Honest.)

 

daisies

 

You never see that on the Krypton factor, do you?