Saturday, 27 April 2013

A Complete Disaster, Dahling!

I've been quite excited about having a stall at the Tweseldown Artisan Market - over the last few years, my attendance at craft fairs has dwindled as I got a bit fed up with the wear and tear on my stock from being carted to and fro and fingered by sticky-faced children and careless adults.  Plus there is the soul-destroying aspect of hearing your work being discussed as though you are invisible; together with the remarks of 'it's a bit expensive' when you have probably paid yourself less than a sweat-shop worker if an hourly rate was to be worked out.

But yesterday morning I got up at the crack of dawn with enthusiasm, and was even ready, car packed, dog walked, house tidied, daughter fed and dressed, fifteen minutes before we were due to set off.  It was, however, bitterly cold - gone were the spring temperatures of 24 hours previous.

We got to the venue, unloaded the car and took everything to our pitch, which was in the centre of a courtyard, next to a lady selling rather nice sewn bags.  We'd opted for an outside spot as we figured there would be more room to spread - it wasn't just me this time, I had joined up with Jane from Pandoren who sells beautiful hand sewn/knitted childrens' clothing.  Fingers were numb, the wind was whistling through the buildings (one of my paintings blew over and the glass smashed), but we figured once we'd got the gazebo up, we'd be fine.  That was the first of our problems.  My other friend had brought her gazebo for us to borrow but it appeared to be missing a few poles.  We struggled for half an hour (being watched by other stall holders who found this very entertaining but didn't see why they should offer any help other than smart-alec remarks...) but it wasn't going to happen.  Jane had still not arrived at this point, she'd got a bit lost.....

We decided to abandon that gazebo and wait for Jane with hers.  When she eventually turned up, we set to trying to erect the second, much larger, gazebo.  More entertainment for the bystanders but they were starting to get restive as it appeared our gazebo might encroach on their areas by a few someone thought it helpful to add that they'd seen one of these event gazebos collapse only last week.  How we kept smiling I do not know.  After a short while, someone else suggested we move around the corner from the buildings where there was a huge free area - which we promptly did and were met by stall holders selling garden plants and accessories who were a whole different kettle of fish. They offered to help, were friendly and no smart-mouths! In no time we had set up and were just about ready for when the gates were open to the public.

It was a very cold and breezy morning, but we were cheerful enough.  However, although there were a lot of visitors, people seemed to keep their wallets firmly in their pockets.  By lunchtime, my daughter had turned an interesting shade of blue, despite wearing a coat, two extra cardigans and being draped in two blankets, so my friend who was going back to walk my dog for me took Stacie with her for an hour's tv in the warm.
While they were gone, disaster struck.  There had been showers on and off throughout the morning and odd gusts of wind, but nothing prepared us for what happened next.

Suddenly the wind picked up and all our stock started flying.  At the same time, the heavens opened - not just rain, but horizontal hail.  Within seconds everything was soaking wet and in disarray. Some kind people hung on to the gazebo for us while  Jane and I ran to put sides onto it as fast as we could but by the time we did so, the damage was done. All the knitted and fabric items were saturated, my boxes containing jewellery were little pools of rain water, and worst of all, my paintings had water within the frames, soaking the mountboard.

This whole squall took less than ten minutes but it was enough to completely scupper any chances we had of making further sales.  After a brief discussion, we decided to pack it all up and get everything home and spread out to dry as quickly as we could and assess any damage.  So we only did half a day, barely sold anything and both felt like having a damn good cry.  I can't even show you my photos of the stall before it got wrecked as they won't load - even the pictures are jinxed!*

Miraculously, on closer inspection this morning, my paintings have dried out with no water stains and I do believe all the knitted shawls and everything else has also dried out with no further casualties. I know that Jane's stock dried out successfully too as we all met up later yesterday evening and had a Chinese takeaway together with copious amounts of red wine - talk about drowning your sorrows!

So some serious thought is required as to whether or not it is worth ever attempting a craft fair again.  I certainly would not have an outside stall again when you have to deal with the capricious British weather.  It was such a shame as this particular artisan market is a lovely event, focussing on local artists and crafts people, with a varied selection of stalls and good attendance by the public.  If only they could control the weather!

*not jinxed, problem with Blogger which I have had to circumnavigate!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Macaw Wing Shawl

When you knit a shawl using sock yarn, you are never quite sure what pattern will emerge.  With this semi-circular design, I was fascinated to see that once the initial stripes of the border were completed, the shaping of the body of the shawl caused the yarn to make a larger section of the blues and purples.  I was put in mind of the plumage of macaws - this photo of it drying while being blocked doesn't really do it justice.
However, it has been finished quickly as I wanted it to be part of my stock tomorrow at Tweseldown Artisan Market.  If it doesn't sell there, it will be on my Etsy shop by early next week.

My Etsy shop will be shut for the next 24 hours, re-opening tomorrow evening after I have made any adjustments to items that have been sold.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Being Boring....

Apologies - I'm not being a very good blogger this week.  I have nothing new that I can show and nothing interesting is happening.  So let's have a look at a painting I did years and years ago when I first returned to wielding a paintbrush. Back then I was still using photos I found in books and magazines - I wasn't selling much, as I was just starting out. In fact, I still have this painting stashed away in my portfolio - perhaps I should go through and see what else is hiding in there!  This was painted in watercolour.

I have been busy - lots of bits and pieces to be made for the animated film, that rainbow shawlette is near completion, and I started a curly-haired dog but have run out of yarn and await a new ball all the way from the USA.

The garden is sprouting, I have been planting seedlings out there - let's hope there are no frosts!

The porch has reached an impasse which is frustrating - all we need in there is a floor and I could move everything back in, but no idea when that floor will be fitted.  It's been a fortnight of shuffling around piles of porch stuff in the house and I am very fed up...

I am having a stall at Tweseldown Artisan Market on Saturday - pop along if you are in the area. I will be selling all sorts of things, from paintings to jewellery to knitted shawls and novelties.  First time doing something like this - let's hope it is successful!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Tomato Catch Up

 It's not been a good year to grow tomatoes from seed. From all the seeds I planted, I have five or six tiny seedlings which have been struggling for weeks now.  This is about the best of them.

I am luckier that my opponent over at Soggibottom - not only were her seedlings as sickly as mine, her cat threw the whole lot on the floor and finished them off completely.  So we had a chat and decided we both had to buy some ready tomato plants from our local garden centres - we did this within 24 hours of each other to try and keep things even.
Mine are still on the bedroom windowsill as it is not yet warm enough for them to go outside, but look!  Flowers already!  Could the trophy be mine again this year?  Let's not count our tomatoes before they are hatched though, there are a lot of obstacles for them to overcome before I get a ripe and edible tomato!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Look Who Came To Stay!

Big excitement over breakfast yesterday when the postman brought a parcel addressed to my daughter.  There are no birthdays or celebrations this week, so she was totally unprepared to receive gifts.  When we opened the big box, out popped this magnificent fellow!  He is a Dartmoor Hare, beautifully made by Midge over at Soggibottom, who really ought to be making these for a living instead of teasing us by making her bears sporadically!  Stacie was so pleased, she positively beamed!

There is a bit of a story behind this (not very interesting but I'm telling it to you nevertheless).  Last year I was given a big sack of fabric by a colleague who was clearing out her spare room, and amongst it all were some pieces of fur fabric.  I passed these on to Midge as I very rarely use fur in what I make.  They survived the double flooding of her house over the winter months, and now a portion has come home to roost in this lovely form.  We have to find a special place for him to sit and watch over us, not hidden up in Stacie's bedroom...and far away from a certain doggy chap who showed an unhealthy interest!

What's the best time to go to the dentist...

This is a knitted clock, with movable hands, destined to be in the animated film.  It is three inches across and was one of the easier items I have had to construct lately.  I can't show you what I knitted yesterday as it is not very pleasant, but I can tell you it's brown and falls out of a pig's bottom...I get all the best jobs!

CANOPY - Woollen Woods Exhibition

A few months ago I was asked if I would take part in an open air exhibition consisiting of knitted woodland creatures of all shapes and sizes being displayed in their natural habitat.  Unfortunately, this request came at the time I was swamped with work and I couldn't contribute as much as I wanted to.  I  did manage to rustle up a little knitted bat though and got him in the post to arrive on the last day for entries - I like living dangerously!

Photos of the CANOPY exhibition can be seen here as well as on their Facebook page here.  My bat is in the current batch of photos on Facebook, although I couldn't see him among the other wonderful animals and birds in the woods - he's very small!  A fun exhibition - if you are up in Cumbria, give it a visit, it will be open all summer.

Slow progress on the Paralympic painting as I am back at work this week.  I'm also knitting like crazy as I have a few rush jobs for the animator. 

Our porch has been demolished - it took less than a morning - and the basic structure of the new one is already up.  It has not been as dispruptive as I imagined, but the house is strewn with piles of bags and boxes full of tools, dog walking gear, hats, gloves, shoes, craft materials and packaging.  A golden opportunity to get it all stored properly when the porch is finally finished!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

All of a Twitter...

Well, I've finally done it - I have just joined Twitter.  I am really not into all these social networking sites - not through any moral highground, I just don't have the time!  I spend enough time faffing about on the internet as it is when I should be getting on with some work.  However, I think Twitter might be helpful when it comes to the work, so I'm there...I wanted to add a link on the sidebar but haven't figured it out yet.  But if you put my name in to Twitter, it might come up.  Who knows - it's all very confusing...
Less confusing is good old watercolour and paper.  I'm really pleased with how this painting is turning out - it may not appeal to anyone else, but for me it represents the atmosphere of a memorable day.  Now that all the hard work of mapping it out, finishing off the buildings and inking in the horses is over and done with, I can get on with the best bit, painting horses.

I'm fairly depressed today - it's the last day of the school holidays which means it's back to work tomorrow.  It's been lovely having the time to get things done at home in my own time.  We also have some building work starting as from tomorrow and I am dreading it.  Our porch is being demolished and rebuilt - not through choice, the whole housing estate is being done.  We have had the builders' base right next to our house for months now, with all the noise, disruption and lack of privacy that entails. It has not been good.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Why It's Good To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Buildings are my downfall - buildings and cars.  Anything requiring precise perspective has me stumped.  I think it's a form of image dyslexia (I know that's a contradiction of terms, but you get the gist!)  I can sit there and draw a building for hours and think it looks fine, until someone with a better handle on perspective comes along and points out that just about every line is wrong. 

So to take on a cityscape was a bit daunting to say the least, but I wanted it to be part of the background for a picture that's been in my head since last year.  This is the view from the stands at the equestrian event at the Paralympics last year.  I want it to be an integral part of a montage of images from that day - the rest of the paper will be filled with horses and riders - much more my cup of tea! Hopefully they will detract from any glaring errors in the buildings...

This is being painted in watercolour with a Sharpie liquid pencil being used rather than an ink pen for drawn detail - I like the fact it is a bit more subtle than ink - plus I can rub out any mistakes up to two days after they have been made.

Despite making me work very hard and draw lots of straight lines, I am thoroughly enjoying this - feels very good to do something different for a change.

Monday, 8 April 2013


While on a bit of hiatus waiting for feedback on a couple of scarf designs, I found myself with a bit of time to spare in which to get on with some stashbusting.  I have a lot of lovely balls of yarn that I have been collecting over the past year but never seem to have the time to utilise them.  This is a ball of sock yarn - far too pretty to be used for feet!  So I am knitting a scarf/shawlette with a cable design - it's such fun watching the colours emerge as I go along and very relaxing not having to make up the pattern myself for a change!

There has been a development regarding the tomato race between myself and Soggibottom.  Not only have our poor seedlings been struggling against adverse growing conditions, despite being indoors and nurtured, but Midge's cat decided to tip her tray of pots onto the floor....oh dear! As mine are straggly wisps with barely any secondary leaves, we have had a chat and decided to 'cheat' and buy some stronger plants from our local garden centres.  I will still persevere with my seedlings, but don't hold out much hope for them. This year it will be interesting to see if either of us even get tomatoes, let alone win!

I was going to spend some more time in the garden today after getting out there for the first time in months yesterday, but it's raining.  Oh no, guess I'll have to get on with some painting then.....what a shame!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

How To Make a Dr Who Fan Very Happy...

...take her to meet him!  If you look closely, you can see that it isn't really Matt Smith and that definitely isn't Karen Gillan (nasty wig!) but as far as my daughter was concerned yesterday, it was good enough.  We certainly didn't have to ask her to smile for the photo!
We went to the Dalek Invasion of Portsmouth, held at the Royal Marines Museum.  We kept this outing secret until the last minute as we  weren't sure whether to go or not, it all depended on the weather.  As you can see, the sun was shining.
We even ate barbecued burgers while sitting on the grass!  Amazing to think two days previously, we suffered all-day blizzards and freezing temperatures!
Here's me stuffing my face too - it was so wonderful to sit outside and be warm for the first time in what feels like an eon.
It was only a small show, but there were various people in costumes wandering about - a cyberman..
...K-9 was zipping about too.  The daleks were raced against each other which was hilarious, and also the Matt Smith lookalike and a David Tennant not-so-lookalike had a mad running race around the daleks - 'Matt Smith' won.
So what with being immersed in Dr Who for a few hours, followed by....
...a walk on the beach in the bright sunshine, it really was a fabulous day and we took home a very happy and contented Stacie. 

Friday, 5 April 2013

Tools of the Trade Part 2

Have I been gorging on chocolates?  No, but I opened what was inside these wrappers with just as much gusto, possibly more.
I've been after a set of these for a while - St. Petersburg White Knights watercolours.  They aren't professional standard, and are quite cheap, but I love the intensity of the colours and their covering power. For painting deep coloured washes and anything requiring clear bright colours, these are the business.
Whilst ordering the paints, I also stocked up on some Derwent Drawing pencils - there are some colours that seem to wear out quicker than others and have to be replaced.  I think these must be labrador/retriever colours!  The brushes are some I have been trying to find a supplier for for a couple of years now - I got a small set free with a magazine while I was painting potatoes and they were great - I used them until they literally fell apart.  Now I have some more - yay!
Things are not looking good for the tomato race.  The weather has been atrocious for weeks (months) now.  Yesterday we had blizzards - it's April for crying out loud!  I do hope we get some warmth and light soon or this will be another lean year in the garden.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Gardening For The Disabled

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Alan Titchmarsh....well, I am sure it wasn't him personally, but he is supporting a silent auction of drawn/painted postcards by artists and celebrities on behalf of  the charity Gardening for the Disabled.  I was asked if I would consider providing a postcard with a drawing or somesuch to be included in the auction.  Well, after my soapbox speech on here a couple of months ago about random people asking for freebies in the name of charity, I made sure this was a legitimate request before gladly agreeing to take part. My daughter attends a place called Bell's Piece in Farnham twice a week which offers people with special needs a chance to either work in the art studio or take part in the horticultural side out in the extensive grounds.  My daughter wouldn't do gardening if her life depended on it, but I do see plenty of others who thoroughly enjoy it and are made to feel useful and worthwhile, ultimately selling their produce in the shop.

So this charity strikes a chord with me and I hope they do extemely well out of this event.  Here is my contribution, a little watercolour of my sister's dog, Barney.  Let's hope someone likes him enough to place a bid!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


I can't be the only one who gets so excited by yarn!  This arrived in the post today and it is absolutely gorgeous - shades of grey (no, not fifty...) and airforce blue in a luscious bamboo chenille.  I have to knit a cat from this for the animated film - I just cannot wait to see how that turns out!

The yarn is called 'Baby Elephant'and was bought from Yarntopia Treasures on Etsy.  I'm hoping there will be a substantial amount left over so that I can make something else from it.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Tools of the Trade...

I'm often teased at home for the amount of times I suffer from regret over not buying something when I saw it.  I tend to dither and wonder if I can justify the expense or of I will use the item concerned, then a few weeks later I wish I'd bought it and find out the article is either sold out or was somewhere too expensive to return to. However, I am trying to be a bit more sensible, especially when it comes to art materials.
Our local really-cheap-we-sell-everything shop has a bit of an art section for some reason.  The paints and brushes are cheap and nasty, but the other day I found this really cool portable sketch board - it's about A3 size, has a clip for the paper, is made of light MDF and has that excellent handle.  And it was a whole £2.99 - no dithering this time!  I know I will use this either out and about or just for when I am not at my desk.
Yesterday I had a day out in London - a visit to my favourite paintings at the National Gallery (Whistlejacket by Stubbs, various Monets, Van Goghs and Rousseau's 'Surprise!' to name but a few) and then a trip to the discount art store round the corner.  I don't currently need paper, boards or sketchbooks, but at their prices I would have been stupid not to stock up for the future.

Maybe now I will be inspired to pick up a paintbrush - I haven't painted for far too long.