Japan, Nadine’s wonderful drawing challenge

Finally! It’s time for the drawing challenge.

Nadine took the lead for the first one after the August break and her inspiration is “Japan”.

Last month I bought a sort of “grab bag” of goodies from the London Embroiderer’s Guild.

I wasn’t sure what I would do with any of these little bits, but, being half magpie, fell in love with the sparkly richness of it all and had to have it. The bag includes a piece of a 1920 shawl, postcards, bits of lace, threads and some sort of patterns. (Not sure at all what one does to transfer these sorts of patterns onto cloth…maybe iron? If you know, please tell me. The hallmark on the side says they were produced by a company which closed in the 20′s.)

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I was looking at the pieces and decided that for this challenge I would try to draw with a needle and thread and everything I used (with the exception of a beading needle) had to come out of my little grab bag.
I’m not much of a seamstress or embroiderer, but I’ve been a huge fan of sashiko for a few years now and so tried to do a little of that myself.

There was a little piece of green-flip-red taffeta and I enveloped it around a not-so-attractive piece of black, sparkly felt and some layers of rough cotton.

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Then I took some of the orange silk thread and stitched the sun in the middle of the rectangle.

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I drew some lines with my chalk art pencil to guide my hand with some quilting.

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And I used a lovely silk chord to stitch the quilt lines. This is fascinating thread. It changes colours from a soft green to a soft purple. I love it.

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Then I drew myself some cherry blossoms with the chalk and stitched them with a fine gold thread (which is apparently supposed to be added to another kind of thread…oops…good thing I don’t know much about much.)

Lastly, some little gold beads made up the flower centres. I love it! Not sure what to do with it now, but maybe a central panel for an evening clutch? Any ideas?

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Anyway, I’ve missed the drawing challenge for the August break and am happy to be back with my lovely bunch. Come pop over to Nadine’s site and check out every one’s interpretation when you have a chance, and if you’d like to join, visit our Rose Ariane for the list of who is next. :D

Friday night disaster…averted!

I have a Land Rover story to tell you, but rather than show you the gruesome happenings, I’m going to show you the lovely vintage things I bought the other day.

So, I had to run into Oxford today and Robbie and I made a deal that I would undercoat the chassis of the Landi first thing this morning and then, while I’m in Oxford, R would put the floors back in.

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“Just get under the car,” Robbie said, “I’ll spread out a carpet remnant for you. It’ll be easy. Half an hour and you’ll have it done.”

Then he said, “Here, use this scrapper and this screwdriver and this wire brush to just brush off the loose bits before you paint it.” :D

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So I tied my two feet of hair into a braid, got into R’s overalls, climbed under the car and started scraping the tar goop and loose rust off…which started falling all over the carper remnant, R’s overalls, and my two feet of hair!!! And the more I moved under the car, the more it got into my hair.

About an hour into it R came to see how I was getting on.
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And to help me with the job because we greatly underestimated the amount of work.

About three hours later we were finally finished and I cleaned my hands with the turpentine and ran my fingers thru my fringe and my fingers wouldn’t go thru it.

OMG! How will I get tar and enamel latex out of my hair!

No time for hair rescue, tied it up and drove into Oxford.

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I love to walk the 3 miles into the town centre from the park and ride and today I had a beautiful walk in a strong wind…which blew my hair around and tangled the tar into it even more.

Now I know that the theory is that one shouldn’t have two feet of hair past their 30s but stuff that for a game of soldiers. I love having long hair and, what’s more, I love being a brunette, so cutting the tar out and using solvents was not an option.

So, back home, and I ran a really hot bubble bath, soaked in it for a very long time, washed my hair with R’s strong detergent Pantene instead of my gentle organic shampoo, squidged an entire tube of thick, gloopy conditioner thru my hair in two treatments and combed thru it with a fine toothed comb. The resulting hairball would have made my long haired Morgan jealous, but, a final little comb thru with a bit of coconut oil detangler, and my hair is back to soft, lustrous, normal.

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Disaster averted.
And I have a beautiful, rust free Land Rover (Landi update to follow) :D

WordPress weekly photo challenge, Dialogue

The building is in the middle of Oxford, in the centre of the tourist trade.

It hosts a trendy coffee shop named Pret a Manger

It’s always crammed full of students, shoppers, tourists, children… everyone touches the walls, walks the floors, chats, laughs, drinks their tea.

The building was built in 1387.

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Museum, or coffee shop? Precious heritage to be preserved or trow your serviette on the floor, spill your coffee walking up the wonky stairs?

Hmm…what do you think? Has Oxford town council made the right decision?

Opening up a dialogue with the WordPress bunch. :D

A trip to the antique market

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Around us in OXON, there are weekly antique markets. I always think that they are too expensive and professional and so rarely visit one, but this one in Newbury, at the racecourse, coincided with a drop off R needed to make to a friend, and so I decided I’d do that for him and visit the market.

It’s the most beautiful autumnal weather here. A bit drizzly, a few sunny spells and that generally unsettled England that we all know and love, but the drizzle didn’t dampen the spirits of the antique hunters. Holy smokes, there was a lot of beautiful stuff here. Mostly things I couldn’t afford, (or didn’t want to afford, because I’m used to finding bargains and unrecognised prized treasures at flea markets and car boot sales, and so an organised antiques market seems a bit pricey to me), but I did still find beautiful, affordable and worthwhile treasures.

I bought some of those spools from the Victorian cloth factories, some scraps of 18th and 19th C materials, and an album of sorts dated 1909, kept by a travelling girl. I’ll show you next time.

What are everyone’s thoughts on organised antique fairs? Here in E, they have a large and booming trade, but then there’s a huge population here, so maybe that’s the mitigating factor. Hmm…

The Druids next door

“There is stillness, the stones hold us. Still.” (Druid saying recorded by Romans)

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In the next door village of Stanton Harcourt is a stone henge. The village is named for it: from Stan (farm) + tun (beside the rocks).

It’s a little known Neolithic monument built by people of the early bronze age (2900 BC). Much of the archaeology of the area has been destroyed by Roman-British medieval farmers as they plowed the land. And, the henge which remains is a tiny fraction of an enormous area of barrows and prehistoric settlements all along the Winrdush/Thames valley.

It’s a miracle that the stones exist at all. They have been gathered, toppled, buried, plowed over, used in the construction of the RAF Stanton Harcourt during WWI, and dragged over to the Windrush River to serve as a bridge. By the 1940s, when a renewed interest in this archaeological treasure led to a large dig, there were only three stones standing.

Today, the area is known as The Devil’s Quoits. As with most ancient treasures, Roman-Christian traditions dictated a redirection of any pagan religions, so the area was re-imagined as God giving the Devil a telling off for playing quoits on a Sunday and the Devil had a temper tantrum scattering the quoits forming the henge.

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It may have been lost to history but for aerial WWI surveillance work, which showed the circle and ditch and facilitated the 1940 investigation, and, in 2002, work began to find the stones and rebuild the henge.

Come, walk up to the first earth circle with me, and let’s climb to the top.

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The henge is very large, 2200 ft across. There are/were two Tumuli (burial mounds) excavated in 1940. In the very centre of the great circle is a woman. She stands 5’3″ and, by her bone structure, is believe to be of the Celt. She had a flint knife, a jet slider for her clothes, seven flint arrow heads and a bone pendant in the shape of a looking glass.

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The second burial is located at the North entrance to the henge, underneath a “break” in the ditch circle. It is a man, 5′ 10″, with a ground-down gap in his teeth on his left side, suggesting that he repetitively held something between his teeth. Around him was a smaller ditch intersecting the large, primary ditch. Buried with him was a traditional beaker, dating him to the Beaker people, (early bronze age), seven flint arrowheads, and the same bone ring pendant.

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Beside the Tumulus of the man was a pit of animal bones. Animal and human bones were also found in the ditch around the henge. These were probably other burials and animal sacrifices, but that information is most likely lost to the plow, and only the rabbits, who call the ditch bank their home, are privy to what lies scattered beneath.

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We walked the circumference of the ditch and I collected my own archaeological treasures.

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In the druid culture, ravens are a link between this world and the next. In return for the henge offering me some precious bones, I left a gift of three raven’s feathers in the Western stone.

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In case you’d like to read the 1940 archaeological study here is the link: Excavations at Stanton Harcourt 1940

Linking up with Judith and the Mosaic bunch. :D

WordPress weekly photo challenge, Fray.

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I was just thinking of another meaning. Of how deer fray the velvet off their antlers to mark territory. And I was thinking of how I sat in the grass at Charlecote Park and watched the male roe deer grazing. And, as I sat there, a small group came running down the meadow to join the larger group. They rubbed antlers, smelt noses and accepted each other.

A fray of sorts.

For the wordpress weekly photo challenge, Fray.

All work and no play? Don’t think so.

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Oh boy oh boy oh boy! We’ve been major energizer bunnies round here.
We’ve been building the carport, and removing stuff to the tip, and collecting plums, and chopping wood, and burning branches, and digging out a huge and ugly privet hedge for a deep perennial garden along a back fence, and we’ve been at it hammer and tongs till our legs are scrapped and bruised and we look like the walking dead.

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All this work has left very little time for art, but I’m happy to report the beginning of a carving.

My friend William, (who lent me his father’s chisels), gave me a piece of maple to have a go. OK, so, maple must be the biggest joke wood in the world! It’s as hard as rock!!! In fact, I can’t imagine oak or mahogany being harder.

So, very quickly it became very apparent to me, that I wouldn’t be the owner of a lovely maple woodcarving of a wildflower meadow with a wren. :(

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I’ve been thinking about carving a wooden spoon and asked Robbie how I might go about doing this. He looked at me and gave me his jig saw. LOL So I drew some designs on my maple and decided on the one I liked and set to it.

I cut out the wooden spoon with R’s jig saw, (R helped me cut the handle), and started carving it with the mallet and chisels.

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This is how far I got after about four hours of carving time, plus you can see the scale of this spoon. It’s a big one! :D

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So far so good. More work on the bowl, and, of course, I only have chisels instead of a draw knife for the handle and curved blade knife for the bowl, but I’m getting somewhere.

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Where was I…oh yes…fun…

So R got a phone call from his optician to say his contacts were in, so we drove to pick them up, and R surprised me with a day out visit to one of our favourite towns, Wallingford.

This is a beautiful market town of old brick and flint houses and postage sized courtyards and tiny little streets…like this one, called Mousey Lane, where we could hardly walk beside each other.

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We had a little lunch and tea and a good mooch around the antique emporium.

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I fell in love with two handmade teddies, some old chisels and a beautiful painting of a very curvy nude, while R fell in love with a gas mask, (which he wants to wear instead of goggles to drive his new project Medusa). We bought the gas mask, a chisel, and the handmade teddies for Binky and Bunny to play with, but, unfortunately, the beautiful nude was pricey and painted on wood, so very difficult for me to ship back to Van.

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Late afternoon, on the drive back home, R did a u-turn and we parked up at a little hill called Wittenham Clumps for a walk. It’s a special place which has inspired many people, from Victorian poets to contemporary artists. Here is a very interesting site about an artist who dedicated his art to the place.

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Run by the Earth Trust as a wildflower meadow, this chalk hill has the oldest stand of beech trees in England.

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We walked all the way around the clump…

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And looked out over our Thames and over our beautiful South Oxfordshire.

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Who says we don’t have any fun. :D

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Hello from Sunday night

This always happens, and, we really should know better.
Towards the end of the summer, Robert and I go a bit mental and take on a huge home project. This weekend we decided to build a carport against the end of the garage and this required chopping down a huge damson plum, moving ton’s of wood and Jaguar car parts out of the way, and general over-the-top energy expenditure.

By Sunday afternoon we were gonners (British for tired/moodswingy/divorce central!).

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We took a walk in one of our favourite places, The Whomping Willow Walk. The Whomping Willow is actually a huge horse chestnut, but Chloe named it that when she was about 9yrs old, and the name stuck. :D

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I tend to trip over four leaf clovers and find them everywhere, but felt lucky to find this one because we usually see deer in this area, and it felt like a good omen to me.

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And just as we walked into the forest, there he was! A beautiful little muntjac deer walked across our path.

We stopped instantly, but he noticed us and bounded into the forest.

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I stood up on a stump and tried to look for him, but he was well camouflaged in the bracken and grasses.
I stood there for some time listening to the bird song and the rustle of the great trees and bracken in the wind.

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Then we walked on, past the thistle sending itself into the forest…

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…and to the Whomping Willow, (which is actually a horse chestnut)…

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…and past the Whomping Willow to the alley of yews.

Someone must have planted these yews years ago. They are so huge and make a dark bower over head. Someone keeps a small, child-like fort under one of the yews. It has a few stumps for a table and chairs and a woven branch roof. Chloe used to pretend it was fairies inviting children to have a play.

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We walked to the end of the yew alley and turned back for home.

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On our way out of the forest, we spied the muntjac grazing in the field. The wind was howling and we were upwind from him, so he didn’t notice us at all. We watched him graze all the way back up the path past the wildflowers.

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And then we drove home.

Sharing with Judith and all the lovelies at Mosaic Monday.

Woodcarving 101, another practical class

You got to love the Victorians, don’t you. They had such a quirky sense of style, or keen sense of humour…which ever way you look at it. It seems to be a combination of ornamentation and colour and pattern and import-anything to the max and then push it a step over the edge and beyond! Like grab anything and everything and especially if it’s imported and expensive, and throw it together, and there you are! :D

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But the heart of ornamental Victorian fancy was probably started a century before, with one man, Grindling Gibbons, (1648-1721), and his contribution to woodcarving.

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I’m such a big fan of art and learning new things and I’ve always admired wood carving.
So when the opportunity came up to take a practical class I jumped at it.

You know, I love the way that some carvings look as though they are floating above the wood beneath. You know what I mean? Look at the holly leaves above. Yeah, like that. That’s what I thought I wanted to try to learn how to do, (in an hour and half!!!). I’ve has a couple requests to show you the practical class in woodcarving, but I had to borrow a friend’s chisels to finish my piece, so sorry it’s coming in so late after Art in Action, but here it is.

The practical class was being offered by a master woodcarver and he brought all the tools for the students to use. You can basically see what you need: a G clamps, mallets, chisels, and a wood vice. And, of course, wood for carving.

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When building a relationship with tools which are capable of slicing thru wood, it’s probably the best idea in the world to learn how to use the tools safely.

The most important rule to remember is both hands on the tools at all times. This is relatively easy if you’re using a chisel in one hand and a mallet in the other, but not so easy if you’re only using the chisel, because, if you’re anything like me, the temptation to move some wood shavings off your piece, or to readjust the piece under the clamp, while you’re working on it is overwhelming. DON’T DO IT!

Always clamp the piece of wood either to your work surface using a G clamp, or into a vice.

This is the hand hold you want to have on your chisel. Chisel away from you, from your body/arms/legs at all times.

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Chisels come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. As a matter of fact, there used to only be four types of chisels and then the Victorians discovered woodcarving and suddenly dozens of different chisels were in circulation. But actually, you only need about four. They are, a small V wedge for making fine lines, two U shapes (a small and a large one) for gouging out the wood you want to get rid of, and a fishtailed or straight ended one for undercutting or making straight cuts.

Also, chisels with a good steel are a bit on the pricey side, so it’s a good idea to take care of them and keep them in holders so they don’t clank together and dull. It’s also a good idea to take care not to accidentally hit the metal vice with your chisels.

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The wood we used was linden. This is a soft wood and very easy to cut. I hope, if you try this, that you find a lovely piece of linden as your first woodcarving.

I drew a simple leaf design.

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With woodcarving, much like lino or stamps, it’s important to cut on the outside of your drawn line to keep your design the shape you intended. A V shaped chisel makes the best first line in the wood and it’s easy to control.

I had a little trouble at first not burying the chisel in too deep, but soon got the hang of it. If that should happen, just come at the line from the other direction. That will cut the too-deep gauge away and you can crary on.

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Here is my initial first cut line and so far I’ve only used the V shaped chisel.

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The next part is pretty monotonous. With the large U shaped chisel, I cut away the outside-of-my-design wood quite substantially. This took the longest time, and, I soon figured out that the linden wood was so easy to carve that I put the mallet down and simply dug away at the wood holding the chisel with both hands and using a bit of extra pressure. This gave me (and, by now, my shaky, weak hands) a break and more control.

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I kept going down into the wood, further and further until I was happy with the relief of the leaf.

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Now the class was only 10 minutes from ending and I was concerned with learning the next and final steps and so I didn’t stop to take photos. (My bad)

But the next step was to start giving the leaf a real-life contour, and so I drew some contour lines on the leaf; kind of like contour lines on a map might look like, and started trying to imagine and cut away some valleys and hills on the leaf. At this point I must admit that having a leaf there to look at would have been the best thing, but as it is, I imagined how it might bend and lay and tried for that.

Just as the class ended, I asked the instructor to show me quickly how to undercut my leaf so I could continue and finish it at home, and he did. You can just see the beginning of an undercut on my design.

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Here is a closeup of the three chisels I used to get this far in this class, in one and half hours.

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So home at West Cottage, and I borrowed my friend William’s chisels…

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…and started to undercut the leaf. William doesn’t have a fishtailed chisel, but has a flattish one I could use. You can see how I cut into the side of the leaf and to an angle so it goes underneath.

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The next cut comes in from the underneath to (hopefully) meet up with the top cut and take a wedge of wood out. I felt fairly successful with this, but had a problem not really knowing how to handle the tip of my leaf, and so took extra care in that area because it seemed pretty fragile.

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When I thought I did the best job I could, I grabbed a little bit of sandpaper and gave my leaf a brisk sanding. I know I could sand it completely smooth, but I liked the hand-made feel of the chisel marks.

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And here it is, my completed wood carving. It’s not a Gibbons…lol…but I’m pretty proud of it.

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William has given me a piece of maple to have some fun with. I’m looking forward to carving something else now that I’ve got the hang of it! Hope this is a little inspiration for you to try it. It’s not that hard, and it’s very satisfying. :D As soon as I wax or oil this carving I’ll take another photo and show you.

Let me know how you do or if you have any other questions.

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Silhouette

Are you kidding me? :D I love taking photos into the sunlight and getting silhouettes. As a matter of fact, if I could, those would be the only kinds of photos I’d take; that’s how much I love it.

I love the results of shooting into the light, like the boats below.
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But I also love the light itself as a silhouette.

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And my most favourite is capturing silhouettes thru unlikely screens, like leaves and flowers.

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Let me see if I can dig up a sunset shot out of the files. I like those too. :D

For the WordPress weekly photo challenge: Sillouette