Que sera, sera.

Hooded Crow
The Hooded Crow was a recent commission for a star gazer in the Netherlands, she tells there is a recognisable pattern in the stars I have drawn. What those stars have to say is a mystery to me, perhaps yet to be revealed. Can we see into the future when we look at the stars or are we only observing the past?

"Que sera, sera, whatever will be will be, the future's not ours to see..." My mum's favourite Doris Day song and one which she sang to me in the fifties. Most of this month so far has been dominated by my mum's health issues. She sustained a very nasty fall and is now in hospital, my thoughts go back to those words as we contemplate an uncertain future. 

Chetham's Library
I have been grateful for small diversions; afternoon tea at Chetham's Library provided a welcome break and a chance to explore a magical and ancient library right in the centre of Manchester. This is the oldest public library in the English speaking world, founded in 1653, although I think the building itself is far older. It certainly had a very Gothic feel and as the January afternoon became darker the mood intensified. We took afternoon tea in the Baronial Hall which was every bit as grand as its name suggests. There we were welcomed by our friend Sue who is the Heritage Manager for the librarybetter known to bloggers as Mouse from Mouse Notebook. I can't imagine a more interesting workplace.

hand quilting
I have also been happy to loose myself in the gentle art of hand quilting, the slow and rhythmic pace of hand stitching has helped ease the anxiety of caring for an elderly loved one. I have been making a start on making an actual fabric version of "The Dream Quilt". After trying several digital printers and after much tweaking and adjusting I now have some actual printed fabric. The designs on the fabric are from the recent book I illustrated, words by Adele Geras. Co-incidentally, the lovely little heart shaped pin cushion is also the work of Mouse. 

BBC Radio 3 recently broadcast "The Pearl Fishers" which was performed at The Met in New York. I stitched this little fish square transported to another place by the famous duet, sobbing and stitching in equal measure. 

And now, I must wish you all a Happy New Year, may all your dreams come true. x


Lighting The Darkness

Illustration from "Can it be true?"
published by Oxfam as a charity Christmas card.

Much as I love Christmas I do dislike the dark and gloomy days of winter and am always cheered by the notion that once we have passed the winter solstice the days will begin to lengthen.

One of the best things about Christmas is that we get time to spend with our loved ones. This year we visited our son and his partner in London. Whilst there we had a multitude of wonderful things to see; as we arrived at Euston station we decided to walk to the British Library. On route we passed St Pancras church and noticed that The Crypt Gallery had an exhibition of paper-cuts, paintings and calligraphy called Lighting the Darkness. There we met the jeweller, engraver and silversmith Alan Craxford who took time out to talk to us about his paper-cuts.

Alan Craxford Paper-cuts

Alan uses various layers to create shadows which change with the light, thus incorporating the dark and the light into each piece.  His paper-cuts are very beautiful, each one delicately cut with an expert hand, if you have time do visit his website, his work is extraordinary.

Fabric of India Exhibition
The next day we had pre-booked tickets to see The Fabric of India exhibition at the V and A.
I was familiar with many of the printed textiles, having encountered some during my studies. I was less familiar with the embroidered and woven pieces. As with all major exhibitions at the V and A, I always feel rather dazzled and overwhelmed by the scale and complexity of the exhibits. I wish I could have made multiple visits over several weeks in order to absorb the artistry of those exquisite fabrics.

The Royal Albert Hall
The grand finale of our visit was a night at the Albert Hall to see and hear the Kings College Choir
which was amazing! We even joined in singing Hark the Herald Angles Sing at the top of our voices, safe in the knowledge that nobody would notice when I sang off key.

The Dream Quilt by Adele Geras illustrated by Valerie Greeley

When we arrived home we found my first sample book had arrived which called for a celebratory glass of wine. Somewhere in the back of a delivery van is a box of books though I know not where.

Wherever you may be I would like to thank you for visiting my blog and wish you a Blessed Christmas and a Bright and Shining New Year.
                                                   CHEERS EVERYONE  X X X


The Dream Quilt

Some of you may remember last year I illustrated a small format, hard cover book called "Can it be True?" for Long Barn Books. Earlier this year I was thrilled to be invited to work on another title for the same publisher. This time for a book entitled The Dream Quilt by Adele Geras.

Perhaps just once in a lifetime a dream job comes along. For a textile designer who also illustrates books this was my dream commission. Each illustration represents one square of a patchwork quilt. Adele Geras's enchanting writing begins:

"I threaded silk through a silver needle to make a cover for your bed.
Rest your head, close your eyes. I’ll stitch you dreams and lullabies."

We start with a house, where everyone sleeps except for a child.....

This is the house, from The Dream Quilt. Illustration by Valerie Greeley

Although the book would sit happily in a Christmas stocking it is not specifically a Christmas title; some of the imagery is summertime, we have shells and beaches, fish and flowers. There are tigers and trains, bears and dolls. Each illustration makes up a part of the final quilt as the characters dream their own dreams.

The illustrations begin as black ink pen drawings; these are then scanned and made into a digital file. I used Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to create the final images, layering textures and embroidered effects to complete the job.
This is the doll, from The Dream Quilt. Illustration by Valerie Greeley.
The publication date is December 12th, in the meantime I hope you enjoy a glimpse into the creative process. I hope to put some copies in my shop as soon as they arrive. I am also waiting to see some fabric samples, more about that later!

This is the ship from The Dream Quilt. Illustration by Valerie Greeley
Adele has written her own account of how she came to write the book, you can read all about it here-

For more information about Adele Geras visit her website, there you will find details of Adele's other works. I can recommend "Cover Your Eyes"- a story about a fashion designer haunted by her past. You may also be interested to know that Adele's daughter is an accomplished writer too, her name is Sophie Hannah. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this commission was that I got to know Adele a little as we discussed the book as it progressed. I have a feeling you will like her too.

To visit Long Barn Books please follow the link.


Happy Halloween

With each year that passes Halloween becomes more of a tradition here, our house was no exception with family parties, pumpkins, fake spiders-the list goes on. When I was a child the focal point of the season was Bonfire Night with treacle and toffee apples.

I do love this time of year with its abundance of fruit and berries. It has been a good year for apples this year and my little Malus Gorgeous has been on top form. This tiny crab apple tree produces fruit no bigger than a large cherry. We never try to cook them, preferring to leave them for the birds to enjoy.

I made this little study with coloured pencils.

We went down to London to visit The Royal Miniature Society's exhibition at the Mall Gallery to see this years annual exhibition. I was thrilled to have five pieces accepted. The exhibition is now closed but you can still see the whole thing on their website, many pieces are still for sale and would make lovely gifts for Christmas perhaps? My work is numbered 229-233.

I made some new greeting cards from the artwork created for the miniatures, some are in my Etsy shop and there are more on the way. 

A quick hop over the border into Wales enabled us to use the facilities at the Print Centre in Wrexham. I managed to finish two editions, one intaglio and one linoprint. It was suggested that I try hand colouring some of the dry point prints and found that using water colour pencils worked well.

The Halloween print at the top of this post, the drawings, cards and prints all found their way here-https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/acornmoon


Mereside- New Miniature Paintings

I recently completed a set of five miniature paintings, this time based on the flora and fauna around our local Meres; these are naturally occurring lakes which support a wide range of species of birds, reptiles, insects and flowers.

Last week I took my little bundle of paintings down to London and handed them in for submission to The Royal Miniature SocietyAnnual Exhibition. This is a juried show and so an anxious wait ensued until the results were announced. I was delighted to find that all five paintings had been accepted for this year's show. If you are in London you might want to come along?

The show runs from 13th October to the 25th October and will be at the Mall Gallery. You can find more details by following this link.

Each miniature is hand painted onto paper with watercolour and gouache. I used some metallic colours in this series to give a rich medieval flavour. Each design has a decorative border which combines some decorative elements, flowers, leaves etc. chosen to complement each subject.

The design process begins by working out the composition, starting with a pencil drawing. The border design is worked out separately in much the same way I would begin a textile design. 

The design is then transferred onto hot pressed extra smooth watercolour paper. I like to use "The Langton" by Daler Rowney. I use tracing paper to transfer the design using a very sharp HB pencil. I then go round the outline using a very fine pen and watercolour before rubbing out the pencil line. 

The painting then progresses in much the same way a larger piece would, the difference being the size of the brush strokes. The work is completed using very many teeny tiny brushstrokes, layer upon layer.

The painting is then trimmed to size and placed inside a special frame which has bevelled glass. 


Last of the Summer Wine.

The recent unexpected sunshine has brought with it the temptation to walk rather than work; it seems a shame to sit at a desk when the weather is so mild and the winter months and darker days are only weeks away. We visited the nearby Victorian garden at Biddulph Grange and came away with a young Monkey Puzzle tree: no doubt a great mistake as they can grow huge and our garden is miniscule. The gardens at Biddulph have many themes, my favourite is the Japanese garden which has a lovely lake surrounded by ornamental trees. Ever since I was a child I have longed to visit Japan, maybe one day..... If my six numbers ever come up!

I took this photograph of a nearby lake, a favourite with dog walkers and fishermen alike. Although access is restricted you can walk around part of the lake and into the nearby woods. Our little dog used to love this walk, so much so we scattered his ashes nearby. I like to think his spirit is happy here, I am sure it is. We made so many friends walking our dog in these woods, so many people from different walks of life, all united by their love of dogs. In fact, we have kept in touch with many of them and because most of them are in the autumn of their years I am often reminded of the TV series "Last of the Summer Wine".

When I was not walking I was painting, this time more miniatures. My subject matter has been linked to lakes and water so it was a special treat to listen to Radio 3 whilst I worked. One piece of music has lodged in my mind; Sibelius 5th Symphony, a song for swans inspired by the sight of sixteen swans circling above a lake near the composer's home.

My garden has been full of butterflies this year, so it would be unreasonable of me to object to the many caterpillars that have been happily munching their way through my nasturtiums, I think they are cabbage white? It was fascinating to watch tremendous battles between wasps and caterpillars. The larger ones seemed capable of thwacking the wasps with their bodies as they flicked them away into the path of smaller, less able ones. The wasps made short shrift of the younger caterpillars and gobbled them up greedily. I checked back today and they have all disappeared and the plants seem to have survived ok. I have collected lots of seed for next year just in case.


Barn Owl painting and Intaglio printing.

August over half way through already! I am sure by now all my readers will have deserted me in my absence but for anyone still out there be assured that I have been visiting your blogs, not always commenting but appreciating your worlds.

Since my last post I have been struggling to finish a second book commission for Long Barn Books. If you are not familiar with this company it is owned by the writer Susan Hill famous for her “Woman in Black”. Susan has recently started a new venture and has added Little Barn Books to her fold. She has a brand new website with lots of news about her latest creation for children named Billy Bigheart.

I found the time to work on another miniature, this time a barn owl for the gallery “Art of the Imagination”. I was delighted to find a lovely old-fashioned frame to put it in and was rather reluctant to parcel it up for the postman.

It hasn’t been all work; we had a family birthday celebration for a youngest son James who celebrated his thirtieth birthday. Getting the house and garden ready for thirty guests was challenging to say the least. Fortune shone on us by sending a day of sunshine for the event. It was a lovely day and I think my lawn may recover at some point?

We enjoyed watching the film "Woman in Gold", have you seen it? I love the paintings of Gustav Klimt, they are so decorative and full of pattern and colour. 

Finally, I have got around to listing a new print in my Etsy shop. I have been trying out intaglio printing, a very old method of printmaking, which involves drawing directly onto a metal plate with a stylus. You can read more about the method used here-

I hope you have all had a good summer and I promise not to stay away for quite so long next time. x