Friday, 9 October 2015

Autumn colours.

October already. The summer lingered, September rewarded us with late sunshine and still warm days which helped ripen the garden harvest. And, for now it continues, though as the month changed so the dusk brought a chill in the air. Autumn for us means thoughts turn to logs - hopefully lots of dry wood stacked to the roof in the garden log store. As our only source of heat our wood stove is primed to keep us toasty throughout the coming Winter. It's also about filling the freezer with home grown veg and gleaming jars of pickle, chutney and homemade jam. This year our tiny pumpkin patch has produced three enormous orange orbs of unknown origin, (alas the label was lost), which will be transformed into soups, ravioli, risotto and the - as yet untried Pumpkin bread recipe.

Taxi rank for Cinderella

As much of our work life is spent cooped up in our Studio we recently decided we really needed to get out on a regular basis if only to turn our faces to the sun and stretch our legs. So instead of lunch at our desks we decided the time would be better spent taking a lunchtime stomp. Living in a village means we have lots of walks on our doorstep, quite literally as there is a footpath straight across the lane from here which leads to the village duck pond and then further into the surrounding countryside. It was on one of our walks around the edge of the village that we stumbled across a little hidden gem of a ramble, known locally as the old railway walk. This walk of just a couple of miles follows the line of the long defunct village railway line once used to take farmers to the local market town and village children to school. Now it is a secluded green tunnel that cuts through arable fields with enticing glimpses of the rolling Yorkshire Wolds on the horizon. It is a complete joy, we cannot wait to experience how the change in the seasons alters the colours and vista on the walk. Just now the walk is a bejeweled delight of fruits and berries, the boughs of the trees almost creaking under the weight of their cargo. To date we have been accompanied there by clouds of Goldfinch, Pheasants, Greenfinches, numerous Wrens and Buzzards overhead. The Long Tailed Tits are a particular favourite, we spy them with their distinct dipping flight in groups of twos and threes which then all congregate in the top most branches of a tree with a chorus of happy chatter. Just yesterday we were treated to the briefest of encounters with a Roe deer, it turned and looked at us before gracefully bouncing off, it's white bottom disappearing into a maize field.

The path has an abundance of apple trees, all sorts of varieties, the belief is these have grown from all the apple cores thrown out of the train windows! However they came to be there we can vouch for their taste as most days we come back with a couple in our pockets! They have found their way into cakes, crumbles and muffins and recently featured in an apple trifle.

The twisting secret path of the old Railway line

An exuberant harvest of Hawthorn berries
Apples festoon the sides of the path

Apple trifle - a real treat after a long walk

Back in the Studio we have both been inspired by the Summer walks we've enjoyed this year. On a trip out to the Yorkshire Wolds Gary was impressed by the brickwork in the 18th century workers cottages in the village of Sledmere, high in the Wolds. The tall chimneys were home to a family of Jackdaws which, on return to the Studio, found their way onto Gary's lino along with the weathered brickwork of those chimneys.

The latest dog prints in Gary's 'kennel' are inspired by a friend's two Whippets. Their long, sinewed bodies and well shaped faces full of character make perfect studies.

My summer memories of walking on the Wolds Way lead to my most recent print, a snap shot of a perfect day in mid June, looking over fields of green barley interspersed with flashes of red field poppies. 

Jackdaws skimming the chimney tops
Whippet Ears - always listening
Whippet Dreams - limited edition linocut print

Summer on the Yorkshire Wolds.

And now it's back to the printing press, with new work almost ready to be revealed.

Enjoy your weekend.

'Winter is an etching, Spring is a watercolour, Summer an oil painting and Autumn a mosaic of all of them.'
Stanley Horowitz.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Recipe request.

Get that kettle on!

This photo of homemade crumbly Stem Ginger biscuits posted on Twitter brought forth a flurry of requests for the recipe. So here it is, quick, easy and well worth the minimal effort.

Stem Ginger Biscuits
(makes around 18 -20)

125g softened butter
85g soft brown sugar
1 tspn vanilla extract
2 heaped tblspns chopped stem ginger
150g self raising flour
2 heaped tspns ground ginger

Oven temp 180C/gas 4 
Line baking tray with greaseproof paper.

1. Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla extract, until fluffy and pale cream.

2. Fold in chopped ginger, sift in flour and ground ginger. Mix to form a dough.

3. Scoop out heaped teaspoons of dough and roll in palm into a ball. Put onto baking tray and flatten top slightly.

4. Bake for 12 - 14 minutes until biscuits are firm and golden. Leave for couple of minutes on tray to firm up then cool on wire rack.

Gilding the Lily...
.. they can be simply dusted with icing sugar or decadently half dipped in melted dark chocolate.
Or a gingery icing glaze can be made by mixing icing sugar with a couple of drops of the stem ginger juice. Drizzle artfully over the top of the biscuits.

Don't know how long they keep as they don't hang around for long.

Now don't make too many crumbs!

Friday, 31 July 2015

Last day of July 2015.

Had promised myself that a blog post catching up on our summer to date would be done and dusted sometime in early July. Looking at the calendar made me determined to spare some time and get on with it, so here it is finally and posted on this, the last day of July. Oops, better late than never....

Our last 'arty' outing saw us over in the world heritage village of Saltaire exhibiting a selection of our prints in their annual art trail. Our temporary gallery space for the weekend was in one of the listed workers cottages, a tiny but perfectly formed space where the home owner made us feel very welcome, especially as we proceeded to hammer nails into his newly decorated walls! The space was shared with two other artists and as it was a 3 day event we each chose a day to attend to meet and greet and talk to visitors who, map in hand, followed the art trail around the open houses, shops and work spaces included in the event. By the end of the day we had conversed about printmaking techniques and inspiration to lots of inquisitive people. We were glad to have thought to take a couple of cut lino plates to be able to try and explain how we create our pieces with 'props' to help. It was an interesting weekend but we were both glad to get back to the tranquility of our studio and getting on with actually creating prints rather than talking about them!

Our Gallery space for the weekend - behind the blue door
A selection of our prints gracing the chimney breast

Back here the floral garden has been a delight, moving through a purple mood, into a pink faze and presently it's a jolly riot of bright colours, reminiscent of a cottage garden.

Garden pickings in a favourite bunny jug

One of the early purple flowerings nudged bittersweet memories to the fore with the unfurling of it's pretty petals. Having the arduous and sad task of sorting out my Mum's home last summer one of her things I especially wanted to bring back here was the Clematis, H.F. Young I had bought her years ago as a Mothering Sunday gift. She had planted it in a Victorian chimney pot, bought especially for the plant, which was placed to one side of her kitchen door. Every year when it was at it's peak of perfection she would take a photo and send one to me to admire. It was such a spectacle that most of the village knew of it and some would take a detour to the back of my parents house to gaze admiringly at the floral wonder as the plant climbed up and over the back door, along the side fence and almost to the back gate. The day we moved it we chopped it's vast top growth and attempted to pick up the chimney pot. Unbelievably the plant's roots had completely filled the pot and crept through the base into the spaces between the flagstones below. We tugged and heaved in the drizzle trying to budge it and almost gave up because of it's weight. But I was determined I had to bring it home so with only one of Mum's old bread knives to hand we sawed away at the roots until we could both free it and lift it into our awaiting trailer. Once here it sulked and then this spring it started to green up and sprout climbing tendrils. We positioned it next to our arbor at the bottom of the garden and waited. And then it flowered, just as it always had at Mum's. It's listened to quite a few conversations this summer as I've sat in the dappled shade of it's leaves...

Mum's Clematis, flowering at last

Foxglove with the colours of rhubarb and custard

The veg garden has struggled with both the cold, damp weather and the ongoing battle with the vast slug population here. This is the first ever summer where we have had to buy lettuce to supplement our meager salading harvest. With patience and re-planting we are about to start cropping courgettes, assorted beans and peas and salad leaves. At least the strawberry table that Gary fashioned out of wood offcuts has given us a decent amount of home grown strawberries to enjoy.

Fresh strawberries - and borage flowers

Summer outings have seen us walking in one of our favourite places near here, the Yorkshire Wolds. We've been out and about taking reference shots for future work and enjoying the colours of mid summer high on the chalk hills. The glimpse of poppy fields on the horizon and the big skies full of swifts screaming above our heads makes for a perfect summers day. Add a backpack containing a picnic and a dry patch of grass bank to perch on and life doesn't get much better, I find it good therapy to have days like these stored away to recall on the gloomiest of winter days.

Yorkshire Wolds - long views & big skies

In the Studio the printing press has seen a great deal of work pass under it's weight, we've both been busy and here's what we've been busy creating...

'The Wrens Duet' - Gary's latest bird print
A couple of tiny Wrens hiding amongst the prickly, weaving stems of a bramble bush. This is a three colour reduction linocut print, made by methodically cutting away at a single piece of lino.

'Happy Cat' - a commission Gary recently completed
Gary received a request to create this smiling marmalade cat, it really is a happy cat!

Great Dane - another pooch from Gary's kennel
Yet another request this time a Great Dane owner found our work via Twitter and this is the outcome.

'Cat Nap' 
Another black cat print inspired by our little black rescue cat. An open ended edition.

Gary's most recent foxy print titled 'Passing through'

Living at the end of a country lane means we see lots of wildlife including Mr Fox sauntering into the fields. This fox is taking a stroll through a birch wood. A limited edition print created using the reduction method and printed in three colours.

Heather's - 'Twilight Walk'

A small mere which was the halfway point between home and my grandparents house. On summer evenings Dad would park the car and we'd go for a saunter around the waters edge to watch the sun setting. A limited edition print with a small edition of just 30 prints made.

Foxgloves, inspiration from the garden and an addition to Heather's floral series
Finally a new floral piece, this time foxglove spires in the garden cried out to be captured in print. A reduction linocut print, printed in 6 colours.

All our work is available through both our Etsy and Folksy shops.

Hope this counts as a catch up!

Do enjoy your weekend.

I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.
Claude Monet.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

May 2015.

We've been very remiss with this poor neglected blog but the last few weeks have been remarkably busy, a great deal of time spent in the Studio with us both creating lots of new work. So this post will be crammed to overflowing with photo's showing just what we have been up to.

To catch up from the last posting here, we enjoyed our weekend at the Printmakers fair at the Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield. It was great catching up with other printmakers plus meeting people we know from both this blog and Twitter followers. Think our feet have just about recovered from all that standing!

This weekend we are exhibiting at the Saltaire Inspired Art 'Open Houses' event, 23rd - 25th May. Held in the World Heritage village of Saltaire, just to the west of Leeds, residents open their homes as temporary gallery spaces and allow the public in to view the artwork hanging on their walls. We have some of our prints displayed at 15 William Henry Street, there will also be an opportunity to purchase our work from both within the house and also at the Maker's Fair in Victoria Hall. So if you are within travelling distance the event is well worth a visit for both browsing the artworks and having a peek into the houses!

Wintery Windermere appearing at Saltaire

Back here the garden is moving into it's early summer outfit. We have a battle with slugs and snails at present but have applied some nematoids in the hope they decrease the population. The veg garden is the worst affected with several attempts at growing saladings before they are consumed completely! The flower garden is looking pretty in pink presently but will soon be moving into a purple haze with lots of alliums about to pop.

Waiting in the wings...

The printing press has seen lots of activity, it has acquired an interesting squeak through all it's hard work.

Heather's Auriculas - 3 colours, all potted in terracotta
Dusky Orange Auricula - limited edition print

Gary's new black cat - Curiosity
Gary's Sussex Hens titled - The old man and his girls.

Heather's Sweet Violets

Gary's Blackbird titled - Hidden in the Crab Apples

Heather's Summer Dales a companion piece to the Winter Dales.

..Phew, told you we'd been busy!

Do enjoy your weekend.

'I'm creative - you can't expect me to be neat too'.

Friday, 13 March 2015

March 2015.

We thought we were busy last month but this month we've had to find yet another gear to keep up with everything on our 'to do' list.

The reason for the extra hours spent in the Studio is due to our portfolio of print work being successfully chosen to appear in the Printmakers fair at the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield on the 21st and 22nd of March. Over 50 printmakers have been selected from around the UK, not just linocut printmakers but also other print mediums including woodcuts, screen prints and textiles, it's going to be a colourful, arty event full of wonderful prints! 

We have spent the last couple of weeks choosing which prints to take with us, printing more stock and carefully mounting and packing up each image, we will certainly have lots of choice for everyone attending the event including a couple of our new pieces. Gary's latest print is a reduction linocut print of a still Barn Owl perched high in the branches of an Oak tree. This was the print that visited the press more times than was first anticipated and we were both glad when it was finally deemed as finished.

Barn Owl - 'Deep in the Oak Wood'.

My latest print is the third in my floral series, this time capturing the sunny yellow trumpets of Spring Narcissus flowers. It is a limited edition of just 30 prints.

Sunny bulbs heralding the return of Spring.

Both new prints will be appearing on our stand next weekend.To read more about the event please click on the link here:

All thoughts of gardening have been put back for a couple of weeks due to deadlines. Although we have used a couple of our lunch breaks, (when the sunny skies just couldn't be ignored), to go outside and tackle those jobs that really needed attention. So we now have the greenhouse ready and waiting for seeds to be sown thanks to Gary cleaning it until the glass sparkled like new. And I tackled one of the raised beds, clearing it and then planting out Shallots and Onions. I also managed a few minutes sowing both saladings and flower seeds in trays which are now being willed into growth in the warmth of the clean greenhouse.

Elsewhere in the garden all the spring bulbs are putting on a growth spurt and it shouldn't be too long before the Narcissus in the garden look like my print.

Allium bulb with a hint of the colour to come...

The Honeysuckle about to start it's ramble...

So it will be another weekend busy in the Studio for us, which is just how we like it!

Enjoy your weekend.

'Life is like a camera. Just focus on what's important and capture the good times, develop from the negatives and if things don't turn out just take another shot.'

Friday, 20 February 2015

February 2015.

Have just checked and it's a month since last visiting this blog. It seems 2015 has been turbo charged to race on regardless of whether we can keep up with it's pace! The last month has been filled with long days spent in the Studio, both of us feverishly creating and putting our trusty press through it's paces.

All this means the garden has been left to it's own devices, thankfully it doesn't need us to help it wake up from it's winter slumbers. Signs of Spring are starting to show with fat furry buds decorating the Magnolia tree and the green speared tips of Narcissus planted last Autumn breaking through the soil. We must set aside a couple of days to tidy up out there. The greenhouse still hasn't been cleared and there are trays of young perennials bought last year as plug plants and potted up which are now bursting their pots and really need introducing to their permanent home in the flower beds.

Signs of Spring
Magnolia buds - Soft as a kitten's ear

In the kitchen, I have had renewed success with Sourdough bread. All last summer I tried with the same 'chef' starter, the bread it produced was very hit and miss and in the end I gave up on it. But missing the flavour of Sourdough I decided at the beginning of the year to make another starter. In the past I have managed to keep them going for years, the longest lasted 5 years and only ceased because we moved Countries! So far we've enjoyed 3 large loaves of bread from this new batch and it's flavour develops more with every new bake. It's especially good toasted and topped with a couple of poached eggs from our local farm shop.

Fresh from the oven

In the Studio I have been working on more floral ideas, taking inspiration from what grows in our garden. The latest addition should really come with a scent too!

Inking the plate

'Sweet Violets' - limited edition print

Gary has been working on a countryside piece which has taken up all his time. So far it has visited the press 6 times which means 6 different inks and there's still more to be added. He's using the reduction method so all these pressings are from just one linoplate which is slowly being carved away to almost just a couple of strands left on the plate. Hopefully it will be ready for it's big reveal in the next week.

We decided that this year we would get out and about more with our work and so we are over the moon to find we have been selected to show some of our prints at the Saltaire Inspired Art Trail and Makers Fair. We will be part of the Open Houses event where home owners in the World Heritage site village open up their own homes as temporary art galleries, showcasing various artists work. The event covers three days at the end of May so we are busy getting organised and need to start thinking about framing the chosen prints. Once we know where we will be appearing we'll let you know, it's all very exciting!

Yay, it's Friday, time to chase your tail!

Enjoy your weekend.

'With freedom, books, flowers and the moon, who could not be happy?'
Oscar Wilde.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

First blog of 2015.

January always seems to gamble past with great speed. The 31st of the month appears and I wonder where the month went. Consequently the 'to do' list never seems to get shorter and must do jobs get their deadlines shifted further back. And this January is turning out no different from any other and so this is the first opportunity I've had to sit down and work on a blog post.

To catch up from just before Christmas... we had a peaceful Christmas spending it quietly. Having family members scattered across the globe, large family gatherings are not the norm here, I have to admit we prefer the peace and quiet!

Finding ourselves living in a tiny Yorkshire Wolds village a few years ago we decided then that Christmas Day would be a great day to explore the Wolds Way, anticipating that we may find we would have the place to ourselves. So every year since we have pulled on our walking boots, packed a Christmas picnic and set off to notch more miles off the 76 mile national trail. Other than the year the path took us through the medieval village of Wharram Percy we find we are the only souls about and just love feeling that a small part of the world is ours alone. This year we found ourselves above Pocklington enjoying the long views in cold but clear weather. Spending the day walking the hills builds an appetite for Christmas dinner and the reward of sherry trifle consumed guilt free!

The winter fields with the fine lace tracery of the hedgeline

York Minster just visible on the horizon line - centre of photo

A red kite, one of a pair catching the thermals
The hedgerow decorated for Christmas

Evening light and long shadows - looking south

New Year found us back in the Studio, heads full of new print ideas. To make room for all the anticipated new artworks we decided to have a tidy up and clear out of the old. We had a number of small prints which we found useful to have at fairs but not having attended many events recently we thought we would put them in our 'Studio Clearout' in our Folksy online shop. There are a number of original prints on sale there, it's well worth a wander over...

Seedheads - on sale!

Garlic Mushrooms - in our Studio Clearout.

We have both been busy putting down all our ideas. Gary is working on a very complicated linocut which will take some time to complete, all I can say at this stage is it will fit nicely with his other wildlife prints! I have been working on another floral print which I wanted to complete as speedily as possible with it being so relevant to the season. It is a four colour limited edition linocut print of... *drumroll*...

The first ink plate...

And the final ink plate...

..and the finished print - 'The first Snowdrops'

I'm really please with the finished print, it is a short run of just 30 prints, supplied in a cream mount and would make a lovely gift for any garden lovers. I will be starting on my next floral edition to accompany this one hopefully later on this afternoon.

The Snowdrop, Winter's timid child,
awakes to life, bedew'd with tears.
Mary Robinson