Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Past

Christmas eve has stirred up so many memories this year. 

It's been a difficult year, loosing Mum in early February has weighed heavily on the year. Even though she was about to get the all clear from cancer the endless chemo and radiation therapy had left her body too weak to cope with much more, by Christmas last year she weighed just 6 stone. So when her kidneys gave out there was little to do and thankfully she left us within 24 hours of getting really sick. We hope that having finally packed away her house earlier this month that time will start healing the gap that she left here.

Christmases have never really had a pattern here and all manner of events have marked the day. From huge family gatherings attended when very young. One memorable occasion happened when elderly relatives plied me with too many sips of sweet sherry and I ended up asleep at the table, head resting in my Christmas lunch!

Other festive family gatherings included raucous house parties held up in the wilds of Scotland where my Mother's brother lived the 'good life' in a tiny Croft. Water was from a spring further up the fell, Christmas tree was cut from the land and uncle would arrive from the shops with a car boot full of wooden crates of satsumas, bottles of sherry and vast boxes of liqueur chocolates. The day was filled up with laughter, so much that by bedtime stomach muscles ached with the endless jollity.

Gary and I have enjoyed German Christmases where the generosity of neighbours have led to many attempts to recreate delicious rumtopfs they used to ply us with. We've had Christmases enjoyed in France, spending the day cycling for miles along the quiet country lanes with the odd passer by shouting 'Joyeaux Noel' in our direction.

One of our most memorable French Christmases was the first year we spent at our little farm. It took over three months to purchase the place and we finally found ourselves sat in the Notaire's office to sign the final ream of paperwork on the 23rd December. I had the most dreadful cold and it had taken all my strength to help Gary pack up the caravan and awning before we rolled off the closed caravan site, (where the owners had kindly allowed us to stay until our farm was ready). So on the 24th December, with the keys to our new home in our hands we hitched up the van and set off to start yet another adventure. 

Before the renovations started...

The house wasn't habitable, with a colander for a roof, no heating other than an ancient, wood guzzling stove, a sink in the living room and an infestation of woodworm that meant in the evening light it looked like it was gently snowing within the house.

The wood monster that gave off no heat at all!

On arrival there we tucked the caravan into the corner of the courtyard well protected from the east wind. By this time all I wanted was my bed, so as I climbed into it with our well travelled tabby cat for extra warmth, Gary set about putting up the awning single handed.

As Christmas morning dawned the sun shone down with welcoming warmth in it's rays. As I lay coughing and snuffling Gary set off, camera in hand to walk our land. We had acquired a mixed number of acres of French countryside, which included pasture, assorted fruit trees and a couple of acres of mixed woodland. The land rose and fell steeply offering us breath taking views of the Pyrenees to the south and the glimpse of  bastide villages perched on distant hills.
View of the nearest Hamlet
The eastern slope
Our wood in summer
Our view of the Pyrenees chain

When Gary returned he downloaded the many photos he had taken onto the laptop and as I sat up in bed taking in the views he donned his apron and started our Christmas meal. In a tiny caravan kitchen he prepared a chestnut and apple pie, along with an assortment of roasted veggies. (We'd had trouble sourcing Parsnips as no-one had heard of them in our region but had stumbled upon a bunch at the market being sold by an enterprising ex-pat). Even though my appetite wasn't up to much the effort that had gone into the preparation of our first Christmas meal in our new home spurred me to make a dent in the plate Gary served up for me. 

And so another Christmas memory was made...

And now the kitchen is calling here, the tree still isn't decorated and there are presents to wrap for Santa to look after. So we would like to wish all of you lovely people who took time to stop by here a very Merry Christmas and a Peaceful and Happy New Year.

Our two furry girls awaiting Santa

Take care and see you all next year!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Seagulls and packing tape...

.. It's been another busy week here with lots of packing, quite a few trips to the Post Office plus a day off of sorts to Hull. More of that later but first as it's Friday it just has to be ..

 .. Fabulous Folksy Friday Finds!

As the Festive season fast approaches we thought we'd take the opportunity to showcase gift ideas found on Folksy and so this week the theme is gifts for the men in your life. Do try and find time to delve deeper into these gorgeous shops, their shop url's can be found under their photos.

  Gifts for men

Twit Twoo
Beautiful Barn Owl, made with such attention to detail, it would look wonderful perched high on an old beam. Lee specializes in capturing wild birds in her magical carvings, her shop is a 'twitchers' paradise:

Brew time
This stylish looking travel mug comes with a handy lid and is just the ticket for holding a hot brew. It is constructed of black Walnut and Maple and has a real Retro feel to it: Ben also makes these handsome mugs in Cherry wood for an equally stylish finish:

Pin striped 'Pinny'
An Apron with a hint of the city gent about it. Crisp pinstripes give this artisan apron a masculine edge for all those aspiring 'head chefs'. Lisa's Folksy Shop has aprons for both big and little boys:

Shampoo in a bar
Scented with Citrus and Clary Sage this solid Shampoo bar is suitable for both men and women, so you might as well order two to go! Melanie's home must smell fabulous with all her traditionally made lotions and potions containing such heady scents as Jasmine, Cedarwood and Bay Rum:

We found ourselves in Kingston upon Hull on Wednesday. The real reason was to have our car serviced but it did give us an excuse to explore the city and perhaps get some reference shots for future artworks. We found ourselves in the old part of the city which surprisingly still contains Tudor buildings that managed to survive the heavy bombing the city withstood during the second world war. 

Tudor bricks on the old Grammer School
As the weather was behaving we made our way to the banks of the estuary, which even though is only a couple of minutes walk from the heart of the bustling city is a place of peace and quiet, we could stand on the foreshore and listen to the lap of the tide.

Gary took lots of bird reference shots and while on one of the jetties spied a solitary red shank feeding on the estuary mud flats. Such a delicate bird with a busy habit, it's foot prints left in the mud looked like a complicated dance move!

Can't go to the sea without spotting a seagull

Red Shank looking for lunch.

Another Shoreline bird feeding...

There will be more on Hull in a future blog, but until then, enjoy your weekend.

'Travel and change of place import new vigor to the mind'.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Nearly 'that' time of year ...

.. The supermarkets are starting to fill their shelves with Christmas items and the TV festive ad campaigns are well underway so it must be getting to the time of year when decorations get sorted, lists get made and cakes get baked in preparation for the holidays. We took delivery this week of packing materials and picture mounts so we are primed for the festive flurry. But before we get 'snowed under' we better get on with the very last Alphabet themed Friday picks, it's time for ..

 .. Fabulous Folksy Friday Finds!

 'Z' was as difficult as we knew it would be, but we did manage to find a handful of items, all we can say is thank goodness for zombies and zebras!. If you would like to see more from these talented crafters, their shop url's are under their photo's.

  'Z' is for...

Hand carved heart
Z is for - Zebra wood. This pretty pendant is hand carved from Zebra wood. Mark's Folksy shop is filled with 'beach' inspired items including surfboard clocks!

Stripy buttony fun
Z is for - Zebra buttons. Lorraine's Folksy shop is an online haberdashery store, just the place if you are on the look out for buttons and bows!

Z is for - Zombies! Laura is the designer and maker behind this zombie squirrel head trophy. Her quirky, fun soft sculptures range from festive mince pies to human hearts, so if you are looking for something unusual then drop by her Folksy shop:

Here in the Studio we have been stock checking, re-printing and making space for packing up prints. We have a World map on the studio wall and place stars onto all the places where our prints find new homes, it's great fun seeing stars glittering from around the globe. New stars this week have been added including twinkles on New Zealand and California, just wish we could deliver them by hand!

'Charlie' - off to a new home in New Zealand

We also had friends around for supper midweek, they are jetting off soon to their winter home in sunnier climes so it was our chance to say bon voyage to them. They supply us with wood for our log stove, fruits from their garden and plants too. The latest plant gifts included some soft leaved lamb's ears, these plants have always found their way into our garden designs and I have been known to use them as cat substitutes, imagining their soft leaves as cat's ears on the rare occasions we have had no feline friends to share our home with. 

pink flowered lamb's ears

The evening went well and the pudding especially was a great success. I decided to attempt chocolate fondants, even though all the talk surrounding them makes them seem an impossible culinary feat. Happy to report they were simple to make, turned out as they should with a silky soft, gooey chocolate centre and we even have two spares sitting in the fridge for a treat over the weekend! Just wish I had thought to take a photo before eating them...

Enjoy your weekend.

'Those who do not think outside the box are easily contained'.

Friday, 7 November 2014

First Frosts ...

.. Within a matter of days we have gone from warm sunny days to our first frost of the Autumn and what a shock it was. The garden is looking very autumnal apart from some brave Cosmos that just keeps on flowering. This weather does act as a reminder that Christmas is just around the corner and this week's finds would all make great gifts for someone special. So here we go with..

 .. Fabulous Folksy Friday Finds!

 'Y' is the letter of the week and has offered up some lovely, Autumn themed items. Do pop by the shops, their url's are under their photo's.

  'Y' is for...

For your log cabin in the woods

Y is for Yew Clock - This slice of locally sourced Yew tree makes a very handsome clock face. Paul searches local timber yards for wood with interesting forms to turn into his unusual clocks, lots more back in his Folksy shop:

Woolly brooch for knitting fans

Y is for Yarn - In the form of a tiny pair of knitting needles with a ball of yarn which is actually a cute brooch. Such a fun gift idea for any knitting mad friends. Max's Folksy shop is filled with lots of craft themed jewellery:

A home for your yarn

Y is for Yarn Bowl - Think these are such a great idea. Instead of chasing your yarn around or even having to wrestle it off the cat it will sit securely in this purpose made bowl. Especially like the glaze used here, it reminds me of roast chestnuts. Gary's Folksy shop has pots for all sorts of occasions:

Autumn leaves are falling

Y is for Yellow leaf - This delicate leaf is crocheted by Kasia and can be used as a table doily, perfect for this time of year. The fine detailed work that goes into the crafted pieces is wonderful, lots of time and patience has gone into every one. Find more of Kaisa's handy work back in her Folksy shop:

As this week has used Y for inspiration we couldn't miss the opportunity to feature one of our 'Y' for York prints.This is one of Gary's linocuts featuring York Minster, the tracery of the heart shaped window casement to the bottom right of the print is known as the 'Eye of York' as it looks down onto the great city.

The Medieval Cathedral of the city of York

When we first moved to York I decided to train to be a tour guide for the city. This entailed attending night school classes, lots of training and sitting exams. But I loved it all and really enjoyed the job itself, although after talking non-stop for 5 hours left me feeling more than a little hoarse!

York was home to Guy Fawkes, who found infamy by being part of the great gunpowder plot. The city goes to great lengths to celebrate the anniversary of the failed plot and the 5th November sees great firework displays taking place. Although we didn't get to see any fireworks this year the date did conjure up memories of 'bonfire nights' attended as a child and how my Nanna would always bake homemade Parkin for the night. We both love Parkin so I dug out a recipe and made a great slab of the gloriously sticky cake. Think I might have been a little light of hand with the black treacle as it isn't as dark as I remember but it still smells delicious and it contains lots of ginger and oatmeal. We are being very patient and leaving it for a couple of days in a tin to get even stickier before we take our first bite, can't wait!

Sticky, oaty treat

The 'tease' last week showing just a corner of Gary's latest print can now be revealed. Here it is, titled 'In the old Elm tree' it is an image of two magpies perched high in the branches of an old Elm tree, both on look out duties. It is getting lots of favourable comments since we listed in our online shops.

Two for Joy!

Enjoy your weekend.

'Autumn carries more gold in it's pocket than all the other seasons.'
Jim Bishop

Friday, 31 October 2014

Nearly November ...

.. and this fact is hard to believe with all this mild and sunny weather we are experiencing here. The only nod to the seasons has been the clocks going back an hour and the evenings drawing in at around 4.30pm.

So it's Friday again and that can only mean one thing, it's...

 .. Fabulous Folksy Friday Finds!

'X' -  such a difficult letter, so much so we decided to bend the rules a little this week and cheat! So for this week X stands for Xtra special, or in other words a Xmas wish hope Santa takes the time to read this blog.

Do pop by the shops, their url's are under their photo's.

  'X' is for...

Simple elegance
X is for - Xtra Special necklace. This natural Pearl and white Topaz necklace has just the right amount of simplicity in its design to really let the beauty of the pearl shine through. Karen has been designing jewellery for a number of years and has sold to Liberty, a quick mooch around her Folksy shop and you can understand why they would love her work as much as I do!

Soft tones and beautiful stitching
X is for - Xtra Special blanket. It's both the detailed patterns and the thoughtful colour choices that makes this blanket so special. It took Claire over a year to make it, what a labour of love:

A wonderful addition to any front door
X is for - Xtra Special door knocker. Hayley's wonderful ironwork is a great example of how a feminine touch in a usually masculine medium can produce such beautiful, strong and yet delicate pieces of work. This stylish knocker would welcome all visitors into the heart of your home:

A long stretch from a twiggy feline
X is for Xtra Special cat. Twisted and turned out of willow wands this slinky cat is suitable for both indoors and outdoors. Sarah's Folksy shop also includes a rather handsome willow hound and a stately stags head for all your baronial halls:

Back here we 
have been getting inky this week. Both replenishing stocks and also printing one of Gary's new creations so consequently our drying rack is groaning under the weight of paper.

More Black Labradors ready for their new owners

The new print isn't quite ready for our online shops but we'll let you be the first to see the reveal... what could it be?

Is that a tree branch?

Lastly as it is Halloween tonight one of our black cats decided to make an entrance...

Happy Halloween!

'To err is human, to purr is feline'.
Robert Byrne

Friday, 24 October 2014

Blustery week ...

Hearing the weather forecast earlier in the week we did question how well our temporary cover on our half finished log store roof would hold up to gale force winds. We did have to make some adjustments to it on Monday morning which entailed Gary going up unto the roof while I passed up heavy concrete blocks to add to the many bricks already up there. Happy to report that even though the wind blew gusts of alarming strength the blue tarpaulin stayed put. All we need now is a couple of fine days to finish it off. 

So it's Friday again and that can only mean one thing, it's...

 .. Fabulous Folksy Friday Finds!

'W' -  is the letter helping us this week. We are nearly at the end of this alphabet adventure through the many shops on Folksy, but we are still finding wonderful wares to showcase here. Do pop by the shops, their url's are under their photo's.

  'W' is for...

Would look great perched on a lapel
W is for Wren - and what a sweet little bird he is. Sarah re-cycles second hand finds into little wonders of textile art. There is a whole flock of little birds awaiting discovery in her Folksy shop: 

Save your pennies here
W is for Welly boots - This pretty purse is just right for keeping your small change safe. Especially like the brooch birthday cards back in Kirstie's Folksy shop, a card and a gift combined, what a clever idea!

A stylish swirl of copper wire
W is for Wire - This copper wire pendant is rich with autumn tones and would brighten up even the dullest day. Emily works wonders with her range of wire jewellery with earrings, bracelets and rings tempting you in her Folksy shop:

Pass me the knitting needles now!
W is for Wool - Jo's Folksy shop should come with a warning. If your crafty pleasure is knitting or crochet work then brace yourself and be prepared to not leave empty handed. Her fibre work and hand dying makes for a glorious riot of woolly loveliness:

Here we have been busy getting Gary's new abstract mono print series ready for our online shops. Two more have been released this week and are getting lots of attention. The 'Winter Vineyard' Abstract Print transports me back to our time living deep in rural south west France. The area of Gascony we called home is where Armagnac is made and the rolling hillsides are filled with the vineyards that grow the grapes that are distilled into the honeyed wonder that is Armagnac. In winter the stems of the vines can be seen, twisted branches which look like dark scribbles against the bare earth. I may be slightly biased but I think Gary has captured the fields perfectly.

Winter Vineyard

The first February after we had moved into our French fermette we decide to plant our own vineyard. We visited an agricultural fair, the biggest in the region and spent time picking the brains of a viticulture expert on the type of vine we should plant. We came away with 100 vines for red wine production and a dozen mixed red and white eating grape varieties. We then set about planting them on the south facing slope of our little hillside. It was very hard, arduous work, done in the worst of the winter weather. We hired a 2 wheeled tractor to try and ease the workload, it didn't help. It was such a steep slope we reverted back to digging by hand. We did see some grapes whilst we lived there and I do sometimes wonder if it is all still there...

Our winter vineyard in it's infancy

Enjoy your weekend.

'Drawing is putting a line round an idea.'
Henri Matisse.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Around the World Blog Hop

The idea behind this is for the creative community of bloggers to write a blog based around a couple of set questions. Their answers offer an incite into their creative thoughts and processes. The blog 'baton' is then passed on to a fellow artisan and so the trip around the Globe gathers pace.

We were invited to participate in the 'Hop' by Julia at Fire Horse Textiles. Her fabulous textile work has been featured in our Friday Folksy Finds blog. To see her work and read about her creative process visit her blog at -

So here we go with the first question - and as we both work here in our home Studio we'll both chip in with our answers...

1 - What are we working on?

Gary - Just now I am in the very early stages of working up pencil sketches for a couple of bird linocut prints. They will be printed in single colour, probably black, and follow the style of 'Dawn Flight' - a print which features black crows, (inspired by the large tree just outside our front door).

I am also busy photographing my new collection of mono prints. The first two in the series are already in our online shops and there is a further 6 soon to be added. I'm really excited by this freeform method of creating prints and working with abstract images.

Dawn Flight - a 'Murder' of Crows
'Gorge' - Mono print

Heather - I have a poppy print that needs a couple more cuts before it get's it's next inking. I'm also working up ideas for my next project and have been working up sketches, it might just be a bird too, still thinking it out.

Poppy heads - inspiration found in our garden

2 - How does our work differ from others in it's genre?

Gary - Having a background in Graphic Design I think my print work does have a graphic edge to it. I am guilty of trying to make lino do what it really shouldn't, pushing it, literally, to breaking point. My reduction prints especially have very fine cuts in them and I have resorted to surgical scalpels to help with the detailing.

Fine detailing in - Winter sunset on Lake Windermere

Heather - Even though my background is also in Graphic Design I have always been inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement and impressionism of the early 20th century. In itself this isn't an easy style to try and capture in lino printing, especially the muted, shapes and colours of impressionism. I too ask rather a lot of lino, requiring it to capture soft outlines.

Muted tones and soft contours

3 - Why do we create what we do?

Gary - I've always been creative and studied art, design and photography at college to be able to pursue it as a career. Having worked on design briefs for clients and being bound by what they required I longed for the day when I could do my own thing, create what I wanted and feel great satisfaction in the knowledge that people like my work enough to buy it and hang it in their homes. The thought that my art is spread across the globe from Tasmania to British Columbia makes me happy, very happy,

Heather - ditto the thoughts above!

This Cocker Spaniel has lots of air miles under his collar!
Well traveled Black Cat

4 - How does our creating process work?

Gary and Heather - we work together when it comes to this. A germ of an idea will be discussed. Whoever has been inspired by something will then research more into whatever has grabbed their attention. Lots of sketches then follow and more discussions. The sketches then get marked down onto the lino plate and the cutting commences. A single colour image is worked on the one plate and then inked up, taken to the hand press where the image is reverse printed onto the hand decaled paper. A reduction linocut print entails a great deal more work. The plate is slowly cut away after each colour is printed and so by the final visit to the hand press there is very little of the plate actually left, which means the prints are limited edition pieces of art.

A reduction print having it's final colour added

So that's a glimpse into our Studio and it's now back to work for us. The next 'Hop' will be with Tracy at Cinnamon Jewellery. She works with enamel and copper and her Etsy shop is a true box of delights. Take a look at her shop - - and then enjoy learning more about her creative process in next week's Around the World Blog Hop at