Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

As I mentioned before, I spent one day last week in Yorkshire Sculpture Park with a good friend of mine. I do relish getting out of Leeds on a school day, driving away from home, school, housework, responsibilities...it makes me feel as though I'm bunking off from the Job Of Mum and I find it slightly thrilling, I have to admit. Also, I still find being child free during the day pretty exhilarating. No buggy. No change bag. Just me and my friend with our own agenda, going at our own pace. 

As I drove south down the M1 the weather was appalling; torrential rain, black skies...I did wonder if we'd spend the whole morning in the cafe and gift shop (look, I wont lie, I would not consider that a wasted trip by any means.) But, as I parked, the rain stopped and the sun attempted to shine in a watery, November fashion. It was quite breathtaking and we put on our wellies and set off. 

Henry Moore

One of the many great things about the park is the flexibilty of the space. Long walks, short walks, lakeside walks, woodland walks, picnic spots, views, beautiful architecture...it's all there. We set off towards the lake and walked for maybe a hour and a half.

The leaves made the most wonderful reflections in the water. 

And everywhere you look, there is the art, the sculpture. So thoughtfully placed that it looks as if it's always been there, that it grew out of the landscape.

Anthony Caro

This lit up horse galloped continually. I was quite mesmerized by it. 

Julian Opie

The piece below is my favourite. I love the way it glowed through the trees.

Peter Liversidge
Close up it was quite spectacular.

Then, after all that grey and black, all that bronze and stone, this triumphant, colourful celebration of the female form was a joy to look at.

Niki De Saint Phalle

We looked at more, but eventually our tummies rumbled and we stopped for lunch. The cafe is really good. I had "Boston Beans" - homemade, smokey baked beans, chorizo, a poached egg and chips, with a cup of tea. It occurred to me that I'd eaten a very middle class, organic, sustainably sourced version of ham, egg, chips and beans. It was good. Then, an hour (yes, a whole hour - no kids!) in the shop, which is really well stocked with some lovely products, well worth a look around. I bought a few Christmas presents and a few bits for me, including this tree*. I have a thing about bare branches in winter and this small and very inexpensive sculpture pleases me greatly. 

All in all a really excellent day out. 

* I can't find a link to it in the YSP shop, but you can see it here.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Saturday Happies

It's time for my weekly round up of the good, simple things which made me happy over the past week.

1. A visit to the breathtakingly beautiful Yorkshire Sculpture Park with my very good friend Debora. We walked, talked, discussed whether it was the art or the fresh air which made us so happy (it was both), ate lunch, browsed the incredibly well stocked gift shop. I'll write more about it next week, but for now, this is the view that hit me, post rain shower, as I arrived in the car park:

2. I bought these pillowcases from a charity shop ages ago thinking I'd use them for the fabric, rather than on the bed. I decided it was high time they left the fabric drawer and put them on the bed. Some sunshine in a gloomy week. Plus clean sheets make us happy too, we all know that. It's a fact. 

3. Last Sunday morning - a very, very muddy walk in the woods. We were all feeling a bit cooped up and I was craving some fresh air. 

Bella sulked as she was tired from a sleepover the night before and either walked behind or ahead of us. 

Angus jumped in all the puddles and had a whale of a time until he got a welly boot full of muddy water and then he alternately sulked/cried/demanded to be carried back to the car. It's quite possible that only John and I enjoyed the walk.

But it was so, so good to be out in the woods and nothing would dampen my mood. I was irritatingly chirpy.

4. Roast dinner. Autumn and Winter Sundays call for roasts and I almost feel disappointed if it doesn't happen. John roasted a joint of pork and the crackling was phenomenal. It's a rubbish photo but you get the drift. There was apple pie and custard for pudding. Like I said last week, I may gain some weight this winter. A little extra padding to protect me from the cold.

Today is as determinedly foggy as it was this time last week. I feel like we're shrouded in water at the moment. We're off to spend the weekend with some friends in their new house. Enjoy your weekend everyone. 

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Colour Collaborative: November: Leaf

I do wonder if I sometimes take leaves for granted, only really noticing them fully in the autumn months. But their very absence and presence mark the rhythms of our year; some months are quieter than others, granted, but there is always a beautiful shape to observe, a colour to appreciate. 

I like to look up at the leaves, craning my head as far back as I can towards the treetops and the sky. In the spring there might not be leaves but there are layers of frothy pink blossom.

In the summer we enjoy the shade provided by the lush, dense canopy of leaves in full green splendour. I especially love the dappled effect of sunlight filtering through the leaves and was thrilled to discover that the Japanese have a word for precisely this: komorebi.

Looking upwards in the autumn is just as rewarding. There is less dappling, but more depth, more structure.

And in the winter? No leaves, just the monochrome, arterial look of bare branches reaching towards the sky.

Each full of drama and colour in their own way.

But autumn. Oh, how I love being in the woods in the autumn.

I think it's the smell, and that's down to the rotting vegetation. Whether I'm kicking dry leaves or squelching through wet ones, I don't know when I ever take such a childlike delight in the moment, or feel so fully present in a season.

Almost every sense is catered for; the smell of decay, the feel of the cold air on your face and ground underfoot, the visual delight in the of the leaves, the sounds of birds or the wind in the trees, a rustle in the undergrowth. Ok, maybe not taste. You'll have to take a picnic for that one.

But right now, it's a rowdy display of colour, a rainbow put on by nature. Something to store up in the sensory-memory bank to nourish us in the more subdued months ahead. 

* * * * *

Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below:

Annie at Annie Cholewa
Sandra at Cherry Heart
Jennifer at Thistlebear
Claire at Above The River

What is The Colour Collaborative? 

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

How To Make A Feather Garland

As promised, here is a quick guide to making a feather garland. 

You will need feathers, some card in the colours of your choice, some yarn or string, glue, scissors, and cocktail sticks

First, make your feather templates. I roughly copied the outlines of four of the feathers I found, choosing shapes and sizes I liked. I used cheaper, thinner card for this.

Now draw around as many feather templates as you like, on as many different types of card as you like. I aimed for maybe ten altogether, a couple in each colour. 

To create the central fold, I drew a curved line freehand onto the feather with the point on a pair of scissors, then gently pressed the crease into shape with my fingertips.

To help reinforce the quill part of the feather, and to make the tying of string easier, I glued cocktail sticks to the straight ends.

Then, rather than try and attach the feathers directly to the horizontal string on the garland, I tied individual lengths of string to each feather. This meant I could easily move them along and vary the length.

Once the string was knotted, I glued the loose end flat against the cocktail stick to keep it tidy and out of the way.

Then it was a question of sitting in front of the mantel and attaching each dangling feather to the garland. 

The whole process probably took a couple of hours. The more feathers you make, the longer it's going to take. Happy garland making!

Monday, 17 November 2014

On The Mantel: November

I tend  - perhaps a little unfairly - to think of November as a bleak month. It doesn't have the bustle and sparkle of December and seems full of wet days and dark afternoons. But it's a month of great beauty too; after the clocks change, the sunrises are spectacular, and the last few leaves cling to the trees like little coloured flags waving in the gloom. Christmas discussions and preparations are ongoing, but not yet at full panic stage. 

I'm continuing my monthly mantel project, marking the seasons and rhythms of family life with pieces that were found inside and out, the bought and the made, the old and the new.

For this month's mantel, I wanted warmth. Soft warmth and glowing light, but not the Christmassy kind. I found this in copper and pink tones, in feathers and tassels. I'm ridiculously delighted to have something from the garden in a vase in November; I cut these these allium heads in the summer and put them in the garage to dry out. I hung my tasseled wall hanging next to the bird print. Bella's Diwali pot sits next to a favouite pink Ken Eardley jug. I like the way the bird on the jug echos the print and the feathered, fringed feel.

I made a garland from a mixture of natural, found feathers and ones I made from cardboard. I just love the wavy, irregular shapes. John thinks it's a bit much, he said "Err - less is more, Gill" but I like it. I'll put together a quick how-to for you tomorrow.

I'm thinking about December now. I feel an alpine theme coming on...

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Saturday Happies

1. After last weekend's disaster, Key Lime Pie round two was a great success. No more broken pie dishes and marital harmony is restored.

2. This clay tea light holder was made by Bella at school as part of their Diwali celebrations. I always treasure the bits and pieces the children bring home from school, and some light in the gloom has been welcome this week.

3. Tunnocks Tea Cakes. I like to unwrap these really carefully, smoothing out the wrapper as I go. It pleases me greatly.

4. I made a batch of my cranberry chutney. I always find this kind of kitchen activity very relaxing and love the feeling of seasonal preparation it evokes. 

And, for me, faffing with labels is as enjoyable as the cooking. I saw these here last year and thought they were charming, and downloaded them from here. There are all different kinds, I'll do some more nearer Christmas for other edible gifts. I just love this kind of present making!

Well, there you have it. High sugar snacks, candlelight and kitchen pottering have been my simplest pleasures this week, and given the weather we've had this does not surprise me in the least. Grey days, low light levels, rain and drizzle - my energy levels are always non-existent in this kind of weather. Today dawned with very thick fog and ended the same way, damp and dark, and so I spent this afternoon making a feather garland and baking brownies while listening to last week's Archer's omnibus. Some gentle kitchen time and some crafting, my preferred way to chase away the November gloom. John has made lasagne for tonight's dinner. There is wine in the house. It occurs to me that I might gain a little weight this winter.

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement on my blanket - it will be finished soon, I promise! 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Random Versus Order

I've been thinking a lot lately about creative processes lately, about why I work the way I do, why I dislike randomness so much. As you know I'm making a blanket. A really big blanket. You know, the sort that takes a year. (I don't believe I've mentioned it here before....)

I told you about making my 225th square. But I forgot to tell you that, just before this, I realised I'd actually miscounted and, when I came to lay them all out on my bed, found that I only had 224.  


I was so annoyed! I kept searching in my crochet basket, upending bags, looking under the sofa, refusing to believe that I'd made a mistake. I mean, I counted them so many times. I had to quickly crochet one more. 

The Grand Arrangement Of The Granny Squares was actually quite a casual affair by my standards. I cast my eye over them, made sure there were no two colours together, re-shuffled some clusters that didn't work, then left it.

But how to remember which square goes where? I wanted a way to work on the blanket without having to lug the whole thing around with me wherever I was. So, I divided them into nine smaller squares, which I then gathered up and secured into bundles with safety pins. Each needed a label (Square A, Row 1 etc) and Bella was my scribe. Her handwriting is really a lot neater than mine, I'm not joking.

I know this seems like a huge amount of work, but really it isn't. It was the best way I could think of to attach the squares in their chosen order. 

Now, when I'm ready to start a section, I take out all the bundles labelled "A" or whatever, and lay them out. I attach them together with safety pins, then off I go, crocheting them all together. This means I can just forget about the arrangement and relax, whizzing up and down the rows, not worrying that I've accidentally attached one back to front.

A finished square looks like this.

A bit lumpy and bumpy, really. But after blocking...

Much better! I think the pattern stands out more afterwards, and the darker colours benefit from the extra white around each motif. Also it makes the whole square a couple of inches bigger all round which is no bad thing as I intend this blanket to go on our king size bed.

So far I've done six of the nine sections. They have a satisfying weight to them.

Would you do something as ordered and systematic as this, or would you just randomly grab the first square you came to and trust that it will all work out? I know this must seem like lunacy to some, but I can't bear the thought of spending all that time (and money) on a blanket, all that thought, that planning, that effort, to then look at it at the end and feel disappointed. To think, oh, why did I put those two squares next to each other? 

Honestly, I think a small part of me will be relieved when this project is done. I'm not cut out for blanket making, it's exhausting!