Tuesday 19 November 2013


...drenched in low golden light...filtering through leaves...balancing on fading petals...deepening shadows...cooler air...clearer skies...dappled green...silhouettes...
I am walking around the garden a little slower...quiet, still beauty. Amber, plum, purple.
. Craning my neck. Tree canopy doilies. Lacey vapour.
 hydrangeas, rosehips and see through leaves...an invitation to swing
She slips quietly away and leaves me blue
 Give me a garden fading... it is glorious!

Monday 21 October 2013

Printers Block

Last year, at the Selvedge Winter Fair, I was lucky enough to meet Cameron Short. I was bowled over by his glorious block printed designs...Varx and Treasure Tree.
Serendipity at work,a cushion for Magpie in Treasure Tree...an intricate block featuring a Magpie in her tree, festooned with all manner of treasures looping over the twigs, snagged on branches.
'Treasure Tree' cushion

 Varx for Mr. Fox, her partner in crime! Varx being of course the Old English for fox...staring straight out from his camouflaged position amongst the Foxgloves!

Cameron is based in rural Dorset where he works in an old shepherd's hut...brilliant! He describes this flow of his surroundings into his work as ~

" a rich and magical seam...my designs are more than just arbitary patterns - I tell stories through them, often depicting the tension in nature between beauty and violence. For instance, in "Varx" we're confronted by the hypnotic gaze of a dog fox, veiled by foxgloves. Peer closer and we notice he's licking his lips as the remnants of his supper float away on the evening air."

You can find his work via The New Craftsmen a wonderful collective of artisans and makers.
I love the handmade feeling in his work, beautifully observed drawings cut out, working in the negative, it is a feat. I long to have a go...lino cutting for a term at college was as close as I have ever got to this art form. I feed my passion print and pattern here on my Pinterest board.
Here is Cameron at work on Varx...
Cameron Short
This image reminds me of another iconic photograph taken by Andrew Montgomery  (whom I also admire!)  of Marthe Armitage...printmaker extraordinaire. You can see more of Andrew Montgomery's wonderful images of Marthe and her work shot for Gardens Illustrated here.
Martha Armitage, Printmaker
As so often with serendipitous events the coincidences cascade...rather like Cameron and Marthe's prints. Turns out that Cameron served an apprenticeship with Marthe.

The thing that is so wonderful about Marthe is that she is still working and clearly enjoying the creative process. Watching her pleasure whilst she draws is so inspiring and reminds me why I wanted to be a surface pattern designer all those years ago at college. This is a beautiful short film, "Back to the Drawing Board" in which Marthe describes the process she uses...

Two of my favourite designs Oak Leaf and Chestnut.
Oak Leaf ~ Marthe Armitage Wallpaper
Chestnut ~ Marthe Armitage Wallpaper
There are some lovely pieces about Marthe Armitage to read if you feel so inclined, you could try:
The Bible of British Taste or Little Augury

You can peruse and or purchase Marthe's wallpaper at Hamilton Weston.

Block printing seems to preserve the human touch more than any other printing process. The maker's personality is stamped onto the reels of wallpaper or rolls of fabric.

Angie Lewin also cuts beautiful blocks for her gorgeous pictures, often including text which seems to me to be an impossible task!
Angie Lewin cutting a lino block

Sigh...brings me back to my neglected sketch book...
I can't write about print & pattern without mentioning the work of Abigail Borg. I am mad about her brilliantly coloured floral repeats
Abigail Borg collage
...Oh and then there's Sam Pickard. Sam designed Rosemary Russet back in 2007 and I have had a love affair with it ever after. I long to have it in my bedroom at the windows...with a 2 and a 1/2 metre repeat it is epic. The handrawn quality is gorgeous, beautiful inky, free outlines. The knitted effect in the background, the colours...

Happily Sam will exhibiting her work at this winter's Selvedge Fair and so we come full circle...I love it when that happens....serendipity!

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Autumn Plant Fair

Very occasionally it happens that a place much treasured as an idea lives up to all its promise and imagined lustre.
Great Dixter house and garden performs that miracle for me on every visit. 

It is all I want from an English house and garden. Ideas that began with the imaginary worlds I spent time in as a child, formed first in the minds of Beatrix Potter, Frances Hodgson-Burnett and Noel Streatfield, KM Peyton and Edith Nesbitt.

The wonderful Lutyens architecture ~ those oak drainpipes lined with lead! the myriad outbuildings ~ wobbly roofed and groaning with the patina and stories of past inhabitants. The garden ~ rooms and meadows~ fruit trees left to their own designs, curtsy holding out their skirts so laden with berries and fruit. Borders bursting with colour and confidence, there are wonderful patterns everywhere you turn. And yet, it feels "real" and grounded not primped and preened. I cite the enormous compost heap, as tall as a Hardy hay rick and sliced through to reveal the section, layers and layers of good dark crumbly matter, with a long ladder leaning against it, wonderful to see.

Yes! I am a fan and admirer of the late great Christopher Lloyd and his former assistant, now Head Gardener, Fergus Garrett. This past weekend at Great Dixter saw the Autumn Plant Fair roll in to the meadow below the nursery. Growers and nurserymen from all over Europe along with some closer to home displaying their specimens on simple stands constructed from wood and hessian with corrugated roofs. So, on a fuzzy, drowsy, misty October Saturday we arrived...
 The boot was a cascade of petals and leaves, supported by sacks of spring bulbs as ballast as I bounced down the track ~Laneward bound...


Saturday 21 September 2013

Memories for dessert

Back in June, on a day when the sun was trying to burst through a hoop of tracing paper we went to Dungeness.
Dungeness, the only place in England designated  a "desert". At the far south eastern tip where the land flattens and the horizon multiplies. Other worldly, weather beaten, shingle beach with rusting shacks, railway carriages and fishing boats. Home to, amongst other things, a nuclear power station, 5 lighthouses at one time or another and over 600 plant species. It is a very special place with a unique atmosphere, I am struggling to define. Perhaps it is the power station quietly throbbing in the distance. Perhaps it's the proximity of Romney Marsh, ethereal green flatlands ~ threaded with waterways cloaked in sea mists. Dickens' location for Pip's first encounter with Magwitch.. Perhaps it's the alien nature of the landscape, the crunch of shingle underfoot. Shingle peppered with plants, clumps and carpets of colour, unexpectedly beautiful. The colours of Dungeness are thrilling set, as they are, against the neutral shingle~sea~sky horizontals.
You are wondering? 
Well first of all I have been economic with information as it wasn't simply the usual tribe of me, Mr. Lane and Boodle on this expedition. For this outing we were joined by none other than my faraway brother! All the way from Melbourne via Finland! I can't suppress a smile even as I write this three months later, so great the pleasure to be together again for a few snatched days.
...visit Prospect Cottage. The much feted home and garden of the late, great film director Derek Jarman. We have been several times before and its allure never fades. A garden bursting through the shingle, beds, such as they are defined by pebble borders, flotsam and jetsam sculptures. Rusted boat jumble with garlands of old rubber washers... 
I can't tell you how lovely it all was. 
Fish & Chips out of newspaper on the beach and just to be...
...with my best boys...
Looking through the pictures again is as fortifying as a whole bowlful of  favourite pudding (possibly warm raspberry bakewell tart) with lashings of cream and seconds...memories for dessert.