Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The proof of the pudding

could be in the eating or the making. Either one will be someone's deciding factor.

The other month I had a double commission from my two youngest ever customers! They came up to choose their fabric for their real-size baby hares. Much head shaking and pouting went on amongst the fabric piles until ...

I pulled out a beautiful faux fur plush hearts fabric. The plush was requested along with a brushed cotton small hearts. I decided to make jumpers and collars for the hares with the bulky plush. I stitched on the jumpers, rather tight, so they would keep the hares warm and added a small collar for both, adorned with a plush heart.

Two days later the commissioners received their orders -

Hugs approved the consignment and all was in order until ...

they realised the collars could be pulled on and off and on and, even worn as bracelets ...,
and the jumper was virtually non-removeable. Well, it wasn't non-removeable at all. A few persistent tugs and both hares soon started to feel the cold and the stitched jumpers were quickly altered to have a button and velcro opening, so no-one gets chilled. (and they can be taken on and off and on and ...)

Usually a good recipe will stand the test of time.
In this case a flight over the North Sea and back home to Norway sealed the hares standing as special companions. Hare number 2 wanted to stay in the carry-on, and was in no mood to compete with a sleepy zebra after already being out for half the flight.

Just a small tip for those of you who are 'auntys only' and not human mothers, and who happen to be chaperoning their small charges back to their real mother - if you are in a public place and have two small energetic beings, and you look roughly the age of the mother, do not expect people to help you as you stumble around helplessly with doors, tickets, Norwegian signs and instructions, faff about with baggage, coats, toys, more toys and more bags, oh, plus drinks!
You will only get ignored by professional looking people who think that you are an incompetent mother and not the actual incompetent aunty that you are.

Next time this happens my T-shirt will display my incompetence boldly! -
'There's nothing wrong with the Mother - I'm the Incompetent Aunt!

The hares were left at home for a day down by the sea.
Here is a real Norwegian jellyfish!

Just coming over to say hi!

and a mother brought her baby for a meal. I shared some hearty brown Norwegian bread. They really make delicious breads over there, and all very substantial. Makes it so much better for the birds.
This little baby was all over the sea with mum. They had plenty to eat and paddled about in the fresh water stream.

Inside the aquarium area were many homes for all sorts of sea creatures. I bet they never tired of looking at the strange people all day long. This terribly handsome little pipe fish was just so friendly and I spent a good ten minutes exchanging smiles with him and his black fish friend below.
I love sea horses and pipe fish. His head is shaped just like a sea horse. Perhaps he (or she) is not a pipe fish?

and there was the most beautiful hermit crab in pink spotted shell with white fronds. Very friendly too and we spent many minutes exchanging pleasantries across the glass.
All the sea life were alive and healthy, having their lunch in their tanks. There was an amazing array of critters.

When it came to the real pudding (ice cream sundaes) it was best served with chips and fresh cream!
This is dinner aunty and gran style after a good day out.
Why bother with main course when you can have dessert instead?

and the pudding was delicious! I prefer to do the eating.

After the nieces were safely home with their hares and I had recovered somewhat from my ordeal I headed over to Oslo for a day.

My last night in Norway was very scenic! It's not every day you get a shepherds delight!
(my dear friends took this photo for me as I'm also rather incompetent with my digital camera! Thank you Eline :)

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Mother Hares

Sometimes I have struggled with new designs for months, even years, with nothing satisfactory or productive coming my way. Only the desire to make a certain design materialize.
Then out of the blue a new design will just appear, ever so simply and with no fuss and no planning.

That happened yesterday, like a miracle!
A mother hare appeared on the tracing paper, her shape came intuitively and easily to my pen and I was immediately satisfied with her.

Mother Hare Freya is my first mama hare. Like a real hare she is beautiful and sleek and has an ethereal ambience about her.

And I was also lucky to have mother hare Gold came along. Gold is going to be my hare. I have a few hares about the house. 4 actually, all babies, so it's nice to have a mama to reassure them when the wind is blowing against the panes, or the rain is pouring down in rivers that everything will be alright.

The mothers all have their ears back and their chins raised slightly. Hares will adopt this pose when investigating something familiar. But if they are annoyed and are about to attack then will have a slightly similar pose, so my mamas are both enquiring and defensive.

Mother Hare Freya already has a home. She is going to live her son Baby Hare Blue. Blue came into the world not that long ago and he quickly found his forever home and mama had a few odds and ends to tie up over here before going after him.

Freya is a very good mother hare and when little Blue came into the world she knew that he was a very special baby, he had the biggest blue eyes she had ever seen!
Almost immediately the insects who had little niggles would stop by him and after spending a short while in his company, and receiving a small lick, they would then be much better with their ailments. Word got around the insect community and spread to the insectivores and the omnivores that there was a new baby hare that brought calmness and healing.
This did not go past Freya and every day she brought Blue with her to work at the Woodland Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre for All Species where everybody commented that he was a natural like his mother. Freya was born with this gift and she treated mainly the carnivores as she had very little fear of anyone.
On many occasions she would do den visits, especially to wolf, bear and stoat and not once was she ever nipped nor glared at. Her speciality was removing thorns and stitching lacerations. Most days she came home with dried wolf blood on a paw! My, my!

Freya is overjoyed that she will be living with her baby Blue and she will love to spend time on soft quilts and furnishings as she plans her next den visits. She will be away often as she attends to the injured and would appreciate a door ajar and a packed lunch for herself and Blue.

I was viewing an exhibition the other day held at the Scottish Ornithological Society in Aberlady. There were three impressive wildlife artists , Robert Greenhalf, David Koster and my favourite, Andrew Haslen, who had a variety of print mediums on display. It was all so riveting, I love woodcuts and linocuts and I spent over an hour there absorbing the works.

The SOC also has a big viewing window in it's gallery area looking over to Aberlady Bay Nature Reserve, a famous and important bird destination in the East of Scotland. It faces over a large man made pond and I spent a good 10 minutes watching a yellow wagtail busy itself on the edge of the waterfall rocks.
The wagtail then just diappeared! and who should magically appear thru the tall grasses at the pond's edge but a slim russet and fawn hare!
I think the hare may have been a female for she was incredibly beautiful. She took in the air at the edge for a few minutes, then moved not far away thru the grasses and took in some more air after which she proceeded to calmly lop away.

A great privilege I do believe! and the perfect end to a gallery viewing of painted hares to a real one!

Monday, 12 July 2010

High Plains Drifter ...

A few moons ago I was reading Dale Ann's blog Chronicles of Whimsy about a herd of buffalos (bison) near her.

I looked longingly at her photo of them, at those large, gentle bovines, early spring trees and quiet atmosphere and I felt privileged to be able to share her view.

Dale Ann mentioned that the cows would calve soon and she returned a month later to welcome the youngsters into the world with the photo below! See how beautiful and golden they are? and look at all the long grass and foliage on the trees!

I grew up on Clint Eastwood movies (my choice and my first hero!) and I relished the scenes of the wildlife on the great plains.

It was not always so difficult for the bison, both the American species, bison bison, and the European species, bison bonasus, (also referred to as Wisent), have suffered greatly at the hands of man.
But now, thankfully, they are protected on both sides of the Atlantic and are prospering a little better.

Just before the bison appeared Dale Ann had a give away on her blog and I happily entered. It was a very difficult entry because she asked for people to choose their favourite ACEO print in her etsy shop De La Rennaissance.

I spent a long time looking at them all and just could not decide between three! Oh dear! So I listed them all, as requested. (I'm not that much help when it comes to marketing questions especially when the choice is so rich)

Well, the winner was shortly announced and guess what?
It was me! My goodness!
So now I had the even harder task of choosing which image I was going to cherish. Well, after an even longer time looking, reflecting, then consulting with my fiance I asked Dale Ann to kindly send me the beautiful ACEO Baby's Got Blue Eyes.

It promptly arrived, and to my delight was accompanied by the magical ACEO The Fledgling!

This was such a wonderful surprise! I immediately dusted off a couple of shelves on my wooden display box and made them at home.

Young Blue Eyes now has a mama deer and a sibling to keep him company!and the Fledgling has a zebra looking out for her.

The more I look at my prints the more details I find. These two tiny mice are making sure the baby will be safe. Just feast your eyes on the details of those foreground leaves and the small flowers! Then there is the subtle and dreamy background leaves and light.

You will find the same attention to detail with the unicorn and fledgling! I can feel the breath from the unicorns nose warm the soft down on the baby bird.

The quality of the printing is exceptional! It's the best I have ever seen and with a velvety texture and vibrancy that can only be matched by the original.
The rich colours and subtle shades have translated perfectly on to the type of speciality paper that Dale Ann has chosen to print her art on. A perfect compliment!

In today's age I'm glad to see that quality does still matter, over quantity. It is the perfect touch to a perfect painting - and both of my ACEOs are perfect in every way!

Every time I glance up from the computer screen or lift my eyes from my work surface I am greeted by the gentleness of the fawn and his mice companions and the delight of the unicorn and his new precious baby bird friend!

I find it very fitting that Dale Ann is so inspired by nature and those wonderful bison. It shines thru on her blog.

A few hours drive north of Edinburgh and I was also amongst my own herd of bison on the high plains!

These fine chaps are one of the largest herds of European Bison in the UK.
They reside at the Highland Wildlife Park not far north from Kingussie (pronounced king-new-see) up in the Highlands of Scotland, just.

I was taking my two small charges up to see them as they had a special 'aunty day out amongst the wildlife'.
I was very impressed by them all. They waited patiently until I moved my (tiny in comparison to them) car on before they crossed the road, but not before I took some snaps.
Look at all those loose tufty bits! Are your house rabbits still shedding their spring coats? Does it make you want to grasp a few tufts and slowly hold on as messers Bison proceeds to walk off?

What a very handsome and beautiful bison!

After a few minutes of bison admiring I was egged on by small interjections from the back seat. Perhaps that was just as well, I could have watched them all day.
20 seconds along the road and we pulled up again to admire more friends!
This time we met a herd of red deer, all busy with heads down.

It's so heartening to look at Dale Ann's work after being so close to these majestic beings. All of her paintings convey such gentleness. love and wonderment!

Her Baby Pegasus bookmark will ensure that you remain connected to the important things in life, like love and innocence.

and this magical scene combines art work and photography to make you believe that you are seeing this in your own garden! That small mouse is perfect in every way!

Our day out was a huge success, the nieces were now well versed in bisons, red deer and other high plains animals.

Wesley was happily dozing away at home, with his little white dog soft toy. He likes to lick the toy and when the fur is all spiky I give it a wash and fluff it up again.
I'm sure he would love to nibble on the high plain grasses!

Thank you very much Dale Ann for the ACEOs! I cherish them!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Polliner and the Pollinaters

A while ago I became a member of the highly esteemed etsy team Artisan Gallery. It is a peer vetted team and the standards and workmanship are high so I was honoured.

The team has a blog that publishes a good varitiey of articles about the team members and currently we are celebrating the honey bee with Roxana from Illuminated Perfume leading the way.

Roxana is a perfume maker and she wrote an article for etsy's blog The Storque called Hollistic Beekeeping. She tells a captivating and romantic story of how bees came to inspire her and then be a part of her life.
Roxana sells her exquisite scents in small pots so that you can sample the many different aromas on offer before purchasing a larger, longer lasting size. I love these small pots, what a delicate pink colour and shape and the bee seal on the lids are perfect! The wax inside is from her own hive!

Those little pots above contain solid perfume and if you'd rather have a liquid aswell then this sample collection contains both and has beautiful packaging too!
Not long after Roxana began searching about bees and beekeeping she soon found Kirk Anderson and his group Backward Beekeepers and their ethos of chemical free beekeeping.

I like to think that all of our problems we currently experience today are caused by the use and misuse of chemicals and the desire to control everything and every living species that 'comes in our way'. It is a sad state to be in and I'm glad to read about all the people working so hard with nature to be chemical free, and organic.

My online news provider of choice is the Guardian, as they are more animal friendly than the other broadsheets and I always open on their Environment page.
Today I was surprised as I browsed thru their weekly 'The Week in Wildlife' to see a bee with a tiny radio ID tag on it. (photo is copyright Andrew Martin/BBSRC/PA).

It is part of a study being held called The Insect Pollinators Initiative at a cost of £10 million and the article talks about chemicals and pesticides affecting the brains of pollinaters.
I would think the study may prove the point (eventually and maybe with unnecessary dissection of bees and interference of bee wave lengths and signals by the tiny transmitters) but I think the £10 million would be better off establishing a solid base of organic chemical free bee colonies through out the UK.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to move forward in the most positive way and not to waste time or money trying to prove that what is already happening is bad.
After all - once a conclusion is reached I am sure the outcome pronounced shall be 'chemical free beekeeping is the way forward £10million study reveals...'

As part of the celebration of bees I made Baby Hare Polliner.

Polliner has a way with bees and mama can’t remember exactly when it began but the bees were magically drawn to him.
She would come to feed him and he’d be covered in pollen and sometimes the bees left their full pollen sacs on him too!
Goodness! Ofcourse little Polliner always took them to the hive after mama had carefully pulled them off his fur and the workers thanked him – they had many young mouths to feed!
Polliner has already started his own hive on a tree. A queen came to him one day and asked if there was a safe place for her swarm.
The hive is very busy and growing rather fast but Queen always makes time to come out and say hello to him and then they always sit down and share a small pot of royal jelly.
The workers were concerned that they may be getting a king but Polliner has assured them that he is far too young to marry.
Polliner is hoping to add more hives round about and Queen is busy laying special eggs on top of the honey combs for Princesses to emerge.
Polliner hopes that you may have a suitable tree in your garden for his friends so he can visit with them every day?

I like to make sure that all my soft sculptures have positive happy stories and many of them carry important messages. Sometimes the voice of a small friendly animal is listened to more attentively than a person harping on (and on and on... as I sometimes do!)
Many artists celebrate the bees too, in their unique ways.

Above is a Golden Honey Bee Ring with Citrine by Kathi. I love the combination of silver and gold together - the smallest alchemist on your finger! Kathi is in the Artisan Gallery team too.

This is a Honey Pearls bracelet by Lisa who is in the Artisan Gallery team. I love the soft brown pearls, so lustrous!

This is a Honey Scarflette/Neckwarmer by Ale, also in our team. The softness of the fibres and the flower brooch are so inviting! I can feel it keeping me snug right now.

And this is a Tribal Necklace of Oxidised Silver and Bronze with Fresh Water Pearls by Marie. Such a statement piece! and I love the colour and irregular shape of these pearls. Marie is in the Artisan gallery team also.

Also inspired by bees is Martha and Eve from the team aswell with their Bees Honey Comb Cuffs in Aplaca Wool. These look so soft and luxurious! Cuffs are a very affordable luxury.

and this small drinking vessel is a Handmade Pottery Tumbler in Golden Yellow with Red Interior and Bumble Bee by Diana, who is a member of the Artisan gallery team. I really like how the bee sits inside a plain circle with the speckled exterior and the hair on the bee's legs is visible. A lovely treat!

this is a delightful necklace by mother/daughter team Esther and Estella called 'Honey and the Bee - Vintage Enamel Flowers and Ceramic Bee Necklace'. Also part of the Artisan gallery team. There is something very special about vintage enamel flowers and I love the colours in this combination.

and this is Gizzy modelling a Crocheted Bumble Bee Costume by Doris. Doris is a member of the Etsy for Animals team that I am in and she is also donating 10% of every sale to help honey bee research. I love this small costume because my rescue rabbit Wesley gets very ill when he is cold and I have to constantly keep him rugged up. I haven't tried a coat on him yet but it's great to see beautiful and witty accessories for our fur friends, because not all fur is as warm as a polar bears!

Yael made this Honey Copal Flower Ring. Yaelu is from the Artisan Gallery team. I love the brightness of this ring!

and this Ceramic Mosaic Insect Shrine by Artisan gallery member Blue Terracotta is just precious! Imagine an insect shrine - how very delicate. I love these colours and the shape.

So as Erica from the Etsy for Animals teams says in her beautiful poignant photo 'It's All About the Bee' and she is so right - it all comes down to the smallest of pollinaters to keep the world going.

Without the winged insects spreading the pollen from plant to plant and making the fruits, flowers and plants thrive the world would have very little food to feed her inhabitants. All of her inhabitants - not just the furless bipeds.

Thank you