Monday, 29 November 2010

the Winter Hares

Outside it has been snowing continually for 3 days now. It's so very beautiful and I have been feeding the birds extra to keep them from starving.
Many hares and rabbits will be eating the bark and leaves if they can't get at the grasses under the snow. Life is hard for the animals.

Just recently as a husk of hares came by for some warmth ....

After they have a feed and a heat they will be going into my etsy shop

Arabella wanted to meet them first though. And she shared some of her ever plenty food with them and made room in her basket for a few who were extra cold. Now that she has a fleece over the top, she is very snug inside.

These are the last of my winter hares! Snowstorm on the left will be off soon for some adventures. In the middle is young Lapteva and on the right is Aphelion.

These are my new hares with ospreys, buffalo and deer. From the left is Vadim, Suki and Colt.
Now that they are in from the cold they are having a good rest!

This little lady is Allegra. Arabella was worried about her because she was so thin, however she has surprised us all with an appetite as big as a horse's!

and this is the very handsome Snowstorm again. He was infact born during a snowstorm! His adventurer mother was descending a mountain and he arrived a couple of weeks early!

and last of the babies is young Olympia! He is a real computer guru and can fix any computer malware problem. We nearly didn't see him out there in the deep, deep snow but his blue glistening eyes caught our attention.

and lastly a couple of mothers to come. Done in some vintage flowery material. I would have no idea which decade this came from but it's rather very pretty!

Arabella goes over to inspect her lunch to see if there is a morsel left for her!
Luckily the local farm store, 10 miles from here in the middle of now-where, has fresh local kale, big tender broccoli leaves, pointed golden cauliflower, tasty brussels and plump broccoli - all exactly what Arabella loves, and yes, there is still a plate full for her!

I cut her carrots into chunks as it's easier for her to eat them that way. After all, nothing is supported firmly in the earth here and the long carrots just wiggled all over the place. Wesley gets his carrots and parsnips cut into long thin strips. His teeth aren't the best so I make it easy for him.

The Winter Hares are now fed and warmed!

Uh - oh! where are they all going??

... surely not? surely Arabella hasn't got them all in there to keep her warm??!

... I think so .....!

16 days left! Have you got your raffle tickets?

Buckeye House Rabbit Society tickets HERE
Rabbit and Guinea Pig Welfare tickets HERE

- more tickets = more carrots for the buns = more warmth + love = more chances to WIN a prize!
Good Luck!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Interview - Meet Wendren - from etsy shop The Wren

and kittie Pye!

I first noticed Wendren when I came across one of her bird pouches, in her etsy shop The Wren, which I thought was very novel, not to mention cute.

I really liked Wendren's take on this handy wrist pouch and I was intrigued to know more about her and saw that she had a blog, The Wren Design, so I stopped by and had a very interesting read! Wendren has a great enthusiasm for creativity in design and coupled with her very ethical business practices I knew she would go far.

I asked Wendren if she would take out from her busy schedule and answer a few questions for me. Gladly she obliged.

Wendren's cat Pye having 40 winks between tasks

As my whole life revolves around animals I asked Wendren about the animals in her life and she said

‘I have a great animal past. Up till the age of 10 I wanted to be a game ranger. Then I learnt they earn very little so I changed to become a Veterinarian but when I failed Biology in High School I realised this might not be my of all things, I turned to art and design.

In small ways this comes out though because my favourite subjects are animals and my favourite place to be is in the bush (which in Africa translates to being in the wild).'

Wendren's sketches of her cat Mischief

'I grew up in a very small town in Botswana and I was very lucky because my parents never said no to injured or unusual animals (although I always wanted a goat my mom put her foot down there because it would eat all the washing). We had hedgehogs (all called Miss Tiggywiggles), rabbits, chickens, an aviary full of birds, snakes, fish (that every time you moved the tank they multiplied), an injured eagle that had flown too far and was suffering from exhaustion (we helped it until he started biting us).... and more but none of the above ever at the same time.

Perhaps the most exotic animal we ever had was a baby ostrich named 'Ozzy'.'

My time in Botswana was very special and I still feel as though that country is my second home.’

A hippo painting by Wendren

I also lived in Zambia for 6 years and Africa is very dear to me so it was moving to hear Wendren’s thoughts on her country

‘Botswana is right next to Zimbabwe and as a child I remember going there and the roads were literally covered with gold coins that had melted in. It was a gorgeous country and 7 years ago when I went back it was a completely different experience. The border post was frightening (in ways I do not want to describe), the town was all barred up and it broke my heart. It is terrifying how this country has broken.
The stories are real and very frightening and one day movies will tell these horror stories. So many friends and friends-of-friends have lost their homes and cannot go back.
This is why for every Zimbabwean Coffee sling bag that is sold (which they are not many because the coffee farming, like almost all the farming, is very little), a percentage is donated back. I do the same for Ethiopia.’

A beautiful Jack Russel portrait

Wendren has a big heart! I read on her blog that one day she was driving behind a cement truck and she spotted the paper cement bags with the elephant logo and she was inspired to make a bag from them!

Isn’t that just great – inspiration comes at any time from the most unlikely places!

Wendren says ‘Another product that is very closely related to nature to the PPC Cement Bags. The elephant is Pretoria Portland Cement's logo because it represents loyalty and strength but there is more to this story because it is about giving back in the same way I believe in giving back. In the 1980's the Kruger National Park wanted to build it's infrastructure to be better and PPC donated all the cement needed for the roads. Thereafter the elephant became synonymous with the company and now supports many other parks such as Addo Elephant Park.'

I now live in a city far away from nature like I dreamt of, or grew up in, but what comforts me is that I am able to still give back and be a part of it even if this is not directly.’

PCC Laptop Bag with the PCC Cement elephant logo

Wendren has a cat called Pye who wasn’t named until 6 months later!

Pye was rescued by a family member, as she was on her way to being handed in to the SPCA, then given to me.

You had an ostrich when you were younger. Tell me about him.

A bushman had come to the school and in his bag he had several small ostriches. He said if we did not buy them he was going to eat them so my dad took one. Ozzy pecked at all our freckles and slept with the dogs. He ate milies and loved chasing the dogs and pecking their freckles! We had 4 dogs. 3 Bull terriers and 1 fox terrier whose fast running ability was his saving grace. Eventually when he was too big the nature conservation took him away.

PCC Cement Laptop bag with elephant in black

When did you first start drawing animals?

When I was about 10. I was sick and drew my siamese cat that sat on the end of the bed.
This pencil drawing is still one of my favourites.

Elephant Organic Coffee shoulder bag.

Did you ever consider following a ‘drawing’ career instead of a designer?

No. I never felt I was good and besides the best part of drawing was how I enjoyed it.

Why did you design your first bag and what inspired you to start your business?

The first bag I designed out of necessity and then because I hated my job, I saw it as an opportunity to create a business.

Ethopian Carry-all Bag made with coffee sack from Ethopia

Had you sold your work before?

No but I have always been very entrepreneurial.
At school I was terrible because as I soon learnt, the only thing that sells is fudge and not other 'creative' things.
At tech I printed t-shirts and did other small jobs that were design related.

one of Wendren's old designs, the Ashleigh Bag

Did you attend any small business courses?

No...and I was really bad at business at tech. I have made it work because I have 'created' accounts/books that work for me and that I understand.

Keyrings of Wrens made by a local craftsperson for Wendren - now aren't they super cute!!

What motivated you to involve local people in your business and how do you see this evolving?

My granny is an amazing people person (as is my sister). I'm not so great but I enjoy helping and my life-long goal is to inspire others.

Working with my seamstresses I have been able to give them a different life – they work from home and have their own machines now.

I lecture and thus, inspire the youth. However, I am learning all the time. Education is a big factor and I cannot expect everybody to have entrepreneurial blood. This is hard because although I give so much, they often then take more than I can give and/or are not appreciative of where we have come together. I am finding this a very difficult lesson to learn.

Organic Coffee Sling Bag combining a Fair Trade recycled jute coffee sack with an organic hemp canvas

How do you see Wren growing in the future?

I'm not sure. It's about discovering new materials and new ways to use them. This is the inspiration for a new bag design.
Wendren's box of treasures! natural colour dyes!

And what projects would you like to start / be involved in (without giving away any secrets)?

I am working with an amazing designer in London collaborating on some bag designs that use African fabrics combined with the coffee sacks.
They are amazing and should be out soon. :)

I would love to be more involved in Africa with regards to the fabrics. The dyes, colours .... this makes me go all dreamy eyed.

Wendren's natural dye collection

How many of your dreams have you achieved?

Oh so many. Reflecting on this makes me smile because just yesterday I replaced (almost sadly) my 24 year old car with a new one.
This is a huge goal achieved because the old toyota corolla was not safe to drive in the areas I was taking it (especially when the petrol attendant, man selling odds and ends at the traffic light and car guard ask you if you want to sell your car and if so, if you would sell it to them).
I also have had the toyota corolla since I started driving almost 10 years ago.

What do you collect? and why?

I collect natural dyes.

I love the mystery and the secrets that each natural powder or nut holds. I have no idea how to use them properly or even what colour they make .... but they are very special to me.

Wendren is indeed an inspiration! I wish her the very best with her London collaboration, it sounds very exciting! and I shall be following her blog to see her progress with her coffee sacks and the latest design innovations.

Pye has had her 40 winks and is now checking Wendren's etsy shop for sales and enquiries!
I'm sure she will be making a treasury as well!

Thank you Wendren! it was great getting to know more about you and seeing your love for animals and Africa shine thru in your very talented work. I am sure Pye will keep you on your toes!
Many thanks.

ps. only 19 days left for the rescue rabbit raffles!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

the tiniest xmas tree

I'm not really a follower of tradition and can't remember the last time I had a Christmas tree up in the house (fake ofcourse as I don't believe in cutting down a perfectly healthy tree for just one day). I wouldn't want Arabella to get tangled amongst the tinsel, nor Wesley lost amongst the lights.

So I propose the perfect solution - Tiny Hare Xmas tree

and unlike all the fir trees, this one is not just for Christmas, it's for all year round.
Actually I forgot to mention that the beautiful pine candlestick above is on display all year round as I love it so much!

and again refusing to follow tradition, I am now scrapping all my old watercolours that I don't want any more and repainting over bits of them. This golf course has been turned upside down and a pony daubed over the cloudy sky. This is another new shadow box of a Norwegian Fjord horse.

As the paper is already used I don't benefit too much from it's translucency as this sky is rather stormy, so I have used my Chinese White for once.
I wrote a bit about my process of this horse on my flicker page and I have a couple more photos on there.

The box is nearly finished. I have removed the shiny gold crown from the right hand corner and changed it to an old scrap piece of metal I found that resembles a horse shoe shape. As it's not a real horse shoe it illustrates perfectly the relationship the North American Indians had with their semi wild horses and their lack of controlled and constrained domesticity.
My Fjord horse turned out more North American Indian, not sure which tribe exactly. But the feathers are there and came from the wild birds I feed daily, Wesley donated some of his snow white fur and Arabella donated some of her soft brown strands.

Even the best intentions for painting can take one by surprise! So I find that with an open mind and being adaptable I more readily accept my 'creations' as they take their own shape and form.

And incase you thought it's too early to get your own tree going, perhaps it's not!
Though these tiny hares are now in my etsy shop, and some are on transatlantic journey as I type!

Only a few weeks left for the 2 rabbit rescue raffles I am. Click on the links on the right to buy your tickets - lots of Great Rabbit prizes to be won!!
..... well, someone has to win them! may aswell be you :)

good luck! paws crossed!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Scandinavian Winter Visitors

Fieldfares are one of my most favourite birds. I love their large size and the smoky dark colours with flashes of white.

Whenever I have been to Norway I see plenty of them, hunting for worms on the grass. They are similar in colour to the Norwegian landscape and oh so beautiful!

And it was by time that I painted one! So here is my first ever Fieldfare and her Nest within a Nest shadow box mixed media assemblage.

Everything here has been recycled from previous lives except the new white thread

I painted Filedfare on an old painting I had done years ago. I decided that I didn't like the painting so I ripped it in half, turned the sky upside down and daubed her on top amongst the grey Scottish clouds.

I wanted to add some bits so I raked thru my stamp collection and tried a Canadian horse and rose buttons ...

it had a tad too much warmth in it, so I next tried a British xmas stamp but the blues were too rich and the buttons too plasticy

this last horse alos from Canada had to much green and by this stage buttons were now out!

So I found 2 old British Machin design stamps that brought the greys out on Fieldfare, stuck in a substantial vintage gold coloured steel pin for balance, strength and vulnerability, added some of my grandmother's very vintage pearls and scrap threads of Scottish tweeds from my stuffing pile to make her nest ...

stitch the eggs in place and ....

place the nest inside the old packaging box lid 'nest' and

here is my first ever shadow box assemblage! Fieldfare's Nest within a Nest

with the long thread leading you in to the private scene, delicate but resolute.

This assemblage may be going into a gallery for their xmas exhibition, all depends if the gallery owner thinks it will be in his clients' tastes. After all, art must sell to gain the value placed on it, otherwise it is merely a space taker on a wall in your fleeting view.
Though I am rather fond of it, and my views are not so fleeting as I caress it with my eyes

These smaller pieces may go into my etsy shop however. They are painted on thick watercolour paper, smaller in size than an aceo (2.5 x 3.5 inches) but with their 'frame' it takes them roughly to aceo size

so after years of constraints in painting only watercolours on watercolour paper and framing on card behind glass I have now broken my glass ceiling and I'm creating with no barriers or rules - and it feels good!

for some reason I have never felt constraints when it comes to my soft sculptures or Arabella bags. I just stitch and sew as the materials and thingys take me! (these tiny ornaments will be in my etsy shop verrrry soooon, except 4 - they have places to go and people, er, buns to meet!)
and talking about Arabella bags, well today, my own tiny Scandinavian visitor has declared that for xmas she wants an Arabella b....
oops, I won't let the cat out of the bag!

Don't forget the raffles - still 1 month to go - Lots of amazing prizes - it only takes 1 ticket for you to WIN - see raffle links at top of blog on right hand side,
many thanks!