When you turn out to be cleverer than you thought you were…

I’m basking in the warm and particular glow you get when you have created something that turns out to be rather special, albeit in a small way.

Like many people who learned the basics of knitting as a child, I have recently rediscovered the pleasure of knitting and for the last few years I have been making simple items, mostly following the patterns of the wonderful Erica Knight. She’s inspired me to let my mind wander towards my own projects and I have just re-opened my Etsy shop so I can feature the result: some rather desirable neck-warmers.

Why neck warmers? Well, obviously the pattern is straight forward – it’s a rectangle of knitting stitched together into a tube. Keeping to a simple rectangle has allowed me to experiment with yarn combinations and needle sizes to come up with a very easy to wear and versatile result. I have been wearing my prototype for weeks now and love it – whether going out for a walk, working at the computer, sitting knitting or just watching television it provides the right amount of warmth and definitely helps to stop neck and shoulder muscles freezing. I also love the stitch I’ve used so much that I am toying with the idea of knitting a jumper – something quite blocky, based again on rectangles. I think it could work. But in the meantime, why not neck warmers?

It’s not just me who likes them – I’ve gifted them to family and friends – women, men, boys and girls – and everyone has told me how much they like them. (I know what you are thinking, but my friends and family are very honest people!). I sent one to my artist daughter who tells me she’s been wearing her’s while she works, and that she loves it: it stops her getting a cold, stiff neck while working. Although scarves are great, they often leave a gap where the draft gets in, and they often need adjusting which, if you are focusing on work, can be distracting. My neck warmers are very much “wear and forget” items – that is until you look in the mirror and remember how nice they look!

One of the things that pleases me most about the design is that they are very stretchy and shape-able – you can spread them out for maximum neck coverage, or let them roll up when that suits you better. You can improvise a mini-hat/head band too.

Please take a look at my shop for more colours and information. At the moment I am only posting within the UK, but if you live elsewhere and would like to buy let me know – I can give you a quote for postage.

Thanks for reading! If nothing else, I hope I’ve helped pass on the knitting inspiration and that you’ll have a go at some projects of your own.

 

When a little means a lot in a photograph

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Today I’d like to share the photograph I took early on a sunny April morning of St Andrew’s Church in Clevedon.

This beautiful Romanesque church is a popular subject for local photographers, nestled as it is between Church Hill and Wains Hill, with the Bristol channel and the headlands of the North Somerset coast as a backdrop. I’ve taken many other photos of the church myself in the past, but this one struck me as being very satisfying.

I can’t really take much credit for being in the right place at the right time on a beautiful spring morning, but I am very happy with the natural light that you find in the Golden Hour photographers always talk about. I especially like the way the early morning light catches the single cross against the dark background, and I think this makes all the difference to the effectiveness of the photograph.

A further admission I need to make is that I didn’t notice the cross when I took the photograph, as I was more concerned with getting the right balance in the composition between the wall in the foreground and the sea and sky behind. So a second lesson to those starting in photography is to look at all your shots carefully when you are back home and editing. Sometimes you have created a better photograph than you realise!

The original photograph is available in my RedBubble shop in many formats. Please take a look!

New Zealand Mud – it has attitude!

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Travel broadens the mind they say. It also amazes and educates…

Disagree if you will, but I think that for those of us born in geologically stable places, rather than being properly terrifying or exciting, the idea of events such as earth-quakes and volcanoes is mostly simply unimaginable. We see film or read about natural events like these and although we are captivated we can’t really imagine what it is like to be in the presence of such power. So a trip to New Zealand is illuminating.

Around Rotarua there are geothermal wonders aplenty: sulphorus pools, clouds of steam, geysers and bubbling hot mud pools. You are left with no doubt that the Earth’s crust is thin right there, and you are protected from all that heat and energy by just a few metres of rock.

The mud pools are great to watch too, although there always seems to be something extraordinary happening out of the corner of your eye – just where you weren’t looking. I focused on one circle of activity and took a stream of photos with a fast shutter speed. Most just look like muddy ripples, but I came up lucky with the one I’ve included up above. By no means technically perfect, but it captures the moment.

(The photo is available to buy in a range of formats through my RedBubble shop)

 

Bristol Old Vic and the Grinning Man

1-img_0389-001It’s shameful really, isn’t it? I’ve lived in Clevedon for over four years and I have only just had my first visit to the Bristol Old Vic… well it won’t be the last!

If you live in or near Bristol, I am sure you are very well aware of the beautiful theatre in King Street – close to Harbourside and many wonderful pubs and restaurants. As you can see from the ticket pack above, the theatre is celebrating 250 years this year, and you get a real sense of that history in the street outside and also inside the venue. It’s a gorgeous traditional space, managing to be  intimate and impressive at the same time. The backstage bar area is large, comfortable and modern. Staff members are friendly and the atmosphere is welcoming and relaxed. Work is underway on improvements to the front of house, but this doesn’t in any way diminish from the pleasure of a visit.

I booked online for the evening performance of The Grinning Man this week and I must say that the booking process was really efficient and a pleasure to use. I chose tickets closer to the top end of the scale than the bottom, to be on the safe side on our first go, but I think next time I’d be more than happy with cheaper options.

The play itself is well worth seeing. It’s a macabre musical, based on the Victor Hugo book L’Homme Qui Rit  – The Laughing Man. Victor Hugo, of course, wrote Les Miserables, and this is from the same stable. So the story has treachery, cruelty and love, brought to the audience through a wonderful production incorporating puppetry, excellent acting, music and singing. The audience loved it and there was a standing ovation and much applause at the end. I’m not going to tell you more however much you ask! I’m sure you’ll easily find detailed reviews online and elsewhere, but I think knowing too much about plots in advance can spoil surprises, so that’s all you are getting from me. If you can get to Bristol before the end of the run on November 13 2016, do so! If the production moves to other theatres near you I hope you manage to see it at a future date!

I’ll leave you with that thought as I’m heading to the website right now to sign up as a Friend of the Bristol Old Vic

 

Why I’m taking so many photos THIS colour

1-_mg_0226-002Here’s a typical example of my recent photographic output. Monochromes, subdued colours…

Why am I drawn to colours and subjects like this? Maybe it’s because of where I live – on the coast near Bristol, where the water is the muddy water of the Bristol Channel. The water is usually brown because of all the silt it contains and hardly ever blue – only if you catch the perfect angle of the sun and the reflection of the sky. And then it is not the blue of the ocean, but a silvery, metallic blue. There are some sand banks in the channel, but the coast is lined with mud flats. It’s often cloudy so skies are quite often grey.

Does that sound depressing? Well I don’t mean it to because the very nature of the colours makes you aware of the variety of subtle shades within the blanket terms “grey”, “brown” or even – dare I say it? – “beige”. The more you look the more you see shades of pink, green, blue and lavender, to name a few.

The colour palette is even more varied when the sunset is spectacular.

The training of your eye doesn’t stop at noticing colour. There is the not insignificant matter of texture too. The mud flats are lined with meandering water channels, gulleys and creases, that bring to mind the image of the skin under a blue whale’s throat. Even a rolling grey sky above a silver grey sea has textures to delight the eye and the soul.

Throw in some man-made features for a little extra variety and there is always something to tempt the photographer.

There is interest and beauty everywhere – you just have to look.

[Many of my photographs are available to buy from my RedBubble online shop. Here’s a link to the latest Lines and leaves ]

Masks: art work and inspirations

So, a while ago I was indulging my artistic streak and I created a series of naïve pieces that I really like. In fact the more I look at them, the more I like them!

I was inspired by a number of things – the traditional reversible designs on playing cards (Jack, Queen and King designs), the masks you see in many different cultures world wide, and legends such as the ancient Green Man. Quite a lot of art starts with playing with ideas, so the idea dawned and I doodled, thought and tried out different ways to get what I wanted. After some work developing a style that worked, I completed several takes on the theme, pictured above.

I like them all! If you do too, you can buy the images in several formats on RedBubble and Zippi.

You can also buy some of the originals – on A4 perforated paper, just as they came out of my art book – in my auction on eBay. Here’s where you’ll find the Blue and Blue Masks. As with eBay, the starting prices are crazily low, so there’s a good chance to snap up a bargain and get your Christmas shopping off to a unique start!

#shamlessselfpromotion!

 

 

High tides and roe deer

When you live near the sea and there is a high tide, it’s only natural to head to the coast and take a look. Where we live in Clevedon we are less than five minutes stroll from the sea-front, and although (or should that be ‘because’?) the coast is the Bristol Channel rather than the open ocean it feels very special.

1-img_0306There are so many strong currents in the channel that when you add a stiff breeze and the bouncing of waves off the sea-wall and rocks, you get very intricate movement. Waves travel from different directions to crash into each other, creating ridges, depressions and foams that are overall are quite mesmerising. I know the water is always brown, because of the amount of silt it contains, but I think this adds a textural quality to the water.

The sky was beautiful too: but then it usually is here!

1-img_0304This photo show just how high the water was, and the pier almost looks as though it is floating. This would have been a good time to get into the porthole room underneath the pier, but sadly we were out and about before opening time.

Walking home past Clevedon Hall, something in the trees caught my eye.

1-img_0327-001It’s not the best photo, but who would expect such a view of a roe deer near a busy road at 8:45 am. I snapped fast! Maybe I could have taken my time, as he watched me all the way down the road without moving from the spot.

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When you like nature, photography and writing, days like to day are gifts!