Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Marigold - #enjoythelittlethings

This image is hi-resolution A4 size if you want to save it and print it -
 or maybe you'd just like to 'pin' it to spread some encouragement?

I was really pleased to find this quote to go with the Marigold, the October Birth Month flower.

I love roses and lotus flowers but a vase of marigolds can give me every bit as much enjoyment as any of the more exotic flowers. 

Marigolds are easy to grow, seed themselves profusely and provide a welcome splash of colour in the flower beds - though October is far too late for them here in the UK! - so I think they are every bit as much to be cherished as any flower!

I find myself increasingly appreciating the amazing 'everyday', the awesome 'ordinary' - in preference to the 'extraordinary'. 

Especially on the internet, it's so easy to find ourselves being fed an over-rich diet of 'amazing'. On practically any webpage I open, even the weather forecast, there will be links to all sorts of astonishing things. Superlatives abound - the 50 fattest countries, the world's most enormous castles, 30 happiest cities, 50 weird and wonderful animal facts . . . 

After a while, I can feel my senses glazing over at all this amazing-ness! 

Better to ignore all these enticing headings than reach a point where 'amazing' ceases to amaze and, just like painkillers, we adapt and need ever higher levels of sensationalism to make any impression at all!

Give me a clump of self-seeded Marigolds any day, glowing against the green of the leaves and the blue of the nearby Mountain Cornflowers in the corner of my little back garden! In spite of my neglect, they'll keep flowering and creating a cheering picture. 

That's what I call truly amazing!

The garden of my childhood home was full of marigolds. My mother did most of the gardening but without the luxury of purchases from garden centres. Even if they had existed at that time, we couldn't have afforded it! It was a pretty little garden and I used to love to pick a posy that consisted of one each of all the flowers. Maybe that's where I learnt to appreciate the beautiful things that cost next to nothing?

So yes -

It does not matter if you are a rose or a lotus or a 
What matters is that you are flowering.

And I think it's time to 




(I think I'd quite like to be a Marigold!)

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Spreading the idea of the Seasonal Door Wreath!

It all began with Pinterest last spring, when I was putting together boards to represent the four seasons!

That's when I discovered that hanging a decorated wreath on our front doors isn't restricted to Christmas-time. This discovery fired my imagination so much that I wanted to drop everything and make a spring wreath straight away. 

But where to get the base? Naturally, I did a google search for sources of bases - which led me to a website with lovely clear instructions for making my own and I plunged right in!

You'll find more about my Spring Wreath
and a link to the 'Modern Country' blog
where I found the instructions

In the summer I didn't have time to make another wreath base from scratch so I cheated and filled a pretty heart-shaped wire basket with (artificial) summer 

But with my honeysuckle hedge growing like a triffid this summer, sending out such long shoots that it's barely possible to get past it to refill my bird feeder, I was determined to take advantage of the fresher stems to make the base for my autumn wreath!

The honeysuckle threatening to strangle the climbing roses!

I somehow still didn't get around to having my wreath all ready in time for the 
first day of autumn. But we were still having unusually summery weather so my 
poppies, daisies and cornflowers didn't seem too out of place.

I finally found some time to cut back the honeysuckle last Sunday afternoon and the sun was still so warm in my garden that I decided to use the stems I cut off to make the wreath base outside in my garden, to save the mess in my kitchen. And all that bending and trimming the stems can result in quite a mess, especially if you haven't removed the leaves and berries!

During the week, I've begged or bought all sorts of bits and pieces for my Autumn Wreath and found some more in the park. 

A word of warning if you think of making something like this: try to use flowers 
with stems that are thin enough to slot into the wreath base - or at least thin 
enough to cut easily. I bought some lovely sprays of berries and so on from the local florist but the stems were far too long and almost too thick to cut. So I ended up having to use wire to keep them in place; not a disaster but not ideal either.

In most matters of design, I tend to prefer 'balance' to 'symmetry' because it's usually less formal; and I just followed my instinct when I created my Spring Wreath.  

But I thought it would be good to make a change and try to create a symmetrical Autumn Wreath - funny how that strong instinct of mine took over and ended up with 'balance' again!

So here it is, finally finished and hung on the door, just as the weather has finally turned chilly and damp, much more autumnal -

The seed-heads on the left are Granny's Bonnets (Aquilegia) from
my garden, the beech-masts and cone are from the park and
the dark seed heads at the top are from a neighbour's garden,
 Rudbeckia, or something like that, I think.
I'm not usually very enthusiastic about our British habit of frequently importing 
ideas from the other side of the pond. Maybe I'm old-fashioned but I don't like the idea that 'globalisation' can blur the (positive) differences between countries and their cultures too completely. 

But the idea of a seasonal door wreath is one idea I'll happily borrow from our American friends and I'd love to see the idea spread over here too!

My front door isn't easily visible from the pavement so the best way to promote the idea is through my blog.

So - all you clever and crafty Brits, 
what are you waiting for?

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Morning Glory Illustrated Quotation

Although I'm quite wary of a lot of the 'positive thinking' quotes that circulate on the social media, I think I am a generally a persistently optimistic person, which is not quite the same thing.

So I try to choose quotations to illustrate that convey a mood of optimism, as I hope this one does. I like the fact that it says 'some of Life's beautiful things . . .' - hinting at a possibility rather than claiming to know for a fact.

Please feel free to save and print this A4-sized,
high resolution image if you wish - or just 'pin' it!

Apart from being a quote from a book called 'Morning Glory', I felt this one was a very appropriate quotation for such a brilliantly coloured flower that can brighten up a dark corner of a garden, well into the autumn when the shade lingers longer. 

That's exactly how I think of Morning Glory flowers. 

I've only once succeeded in growing them; mine always seem to succumb to either the slugs or the frost, or possibly both. And that's why they gave me a lovely surprise the year when they did survive, blooming so brilliantly in a dark corner of my garden, well into September, after I'd given up hope of seeing them and forgotten I'd even planted them!

So this is for anyone who ever experiences 'dark moments' -
and I expect that includes almost everyone!

Friday, 12 September 2014

The (highly addictive) Joy of Pattern-making

Have you ever been told that you work too hard? Or that you spend too much of your time on a computer?

I have - and so, it seems, have many of my friends who are designers or pattern-makers. It's perfectly possible to get so absorbed in making patterns that the hours fly by, while the dinner burns in the oven, the washing gets soaked on the line - and our nearest and dearest start to feel decidedly neglected.

So is it the computer that draws our attention away from what's going on around us? Or is it the designing? 

I think it's probably a mixture of the two, though I do know people who work on computers all day who can't wait to get away from them at the end of the day; which seems to suggest that the designing is probably the main cause, especially if it involves making patterns.

What is it about pattern-making that is so absorbing, almost to the point of 'addiction'?

Is it the fact that our brains are hard-wired to make patterns? Partly.

Is it the fact that, unlike most other forms of art, pattern-making can constantly surprise us? I may think I am in charge of the plan for a pattern but what actually happens is that, at some point in the pattern-making process, unexpected effects, 'happy accidents', seem to occur quite frequently! I don't think I ever create a pattern without being, at least once, 'surprised by joy!'

And that's another thing - the designer, aided and abetted by sophisticated designing software, can experience pure joy whenever a pattern comes together in just the right way. 

But so can a landscape painter, a photographer or any creative person whatever creative activity they pursue . . .

So what is about pattern-making that is different? What makes is so absorbing that the hours disappear and nothing else seems to matter?

I think it is the 'what if?' element. 

We know that curiosity and the willingness to risk failure are components of creativity. Small children will try all sorts of things in the spirit of wondering, 'what if . . .?' "what if I colour my bedroom wall with my crayons?' "what if I mix up all the spices in the kitchen cupboard?" "what if I put the cat in the drawer and close it . . .?"

When we are absorbed in creating our patterns, in a sense we are back in our early childhood - but with the advantage of having an adult's ability to use a computer to extend and enhance our original ideas. And time becomes as irrelevant as it is to a small child who can't understand the urgency of getting to school on time!

Some adult thought has probably gone into the original design - like this one that I painted a few weeks ago.

But then, after scanning it and the tedious process of tidying it up and making the background transparent on the computer, we enter the magical world of 'what if . . .'

What if I try different background colours?

What if I take one of the little blue flowers and make it into a 'polka dot'?

What if I take the individual flowers and 'toss' them around to make a completely different, but coordinating pattern?

Stripes maybe? And even a plaid or a matching check gingham?

And then - what if I put some of them together in mix'n'match designs?


Or even a faux patchwork?

And then, maybe, just maybe, I can take a piece of the original painting and use it to make a border? I wonder whether that'll work . . . ?

Of course, I've made it look more straightforward than it probably is! It doesn't always run so smoothly. 

As well as 'happy accidents', there are the unexpected results that are far from welcome too! Finding patterns that work together can take time . . . and that's when other things can get neglected, as we wrestle with the 'ingredients' that we know will eventually fall into place, if we just keep working at it!

And then there's the placing the patterns on products - more 'what if?'s!

How will the border look on a teapot? Can I use the mix'n'match to make a greeting card . . .? What will the faux patchwork look like on a laptop sleeve?

Here's a pillow/cushion that I think came out quite well -

Of course, I always hope that others will enjoy my 'creations' as much as I enjoy creating them.


So if you are one of those people who suffer from a friend or family member getting so caught up in their pattern-making that you feel neglected, please don't take it personally! 

I very much hope that the process I have described here will go some way to helping you understand what's going on - and it may even, maybe, help you to share in the excitement and ultimately, the joy as well.

And if you are on the receiving end of grumbles about your 'obsession', don't let the negative remarks stop you doing what you love! Remember, nobody else can do what you do - your 'talent' is your gift to the world and, as Louise Hay said, 'somewhere, someone is looking for just what you have to offer'. 

Try to accept that a 'balanced' life may not be for you - in fact, I sometimes think that the concept of the 'balanced life' is probably the handy invention of those who lack the courage to embrace their talents whole-heartedly, never daring to ask 'what if?' - and that could never be said of you, could it?

If Early Man had listened to his wife and led a 'balanced life', if he had never allowed himself to to wonder, 'what if . . . ?' the wheel might never have been invented.

Now there's a thought!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Poppies In Flanders Fields . . .

Please feel free to pin or download and print this high-resolution A4-sized quotation

The Poppy is the August Birth Month flower. But it has also been adopted as the Symbol of Remembrance, honoring those who have sacrificed their lives in war.

So, as we commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War this month, it seems appropriate that the quotation should be from one of the most poignant poems about 'The Great War', the war that was supposed to end all wars.

You can read about the author, a Canadian physician, 
and how he came to write the poem after the Battle of Ypres,