Saturday, 7 December 2019

Advent Windows

It's not often that I'm sitting doing nothing much on a Saturday afternoon but after several weeks of non stop activity plus a bout of seasonal insomnia (always happens this time of year - too much going on adds up to a busy head that won't let me sleep) has led to my body screaming "Stop and put your feet up woman". So that is what I am doing. However I'm not one for daytime snoozing so I thought I would pop by here for a quick update while I recline on the sofa.


Within just a few weeks of moving to the village I was asked if I would like to participate in an advent windows event called "Light the Night". Throughout December different households light up a window each evening until there are twenty four different illuminated windows throughout the village. It sounded such a lovely idea and back in July, December was still a long way off so of course I agreed to take part. Fast forward several months and I have been frantically gluing and grouting broken china and mosaic tiles to wooden angel shaped bases. There were a few technical issues i.e the stick on hooks kept falling off the window frames and until I actually switched it all on I wasn't sure how illuminated it would be but come lighting up time on 2nd December I was thrilled with the resulting window.


I have fifteen mosaic angels plus a bauble with a number two (because we were 2nd December) hanging from each glass panel amid lots of fairy lights and twinkly bits.


We had quite a crowd turn up for lighting up time who were treated to a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie or two.



It has felt lovely to be part of such a festive tradition and although I'm sure we won't make every lighting up time until 24th, we have managed to be there at 5pm every evening so far.

 
The event was started last Sunday on the 1st December at the village pub where ten windows were revealed one at a time while the landlady read the story of The Nutcracker to the gathered crowd.


On 3rd my friend Vicky revealed her windows, which depicted the Three Little Pigs. Her beautiful straw thatched cottage used to be a piggery and then subsequently it was a pub called The Pig and Whistle. Her thatch also has straw pigs along the roofline so you'll understand why she chose her beautiful scene. The colours are glorious.


On the 4th we were treated to a Bethlehem scene lit up by a beautiful star


And on 5th, the school revealed their window of the Three Kings bearing gifts, created by the pupils and staff.


Last night we were treated to a traditional nativity scene with beautiful carved wooden figures from Africa.


We'll be taking another little wander up the road this evening to see what is in store for the seventh window as it is such a wonderful way to count down the days until Christmas. Although to be fair we have got a chocolate calander too!

Sunday, 24 November 2019

So This is November!

Oh dear.... nearly a month since I last blogged and November almost came and went without a word but I've snuck in briefly to say hello. I'm not even that sure what I have been up to but the days have been full and whizzing by as ever. Just a taste of what has happened since I last dropped by...


Painting
I've been doing lots more painting, including ripping things up, reassembling and then stitching into them. And I sold the one above which was based on my trip to the Lakes at the beginning of October.


I think I said in my last post that I had been doing a fabulous on line painting course with Louise Fletcher called Find Your Joy. I pretty much decided not to continue to the second course but then changed my mind. I've not regretted it and continue to churn out paintings.


I'm aiming for big skies and light open spaces. Maybe these will be ripped up and reassembled too!


Cooking
I'm trying really hard to like my Aga but it's really not winning me over. Admittedly it's rather nice to have it constantly throwing out heat now it's cold out but I don't enjoy cooking on it. There is so much moving things from oven to oven, the heat drops during the day and the more it is used and I just don't find it precise enough. Someone suggested that it is wonderful for doing a roast and yes, I have made an excellent roast dinner but no better than I could do in my old conventional oven and it took twice as long by the time everything was moved around the various ovens. What a faff!


Baking is a bit hit and miss too... good when it works but I've had a couple of disasters with previously reliable recipes. It seems too much hassle to get the thing removed so I'm just resigned to no longer enjoying cooking like I did. More time for painting I guess!


Teaching
I'm currently doing two classes a week in machine embroidery and book making. Current projects are Christmas Crackers... not the first time I've blogged about them.


and these little album style books. Full instructions for both are available as downloads from my Etsy shop... just in case you are interested!


Mosaics
I've been making lots of mosaics, mostly for a special project that will be revealed at the beginning of next month. Can't spoil the surprise and tell you what it is so maybe I'll be tempted back to the blog to tell you all about it before another four weeks have passed. Don't hold your breath!


I've also been decorating a tree for a Christmas tree festival in the church in our old village... and we have chosen our own locally grown tree from this village that will be dug next month. I've been catching up with friends and family over lunches and dinners, as well as meeting new friends over coffee. Books have been read, meetings attended and I have a new studio in the garden that is almost ready to move into... can't wait to finally get rid of all the boxes and stuff that have been cluttering up the house. And I have survived another month of no new clothes, which really hasn't been a hardship. And that has been November. I'm sure there has been lots more going on too but I can't recall exactly what else has been keeping me busy and away from the blog. Maybe see you again before too long if you are not bored silly with my ramblings!

Monday, 28 October 2019

Blogging, Life and Art

I never intended being away so long but somehow blogging no longer feels like it is up there at the top of my list of priorities. I still enjoy writing but there is always so much else to do and life just feels busier than ever. I know I have felt this way before and yet have never quite been able to give it up. I have been writing this now for over twelve years and have seen many old blogging friends come and go, but I have carried on because it felt like something I needed to do, but it no longer has that same pull. And of course, the longer between posts the more there is to write about and the longer it all takes. There has been so much going on since my last post for instance...


I have come to the end of the ten week painting course I was taking and can't quite believe how much new work I have made... and so different to anything I have ever painted before. I really am loving it and want to do lots more, so it was tempting to take the six week follow up course but I was finding it really hard to keep up with the modules (and I haven't finished them all) so thought it was best to concentrate on finishing and trying more of what I have already been doing. These are just two of my recent pieces on paper.


I spent a day at the knitting and stitching show as an Artist in Action for Art Van Go. I had a lovely day working with Maria Boyle and Jenny O'Leary.


Whilst there I took some of the paintings I had been working on and deconstructed (i.e. tore up) and stitched into them, something I would quite like to explore further. I also managed to spill hot wax everywhere because I am so clumsy but that's another story!


I constructed some of the stitched pieces into little folding books.




I finished knitting a scarf from some variegated sock wool and took about fifty selfies trying to get a decent photo for Instagram. I always end up pulling ridiculous faces so I've cropped my face off this one. You really don't need to see me pulling a funny face. I think I'm the wrong generation for a selfie... no plumped up lips and painted on eyebrows for a start! I like the scarf and it matches lots of my tops but I wouldn't recommend the pattern as it's a very peculiar shape. It is the only new thing I've had this month and made from yarn I already had so I'm still on track for no new clothes for a year... ten more months to go!


I spent a brilliant day learning how to carve a spoon and was actually allowed to use an axe which was rather exciting given how clumsy I am.

I also got to use a very sharp knife for the final whittling and managed to get away with just a few small nicks in my hand. I was more upset that I was getting blood on the spoon than about anything else.


It doesn't bear close scrutiny but for my first time ever working with wood I was quite pleased. I've started a list of 100 new things to do before I'm 100 and this was one of those things. I'm tagging the posts with them in but not necessarily writing them all down in a list like my sixty by sixty. I have an axe and a whittling knife on my Christmas list now!


Did I mention I have been in a play too? Eight weeks of rehearsing and learning lines so I guess it's little wonder I've not had time for blogging. The performances were last week and it seemed to be quite well received. It was all a bit ridiculous being a typical farce and I think really I just like dressing up. I loved the pink boots... and  I dyed my hair pink to match! It was lots of fun but it's also quite nice that it's over.


So you can probably see why there has been no time for blogging, although I'm on Instagram most days. A post on Instagram takes just minutes and can be done on my phone. You can find me at gina_ferrari_art although it's not all art...


But then if all life is art I suppose it is. There are paintings but also stitching, knitting, food, walks... and even the occasional dodgy selfie.

I'm not saying I will stop blogging altogether... not just yet because it's hard to stop something you have done for twelve years... but you are more likely to find me on Instagram!

Saturday, 12 October 2019

A Feral Weekend

Last weekend I headed up to the English Lakes for a spot of feral spinning (I didn't know it was a thing either!) and rustic camping. I admit I hadn't the faintest idea what I was letting myself in for and I decided to go on a bit of a whim. To be honest the lure of the Lake District was enough - it's been far too long since I was last there, plus the weekend was being organised by the lovely Lucy Locket, a long time friend and blogger and the chance for a get together sounded too good to miss.


After a long seven hour drive I eventually arrived at the beautiful Dodson Wood on the east side of Coniston Water. Our home for the weekend was this amazing off-grid eco barn. No electricity, no washing facilities and compostable toilets but surprisingly cosy and comfortable. After depositing my bags and picking out my mattress I headed back to the lakeside with a couple of the other women where we paddled in the cool water as the sun set. After a delicious meal and an evening getting to know each other (I had only met Lucy before) we put out the candles and turned off our solar lights and settled down in our sleeping bags to cries of "Good night John Boy..." , each of us hoping we might make it through the night without unzipping, finding a torch and venturing outside for a wee. None of us managed it!


In the morning we split into two groups and I went out with the amazing Debbie Zawinsky author of In The Footsteps of Sheep, who took us on a circular walk foraging for dye stuffs such as lichen, heather, gorse flowers and oak leaves etc. We cut our own hazel sticks to make spindles and gathered sheep's wool from the fences. We also climbed a few gates and stiles and let's just say I'm not as young and agile as I used to be!


It was great to be out with someone so knowledgeable about the trees and countryside.



In the afternoon we swapped groups and I had an afternoon soap making with Maria from the Soap Dairy and came back with a bag of deliciously scented natural soaps.
In the evening after another hearty meal Debbie showed us how to cut and whittle our sticks to turn them into spinning sticks, nostepinnes, spindles and niddy noddies!

The next day Debbie demonstrated how to use our collected dye stuffs to make dye baths for the fleece we had collected and we produced a range of colours from yellows, to olive greens and browns. At lunchtime we ventured on a short hike up the hillside where we were rewarded with magnificent views.



At the top of the hill we arrived at Low Parkamore Cottage, a grade II listed 16th century farmhouse where gathered around the wood burning stove and Debbie demonstrated spinning using our hand made tools. It was like taking a step back in time.


On our last evening a few of us ventured back down to the Lake where three brave souls actually went for a swim. I was very tempted, never having tried wild swimming before but I didn't have a cossie with me and although I would have happily swum in underwear more importantly I had no cosy towel to dry off with. My small hand towel just didn't really feel adequate. Plus my niggly cough that I had come away with felt like it was building into something more than just a niggle! So I rolled up my trousers and made do with another paddle.

The rest of the evening was spent eating and singing when Debbie and her friend each a produced eukulele  and entertained us all evening with their songs and playing. We joined in and sang, we knitted and spun and there was even some basket making but most of all we laughed. I can't remember laughing so much.


I came home on Monday after a much better journey armed not only with a new skill - I have never tried spinning before - but also with new friends and lovely memories. I have spun two tiny skeins of yarn but I think it might be a while before I manage enough to knit a pair of socks. At least I have Debbie's book to inspire me.


I also treated myself to a couple of Lucy's beautiful knitting kits


And of course, I have my lovely soaps to try too.


I might have left my voice behind, it was full blown laryngitis by the time I arrived home, but it was a wonderful weekend and I am so glad I went. Although I have to admit the flushing loo and a hot shower at home were heavenly!

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Mending, Upcycling and Random Stuff!

Hello!
I can't believe that it is October already. The weeks are whizzing by with no time to write blog posts, nor read them either lately. I managed to get through September without buying any new clothes which really wasn't much of a hardship, but it did make me take a look at what I already own. I decided I would mend a small hole in a favourite pair of jeans by adding some Boro style stitching.


The hole was patched with a square of cotton fabric and then I added the running stitch with a variegated thread to add strength to the patch.


 I like it so much that I was tempted to add extra patches where they weren't needed and I'm now on the look out for more items that need mending.


I thought that if I am going to spend a whole year without buying anything new it might be a good idea to browse the charity shops now and then to see what bargains might be had. I didn't expect to find anything I wanted to buy but then I spotted this red cotton cardigan that still had an original label attached so had never been worn. I have been looking for a plain red cardi for quite a while so I snapped it up and all for a bargain price of £4!


I wasn't over keen on the black ribbon trim or black buttons but an evening with a seam ripper and my button box soon fixed that.


I didn't quite have seven matching buttons but I had three of one type and four of another so I've alternated them down the front and don't think anyone will notice... well, not unless you've read this blog post of course!


I was slightly tempted by a soft shirt for sale in the supermarket. Although I don't buy that many new clothes it is the sort of thing I might have happily popped into my shopping basket without a second thought... but I resisted. Then just a couple of days later I spotted this lovely soft denim shirt in the charity shop for under a fiver instead. It has a really unusual cut on the back with a diagonal pleat. I tried photographing it but it looked rubbish, not helped by the fact it needed ironing. I wasn't going to get the iron out just so I could get a decent photo so you'll have to take my word for it.


Once again I decided to add my own twist and so have embroidered the pocket flaps. Actually no, I have embroidered one pocket flap and I'm half way through the second but they will get done because I like them. I was thinking about a single little yellow daisy on each collar point too but maybe that is too much... what do you think?


In other news we have had Stewart's Mum staying with us for a long weekend which was lovely... a bit like a mini staycation for us with lunches out and a punt tour on the River Cam courtesy of son no. 2. I know I have sung his praises before but he really does give an amazing tour with a full hour of humorous embellished commentary on the history of Cambridge,  the university and its inhabitants. You don't just have to take my word for it... last month we had a punt trip with our reading group where Sam wasn't our guide for reasons I won't embarrass him with (although I'm thinking of buying him a diary!) When the guide we did have found out that I knew Sam his reaction was "Sam, he's a legend on the River, he gives an amazing tour."

So if you want the best trip ever on the River Cam... book with Cambridge Punters and ask for Sam (just remember to send him a reminder in the morning!)


We almost dodged the rain but not quite!


I also finished the blinds for the bedroom. It took us almost as long to put them up as it did for me to make them but here we are three months after moving and we finally have some privacy in our bedroom. I think the neighbours are probably relieved!


This week the garage has been demolished to make way for a studio for me, which should be ready by the end of November. |I am just a little bit excited. And at the weekend I am off on a wild retreat... no electricity, no hot water in the middle of a forest by Lake Coniston. It seemed like a good idea when I booked it but I'll let you know!