28 March 2020

Signs of the times


Graffiti in Hong Kong, which reads:
‘We can’t return to normal, because the normal that we had was precisely the problem.’

27 March 2020

Cheerful reading, mostly

Some favourite books for (re)reading in times like these, compiled with the help of Liz and Carol. Further suggestions are welcome (these for instance).
Recommendations from LRB Bookshop
Many of the books that came to our minds were those that impressed us as adolescents; many of our authors are female, and we often said "oh and her other works too!"

Our hearts were young and gay - Cornelia Otis Skinner, Emily Kimbrough

Lolly Willowes - Sylvia Townsend Warner

The Enchanted April - Elizabeth von Arnim

The happy prisoner - Monica Dickens

Old Filth - Jane Gardam

the "sharp" novels of "the other" Elizabeth Taylor

Tom's Midnight Garden - Philippa Pearce

Marianne Dreams - Catherine Storr

The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster

E Nesbit's books



Emil and the Detectives - Erich Kastner

Dodie Smith - I capture the castle, and also 101 Dalmatians

The Children who lived in a Barn - Eleanor Graham

The Spettecake Holiday - Edith Unnerstad

Precious Bane - Mary Webb

Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons


Nurse Matilda - Christianna Brand

Adventures of Purl and Plain - Joyce Lankaster Brisley

Charlotte Sometimes - Penelope Farmer


The Grass Harp - Truman Capote

Ashenden - Elizabeth Wilhide

The Pear Affair - Judith Eagle

An episode of sparrows - Rumer Godden

with passing mention of Anne Tyler, William Mayne, Joan Aiken, Alan Garner, Anthony Trollope, Elizabeth Gaskell, Willa Cather, Penelope Lively, EM Forster's short stories, and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

18 March 2020

Woodblock Wednesday - advanced class

First class of the advanced course - it turned out to be the last class "till further notice". But the sun was shining and we few were working hard, carving and printing a simple design for hanshita.

The agenda

No time to soak boards - we wet them with the water brush (mizubaki)

The design was traced onto the block with carbon paper, carved, and
tried out as a rubbing. The area in the body is an island, not for printing

A pink flamingo?
 Now for the hanshita - using a print, glued onto the wood, as the basis for carving the next block.
Nori, straight from the tube, used as glue

Flat of hand roughs up the surface

Print goes face down and is quickly and firmly rubbed on

When it's dried a bit, start at a corner and peel off the top layers of the paper

A pencil rubber helps start the peeling

It can get a bit messy - and careful not to remove the printed layer
 Usually the key block is much more complex and the subsequent blocks will have different parts of the image to be carved. But in this case, how can the block be developed? By adding something - Ripples of water? A landscape background? The printed bird will show where not to carve.

More calligraphic birds by Hokusai
 While the books were out, I took a few photos for future reference.













17 March 2020

Drawing Tuesday - Brunei Gallery

Four exhibitions were on offer - downstairs, a history of road-building in India/Pakistan, which included this intriguing image -
Upstairs, a miner's drawings and writings about coal mining in Japan in the 1920s; in the back room, Hatha Yoga; and in the main room, Ancient Vessels, related to eating and drinking in China through the ages.
 I gathered a few of those vessels and objects -
It was adding the writing to the page that made it "work" - not just filling the (unconsidered) blank spaces, but adding contrast of size and mark, and using one colour for unification. As someone said in discussion, you also get to decide exactly where to add the writing and that changes the whole page.

Outside the gallery, Jo found some architectural subjects -


Najlaa collected patterned fabrics from the drawings of the miners and villagers -

Joyce compiled some yoga poses -

 Extracurricular activities

Joyce has been drawing 100 people in one week - main sources, sport on telly and the grandchildren -


Najlaa wondered if anyone might know why her embroidery machine was misbehaving -
... a job for the repairperson, we decided.

10 March 2020

Drawing Tuesday - RAF Museum

Only two of us showed up at the RAF Museum - and I only got as far as the coffee shop!
Aiming to draw the plane...

... but the chairs were easier to see

Top, with  (shaky)left hand; bottom, more control and
subtlety is possible with right hand
 Jo used her time well -
"Canberra PR3. London to New Zealand air race, 1953"

More than planes is on display

07 March 2020

Studio Saturday - what's on my plate

Apart from the woodblock printing, I have a few other projects on the go.

1. Making a well-fitting shirt or two for my tall, slim, long-armed son. It's still at the research stage -

2. Compiling a folder of healthy, delicious, quick, easy recipes - this is tomato sauce with harissa, feta, parsley -

3. Coffee mornings around the neighbourhood, alone or in company, incorporating a good walk if possible -

4. A new series of dipped pots, working title "The Lost Princesses" -


5. Using up some lovely old wool jumpers which unfortunately were enjoyed by moths - these slashed pillows made out of jumpers and shirts look like just the thing for "using them up"; I'm thinking of those rectangular cushions that are so useful in the small of the back in the car -

6. Most important, though - the ongoing project of "playing with Freya", who is One Year Old in just one week!

04 March 2020

Woodblock Wednesday - unexpected colours

Earlier in the week I had a go at printing The Jugs, to see whether the registration was all that bad. Hmm, it's not all that good, but it'll do for now -
 The one without the background -
 And both, with their intended colour swatches, which don't always turn out as planned!
Blocks for the outline, and the background. I probably won't use the beaky-shapes at all, too much fuss....
Printing on the workbench in my home studio -

At class today, I wanted to try a non-blue colour and the first step was to try to remove the blue - printing without inking gives "ghost prints" -
 Even so, the "rose madder" became more purple than I wanted -
 So, why not overprint and make it really purple? -
 Another, without key block and with a paler background (but still quite purple) -
All today's prints -
 ... with the watercolour swatches, for the record -
 The block -
 A quick look at what everyone is working on -

And how nice of Elizabeth to bring in some "irritable cough tea" to help drive away the last vestiges of my irritating cough -
Mullein, mallow, coltsfoot, comfrey - 1 tsp in
boiling water; take 3x a day