Thursday, 24 December 2009

On the eve of Christmas

Greetings to all creative Bloggers, wherever you are on this eve of Christmas. May you be warm and cosy, with friends or family - but if you are alone, I will still be thinking of you, even though I may not know you are reading this, or even who you are. With love and best wishes, Ann - from the not quite so freezing English Cotswolds.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

A steep learning curve

my first online workshop page (see below)

I've finally begun work on the first tasks set by L.K.Ludwig in her fascinating 'Printed Patterned Painted Journal Making' online class. The pic above and the one that follows do not do justice to her skill as a teacher: take a look at LKL's blog when she posted an outline of what is on offer, and what is possible.

I really need a whole day to get to grips with all this; the techniques are simple yet ingenious; but collecting everything together and learning how to view LKL's videos without them continuously stopping and starting (my own incompetence) have left my brain in a whirl. And then there's the steep learning curve of Flickr and how to load photos onto a group site so all participants can share their efforts, if they want to. My examples are poor but scraping acrylic paint and spritzing it with water has been an eye opener. I would never have thought of doing that. My photos show my very first sheet (above), which to me seems like sunlight filtering through dappled leaves, and a further one using a feather-grass stamp that blobbed a bit. I am behind with the schedule already after only one week! 

and another page (click on the image to see it enlarged) - I learned what NOT to do when attempting the stamping technique; and need lots more practice

Stencils were called for yesterday and I could not recmember where I had stashed some away, at least ten years ago. Glancing up at a bookshelf-cum-cupboard in the laundry room, lo and behold, a box labelled 'stencils'. Reaching it with all the clutter now stored in front of the steel structure involved climbing on steps and then onto the table of my industrial sewing machine (in itself a storage shelf) and then reaching forward and up, grabbing the box ... (no I don't want to land back in hospital, so caution ...)

Working spasmodically on L.K.L's class has not been the only creative project on my mind this last week. I will be using the pages I create - or at least some of the techniques - in my fabric-and-paper garden journal (see post of 21st November for my initial notes on that topic). Then I have another winter creation on the go which will involve muslin and patchwork, lace and stitched artificial flowers. 

sprays of artificial flowers and leaves, ready to be plucked apart and applied to paper or fabric pages - most are obtained from up-market garden centres, but the most beautiful for creative purposes come from my dear friend, Kristin Steiner, from South Carolina, USA

I revel in my growing collection of these sprays; they brighten a dark space in the work room and yet are there awaiting the plucking of a leaf or flower, which is either attached to a page with a central brad, or free-machine stitched into place for a flattened effect.

this 'sea-foam' flower is soft and velvety; a complete composite flower head was given me by Kristi when she came to stay earlier this summer after teaching at the brilliant Oxford Summer School, to which she is returning in 2010

This particular project will also include poems that have been writing themselves all week. I print them as a kind of transfer onto fine muslin or cotton lawn; they will be superimposed on the patchwork lacy page together with wintery photos that I have been sourcing from various files on my computer in spare moments during the week. So I have much to busy myself with in the Christmas break, apart from catching up with other people's art-making blogs that I have missed since the hospital debacle.

I will close tonight, in this week that will end with Christmas Day, with one of the poems that landed on the page for my 'Winter Observed' keepsake:

I have no idea why these words should have sprung into my mind and onto the page as I planned the keepsake. They just happened; and now I have to take a suitable winter woodland photo in pine woods - and the temperature the last two days has been -9C (15.8F); too cold to hold the camera let alone find a suitable ride of firs. Maybe a Photoshop experiment with a photo from the last icy winter ?

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Artspace & Treats

part of the working area in our roof-top attic

I spent most of last weekend clearing some workspace in the attic-roof – or roof-attic, depending on which way you look at it – so that I had somewhere into which to retreat to create. My working area moves around this old house, according to season and whatever else I am doing. I share the roof with our stored past: we’ve lived here for 40 years and much of what is up there, up the narrow ladder-like stairs and under the sloping roof, has been pushed out of sight from our previous home, and stuff we could not bear to part with from our pre-retirement publishing/printing works. Plus of course my ever-increasing stashes of fabric and yarn. I’m both a yarnaholic and a fabricholic! The workspace is quite large but inaccessible to the rest of the family for they are too tall and hit their head on the beams and trusses. I can creep around underneath!

For the last three years, my workspace has been a tiny table in the laundry room (which fills with smoke and sometimes ash when the wood-burner next door in the boiler-room is being refuelled); or I use the dining room table. But I was becoming increasingly irritated at continually having to tidy everything away whenever we had a meal, and worried that I would drop paint or glue onto our oriental carpets. Up here, under the eaves, it may lack daylight (only one tiny attic window) and be freezing in winter (though I’ve just sneaked in a heater!), and overly hot in summer, but at least I can slide away and be my own person.

The artspace is calling: I had determined to work on more fabric keepsakes and the commissioned garden journal about which I recently posted, and was completely ready for the beginning of this last week, when WHAM … read about what happened at 7.30am on Monday 30th November in my other blog (‘Wild Somerset Child’), if you haven’t already done so. (Thankyou to all those who have left me such kind comments.) All has now returned to normal and my artspace is ready. And so am I.

After ‘the scare’, I returned home to some mailbox treats. One of the things I so love about the blog world is discovering the work of other artists. I am gradually, whenever I can afford to, surrounding myself with little works of art made by other bloggers. Look what I have just added to my collection, which was awaiting my homecoming on Wednesday:

These lovely tags came for the Etsy Store of Tracie Lyn Huskamp. I fell in love with her book ‘Nature Inspired’ this last Autumn, and wanted to learn her technique of painting natural history themes on muslin; her book lies open on the fireside table in the living room. The thought of holding a piece of her work in my hands was uppermost in my mind when she posted about her online store. They are here now; so beautiful, such an inspiration; even more so because she addressed the envelope to "the beautiful Ann Somerset Miles". Little does she know!

And then I became intrigued by the blog of Seth Apter and his book ‘The Pulse’ (a zine I think you call it) and ordered a copy. That too was in the mailbox. What a labour of love, what a wealth of information. Described by Seth as 'an artist survey', in which 94 artists were given seven art-related questions to answer, this is a book to be read in conjunction with Seth's blog (The Altered Page) and the blogs or websites of the participating artists. I will be dipping into it for weeks, searching out the online links, assimilating, and learning.

a parcel of much-needed cheesecloth

Packages are still arriving! In the mail this very morning came the cheesecloth I had asked my dear friend and kindred spirit, Kristin Steiner from South Carolina, to source for me. It is coarser than the muslin I habitually use and seems to be unobtainable over here, other than in 50-metre rolls from the theatrical suppliers I have been buying from for years. Kristi came to my rescue, and as ever with her packages, she attached one of her sweet personal message tags (I save them all), and fabric-ribbon that will instantly find its way into one of my own creations.

Finally, as a treat to myself, I have booked an online six-week course (Dec 14th to January 31st) with L.K.Ludwig, whose work I have also long-admired. I drool over her book ‘Mixed Media Nature Journals’ which had me rushing to incorporate metal mesh and other materials into my own work. I can’t wait to start her online ‘Printed Patterned Painted Journal Making Class’ and feel truly fortunate to be able to learn from someone so gifted, but so far away that I could never attend real-time workshops; (and the cost is amazingly reasonable). I guess I will be posting the results of my endeavours 'ere long. This morning I was emailed my password and downloaded the supplies list. Oh the wonders of modern technology.

And now to climb back up those stairs into my artspace and my own mixed-media creations.

using the insulation in the sloping roof as a bulletin board

Saturday, 21 November 2009

I am so excited ...

first notebook page detailing my new commission - double-click on each pic throughout this posting to see it at larger size.

Hot on the heels of my euphoria at actually completing a project (the little fabric keepsake for one of my grand daughter), my 2010 commissions arrived for a magazine for which I write every month. I am thrilled to bits about one of the topics, for you would not expect what will be essentially a craft article to appear in a gardening magazine.  Though when I come to think about it, I have had other 'craft' articles published in other gardening magazines. However, this one is different and stemmed from a suggestion I put to 'Grow it!' magazine some months back:

This is the idea I put forward: 'Garden Journals: more than a useful record, a visual delight to remember the gardening year. Starting from scratch – a bought or handmade book – and suggestions (with techniques) as to how to fill the pages.'

And this is what the editor asked for when he commissioned the article: "If we could cover this as a one-off piece, perhaps with a step-by-step somewhere within this, and plenty of pics showing relevant examples and the journey of recording the information to presenting it beautifully."

"Presenting it beautifully": with these words running through my head, I knew I must start now, even though the copy deadline is not until the end of September 2010; not just the words but the actual 'Garden Journal'. A month at a time. This is such an opportunity, to be able to combine the two things I love - journaling AND making an artifact that I hope will give pleasure to readers. I am so excited.

working thoughts are coming together on the page

Ideas were instantly flooding my mind; jottings on numerous pieces of paper all around the house, in pockets and diary and my various journals in whichever room I  happened to  be. And so I decided to catalogue the journey and make a notebook to keep all my ideas together. The first pages are a mish-mash as I jigsawed together the scraps of scribbles, and then tried to combine them into semi-decorative pages to which I will refer as I make the actual garden scrapbook/journal.

I am ready to begin

And herein lies a dilemma, for I want to make fabric pages as well as paper-based ones and I cannot yet decide how the two will marry. Then I also want to add some of my paper 'pocket-pages' as 'seed-keepers' - places to stash seed packets or notes as the months progress. I want readers to feel they are creating something they can use in their own garden, a record and a worthwhile reference to their personal gardening year.

Then came a feeling of pure terror, for as I pulled out some of my samples prepared for other projects using techniques I want to suggest, I could not in many instances remember the sequence of how I made them! So as I work through experiments and the actual making of this new fabric/paper journal, I decided only this morning that I must record instructions for every single technique I use. I only have 2,000 words for the article itself when I come to write it, but at least all my notes of the making will be there to guide me, and to be able to respond to anyone who asks for further instructions.

next stage is to prepare the base pages - both fabric and paper and start to assemble the materials I will use. Everything must be documented in photographs to visually record my progress.

I hope you will follow and share my journey. I will post my notebook pages and little experimental pieces from time to time, though not the actual 'Glory of the Garden' journal, for that should wait until the article is published in a year's time. Please join me on my journey, and feel free to comment; I welcome input from my dear online readers - your thoughts, constructive or critical, will encourage and sustain me in the long months ahead.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Fabric Keepsake Finished

At last the fabric keepsake I was making for the birthday of one of our grand-daughters is finished. I was fortunate to be able to spend a whole week on its construction. It didn't turn out as expected, for I decided to adapt what I had started making after K. said she would like something connected with swimming for her birthday. So the lacy little book I was making shifted into something quite different - a loose-leaf book with spaces to add details of the races she wins and medals she is awarded, with the story of why she learned to swim included.

The various pages and pockets are show below, and because I like to know how the artefacts I look at on other people's blogs have been constructed, I have added a few notes on materials and construction. Click on any of the photos if you want to see any page at larger size.
Textile pages were made from some fabric I bought at least 30 years ago, using the reverse side which had almost a watery feel to it. I also scanned a dictionary definition of the word 'swim', and tiled them on the computer to give a sheet of text. This was printed on 'Cool Peel' transfer paper, ironed onto muslin and backed with bondaweb (wunder-under). Whenever I wanted to use some text, I cut out a portion, ironed it in place on the page, stamped letters where needed, and stitched around the shape.
The right hand page is one of my hand-made paper-bag pocket pages, with little hand-made journal inserted into which K. can record her races.
Definition of swim on left hand page, printed on 'Cool Peel', mounted on muslin and then stitched to the paper page. Right hand page featured in my lastpost - the hand-stitched page with bead embellishment (before I realised I could no longer manage to hold a needle easily to hand-stitch). At that point, my machine took over.
More part hand stitching (the hearts are cut from the text panel sheet I prepared); the flowers are taken from a spray of artificial flowers obtained from the garden centre, with beads sewn into the flower centres. The right hand page tells the story of why K. learned to swim - typed on computer, printed on cool-peel, ironed onto muslin and stitched onto the fabric page; click on the photo to read what happened.
Adapting one of the original panels - the keepsake was to have been a collection of verse specially written for K. with embellishments. This is again associated with swimming. The little fish 'racing' on the right were purchased in a craft shop whilst we were on holiday in Wales.
I discovered how to lay words over a text scan using Photoshop, and then printed it onto Cool Peel - more ironing onto muslin and then stitching onto the background of dyed muslin which had a lovely sea colour. Right hand pocket-page holds a collection of tags for K's swimming notes.
The right hand page - and the left that follows, were one of the original hand-stitched pages - if I'd continued hand-stitching I would never have finished.

Right hand page is furnishing fabric overlaid with an angel cut from printed net curtain, attached using bondaweb.
Left hand page incorporates some gorgeous velvety flowers that came from my friend, Kristin Steiner (South Carolina), as does the little cream flower; all stitched on with buttons and beads. Right hand page shows K. racing.
Finally, my last poem written for this sweet child, kingfisher blue ribbon (also from Kristin), a silk flower from the garden centre fixed to the page with a large blue brad. K. right is truly a bronze, silver and gold girl.

And here she is on her eleventh birthday looking at the little book which I hope will remind her of her swimming journey to date. Maybe I now need to think of a football keepsake for her brother's birthday next Spring. 

Monday, 12 October 2009

Progress - of a sort

Nothing seems to be going right today; one thing after another, when I had hoped to spend the whole time stitching my grand-daughter's fabric keepsake. Since I first mentioned this (in my post of 24th September 'Experimental Mode'), I have hand-stitched four pages - two 'spreads', but found it so tough; I could hardly hold a needle for the nobbly and painful arthritis affecting my hands; I can't believe it is almost ten years since I did much hand-work, when it was easy to work with needle and thread. The pics shown above and below are poor but show stages two and three: hand-stitching around the patchwork pieces, with corner beads attached at the corners of each, and then the super-imposition of the first embellishments. Click on either pic to enlarge it, and then click your back button to return to my blog and the rest of the post.

More stitching is now needed, but I will have to resort to free machine embroidery for all the other pages. There are to be ten five double-sided spreads, so twenty 6in x 6in (15cm x 15cm) in all, and all have to be edged as well. Most now at least laid out; but the week ahead is more than usually hectic and I have so few days left. Panic - well, I always do, but at least this is one project that will NOT be stuffed into a project bag!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

To the Hills! (Malvern-2)

Landscapes never fail to captivate me, yet all I can do is try to capture them in words; the wrong side of the brain is dominant. But I always feel this incredible sense of wonder and anticipation whenever we leave for Malvern (not so much the town but the Showground of the 'Three Counties Agricultural Society', and the various events we attend in connection with magazine commissions).

I look to catch the first glimpse of the far hills as we descend Broadway Hill - sometimes you cannot see them at all in the murk or mist, at other times you can see beyond them, into Wales. A long line; such distinct shapes, with all the colours merged into one; they disappear from view for a while, and then re-appear ever closer, as if painted in oils. Close up - almost there as we run along below their magnificent upstanding - every shade and nuance becomes clear. Photographs do not do them justice; the light is forever changing, within the day and throughout the seasons.

click on the text box above if the print is too small to read easily

More to add to the pocket pages, words and images, and much else, about which I will post on my other blog in due course.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Journaling a Wild Harvest (Malvern-1)

cotoneaster berries

Now home from the RHS Malvern Autumn Show and its celebration of food, plants, harvest and 'the good life', my pocket page colours (shown in my last journaling post) are perfect for recording all that we saw and did - over one hundred photos to analyse, from factual to pure whimsy, and words running into thousands. Our visit started as all do with 'the journey'. I like to capture the anticipitation as we leave home, and the feeling of impending excitement as we near the showground. Whilst I manipulate words and juggle images for magazine features and my other blog, which will take me the rest of the working week, here are my first notes scribbled into my travel notebook. The photos were all taken at the show, in the harvest pavilion.

crab apples

rowan (mountain ash)

All this, and more, will be added to the pocket-page journal. There just isn't time whilst we are away to play 'on the spot'; but come the late autumn, sitting by the fire will be time enough.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Experimental mode

paper bags painted in 'Autumn' colours
waiting to be folded and stitched into 'pocket pages'

I am in a whirl; it's Malvern weekend again (food and flowers and edible gardens; a veritable 'celebration of nature's harvest' that must be captured one way and another, apart from in words for two commissioned features. For personal 'art from the heart' enjoyment, I will be taking photos - up a ladder this time, and making notes and sketches, for I do not have my pocket pages ready. Painted, yes, but folded and stitched, not yet. But while the farmhouse fruitcake is baking to take with us in the motorhome, I determine that photos at least can be taken. The sun streams through the window, making lighting difficult as I lay out pages to photograph, and then I can't find my camera. Panic as usual!

Colours are those that to me convey flaming Autumn (Fall) though we rarely experience a real blaze of colour. So I think dahlias and ripe plums dripping from the tree, Gascoigne Scarlet apples in the orchard and all shades of red and orange.

'Pocket Pages' have in fact almost done their turn - they were my chosen experimental project for this year's travel journals, ranging from verdant spring green, through summer gold to these reds and vermillions of autumn; the soft blue-greens for the Shropshire Hills (which we never did capture for it rained most of the time), right through to slate blue - payne's grey- veins of stone and mountain colours for my Welsh pages. See previous posts for ongoing pics and explanations. When all are complete, they will form 'my year of travel': always working you understand, but these are my personal memories and thoughts.

I turn to my beloved fabric once more - a lifetime of it, combining it with paper and paint and whatever takes my fancy. I am again in experimental mode (having said only recently that my brain was numb, it has come alive again). So I am working upon little hand-stitched patchwork pages for a grand-daughter's birthday keepsake, combined with a couple of turquoise/indigo paper pockets to hold tiny secret notebooks; and then out with the muslin, gesso, inks, neocolor and gel medium. Her book will be a collection of my experimental samples, themed in shades of blue, with linen coloured backgrounds for the poem inserts I have written her, pearlescent buttons and tiny jet-blue beads with stamped or embroidered fish. Lace? I can't decide; somehow it does not fit the watery swimming theme, though it would make superb surf.

watery blue fabric with patchwork snippets attached,
awaiting hand-stitched embellishments
(the fabric will be folded to make a double-sided page
measuring approx 6ins square)

I made my first usual exploratory notes last week - but for once I have progressed beyond the notebook stage and have started stitching. I have five weeks to complete this. And now the cake is ready, my 'technicals' for tomorrow must be prepared - laptop, camera, tripod, notebooks, etc, and a little light reading for evening on progressing my website - I hope to create an online journal page on the Malvern Show, but need to learn how to do so first!

my notes of last week: click on the pic to enlarge it and read
from top left, top right then bottom left and bottom right.
(Then click on the back-button to return to the blog post)

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


click on this photo if you want to view it at an enlarged size

Despite a hectic work schedule, an article that 'wouldn't come right' (though it has now) and working on my revamped website, I pulled out one of my project bags last night, determined to add just one element to one of the pocket-page journals. A napkin-tissue motif perhaps? But before positioning the bright white daisy, I had to decide what words would also appear on the page. I dove into the bag looking for the words that I knew I had written at the time I planned the journal content.

Oops! When allocating materials to the project bags about which I blogged last post, I quite forgot about the words which MAY be on snippets of paper but more usually in one of my black, leather-covered notebooks. I had also forgotten that these notebooks also contained many ideas and a record of experiments with paper, fabric and paint, as do my working experimental art-books. So now I have to catalogue all my notebook entries, and allocate copies of them to the relevant project bag, with a second copy filed in an overall 'master catalogue'.

An odd way of working, but I can only equate it to the method I used for years when producing layouts for the magazines I edited. You needed to assess the whole picture and know what was to fall where and on which pages. Working page by page without all the relevant elements (text, photos, advertisements and infill material) always resulted in an un-cordinated jumble, a magazine lacking any thread of story or continuity; no storyline. A habit of a lifetime is hard to break, hence all this preparation: project bags and catalogued notes.

Earlier posts will demonstrate that at times I do actually manage to complete a 'piece of art'. But for the moment I am stuck in a rut and the creative spirit has deserted me, though cataloguing hasn't.** As to the bright pink notebook (called 'blossom'), that catalogues ongoing work and ideas for my revamped website, about which I wrote last week in my 'wild somerset child' blog. I don't know quite what I have taken upon myself, but it keeps me out of mischief!

** Oh bliss - it hasn't! This is an update: three hours after posting the above, I have a flash of inspiration for a paper/fabric book that has been at the back of my mind for a while now. And then, after reading a couple of posts from fellow bloggers (Jude of 'Spirit Cloth' and Lynne Hoppe), everything begins to fall into place. Their blogs have sparked ideas; not copying, but leaping off at a tangent. (I know I should put links to these two gifted artists/bloggers and I will, but I have sneaked up to my office and the supper is burning !!)

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Projects on hold

three of my project bags

I cannot believe that it is all but two months since I wrote a journaling post; but after the trauma of the last eight weeks, I am not surprised that my creative spirit has suffered and my mind has been on other things (explained in my Wild Somerset Child blog).

I have hardly been online for pleasure, let alone painted or stitched; no collage, no napkin motif snipping, no painting or stitching and barely any personal writing. I have missed my blogging friends and acquaintances - but most of all the inspirational art I find in other people's blogs that adds such joy to a hectic day.

It is curious how worry can so stem the creative flow, but that is how it has been. I felt I was through the worst when I crept up to the roof space over this last weekend and 'organised' my projects, all of which can be classified as 'in progress' and in need of action and some loving attention. There are so many of them ... waiting. I have a strange filing system, the same for both creative work and my professional articles: I use canvas/jute shopping bags to hold supplies and research books and materials. They are easy to carry around if needed from roof-top workroom to office to basement art table. It's easy to list the contents on a luggage label and much easier to carry them down the steep, narrow loft stairs.

So each bag holds all I need (well almost) and to save duplication of adhesives or pens, threads or paints, I make a note of anything I remove so that when I return to a project, maybe a year later (!!!), I will know exactly what I was using at the time I stopped work.

Right now, I am finding it doubly hard to pick up the threads again, but will go crazy if I don't attempt something creative, even if it is only tearing up fabric or painting more paper bags for additional pocket-page journals.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Pocket Pages and Napkins

Kristin's blank pocket page journal, as mailed to her in Italy

Slathering paint and stitching is as therapeutic for me as gardening (about which I wrote in my other blog this last weekend); and I could do with a little gentle therapy just now - it's a long story which will reveal itself as the days pass, in other posts. My painted paperbag journal is at standstill for the moment, but when I made the delicious spring-green pages for my own project, I made two others for dear friends, in colours to suit their journeyings.

The first was mailed to Italy, where my South Carolina guiding spirit, Kristin Steiner, was busily engaged on the 'Adventures in Italy' creative enterprise she runs twice a year with her husband, Bill. More about that to come, but Kristi's pocket-page paperbag journal was actually a crib of a design she sent me last year, though I adapted it until it was quite different to the original. I chose Orvieto colours, as I supposed them to be, and napkins for her to decorate her pages, for I know she journals every day.

the cover of Kristin's pocket page journal, all ready for her to personalise

The second pocket page booklet was sent to Helen (Cocoa and Blankets) in what I thought would be Venetian colours, because I had read her post about her visit to Venice. Helen's pockets also held napkins to do with as she wished (taking tea or to decorate her pages). Imagine how thrilled I was yesterday morning to read her post and see how she had used them. Her pages looked gorgeous - do take a look at her Sunday post (24th May: scroll down past her other beautiful creations until you reach the pages). She is way ahead of me for none of my napkins have yet been pasted onto my own pages.

Helen's blank pocket page journal, as mailed; she has now customised every page with motifs from the napkins I included for her

I had better hurry with entries in mine, before I lose all my journaling notes and colour-memories; for spring sap-green will soon give way to summer gold and I will need to make more pages to accompany me on my next visit to Malvern, to the 'Three Counties Show': farming and the countryside, and back to the hills.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Journaling Projects update

My two special journaling projects for this year - the fabric 'farmhouse memory album' and my paper 'travel journals' have been on hold for a week whilst we have been away working at the 'Malvern Spring Flower Show' (about which I will talk on my 'wild somerset child' blog in due course. I took my art journaling bag and a small box of supplies away with me and had pre-prepared pages upon which to paint and journal: nine (or was it twelve?) painted paper bags folded and stitched so each page was just under 6" square - approx 15cm. My csan above does not do justice to the rich spring colour - sap green basically with cream and yellow, exactly as our Cotswold hedgerows are right now. I had rushed to get the pages finished before leaving - the threads needed tying off, but I intended to spend time each evening working on and in them, filling the pages and pockets with photos and notes, and the occasional sketch. Some hope! We were exhausted by the end of each 12-hour day, and on the second evening the motorhome 12volt electrics failed totally.

I did manage one small sketch (see above, on vellum, to be cut out and mounted on the page); it shows part of the view I could see from the kitchen area of the m'home - the beautiful Malvern Hills. But although that was the only sketch I made,  I took over a hundred photos, and scribbled/typed a written journal each night to be mounted on muslin-faced cards and tagged together as a written and illustrated record of our time away. But that was as far as I got. I also mislaid my mobile phone just before leaving home last Wednesday and in turning the house over to try to find it this morning, came across the journaling prompt I sent to one of our grandchildren last summer. 

Lucy (then 10) was due to sit the entrance exam into her senior school and was worried about her English. As I used to teach this age-group, and specialised in trying to solve a child's learning problems on a one-to-one basis, she asked if I could help. She came to stay for a week and she worked so hard that one day we turned the motorhome into a mobile classroom and took her out for a picnic lunch and a walk in the hills, followed by more writing work. She thought this was great fun. Here are Lucy and Grandpa eating lunch ...

... and here she is thinking about what she will write about her day out:

She sent us such a lovely card after her return home to her parents and brother and sister and my reply turned into more lesson prompts; I had arranged to continue to help her, long-distance, with her 'composition' - journaling in fact. One of her exercises each day was to pick a postcard at random from my 'art collection' and describe it, or turn it into a story, or try to recreate the colours with paint; in short to encourage her to really look at something, sufficiently closely that she could write freely and without pause. The advice I gave her may be useful to others - just click on the image and it should enlarge to full page size; you will see a little of what I suggested.

And here is an image of the card she sent us, to which I refer at the start of my letter to her.

(postcard from a painting by UK (Suffolk) artist, Clare Curtis)

Journaling can take so many forms and follow so many threads and paths. Right now I have all my notes and images to sort and incorporate into my little paper-book; and a magazine article to write by the weekend on our time at the Spring Flower Show, which was brilliant. And then I move back to 'farmhouse memories' and the page-blanks I am creating for that.

Meanwhile, 'hello' again to all journalers; it's lovely to be back and I will catch up as soon as I can with all the blog posts I have missed (hello, too to Pascale - good to make your acquaintance.)