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I promised I would show you close-up’s of some of my prized bird books, so here is the first Basil Ede’s Birds.
You know how it goes sometimes – I walked into a National Trust Property one summer and went into an unassuming second-hand book ‘shed’ and it was one of those occasions where it was a treasure trove of beautiful unwanted books at cheap second-hand prices.
My family will remind me that I bought two books – one very heavy – which we then had to carry on a walk around the lake which turned out to take 2-3 hours! Oops. Did you notice I said we carried… anyway I digress.
It turns out that this book, which I bought for £1.20 because I liked the bird pictures, was illustrated by the Basil Ede , one of the worlds best bird artists. And it is utterly beautiful as you can see.
Basil Ede became a professional artist bit by bit, working at first at sea and then in London, he gradually grew his painting career by working part-time and being supported by his family (always a story I like to hear).
In his sixties he suffered a stroke which left him paralysed down one side – the side he painted with. Amazingly he re-taught himself over a few years to paint with his left hand just as well as he had with his right.
Beautifully inspiring painting and an inspiring life story too.
There is nothing like a new year to bring about a sense of re-set even if a complete fresh start is not really needed.
Some years I don’t want to celebrate the passing of one year into another, some years I need the blank page/fresh start feeling that a new year can bring, some years I need to feel like I can write something new into existence.
This year I just wanted to spring clean and re-set my creative system.
So I spent two whole days last week removing all the old to-do lists, old inspiration material and old designs etc from my board and filing them away without a telling off from myself if they never came to anything – everything finds a time and place eventually, this I am learning.
Birds have been on my mind for a while now. I often find that I am percolating inspiration when I’m working on other things and collecting towards the beginning of a project.
And how! When I started filling up the board (which is huge) I found I didn’t have room for everything without taping stuff to the walls and hanging a mini-washing line up too.
I love it. It is a creative volcano of birdy inspiration.
My friend Dana had been painting birds just before Christmas. I was so taken with this Blue Jay and so delighted when he came to live with me here.
And what serendipity that he arrived in the mail on the day I was finishing my pinning up. She has such a talent – have a look in her shop if you’d like your own bird.
I also had a new teapot for Christmas and some new bird tiles and when I got out my collection of bird books I could see just how long I have been percolating this collection.
I’ll show the books on their own one day as this is already a photo heavy post and the books deserve to be seen close-up as the illustrations are beautiful.
And then as if to seal the deal, this weekend I opened my Country Living magazine to find even more inspiration in the form of this…
I could be here for some while!
I thought I’d pop in today and show you one of my Christmas makes. I was lucky enough to find a little set of this red rose china earlier in the year at a very cheap price but there were more cups than plates. Then I saw an article in Country Living for Teacup Candles I knew what I could do.
It turned out to be very easy to do and really fun! First melt an existing candle in a double boiler (like a bain marie). This was fun – it smelt great and looked like raspberry jelly. I used cheap candles from Ikea but just be careful that the candle is coloured wax all the way through – I first used one that looked red but actually had a red wax jacket on the outside (like a Babybell!) Once it had melted and dried again it went a lurid peach colour and I had to start over.
Then you carefully pick the wick out from the melted wax and cut to fit the height of the teacup. It didn’t really need pegging in place as you poured but more to keep it in place as it set again.
Then you pour in the melted wax and wait. This is messy so I’d recommend paper towel under where you are pouring. Once it’s settled and set (over night is good) you melt the remaining wax again in the double boiler and top it up in the cup so that it is flat and right at the top (it drops down on the first setting).
Then I wrapped and labelled it and gave it away I hope you give it a go because it really was fun and makes a great little pressie. So be warned my friends – it’s teacup candles for every occasion now!
PS: So far it hasn’t damaged the cups at all but I can’t guarantee it that it wouldn’t stain older cups and ones with perishing glazes… just a disclaimer there before you ruin Aunt Gertie’s Art Deco china and blame me!
First of all an EnOrMoUs thank you for all those lovely comments on the last post. It’s a bit of a bubble working alone at home so it’s extra ‘specially nice when you leave such encouraging and thoughtful comments. It really does mean something to me – my first present of the season – thank you all. x
I thought I’d show you one of the things that has been happily distracting me of late; the making of some handmade Christmas crackers.
I don’t normally go to such lengths (don’t mistake me for someone who makes their own cranberry sauce) but I was seduced by this article in December Country Living showing how to make crackers and paper rosettes.
I thought it would be a great way to use up some of the paper stash but then I bought the gifts for inside and the cracker contents (hat, jokes, snaps etc) so they are probably now classed as Luxury crackers!
An ex-colleague had given me a pile of old music sheets once she knew I was crafty and so these were destined to be center stage. The paper rosettes were really fidley to make and took ages – I had worried they might become Easter crackers!
But I had fun painting labels and stamping names and then making an assembly line of filling and sticking and tieing them up.
But woe betide anyone who rips theirs apart though! It’s got to be elegant cracker unwrapping this year
Hello friends and visitors! I feel like I’ve been absent here of late – distracted has been my middle name! Can I regale you of the many interruptions each day has brought with workmen visiting to quote, a decorator decorating, a boiler to be looked into, tracking a huge missing Amazon delivery sent to the wrong address, short daylight hours to work in…yadda, yadda…
Somewhere in the midst of it all I have finished Autumn Jug. I really like periods of uninterrupted time to paint in; I just can’t when there are peeps in the house who don’t belong so it’s been slow going.
Instead I started Christmas projects, which although easier to do while making workmen cups of tea every two to three hours, has meant not much real work. But hey, I’m ahead for Christmas, my living room is decorated and my heating works (nearly)!
The set-up for this still life came together very easily. I had bought the vintage jug and tablecloth together as they had a nice orange, flowery theme in common. Then the flowers dictated the other colours that went in. I love painting plums because they really add a depth of colour that you don’t often add as it’s such a dark tone but it’s helped balance the deep blue in the background.
Chrysanthemums can go on the list of ‘unsuspectingly difficult flowers to paint’ along with Daffodils and Sweet Peas. Loads of layers in there people ! In fact this piece took the whole length of the Grapes of Wrath audiobook (which was awesome BTW) just short of 20 hours. But there’s no where else I’d rather be.
Autumn Jug © Claire Leggett
I am very happy that The Great British Bake Off is back on BBC2 this Autumn.
I love baking – cakes especially, but I have long since stopped watching the show with the belief that I could do as well as the contestants.
It has become highly competitive and professional. Last week I actually empathised with the stress of not knowing how to make a creme caramel with no instructions. No doubt at all; I would have failed… spectacularly!
In the first week someone iced a cake in beautiful swirly rosettes and I gave that a go at the weekend. Suffice to say that I am not showing it here as it looks like a pink breeze block – one that got eaten pretty quickly though!
I do love though to make proper afternoon tea and get out the vintage china and cutlery, the strainer and tea leaves and the lace work or embroidered tablecloths.
There always has to be egg and cress sandwiches and a big cake. The crisps are my own modernisation!
So I shall continue to watch happy in the knowledge that shopping for vintage tea time artefacts and making any kind of cake with sugar in are my forte, and someone else can provide the entertainment!
A while back I had one of those on-line moments where you find you’ve bought something you’d never set out to find – you know how one link leads to another, to another and then somehow ends up at PayPal!
I bought a set of 50 vintage Wills’s cigarette cards, all floral from the 1930′s I think.
I was simply taken with the styling of the painting and the colours. In real life they are quite tiny but still very beautiful.
It is also the last day of the ‘paint-every-day-in-May’ which I have thoroughly enjoyed.
It has really got me back into using a sketchbook and enjoying it. I’ve tried hard to just let go and get on with it and let unexpected successes come along and power on past those dire moments (you can always rip it out )
I’ve got in the habit of using it to warm up (like an Olympian athlete! lol) before a big still-life painting session or for some light relief after too much computer time.
It has also channelled my attention into actually putting inspiration into paint like these cigarette cards being out to use, and all those inspiration photo’s that get taken, and magazine cuttings that get torn out…
I feel like I’ve got into good habits and I hope to stay that way now.
And feel free to ask me soon if I’ve kept up the good work.
On our recent trip to Pembrokeshire I became the junk shop equivalent of David Dickenson (without the perm-a-tan though!)
It would seem that Wales has lots of vintage goodness ready to sell and at good prices.
We found one cold, warren of a place piled high with everything you could think of and not being staffed by the owner. This opened up the opportunity for some cheeky bargaining (I still don’t know what came over me.)
I came away with 3 old wooden storage boxes, two blue and white jugs, a tiny floral jug, a lace work cloth, two embroidered chair-backs and an enamel pan for £15. I quick-stepped it out before the owner came back. I mean when is anything ever as cheap as 50 pence! My gall is a disgrace!!
The next day I spotted two lovely white and blue enamel pieces sitting outside an antiques shop and bartered them down just a little bit.
I have a plan to fill the oval tub with lettuce seeds so that we can grow our own salad this summer and keep it by the back door.
So now the garden is ready for it’s thrifted, vintage makeover (as soon as it stops raining).
We had also been very lucky on a recent family trip to Manchester to come across an antiques arcade. There was beautiful crockery, coloured glass wear, old books, crocheted loveliness and a super wicker basket to carry it all home in.