Tuesday, 30 September 2014


Nothing like an Autumn Bonfire

We've had a busy summer visiting new and old places and friends and gathering bright and shiny treasures along the way. Some will need a gentle hand to mend them before they can be sold and find new homes.  And some will stay with us as we cannot bear to part with them!

A beautiful Moss Agate bracelet we found
which reminds us of the season.
Burleigh ware Harvest jug from the 1930s

Carved oak Dragon panel

The gardens around us and our small community have needed a lot of work and we have become the 'Godparents' to the ancient churchyard where we trim and nurture the hedges and trees and take a few moments to linger over the old headstones. Many churchyards near us have become nature reserves and we hope that ours can also be a little less manicured and more wild. There is something reassuring about living things dwelling amongst the spirits of the departed.

This is my favourite time of year. I never think of Autumn and Winter as being dark seasons. I see a different colour palette to Spring and Summer, but still fiercely bright. It's a time for richly coloured velvets and tapestry, calico cats and glass vases in jewel like hues. 


I love the feel of the change in the air and the light, and relish the cooler weather. I was California born but I never fitted into the sun and sand lifestyle and it was one Autumn day a long time ago that I moved to England. It is a special season for me, with some happy and some sad anniversaries bringing out the nesting instinct as the days shorten and the nights become chill. I love the thought of stacks of blankets, hot chocolate with marshmallows,  and the cats curled up by the fire. Grab a good book and relax after the activity of the warmer months. Or, like me, borrow a neighbour's dog and go for a long walk in the woods letting it channel it's inner Wolf. 

We are going on one last trip before we settle in for the year, this time to France. When we return we will be decorating for the harvest and Halloween. And we will be sharing a sad but interesting ghost story we have with you. 


* The luscious brights and darks shown in two of our photographs are from a magical visit we had with Hannah and Rachel of Velvet Eccentrics. Read about them HERE:

Thursday, 19 June 2014

FOLKLORIC - A Midsummer Night's Dream

The program from Her Majesty's Theatre London January 10, 1900

When William Shakespear's Midsummer Night's Dream was printed in 1600 there were many enchanting forests in England. Sadly much of them have vanished now and England is the least forested place in Europe. Yet if you look you can still find remnants of a few places where it is not hard to imagine the Queen of the Fae frolicking on this longest day of the year.

A lesser known painting of Titania and Bottom, by Edwin Landseer.

I admit that it was Shakespeare who introduced to me to the folklore of the longest day.  Later I looked deeper into the subject and discovered a wealth of art and text about it and despite the ensuing years it retains all of the old magic which bewitched me as a child. Midsummer evokes modern and historic imagery, scents and sounds.

Beautiful table setting from HERE:

 Long evenings alfresco, Rose wine, music festivals in the park, the heady scent of incense and roses. Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market, The Secret Garden, Mermaids, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, Pirates and those Faery rings we accidentally come across which seem to appear overnight.

J.M. Barrie and one of the Davies boys
 playing 'Neverland' in Kensington Gardens
Arthur Rackham illustration for Undine, 1919
Midsummer Eve by Charlotte Bird 

Detail from Midsummer Eve by Charlotte Bird 

But it is Shakespeare's depiction of the night which is the best known and beloved.

Henry Meynell Rheam (1859-1920) - Titania welcoming her fairy bretheren

When we lived near London I watched many sunsets on this night from Richmond Terraces overlooking The Thames. In younger days I did dare to wander in the forest and enjoyed being spooked by the animals that lived there, imagining them to be one of the Faery Folk. Maybe they were.

A special place to be on this night is the Open Air Theatre in London's Regents Park and I had the pleasure of seeing The Royal Shakespeare Company perform A Midsummer Night's Dream there. There have been many illustrious actors grace the stage and the setting is always intimate and enchanting.

Diana Rigg and Helen Mirren in 1968
, and I remember when Toyah Wilcox played Puck. 
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Demetrius in 2001.
I'm very partial to Puck, especially when drawn by Arthur Rackham. 

But I probably love Bottom best of all. There is something 'Beauty and The Beast' about him. Awhile back I found a copy illustrated by Arthur Rackham at a charity book sale to aid a crumbling church. This is my favourite illustration of Bottom. 

I hope everyone is having a lovely summer and that some enchantment sneaks into your dreams on the longest day. Just remember that all is not what it seems on Midsummer Night!

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Puck delivers this epilogue:

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.

And Robin shall restore amends.” (V, i. 440-455)

The Marriage of Titania and Oberon by John Anster Fitzgerald 

Thursday, 20 March 2014


The Birds Nest by Emile Vernon
Spring has come. Birds are nesting and bulbs are blooming again. The Snow Queen did not visit us this Winter in our little village perched atop the borders of Berkshire / Wiltshire but our hearts were cold having lost our beloved cat Isabella in the Autumn. 

Love Never Dies - Isabella Elizabeth

Most of England had lots of water and howling wind. Yet overall it was a mild season. We were so much luckier than friends down in the valley, and in Somerset where the floods enveloped their homes and they lost everything. The great beauty of Nature is awe inspiring but sometimes she can be cruel.

Nearby cottages where the river flooded
We will always miss Isabella, gone too young, so naughty, under our feet, on our papers, and into everything but our hearts are slowly beginning to feel warm once more. We have neglected life and now have work to do. Spring and Nature will inspire us. 

The Snowdrops were exquisite this year. 

The cheeky Jackdaws are back on the church tower. 
Mrs Black loves her vintage shawls.

The lodger Munchkin L'Strange
Mrs Black is getting old and the loss of her dearest kitten Isabella was hard for her to bear but Spring is her favourite season. When she is not sleeping snuggled up in her shawls Mrs Black is outside again, minding her tenants, the Mice who live underneath my studio. She is also engaged in discussions of living and dinner arrangements with her other lodger, Munchkin L'Strange, a distant relative of the Black family and one who reverted to the French spelling of his surname after all the trouble his cousin Bellatrix caused.

Woodland scenes are so uplifting and the woods near us are now filled with bluebells.

Detail from Ophelia, Jules Joseph  Lefebre (1836-1911)
Enchanting woodland China lifts the spirits.
There is nothing like the scent of English Bluebells.
This is a Shelley bone china Woodland trio, from ebay

This sugar bowl is Aynsley bone china. 

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

CREATIVE PEOPLE - Hanah Redden, Little Burrow Designs and White Bird Paperwork

Today I am sharing a 'Creative People' post as I would like to highlight the work of three talented people I have the pleasure of having come across.  

I recently had the good fortune to win a lavender sachet in a facebook giveaway on the page of English textile artist HANNAH REDDEN.

I Won!!!!!

It was such a nice surprise to win something, and when the little package arrived in my post so beautifully wrapped and presented I was thrilled. It smells divine, is very high quality craftsmanship with lovely little details and I recommend her work!

Lavender sachet by Hannah Redden

This is what Hannah says about herself. "Since my early years I've been surrounded by fabric, threads, paper, and paint of my creative family.

Being so passionate about about textile related creativity pushed me to complete my BA Hons in Textile Design in 2005, specialising in Printed Textiles from the Glasgow School of Art. This course provided strong design training as well as the skills in print necessary to design and create interior furnishings.

I gather inspiration from my surroundings, at the moment I am particularly drawn to all things British and vintage. Combining this interest with a fascination for repeating patterns and manipulation of scale and colour I produce bespoke and unique prints and products suitable for interior use."

Find her here:

Hannah Redden on Etsy

Hannah Redden on facebook

You should also visit the wonderful blog of her mother Ruthie.

5 Precious Things

Little Burrows Designs on facebook
I've long been a fan of LITTLE BURROW DESIGNS. Based in a gorgeous part of the Devon countryside the owner Claire weaves magical designs from forgotten and lost items. Just before Christmas she shared on facebook a teacup and saucer creation she had made for a customer called , 'The Night Fox. ' I loved everything about it, the art deco Crown Ducal china is so enchanting with it's hand painted raised design.

The Night Fox
by Little Burrow Designs

Claire is a gifted artist whose vision and love for found items makes her work exceptional. On her facebook page she often shares the tiny treasures which she searches for and it is wonderful to see them unfold in new settings where they thrive and have a future. I love the way that she rescues items which many would view as useless.

Because I loved the Night Fox so much I asked if she could create a similar item for me based upon a personal favourite of mine, the folklore of Red Riding Hood and The Wolf. I've never seen it as a tale of Wolf eats Grandma, but rather as confronting the Wolf in all of us. I like to think that Red and The Wolf made friends in the end. Although this is by no means 'nature sanitised for our pleasure' - Beware The Wolf, for he is very wild indeed. This isn't Disney anymore.

She rose to the challenge of sourcing Red, and a Wolf for me. This is what she made.

Who is afraid of The Big Bad Wolf?
by Little Burrow Designs

This is what Claire says about my piece. "This is "Who's afraid of the big bad wolf" aka, Red Riding Hood Picture Teacup. This is another of those divine 1920's orange tree teacups, which are just staggeringly beautiful, and so eye-catching. It has been made to hang like a picture on the wall. Inside, it is filled with vintage objects, that make up the story of red riding hood. She is walking in a forest... of tall trees, at night. The trees are appliquéd patterned 1940's fabric, and the tiny moon is a vintage mother of pearl button. The grass is all hand-stitched in vintage silk. Red riding hood herself is an exceptionally unusual, and eye-catching enamelled brooch. I think it is possibly art nouveau, and if not, art deco, so is anywhere from 1910-1930's. I can't find out anything about it, but it is exceptionally beautiful. The wolf is a pre-war lead figure, approx 1940's. He has rather large dark foreboding eyes, and is sitting in wait for Red Riding Hood".

I love it and will cherish it forever!

You can find her in these places, but she does most of her business from facebook where you can see many of her fabulous creations.  Claire has some wonderful pieces for sale, but she will also create an item to order.

Little Burrow Designs on facebook

Little Burrow Designs on Folksy

Little Burrow Designs on Etsy

Little Burrow Designs BlogSpot

Romy from Hippy at Heart and White Bird Paperwork.

The last Creative Person I want to tell you about is Romy Steiger from WHITE BIRD PAPERWORK and HIPPY AT HEART.

ROMY has a wonderful blog which I have long followed called HIPPY AT HEART, where she showcases her fashion visions in clothes and home furnishings - and her fantastically photogenic cat HENDRIX!

Romy's wonderfully named cat Hendrix

She recently launched her business designing business cards. Her work is top class quality, she has many designs on offer or can create a customer order for you.

White Bird Paperwork

This is what Romy says about herself.  "Hello, I'm Romy, a hedonistic hippy chick from Germany's middle of nowhere in love with life, the late 60s, cheesecake and my small family (and my kitten Hendrix, the housecat ;)). I love doing small things with great love. Just sitting on my desk in solitude - and keeping my imagination running wild. My Etsy shop White Bird Paperwork is my creative outlet for all of this: Designing little pieces of paper in a quirky, fun way, with lots of fun, joy and happiness!"

You can see her work, and read more about her at these places: 

Hippy at Heart blogspot

Hippy at Heart on facebook

White Bird paperwork on facebook

Her shop is at: White Bird Paperwork on Etsy

Tuesday, 24 December 2013


Peace and Plenty to everyone at Christmas time and always.

Time to remember all of those who we have lost this year, all who have stood by our side through good and bad times - and all of those less fortunate than ourselves.

And do not forget to feed the birds in this cold weather!

The tree is lit on the Village Green, carols have been sung, presents wrapped and cheers to everyone.

We are having a quiet Christmas this year, staying in, watching The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, drinking lots of spiced tea and eating Turkish Delight - of course. It has been raining and the wind blew in gales on our hill, but no snow, Narnia has not come. 

Later there will be a ghost story. This year we are reading this, with a haunting portrait of the ravishing Violet, Duchess of Rutland on the cover.

These are a few of our favourite ornaments and items which brighten winter.

We once had a real mouse, named Marvin, who lived under the stairs. Since then we keep to china and cloth versions.

It is a family tradition to exchange a Santa Claus. We have far too many and this year we shared them with anyone who had none. I love the skinny legs on this one and his tails.

Who would have thought? Bunny Santa, with wings! Look at his delightful little pink nose, and his pointy shoes. He is kind of an Edwardian Santa.
Best of all I love the idea of Santa as a simple, but magical wood being
who lives at peace with the animals.
We collect lots of things which seem to belong to Winter, and Christmas.
Trees are a favourite theme.
And Polar Bears.  
Despite all of our collections, we live in a tiny cottage.
It seems china shaped like little houses has found it's way into our collections.
Our clock is even house shaped.
You should share what you have with those who have not. Be they 2 or 4 legged.
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares..

This year a little cat named Munchkin is with us. He has been living rough for 3 years after his elderly owner died and he was rehomed many miles from there. Not understanding that she had died he ran away and over six months he slowly made his way back home. To find that it was no longer his home at all. Kindly neighbours continued feeding him but cat shelters were full, no one could take him and so he remained homeless for 3 years. Until now. Mrs Black so misses Issy, her Naughty Kitten but we were not looking for another cat. This one found us. He may not stay forever, but he will be at home for Christmas.