Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

FolkEast 2014 . . . much more than music

Driving to FolkEast early last Friday morning I listened to BBC Radio Suffolk and heard an interview with John Marshall-Potter, the brains and energy behind the three day festival. He emphasised that FolkEast isn't only a festival of folk music but also a celebration of the people who live in the East and their arts, food, culture and traditions.

The festival site is on the estate of Glemham Hall and apart from a couple of hefty downpours on the first day we had glorious weather. The vast Suffolk skies with ever-changing parades of clouds would had made John Constable's heart skip!

Of course there was music . . . on the three stages and in the various workshops and accompanying the dancers, so there was always a background soundtrack drifting into the Art Arcade marquee.

I should have taken more photos of the dozen or more artists in the Art Arcade . . . but of course I was caught up in arranging my stall and talking to customers.

I was lovely to meet new people, next to me were Jane and Ed, here's Jane busy painting alphabet pebbles with intricate patterns and in the background Ed is working on another wooden spoon.

Here's me holding onto my hat! In a photo taken by Claire Knight who was selling her beautiful paper cut pictures at the other end of the tent. The cheery bunting was a last minute purchase from one of my card stockists, Blue Dog, a great investment . . . thank you Sarah!

I took along my latest prints, the four linocuts of a cockerel with his hens and the large print 'Winter Evening in Bull's Wood' . . . Suffolk Wildlife Trust will be selling cards of this for Christmas.

This year there were loads of art activities for festival goers of all ages to get involved in . . . everyone seemed o be having lots of fun and getting totally engrossed.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust were promoting their new campaign to find out more about and to help Hedgehogs. Isn't that wicker hedgehog fantastic?! 

As I'm a keen supporter of the Wildlife Trust, I handed out Hedgehog Survey leaflet to my customers and worked on a new small lino block featuring a hedgehog making its winter nest. I hope to complete this print in time for my exhibition next month.

I didn't take my oil based inks and rollers, so printing the new lino block wasn't possible. However I had some rubber stamp inks with me, so I cut a stamp and made some Festival Hedgehog cards.

Here's another photo of my stall, this one was taken by Mandy Walden who had organised the Art Arcade for the festival and had a stall opposite mine with her prints and cards of Suffolk coastal scenes. Mandy took lots of photos but seemed to avoid having her own photo taken!

Here's another rubber stamp I carved while at my stall to demonstrate how lettering has to be done backwards so it prints forwards . . .

At the end of each day after packing up the stall so it was safe for the night, Cliff (my assistant stall keeper) and I had a lovely time listening to the bands and savouring the food. There were so much to enjoy, so many great musicians, but after a long day on the stall I think we liked the quirky 'Soapbox Stage' best hidden among the trees and laughing along to the ever-so-slightly-bonkers local duo, The Pancakes.

A huge thank you to the organisers Becky and John and their vast team of helpers. They did Suffolk proud!

If you came along and said hello to me on my stall, thank you, it made the weekend worthwhile and was it lovely to meet the people who buy my cards and prints at various galleries and shops.

It's all going to happen again next August, so if you want to spent a weekend with the East Folk in glorious Suffolk then follow FolkEast on Facebook and keep an eye out for ticket offers early next year ;-)


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

FOLK is a four lettered word

"folk" what's in a word? . . .

folk = people 

For instance Norfolk and Suffolk, the North People and the South People of East Anglia . . . simple enough, but folk seems a little archaic and twee.

Folk Art

Yesterday Su and I went to Tate Britain to see the British Folk Art exhibition. 

Even the curators have opted out of defining 'Folk Art':
"This exhibition does not set out a single narrative or definition for folk art. As curators we decided from the beginning not to attempt this, but instead offer a series of encounters with different sorts of objects that already have a history as folk art" 

What was exhibited was a collection of objects crafted by people - decorative, useful, graphic, all created with skill, design and care. Art that exists under the radar of the art establishment.

The exhibits are displayed against brightly painted walls and carefully labelled in 'museum style'. All the exhibits were interesting, many were for me very inspiring; but I also thought there was a coldness about the exhibition, divorced from their context in a home or shop the quilts, samplers, carvings and shop signage seemed a bit sad and lonely . . . they needed the warmth of homes, bustling streets and folk. 

For instance here is one of my favourite exhibits, this is an appliqué quilt which was made by a husband and wife just after their marriage, they lived in Yarmouth on the Norfolk coast. I couldn't take photos in the exhibition, this is a page in the exhibition leaflet. 

The background is embroidered with orange silk thread, the stitches follow the shapes of the appliqué patch animals and objects . . . just imagine how this would brighten up a their cottage in candlelight on a dark cold winter's night!
There is a short video about the exhibition here.

After a nice lunch in the gallery cafe, we took the tube to the Bethnal Green, we walked along streets bustling with market stalls and shops glittering with saris and bangles before heading off down some side streets past blocks of flats and along rows of terraced houses until we reached a corner shop . . .

just a normal corner shop . . .

it was warm . . .
maybe we should buy an ice cream?

it's a shop . . . but not a real shop . . . everything in the shop is made from felt - stitched and stuffed!

even the newspapers!

This is the creation of Lucy Sparrow. Is it art? Is it social commentary? Is it politics? Is this Folk Art?

Making all the items in the shop must have been a huge task, but one I can imagine how I might tackle. But having the tenacity to find an empty shop and make the concept reality was, I think, the far bigger challenge. And what an amazingly cheery experience it is . . . do go along if you can, it's open until the end of August.

Folk Festival

Now there's something loaded with preconceived prejudice! 

I'm off to FolkEast at the weekend, last year was so much fun that this year I'm going to be in the ArtArcade for all 3 days. Forget all ideas about people in homespun sandals with a finger in their ear, this is a festival about music, song, dance, art, crafts, food  and fun - all in a beautiful country parkland near the Suffolk coast - what's not to like?!

Day tickets for Saturday and Sunday are still available so if you fancy a day of superb and diverse music, local food and friendly fun, do come along . . . it's like the best village fete with amazingly talented musicians providing the sound track.

And if you can't be there in person you will be able to watch a film about FolkEast - The Road to Glemham Hall which is being filmed over the weekend featuring lots of folk with a passion for what they do.

What a complexity of meaning in such a small word.

That's all folks!

I'll be back after I've recovered from FolkEast!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

As featured on Gardenista

If you've found yourself here via Gardenista,welcome to Purple Podded Peas HQ!

photo ©Celia Hart

A couple of weeks ago Kendra Wilson visited my garden with photographer Jim Powell, they were putting together an article for the online garden and lifestyle magazine Gardenista, if you've popped over to my blog and haven't seen the article you can read it here.

From the photos you wouldn't guess that it was one of the hottest days this summer, with blistering heat of 30C+ and that my garden had been left untended for over three weeks while we were away traveling in Alaska and then storms had flattened the lush growth. 

Of course Cheep and the under-gardeners were the stars of the show and I was very proud that Cheep was on his best behaviour even though he was hot and a bit grumpy due to being in moult (luckily he still had his tail, which he now doesn't!).

Just a couple of errata: the twiggy bean wigwam is constructed from Ash branches not Rowan and I can't remember saying the neighbours bring slugs round for the hens! Maybe the heat had addled my brain, Cheep and his girls wouldn't eat them anyway . . . but the toads and frogs would.
** the copy editor has now corrected the article ** 

If you're new around here, feel free to browse around my blog and my web site and newly refurbished online shop.

And I hope you'll call in again soon.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Random thoughts while traveling to Alaska - #2 Musk Oxen are surprisingly small!

I had heard of Musk Oxen but hadn't given then much thought before encountering them at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre, which we visited on our way from the port of Whittier to Anchorage on our Alaskan adventure.

I was shocked to see that Musk Oxen are surprisingly small!

I imagined they were cow-size, but they are short, in fact they are closely related to goats.

This is a bedraggled Musk Ox . . . it was raining (in fact it rained rather a lot!) when a Musk Ox is dry it is fluffy, like this stuffed one I met in Anchorage Museum. You need to be prepared to meet a lot of stuffed animals if you go to Alaska.

Baby Musk Oxen are incredibly fluffy and very cute! 

Musk Oxen look as if they have walked out of a Neolithic cave drawing – square bodies, short legs and comedy horns! In fact the horns are very useful . . . if the herd is threatened the adult Musk Oxen stand in a circle facing outwards with the calves in the centre, creating an armoured wall with their horns. 

I'd heard a rumour that yarn made from Musk Oxen fibre is very special  . . . in fact it is the warmest fibre in the world!

In summer Musk Oxen shed the fluffy under hair, it hangs in dreadlocks and must feel very itchy and uncomfortable.

The Musk Oxen at the Wildlife Centre have convenient car-wash brushes to scratch themselves on . . . and leave the precious fibre so that it can be processed into yarn.

Earlier in our holiday we'd visited Skagway where I'd found a shop selling Qiviut, the name for Musk Ox fibre. I was invited to hold out my hands and some un-spun Qiviut fibre was placed on the back of my hands - not on my palms, as my hand oils would contaminate it. It was like having a little heated cloud over my skin, my body heat was being reflected back by the fine dense hairs.

The Qiviut yarn was available in some beautiful subtle colours, the brown fibre isn't bleached before dying so the shades all have an earthy quality. And Qiviut isn't cheap, at nearly $100 an ounce it is a luxury yarn . . . I was tempted but decided not to buy. 

At the end of our holiday in Alaska we were briefly back in Anchorage and I had time to visit this little shop . . .

Oomingmak is the HQ of the Musk Ox Producers Cooperative and it sells hand knits made by cooperative members scattered in isolated communities mainly in the far west of Alaska.

Like other traditional knitting such as Aran and Guernsey, each community has its own designs. Traditional Qiviut scarves are knitted in natural undyed yarn, the lace is blocked on these printed cardboard grids.

I wish I'd had more time (and also that I wasn't coughing so much from the cold I'd gone down with!) I would have loved to chat with the Oomingmak knitting ladies who were sorting through piles of beautiful lace scarves around the table in the little wooden cabin.

However, I did buy some souvenirs . . .
some unspun Qiviut fibre, a 1 gram skein of yarn and a little purse which I'll use for keeping my stitch markers.

So, like me, you probably now know far more about Musk Oxen than you didn't know you didn't know before!

If you would like to know even more, here's a cute film from the Oomingmak web site.