Monday 27 February 2012

Taking a few days off

Some of the flowers currently showing their faces in our garden.
Helleborus purpurascens
Hyacinthus 'Anna Marie'
Iris Reticulata Group 'Harmony'
Narcissus (Daffodil) 'Tête-à-Tête'
Helleborus or Lenten Rose

Sunday 26 February 2012

A Wendy house fit for a Queen

Queen Elizabeth was gifted a miniature house with a thatched roof when she was a child. Princess Beatrice organised the restoration of the Wendy House in celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this year.
both images courtesy Topham Picturepoint
King George V1, his wife Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons, and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret with the new Wendy house in 1932
'Y Bwthyn Bach' is Welsh for The Little House. It sits in the grounds of Windsor's Royal Lodge where the Queen played as a child. The house was presented to the then Princess Elizabeth and her sister Margaret in 1932 on behalf of the people of Wales' on the occasion of Elizabeth's sixth birthday.
Princess Beatrice inside the newly restored house. The front door opens onto a small hallway with a kitchen on the right and little sitting/dining room on the left. A staircase gives access to a bedroom and bathroom, which when it was first built, was very modern, with hot and cold running water, a heated towel rail and electricity.
The contents include a tiny radio, a little oak dresser and a miniature blue and gold china set. All of the  linen is embroidered with the initial 'E'. The house also contains pots and pans, food cans, brooms and there is a gas cooker and fridge which both worked. There is even a working miniature-sized telephone. The house has its own front garden with scaled down hedges and flower borders. 
Sitting/dining room has lattice windows with a portrait of the Queen Mother and Beatrice's teddies on the chair. A bookcase filled with Beatrix Potter's little books, including Jemima Puddleduck, ensured the girls never grew bored.
all images above courtesy BBC ONE

Saturday 25 February 2012

Monogram Challenge

I was rushed for time this week - however, I have attempted Patrice's Monogram Challenge. To see more interpretations please visit her.
On the first I have not played according to the rules - i.e. a monogram is strictly speaking a design composed of one or more letters.
I have extended the monogram horizons and used symbols as opposed to letters.
As this is the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen, I have done a celebratory monogram for her 60 years on the British throne.
I have resurrected some embroidery I did many, many  years ago and added 60 to the centre of the crown. The emblems shown are the rose for England, the thistle for Scotland, the shamrock for Ireland, and the leek for Wales.

In this second one, I have tried to do a monogram for myself and H. We have a great love of our garden and that is reflected in the interpretation. I thought that using Spring flowers it would work - but in practise it doesn't.
I fiddled on the computer to try and soften it - but still not satisfied. It is too stiff and has no flow. 
One more try, time permitting........
These are my last attempts. Thanks to H for kindly cutting out the letters for me.

Friday 24 February 2012

A Grand Day Out

Today we visited The Weir Garden, Herefordshire, belonging to the National Trust. The skies were blue, the sun shone, the birds sang, and mother nature was definitely rubbing her eyes and stirring from her winter slumbers.
The Weir Garden sits on a large bend in the river Wye as its waters meander on a journey from Wales to the Bristol Channel and out in to the Atlantic.
click on images

Wednesday 22 February 2012

English Thatched Country Cottages and Staddle Stones

Thatching is the craft of building a roof with dry vegetation such as straw, water reed, rushes or even heather. It is an ecologically friendly roof, and these days is not the fire hazard it was hundreds of years ago. Gradually, thatch became a mark of poverty and the number of thatched properties gradually declined, as did the number of professional thatchers. It has become much more popular in the UK over the past 30 years, and is now a symbol of wealth rather than poverty.
These village fire hooks, which I saw in the little village of West Lavington, Wiltshire are from the 17th C. They were used to tear burning straw from the thatched roofs of houses and haystacks in order to prevent the fire from spreading. They were last used in 1932 when a burning haystack became a fire hazard to nearby cottages.
The mushroom shaped stone at the entrance to the driveway is called a Staddle Stone. A Granary building would have stood on the top of several of this type of stone. The mushroom shape is to prevent the rats getting into the building.
This is an example of a Granary dated from 1800. I took this photo in Devon. The corn was stored in wooden bins ranged round the walls. 
The farm that H's family owned in Surrey had a large wooden shingle tiled barn cum granary standing on this type of stone, and it is still intact to this day.
This is a pen and ink drawing we have of their Surrey Farmhouse, which was drawn by H's cousin. I have just taken a section of the drawing so that you can see the Granary/Barn.

Monday 20 February 2012

Nikolai Astrup - Norwegian Artist

portrait of Nikolai Astrup (1880 - 1928) by Henrik Lund
Interior of Nikolai Astrup's Studio in Ålhus, Jølster 
courtesy Harald Oppedal via wikipedia
I was introduced to the work of Nikolai Astrup when I was visiting my son and his family in Norway. I admire the way his work conveys his love of Norway, and his family. In many ways I find parallels to his art with Carl Larsson. Both of them reveal a great passion and regard for their own country and their family. If his work is new to you, I hope that you will enjoy it.

Nikolai Astrup established himself as one of Norway's main painters during the first decade of the 20th C, and his woodcuts have especially earned him a central position in Norwegian art history. Along with Edvard Munch, Astrup is considered a pioneer of the new graphic technique. 
click images
all images courtesy wikipedia
Nikolai Astrup was born in Bremanger, Nordfjord in 1880. His family moved shortly after to Ålhus in Jølster, where his father was a priest. The father-son relationship was at times conflicting, mainly because Astrup never felt comfortable with the strict Christian tradition practised in his home. Also, his wish to become an artist went against his family's traditional expectations. As an artist and a bohemian, Astrup stood out in the small and confined environment he grew up in. However, he chose to live in Jølster for most of his life, and this is the area where he found the scenery for nearly all of his paintings. Throughout his artistic work he focused on the same landscape, his garden, and his family. His paintings can in many ways be looked upon as a series of seasons, where Astrup portrays the constant and eternity in life; the little garden with fruit trees and a small field, the lake , the familiar mountains, the woods and fields - and constantly changing atmospheres - a rainy morning in Autumn, beginning of Spring, an icy cold Winter morning or the warm, light nights of the Summer.
He was educated in Norwegian and European contemporary art, and Christian Krohg taught him at the Academie Colarossi in Paris. He travelled to Berlin, Dresden and Hamburg and visited the museums to be educated in old and contemporary art. He was especially keen on the work of the French primitive Henri Rousseau and the German symbolist Arnold Böcklin - the latter fascinated him so much that he named one of his sons after him.
In 1902 Astrup moved back to Jølster for good, and a few years later he married Engel, a young peasant girl from the area. They had eight children. Astrup continued his work as an artist along with his obligations towards his family and farm work. It wasn't easy; they had little money and he struggled with bad health.
In 1928, he sadly died of pneumonia at the young age of 47 years.