September 16, 2014

Summers Passing and a tale or two

 Summer slipped by this year in a flurry of doings as my feet carried me here & there and when I sat down to tell all I didn't quite know where to begin, so this is a tale of my too-ing & fro-ing, its a wee bit long and may well have to come in parts 1 and 2!
(You can click on the images to view larger)
 The beginnings of August saw the annual Kirkcudbright Art & Craft Trail and bought a river of wonderful folk, faces  familiar & new, through the door of our wee exhibition space.  I shared the room with my talented Mom Jean Redden and jewelry maker Eileen Wright and this year we also had the pleasure of live music provided by friends Jon & Jen.  It's so lovely to have a chance to chat to the folk who come to see our work and I want to say a big thank you to all who came a-visiting. 
Without time for a breath we whisked away, Mr O & I, on adventures to the Northern shores of Caithness & Sutherland where we filled our days exploring & relaxing amongst the quiet places there, on our first travels in our wee house on wheels. (I must share with you one day that tale too!)  One of my favourite things to do when we go away is to explore and discover the history of the people and the place and Caithness is certainly filled with history.
We explored the ancient ruins of medieval castle Sinclair Girnigoe, built on the cliff edge, with waves crashing on the rocks below. We got a glimpse through the mist of the stacks of Duncansby that rose majestically to tower 60ft above the sea and we stepped into Smoo cave to marvel at this place where it is said Vikings once hid their boats! There are many legends told of the cave here, my favourite ~ that it was once the abode of spirits who guarded this entrance into the underworld.

The grey cairns of Camster were a site worth seeing, Neolithic chambered cairns that sat low and timeless on the hill.  As I clambered inside I was in awe of the work of those folk from long ago who built such a place, the largest is 69 metres long! Then it was on to the Hill 'O Many Stanes, the site of about 200 wee stones all no higher than my waist. Why were they set there and by who? There is no sure answer to this only a perhaps that t'was a way of recording lunar movements.

 We came across museums overflowing with beautifully carved Celtic crosses, strange winged angels, beasts and symbols with long forgotten meanings.
(Clockwise from top left) We saw intricately carved bone combs found at a settlement in Freswick, read about the awful treatment of the Forfar witches and saw the horrific Forfar Branks, a metal device that was placed around the head of the accused with a metal spike that went into the mouth, last used near the end of the 17th C. We wondered at charm stones and carved stone balls, found a pair of the wooden clogs worn by the herring fishwives in ports such as Scrabster and Wick and came across a wonderful exhibition telling the stories of their hard lives and the sad demise of the once flourishing fishing industry, made more fascinating still as we are in the process of researching Mr O's ancestors and believe some of them came from Caithness!
I wondered at the quaint slate walls we saw dividing some of the fields and discovered the story of how the beautifully coloured slate was quarried at the Castelhill. We went hunting for fossils at Achanarras and found (bottom left and middle) a fern and a fish, such an awe inspiring feeling to hold in you hands and be the one to expose something after  thousands of years have passed.
A visit to Castle Mey  (one on the cosiest & homely castles I have ever come across) and the wonderful gardens left me filled with lots of ideas for our own garden.
 We walked under huge skies, listening to the call of the sea birds and the crashing of the waves, it was music to sooth our souls, unspoilt, peaceful and perfect.
 We caught an incredible sunset and stood mesmerised at the waters edge as the sun slowly sank into the sea casting ever changing myriad colours across the sand.
I felt the healing power of nature as the days passed, felt myself slowly unwinding and my mind filling with inspiration once again, and thinking how very lucky we were.

July 28, 2014

Family Tree Workshops at the Wickerman . . .

I am back from a wonderful Wickerman Festival experience!
Such a fantastic weekend filled with scorching sunshine, beautiful sunsets, much music & singing & dancing,  and my workshops going down a storm!   I arrived in the Lowland Links tent on Friday morn to set up amidst roaring Vikings in full chain mail & helmet getup, a storyteller clad in medieval gown and so many other entertaining happenings. 
I hung bright coloured bunting in a huge blue tent
unpacked oodles of paint & pens & arty things.

Propped up my family tree samples & inspirations. 
Laid out sketchbooks stuffed with ideas & info.
Spread out a feast of templates & worksheets, 
then sat back & waited with baited breath!
 and very soon they began to arrive, lots of smiling & inquisitive wee ones
filled with enthusiasm & ideas of their own they began to create their very own family trees.
Masterpieces a-plenty, flowery trees, branchy trees, trees with lots of family names, trees filled with family fingerprints, some with birds & butterflies, others with beasties, each one quite unique.
There are far too photo's of the creations to share here, so if you want a peep at more
of the lovely works of art  & folks who made them take a look over here.
Thank you to each and every one of you who came along to say hi, lend a hand, or have a go. To Susi sweetpea provider of provisions & mansion sized tent & Mr O for an endless supply of tea, delicious food & an extra pair of hands and the biggest thank you to all you wonderful youngsters for sharing your creativity and laughter.  Can you tell I had a wonderful weekend  folksies.

My family tree workshops are great fun as you can see,
if anybody fancies having this activity at their event do get in touch.

July 21, 2014

A wickerman workshop . . .

Some of my best inspiration comes whilst I walk in my favourite places
down deep in the ancient forest, listening to the trees whispering their stories.
On early morning walks up past dew kissed fields,
I  watch crows rise amongst branches scribbled across pink tinged skies, 
their calls breaking the still air of a brand new day.
Of course it is no wonder trees so oft find their way into my paintings.
and lately I have been working on designs for family trees
tying together three things I love ~ trees, stories, genealogy. 
I am endlessly fascinated by all that history, all those happenings and connections.
As I add twining branches, names and dates running back into the past
 I ponder the stories, the connections, the history there.
For stories are what we are made of and my family trees a way of keeping those stories alive
I am thrilled this year to have been invited to demonstrate my family trees and lead "family tree workshops" for children in the Lowland Links Tent" at the Wickerman Festival. It is part of this years Homecoming Scotland celebrations, which is all about encouraging folk to explore their Scottish roots, and discover more about their heritage.
It should be altogether much fun and I cannot wait to see what magical creation willow sculptor Trevor Leat has conjured up for this years festival. As you can see last year we had a magnificent horned beltie.
It is almost a shame to see the sculpture go up in flames as part of each years spectacular festival finale. Do come and find me and say hello if you are at the Wickerman Festival this year!

July 14, 2014

Birthday's & Birth Trees.

 I been "un-plugged" for a while to re~charge and rest and to refresh my muse, and have been finding inspiration in Mother Nature during a run of glorious summery days here in South West Scotland.
The flowers are blooming all about, in the garden, in the hedgerows and even down amongst the pebbles on the beach. Tiny rays of sunshine, such rich, glowing colour.  They tempt me outside when I ought to be working in the studio!

 We have traveled into the hills to find the wild places, and sat drinking tea by the bubbling steam whilst bees hummed past and golden beetles clambered onto our knees.  I found a tiny set of wings left beside the path, like minature pieces of stained glass reflecting the blue of skies above. I think I might just have to work them into a faerie design!
We have had precious family time; grandaughter cuddling, trips to the beach, the farm, museums, picnics, crazy go cart riding, sunny day walks, lots of laughter & catching up.  We celebrated my lasses 30th Birthday too, it seems only a wee while ago I held her in my arms for the very first time! 

This lass of mine just happens to be a wood turner and as you can see my eldest lass & I took on a challenge. We decided to tackle a feat of engineering & create a completely edible cake for our birthday girl. It took us a whole week to work out and make, we were rather proud of our efforts but it may be some time before we feel up to making another cake!I 'm so lucky to have such a lovely family & spending time with them makes my heart sing.
Thinking of Birthdays ~ I am fascinated by family trees and our personal stories and with this in mind I have designed the first of my new blessing trees range
"The Birth Announcement tree".
 The design can be personalised and makes a perfect gift for birth, christening or naming ceremonies. I also do cards and postcards of the design.

The design was inspired by the Apple tree which signifies health, happiness, youth & good fortune.
The Birth Trees are now available to order here my Etsy shop.
I have lots of exciting new happenings coming up, workshops and exhibitions, and will be back very soon to tell you all about them.

May 21, 2014

A Summer Studio Shed & my new Open Days . . .

There have been busy goings on around here for the last few weeks
and now at last a long held dream of mine has come true. After weeks of hard work by Mr O, middle daughter & her partner & me, cleaning, mending leaky roof and windows, sanding & painting woodwork, mending & making bunting & covers etc we have created a wee magical hideaway place for me to work in. 
I am so excited, so with no further ado I now reveal, my Summer studio shed!
Ta da . . .  Isn't it lovely.  I think I can safely say it was worth every bit of effort
I love that I can have the doors and window wide open to the world.
I can hear the wee stream that runs through the garden and the call of the birds.
 I wanted no distractions, no phone, no computers, now I can work in peace & quiet surrounded by nature.
Just in time too as recently I was rather pleased to be asked to join a lovely collection of  artistic ladies to make up the group "Stewartry Open Studios".  We are opening our studios during the summer months, welcoming the public in to view our work and our workplaces. 
Above are some of the works by the other 5 artists in the group: clockwise from bottom left ~ Pauline Saul, Susan Metcalfe, Jane B Gibson, Sheena McCurrach and Margaret S Milligan.
You can find out more about us as a group here on Facebook  here .

Here is a taster of what greets me every morning as I step over the bridge by the Summer Studio shed, the beautiful bluebell wood with the birds a-singing, and the stream a-babbling. Can you hear the thunder storm gathering at the start!

My own studio will be open the 3rd & 4th Thursday of the month from May to Sept 10am– 4pm.
May 22nd,  June19th & 26th,  July 17th & 24th , 
August 21st & 28th,  September 18th & 25th.
 If you can't make those days you can give me a call on 07841049023
and I will open specially for you if I can.

If you need directions e~mail me on
So if you are out and about do pop by if you can, you may yet get a glimpse of the bluebells in the wood as well as see my prints, originals & cards, my sculptures & faeries, works in progress, sketchbooks and doodles & my inspiration board & bits & pieces. The kettle is always on and it would be lovely to see you.

You can see more of my "Summer Studio" images here.