Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Revisiting old friends

Some of you were kind enough to be interested in the painting I mentioned in my last post, so when the sun came out for 5 minutes this afternoon I rounded up some of the pieces I still have and took them for an outing into the garden. Poor old things, it's the only excitement they've had in a while.

I started taking painting classes at a shop near where I used to live - the Burnt Owl in Burnt Hills, NY - in 1997, then painted most days till we left the US in 1999. I have tried to get back into it back here in the UK, but the lack of a dedicated permanent workspace rather held me back. Sewing and knitting seem much more portable to me, but I suspect I may be alone in that!

This was one of my first pieces, a favourite of Mr DC and the only one that's in regular use. It holds hairbands and brushes for the Smalls and while there are a number of problems with it, I'm very fond of that silly sheep.

I was very keen on traditional stroke work, and in fact this was the piece that had me signing up for the various courses in the first place. It's a bit tatty and dusty now, and I rather wish the background wasn't jet black, but I painted this design over and over on oval storage boxes that I still use.

The thing I liked most about this style of painting is that you don't need to be able to draw. At all. I cannot draw to save my life, but I can trace patterns and base coat them and follow the instructions to add colour and shading in the right order. The clever people are the designers of the patterns, and I was lucky enough to be taught by Pat Parker who designed this one - this is her version just to prove that hers is the real skill here.

This is a tray I started, and didn't finish. It's a design by Betty Caithness, whose pieces I adore. I doubt I shall get back to it any time soon, but you can see how bits of it (the children and their tree) are done, while the stones at the bottom are only basecoated as yet and the houses need a lot more work.

The patterns and brushes are still up in the loft. Maybe one of these days I'll dig them out again and see if I can remember any of what I learned!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Bring on the pumpkins!

A friend recently told me she'd read in a lifestyle magazine that now is the time to switch summer cushion covers for autumn ones. "Surely no one does that?!" she laughed. Well, it turns out that now I do ...

I made this cover using some of the fabrics from Jacqueline Paton's irresistibly cute Harvest Town range, found at a little quilting shop in the town where my parents live, and some rusty coloured satiny stuff I'd had stashed away for years (quite literally). The pattern is based on the technique described recently by Elizabeth at Oh Fransson!, but mine's ended up a little bittier as I started with smaller scraps and winged it. The next one will have larger panels - oh yes, there will be another.

Autumn brings the colours I love the most, and I have an enormous soft spot for this style of folk art, born from the decorative painting I used to do when we lived in upstate New York and I had an entire loft devoted permanently to crafty pursuits.We lived in a converted white clapboard chapel and I would hide away in the roof at the top of the spiral staircase and paint and sew and weave. Sigh.

Edited to add: I found a picture of our old chapel house here. I cried when we left it, even though I was very happy to be coming back to the UK. It was a wonderful place to live.

But seriously, who wouldn't want to live here?

Or here?

And how I wish we had a pumpkin stand in our village - maybe I should set one up!

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Last Night

Mr DC and I had an awfully big adventure on Saturday night. See if you can guess where we went:

Does this give you a clue?

Or this?

How about this?

Yes, we were at the Last Night of the Proms!

Katie Derham in the middle!

We have a contact, you see. A lovely friend who is a member of the BBC Singers, and has the voice of an angel, has access to a few Last Night tickets every year. Up until now we've turned them down (!) but this year we said YES, and I am so glad we did. What a truly wonderful evening.

Our seats were astonishingly good - right behind the back row of the BBC Symphony Chorus, so the sound was breathtaking.

I know there are a lot of people who question whether such a display of flag waving (flags of all nations, I should add) and patriotism is really appropriate these days, but I defy anyone not to have been caught up in the atmosphere, and not to have joined in the joyous singing of Jerusalem and the rest. There have been some negative reviews of the choice of both soloists and programme, especially the replacement of the traditional hornpipe, but what can I say? I was there and it was FAB!

This was the view from our seats!

If you are both curious and completely at a loss for something to do this afternoon, we do appear in the iplayer recording at about 83 minutes in, right at the end of the National Anthem. Mr DC is the unfeasibly tall man in a red tie next to the strange people in masks, and I am the short round person next to him in the gold top.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Blast from the past

Ali's post about badly behaved jellies triggered such a longing in me that I've been hankering after a certain jelly receptacle ever since. And lo, Steamer Trading came up trumps in the shape of a plastic rabbit mould. I was excited, the kids were excited, even Mr DC was excited.

We bought strawberry jelly. We bought lime jelly (tastier than expected). We ignored the packet instructions and made the jelly extra stiff - though it could have done with being even stiffer. We mixed, we poured, we waited.

Then we chopped up the green jelly, inverted the mould and held our breath - till we turned out Mr Bunny in all his lurid red glory.

I was transported straight back to being 8 years old.

But what I hadn't banked on was Tiny Small's horror at the thought of eating any part of the "poor little rabbit" when it came to teatime. She cried and ran from the room, and only returned when the beast was safely chopped up and served out and covered with ice cream.

I now wonder whether I did the same when I was little and that's why my mum's rabbit mould stayed safely in the cupboard above the boiler ... and I know what we're not going to be having at a certain someone's birthday party, that's for sure!