I am now coming to the end of a year long project to produce an artwork for everyday of 2016.
For those of you who follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you will have seen these on a daily basis. But for those of you not on those social media paltforms, I thought I would show you some of the highlights. Some days its been just a few squiggles or a line drawing, but others have lead to lovely new styles of working that I am looking forward next year to developing. I am particularly pleased with the pen and watercolour style that has come about
but also this watercolour animal paintings that I then draw on cartoon flowers and plants. These have been popular and I have also been commissioned to do pets and on one occasions someones horse.
Painting on feathers has been popular two and this Macaw on a Macaw feather has just found a new home across the channel
I have found a delight in needle felting. This picture of boats was a slight cheat as it took me three of my days to complete
I am embarrassed at how I haven't written a blog for a while. But we have been busy, yes Busy!
We left Heartlands earlier than expected after an agreement with the management was reached. Then in November we moved into our new tiny shop in Hayle, yes it really is tiny. For those of you who have followed me from the beginning and came to see me in my first studio at Clevedon Craft Centre, then it's not much bigger than that. It is beautiful, it's on a main road, but opposite that road, is Hayle harbour. If we look down the river we can see St Ives in the distance.
And business? Well it's been good. December we were not prepared for at all as we had just opened our doors, but what an amazing response. We took a hearty amount of time off in January, as the stress of the previous year had caught up. But among all that stress then we had the amazing arrival of our first grandchild. A beautiful , yes I am biased, baby girl called Mia. So January and February as expected where quiet, but not as quiet as at Heatlands! And now it's building again and thinks are looking up, things are looking great in fact.
We have new jewellery designs a great new range from our good friends at Wight and Wight and Commissions on the go. We have been made to feel very welcome, not just by the locals but also by the local traders.
We have opened an online shop with Etsy recently as our plans to do our own have been put on the back burner due to time restraints.
Sorry this is not the best update but I am just about to go and open the shop and Mr Wellydog is off to do a radio course as he has been volunteering at the coast watch at Cape Cornwall.
I promise I will do a proper update with picture and all very soon
The summer holidays are Finally here Yay!!!... well actually not yay at all.
All year when things have been quiet in the studio we have made excuses and commented that when the summer comes it will be busy and it will make up for a rubbish half term, Easter and bank holidays. But alas nothing has changed in fact the first week of the summer holidays has been quieter than ever! So we have to admit we have made a mistake basing ourselves at heartlands.
I guess this has been a classic case of not doing good enough research. When we looked at it, it was quiet, but that was in November so we hadn't expected anything else. We spoke to the other studio holders who all told us it was great and when the summer came then they made enough to not worry about the quiet winters. Then there were the figures we were quoted, of how many people on site at busy summer days, I can't remember exact figures but they were very impressive. And events, there were loads of events planned , one nearly every weekend from June onwards. We thought, "this is going to be good". Well it isn't. In retrospect we should have made ourselves aware of the local bad feeling towards the place and to advertising budgets and staffing levels.
Two of the very same people who told us it was busy are leaving. And the figures.... Well here is a tip for the future, check where the counter is placed !!!!! Because there may be people on site but they are all in the adventure playground, and I have hunch that with the children running around there may be some double counting going on. So basically we are paying a lot of money each month to be near a busy playground.
I don't want to criticise the management, they are doing the best they can under very tight restrictions , low staffing level, no money and a lot of inherited bad feeling, but the crux of the matter is, if you build it, they won't just come, you need advertising, you need good signage and you need events!
There is one large event organised in August...Geek Fest and I am sure it will be a great success, but apart from a craft fair there is little else, we have just been told 4 events have now been cancelled. So from our point of view, how are comic book/gaming fans on site going to benefit a craft studio that sells leather handbags, belts, seaglass jewellery and Art. Yes we could make up leather costumes, or paint comic book pictures, but how worthwhile is it and how much can a small business invest in a three day event??
So we have a plan, I can't go into all the details as it's not formalised yet, but we have told Heartlands we are leaving. They are of course disappointed because after we leave there will only be two studios , actually used as studios, left. They have their excuses and reasons why the site is not working, but in the short time we have been there, and for whatever reasons, there has been a shift from making it a joint tourist attraction and community centre, to being totally for the community. An article in the local paper confirmed that for us a couple of weeks ago. In such a deprived area, the local community do not have the money to be buying expensive handmade goods, or booking workshops. so there is no point us being there, if there are no tourists .
All is not lost though, we have learnt a valuable lesson . We know what we are doing is good as we get great feedback from those who do come in and our conversion rate is very high, we get a sale for approximately every 10 people who come through the door. Add that to the outside events, markets fairs commissions and online sales and we are surviving. We knew we would have to do some of that anyway, we had just not realised that we would have to do as much away from the studio and had hoped the studio would at least pay for itself, otherwise we would have based ourselves at home.
We are stuck for the time being as we have a years lease, which doesn't finish until after Christmas, so will have to right off the rent and service charge for the rest of the year and cut our cost at Heartlands to an absolute minimum. This will mean not opening as often once the summer is over and basically turning it into a total workshop, where we will just produce lots of stock for our coming new adventure.
So please please please, learn from this whopper of a mistake we made and if you are thinking of opening a small business DO YOUR RESEARCH!!!!!!!
We have some lovely friends coming to visit us for a few day, later on this morning, and in planning what to do while they are here, I am reminded of what wonderful place we live and what a privilege it is to be living the dream in Cornwall.
On our door step is the wonderful village we live in, Newlyn. Many visitors drive through and never stop and see what an amazing place it is. I am always totally stunned that its missed by so many, but also quite pleased as it means it doesn't get as crowded as some towns and villages around here.
We decided to live here on a whim..... well almost. We have always loved Cornwall, I spend many happy holidays in a caravan as a child here. mostly in the Wadebridge area, my parent used to belong to the caravan club and each year we would go on a Caravan rally at the Royal Cornwall show grounds. We would always visit Padstow and go out on the speed boats from the end of the pier. I remember the local beaches with fondness particularly one where we would all picnic at the top of the cliff and then walk down to the beach and body board with our Dad, while our Mum stayed at the top. It was always packed with hundreds of people. Unfortunately my memory is not good and I have no idea where that beach was, or what it was called, which is a shame as I would love to re-visit.
When we had children of our own we sold our record collection ( I should say Mr WD's) and many other items to afford a basic little Alpine sprite caravan. We toured it everywhere and our favourite destination was, you guessed it.....Cornwall.
But as the children got older, they no longer fitted in the caravan bunks and didn't really want to come any more so we sold it and started holidaying abroad. We were lucky to have some amazing holidays with and without the children. We traveled to the Greek Islands, Paris, Brittany, Germany, New York, Florida, Iceland, Mexico and the oh so beautiful Maldives. But then a little chap came into our lives. our mad Collie Fin. We decided after only just adopting him it was unfair to leave him and swan off again to somewhere warm, also my Dad was not well at the time, so we decided to stay in a cottage at the Lizard, in fact we stayed in the wonderful Lighthouse cottages at Lizard point.
It was amazing, as we drove down the M5 past Exeter, things started to feel very familiar, even after all those years away and as we saw the sea it felt like coming home. We had such an amazing time and felt truly relaxed for the first time in years. It was very rainy and misty in the October we visited and the fog horn went off for almost 5 continuous days, but that all seemed to add to the charm and lulled us to sleep. It also meant we explored quite a lot. So off we went for a day trip to Moushole. I can't actually remember if we made it to Mousehole in the end as we stopped off at Newlyn as it had a dog friendly beach and Fin needed a break. We strolled along the pebbly beach, and looked over at St Michaels mount, held hands and looked at each other and just knew we had come home..... and now of course it is our home.
As we walk out of our house at the top of Newlyn's Chywoone hill ( Pronounced Choon), you can see the harbour below. We walk though the back streets past the fabulous little granite and white cottages on cobbled streets to the harbour. These are the same cottages the now famous Newlyn Artists painted from around 1885. If you get a chance visit the wonderful Penlee House museum in Penzance to see some of this amazing work.
Newlyn Harbour is always busy there are fishing boats coming and going all the time as the tide allows.
Each time a boat leaves the harbour you hear its horn go off and you can watch it sail out past the harbour wall. We then stroll along the harbour side towards the village, quite often there are piles of ice on the harbour side, I assume these have been used for keeping the fish cold.
We can also see the famous and essential Penlee lifeboat , sitting in the floating harbour. The original Penlee lifeboat was stationed up toward Moushole but was closed sometime after the Penlee lifeboat disaster, when 8 volunteer lifeboat men lost their lives, coming to the aid of the Solomon Browne.
It is nice to walk round the harbour when we don't have Fin with us, to see the fishing boats more closely. There is the fabulous old original quay to explore, with great views out of the harbour entrance with its lighthouse to guide the fishermen home, across Mount's Bay. The harbour is also the home to the UK tidal observatory, where all tidal heights around the coastline are measured from.
As we walk past the chandlers and fish shops down to the current Fish market, you pass the huge fish market warehouses , which smell of fish and disinfectant. I am not a fish or seafood eater so I don't really like it . We did go into the market for last years blessing of the fleet , which was very emotional and the world famous Newlyn Fish festival, which was incredible even for me, who is not a fish lover.
As you round the corner you can see the wonderfully imposing Seaman's Mission building at the end of the harbour. Unfortunately this has just been sold, but we have been lucky enough to go in and see the memorial room, part of the mission I believe is going to still stay after the new owners have renovated it, which is fabulous as The Mission is an essential part of life for Fisherman all over Cornwall, they help the fishermen in so many ways . Check them out at their website here http://www.fishermensmission.org.uk
We are then in the lovely village Centre, there is a butcher, very nice sausages, a pasty shop, absolutely essential, bakers, post office, newsagents, chemist, Drs surgery, Co-op, veg shop, florist, cheese shop, Italian Restaurant, Meadery ( lovely chicken and Mead fizz) the fabulous Jelberts, homemade cornish clotted cream, ice-cream, made fresh every day. (There are always queues on a warm summers evening). There also two new additions, Makerel sky, a little sea food restaurant, remember I don't eat seafood, so I can't comment, but we are told it is wonderful. Also a little gallery and pottery has literally only just opened so I haven't been in yet. There are of course a few little pubs to. I nearly forgot also a Chinese take away , very very large portions and the amazing Lewis's chip shop. I am sure I have forgotten other things but the point is.......you don't need to go anywhere else, its all there on our door step.
Newlyn bridge is past the second hand shop, and the river coming from the hills and runs into the sea, past the newly build seawall. After the enormous floods of 2013, much of Newlyn's seafront had to be rebuilt. We arrived just after Newlyn and been breached by the sea and this stone mountain is now there to try and help calm the waves before they hit the village again.
Walking toward the sea front we pass the Funeral directors , I told you everything was catered for and down toward the beach . There is the Tolcarne pub and restaurant in the car park just at the back and this leads onto the village green which runs alongside of the beach. There is a very touching memorial to those lost as sea, just at the end of the car park just as you pass to get onto he beach. Usually you can see flowers around the memorial, which always touches my heart.
As you walk onto the beach, you can immediately see the fabulous mounts bay and St Michaels Mount. On a lovely clear day you can see the Lizard in the distance. If you follow the beach you will pass though the tiny Wherrytown and then onto Penzance, but thats for another day.
Newlyn is such an amazing village and the people are amazing to. They have welcomed us with open arms and have been helpful and supportive of our move to their wonderful piece of bliss.
Yay we finally sold out house in Weston-super-Mare!!!!! Phew
For those who are not in the know.....the story so far
18 months ago my Dad died, and left me some money, we decided to fulfil a life long dream and buy a little fisherman's cottage in Newlyn Cornwall. We got a small interest free mortgage and in July 2014 we moved into out little dream holiday cottage. While grieving for my Dad then it was a little bit of bliss on the West Cornish coast and a dream come true.
Unfortunately Mr Wellydogs job was a not as pleasant. He was stressed beyond belief and he understandably wanted to leave. Things came to a head and luckily he managed to get out with his head held high. Obviously for a man who has worked tirelessly for 40 years it was an unbelievable shock, but as it turned out the absolutely best thing that could have happened to him.
So the decision was made to sell up in Weston super Mare, down size from a 4 bedroom detached house with very large gardens, driveway, garage , greenhouses and shed into a 2 bedroom little fisherman's cottage with a small yard and street parking for our 2 cars, and be mortgage free.
But with all thing house moving, nothing goes to plan, at least not for us it seems. We sold the house in December but a catalogue of disasters with estate agents and solicitors (grrrr) meant the chain kept falling down and the only people still in place was us and our buyers, so finally 6 months later it has sold. As you can imagine it has been a tad stressful and we are very relieved to now only be paying for one house.
We actually moved into our cottage fully on the 1st of Febuary as we had a deadline. Because we also moved into a new studio at Heartlands in Pool , about 18 miles away from our house.
It was brilliant it gave us ( especially Mr WD) something to focus on, we set up the studio in a mining visitor centre to sell leather goods, art and jewellery all made by us.
That was 5 months ago, so time I think, for an update.
The house is wonderful, who knew having a tiny house would be such pleasure. It doesn't need much cleaning, only 1 toilet not 3 to clean every week. We have no tumble dryer so we have had to learn to use a washing line and airer again , which of course saves electricity and must be much better for us....and no Dishwasher, which I have to say I miss terribly. I am a rubbish washer upper and nothing ever seems as clean as it used to be.
The yard has been half filled with a 6ft x4ft shed, we needed this for all those odds and end that we couldn't find a home for. Its amazing how much you can re-organise, to be able to fit everything in. The kitchen was tiny but we have a long narrow breakfast area , perfect for the addition of a dresser. Cupboards in the front room that fit perfectly into the small alcoves either side of the fireplace, provide a perfect place for CD and DVD's.
We have wonderful beaches within walking distance and although due to some ill health I haven't managed to walk to them as often as I would like, then Mr WD and Fin our mad dog, have enjoyed many a walk of an evening to our local beach, just down the hill. As for me a short drive and we are in most magically places possible.
I love the sound of the horns going off when the fishing boats leave the harbour and I even enjoy listening to the seagulls, that are ever present around the house. They are nesting at the moment and the roof opposite is fascinating to watch as Mr seagull keeps bring Mrs seagull food and more nesting material, as she sits on the eggs. We have been warned the noise gets very intense once the chicks have hatched and not all of them survive but I still am looking forward to watching it.
The neighbours are great we have some good characters and generally they are the salt of the earth and have made us feel very welcome and have been very helpful.
So work, how is that going?
Not so good I'm afraid. Numbers at the studio are painfully low. The promised hundreds of visitors have failed to materialise and although we are told of large numbers in the summer, we are becoming very skeptical this will actually happen. We are certainly not in dire straights. We have a very high ratio of sales per visitor, so when we do get visitors then we do very well. Just think what we could do if we had higher visitor numbers. We are also not sitting on our laurels and waiting for it all to come to us, we are actively seeking out sales. I do St Ives market most weeks , which has proved to be more profitable than the studio. We have booked in for a number of events including the very high profile, Newlyn fish festival. I have done a website building course, and am actively developing a new website which should be up and running at the end of the summer. and we are promoting and getting visitors especially coming to Heartlands to see us. I have started teaching again and our winter courses timetable is about to be released.
But I am getting a bit lonely and fed up of being tied to a studio that is proving to be nothing more that an expensive workshop. Its not really what we came to Cornwall to do. There are days when I am very happy to sit and paint and make in the studio but there are equally as many times that I would rather be on the beach or out and about painting. Especially now the summer is here. Yesterday I got particularly down as I just sat almost on my own all day with little enthusiasm for making or painting and the sun was shining and I wanted to be anywhere else but in a deserted studio with no company. I just sat and twiddled my thumbs all day. We had 3 people in all day, luckily one of them was on a spending spree but if it hadn't been for her, then I would have felt like it had been a complete waste of my time.
I make it sound really bad but what I am really trying to say is, we are rethinking our options. We don't regret going there as it gave us a focus, but we are starting to wish we had just rented a cheap garage or workshop. We would have been making more money and we wouldn't be tied into a contract that states how many hours and days we have to do. We are luckier than most as there are two of us, so we can at least take some time off on our own.
I guess now we have to think about what our options are. Do we continue with the studio, do we both get a part time job for a couple of days a week and have more time to enjoy our new surroundings. Do we rent a small work shop and make a couple of days a week and do markets and fairs thoughout the year??
How lucky was I?I managed to get some samples of one of the
SAA’s newest products,Sculpture block
and sculpture canvas .Being someone who
is deeply rooted in 2D work, then the chance to try something new, to bring
further depth into my work ,was intriguing, but also slightly scary.But really I should not have been nervous
about it.I thoroughly enjoyed working
with this new medium and it pushed me to look at how my work could benefit from
a more 3D approach.
My first little experiment went rather
better than I had expected. I am known for my wave paintings and so I wanted to
see if this subject would translate to this new medium.
The principle of the material seems to be
to carve into it with tools, for example lino cutter,but also use knives and sandpaper to refine
the design. Then to paint it.You could
go full 3d to produce a sculpture piece, but I chose not to. I wanted to
explore working in relief, this was something
I had touched on many years ago, whilst on my Art Foundation course.
On opening the pack I was surprised to find
how light the block was.It felt a
little strange , slightly like polystyrene but denser.If I am honest I didn’t feel it would be easy
to use or be hard wearing.I almost
expected it to crumble as I cut it, only time would tell.
The first step was to choose a design and I
decided to go with the flow and just draw a wave straight onto the canvas.This I did with a fine felt pen, it was easy
to draw on and I discovered that you could lightly sand away, with some fine
grade sandpaper, any unwanted lines.
I then had to think which areas I wanted to
be the deepest and which the shallowest to get the most out of the material.I chose at this stage to just go with 2
depths, so I cut away with the lino-cutting tools, above the crest of the wave.I did get a bit messy and soon realised, it
may have been better to be more organized than I was,but it was a great feeling just cutting away
and seeing what happened. I think if you
want to haveas hap hazard approach then
either, mark or shade in the areas to
cut away, or concentrate on one area at a time and work slowly.I found the medium cut away nicely.I did create quite a bit of dust, that
collected both on my hands and on the work itself, this was easily sorted with
hand washing and a trusty old toothbrush to get the dust out of the cuts on the
I also felt it was important to step back once in a while to review
how it was going, like you would with any work, but I think especially when
workingh in a more 3 D way.You can
check on progress before it become to difficult to put any mistake right. As sculpting
was easier than I had expected, I did wish I had take the plunge and created
more layers, but I think in it was probably a good move to keep it simple for a first attempt.
I sanded each area with a rough grain
sandpaper as I went along, but I finished at the end with a overall tidying up
off all the cuts with a finer grade of sandpaper.
When finished I sealed the block with a
mixture of acrylic paint and an acrylic binder,I then very roughly blocked out the canvas in the chosen colours . I
continued with more blending and detail on the next two layers, much like I
would on my normal canvases.
For my larger version I wanted to be braver
and add more depths.I estimated I could
cut away half the depth and not compromise the strength of the canvas.This seemed to work nicely.I worked from a sketch I already had, of a
harbour scene looking out in the distance at a lighthouse, with orange buoys very prominent in the foreground.
It has a strong perspective quality, so I felt it would work well in relief.It did become quite confusing at times as
this scene was far more complicated, so I had to be more organised.I cut the deepest area first and worked my
way up through 4 layers of various depths.This time I decided to try priming it with PVA glue to see what would
happen .I found the first time I got a
lot of areas that took ages to cover.The PVA seemed to work very well,but needed overnight to dry andI
cant vouch for it longevity.
When painting I made sure I kept aerial perspective
in mind and chose lighter colors and used less detail in the distance. I added darker
stronger pigments in the foreground, which added another optical layer of
I think overall the medium is
brilliant.I do think you have to
compromise slightly on detail and try not to fit to much into one area as it
was not easy to cut around very small areas.My main tip would be to make everything slightly bigger than you need
and then when you sand to finish off to a smooth surface, you don’t loose too
much definition.Being a terribly
impatient person I also used a hairdryer in between paint layers to speed up
the process and the block did not suffer
I was surprised at the strength of the
block , especially when I dropped it down the back of a radiator it was leaning
on to dry.I had to prod and poke to
several times with a rulerto get it out
and it faired very well. It was not at all crumbly like I had imagined.
I have yet to decide how to best present
the finished pieces.With the wave, it
was easy to paint the edges of the block, so this could be framed and mounted
on board.With the harbour painting I
couldn’t decide how to paint the edges, this would be something to consider for
my future pieces in this new medium.
I would definitely use again and would
highly recommend to any artist , especially those taking their first tentative
steps into sculpture , or those wanting to get extra depth into their