Friday, May 23, 2014


I really like the vinyl for cutting out 'lino' plates.  Not only are they a joy to work, but they also have the bonus of being double sided.
This is my plate partially cut away. 
After I had the main details dealt with I started using cutting tools that I had bought for using on plywood: hot knife through butter!  I guess that my lino tools need sharpening!
Because I was so pleased with the black that I tried at the end of last year, I have ordered some more Caligo Safe Wash inks.  The black took a little longer than I expected to dry, but I do not mind that now that I am aware of it.
Meantime I am in the middle of my least liked activity involved in making a quilt: putting the back on - especially when it's a large quilt.  My way of stitching causes the fabric to bunch/pull out of true which makes squaring off the edges somewhat of a pain for me.  I need more space, a bigger table, a longer rule, ... or just an assistant!  Hey ho, displacement activity over - back to work!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Green, mostly

It is Chelsea week, and generally we have been thinking about gardens, so we decided to go over to West Green House garden for a visit (and lunch).  We very much enjoy this garden, and are fortunate that it is but a few minutes' drive away.  I think of it as a calming green space, and although today there were far more visitors than we normally encounter it was easy to feel almost alone most of the time.
A fairly new meandering area of iris, ferns, willows is developing well:
I love the way the bright green appears when looking out from the deep shade:
The water gardens with the spaced birches are lit up on opera nights, but they can be enchanting in daytime sunlight too.
There are lots of box hedges keeping a formal control round informal spillings out.
The planting mix works so well here, planned and unplanned - such as the forget-me-not with hosta,
ferns with ?ground elder,
bearded iris with geranium and cow parsley,
iris sibirica with carex pendula, ....
These formally cut santolina are just about to burst into flower,
while the euphorbia are at the end of their flowering and seeds are forming.  
Most of the greens are subtle variations on a theme, with shapes and shadows adding interest, but the crambe leaves are rich deep dark shades providing a stunning contrast to their pale stems and white flowers.
  The whole garden is a delightful mix of contrasts and complements, formal and informal.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


does not have to mean being totally solo. 
Extra dimensions enhance the experience: contrast, balance, harmony, echo.
 Each brings out the beauty in the other.
So, with my double bass I shall have a saxophone from before - who never quite made it as a soloist then.  These are my new ingredients:

Monday, May 19, 2014


Although we have only been back for a week, this sudden heat wave is pushing my memories of our trip further away.  So in order to try to make manifest some aspects of my response to the landscape I am going to attempt a print this week.
Somehow the music I hear in my head is that of the double bass, and so I have started a scribble. 
One is not enough, but it's a start.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Suddenly it is hot and sunny

and I would love to be able to dip my bare feet into the tumbling peaty chill of the River Muick, near Ballater in Aberdeenshire - something I would not have considered at all on the day we were there just a fortnight ago.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

'tween time

We are returned home now after our two weeks, which were different from each other in several ways, not least of course the change of self-catering dwelling.  The landscapes of the first week were fertile, productive, a land occupied from pre-history, a land which had collaborated with the folks on it.  A land full of interest at every bend.
Of course Sutherland is also interesting - and in places full of many bends - but it is a land not interested in collaborating with anyone.  I first encountered this landscape in my early 20s and was much attracted.  It has taken over 40 years for us to return, and I don't really know why it has been so long.  I found on return that the draw is just as strong, and the more intense viewing this time most rewarding despite the inevitable changes.
Years ago I learned about the ceramic artist Lotte Glob and her architect designed home and studio on the shore of Loch Eriboll.  Such solitude must be magnificent, I thought - and there was much from which I too would have liked to be removed at the time.  Nowadays, however, she shares the loch side with several other dwellings, new and sparkling, holiday homes and luxury rentals amid them all.  The land is far less empty these days, and of course delivery  vans reach everywhere.
But it is still possible to get away from everyone - for some of the time anyway: believe it or not there is a sports car do on up there at present, and we at one point paused in a passing place to let a string of 20 or so sports cars past! - and these few snaps will give you an idea of the colours of and changing light on the landscape while we were there. 
The county is a large one and the landscape varies from west to east, and the north west coast can astonish with its pristine white beaches.
We were lucky enough on our penultimate day to stop for lunch in the Timespan Museum in Helmsdale where we saw a group of Suzie MacKenzie's prints on display.  One in particular - Mountain and Rock - captured some of what we feel for the landscape we had seen, and so we bought it.
So now we are getting used to being back home, thinking about routines, checking how various plants have done in our absence, washing all those clothes, and for me still recovering from a bout of digestive unwellness - while still savouring that wondrous solitude. 

Monday, May 05, 2014

On our day of transition

from Aberdeenshire to Sutherland we had a look at the Black Isle, and in particular Cromarty.  This plan was strengthened by my reading of Peter Davidson's comment in Distance and Memory that Cromarty has some of the best preserved architecture in Scotland, untouched by succeeding generations.  This blog also has many fascinating photographs.
Here are a few of my snaps:
I love this one with the detached little room/shed.
This house was built by a merchant so that he could watch his ships come in.  However, he fell out with his brother who promptly built an almost sham slim house right in front, so that the view was blocked!  Family relationships!
This house has extra decoration.
This is another ice house:

Sunday, May 04, 2014

After the snow: catching the sun!

This trip is turning out to be quite an adventure weather-wise.  We set off for Spey Bay on a glorious day. 
We did not see any dolphins, but we had a walk along the estuary and river Spey (some walking far further than others who soon sat in a sheltered spot just at the back of the ice houses
(used to pack the salmon before sending them on to market) and definitely caught the sun!
This is the building that the Whale and Dolphin Conservation folk now use as their café and shop etc.
I was amazed to see a flock of birders suddenly descend in their vehicles, and clutching their scopes and their vacuum mugs they all rushed to see what there was to see before dashing off to some other location.  Such weird behaviour.
The sun was also strong when we went to Elgin to see the Cathedral
So strong in fact that I could not make out much of the carving on the back of this Pictish stone.  Just enough to confirm that the Christian symbols were on one side, and other symbols including horsemen were on the other.
There was a wedding going on in the chapter house, so we did not get to see the ceiling until everyone was outside having their photos taken.