Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Tu Bishvat - The New Year for the Trees and the Celebration of Nature

I recently discovered 'The Festival of Trees' and am so glad that I did. Looking back over the last 6 months of my creative development I begin to see just how much trees and nature influence me and how they are at the forefront of my mind and my art.

January's edition of Festival of the Trees is focusing on Tu Bishvat. Tu Bishvat is the Jewish New Year for the trees. I'm not Jewish, but do have enough respect for other faiths and cultures to embrace the common ground that we share in hope that we can build upon it and live in a harmonious peace filled world.

Tu Bishvat appeals to me for so many reasons. One reason is that my own spirituality is nature based and any tradition of planting trees suits me well. When I first learned of Tu Bishvat I wondered if this tradition had come about due to sages of older days observing nature and linking trees with water and the lack of trees with desertification (in warmer climates). After researching this line of thought it appears that the tradition came to be out of an acknowledgment that human kind can not keep taking from nature without giving something back. To do so would be to bring an end to the resource that accommodates and sustains our lives and lifestyles. This tradition is founded on wisdom and a respect for the resources human kind depends upon.

I found an article which explains Jewish festivals and traditions and explains that many of the customs are based around the agricultural calender and, similar to Paganism, honour the solstices and equinoxes as times of great significance marked by festivals and holidays. Tu Bishvat does not appear to have been included in the original Jewish scriptures instead being borne from the necessity of paying taxes in the form of fruits and nuts and with foresight that many trees would be felled in springtime. Tu Bishvat is an attempt to replace trees before they are depleted.

Another aspect of Tu Bishvat is the importance of knowing the exact age of a tree. One should not eat fruits of the tree in the first four years of the trees life and the day of the shevat that the tree was planted on determines the age of the tree in years, not the actual age of the tree in calendar years.

It is customary to eat nuts (almonds) and raisins during the festival of Tu Bishvat and to plant almond trees. I wanted to create a piece of fibre art to honour this festival and was very inspired by almond blossoms and the mythology of the almond tree. I stated to make a shawl. The shawl is of epic proportions (3.5 metres x 1 metre) and has yet to be completed but the design incorporates almond bowers laiden with blossoms. Lets hope I get it finished in time for the actual Tu Bishvat!

Greek mythology tells of the beautiful princess Phyllis, who was left waiting at the altar on her wedding day by her intended, Demophon. Phyllis waited for years for him to return, but finally died of a broken heart. In sympathy, the gods transformed Phyllis into an almond tree, which became a symbol of hope. When the errant, remorseful Demonphon returned to find Phyllis as a leafless, flowerless tree, he embraced the tree. The tree suddenly burst into bloom, a demonstration of love not conquered by death. Below you can see a painting painted in 1907 by John William Waterhouse which was inspired by Demophon and Phyllis.

T - Thankfulness - be thankful for vegetation
R - Recycle - Help our trees
E - Environment
E - Eco-Friendly
S - Save The Trees


This year, I was very organised about my Christmas wish list ,making it clear that I really didn't mind what I received as long as I can make felt with it. I even (rather naughtily) kept slipping the name of my wool supplier into conversations.

What can I say, Santa was extremely generous and sent half the contents of Wingham Woolworks my way. I thankfully received a couple of kilo's of wool, some of it pre-dyed and blended with silk, a hat block, an amazing book full of felt hat designs, a tussah silk brick, silk gauze for nuno felting, a wash board (yet to be tried), an Ashford felting board, a felters rolling pin (a must have), India's magical book, olive soap, bubble wrap, and so much more.

Lets just say that I am very happy and have enough goodies to fuel my woolly obsession for a long time to come. Thank you Santa!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Happy Solstice!

Happy Winter Solstice

Today my daughter drew the name of the give away winner out of a hat. She picked two names that had snagged together, so there are two lucky winners!

And the winners of my Give Away are:

Congratulations! Please drop me a line to say whether yo would like a scarf, scarfette, or felted jewelry and also which colour scheme you would prefer, and I'll get busy right away :) Please also email me your postal details.

Have a great Solstice, Christmas and New Year Folks, sending festive hugs and love x

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Leaves in Snow

Lucky Me!

I won Karin Bartimole's blog give away. I feel so lucky, and I love the recycled theme and ethical ethos behind the give away. Christmas tree decorations made from recycled bottle tops and other materials, paper that contains seeds and can be planted (wow, I love!), A hand made book made from recycled cereal boxes, I will certainly have fun journaling in that. Some surprise art goodies, and a gift from Unicef where the proceeds go towards helping save the lives of children.

Thank you Karin. This year, Christmas has been all about ethical spending and environmentally friendly, and home made gifts so I am delighted with Karin's offerings.

I love Karin's artwork, I find the way that Karin is able to paint feelings and physical sensations unique. Please visit Karin at BEYOND WORDS to see what I mean. You won't be disappointed!

If you are intrigued by paper that contains seeds to be planted you may like this little Welsh company that sells Sheep Poo Paper! Yes it sounds gross, but it is clean and sterile, made from sustainable sources that leaves our precious trees be, and some of it contains wildflower seeds that can be used to plant when the paper is no longer in use. I get a real kick out of the idea that you can send wedding invites on this paper :)

For those of you that have not entered my Blog Give Away, there is still time. The draw will be made tomorrow. Don't forget that it is possible to get extra entries by becoming a follower of Made4Aid, sporting a Made4Aid button on your blog and writing a post sign posting your readers to Made4Aid. Read HERE for further a details and leave a comment to enter.

The prize will be worth it! You can choose between a piece of felted jewelry, a scarf or a scarfette that will be made especially for the winner using their choice of colours.

Thank you :)

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Felted Lovelies Laced with Silk

This year I am making as many Christmas presents as I can. Its a bigger task than I thought. We will be spending Christmas in Anglesey with my grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and maybe more... I'm really looking forward to it. I've counted at least 12 people that I will see on he day that I don't usually exchange gifts with ,but I have this self made rule. If I'm lucky enough to spend Christmas day with someone, I like to give them a gift.

Here are 7 of the necklaces I have made. They are all felted wool beads with pale pink silken detail. Its a look that I had tried to achieve in earlier pieces of jewelry where I used alpaca wool. Alpaca wool doesn't get the same satisfying result as silk for this effect. Its too hairy.

The felted wool and silk beads feel very warm and luxurious, almost like a hug.

If you haven't already put your name down for my give away there is still time. Just click HERE and leave a comment. The draw will be made on 21st December. Good luck.

Friday, 4 December 2009


Wounded I hung on a wind-swept gallows

For nine long nights,

Pierced by a spear, pledged to Odhinn,

Offered, myself to myself

The wisest know not from whence spring

The roots of that ancient rood

They gave me no bread,

They gave me no mead,

I looked down;

with a loud cry

I took up the runes;

from that tree I fell.

Odin's Gift to the World

(Excerpt of W H Auden & P B Taylor's Translation of The Havamal)

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Theme Thursday - Friends, & a Give Away...

Its Theme Thursday time again and this week its all about friends. Earlier today I visited Lettuce and was moved by her post explaining what blogging has come to mean to her. It mirrors so many of my own feelings about the circle of friends I have come to know and love within the blogging community. I have found friends here where I never expected to find any. I have been blessed with support, words of kindness and wisdom, inspiration and free tuition. I am so thankful for the things I have been able to learn from you all and the chain reaction of creativity that has been borne between the pages of your blogs.

I've been thinking for a while that I'd like to do a blog give away to thank you ll and by way of showing my appreciation to all of you. There are no rules to this give away. You don't have to follow my blog. You don't need to visit again. If this is your first visit here, don't let that prevent you from leaving a comment to enter this give away. All are welcome! I do have a cheeky (optional) incentive however :)) let me explain:

  • Each person that leaves a comment will have one entry to the give away
  • Each person that is a follower of made4aid, has a made4aid button on your blog or writes a post signposting your readers to made4aid will get an extra entry
  • To clarify, if you leave a comment and are a follower of made4aid you have 2 entries, if you leave a comment, follow made4aid and have a made4aid link button on your side bar then you have 3 entries. If you have left a comment, follow made4aid, have a made4aid button and write a post, well then, you are super and I'll go right ahead and give you 5 entries!
  • Remember, these are just incentives and not conditions. Leaving a comment alone will give you an entry

I will make the draw on 21/12/09 in celebration of the winter solstice. I will be giving away a felted scarf, scarfette or piece of jewelry (please state your preference and favourite colour). I will make the felt for the winner using the preferred colour scheme of the winner that can be tailored for gender too. I will post out the felt during the first days of January.

Ok, now thats enough of my shameless promotions. Its safe to keep reading future posts, I won't be bigging up any more charities for a while. There have been so many of late because I have a real bee in my bonnet about ethical spending at Christmas time. I hate to see people getting into debt, maxing the plastic and stressing over expensive presents that are often unwanted, unused and unloved. But we love our family an friends and love giving presents don't we?

The picture above was taken at Stonehenge this year during the Gorsedd of Bards of Cor Gawr midsummer gathering.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Calling all Artists!

Merino wool dyed in turmeric powder

Needle flt painting made entirely from naturally coloured wool or wool dyed with plants and vegetables

Needle felted tree using Naturally coloured wool or wool dyed with plants and berries

Blue Faced Leicester wool needle felted into beads (no dyes used)

This post is inspired by the the Blog 'Natural Dye Inks'. When I work with wool, the pieces that give me the greatest satisfaction are those that are the most environmentally friendly. I love to see felt that has been made from natural wool tones or coloured with eco-dyes. The blogs that I get most excited about seeing newposts from on my blog roll are the ones that teach me how to make environmentally friendly dyes myself such as Mama Ladka, Growing Tyffu, Riihivilla, Dying with Natural Dyes , India Flint and others.

Now that I have started painting too, I often wish that I knew where to buy or how to make environmentally friendly paints. I was delighted to see a new post on Natural Dye Inks today, and then saddened to see that there have only been two posts this year.

Eco Art is so uplifting and rewarding that I'd love to see projects like 'Natural Dye Inks' thrive.

If you have any tips such as where to purchase, how to make or which websites to visit and books to buy on paints, inks, coloured pencils, pastels or any other environmentally friendly art material please post a comment sharing your knowledge, or better still hop over to Natural Dye Inks and lend them your support.

Thank you x

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Tree Planting - The journey, a ritual, and a little bit of magic

This post is for me. Its personal, and sad, and maybe you'd rather not read it. But if you do, I really don't mind as long as you understand that this is something I need to air to myself and this is my forum to do so.

Tree planting

Today was tree planting day at the nature reserve. I've been looking forward to this day and planting our Hazel tree. I'd found this ritual on the web and wanted to use it to bless the tree, the site and my baby girls.

Tree Planting Ritual

Begin with the tree, the hole already dug, a pile of earth beside the
and a bowl or watering can of water.

Stand facing East, and say:

"In recognition of the Earth my mother and of the sky my father, and of
true source beyond all things, I ask that I may plant this tree, to
bring clear
air to the blue sky, and rich soil to the dark earth.
May it grow tall and strong
- its roots reaching deep into its home,
its leaves reaching ever higher
towards the sun."

Hold your hands over the pile of earth and say:

"I ask that this earth might be blessed, and that it might feed and
this young sapling well."

Pick up the tree and as you plant it, talk to the tree, either out loud or

"May you grow fine and tall."

When it is planted, hold your hands over the water and say:

"May this water be blessed, may it refresh and sustain this young

Pour the water around the base of the tree, and then holding both arms
towards the tree, say:

"In earth and water will you grow. In the air will your leaves speak as
reach towards the fire of the sun. We respect and honour and
admire you,
O tree, and all trees, for you represent both Peace and
though you are mighty you hurt no creature. Though you sustain
us with
your breath, you will give up your life to house and warm and
teach us.

We give thanks for your blessing upon our lives and upon our lands.
you fare well in this chosen place."

In reality it didn't happen this way. I woke up flustered and grew more anxious as we neared the site. I'm surprised I have any tears left to shed, I feel like I've irrigated the entire county and all of its neighbours these past few months.

We had told my 3 year old daughter that today we would be planting a tree. As we all know, the world revolves around every toddler so my daughter obviously understood that to mean that she would be doing the planting. She picked up our precious sapling and flung it around like a majorette twirls her mace before plonking it unceremoniously into the hole, upside down. I heard my intake of breath as my heart rested in my mouth and I gasped 'be gentle'. It all turned out all right in the end, the tree was planted. My daughter helped pack the earth around the roots with her hands, as she did on the days her sisters were buried. You've got to love that girl, I''m sure she was born a healer.

The 'rabbit guard' was placed on the tree. In my minds eye, I had thought of these guards as protection against deer. Do you know how happy I was to hear that it is there to protect against rabbits, although it is hares that are a real problem for the trees? An abundance of hares, how magical :)

The picture below was taken today. A wonderful view of the Cotswolds.

The Journey

In March my baby girl was stillborn. Blindly groping around in the dark, asking for direction and place to rest our loved child, we stumbled across a green burial ground. We connected with a sensitive, healing soul who thoughtfully lined our baby's grave with twigs and flowers. If only she knew how much she touched our hearts and helped us heal.

In June, we returned for a visit. I had a kindred spirit visiting from Seattle. She has become part of family over the years so we brought here on route to the Rollright Stones. The sun was shining, the birds sang, butterflies and ladybirds blessed us with their presence and as we picnicked we felt peace in our hearts, beauty in our minds and daisy chains in our hair. It was a happy day.

We saw the plaque for the first time. I had struggled so much over choosing the right words. Many of you know that I believed I couldn't draw. During my initial period of grief this remained true in my heart. Again, this sensitive, healing lady offered her help and drew the template for Nina's plaque. I hope she knows how much she is appreciated.

On July 30th I went to hospital for tests. I was advised that the baby I was carrying was dead. It was so heartbreaking as i had a scan a few days earlier and the baby was so full of life, kicking around, moving so much. I think I'd managed to stay so strong up until this point. There had been tears, of course. But who is strong enough for this?

In September, we were ale to bury our second lost daughter. Once more, this wonderful healer and sensitive soul lined the grave with sunflower petals from her garden. This time, I made the felt myself from wool that I had dyed in blackberries. My daughter rescued a caterpillar that had fallen into the grave. Next, we placed earth gently around my baby's shroud and filled the grave up until it was full. This is something I hadn't felt able to do for Nina. It felt cleansing, a part of the ritual of healing. I've been such a mess these past months.

And a little bit of magic....

Earlier in the summer, Susan of Artspark Theatre sent me one of her travelling Alice's. We photographed Alice at the nature reserve back in June. It was the happy uplifting visit that we had to the burial ground. I'm thankful to Susan for lending us magic and bringing it to Nina.

I am blessed with a living daughter. Right now her favourite film is Princess Mononoke. A while ago, she asked me to felt her something from the film. I needle felted some tree sprites. Children of the ancient trees. To see these sprites is an indicator that the forest is healthy. Today we popped a tree baby on each of my babies graves.

In October it had been bulb planting day. We didn't make it ourselves, and once again, this magical lady to whom I have so much gratitude, planted wood anemone around my babies graves. I chose wood anemone after reading an Irish BTCV site page about how seeing wood anemone was a sign that there had once been a magnificent forest in that place. Wood anemone are now known as the ghosts of the forest.

The optimist in me hopes that if we retrace our steps and wind back time then the great forests will thrive again. With this in mind, we chose the wood anemone, and placed felt tree sprites around the graves knowing that the spirit of the forest will live again and this site will thrive.

Friday, 20 November 2009

A Short Break

Hi everyone. I'm going to take a short holiday from blogging. My projects are getting bigger and taking longer to complete and I'm also on a bit of an emotional overload right now so I think a short break would do me good. See you all in a week or two x

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Made4Aid: Welsh Mountains- Felt Picture

This is a picture that I have donated to Made4Aid to help raise much needed money for refugees in Darfur. You can buy my lovely artwork by clicking on the link below. The auction begins at $30/£18 (a bargain for a felt painting of this size) .

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Birth Chart Mandala

Mixed Media - Pencils, coloured pencils, water colour, acrylics, oil pastels, extracts of proverbs (negativity removed), PVA glue

For the past 9 days I've been taking part in a pilot for Patricia Ariel's new online workshop 'Creative Astrology'. I've been quite blown away by the revelations of my birthchart. So much has been explained and makes sense now. There has been some really great group discussions. I think i'll feel at a loose end when the course closes tomorrow.

A couple of days ago Ariel circulated a message to the group titled 'One or two things I know about art'. It was such a sweet nurturing email telling us to cast aside all doubts about our abilities as artists. Art is instinctive and often, the doubts we have about our creative expressions are simply echoes of the things that were said to us in childhood. They are not true.

What I have discovered about myself during this course is that I really LOVE painting, drawing, collage, mixed media. Its such great fun. I learned that I assumed I was not any good at this aspect of creativity. But if I think about it, I can't remember trying this style of art since my early teens.

When did you last pick up a paint rush, or try the artistic form of expression that you tell yourself that you simply cannot do? Give it a go, you might surprise yourself.

Below are some pictures showing the artwork of Patricia Ariel. Please click on the pictures to visit Ariel's websites. Thank you Ariel.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

The Astrology of the Birth Chart and the Castle of the Psyche

Theme Thursday is all about castles this week. Castles can be historical, metophorical, psychological, mythalogical and even astrological.

This week I began an online 'Creative Astrology' workshop hosted by the amaizing artist Patricia Ariel of 'Mesmorized by the Sirens'. The workshop is based around our birthcharts and by the end of the 10 day course we should be able to produce our own personal mandala's which tap into our creative energies using the ancient art of astrology.

So far we have discussed the historic and psychological connections to astrology. I have learned that Jung and other psychologists incorporated astrology in helping clients understand the positive aspects of their personalities and to build on them. I have learned how astrology is used as a tool in assisting self actualisation.

Coming from the helping professions and having studied counselling I was fascinated to hear psychological and counselling terminology being used in reference to astrology. I had never considered astrology in this way before. Eager to find out more, I searched the web and came across an essay 'The Astrology of the Birth Chart and The Castle of the Psyche'. In brief, this essay discusses the theories of Jung and Hamaker-Zondag by metophirically likening the midheaven position of the birth chart to a castle standard. It discusses how the standard (flag) helps those apoproaching the castle decide whether you are friend or foe and if they should proceed or turn back. The essay discusses how judgements have already been made and opinions formed before the oncomer ever reaches the castle (self) and this influences relationships. The castle standard represents the Jungian concept of the 'social persona', the reputation. The social persona protects the inner 'psyche' showing the world what we want it to see.

It is interesting to see how well this is acheived. Do others regard us in the same light that we regard ourselves? Does the way that we regard ourselves reflect the true self?

Yesterday, I was presented with my birth chart. I don't really understand it so will spend some time this evening coming to terms with it and learning what the symbols and positions relate to. Before I understand these symbols, I thought it would be intersting to create a pseudo mandala incorporating symbols that I connect with myself and that astrology has given me to see how it compares to my birth chart.

If your home is your castle and home is where the heart is, my home and castle is under the canopy of an ancient tree in a wildflower meadow. Below is a painting I began in the summer while my friend was visiting from Seattle. Painting and drawing have never been strengths of mine but I have enjoyed making this painting and the mandala above.

To see some beautiful Goddess and fantasy artwork please visit Patricia Ariel at 'mesmorized by the sirens'. Thank you.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Echinacea Scarfette

Charge up the immune system with a little warmth and beauty this winter