Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Evenfall



Owls have long been associated with witchcraft. In England it was believed that cooking owl eggs until they became ash was an excellent ingredient for various potions including one to improve eyesight.


In some stories, owls were seen as an omen of death, perhaps due to their unearthly screeches frightening people at night! However in other parts of Northern England, it is good luck to see an owl. 

'Evenfall' is now available in my Etsy shop as a greeting card or small print.

The Last Wolf




Although no longer to be found in the wild in the UK since around the 17th century, wolves in British folklore are seen as animals to be feared, We are all familiar with tales of wolves in the woods, luring and eating unsuspecting children or grandmothers. The wolf also snatches women and  babies in some British tales. In Medieval stories, he would spit on his paws to make his approach silent to unsuspecting victims, or bite a paw if he trod on a twig. This image appears in some church carvings.

There are a few stories where the wolf is shown in a positive light- in some Scottish stories, a wolf nurtured human babies and in some saints’ legends the wolf appears as a dog-like companion. There is a story of a wolf guarding St Edmund’s head near Hoxne, Suffolk.

There are many stories about the ‘last wolf’ hunted in England. January was known as ‘wolf month’ because it was the time of year when people were in most danger of falling victim to wolves and the wolf hunting season was between 25th December to 25th March. There are stories of the last wolf being killed in Cheshire at the end of the fifteenth century, at a farmhouse named ‘Wolfa’ near Great Salkfield in Cumberland, or at Wolverstone in Devon. There are also stories of a wolf being killed at ‘Wolfscrag’, West Chiltington, Sussex but it is thought that many of these stories were most likely inspired by their wolfish place names.


In recent years there have been proposals to reintroduce wolves to parts of Scotland and England.

'The Last Wolf' is now available in my Etsy shop as a greeting card, small or large print.

Monday, 22 May 2017

My Endometriosis Story



I’ve been incredibly quiet on the blogging front this year because I’ve been focused on my health and day job rather than my artwork. Last month I was diagnosed with stage IV endometriosis and although I feel nervous to write about it, what has struck me when talking to friends and family about it this that there seems to be an equal split between people who have never heard of endometriosis (I was in this camp too before last year) and people who have it or have a close friend or relative with it.

Endometriosis is a condition where cells in the lining of the womb (uterus) are found in other places in the body. These cells behave the same way as cells inside the uterus- they build up, break down and bleed monthly just like a period, but with nowhere to leave the body. This can lead to chronic pain, inflammation and the formation of scar tissue. It can affect all women and girls of childbearing age, regardless of race or ethnicity. The causes of endometriosis are not clearly understood. The only definite way of diagnosing the condition is through laparoscopic surgery (a skilled surgeon going in and having a look), there are many different symptoms but the most common include:
    Painful, heavy, or irregular periods
    Pain during or after sex
    Infertility
    Painful bowel movements
    Fatigue

Endometriosis is graded in severity from I to IV depending on its location and the amount present in a woman’s body, but symptoms do not necessarily correlate to how much endometriosis there is; a woman could experience all of the above symptoms and more and have stage I endometriosis, just as a woman could feel no symptoms and have stage IV endometriosis, perhaps only discovering fertility problems when trying to have a family.

Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women in the world. If we all banded together and formed our own country we’d be the 8th largest population in the world yet because it’s a gynaecological condition it’s still a bit of a taboo subject to talk about. I wish I had known about it earlier and think it should be part of our health education as I, like so many others, have unknowingly had it for years. It takes an average of 7.5 years to diagnose. There is no cure for endometriosis but treatment options include surgery, hormone treatment and pain relief medication.

I have always had very painful and heavy periods but thought that was just the norm for me. I remember feeling like I was going to faint during lessons in school because they were so bad but didn’t go to the doctors about this until I was at university. I was put on the pill and prescription painkillers to try to manage them. They were still bad by ‘normal’ standards but did improve so I didn’t think any more of it. I became more symptomatic last summer and after my excellent doctors examined lots of different possibilities, was referred to a specialist relatively quickly. My laparoscopy revealed that I did have stage IV endometriosis and a couple of weeks ago I had excision surgery including having a section of my bowel and an ovary unstuck from my other organs. I feel incredibly lucky that my tubes and ovaries are clear which hopefully shouldn’t affect my fertility, and even though the operation will take a little while to recover from, I’m already starting to feel better. I may need to have additional treatment or surgery in the future but I know that years’ worth of damage is no longer in my body. Unfortunately many women have a negative experience on the road to diagnosis because it’s such a difficult condition to identify but my experience has been nothing short of excellent.

You can find out more about endometriosis via this excellent TED talk or the Endometriosis UK website.



I think the best way of making sure that more girls and women don’t have to wait so long for a diagnosis is by raising awareness and that’s why I’ve written this blog post. If you, or your friends, daughters, partners or sisters are experiencing any of these symptoms and they are interfering with their everyday living, don’t be embarrassed to talk about it and persuade them to visit their doctor and ask about endometriosis.








Thursday, 8 December 2016

Christmas h.Art


It's always my favourite event of the year- thank you so much to all of our friends both old and new who came to join us over the weekend. Here is just a very small snapshot of a wonderful weekend.

You make it possible for us to be able to take part in fantastic events like h.Art.

We wish you a very Happy Christmas! 

Lots of love 

Kate and Lit xxx























Crafts for Christmas at the NEC Birmingham

Hopelessly late, but I had to write about how we got on at the NEC last month.

The show is actually four shows in one- Crafts for Christmas, Cake International, Hobbycrafts and Art Materials Live so there were hundreds and hundreds of different stands to see and tens of thousands of people visiting.





It was incredibly hard work and Sam was amazing for taking the time off work to come and support me (you really can't do a show like that by yourself). There weren't as many independent designer makers as in previous years but we were lucky to be positioned in with a cluster of other makers. We had a fantastic time and the best part of the event was that we made some lovely new friends.

Andy and Hazel of 'Handmade by Hazel' were our neighbours. They were great fun to be around during the long days and make stunning wooden and slate items for your home such as cheeseboards and wine racks.



Lovely Val of 'Foxy Brushworks' makes gorgeous hand painted mirrors. We did an artist swapsie and I came away with one of her super cute cat mirrors! These would make perfect wedding  or special occasion presents as they can be totally customisable to you.



Super smiley Irek of 'Forever Amber' makes beautiful amber jewellery that I can't tell you too much about as I don't want to spoil any Christmas presents!



We also met 'Henleys Traditional Sweet Shops' who talked me into trying their sour challenge which I failed at dismally!

video

My very lovely and talented friend, Philippa Day also came to see us!

Wonderful to see Alice and Susan, as always!

Best visitor outfits from these lovely ladies!

They returned as reindeer the following day!

Bringing festive cheer in our Christmas jumpers!







Wednesday, 7 December 2016

CHOCOLATE!


It's been an incredibly busy few months with very little free time, but Sam and I decided to treat ourselves to a rare day off- we went on Jacqueline Keenan of La Fleur de Chocolat's chocolate making course!

Chocolate Goddess

We know Jacqui from a few of our regular markets and I don't think I've ever managed to resist not going home with (most likely an empty) box or bag of scrumptious treats made by her.

To say I was in my element during the day would be a huge understatement. I LOVE chocolate.



Jacqui welcomed us all with proper hot chocolate (the best I've ever had) and delicious nibbles. She taught us all about how chocolate is made and then had us taste a variety of different chocolates. This was fascinating and it's amazing how many different flavours you can taste in the real deal when you have an expert guiding you. I've never been wine tasting but I imagine it's a similar experience.



What shocked us the most was how unpleasant the supermarket brand chocolate tasted to us all after trying so many fine chocolates. I didn't think I liked dark chocolate before but Jacqui was absolutely right that we just hadn't tasted the right sort!

During the rest of the afternoon, we made our own fruit ganache to fill a tray of decorated chocolates, as well as three chocolate lollipops. My favourite part was the decorating and I'd love to have another go at it! I tried creating all sorts of detailed designs but I think the simpler, more abstract ones actually looked the most effective.

Painting chocolate designs

Sam's designs

My filling of choice was raspberry and framboise, while Sam opted for mango and passionfruit so between us we had a good selection.

You have to bash the tray with a rolling pin to line each chocolate mould




I knew chocolate making involved a great deal of artistic skill but hadn't realised what a scientific process it is too, and how exact temperatures need to be reached and cooled to in order to temper your chocolate properly and give it a wonderful shine.  




I absolutely loved how messy it was as well- such fun!



We had a wonderful day with Jacqui- she couldn't have been more welcoming and it was a real pleasure to learn more about the greatest thing on earth from a passionate expert. We were also allowed to taste everything throughout the day (which of course we did) so I was on a sugar high for the majority of the afternoon. I can't recommend the experience highly enough, so if you're looking for the perfect gift for the chocoholic in your life, head on over to her website!

Lollipop toppings


Sam's chocolates

My Christmas themed chocolates

Lollipops

Our lollipops all set to go!



Tuesday, 25 October 2016

In the Forest of the Night Exhibition


I'm absolutely delighted to be in the Art in Action Gallery winter exhibition entitled 'In the Forest of the Night'.

I really admire the work of Catherine Hyde and Flora McLachlan (the other two artists taking part) and am honoured to be in their company for the exhibition. I've seen Catherine Hyde's stunning work at Blue Ginger and bought some of her cards at the final Art in Action show. Her paintings are like scenes from stories of myths and magic of old. See more at her website here. I first saw Flora McLachlan's work through the Art in Action Gallery. It's hauntingly beautiful and makes you feel like you've stepped into a fairy tale. Find out about her here.

'In the Forest of the Night' is running from the 5th November to 24th December. The Art in Action Gallery (open daily) is a charming converted barn amongst the grounds of Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire. There's also a gift shop and tea room, so it's well worth a visit for an autumnal or wintry day out.

The exhibition will feature original artwork from my 'Winter' collection as well as a good selection of prints and cards.

'Dashing Through the Snow'

This painting is inspired by the deer seen on a wildlife tour in Ardnamurchan off the west coast of Scotland.
 I visited during the summer, but couldn’t resist the idea of turning these magnificent creatures into a wintry scene.

'Winter Moon'

There are stories linking the hare and the moon from all over the world.

The hare was believed to be the sacred beast of an Ancient Saxon goddess, Eostre. 
These mysterious creatures come out at night when the moon is full and became
 associated with life and re-birth.


'Midwinter Messenger'

There are stories linking the hare and the moon from all over the world.

The hare was believed to be the sacred beast of an Ancient Saxon goddess, Eostre. These mysterious creatures
 come out at night when the moon is full and became associated with life and re-birth.

He was thought to travel between worlds under the cover of darkness when the moon was full.
 In some stories he is seen in a positive light, and in others as a trickster.

'Mr Fox'

There are folk tales across Britain of a cunning foxy gentleman who tricks a young lady 
into agreeing to marry him with his elegance and fine manners. Little does the lady know that 
Mr Fox is planning to murder her. Foxes often represent male predators hunting female prey in 
these stories. Thankfully in most of the tales the lady is usually more cunning than sly Mr Fox.

'Robin Redbreast'

During the Victorian times, postmen wore red tunics as part of their uniform and
 were nicknamed Robin Redbreasts. Postmen delivered cards and presents 
over the Christmas period and the robin was used on cards to represent these 
bringers of festive cheer.

'Mab’s Mischief Maker'

Squirrels have long been associated with faeries, particularly Queen Mab. Mab was queen of the faeries
 according to British folklore and was believed to be accompanied by a bird and a squirrel on each shoulder. 
She was thought to be fond of mischief, including swapping human babies for changelings (faerie children).