Sunday, 22 December 2013

Yuletide wreaths & milk bottle angels!

In an effort to get well and truly into the Christmas spirit my friend Val Bowen agreed to show me how to make a wreath from leaves, berries and cones found in my garden (luckily I just got in ahead of the birds for the last remaining berries and rose hips, but of course I'll be feeding them regularly over winter so I don't feel too guilty). We spent all morning wrapping moss round a wire base and fixing with florist's wire. We then made little 'bouquets' of holly/bay/yew leaves with some rose hips and holly stems and berries mixed in. These were wired over the moss, the exposed wire then being covered by other bits of foliage pushed deep behind the original wire wrapping the moss. I also made a 'bouquet' of different shaped fir cones for the top of my wreath...not bad for a first attempt if I do say so myself! Val's lovely wreaths can be found at the plant stall at Nailsworth Country Market every Friday.

For more festive cheer I collected empty 1litre milk cartons, cut angel shapes out following the patterns found in the Winter issue of BuyLOCAL and then decorated each one with Rub and Buff gold paint from Kendrick Street Gallery in Stroud and stuck on sparkly sequins and shapes with PVA glue from Mother Goose in Nailsworth. These look amazing hanging round the room or even outside on a tree.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Upcycled Christmas bauble

Having just finished the Winter issue I couldn't resist posting a picture of one of the decorations we're featuring. I raided my button box for various vintage buttons and then got some pearl headed pins, a styrofoam ball and ribbons from Steffi at Mother Goose in Nailsworth and wiled away an hour or so making this upcycled bauble. We also feature lots of other brilliant ideas of Steffi's - so don't miss it!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Support your secret garden!

‘Secret Artist’ is a fundraiser for Stroud’s very own Secret Garden, an 18th century Walled Garden hidden away behind the Museum in the beautiful grounds of Stratford Park. As work continues on opening up the garden , so does fundraising for this exciting project. ‘Secret Artist’ offers you a chance to acquire an affordable work of art on a postcard, as well as supporting a good cause at the same time.

Talented local artists and art students from Stroud School of Art are busy creating beautiful works of art for this special weekend exhibition. Rumour has it that there will once again be an eclectic and fascinating display of postcards adorning the walls of Gallery 2, textiles and photography as well as drawings and paintings, perhaps even mosaics and jewellery too.

The first Secret Artist postcard received this year came from award winning, internationally acclaimed illustrator and graphic designer Tony Meeuwissen. Tony Meeuwissen has lived in the Stroud hills and valleys for over 30 years. From album covers to Penguin book jackets, Royal Mail stamps to award winning books, his intricate and witty designs have delighted us for decades. His V&A commissioned playing cards ‘The Key to the Kingdom’ won him the WHSmith illustration award, and his Weather postage stamps were voted 'best loved stamps' of 2001 … the person who’s lucky enough to win Tony’s work is very, very lucky indeed!

So how does ‘Secret Artist’ work exactly? As the name suggests its something of a mystery … Art lovers and Museum visitors are invited to help raise much-needed funds for the Garden by coming along to the Museum on 16 and 17 November and buying a ‘Secret Artist ticket’ for £15 before they run out. Each ticket entitles you to one postcard … but you won’t know which one until a week later when you come to collect it or when you receive your card by post!

… do save the dates, share the secret and support your local Museum! 

Contact for further information  Abigail Large, Museum Administrator, tel: 01453 763394 email
Detail of the 18th Century ornamental Walled Garden gate  © Steve Russell
Walled Garden teasels  © Dave Cockcroft 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Basket case

There as another basket making day at Stroud Brewery on Sunday 8th December 10am - 4pm. It is open to all. Older/patient children can come with an adult, age 10ish and above. If you're interested, the teacher, Kamar, will show you how to make a Christmas hamper basket using different coloured willow. Bring a woolly jumper in case it's chilly. Also please bring a simple dish to share for lunch. These days usually book up quickly so please email to let her know if you would like a place. The cost is £35 per person including materials. If you book and can't come you will still be asked to pay or to find someone to come instead of you. Here's the basket I made on the last course - it's about 24 ins in diameter and is utterly fab!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Fix it for free!

Now here's a clever recycle/upcycle idea...this is a very different kind of workshop.  Based on the Repair Café movement in Holland, the aim is to fix or repair any garment or electrical/mechanical device you can get to the café – for free! Hosted by Lee Townsend at the Lockkeepers Café, there will be experienced engineers and sewing/machining volunteers from Transition Stroud to try to fix whatever you bring. You get it fixed (hopefully)  - and for free, the planet benefits as you don’t have to buy a new one and we all have a relaxing time over a coffee at your local café.

Date: Sunday October 20th
Time: 2.30pm to 4.30pm
Venue: Lockkeepers Cafe, Wallbridge, Stroud
Cost: Just buy a cup of coffee!

Best to book a slot to let us know if you have clothes to be mended or mechanical/electrical goods to be fixed.  So email: - or ring 07725 900666

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Incredible edible gardens

Congratulations - this year's 'Edible Open Gardens' was another triumph - only this time we had amazing sunshine to enjoy them all in. With fabulous refreshments and a wealth of unusual and innovative ideas to whet our appetites we really don't have any excuses NOT to be growing our own produce. As an 'homage' to the gardeners (I don't have any green fingers at all) I tried my hand at making some pallet planters. I was fairly pleased with the finished results and have been enjoying the fruits of my labour throughout the summer. Admittedly with the fine weather we've been enjoying the barbie has seen a lot more use recently and the herb pallet planter has taken quite a hit! If you weren't keen on growing edible things in pallets then you could try succulents....whatever you plant they look fab, plus they 'd even fit on a balcony if that's all you've got.

The planter on the left contains various herbs, on the right are salad leaves, strawberries and nasturtiums - always remember to wash anything picked from a container like this.

Step 1: Choose a smallish pallet (I asked a local business if they had any untreated pallets not being used). You will also need some waterproof material such as pond liner or in my case an old recycled gazebo cover as well as a large stapler plus of course your compost and plants!
Step 2: Fold your waterproof material around the pallet leaving the top open. Do it as if you were wrapping a Christmas present. Then staple along all the edges using one staple every 4-5 cm.
Step 3: Make sure all the sides are taut otherwise it will look like a pregnant sack!
Step 4: Stand upright and fill with compost to the first space on your pallet. Lean it back down and push your plants into the gap (be firm, you don't want them falling out). Then stand the pallet upright again and fill with compost to the next gap. Repeat the process until you've filled all the gaps.
Step 5: Once all the gaps are filled stand upright and plant the top row. Water well from the top, then lay your pallet at a 45° angle and water again. Leave at this angle for 3-4 days so the plants can 'settle' then place upright in your desired location....voilà!

Friday, 26 April 2013

How to make enamel tiles

I recently spent a day with Anita Brayford learning the art of sgraffito. Sgraffito is a painting technique where the artist scratches into the top layer of the paint to reveal areas of the surface underneath...or in this case the enamel! I've put together a simple step-by-step to show you what we did. It was a fabulous day - never knowing what the finished product would look like until they had been fired and cooled! The results were better than I could ever have hoped for! If you're interested in doing a day's course with Anita, call her on 07791 796831. You can see her work during the SITE Festival at Unit 16, Piccadilly Mill when she will be taking part in the Open Studios event.

1 Tapping powdered enamel onto the backs of the 'tiles'.
2 The reverse side when fired.
3 When cooled the 'tile' is placed in the pickling bath.
4 Removing the 'tile'.
5 Washing in water.
6 Pouring 'slip' onto the front of a 'tile'.
7 Tilting the tile in a circular motion to spread the liquid evenly.
8 Allowing any excess to drain, (it's then left to dry).
9 A practise sketch and my etching on the tile.
10 The tile etched and ready for firing.
11 Another practise sketch.
12 The etching on a tile fired with a base colour.
13 A tile with stencil shapes placed in position.
14 Enamel powder seived over and stencils removed, ready for firing.

At the top you can see the various tiles as they've turned out after being fired and cleaned - very cool!

Monday, 11 March 2013

My Kingdom for a horse Part Trois!

It has been ages since I posted anything about carving my rocking horse. For those of you doubting Thomas’ out there...yes....I have been working on him! He has been nick-named Fin by my other half (short for Findus following the horrid horsemeat scandal) and he is slowly starting to look more like a real rocking horse. Some stages I've had to skip over when I didn't have my camera handy. Anyway here’s how far we've now come....

1. The base of the safety stand has been measured, cut, champfered and sanded.

2. Wood turning tools used to make the support pillars (from bottom to top)
The ‘Parting Tool’ is used to cut narrow grooves to serve as depth guides to facilitate the turning of a true cylinder. The parting tool is also used for squaring or cutting off the ends of the cylinder to the proper length.
When using a ‘Gouge Chisel’ the round side of the gouge rests on the tool rest and is turned or rolled a little to the right, always holding the wooden handle down (see image 4).
The ‘Round Nose Chisel’ is used for concave cutting.
The ‘Square Nose Chisel’ is used for straight cutting.

3. Wood turning calipers are used to measure the depth of the pattern on the pillars to ensure they match.

4. Wood turning on the lathe.

5. One finished pillar in a traditional design...I’m so proud!

6. Some wood carving tools including (from left to right) mallet, gouges, rasp.

7. The hind quarters with my horse’s rear end drawn on.

8. Hand carving.

9. The body complete.

10. Using a rasp to smooth some of the hard edges.

11.  Using the BIG sander to get an ultra smooth surface.

Next I have to bite the bullet and begin carving his head. Ah well....once more unto the breach dear friends, once more....

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Spuds we like

Once again Stroud Potato Day (organised by Transition Stroud and Down to Earth Co-op) proved an enormous success. We managed to get to Merrywalks (where it was held) around midday by which time we'd missed the 'Sarpo' potatoes, but there were still plenty of varieties to choose from. Most of the potatoes are supplied by Dundry Nurseries near Cheltenham. Now that the Nailsworth Ironmongers has closed I was in despair over where to go for my seed potatoes but Dundry carries over 150 varieties of tubers to choose from. I'm going to be spoilt for choice from now on!

A simple guide to planting

The soil temperature should be at least 6°C (43°F). A good indication of this is when grass and weeds begin to grow, usually in March/April.
Place the tubers rose end up in the bottom of holes or trenches that are 15cm deep. The shoots and leaves of potatoes are frost tender, so be prepared to protect them with cloches or fleece if frost is forecast.
Earlies: Plant mid-March to the end of May with tubers spaced at 30cm, in rows 50-60cm apart.
Second Earlies and Maincrop: Plant mid-March to the end of April with tubers spaced at 35cm, in rows 75cm apart.