A Seasonal change
Can you feel it? The subtle change in the air that comes with damp, hazy mornings before the sun burns off the mist; bright sunny afternoons, then the sudden drop in temperature as the sun sinks behind the trees and a chill descends.
Yes, we are officially in autumn now, with misty mornings that show up the cobwebs glistening with tiny teardrops of dew, draped over hedgerows like so many fairy chandeliers. This is when the spiders start to make their way into the house in search of their winter quarters.
I don't have a problem with spiders generally, unless they creep up on me unexpectedly, but in the hope of deterring them a little, I do place a few conkers (horse chestnuts) around the house as an old-fashioned remedy - Old Wives' Tales as my late Grandmother would say! Apparently you can also use walnuts and sweet chestnuts. I'm not entirely convinced it works, but they do look seasonally pleasing - reminiscent of the Nature Table from my long-ago schooldays. Old Bean and I celebrated the Autumn Equinox by lighting the fire pit in the garden before settling down next to it for a candlelit supper. We shared a bottle of good red wine, counted our blessings, and stayed out until dark, watching as the stars appeared in the night sky. It was simply magical.
We have hazel trees growing in the hedges in the lanes around here, but somehow the squirrels always beat me to the nuts. There must also be a walnut tree nearby, as I watched one industrious squirrel try to bury a whole one, still in its soft green shell, in the lawn. He eventually gave up and moved into the herbaceous border to have another go. Squirrels are notorious for forgetting where they've buried their nuts, and I wonder if I might get my own walnut tree growing amongst the flower border eventually? So it was a wonderful surprise when I opened the back door one morning to find a punnet of cob nuts and half a dozen eggs left on the step, a gift from a neighbour down the lane. The eggs made a delicious lemon drizzle cake, and I will shell and toast the nuts to add to home-made biscuits or just to snack on.
It has been two years since we moved here and I started tackling the garden, then just a scrubby patch of neglected ground. I look at it now with amazement, finding it hard to remember the back-breaking work I put into it at the beginning. It's so satisfying to see it still bright with colour even though we are nearly half-way through October. Of course, it's an ongoing project but luckily it's one that I enjoy immensely.
At the beginning of September, Herefordshire Art week (h.Art) began and I discovered that a sculptor, David England (www.david-england.co.uk) lives just five minutes' drive from here. We called by on one of his open days and were immediately taken with his beautiful work; so much, in fact, that I bought one of his pieces on the spot! Hares with Moon and Stars is carved from a slab of Forest of Dean Stone, which is where Old Bean was born and bred, and mined from a quarry not far from where I grew up after moving to the Forest from Wales as a small child. Sometimes all the elements fall into place and a thing is just meant to be …
Since my last Blog I have also taken part in an exhibition at the Canwood Gallery (www.canwoodgallery.com) near Ledbury, Herefordshire. I showed four pieces of work, Still Waters One, Two and Three and Storm, Borth Beach.
The Still Waters pieces (above) were about memories and how memories fade. During the pandemic and lockdowns so many people were estranged from their families and I certainly missed the chance to make memories with my grandchildren. In my mind this became a 'grey' time and as we slowly and hopefully come back to 'normal', I envisage colour coming back into our lives. I wanted these three pieces to reflect on contentment and togetherness, of past encounters and those yet to come.
Storm, Borth Beach is a reference to a last visit to the seaside, just weeks before the first Lockdown of 2020. It was a very stormy day, and as I worked on this piece I thought about it being a symbol of what was to come, although we didn't quite know what that would be at the time.
Since the exhibition at Canwood Gallery, I've been busy making work for a 2022 Calendar. As time is rather short (I am way behind schedule - other artists already have Calendars on sale!), I decided to use collage rather than carve new lino-prints for the images. Initially, I wasn't sure if I could make a collage but waded in 'just to see' and produced these two Geese, inspired by my visit to a friends lake to see the Greylag Geese fly in to feed.
I really enjoyed the process and loved the finished pictures so decided to focus on this method and make collages of the birds that I regularly see around here.
Here's a sneak preview of April's bird, the Wren. In my last blog I wrote how I watched as they built a nest in the hedge at the back of the house and I wanted to evoke the textures and colours of the hedgerows as they burst into green in early April. I hope to have Calendars on sale by the end of October but if you would like to pre-order one (or more!) please do get in touch using the Contact form on the website.
These three beauties have gone to their new home in the last week. They will be hung together on a wall of a lovingly restored farmhouse, and I am so pleased that they will make a statement triptych. Each print was made by the 'reduction' lino-print method whereby each colour layer is taken from the same block. More lino is removed from the block for each layer and each colour is printed on top of the last. This means that an entire edition must be printed in one go - once you have carved into the block for the next layer, you can't go back to print more.
For someone like me who struggles with having to deal with the whole 'reverse image' thing in print-making, it's quite an effort to get my head around! However, it's a method I love as I'm never quite sure what the final image will look like. There are only two each of these prints and the others are now in Oxenham Gallery (www.oxenhamart.co.uk) in Leominster, so if you are in the area please do pop in and see all the beautiful work in there.
That's it for now, except to say Thank You for taking the time to read this, and if you want to follow my day-to-day print-making trials and tribulations, I'm on Instagram @susanstevensjenkins.
I look forward to seeing you there!