A couple of weeks ago I met up with some friends for the first time since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic UK lockdown for a cup of tea and piece of cake. We chose to meet at Farnham Pottery, which is a bit ‘off the beaten track’ as we thought it would be quieter and therefore safer. It was both of those things and the tea, coffee and cake was very good — highly recommended. There was plenty of outdoor seating all suitably distanced in their courtyard, which also doubles as the car park, but is no less charming because of it.
Yesterday, we had arranged to repeat the experience. Sadly, on arrival we discovered that the complex was closed. There were several other people who arrived obviously hoping to partake of the refreshments and pleasant ambiance as well, but we were all thwarted. After waiting for around 20 minutes, a lady took a walk around the site to see if there was anyone there and check when the cafe would open. She returned quickly with news from a neighbour living opposite the complex that the pottery and cafe closes throughout August. It is safe to say we were all stunned. There were no notices anywhere onsite to advise that this was the case and their website also clearly stated that they were open for business. How disappointing, and doubly so, since so many other small tea rooms have been struggling because of the pandemic. (Note: I should add that since yesterday there is now a notice advising that the cafe is closed for August).
Anyway, hopefully in September it will reopen and we can once again enjoy a pleasant meet-up with excellent tea and cake. In the meantime, here are a few photos I took around the site on my first visit.
Farnham pottery is a community-based arts, crafts and education centre. The original pottery was working at that site from around 1873, although pottery has been produced in the area since Roman times. In the late 19th century, it was owned by Absalom Harris who made early utility wares – drain pipes and tiles. Harris developed a lead glaze with the addition of copper oxide that produced a green-blue colour that became known as Farnham Greenware, with pottery being sold at Heal’s and Liberty in London until 1943. Today, artists collectives 318 and Ceramics and West Street Potters are based at the pottery offering classes and workshops as well as producing their own wares for sale.
Mr PP and I are trying to sell our home. That is to say, we are trying to sell our house, the agent we appointed to facilitate this on our behalf doesn’t appear to be trying very hard at all.
We “came to the Market” (as they say in Estate Agents parlance) just as the UK lockdown due to Covid-19 was easing. After speaking to a couple of local property “experts” we were assured that the market was buoyant with plenty of strong buyers and that our house should sell readily. Galvanised by this optimism, an asking price was agreed and a marketing agreement was duly entered into. I spent an entire week cleaning, polishing, tidying and rearranging things so that the house was presented in the best possible way for the photographs. Almost immediately a viewing was arranged for a couple who hadn’t sold their own home, it wasn’t entirely clear whether they were actively looking or just ‘browsing’ to compare what they had already with a possible trade up. The “shall we move or should we do the extension/knock the kitchen wall down” kind of thing. Whatever, they didn’t like our house. So we waited. Then we waited some more, and some more. Two further viewings were booked, one cancelled the day before and the other didn’t turn up.
Our optimism fell away, we spent hours talking through possible reasons that no-one wants to look at our house. I did some more rearranging of furniture to create as much empty floor space as possible so that people (when they come) can see how large our home really is. I even packed away what property professionals call “unnecessary clutter”. This is a euphemism for the family photographs, nick-knacks and other items that have deep personal meaning and which give you pleasure when you look at them. My home is now not my home. To me, it feels like a bland, sterile space devoid of that intangible, but vitally important feeling that it is a Home.
So why move if it makes us so unhappy? Basically, the house is far too large for the two of us and we have reached that time in our lives that we have new priorities and plans for our later middle age and on into retirement. We are very excited about these plans, in fact they are they only things that keep us sustained, despite that they seem almost unachievable.
At the time of writing we are just over half way through our agreed sole agency marketing period. We made a decision to slash the asking price because we were assured that this, along with the stamp duty holiday announced by the Chancellor would make our home more affordable to a whole new pool of potential buyers. A couple were booked in to view last weekend, they didn’t turn up. So far our viewing stats are: 25% of booked viewings took place, 25% cancelled and 50% didn’t turn up. Depressing.
Interestingly, the market local to us has picked up and a couple of weeks ago we had a lot of ‘competition’ both more expensive and cheaper than us. We were firmly fixed in the middle. Most of these properties have now gone “subject to contract”. Our agent has nothing to suggest, just a shrug of the shoulders and the upward spread of the palms – you know, in the “I don’t understand it” gesture.
We don’t know what to do. We have a well proportioned family sized 4 bedroom detached house, a nice garden, garage and off street parking for 2 cars in a nice road of other detached homes, close to good local schools, a railway station with services to and from London every 30 minutes. We are in the fringes of a well-served village with several pubs, a post office, a Sainsbury’s supermarket and a range of other small businesses, cafes and restaurants. The photos on the various web-based marketing platforms – Rightmove, Zoopla and On the Market all present our home in a positive way; yet still we can’t get someone to even look at it in person. The only things Mr PP and I can think of that could stop potential buyers are beyond our control – we do not have an open plan kitchen dining layout, we don’t have a double garage, just a single one and we don’t have side-by-side off street parking for our 2 cars, only tandem parking. Other than that, there is nothing offensive or unlivable with in the house. All the bathrooms are white, the kitchen has white cupboards, the walls and carpets are all neutral, the perfect “blank canvas” for a new family to “put their stamp on”. Notice I now know all the trendy buzz words used in 21st century property marketing.
We have to stick with our agent for another 5 weeks after which time I guess we may have to find someone else. But what will they do that is different? It seems that all Estate Agents do these days is to place your house listing on the internet and wait. If I had access to these platforms I could do that myself, but therein lies the rub, private individuals can’t access these sites to sell their homes. What other options are open to us?
My last post to this blog was over a year ago and I said then that I was moving my blog to another site. Well, this happened and I managed to post about 3 times before I stopped. There was no reason for it, but somehow it didn’t feel the same writing on another site about broadly the same kind of thing, so I simply stopped writing. The year 202 has been a strange one for everyone, but the events of the past few months have given me time to rethink and evaluate my life and the direction it has been taking.
One of the things that has become apparent is that I do rather enjoy writing a blog, even if no-one else reads it. There is a therapeutic quality to externalizing thoughts to a wider, unknown audience. Sharing thoughts and ideas with complete strangers is an odd experience, but nonetheless it is mostly not unpleasant. In all my blog posts I have tried to stay objective and be fair-minded. That is not to say that if I don’t like something that I would not hesitate to say so, just that I would try to explain why I didn’t like it. I have no intention to upset or offend anyone, but it is important that people are able to have their own ideas and opinions, even if these are not always in line with mainstream opinion.
All that said, I do no under any circumstances advocate or encourage aggressive or abusive behaviour in my blog posts, and yes, I do moderate all comments, so anything unpleasant gets deleted. If people want to be mean, please go somewhere else to do it.
What I am saying, is that I am emerging from a sort of ‘double lockdown’, the one imposed on us all by the current situation with the global pandemic and one of my own making from before that. The time has come to get back out into the world….
It’s been such a very long time since I last posted on this blog, so I would like to thank anyone who is actually reading this!
Over the past couple of years I have been keeping busy with various work projects and study, and keeping this blog up-to-date has not been a major priority. Because of this, and also due to a change in my working direction, I have decided to stop this updating blog page. It has been fun, and I hope that those of you who actually read it found it entertaining in some way.
It’s not all bad news though, I will be writing a new blog page, and hope to post monthly, although there may be some times when extra posts occur. My new page can be found at www.justgillian.org. It would be amazing if some of you decided to join me over there.
Here’s to new beginnings, and with it here is a small painting called “First Notes of Spring”, painted by me earlier this year.
Another year almost over and what a year it has been. A trip down a step (no alcohol was involved) back in July has seen me incapacitated for the past 5 months and while walking is now possible, if only for short periods, I am sure that 2017 will bring a steady recovery.
Being largely confined to the house for such a long time has meant that I have spent much more time than usual browsing the Web and using various social media sites. I have always tried to avoid spending too much time on the internet as it’s not good for you, is it? Actually, I now have a completely different view as the ability to connect with people and events without leaving the house has been heaven-sent. Instead of an actual holiday, I have visited and in many cases taken part in activities (on-line of course) at galleries, museums and other heritage attractions all over the world, this is something I would never have considered doing before. I have even joined a couple of on-line communities that share my interests in the arts and heritage.
One of these groups is called Makelight (https://makelight.com/) run by husband and wife team Emily Quinton and Stef Lewandowski. Makelight is a photography studio who teach all aspects of the medium but with a special focus on social media and small businesses, particularly Instagram. The Facebook group Makelight Community (it is a closed group, so membership by application request only) is full of friendly and supportive people sharing their interest in photography and learning from each other along the way. I am still a fairly passive group member but seeing the different posts, pictures and requests for advice and subsequent answers really makes a difference to the day and promotes a sense of belonging.
As a result of my membership of this group I have decided to join in with is a 365 photo project and will be trying to take one interesting photo everyday during 2017. I will post my picture on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/paisleypedlar/) daily and try to do a weekly round up of images on this blog.
A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all, here’s to a brighter and better 2017!
It’s been a long time since I last posted here, mainly because I have been otherwise occupied. This year has been very busy for me professionally. Since January I have taken part in 6 exhibitions including 2 solo shows and 2 ‘Invited’ exhibitions, I’ve sold work through two craft outlets and other work has sold from the exhibitions and also from commissions as a direct result from the exhibitions. If that wasn’t enough, I have curated a showcase exhibition in partnership with the RHS and managed to secure 2 part time contracts as a freelance in the Arts and Heritage sector for 2 very different institutions, something I am delighted about as the work for both is so varied. The icing on the cake is that I have also been accepted to start a Masters Degree (part time) on October. All of this won’t leave me too much free time over the coming couple of years I think.
In between all this work I have managed to fit in some interesting exhibitions, the best of which is the current retrospective at Tate Modern of work by Georgia O’Keeffe. Most people will know her for her sensuous flower paintings, and while this is OK, there is so much more to O’Keeffe than flowers.She has long been an idol of mine, it would have been amazing to sit and talk to her about painting and the landscape she clearly adored. A real pioneer, woman and Artist. The exhibition closes at the end of October, so if you get the chance, do go and see it. I am definitely going to see it again before it closes – there’ll never be another opportunity to see so much of her work together in one place outside of the USA again I think. The exhibition did inspire me to paint a small still life composition using a badger skull (found by and) belonging to Daughter 1 with some garden flowers.
“After Georgia – still life with badger skull, cosmos and coneflower”
To stop getting too stressed out by all these different pressures I have recently taken up hand weaving. It is challenging and there is certainly a lot of ‘jargon’ to learn, but I have managed to warp up my loom and have even made some progress with a small piece of cloth. Throwing the shuttle across the shed and then beating down the yarn is very relaxing. My cloth isn’t very even yet, but I am beginning to get a sort of rhythm going and with that the weave seems to be improving. It’s early days yet and definitely a skill which needs lots of practice. Still it is a great way to slow things down and be less ‘connected’ to the assortment of electronic gadgetry that dominates most of our lives.
Number One Sample – cotton yarn on cotton warp thread
So what is in store next? I have a couple of small exhibitions in the planning stages for 2017 and 2018 which will keep my artistic practice going; while my 2 jobs and my forthcoming studies will see me challenged intellectually. All in all I suspect I have a very busy couple of years ahead.
Last night Mr PP and I celebrated our silver Wedding Anniversary (OK, it is a year late, but it’s a long story) with an evening dinner aboard the world famous Flying Scotsman steam train.
Locomotive 60103 The Flying Scotsman (displaying the Cathedrals Express charter plate)
OK, so the Flying Scotsman is actually a locomotive and the carriages are a train, but let’s not get too picky here.
We set off from London Victoria at about 7pm and toured around south west London and on through the Surrey Hills before returning to Victoria at almost midnight. The queues at Victoria were huge and a “Photo Opp” system was put in place so that only passengers could snap the locomotive before boarding, and it was strictly a snap then move on.
Queues waiting to board The Flying Scotsman
Once on board we settled in to Coach A (at the very front) Pullman Premier Dining carriage where throughout the journey we were served a 5 course meal. Departure was marked with a glass of champagne. Our fellow diners were a pleasant group and conversation was relaxed between enjoying the views.
Pullman Premier Dining Table setting and the dessert course
Almost every station we passed through had groups of members of the public filming or photographing the Scotsman as she passed through. What I found particularly amusing were the number of people standing on platforms waiting for normal commuter trains who didn’t even look up from their phones while this snorting and steaming icon of British railway engineering reborn rumbled through. Unbelievable! Others however grabbed the opportunity to snap or film quickly before the moment was lost and at one point near Acton a man was spotted driving along the road holding his mobile phone out of the window filming the train while he drove alongside. Once free of London the locomotive was allowed to ‘stretch it’s legs’ and we were hurtling through the countryside on board the first steam locomotive to reach 100mph.
Flying Scotsman at Victoria Station
Flying Scotsman standing at platform 2 at Victoria Station
The whole evening was amazing and a fantastic way to celebrate our anniversary – definitely worth waiting a year for!
I am so glad I spotted a small article in the current issue of the Crafts Council “Crafts” magazine about the Big Steam Print, and even more pleased that an event was taking place on my doorstep today.
The Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft came up with the inspired idea of using an old steam powered road roller to create huge relief prints. Printmaking is a particular interest of mine and as a student I did train in the ‘dark arts’ of printmaking, my own particular interest being in relief prints – lino or woodcuts. Big Steam print brings all of this out into the open air and gives the general public an opportunity to get creative and join in at a number of events around the south east and London. Find out more at on the website at http://www.ditchlingmuseumartcraft.org.uk/ The event today took place on a piece of public open space in Brighton called The Levels and was well attended, probably more people there by accident as they were enjoying an afternoon out in the park than by deliberate intention of visiting. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves with some ‘have-a-go’ tables set up for both adults and children.
The artists were busily inking up their plates ready to be printed by the huge iron beast which was breathing heavily beside the marquee.
The Big Steam Print roller waits patiently
Artists inside the marquee ink their massive lino ‘plate’ up ready to print
The end result
A set of 3 ‘plates’ are laid out to print
Paper is laid over the inked plates
Rolling the Road Roller over the plates
The printed triple print
The Road Rollers Back End!
Crowds enjoy activities at the Big Steam Print in Brighton
Unfortunately although I do have a video (filmed by Mr PP) this blog doesn’t accept video images. 😦
Big Steam Print closes on 18 June 2016 at the Ditchling Fair, and all the prints made during the event tours can be seen in an exhibition at the Phoenix Gallery in Brighton 6-21 August 2016.
Now I need to seek out our old garden roller and get some more large pieces of lino, feeling inspired, so watch this space!
Taking advantage of the recent nice weather, Mr PP and I visited Painshill Park landscape garden near Cobham in Surrey. The gardens are owned by Elmbridge Borough Council and managed by the Painshill Trust and have had quite a chequered history since the original gardens of 200 acres were owned and laid out by it’s creator Charles Hamilton in the 1800’s. Painshill was created in the naturalistic style between 1738 and 1773 by the Hon, Charles Hamilton (9th son and 14th child of the 6th Earl of Abercorn). Brilliantly imaginative, Hamilton used contrasts in architectural styling and landforms to create a stunning romantic landscape to stimulate the senses and emotions of the visitor. These were not private gardens, but were created with the intention that people should be able to visit and marvel at their beauty. Today the gardens are comprised of 158 acres of the original gardens and have been steadily restored by the Trust to how they would most likely have looked when they were first created.
The visitor is able to walk freely around the gardens with suggested routes including 2 accessible routes, available on a leaflet. The garden follows the route of the River Mole, with it’s own large lake, small vineyard, alpine valley, woodland areas and assorted exotic features. It has been awarded full collection status for the John Bartram Heritage Collection of North American trees and shrubs, is Grade 1 Listed and has been awarded theEuropa Nostra medal for it’s exemplary restoration. We spent about 4 hours walking round and taking in the stunning views of not only the garden, but also across the Surrey Hills and beyond.
Entry to the gardens is over this footbridge across the River Mole.
The bluebells were a bit past their best but still quite stunning
Looking back (from the Turkish Tent) towards the Gothic Temple. The narrow opening of the pillared arches frame a sort of living painting of some stunning views. The actual building reminds me of Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House at nearby Twickenham.
The lake stretches away from the Gothic temple , the restored Five Arch bridge visible in the distance.
The Waterwheel was restored in 1987 and is one of the largest working waterwheels in the UK today. It was originally built to feed the Cascade and Lake and to also provide enough water for all of the plants.
A magical fairy tale tower hidden deep in woodland. The Gothic Tower had 99 steps to the roof where on a clear day Windsor Castle and the City of London are visible. Sadly it was a bit too hazy when we visited but the views were still quite far reaching. There is a small cafe on the first floor, and we were the second customers ever to make use of it as it had only opened on the morning we visited. “Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your golden hair…”
Looking like a set design from Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, this is the view from the lake of the Grotto. The Grotto is a special feature built from Oolitic Limestone which gives it that somewhat crumbling appearance and has been covered inside with 100’s of 1000’s of crystals of calcite, gypsum, quartz and flourite. It was built over several years by professional Grotto builder, Joseph Lane and dates back to about 1760.
For the past few months I have been working on putting together an art exhibition in partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society Wisley Garden herbarium (https://www.rhs.org.uk/science/conservation-biodiversity/conserving-garden-plants/rhs-herbarium/collections-in-the-rhs-herbarium). The idea for this first came to me almost 2 years ago when purely by accident I stumbled across something called the Chelsea Floral Fringe (www.chelseafringe.com) which is an annual event of flower based art and activity that happens in the UK, Europe and now across the globe at the same time as the Chelsea Flower show. Reading about the things people were doing gave me the idea that something could be done at Cranleigh Arts Centre at the same time as the annual village “In Bloom” event. After several months of plotting and planning I finally installed (with the assistance of the delightful Marilyn) “Florilegium – a gathering of flowers” at Cranleigh Arts Centre in Surrey.
The ‘theme’ of the exhibition is the preservation of flowers and the centre piece is a 9-string set of images of specimens from the Herbarium at RHS Wisley who have generously loaned a beautiful set of scanned images.
RHS Herbarium images at Cranleigh Arts Centre
To complement these scientific specimen images I was particularly fortunate that the renowned botanical artist Gaynor Dickeson (https://gaynorsflora.com) agreed to loan some of her incredibly detailed botanical illustrations; while photographer Celia Henderson (http://www.celiahenderson.co.uk) has also contributed a set of her stunning, dreamlike macro flower portraits. As if this was not enough, I couldn’t believe my good fortune when Guildford-based textile artist Gill Denyer (http://greengillydee.co.uk) also agreed to exhibit a set of her life-like textile plant sculptures.
The incredibly detailed botanical illustrations of Gaynor Dickeson
Dreamlike flower portraits by Celia Henderson
Quirky, life-like textile flower sculptures by Gill Denyer
I now have 3 artists and the RHS images which by themselves would have made for an interesting exhibition, but I felt that I needed a little bit extra and couldn’t quite believe my luck when it turned out that a fellow volunteer at the Arts Centre was a horticulturist and had an herbarium of her own which she was happy to lend. I selected a few specimens, framed them up and they complimented perfectly the RHS specimen images. To finish off I added in a small static display of vintage gardening equipment and a ball gown which I have made a few years ago which is covered in dried pressed flowers.
Dress with dried pressed flower detailing and Weed Herbarium specimen
As a fan of what is known as ‘Yarn Bombing’ it seemed like a good idea to ask the ladies of the Arts Centre Knit n’Natter group to knit and crochet flowers which could decorate the entrance to the Centre. They and some of the other volunteers at the Arts Centre rose to the challenge by creating over 200 flowers, leaves and creatures which I then stitched on to a banner over the recent Easter weekend.
Floral display by members of the Knit n’Natter group at Cranleigh Arts Centre
The opening evening was a triumph! I am so proud of this exhibition and grateful to everyone who has loaned work or objects. Thank you to everyone who has helped to make this exhibition such a success.
Nibbles and tipples await guests at the Private View Opening
Cranleigh Arts Centre Manager, Ms K Backhouse stands beside the Herbarium specimen Galanthus (Snowdrop) Mrs Backhouse No. 12
Florilegium – a gathering of Flowers is at Cranleigh Arts Centre, 1 High Street, Cranleigh, Surrey, GU6 8AS until 11 June 2016. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 4.30pm, entry is free. http://www.cranleighartscentre.org