Monday, 30 October 2017

Welcome to Salem

Happy Halloween everyone!

Behold my brand new poem inspired by many dark and Gothic things but mostly by a series I recently watch on TV called Salem.

Now, those who have read the about me section on this blog will know that, even though I'm not a fan of horror, I am attracted to other to the other-worldly such as ghosts, fairies, parallel worlds and time travel. So it was that whilst on holiday this summer, my niece Hanna, asked me to watch the first few episodes of Salem with her because she knew she'd be too freaked out to watch it alone. And, despite the horror and gore [and be warned, there are bucket loads], we thoroughly enjoyed it and when I got home, I lost no time at all in watching the second series and then the final third.

I don't want to give too much away, so I'll just say that it's based on a very clever twist on true events that took place in the small town of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. A dark time in American history, more than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft and 20 were killed during an unexplained hysteria.  The Salem Witch Trials have since become synonymous with mass hysteria and scapegoating.

Everything about the series was smart and slick and the costumes were stunning. The acting was wonderful, especially by the two main protagonists Janet Montgomery who portrayed Mary Sibley, and Shane West who portrayed John Alden. However, my favourite characters were the complex, tortured Reverend Cotton Mather played by the charismatic Seth Gable and Anne Hale, whose ultimate descent into devil worship was portrayed with bone chilling perfection by Tamzin Merchant.

Finally, one of the best things about this series was that all the characters were based on real people who lived through the trials and this made the whole experience so much more compelling.

If you wish to learn more about the Salem witch trials, these links are a helpful start:

Welcome to Salem!
On All Hallows Eve
Where earth underfoot doth boil and heave
Winter is here damp harvest on the turn
Skin on fire with a brain fever burn

Welcome to Salem!
Church bells are ringing
Screams downed out by the good people singing
By Puritan judgement so final and fell
Souls on the hot burning red road to Hell

Welcome to Salem!
See the witches flying
Souls being taken and the congregation dying
Strange little girls with spindly finger pointed
See demons in the window if with rancid salve anointed

Welcome to Salem!
Alarm bells clanging
Familiars on the prowl and witch drums banging
Alone in the pulpit, Reverend Cotton Mather's preaching
Fighting to be heard above the wailing and the screeching

Welcome to Salem!
Hold hands and run
Back to God and the warmth of the sun
Never look back the way you came
Lest the Devil your soul forever claim


Friday, 2 June 2017

Childhood books


Illustration from How The Mole Got His Pockets
Illustration from How The Mole Got His Pockets



Inside cover from The Book of Mice [above]


Snow Goose & Small Miracle

Illustration for The Snow Goose by Peter Scott
Have you ever heard of Paul Gallico? If not, click the link on his name and learn about this American author. The reason I have always known about him is because I grew up with these two books on our book shelves. I would take them out every now and again to read. According to the Paul Gallico website, The Snow Goose is without doubt his most well-known book. It is subtitled A Story of Dunkirk, and is the story of a lonely hunchbacked artist who lives in an abandoned lighthouse in the marshlands of Essex, and his friendship with a young girl who brings him an injured Canada Snow Goose. It is only a short book but quite lovely. The Small Miracle is set in Assisi, and is the story of Pepino, a poor orphan, and his donkey Violetta. When Violetta falls ill, and the vet cannot do anything for her, Pepino tries to get permission to take her into the crypt of St. Francis. But when that permission is denied, then he realises that he has to go to higher authority... Both stories are gentle and homey and incredibly moving. See below for a few images I created via Instagram of the illustrations, Peter Scott illustrated The Snow Goose and David Knight illustrated The Small Miracle.  
Illustration for The Snow Goose by Peter Scott
Illustration for The Snow Goose by Peter Scott

How beautiful is the enigmatic portrait above? Peter Scott [1909 - 1989] was a fascinating character, born in London, the only child of Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott and sculptor Kathleen Bruce. He was only two years old when his father died. Robert Scott, in a last letter to his wife, advised her to "make the boy interested in natural history if you can; it is better than games." Oh yes and... his godfather was J. M. Barrie!

Illustration for the Snow Goose by Peter Scott [detail]
Illustration for The Small Miracle by David Knight

Illustration for The Small Miracle by David Knight

Illustration for The Small Miracle by David Knight
Sadly, I couldn't find any information on David Knight except that he illustrated this little book also...

Monday, 13 February 2017

The Vow

In celebration of romantic love on Valentines Day, here's a new illustrated poem.
I hope you like it <3

The Vow
North, south, east, west;
You laid this searching heart to rest
Winter, autumn, summer, spring;
I make you mine with this gold ring
I swear by the might of the land and sea,
I am bound to you as are you to me
We two will share a bed this night
And softly sigh as dreams take flight,
At dawn we'll turn and face the sun,
With our two hands entwined as one
It's been a while since I did any work like this and will take time to get back into the swing but for now I'm happy enough with this piece.



Sunday, 9 October 2016

Let's make... Christmas tree decorations [part2]

In this second festive DIY post, I'm going to show you how to make more Christmas tree decorations and these are a little more personalised. Once again though, they begin with very basic items you will most definitely have lying about the place.
The first decoration is something very special indeed - an anniversary memento of a baby's first Christmas. Made to be cherished and brought out to hang on the tree every year. And what makes it even more special is that it is made from the lid of one of his baby-food jars!
It is pretty straightforward to make as you can see from the following directions...
This one was made for my great-nephew who lives in Germany :)

Print off the photo of your choice and cut it to the correct size to fit inside the lid.
Most jar lids have a vacuum indentation so I recommend cutting out a piece of card and sticking the image to that before sticking into lid; this gives a nice smooth base.
As this is a memento, some wording that marks the occasion is always a good idea.
You can of course put this on the front, instead of the image [or as well as the image] but, I've chosen to put it on the reverse.

As with all my wording, I type it, print it out, cut it down and then immerse in a little warm back coffee; this takes off the stark white new paper look.

Finally if you wish, edge the image with a little glitter glue, which sparkles off the fairy lights perfectly when hanging on the tree <3
Now come a few other ideas for novel decorations and the first is made using a... beer bottle cap!
As with the memento, put your words [or image] on a piece of card first before adhering into the cap. The twine will need to be super-glued around the cap and this is very fiddly but you'll get the hang of it. This is particularly poignant with a loved ones name or image on.
The next idea is glittery paper cones with golden ribbon that hang beautifully on the tree.

I have already blogged about how to make these here
The next idea is made from a... screw top lid from a bottle of wine!
This one is so light, it can placed directly in amongst the Christmas tree branches. The inside of the bottle top is painted with glitter glue and when fully dry, some wording of your choice can be added. The white ribbon gives it a very angelic look. 
And so we come to the final idea and it is made using a... sushi bottle!
I'm sure you've all bought sushi packs for lunch over the years, but did you ever think of cleaning the little plastic soy sauce bottle and using it to hang on the Christmas tree? Possibly not :) But, this is the perfect receptacle for a child's mini Santa list or any sentimental message. The red cap makes it already fairly festive looking but a strip of red gingham ribbon finishes it off to perfection! This is an especially nice easy project for younger children to work on.

Let's make... Christmas tree decorations [part1]

Troedyrhriw Angel
I love Christmas and start thinking about it around August time. This is because when I was growing up money was tight and so my Dad would clear a shelf in the pantry during August and purchase something Christmas related in each weekly grocery shop from then on. Seeing that shelf get fuller and fuller made me so excited... pickled onions, piccalilli, After Eights, Mr Kipling mince pies etc. and so it grew.

Sadly, many of our  precious childhood Christmas decorations are now lost. However, one item we do still have is the beautiful angel that sat atop my maternal Grandmother's tree for most of her long life. Some years ago I photographed her and then made a Christmas craft range that proved very popular [I will post about that very soon and put a link here]. I call her Troedyrhriw Angel because that is the village in Merthyr Tydfil [South Wales] where my Granny lived.

However this first of two festive DIY posts will show you how to make a selection of Christmas tree decorations from basic household items! And, they're pretty easy to do so most are suitable for children if supervised. This is what we'll be looking at in this post:

Glittery bells made from plastic egg box cups
 Curved bells made from actual egg shells! 
Shiny hanging discs made from sweet wrappers

How to make the egg box bells
Plastic egg box

It's tricky cutting the bells out but persevere and, as well as the cups, cut out the
middle tower sections as these can be used also
Next you need to punch a hole in the top to thread the ribbon or string through. Best way to do this is to get a wad of cotton wool or kitchen paper and firmly place into the bell. This lessens the chances of the plastic splitting. A small sharply pointed instrument is needed to make the hole, like a large safety pin or the fine end of a pair of scissors [adult supervision needed here]. 
Next comes the fun but fiddly bit! Decorate the cups and towers with glitter glue
 or you can of course, use glue and dip or sprinkle regular glitter
When dry, and I mean FULLY dry, thread a length of looped ribbon or string through the hole. If using glitter glue [recommended for best results], this can take hours to dry so best kept away from impatient little fingers over-night.
Some finished bells

 How to make the egg shell bells
A used egg-shell is very delicate so must be handled with caution all through this process. The first thing to do is to punch a small hole in the tope of the shell to hang the looped ribbon or string through. The same process of cotton wool or kitchen paper stuffed into the shell as used with the egg box bells, can be applied here to protect the shell from cracking. But be aware, even more care must be taken due to the fragility of the shell! 
The above image shows a shell with a layer of glitter glue already painted on the inside. Multiple layers of the glitter glue will need to be applied. Firstly, to build up the depth of colour and secondly, to make the shell harder.
The above image illustrates that you can choose to glitter up one side and paint a colour on the other, it is entirely up to you. Once fully dry, thread the looped ribbon through. This is probably the most tricky of the three decorations and the most time consuming, as to get results like the ones shown below, at least four layers of glitter glue and two of paint will need to be applied. That said, I think it's definitely worth the effort...
How to make the sweet wrapper discs  
Sweet wrappers! Who wouldn't have a few of these lying about the place?
Firstly find a template for your discs [I used a jam jar lid], then pencil around them onto pieces of old cardboard and cut the circles out. Then, cut out the same size circles on the sweet wrappers. Remember here, that you'll need a circle for each side. For these I chose gold paper for one side and different colours for the other. An especially nice idea for children to make these as gifts, is to leave one side blank or cover with plane paper, and write a Merry Christmas message on.
Next, stick the wrappers onto the cardboard and then [if desired] you can decorate round the edges with glitter glue. When fully dry, create a hole for the ribbon, a proper paper punch is by far the best way, and as long it's not too thick, should work fine on the cardboard.
Festive DIY craft post part two will follow soon....