Thursday, 4 September 2014

Taking Flight

There is a thick mist in the valley as drink my tea on the hilltop early this morning and a strong sweet smell of mild Autumn. The birds are in fine fettle and it gladdens my heart to see the swallows still here. 

Every day that they I see them I feel grateful, they represent much to me. The repairers. The patchers of holes, the pluggers of leaks…very much needed at the moment and tinged with a hint of sadness as I know their day is near. Perhaps they can take my heavy heartedness with them.

This is my perfect swallow picture that lives in my kitchen. It's by local artist Cat Frampton. You can find her on and with the Manaton makers as part of the upcoming Devon Open Studios.
They also sit outside my back door.
By later in the day they are starting to gather, preen and prepare. I am hoping that the extra long season will have stood them in good stead for a stronger flight home. there have been fewer and fewer these last years. 
later in the day the gathering starts.
I find myself looking forwards to the morning, when I sneak out to the hill alone, leaving my absence note on the stairs. To me it is the ultimate hill for flight, it's steep and a hill ringed basin drops abruptly below. It is the hill on which I learnt to fly as a child. It is where I learnt to fly in my dreams for every year since I can remember. It is where my son and I fly the kite, where we toboggan at great speed (and sometimes even ski!) It is where you can walk with your head level with the birds and where I used to share my after school sandwiches with a giant raven called Jojo.

another card that graces my kitchen by Exeter artist Cathy King
I feel inspired to add my a poem by my son here. It seems so familiar to me. How flying was to me as a child and then again as an adult when first learning to fly a very small helicopter in New Zealand. We flew out over the coast to do an emergency engine cut at the beach. It was the most extraordinary experience of my life, dropping to the sand on an isolated beach with giant sea lions for company, hovering up the face of a cliff inside something akin to a miniature glass dragonfly and skimming the surface of the ocean, flying for mile after mile just 10 foot above the surface, almost face down. All I could say was"oh my god, it's just like my dreams!"

And that, my friends, is why I love flying so much. ( I quite like Lego too)

Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Grandmother Quilt

This weekend has been spent deeply ensconced in the wild moors at Rivenstone festival (courtesy of Carolyn Hillyer and Nigel Shaw), a wonderful treat of music, ceremony, workshops, talks, drumming, dancing and much much more.
I even got some super 'me time' alone on the wild and wet moors, half dressed and happy I joined the ancestors. (I only had 1 set of trousers and skin dries easier than cloth, so I stashed my boot et al under a bush and walked in my raincoat and underwear!).

I was also gifted a beautiful story that I thought I would share with you. I have a passion for old quilts and cloth that has been handled and handed down and this story tied in so very nicely with the essence of my heritage apron.

The Grandmother Quilt.

“Come” called the girl with thick auburn hair, falling from her head like the red peat rivers.
“Sit” said the woman bobbing to the fire like a shimmering chestnut.
“A warm jot” said the old woman pouring liquid like malt.
I was grateful to be transported from my wet, cold tent and dry off the moors by her well-tended hearth.
“Let’s liven our bones and sit by the fire, around us we’ll draw the grandmother blanket”.

We sit close and it stretches from her knees to mine. This quilt, passed down through the hands of time. It’s faded patches. It’s bright repairs. A witness to births and deaths
As we trace the patterns and take comfort in the patches, we remember.
We remember the lives, the people and the places we know. We see our history on the surface of this cloth, but most of all we tell the story.

“Once the great grandmother laid her quilt on the surface of the land for all to see, she covered the bare surface with the ancient and the new. A honeycomb pattern to hold all life.
But what has been forgotten is that this cloth we hold in our hands is the very same cloth that covers the ground. And that this cloth is the very same as is reflected in the sky!
It is not just the grandiose landmarks and stones and circles that map the heavens it is every stone, every pebble, every mountain, every river and every stream. Everything.
All that is on the land is reflected in the sky. As if a mirror.
So it’s time to remember that as you know the land so you know the sky.
We walk this land and know it and look down to our feet but forget to raise our eyes to the heavens, forgetting that we know it already.
It is already known well to our hearts.
So as you gaze into the deep wild pool, deep into the salmons eye, actually what you are doing is looking at the stars. For as you look deep inside, really you are star gazing!………. Ahaha ahahahaaa” The russet coloured crone slaps her knee in mirth. “Only a fool doesn’t know that!” she snorts.

“Ah” she says sadly, pulling the quilt around her knees “but what those fools also don’t know is, as you mark the earth so you mark the heavens.  Every hole, every building, every plant, every tree. Every scratch of the surface, deep or shallow. It is reflected in our mirror.
So as you scar the earth, so you scar the heavens.
That is why they say there are holes over the cities and no ozone. It is because the intensity of damage to the land is reflected back in equal intensity from the marks in heaven. It is too much, too strong, melting pots ready to burst. It was not meant to be this way. It was supposed to be gentle waves fluctuating in the skies around our land whilst we moved across the surface dancing with our ever-changing reflections. It’s time to remember OUR stories”.

A tear ran down her cheek, falling onto the cloth in our laps. A gentle smudge on the quilt, a new rivulet running off the hills and a new shimmer in heaven.

The Heritage Apron. 
I have made this from hexagonal patchwork that has been beautifully hand stitched and spans centuries! There is evidence of fabric patches as early as the 1940's and I suspect, a little earlier. it has been loved and cared for, passed down through the generations and repaired through the ages.
I feel honoured to have played my part in it's life, repairing by hand some of the worn patches, replacing some with new and old cloth and then giving it it's final twist. A new lease of life by adding a few bees and new purpose.......
to find out more visit my website Atelier Bee

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Jewellery designing

Well the summer holidays have been lots of lovely relaxing in cornwall and a bit of hanging out at our local outdoor swimming pool, but now the season has undoubtedly turned and it's time to crack on with work.
Today has been a lovely day sculpting and moulding bees to be made in silver and twiddling about with some jewellery designs I have been working on for a while, I thought I would share my studio and processes with you all.

My desk
and around it…..My day keeps being interrupted by my son and other enterprising children selling cucumbers and loom band….hence the green slug on the desk!
my loom band purchase!
Around my desk is an assortment of stitched bees (this bumble and the button done by my mum) and dead things!


I am lucky enough to share a studio space with not one but two talented jewellers. I have been throwing some ideas around with Damien Hackney for a while now and finally have started getting some stuff down on paper. The idea is that we will collaborate on the the production of the pieces as he is a fine metal worker, with the patience of a saint! I thought I had better have a go at some of the metal work before I started designing to get a better feel for it….. all I can say is "wow, what a lot of patience is needed"…all that polishing!!!!

I am currently sculpting some bees that I will then make a mold from, make them in silver and  then work with Damien incorporating them into the designs. I have also had a go today as making a mold from stitched bee fabric.

starting to sculpt
No legs!
handy cucumber display stand!

stitched bee.
See here for scribbles on paper, sources of inspiration, and some examples of Damiens work.
Below are the workings for a set of six pendants and my special skep necklace. I am also having loads of fun designing individually hand painted hexagonal boxes and embroidered bags for the one off items.


I have soooo many ideas queuing up waiting to be made but first things first. I am planning on using an assortment of metals, each one has  such different qualities and properties.
Watch this space, I will be documenting the process and then putting them on my new website.   Hooray for some rainy days and work getting done! 

Damien's lovely work.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Totem masks

I am now finally in a position to take orders for animal totem masks. I have been experimenting with some different techniques with craft felt, felted woollen cloth, needle felting and hand embroidery. These current patterns are from Oxeye Daisy but I am working on some new corvid/bird designs, a badger, a hare ooooh where to start!
Masks have long been the tools of transformation and storytelling..although it was often real animal parts that were use.
These are the current designs.
this particular fox is my own personal mask, he's well loved and well used!

You can see here in the detail picture all the different techniques applied. I find that needle felting helps sculpt the shape. Every inch is hand done in order to retain the lovely dense quality. Whiskers are made from silver or gold wire and occasionally other items such as beads are added. A plainer mask can take 4 hrs to make but on average it takes 5 hrs per mask!

if you are interested in ordering a mask please contact me via my website Atelier Bee

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Introducing the Yamana Jacket.

I am very excited to be able to add a new design to my website 'Atelier Bee'.  It is called the Yamana Jacket, a simple shape and lovely cut to create an elegant draped jacket.

 It's made from the most beautiful wool that has the feel of silk or smooth linen. Embroidered with gold bees and features a single red 'earth' bee.

The earth bee enables the energy, spirit and ideas to exit the cloth, so that nothing can get trapped and the magic can flow in and around the wearer.

My lovely model was Suzi Crockford of Dartmoor Drums and Rattles, you can find her here  and check out her blog:
She is wearing two of my Melissae skirts that I will be making soon. Flowing quantities of washed silk, embroidered with gold and silver bees.

Many thanks to Chagfood for the loan of their wagon and their flowers….still to come in another shoot!

hand stitched labels!
For more details of this product and to check out other go to Atelier Bee……
I am going to be making these jacket by commission and individual one-off's that I will put on the site. they will range in fabric and can be embroidered with almost any design…. :)

Monday, 30 June 2014

Sneaky peek at the reason for silence…….

So the reason it has been so quiet here in blog land is that I have been working on my new website! It's not quite finished yet and there are still lots of holes, garments that I am working on etc etc etc but I thought it time that I let you all have a sneak preview………..

Welcome to Atelier Bee! click on this link to take you there This is in equal measures exciting and terrifying. I am making, photographing and posting new works and info almost on a daily basis and certainly on a weekly one. It's hard to have it immediately filled as these are bespoke garments that take many hours of work and are often made to order.

Here you will find crazy and magical garments to well suited to the circus of life. I am making jackets and coats and even robes. I am currently working on an embroidered bee skirt design as well as a shamanic apron. You will find already some hand embroidered and needle felted animal masks. the current designs are very kindly based on a pattern by Oxe Eye Daisy but I am working on a new corvid design currently and am doodling a badger, oh and there's a wolf pic still to go up!

I am currently making these masks to order, Take a look at the site for further details.

The wolf, assorted felts, needle felting and hand embroidery with silver wire whiskers.
and watch this space for all sort of clothing and some jewellery! :)

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Life and death abounds

It's been a busy month so far, as my Grandmother used to say "May is the best month of the year!" I think she is probably right…..although it was birthday month too, Almost all of the oldest generation of my family where born in May!

Life is in abundance, my garden is springing forth into life, but sadly there seems to be dead baby birds, cold and lifeless, everywhere we go. I have also noticed a drop in the amount of birds in my garden this year :(

I celebrated Beltane with origami felt prayer swans! I was testing out a kit for a felt make friend of mine Yuli Somme. Check out her beautiful works here

The idea is that you make them, write your prayers or wishes in them and send them off down the river.
Hindsights a wonderful thing. A result of this trip was a fall, concussion and near death sickness! I should have wished for health and protection me thinks!

The upside of the trip was all these beautiful things! My son has taken these photos, the urge takes him from time to time and I encourage it. Suddenly he sees the world with new eyes and enjoys the beauty.

Bloody nose beetle


Blue Sky

Blossom…I think perhaps I should call this blog 'all the b's'

May merriment took place with an opportunity to dress up and hang out at a Game of Thrones party!
ok, so people aren't my son's forte..this was the best of a bad bunch…but he is 9!

Beautiful sculptural barnacle's as part of our seashore forage with the River Cottage gang at Charmouth beach. It was a beautiful day of seaweeds, shore plants, crabs, cockle's winkle's and sunshine.Culminating in a delicious feast, although I absolutely could not do the crab killing. Winkling out the curly little snail creatures was a task and a half and perhaps only made nice by the garlic butter dressing they where in?
Check them out here:
Big sky's and rock pool foraging….It made a delicious meal, all the better for being cooked by a chef!
Most of May though, has been taken up with recovering from concussion and organising a spectacular fundraising art auction for Proper Job our stalwart recycling and sustainability centre…….That is going to have to be a separate blog post, there is just too much excitement to put into here.
Gosh, I have been busy and we're only halfway through :)