Finally summer has reached the UK. Today we are expecting temeratures to soar up to 25 degrees celcius, which are temperatures that count like really hot summer here. I was thinking of putting up the kid’s paddling pool but then I took a look outside and I realised it wouldn’t be a good idea: When it was still winter, we decided that our patio needed block paving and we wanted to make our garden generally more accessible (i.e. wheelchair accessible), ideally before Easter. That means we are letting go of all steps and replace them by properly paved gentle ramps.
The first step to accomplish that was to dig out the fake stone, concrete slaps that were used as a paving material before, remove the slate and gravel that was used for paths into the garden, and digg a fair bit of ground away which would the be replaced by stone, and then sand and eventually the blocks where we want paving, and top soil where we want to put some garden equipment for the kids (playhouse, slide, swing). Also the outbuilding in which my studio is located (and which we damp-proved last summer) will get proper aco drains all the way around to make sure there’ll be as few water as possible that I need proofing against.
So far so good.
Contrary to first plans it was after Easter when the removal of the concrete slaps started (you can see some of the slate and concrete in the lower left corner in the picture above) and in the very first hour the builders discovered this hole in the ground. Now we expected to find a manhole somewhere, and possibly a well. But this is massive. It probably doesn’t look like it above there, because you can see only the tiny hole in the dome that was build in beautiful Victorian bricks over a shaft that was at least 2m across and more than 2m deep. The top of the dome was too high to allow proper paving over.
So they started to remove the dome, and pump away the water to get a clearer picture of what was happening there. To my disappointment we didn’t find treasure down there. To me it would have made perfect sense that if you wanted to hide something, you would wrap it tightly in waxed fabric and drop it in, and I stood breathlessly beside the workers while they pumped the water out. – But no-one left us anything in our hole.
The whole neighbourhood gathered to discuss what we were seeing there. By now we are pretty sure that it is not a well but a rainwater cistern. It still works, every house in this street has one, and they are interconnected, with the last one emptying into the sewer system, so that they cannot overflow (well, they do, they overflow into the sewer system). But them being connected meant that we couldn’t just fill ours in without risking flooding of our or our neighbours’ properties.
So, after some consideration we decided to cover and secure the hole by two big steel plates. A single one weights more than 500g and needed to be lifted over our roof with a crane.
And then the rain started. We had extreme moisture for more than a week straight, and our builders said they wouldn’t work in these conditions as the ground was too soft, and the paving would eventually turn wobbly if they did that. Ah, well, we do want things done properly of course. That was an awful week, with every walk to my studio resembling taking a mud bath.
But by now they picked up work again, the mud is gone, but wer are still far from a solid paving, and there’s loose earth and gravel everywhere. So no paddling pool today.
So, apart from wondering about in- and outflow of our cistern, what else did I do in the weeks that passed? Well, most of it was writing. – I told you before that I enlisted in a 16 week novel writing course, and this Saturday will be session number 15, and I am indeed getting closer to finishing my first draft. For those of you who have written before, the word count currently is 134k, and I am writing the climax and closing scenes. There are a lot of big gaping holes, though, and I feel more like I am half-way through the first tenth of the book than like finishing any time soon. But we’ll see. Maybe the day will come when all the pieces with its jarred edges and sticking out shards and spikes will snap together to a smooth nice picture.
But not all of my computer work was writing. I ordered new colours of the Lin Retors, a beautiful French 3-ply sewing thread (as in sewing clothes, attaching buttons, and sewing light leather like for leather blouses) which I use for miniature books. And always when I have a couple more colours, I take photos of all of them again because that makes the colours more comparable. The thread is available in my Etsy Shop.
I also made a couple of new messages in bottles. A longer blog post about them can be found on their own blog.
I made some prints, in the photo below you see me making a drypoint from a picture of my mother and me for mother’s day. — Somehow I still have not figured out how to do this non-messy. I tend to turn my whole studio in a big mess, which was especially scary that day because I still had bit and bops for the 346 book lying about.
I made some soft weights, and I worked a bit on my 346 project
I have entered my intent to enter this book – 346 – for this year’s Society of Bookbinder’s Competition, and so I have to send it in between June 5th and 10th. And I have not idea (not the slightest) how I am supposed to manage, seeing that today is the last day in school for the twins before half-term. But I am trying… In the photo above you see trying things for the new cover. After some trials with prints and whatnot, I am now back to the basics: I am drawing with dry media (pencil and pastels) on a light cream coloured bookbinding fabric and hope this will do. Lower in the image you can see that I made some trials where I sprayed on fixative or clear acrylics and then glued the fabric onto board to see whether it will work. Encouraged, I intend to finish this picture. I can imagine doing this for the two elaborate copies, and for the cheaper edition I will probably make a drawing on paper, scan and then print on to fabric. But that’s still in the future, and until then I intend to solve one problem at a time.
And, as if my weeks were not full and busy enough already, I also flew to Germany: Last Saturday I left the house at 8 am to attend my writing workshop. From there I went straight to the train station and went to London Luton, flew to Dortmund, was picked up by my Dad and spent a night with my parents. The next day I attended my eldest niece’s first communion, had lunch and tea and then was brought back to the airpost and flew back to London boarded a train and then a taxi. At about 11pm I was back home.
Above you see Nottingham Train Station. It is absolutely beautiful. The bit in the picture is actually one of the more boring parts, there is a bridge that is painted beautifully, there is an entry hall with high glass ceiling and all masonry in beautiful red bricks… I should probably go there just for a photo session one day.
Oh, and I almost forgot: I am a member of a-n, which is an artist union, so to say. They say about themselves:
a-n is the largest artists’ membership organisation in the UK with over 21,000 members.
We support artists and those who work with them in many practical ways, acting on behalf of our membership and the visual arts sector to improve artists’ livelihoods.
We have a reputation for providing compelling insights and playing a catalytic role in influencing and informing cultural policy.
And a couple of weeks ago, they announced a bursary for 25 one-to-one guidance sessions, where artists are paired with an expert advisor to work on “work-as-a-professional-artist” related questions. I applied pointing out that because I will start teaching in September, I now have to evaluate my practise and see what will need to change, and what should remain the same. And I got offered one of them! Yay! There will be three one hour one-to-one guidance sessions conducted through skype. So: more work, but I am looking forward to gaining a new perspective on what I am making!
I will also be teaching a bookbinding course this summer – or two if demand allows it. So if you are in or around Nottingham in July or August, and would like to visit my studio and learn about pamphlets and limp leather bindings or Coptic bindings, let me know!
Well,but now I got go and ship out some more thread! – What are you up to these days? Let me know in the comments section.
Oh, one last thing: Have I told you that I now buy Crawford thread directly from the manufacturer? I do, and therefore I can now offer a more substantial discount on larger order (for at least 5 or more than 20 reels) . Also they produce more than 36 colours, and I have some new ones to offer. Feel free to contact me about the details if interested.