Monday, 23 June 2014

My New No-Dig Organic Allotment

I'm now the proud tenant of an organic allotment at Riverford Farm in Devon. At the time of writing it's merely a portion of the field. I'm sitting under the umbrella considering my next move.

My intention with this allotment is to create five square 'rooms' with paths moving into and through, connecting them all together. Initially I was going to take on one full sized plot plus a half one but at the point of signing the contract opted for an extra plot. This means that the compost bin is now in the middle of the plot and will have to move to the far right bottom corner. 
I've bought a little Mountfield mower and I've mown and mown and mown the grass which had been previously rough cut by a ride on mower by the farmer. All the grass had been left so my little machine chopped it up and collected it. This is wonderful as I now have loads of grass clippings for adding to my no-dig lasagne style beds. However, the task was really far too much and there was still lots of lovely long, soft dried grass still to be raked together - again a perfect ingredient for the beds as it was basically hay.
The next stage on room number one was to measure and to peg out and divide the square plot into four and establish the centre. 
The centre may be a lawn or a pond - yet to be decided but it will be circular. I shall modify this plan slightly and I am considering adding trellises. Along the dividing fence between my neighbour and myself I have created a grass path. It looks a bit like this and as time goes by with raking and mowing should begin to resemble a nice, soft, green, grassy path. I may also add seed.
I shall be putting a rabbit proof wire netting fence around the plot, initially the main expense but well worth it as other tenants have been extolling their woes regarding the voracious appetites of young rabbits and of their breaking and entering skills. This allotment will not resemble a traditional allotment, even though I've always thought they were the best way to garden an allotment. This is because I want to create a very inspiring and beautiful retreat as I as yet have no garden of my own. I love the French Potager style of gardening and this will provide lots of inspiration but I think my allotment is going to be some sort of hybrid of my own. if you would like to explore the ultimate Potager Garden then click here for Villandry. There are lots of elements that I want my plot to contain and I have started to collect some on my pinterest board of ideas.
This slight incline/slope of the field makes me think of terracing. No-dig terracing?
One of my 'rooms' is nestled into my neighbour's plot - she has one and a half plots and is settled in after two and a half years of gardening. Her allotment is beautiful, filled with roses and small hens. Mine will nestle in perfectly.
Layering up the bed with layers of wet cardboard, then cow manure, grass cuttings, beech leaves, more manure, hay etc, etc. The idea is to keep the layers wet but we are in a heat wave and the allotment has no running water. This time next year and I will have my irrigation/rainwater collection system in place but for now I will cover up and rely on condensation. I have a penchant for recycling but also for making the garden beautiful. Somewhere in between I will make use of the discarded plastic banners that are used for advertising - the make perfect covers and can even be tied to stakes as they have brass eyelets.

May and June 2014

No time to blog! I have been taking advantage of early mornings and long evenings and for once, perfect weather, blue skies and scudding clouds. So much to catch up on.
This is the time of year when gardens are open via the National Garden Scheme - the N.G.S, so with the yellow book at hand I set off for Spitchwick Manor, nestled on the undulating edge of Dartmoor in wooded valleys. One of my ideas of heaven is a walled garden with greenhouses - Victorian greenhouses. I would happily live in a walled garden.
And at Spitchwick Manor the walled garden is tucked down into the landscape for protection from the elements of winter weather - strong prevailing tree bending winds and slashing, lashing icy cold rain. Consequently you will find the orchard is also tucked behind the granite walls - perfectly pruned old apple trees geometrically spaced within their own neat round islands of earth set in lawns of roughly mown, daisy strewn grass.
The walled garden in also a sunken garden on the side where the entrance is. From the outside you find the usual magical wooden door set within the wall and as you push it open are quite surprised to discover that stone steps descend. It makes perfect sense as it embeds itself into the ancient landscape once and for all time. As walled gardens go, this is on a miniature scale. Initially you look over the tops of the apple trees across the top of the walls towards the sea. And then you enter another world.
 I love old gardens and all the things that go into the making of them. I don't know if this knife sharpener is still in use as most shears and spades are now stainless steel and as far as I know are not sharpened. I may be wrong. This is for sharpening plain steel tools, the kind that go rusty when left in the damp night air. All tools ought to be washed, dried, oiled and put in their own place, that is if you have a place to put them.
Storage - essential and also a place for returning swallows to nest. 
More storage - the potting shed - another essential for a well run garden and a place to wile away the hours. Robins also nest here.
I will make a bench like this for 'potting-on' on sunny days. I am planning my next garden, where-ever it may be, composing lists of reminders of details and aspects of things that I love to create once again a little heaven on earth.
 And Azaleas for perfect beauty and drifting evening fragrance.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Painting Inspiration in April

There have been some days when the colours of the sky and the fields were almost beyond belief and impossible to ignore or resist. When Devon looks like this I want to paint in gouache - I can make blocks of colour, layer by/on layer.

In fact the colours are even more intense in reality. April is a wonderful month and takes us from the simple skeleton outlines of trees right into the incredible abundance of blossom.
From early mornings where daffodils are seen gradually emerging into being in mist as the increasing warmth sun slowly disperses the cold, right into days of brilliant sunshine and colour.
Where grassy banks are filled with flowers to spectacular displays as the sun is setting.


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Transferring Ink Jet Images onto Papier Mâché Clay

This is a technique that I have thought about a lot and experimented with a lot less until now. I am working on a series of wall pieces and jewellery made using this method for our ( the HANDS group ) From Paper to Digitization exhibition in May 2014 at Seale-Hayne.
This LINK initially demonstrates how this technique is used on potters clay but it can also be transferred onto papier-mâché clay.
It is outlined here so far as transferrable techniques for papier-mache clay are concerned. My own photographs will follow. 

Years ago, in an attempt to incorporate digital photography into my clay work, I began experimenting with image transfer processes. I began working with Xerox transfers and decals with some degree of success. But one day I accidentally stumbled across a water-based process so simple and direct that it’s become the single-most-used method for most of my current transfer work. Unlike other processes involving a laser printer, Xerox machine, and/or chemical solvents, this water-based process can be done with an inkjet printer or any water-based media. Consequently it’s nose, skin, and, yes, even kid friendly.
You can see where I am going to go with this - 

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Papier-Mache Recipes

Recipes for papier mâché abound and they all work, depending on your preferences and the piece your working on. It's all about personal preference and choice. 
Lets start with one by Jonni Good sharing her recipe for paper mache clay.

and how she uses it on her animal sculptures - no metal armature - simply crumpled paper and masking tape as a base.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Paints and Mediums - acrylic

Every artist will have their own preferred brand of acrylic paint, based on things such as the colours available and the consistency of the paint, that ranges from extremely buttery, as they say, to fluid. Try buy a few of Artist's Quality Acrylics rather than a whole range of cheap colours. Student Acrylic Paints are cheaper because they usually contain a lot more filler, or they are made from much cheaper pigments. It is worth trying out some below and experiencing the difference. 

The next stage is to make your own.

link - Sennelier

link - Winsor and Newton






link - Liquitex






link - Atelier Interactive Acrylics

link - Lascaux Paints - this is a rather unusual company
 More products from Lascaux -
Additives are used to condition paint to perform to the way you want them too.  This range allows you to thin, thicken, rework, retard, matt and build up with Lascaux or any other acrylic colour.  Each paint company offers their own range of additives.

Acrylic Emulsion D-498M - Allows you to make your own acrylics and pastes. This is essentially the same binder used in Lascaux Acrylics.
Impasto Gel - Enables you to mix into paint to create translucent or semi-translucent structures. Available in 1 - Gloss and 2 - Matt.
Water-Re-soluble Medium - With this medium you can make watercolour paint with special properties by mixing with traditional acrylics. Paints will not develop a permanent paint film and may be reworked like traditional watercolour. By varying the amount of this medium, you can create colours that will be water re-soluble in heavy layers.
Lascaux Transparent Acrylic UV Varnish - transparent UV protection, through the application of at least two coats of paint, mixed with at least 25% water and with a 6-hour drying time between them.  Matt, gloss or satin finish, in two sizes. Satin lacquer also available in 5l format.
And then there is Lascaux Resonance Gouache - link

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Work by Others - Mary Button Durell

I find this work extraordinary - simply wheat paste, tracing paper and occasionally - actetate.
'This body of work uses only tracing paper and wheat paste as material. At first glance these pieces appear to be built onto a rigid wire frame, however, the process is much more organic and the structure is created from my own hand building. 

Individual cells or cones that comprise most of the pieces are first formed over molds of various shapes and sizes and then joined together using wheat paste cell by cell. Additional layers of paper and paste are then added for strength and reinforcement which creates the net-like structure around the individual cells.
The translucent quality of the tracing paper allows light to play a significant and dynamic role in the work. In combination with the physical structure of the work, this translucent quality creates an interior, as well as exterior, perspective.

In certain light, however, the translucency of the paper appears to have the visual characteristics of more solid materials, such as oyster shell or marble.
Due partially to the inherent physical aspects of these materials, this body of work has evolved, both in process and form, along decidedly organic lines.
These shapes have often been described as biomorphic abstractions or shapes resembling cellular membranes, ethereal bodies and the skeletal structures of underwater organisms.'

Papier-Mâché Work by Others - Yuniko Studio Blog

A very simple way to make a papier-mâché bowl that I absolutely love from Anthea Carboni at Yuniko Studio Blog
1 cardboard egg carton 
bucket of water 
Hand held blender
wire sieve (around 15cm diameter)
sponge (10 cm round is ideal)
Tear the egg carton into small pieces and leave in a bucket of water (1/3 full) for a day or two. Use the blender to make a pulp. When the mixture is an even, soupy consistency, hold the sieve over the bowl and pour enough of the mixture (slowly) into the sieve to fill to the brim. Rest the sieve over the bowl and wait for the water to drain, taking care not to move the pulp around. 
Then use the sponge to gently press the pulp against the sides of the sieve, starting at the bottom and then working around the sides, lifting the sponge up gently each time. Squeeze out the excess water from the sponge as you do this. 
When you have removed most of the water, turn the sieve upside down and gently tap the sieve against your other hand to release the bowl.Reshape the edges if needed.
Dry off the bowl in a cool oven (defrost setting or around 80 degrees centigrade)for about an hour.
One egg carton makes around 5-6 bowls. Most egg cartons are grey (the one in the photo above was a surprising blue and the one below a pumpkin yellow) but you could easily colour the pulp by adding food colour or edicol dye (food-safe powder colour)
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