A Forest in a Tea Box

I’m a bit of a tea addict and certainly get through tea. So recently I put aside a few empty tea packets with the idea of turning them into something instead of recycling them.

Empty Tea Boxes

Empty tea boxes waiting to be made into something.

In need of distraction at a very busy time, I started making a little box of ‘forest’ by first cutting a rectangle out of the front of one of the tea packets and covering it with some printouts of my Memory Tree book inside cover. I then created layers of a forest scene in the same way as I do for altered books and box frames (but a little more hastily as this was just a prototype to see if it would work. If it worked – who knows, perhaps printed card boxes to self assemble for fun :))

Here’s the result, a deer forest in a tea box!

A Forest in a Tea Box

A Forest in a Tea Box

I cut up more printouts of my Memory Tree book inside cover and stuck it on card. Then I cut around the images of the girl and trees to create layers. I stuck these inside another tea packet. Then I covered the tea packet with the leftover printouts and put inside some small, battery-powered LED lights. The result looks like a sunny day in the woods or a forest fire!

Tea Packet Light Box

Tea Packet Light Box

I think I’d better get back to doing something more useful!

Foxes, Sparrowhawks and Swifts

I’ve written and illustrated three more pieces for my local Preston Pages magazine, Fox Hour for April, Sparrowhawk for May and Swifts for June.

Preston Pages Wildlife Reflections

Preston Pages – Wildlife Reflections

Fox Hour

Fox Hour

Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk over Brighton.

Swifts

Swifts

As I write in the Swifts article, I’m doing a swift survey in my neighbourhood. It’s made me much more aware of all the activity happening in the skies above the city. Swifts are declining and the RSPB is monitoring them and encouraging people to put up swift boxes. To learn more, and see how you can help, go to the RSPB website.

You can read ‘Swifts’ here.

Nests, Eggshells and Natural Finds

The breeding season for many birds is well underway. Some birds are even on second broods. In May I went out to the woods and surrounding countryside to watch and listen out for birds and other wildlife but also to see what I could collect in the way of discarded eggshells and any other natural finds. Below are my eggshells – so far this year:

Eggshells

Eggshell Finds.

In the photograph you can see two song thrush, a magpie, a blackbird, some sort of wild duck and a moorhen. In my wanderings I’ve also found a pike’s head, but that’s a bit too gross to show here! (I need to clean it somehow for displaying.)

I’ve been keeping an eye on a crow’s nest in an ash tree next door. I can just glimpse some frantic wing flapping through the leaves – fledgings? I’m guessing the young will leave the nest soon, but the parents are still tooing and froing and circling their territory.

On the subject of nests, in May I went to see the exhibition, Natural Selection at the Towner Gallery by Andy and Peter Holden. Peter Holden is an ornithologist and his son is an artist so they teamed up over a period of years to create ‘Natural Selection’. The exhibition shows a collection of nests from around the world:

Natural Selection Exhibition

Nests from Around the world – Natural Selection Exhibition.

a video installation, various creations inspired by nests,

Natural Selection Exhibition

Artwork inspired by the bower bird’s nest.

and a room of hand-painted egg replicas in boxes:

Natural Selection Exhibition.

Boxes of Handmade Eggs – very clever, but not as good as finding eggshells.

I like to think I straddle both arenas, the art and science of nature, sometimes art has a slight edge, but overall I’m a naturalist. Anyway, I’ve started to keep some of my small natural finds in a printer’s tray my sister gave me for my birthday:

Natural Finds Collection

Natural Finds Collection – jay feathers, piece of warthog tusk, vole skull, eggshell, piece of lava and a gemstone.

Inspired by the exhibition, I’ve decided to create natural exhibits using old cigar boxes. Here is one I’ve started:

Box of Natural Finds

Box of Natural Finds – including rabbit skull, pheasant feather, dried fungus and oak leaf.

As I have a thing about nests, I’ve made another altered book, Buzzard’s Nest and a Song Thrush Nest box frame. Both are in my Etsy Shop.

Buzzard Nest Altered book

Buzzard Nest Altered book

Song Thrush Box Frame

Song Thrush Box Frame

Wild Woodland Wedding Invitations

Towards to end of last year a friend on Facebook, Meryl of Black Cat Floral Designs, suggested that I create some wedding invitations with woodland, wildlife or Goddess themes. It’s taken me some time to work out quite what’s required as there seem to be so many variations out there, I’m a bit in the dark about the whole subject.

Anyway, I’ve created some designs and had a few samples printed to see how they look.

Woodland Wedding Invitations

Woodland Wedding Invitations

They include Woodland Wildlife – with rabbits;

Woodland Wildlife Wedding Invitation

Woodland Wildlife Wedding Invitation

A springtime leafy one;

Spring Woodland Wedding Invitationn

Spring Woodland Wedding Invitationn

A ‘Goddess’ one;

Goddess Wedding invitation

Goddess Wedding invitation

and Two Deer one which might work best for an autumn wedding;

Two Deer Wedding Invitation

Two Deer Wedding Invitation

They are currently simple and unfolded on stiff white card but I plan to make some ivory ones on folded card.

Based in Chester, Meryl creates wonderful things with flowers for any occasion. See below and check out the galleries on her website.

Black Cat Floral Creation

Black Cat Floral Designs bridal creation.

Black Cat Floral Designs

Black Cat Floral Designs bridal creation.

I’m hoping to create a page on this website with more details and options soon. In the meantime if you’re interested, contact me here.

City Gardens and the Dawn Chorus

For the March issue of Brighton’s Preston Pages magazine my piece, Dawn Chorus in the City was featured along with the illustration below:

Dawn Chorus

Dawn Chorus

Dawn Chorus in the City Article

Dawn Chorus in the City – article in the Preston Pages

The Preston Pages’ Dawn Chorus in the City was a shorter version of a piece that was originally published on the City Creatures blog and which I’ve now added to my other nature writing website, From the Fields and Woods. I wrote the piece last year and there have since been changes to the garden my flat looks down on.

In January our next door neighbour had some of our trees cut because she wants more light in her garden. i felt very sad about this and requested that as little as possible be cut so the garden was still a wildlife haven. Below you can see photos of before the cut and after. I’m used to it now but the trend in cutting down city trees saddens me whether they are in the street or in peoples’ gardens. I’m all in favour of a bit of wilful neglect so wildlife can flourish in peace – and I mean birds, foxes, badgers or whatever (I draw the line at rats).

View from my balcony

View from my balcony in winter

Garden after tree cutting

Garden after tree cutting

It’s not so bad!

Anyway, I’d like to create a Dawn Chorus artwork beyond an illustration. So far I’ve created a candle lantern:

Dawn Chorus Lantern

Dawn Chorus Lantern

Here is an MP3 recording of the dawn chorus from my balcony:

Fox Wood Altered Book

I still have a thing about foxes and have been watching them wandering around the gardens next door in the snow. I hope they find enough to eat.

Last year I took photos of the fox family sunbathing in the garden next door. One of the photos was taken in January, it must have been warm.

Fox in the Garden

Fox in the Garden

Two Sleeping Foxes

These are the inspiration for my fox ‘altered books’ except I draw them in a woodland clearing. I have yet to do an urban fox.

I’ve just created a pocket ‘altered’ notebook, Fox Wood, featuring a fox among some ivy covered trees and a couple of rabbits hidden in the pages. It’s now for sale in my Etsy shop

Fox Wood Altered Book

For another ‘Fox’ post see here.

Tawny Owl Art

There’s an owl theme going on at the moment. First I’ve been out looking for urban owls recently to write about for my book. So far, no luck, but I’ll keep trying.

Then I discovered a lovely post about my altered books on the website My Owl Barn and was very pleased to sell my Owl Altered book on Etsy:

Owl Altered Book

Owl Altered Book (click on image to enlarge).

Yesterday I completed a commissioned Owl at Dusk Box Frame, similar to the one featured below:

Owl at Dusk Boxframe

Owl at Dusk Boxframe

With the box frame I decided to hide a poem, Nature by Mary Oliver, written on parchment paper at the back of the box frame behind the final picture. I like the idea of hiding messages and hidden art for anyone who can’t resist opening up the back of the picture.

Below are some images of the box frame process including the back page of the box frame. From the front all you can see of this layer is a bit of sky and moon, but it’s a complete picture that features more trees and a badger.

Owl Box Frame in Process

Owl Box Frame in Process

Nature Poem by Mary Oliver

Nature Poem by Mary Oliver

Back Picture of Boxframe

Back Picture of Boxframe

Here is another tawny owl picture that I might make into a card:

Owl Mixed Media

Owl Mixed Media

A Song at Dusk

Pearlescent and moon-painted, dusk is falling. In a corner of the park a male blackbird perches in the naked branches of a sycamore tree, yellow bill, eye a ring of gold. He flicks his tail and starts to sing an enquiring, fluty song. Listen…

Preston Pages - A Song at Dusk

Preston Pages – A Song at Dusk

I’m very pleased to have a second piece of writing, A Song at Dusk, along with a picture in February’s issue of Preston Pages, one of Brighton’s free magazines :)

Blackbirds at Dusk

Blackbirds at Dusk

The original A4 illustration above is available to buy, unmounted, mounted, framed or unframed. Contact me if you’re interested.

Dusk Night Dawn T-Shirt

At the beginning of the year I decided to design some new t-shirts. Finally I’m getting round to it.

My first new design is Dusk Night Dawn. I’m always drawing deer and this time I thought I’d add the words Dusk Night Dawn (the title of my book!), as I really like these times of day.

Dusk Night Dawn T-shirt

Dusk Night Dawn T-shirt

Dusk Night Dawn T-Shirt

Dusk Night Dawn T-Shirt

I wanted to reflect the moon in the shape of the silhouetted deer and trees. It’s now up in my Teemill online shop here.

There is another deer t-shirt in my collection, Deer Tree t-shirt:

Deer Heart Tree

Deer Heart Tree T-Shirt Design

Other t-shirts in my shop include a special Great Crested Newt T-shirt favoured by ecologists.

I’ve been told there is free shipping this weekend…just in case you’re tempted :)

If you have design requests, just drop me a note and I’ll see what I can come up with.

An Interesting Street Find

People often leave furniture and bits and bobs in our street so one evening late last year I went out in search of some wood to make a shelter for the pigeon that had adopted us. The pigeon, who we named Beaky, had been sitting day and night in the corner of our balcony getting very wet.

Beaky

Beaky at the window in summer.

I didn’t find anything suitable for Beaky but I did find a small bureau standing in front of a house with a notice on it saying “Free. Please Take.”

I phoned Kevin who came up with the car and we took it home. Here it is:

New Bureau

New Bureau

Now I have a new space to write and draw in among the plants. It’s become a special corner of the living room where I keep my wildlife treasures – feathers, eggshells etc, my art and writing bits and pieces all lit by a little paper star light my sister gave me for Christmas :)

My Creative Corner

My creative corner among the plants.

It’s amazing what you can find in the street!