Into the Forest? Let’s Go!

A Tutorial, All Hallows Eve, That's ONE Crooked Hen!, The 'Little' Folk

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” ~ John Muir

I love the above quote and one rainy evening when my imagination was captured by the idea of an Irish elf with his rickety barrow selling his magickal notions and potions in a forest clearing – I just had to create this scene in 12th scale for the All Hallows Hamlet!

As I’ve always the odd piece of wood stashed away for those ‘just in case’ projects – I found a nice piece of plywood which had already been transformed into an unusual shape.

And with a collection of Twisted Willow I had harvested during one of my many visits to York Cemetery as the Graveyard Squirrel and with masking tape, assorted wire, a borrowed wood saw and pliers – I was ready to begin.

Any sensible artist with patience and planning would have worked out where to plant the pieces of willow and mark them up accordingly until they were happy with the layout – however, as I am neither sensible or patient, I dived straight in with the first piece of willow which I had to attach with a strong glue before securing it with electrical wire.

Having arranged the wire to give the appearance of tree ‘roots’, I used a strong-lasting masking tape to secure both willow and roots to the ply base.

But when I shudder at the memory of that HUGE dry-build house crashing about my ears having secured it with cheap, short-life masking tape – I vowed never to be thrifty again!

And with one willow planted and many more to go – I continued using the same method:

Measure the willow to the desired height, saw to create a straight line and sand if necessary.

Attach with glue/wire and secure with masking tape.

When happy with the willow design, I began to raise the ground level using strips of newspaper.

And as a daily reader of a newspaper I was able to do a little recycling as I tore up the strips to pack the tree roots and no, I won’t tell you which newspaper as I get enough grief about it from my spouse!

Using the newspaper in this way not only creates interesting ‘mounds’ and ‘burrows’ but will make it easier to apply the papier-mâché.

And with everything safely in place, this is where the fun really began as I coated the newspaper tree roots and the surrounding area with lashings of papier-mâché.

Papier-mâché has been used for thousands of years in a HUGE variety of ways and there is more than one recipe for making it, however, I prefer to use a bag of pulp to which you simply add water and mix well.

Having tried a number of papier-mâché ready mixes over the years, my favourite is the ‘Creation Station Instant Papier Mâché’ available on Amazon as is not as dusty as some of the others on the market.

I always try to do my papier-mâché sculpting outside as it can be really messy and I usually end up with the stuff on the floor, my clothes and even in my hair!

However, with patience, time and preferably a sunny day, it really is a fabulous medium to work with!

And in a later post, I’ll show you how I created the landscaping but I think that it’s time for a nice mug of tea!

Top O’ the Morning to You!

All Hallows Eve, That's ONE Crooked Hen!, The 'Little' Folk, The Crooked Hen Gift Shop

“The earliest truth that we’re taught is that there is a world alongside this world, with spirits, not mortals, an enchanted universe of fairies, wizards, leprechauns and trolls. They are all around us. One has only to open his eyes.”

~ William Holman Hunt

After a weekend of an awful weather here in York, I pottered off into the garden on Monday morning to see the chickens and enjoy a little of the sunshine AND look at WHO I happened to stumble across!

With a feather in his cap and a distinctive pipe to hand, it was none other than Seamus Quinn; a cheeky, little Irish elf along with his rickety barrow of unique notions and potions inspired by his Gaelic heritage on display.

Besides the snow and ice, Saturday had also been the day for the celebration of ALL things Irish but as I watched Seamus bask in the morning sunshine as he waited for the first customer of the day, I did wonder if he might have had a little more ‘luck’ with his sales had he made an appearance on St Patrick’s Day?

Whatever his reasons for hiding away at the weekend, their loss is OUR gain as some of his exclusive array of notions and potions are now available for sale in the Crooked Hen Gift Shop

On offer and measuring just 2.5 cm or smaller, this collection of miniature vials have been personally created by that wise little elf and ALL are guaranteed to lace life with a little of that Leprechaun magick!

And even though the day of wearing green and sporting a Shamrock corsage may be over for some;  it’s never too late to enjoy a little of that Irish charm with a drop of this unique ‘Leprechaun Nectar’ or perhaps a spoonful of ‘Living in Clover’ might be more to your taste?

However, when I think of how my son and his friends were celebrating St Patrick’s Day with glass after glass of Guinness, maybe a sip or several of Seamus Quinn’s ‘Hangover Cure’ may have been more appreciated the morning after!

‘Cause It’s Witchcraft, Unkind Witchcraft

All Hallows Eve, Little Big Cat!, That's ONE Crooked Hen!, The 'Little' Folk

“When black cats prowl and pumpkins gleam, may luck be yours on Halloween.” ~ Anon

As the sun disappears on this All Hallows Eve, the folk from the All Hallows Hamlet are excitedly polishing shoes and dusting their finest hats as they dress to impress to celebrate the Festival of Samhain BUT not everyone wants to enjoy this special evening!


Sadly, there is no fabulous frock to wear or a sumptuous banquet to enjoy for Claire Eno this All Hallows Eve as this reclusive and unfriendly crone is busy pottering about and cooking up some rather unusual elixr from inside the Harum Scarum Emporium which is carefully shielded by the prickliest thorn bushes and whispering trees in this bleakest part of the hamlet.

There are no visitors here and Claire’s only friend is the ancient book that has been in her family for as long as anyone can remember

And it is from within the dusty pages of this HUGE recipe book that she concocts a vast array of nasty potions from the beautiful flowers, nourishing berries and healing plants that she gathers every day at dusk and even though they all gather dust on the cobwebby shelves waiting for the customers who never arrive – Claire is unable to stop weaving her unkind magick.

BUT could a surprise visit from that Little Big Cat change everything?

If You Go Down to Tee’s Garden Today?

All Hallows Eve, Crooked Hen Productions, That's ONE Crooked Hen!, The 'Little' Folk

If you go down to Tee’s garden today.

You’re sure of a big surprise!

If you go down to Tee’s garden today.

You’d better go in disguise…

For every witch that ever there was.

Will gather there for certain because.

Today’s the day that Tilly Simms came to say ‘Hi!’


Okay, I didn’t find really find Tilly Simms at the bottom of my garden nestled among the ferns and ivy leaves…

Actually this wonderfully adorable witch found her way to me one sunny September afternoon accompanied by her creator Jain Squires of Giddy Kipper Dolls who is usually to be found huddled in a cosy workshop creating her delightful whimsical characters and other assorted unique familiars.

As I haven’t seen Jain for ages, it was really great to enjoy a chat over a cup of tea and to finally meet Tilly Simms and for those aware of my passion for Regency history, it will probably be of little surprise that this little witch has been dressed in the resplendent clothing certain to meet with the approval of any respectable 19th century lady!

 And as Tilly has had plenty of time in which to enjoy a little private time in her new home; I have been very busy with the preparations for her first retail foray at the All Hallows Hamlet although it hasn’t been quite the shopping trip she had imagined…

For as she approached the abode of Monsignor Suárez, the grim and forbidding place, neglected and possessed of some hidden terror was everything that she feared it would be and the temptation to make a run for it was almost too great… particularly when she spotted the tell-tale sign that someone or some thing had recently been there too…

‘Vampyres, Werewolves and Zombies. Oh My!’

Oh Tilly! Oh My!

In Need Some Retail Therapy Vampyre?

All Hallows Eve, Crooked Hen Productions, Little Big Cat!, That's ONE Crooked Hen!, The 'Little' Folk, The Crooked Hen Gift Shop

The best definition I can give of a vampire is a living, mischievous and murderous dead body. A living dead body! The words are idle, contradictory, incomprehensible, but so are vampires.”

Scoffern (Stray leaves of Science and Folk Lore)

Vampires, Vampyre, Vampir, Vampyyri, Vampyras, Vampyr, Vampyras, Vampiro… It really makes no difference how the word is spelt for the meaning remains the same the world over, and for as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed a fascination with (and a sneaky regard!) for these undead creatures of folklore and mythology.

However, as much as I appreciate that this interest of mine will not be shared by everybody and so in keeping with the ideas of ‘mischief’ and the ‘incomprehensible’ that Scoffern has attributed to the Vampyre; I have created something of a fantastical store that seeks to offer those essential accoutrements for any discerning hunter or slayer of the undead.

And so without further ado, I am now going to unlock the door of the Monsignor Suárez Vampyre Slayer’s Emporium in the All Hallows Hamlet!

The design for this fantastical world began during the dying days of an Indian summer last year and as I made a real effort to actually remember to photograph the creation of it from dry-build to completion; I am looking forward to sharing this tale with you in another post.

As the All Hallows Hamlet is a marketplace of emporiums, boutiques and other such establishments for discerning folk with a penchant for retail indulgence and a predilection for all that is extraordinary – I confess that I have been more than a little excited about this creation for not only is it a fantastical store brimming with merchandise of the magickal kind but after a lot of meticulous research, this little emporium is completely seeped in all manner of ancient folktale and superstition!

As the week of All Hallows Eve was also the celebration of the festival of Día de Muertos – I did hear a whisper that a certain feline made a debut appearance along with one or two other folk from the All Hallows Hamlet!

As Tilly is something of a creative soul, her imagination was now flying all over the place like the leaves tumbling from the old oak trees surrounding the All Hallows Hamlet and she began to wonder if the cat she had seen was not really Murphy at all but a shape-shifter in disguise or the beastly familiar of an evil witch OR that Murphy was now slowly transforming into a werewolf!

‘Vampyres, Werewolves and Zombies. Oh My!’

Follow the Tale…

And as the doors to the Crooked Hen Gift Shop have FINALLY opened; there is now the opportunity to indulge in a little retail therapy for yourself or a loved one.

For on offer and measuring just 2.5 cm or smaller is a collection of miniature vials from the shelves of this Vampyre Slayer’s Emporium here in the All Hallows Hamlet and which are the exclusive remedies created by the Monsignor himself with a guarantee to see off the most determined of Vampyres!

With a pinch of ‘Silver, Herb, Seed, Root and Werewolf Fur’ suspended in resin, labelled in parchment and finished with paper tied with jute, raffia or silver wire- these little vials will add a perfect finishing touch to YOUR fantastical miniature world… OR could YOU discover another use for it?

However, before I disappear for the time being; I shall leave you with a few lines from the divine Lord Byron:

But first, on earth as Vampire sent,

Thy corpse shall from its tomb be rent:

Then ghastly haunt thy native place,

And suck the blood of all thy race;

There from thy daughter, sister, wife,

At midnight drain the stream of life;

Yet loathe the banquet which perforce

Must feed thy livid living corpse.

Thy victims are they yet expire

Shall know the demon for their sire,

As cursing thee, thou cursing them,

Thy flowers withered on the stem.

The Giaour (1813)