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!

Go On, Crow ALL You Like!

A Tutorial, All Hallows Eve, Little Big Cat!, The 'Little' Folk

Yes, dear reader, it IS true – the Yorvik Faerie is now NO More!

I have never really been happy with the name I created for my fantastical brand and a few weeks ago after several days of too little sleep and too much cake – I decided to unfasten her wings and once free, the Yorvik Faerie then flew away for the final time…

However, in her stead, comes the Crooked Hen!

The ‘Crooked Hen’ I hear you ask?

However, before I explain myself, tell me does the name NOT bring a smile to your face?

And even though I live in the ancient City of York with an entertaining family which includes a tetchy spouse, an moody black Persian cat with attitude and a very sociable Persian who thinks he’s a small dog – I also keep chickens!

And although my lovely ‘Little’ and ‘Large’ were murdered by an urban fox last year; I still have three poultry pals who answer to the names of ‘Snowy’, ‘Florence’ and ‘Allie’ AND I do mean answer – particularly if they see me clutching a handful of meal worms or a piece of croissant – to which they are very partial!

However, it was ‘Allie’, pictured top-left who inspired my name change when one weekend having heard an unmistakable sound, I rushed outside and there she was with her head thrown back and crowing like a cock and later that afternoon when we saw her trying to ravish poor little ‘Snowy’ – well, we realised that we had a chicken who was now possibly ‘gender fluid’.

But when I think of that very early morning when we literally rescued her from the jaws of that fox; it’s perhaps NOT surprising she’s more than a little confused about who she is.

So there you have it – the inspiration for the name of the Crooked Hen!

NOT a bird bent out of shape or deceitful BUT a bird of two contrasts and of much entertainment value!

Also of much entertainment value was the evening I spent with the members from the York Photography Network last month.

I had been invited to take along some of the models from the All Hallows Hamlet on what was possibly the worst evening for moving – anything!

Torrential rain, high winds, fog – you name it and armed with acres of bubble wrap and my deep breathing exercises, I battled across town with the ‘Monsignor Suárez Vampyre Slayer’s Emporium’ and the ‘Harum Scarum Notions & Potions Emporium’ in tow.

Despite the rush to unpack and dress the shelves as several camera lens were focused on me and my hands as I arranged those bottles of ‘Holy Water’ and other assorted notions and potions – it was a very insightful evening and amazing to see how the other photographers sought to capture my work.

And given the hurricane that occurred inside ‘Harum Scarum’ during transit with snippets of dried flowers and herbs scattered everywhere – I was rather relieved that I had left the grumpy proprietor at home – although she was the subject of much interest!

As the two ‘Davids’ have kindly given me permission to share these images – you can see more of their incredible work on this site AND you can also discover how I transformed a piece of wood and and broken pieces of Twisted Willow into an enchanted forest clearing for you never know who you might just find there one sunny morning!

Bye for now!

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!