One month to go – Blackthorpe Barn

BB-dates-2018

Even though some of the High Street shops and supermarkets have had a sprinkling of their Christmas stock on the shelves for a wee while it’s not feeling wintry quite yet. And, as I put back the hour on our clocks this coming weekend for the end of British Summertime, I will remark as usual that it is only a couple of months to Christmas.

The thought always comes as a surprise to me. All of a sudden it’s family arrangements, stir-up Sunday and last posting dates.

Economy-International

I am not sure why I am surprised as Christmas does come round ever year on the 25th December! And, as soon as Halloween is behind us it is the main event on the calendar. This year I will be at Blackthorpe Barn again just outside Bury St Edmund’s, Suffolk, for their British Crafts 2018 weekends.

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I shall be there Week Three, the 24th and 25th November. Here is the full List of makers who will be attending and selling their work in the handsome sixteenth-century barn during the course of the six weekends.

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Art for Christmas cards anyone?

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Years ago I received a charity Christmas card which featured what I took to be ‘The Three Wise Men’. Last month, at the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, I saw the very large Gentile and Giovanni Bellini painting, ‘St Mark Preaching in Alexandria’. This painting had originally been started by Gentile Bellini, but following his death it was completed by his brother Giovanni. It is a fascinating Renaissance Venetians’ version of an imagined Islamic Alexandria.

St Mark preaching in Alexandria by Gentile and Giovanni Bellini
‘St Mark Preaching in Alexandria’ by Gentile and Giovanni Bellini. Oil painting circa 1504-07. 3.47m x 7.7m Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

Whilst photographing some of the captivating detail, displaying both the vivid imagination and skill of the Bellini brothers, I noticed three bystanders in non-Western dress. Here were my Christmas card kings.

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There has also been a fashion for embossed, golden cards for Christmas. I’m not sure if this version of St Peter by Crivelli has been used yet, but the relief work depicting the keys and crosier could easily be embossed. Perhaps St Peter is looking a touch too joyless for Christmas.

Madonna and Child with Saints, San Domenico Triptych
St Peter part of the Madonna and Child with Saints, San Domenico Triptych. Carlo Crivelli 1482 Tempera and oil on wood. Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

A small amount of gilt and glitz is acceptable at Christmas, but I think I prefer the more muted colours of frescoes. How about this fourteenth century painting by Simone da Corbetta. It fits the bill visually and would appeal more to a 21st century sensibility with the wan-faced, tall and thin female saints.

Simone da Corbetta part of Madonna and Child
Part of medieval painting – Madonna and Child (not shown), St. Catherine, St. Ursula, St. George and the donor Théodorico da Coira by Simone da Corbetta. 1382 Fresco transferred to canvas (235cm x 297cm) now at the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

And, finally, there’s plenty of inspirational, ornate sculptural work hidden away in churches. However, church interiors are frequently gloomy and a tripod (not popular with guides and security) is often required to capture an interesting, potential Christmas card image in focus or, maybe, not quite!

Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan
The Virgin Mary in Heaven – detail of relief in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.

Christmas 2016 – UK posting dates

christmas-giftIt’s the first day of December and we can now ‘officially’ mention Christmas! Round my way we’ve already had an increase of delivery vans and hardworking folk dropping off parcels well into the evening darkness. Each year the Royal Mail issues its last posting dates. You don’t want a special Christmas gift to turn up in January!

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But, of course, things don’t always run as smoothly as hoped for and just to be on the safe side my dates are not quite so last minute.

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In the last three years I have found the Special Delivery service very good and only once has a silk scarf, boxed and packaged, temporarily taken a detour to the wrong sorting office. With the full tracking information I saw it arrive in Scotland at a sorting office on the wrong side of the loch. What was probably a 15 minute trip across the water was a 30 mile trek by road and another day added to the delivery time. A worrying time for both me and my customer, but a successful delivery in the end.

 

An agreeable feature

Agnes-Ashe-hand-painted-silk-scarf-Portia-apple-clup copyEarlier this week I had a pleasant surprise to find that one of my scarves (Portia apple) had been selected and featured in an Etsy festive ‘Editors’ Picks’. Apparently, there are over 30 million items listed on Etsy so I’m genuinely surprised and very grateful to have something selected for the ‘Under £100’ gifts category.

Etsy-Editors-pick-feature
One of my scarves featured by the Etsy Editors in the ‘Gifts under £100’.

I must be a bit thick as I only found out my work had been featured when I kept seeing referrals for this scarf on my stats page coming from ‘Editors’ Picks’. Well, anyway, thank you to the Editors!

Make-it-British-Christmas-newsletter
The Make It British Christmas newsletter.

And, also thanks to the folks at Make It British who also included one of my scarves (Hilda ruby) in their Christmas newsletter.

Oh yes, and whilst I’m spreading the love, today (3 Dec 2015) sees the arrival in UK bookshops of ‘I Belong to No One’ written by fellow blogger Gwen Wilson. Congratulations to Gwen and hopefully lots of sales!

Agnes-Ashe-hand-painted-silk-scarf-Hilda-ruby-box copy

 

Less than a month to Christmas

Christmas-decsMy daughter’s birthday is in November and I’ve often thought how close it is to Christmas giving rise to the possibility of giving her one, extra large, special present to cover both occasions. In truth that’s never happened and like most families, especially those with birthdays on the 25th December, we’ve always kept birthday and Christmas separate.

Of course today it’s Thanksgiving in the United States and rather belatedly it has occurred to me that here we have another special celebration day only a month before Christmas.

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It’s all a bit like London buses, you wait for hours then they all come at once!

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Festive gingerbread – take two

Gingerbread-icedWhat was I thinking when I made a tin full of gingerbread Christmas cookies over a week ago – that they would last until Christmas! More fool me and, of course they’ve already all been eaten and now a second batch are required. Just as well I enjoy a Sunday afternoon bake.

It’s quite an easy recipe. After melting together butter, muscovado sugar and golden syrup you mix in the dried ingredients flour, spices and a little bicarbonate of soda.

Mix-in-flour

Following a light kneading the gingerbread dough is given a 30 minutes chill in the fridge before rolling out and cutting into shapes. The recipe I use says 12-15 minutes in a moderately hot oven, but I’ve found if you like a crispy snap then 20 minutes is needed.

Cut-out-shapes

Finally, pipe a few swirls of royal icing decoration. My piping skills are minimal and made worse for this batch as I cut the hole on the icing bag too big, but by then I’d filled it with the icing and wasn’t going to start again. Sometimes near enough will just have to be good enough.

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