You Will Need:
A Plucky Spirit
I always wanted to paint a leafy mural, possibly all my life. When I was a child my aunt painted a cloudy sky ceiling in their dining room, and when Grace was a baby I painted her walls with rolling hills and a soft pink sky with simple fluffy clouds. For a couple of years I attended an art class with Anna Saunders in Twickenham which have me the confidence to feel free with a brush - and to not worry about the messy strokes and imperfect edges. Pluck was essential for this job.
Earlier this year I put two new windows into my workshop to bring some light into the back. Before that it was rather dingy and ‘Meh’. I added some built in cupboards so I’m able to keep it much tidier but didn’t you think they looked a bit bland....? Me too, and I want my workshop attendees to feel creative and inspired while they are here, and me too - something was missing and it had leafy mural written all over it. If you share the space you are thinking of painting leaves on with someone please check with them first, or maybe wait for them to go out for a while.
A leafy vine is just right - my theme is nature and I love having a small but leafy garden, and many years dog walking I must have seen trillions of pretty leaves blowing in the wind. Because I also use my space for practicing psychotherapy I didn’t want to go too over the top so my leaves are quite subtle rather than the tempting idea of a full blown forest.
Paint: Sample Pots of Emulsion
If you have acrylics or want more specific colours for a mural you can go for this. Because mine were earthy tones there were great green colours for me in the Craig and Rose range at Homebase. The paint went on easier on the emultioned wall than on the eggshell but it was adhesive enough. I chose three greens and a brown, which I lightened for the trunk. I used medium green for the main leaf shape, then imagined where the light was falling - most of the leaves have a light streak along the top and a darker streak along the bottom.
If you have good ones then use them - though luckily the cheap set from Homebase (Oh do I spend too much time there - there is one very local to me!) seem to have done the job. I think better quality brushes might have given a better finish but as you know I like that my leaves are messy and impressionistic, its just more my style - a touch of the feral but generally 'alright'. I will go over it again (and myself!) to neaten it up though I don't think there is any need for perfectionism for an overall leafy look.
Stencil - Optional
I bought a stencil online which I used at first (it does make progress faster) although I quickly realised that painting a leaf is pretty easy, fun and going freestyle allows you more freedom to go in other directions and the stencil was too rigid after the first use. It also left some of my leaves blobby because it gaped. If you are painting leaves you could draw in pencil first if you're not confident, or get a large piece of paper to practice on - I did to get the general leaf shape right, though they are all a bit different.
I listened to the ‘Classic Acoustic’ Spotify playlist - perfect, including Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel and the Beatles - folky ballads lend themselves very well to this kind of activity! Of course you can listen to whatever you like but I did like the seventies hippy vibe while I brushed.
So there you have it. A simple, messy but I hope effective leaf mural. I will add a few more leaves but as someone told me 'done is better than perfect'. P.S. for a more polished version visit @Createaholic who reminded me that we have to fulfil our own home-dreams and did an amazing lemon tree mural on her bedroom wall last year. Genius!
Have you ever painted a mural or done something creative that you felt so happy with? Fancy giving it a go yourself?
Of the many thousands of acorns produced by the mother tree, very few if any will survive to become a sapling, let alone a tree. It takes seventy years for an oak tree to reach full maturity too - these are slow and steady beasts. I am going to draw on the obvious analogy which I don't think can be iterated enough. To acknowledge how well we are all doing: merely existing seems to be a highly improbable outcome for an oak tree but also for a human, and all the eggs that get away, our ones made it! Not to mention that such a small and satisfyingly smooth nut contains within it the blueprint and capacity to grow into something so large and majestic and live for a thousand years. We have the blueprint for our best self too, right there inside! All the acorn needs are the right conditions and perhaps a touch of luck and faith. Don't worry if you've been nibbled a bit, trodden on a little, and if you're on stony ground, roll off it, or let the wind take you. We must give ourselves the best chance against all odds so we can live for a thousand years! Well not actually that but you know what I mean ;) . So let's please give ourselves everything needed to support our inner oak trees, and get rid of all that we don't need.
Feel free to share your oaky / acorn / growth stories and facts below.
For daily reminders or to share the symbolism you can find several acorn and oak pieces in my shop (a shameless plug? Hell yes - I'm growing too!)
I remember hydrangeas being everywhere when I was growing up during the 1970s. Now they are back in vogue and you can't walk down the street without seeing their audacious pom-pom flowers billowing over walls and paths, I suspect many may have been there all that time, though the last few years have commanded my attention. One of the loveliest things about making nature jewellery is constantly noticing natural entities to make into pieces and those little hydrangea petals are no exception.
There is an ancient Japanese legend whereby an Emperor who was in love gave hydrangea to the family of the girl he loved to make up for neglecting her and putting his business first. The hydrangea, native to Japan and Asia (and Americas) more generally, has become associated with heartfelt emotion, gratitude for understanding and perhaps, and at least in Japan because of this myth, apology. They have also been used by ancient healers to break curses, if you've been unlucky enough to experience a curse you know which flowers to reach for. The Victorians thought they've symbolised boastfulness though I think they might have felt that about anything as flamboyant as a hydrangea!
These unapologetic blooms have been in the UK since the 18th Century. They are robust, they can be grown in pots and many of the 70 varieties in shady spots. Even when the flowers die and dry out their beauty remains, as a brief look through the Instagram hashtag #lovelydeadcrap will reveal, or the shelf of any forager you know! Some varieties even change colour depending on the pH of the soil they are planted in. If you're thinking of getting one plant in the autumn or spring for it to be happiest. Hydrangeas needs a lot of water and well-drained soil (hydrangea comes from the Greek word for water vessel). You can find out more at the RHS: www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=122. If you are in Cornwall you can visit Trebah for a whole valley of hydrangeas.
I would love to hear your hydrangea stories, do you remember them growing up? Do you have any tips for this care?
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We are already some way into March, the daffodils blooming all over are a sure sign of the start of the spring season, I eagerly awaited their appearance in my garden and the splash of joyful colour they bring. Whenever I see them they certainly lift my spirits. Presumably because of their flowering time they are known as Easter Bells in German and sometimes known as the Lent Lily in the U.K - traditionally they would open on Ash Wednesday and finish at Easter time, though most of the daffodils I've seen are on their own schedule! Grown here in Britain since the sixteenth century, mentioned in Shakespeare more than once, painted by Van Gogh and celebrated in a William Morris design, not to mention Wordsworth famous poem - daffodils have inspired us since forever.
Even in Ancient Rome - they are mentioned in Pliny's poems, seen on a fresco excavated in Pompeii; in Egypt - depicted on an ancient Egyptian headstone; and in the Homeric Hymns to Demeter from 700BC; and versed in Solomons Song of Songs, they have been observed and celebrated, it seems through all human history (they were the flowers in the Greek underworld too).
When daffodils begin to peer
With hey the dozy over the dale
Why then comes in the sweet O'the year
And the red blood reigns in winter's pale.
Daffodils, that come before the swallow dares,
And take the winds of March with beauty.
As February begins after a long and cold January I'm so conscious of the new season lying dormant in the winter and signs of spring emerging slowly from their slumber.
February, says Edith Holden, derives from the word Februa, the Roman festival of expiation which took place at this time of year. I confess I had to look expiation up - the act of making amends, atonement, or ritual purification. Essentially this is spring cleaning for the person and their household, for themselves and to appease the gods, which they ritualised at this time. I do feel a natural draw to take stock and clear at this time of year, perhaps it is embedded in our bones, clearing out so that new things emerge, in synchrony with nature. (It was at this time last year I took Marie Kondos advice to keep only things that 'spark joy' - I'm naturally a little chaotic so love this simple advice which had a big impact on me and my home).
Linked to this idea is the concept of hope. If we purify, surely it is in the hope that it will make a difference for our unknown futures, that it is worth our effort and attention. In her beautiful book 'The Language of Flowers' Mandy Kirkby says the Snowdrop represents hope. 'I am come to calm your fears; to console you in the a sense of bright days and to reassure you of their return'. How comforting are these words right now in our uncertain world?
I know that I'm not alone in adoring the snowdrop (Galanthus), the pioneer flower of the year:
...And though the distant hills are bleak and dun
The virgin snowdrop, like a lambent fire,
pierces the cold earth with its green-streaked spire...
Originally from Turkey and Greece, Kirkby writes, we have grown snowdrops in the U.K. since the Elizabethan times; the Victorians were obsessed by them, going on snowdrop walks, planting huge woodlands with them, and soldiers returning from war having collected new varieties (I love the idea of a soldier in his army gear with a pocket stuffed full of snowdrops - an excellent sense of balance and priority in my opinion!). A brooch with a snowdrop was given if someone had suffered a loss, or a posy to lift the spirit and remind that happier times will return. I've suffered many losses, as have many of us, so perhaps that's why I feel compelled to capture one in jewellery too, of course, also for the beauty and general sense of hope this little drop represents.
Many, many welcomes
February fair maid
Ever as of old time
Coming in the cold time
Prophet of the gay time
Prophet of the May time
Prophet of the roses
Many, many welcomes
February fair maid!
Alfred Lord Tennyson
I've been making snowdrop models to be cast in silver which will be ready soon - I'll add the link when they are finished. I also shared some beautiful snowdrop images from #inspiredbynature_ participants over on Instagram so do take a look. And please leave comments, I would love to hear from you! You can find more nature inspired Jewellery here in the shop section, in my Etsy shop or on Folksy. More beautiful snowdrop images available on Pinterest too!
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