Hello, and welcome to the May edition of my "Making the Seasons" series of posts - this month is entirely inspired by wild flowers and a bit of botanical going's on, as that seems to be my current fixation. In case you were wondering about my Making The Seasons projects, there is absolutely no forward planning whatsoever for the things that I choose to do for these monthly posts that I'm creating with my friend Gillian. I'm not sure if Gill plans her projects in advance, but I can tell you that I don't seem to be able to. I just trust that a seed of creative inspiration will germinate and flower at the right time for me to execute it, photograph it and then show it all to you before the month comes to an end. Gillian and I do chat back and forth via email about what's bubbling inside our creative minds and what sort of inspirations we are enjoying for the month we are currently in, but it generally feels rather abstract as I digest my seasonal feelings and try and decide on a creative direction for them.
During the past few weeks I've felt really uplifted by the abundance of growth happening all around where I live, it's been really inspirational and therapeutic on so many levels. I've loved walking in the woods, strolling beside the river and jaunting through the meadow, observing and photographing all the flowers, grasses and trees that are bursting back into life after our long winter season. Usually I am content to just use my camera to capture what I see on my walks, but last week I felt compelled to gather a few stems to bring home with me.
Meadow flowers and grasses are so dainty and pretty, and it's easy to overlook the perfect details when you are walking past great swathes of them. Much better to have a stem or two to be able to appreciate all that delicate beauty up close. I spent a while just observing the arrangement of these teeny tiny cow parsley flowers, and thinking how fabulous nature is at design work. I know that these sweet little flowers have provided botanical inspiration for many designers - did you know that you can buy Cow Parsley wallpaper? Or how about some Cow Parsley fabric? Maybe you'd rather like a Cow Parsley jug instead? Ahh, I know just the thing - what do you think about a crochet Cow Parsley Garland?!!
It might surprise you to know that I didn't automatically reach for my yarn and crochet hook to capture all this wild flower beauty.
And I didn't gather fabric and threads to stitch with either.
What actually popped into my head were.......................
Bet you didn't see that coming, did ya?!
As you might expect from a self confessed sea addict, I have a fair collection of beach finds here in the Attic which include a smooth pebble or two. Having pebbles sitting in the house comes in rather handy when a sudden urge to try some botanical pebble art springs out of nowhere. I decided that I wanted to try and translate my May walks into a lovely decorative reminder of the season, partly inspired by these...................
.......oh will you just cast your eyes over the beauty of these painted pebbles! Aren't they gorgeous?
This is the work of artist Natasha Newton and I've had a big huge smoochy crush on Natasha's pebbles for years now. They are absolutely exquisite in their detail and precision and I seriously adore the simplicity of the white designs against the natural pebbly backgrounds. Natasha uses a very fine brush with white acrylic paint to decorate her pebbles (you can get a great feel for her artistic talent on her Instagram account), but to be honest I don't think I have enough painterly skillz to try this technique for myself.
What I do have to hand though, is a very, very good paint pen which makes light work of adding a decorative touch to pretty much any surface. It's a bit like having a Magic Pen, as almost anything that comes out of it ends up looking rather good. I didn't plan my design in advance, but went straight into it, trying to capture something of the delicate nature of the Cow Parsley....
....and actually, I don't think it came out looking too shabby for a first attempt.
Now before we go any further, I have to tell you a bit more about these Posca Pens. Ohmygoodness, they are pens of wonderment! The one I'm using has an Ultra Fine nib (0.7mm), but you can get fatter ones too. They use water-based pigment ink to produce paint-like colours that can be used on almost any surface. The ink evenly flows out of the nib making them super-easy to use, and although they are water-based, the resulting designs on pebbles are pretty water resistant from what I can tell.
You can also get some beautiful coloured Posca pens too, although so far I've resisted this temptation. There is something very soothing about using just white, and I've enjoyed the simplicity of this approach very much.
I dug out four smooth pebbles from my collection, decorating three of them with botanical designs and the roundest one with a simple mandala design. Painted mandala stones are a BIG thing out in the world wide web, oh there are huge numbers to be found on Pinterest (go on, I know you want to see. Go take a quick peek here, but don't be long - hurry back to the Attic once you've had your fill of the visuals!)
Similar to crochet mandalas, decorated pebbles don't really have a use, but that's quite OK once you accept the fact and give in to the uselessness of them. I've had my pebbles sitting on my outside table with my gathered wild flowers, and they've made me feel content just being there and bringing forth sunny meadow memories. I love the feel of them in my hand, there is simple pleasure to be had in the feel of a smooth, sea-washed pebble passing under your fingers.
We've continued to have the most beautiful warm sunny weather here this past week, and on Sunday we took a short walk at our favourite weekend destination :: Bolton Abbey.
I enjoyed the lush, dappled woodland pathways....
....and the abundance of wild flowers growing along the river bank.
Ah see over there, on the other side of the river? That's one of our favourite river beaches, and once we cross over the bridge a bit further down, we'll be able to hop over to potter about a bit.
It's not the seaside and there aren't any waves, but there are lots of tranquil little river beaches to be enjoyed all along the River Wharfe in this part of the Yorkshire Dales.
The riverside pebbles are just as appealing and pebbly as those found at the coast...
....and instead of seagulls there are fluffy ducklings which kind of makes up for the lack of waves.
We pootled at the beach for quite a while, enjoying the morning sunshine and the peaceful atmosphere. The boys spent their time searching for suitable flat stones for skimming across the water, and I searched out a few suitable smooth stones for decorating purposes.
The following morning, I sat outside with my coffee and a couple of magazines, and was thrilled to see that natural inspiration and botanical themes were heavily featured in the pages. I must be on trend, yay, go me!!
I soon got busy with my Posca pen, taking inspiration from the images in the magazines (Country Homes and Interiors).
I picked out simple floral and leaf motifs found on prints and home textiles and translated them as simply as I could into small designs for my pebble collection.
You have to have a weeny bit of arty confidence with pebble painting - this is not a pen that you can correct, so you have to use confident, sure lines, taking care with shapes and patterns as you draw them directly onto the surface. It's a huge amount of fun I have to say, and very soon I had company outside in the early morning (I just looked at the time stamp on these pictures, and it was just after 8am)....
....enter Little B through the back door, still in his pyjamas, looking for his Mum to see what she was up to. He watched me draw just a single leaf on a pebble, and immediately asked if he could have a try.
He thought for just a moment about his design, confident in what he wanted to do. A star and some flowers, the earth and sky.
Meanwhile, I was on a roll and more botanical designs rolled out of my head and onto the pebbles.
I felt like I could have decorated the whole river beach!
Little B begged and begged for one more pebble, telling me he really, really wanted to try drawing a bird. I suggested he have a go at drawing it on paper first - we found a simple motif in one of the magazines and had a practice at copying it. He was nervous to take the design onto the pebble, but once I stopped holding my breath and looking over his shoulder (so so hard to back off!) he set his mind to it, and he did superbly well, adding in detail and making it his own.
My last pebble was inspired by the buttercups sitting pretty on my table, and I think this is my favourite pebble of all. It holds the memories of this time and season, and I dearly love it for that and will treasure it. I must remember to draw the date on the back.
So this is what I ended up with - a modest collection of painted pebbles which capture the essence of May, the joy of nature and wild flowers, riverside pootles, woodland walks and meadow strolls. Sunshine and dappled shade, cool water and a light breeze. Bright early mornings and radiant golden evenings. All the things that I love about this month and this time of year.
At the moment I've got my pebbles nestled into an enamel plate on the dining table and I like having them there. I'm enjoying looking at them and playing with them every day, they are so tactile and soothing. I might keep them, I might gift them, I might return them back to nature at some point. But for now, they are staying right here and bringing me joy. And that's a pretty good thing, don't you think?