Busy, busy being creative..!

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

On being determined

It's been a while since I've written a post here on my blog and I can't even begin to imagine how this year has been for you so far. I hope that you've been able to find moments to be creative and have some small adventures, even if these have been imaginary and in or close to home.

When I created these Goat of Determination Magical Animal postcards, little did I know how much determination, encouragement and support we'd need to get through the past 6+ months. I sent out some as gifts at the start of the year and they've been pinned to notice boards and stuck to fridges and [so I've been told] have helped and brought a smile when it's been needed. They've been a visual reminder that little by little, small step by small step, we can keep going. 

I've just discovered that I've still got some Goat of Determination postcards and so I've listed them on my Folksy shop at a reduced price [3 postcards for £2.50 plus p+p], as I'd really love for Sandy to go and to hopefully spread a bit of 'doormat' joy!  

Link to Folksy Shop:  Goat of Determination

I hope I can tempt you to purchase a few Sandys to send to your friends and family. Send to raise a smile and a hug by post.  ;-D

Keep Going, don't stop believing - YOU CAN DO IT!!


PS Please do share with anyone else you think might like to buy some. Thank you! 

Thursday, 2 July 2020

What happens when you say Yes...

Exciting Announcement!

I’ve written a chapter for a book called The Biggest Book of Yes and it's now available for preorder on kindle (print coming later this week)!  

This book is all about what happens when you say Yes. It includes 49 short adventure stories ranging from driving a Tuk Tuk across India, long distance cycle rides to what happens if you get up a little earlier each morning. Tales of adventures big and small as you know, adventure can come in all sizes. 

I'm so chuffed to be a part of the book and this project as it is filled with inspiring stories. I've a feeling, some of them will inspire my own future creative adventures...

I’ve written about the time I decided to go on my own pilgrimage following in the footsteps (ish) of Saint Morwenna from Brecon in Wales to Morwenstow by bike, boat and foot. 

It's actually 5 years since I went on that adventure and this Saturday - the 4th July, is the date I completed the journey in 2015, so the timing really couldn't be better!

Here's the link if you’d like to take a look at the book and find out more: https://bit.ly/TBBOY3

It's a book for charity, with all proceeds going to The Teddington Trust.

*Happy Dance* 

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Skye in Cyanotype

I've been thinking about the Isle of Skye for some time in terms of what artwork it inspires me to respond with, and on first thoughts it was about the light, the colours, and the food. I'd been thinking around a few ideas and one that kept coming back, was experimenting with the cyanotype process using digital negatives which I thought could have lots of scope.

Before I show you my experiments so far, I wanted to share a bit about the history of the process and one woman in particular.

The cyanotype process was developed in 1842 by the English scientist and astronomer Sir John Herschel [who has a museum in Bath] as a way of reproducing notes and diagrams rather than in a creative application. It was Anna Atkins [1799 - 1871] who first saw the potential for the technique to be used as a type of photographic record and who used it to create a series of cyanotype limited-edition books that documented ferns and other plant life. Because of her use of this technique, Anna is often considered the first person to publish a book illustrated with photographic images and the first female photographer. Images from her book can be seen here: Anna Atkins Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions

The process works by mixing two chemicals [ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide] together in equal measure, and coating a surface e.g paper. Once dry, you arrange objects on the paper and put outside in direct sunlight to 'develop.' Mixing these two particular chemicals together causes a reaction that renders it sensitive to the UV rays in sunlightCyanotype photography was popular in Victorian England, but became less popular as photography improved.

So, here, I'm sharing my very first test pieces with you, and it was a rather magical experience seeing the images appear as you rinse away the chemicals! I discovered that the handmade paper I'd used wasn't really up for the job as some of the paper started to disintegrate when washed. So you do need to use a strong paper as you have to make sure you wash all the chemicals out of your pieces otherwise they will continue to develop. These test pieces were left in midday sun, with a glass plate covering them to improve the contact with the paper, for around 7 minutes. 

I was also surprised how well the digital negatives I'd made worked and which images created better prints than others. I did have to try a fern, as that's possibly the most cyanotyped object in history! And I can see why, as it creates a really strong image. 

Next is to try some different papers, objects and fabric.

I bought my Cyanotype set from www. cyanotype.co.uk and my Inkjet film from The Surrey Inkjet Company and have been surprised and really pleased with the results so far.  It's really fun!

Have you tried this process for yourself?  

All images copyright Morwhenna Woolcock

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

A New Tradition. Say Hello to Sandy, The Goat of Determination.

Happy New Year and New Decade to You! 

As it's the start of a new decade it felt like the right time to begin a new tradition:
Creating a special postcard to bring in the New Year.

This is something that I've been thinking about doing ever since going to Morocco in 2013 and visiting Yves Saint Laurent's beautiful home, Jardin Majorelle, in Marrakesh.

Every year, Yves would design and send out a special postcard to friends and clients of his fashion house. He used mainly collage and the theme was always the same - Love. I bought a replica postcard of one of the designs, and ever since then, thought it such a lovely idea that one day I'd start doing this myself. This year, as we start a new decade, it seems like the right time to adopt this tradition for myself and to begin....

Let me introduce Sandy, The Goat of Determination. 

As you may already know, I've been creating Magical Animals for a while now and this seemed the perfect character to grace my first ever postcard to send out to friends and family. 

Sandy has a message for us:

"Keep going, don't stop believing - YOU CAN DO IT!"

Sometimes, we all need a little encouragement from Sandy, The Goat of Determination.

Seeing the cards printed, writing the cards, sending them out and then recieving the messages from those who've recieved one is bringing me so much joy! Being told how Sandy is now pinned to their fridge or notice board, how getting a card has made their day and how it'll help them through 2020 is just so so lovely and makes me so glad that I went ahead with this idea. I didn't really know how people would respond to this curious looking goat, but it appears that everyone loves Sandy. x 

Sandy is proving so popular that I've listed some for sale over on my Folksy shop. ;-)

Have you created your own traditions? I'd love to hear about them. 

Sandy, The Goat of Determination is the first New Year's Postcard I've created especially to send out to friends and family

Monday, 25 November 2019

The Missing Island

One of the very beautiful bays on Caldey Island
Have you ever dreamt of being marooned on a desert island? 
Having the whole place to you yourself?
I experienced a taste of this in September when staying on Caldey Island. Just 2.7 miles off the coast of Tenby, South Wales and with a crossing time of 20 minutes, it was the Island that I least expected to be marooned on, but marooned I was. Thankfully, not completely alone. There were the two other guests staying at St. Philomena’s, the retreat house I stayed at, and the fabulous wardens – Serena and Lloyd with their dog Louie [who has sardines for dinner], and the local population of 20 islanders which includes Rita, a feisty 89 year old ex-Carmelite nun who has lived on Caldey for nearly 40 years.

Rita, who 'grew up in one of Wales' most haunted houses and has never worn make-up' can be seen speeding around Caldey on her bright red scooter. 'Listen to the horn, it's rubbish,' has no time for Monks who are late for their religious services. If they are tardy - she'll leave a note on their pew telling them as much. And of course there's the resident population of Cistercian Monks, only 11 now, who live in the huge Italian inspired monastery built in the 1920s to house 300, although the Island has been a Holy one since Celtic times. The Celts LOVED Islands as they saw them as portals to their underworld.

Even with all these people also marooned [they’re used to it] it was very easy to wander around the island, follow the footpaths and explore the ruins, and not see anyone else. It was truly magical and I’m grateful that the ‘wind was blowing from the wrong direction’ on this occasion. 
Obviously, this wasn’t such a good thing for those who’d been looking forward to their own stay on the island as with no boats to take us off there were no boats to bring in visitors, post and supplies.

And there's more to tell: such as joining some of the Monks daily services, what life on the Island is like now compared to how it was, the red Squirrels [lots], the views and the ruins....but I need to save some things for the book!

Why Caldey? Why Now?

When I started my UK Islands Project way back in 2017, I was booked to go to Caldey but my stay was cancelled and the retreat house closed. I was never really given a reason at the time, but discovered that they needed to carry out some changes to the building and the way it was being managed. Actually, it all worked out for the best. The new wardens are fantastic, I met some great people, got marooned and can now say I've completed the set I'd planned to and it's no longer my 'Missing Island.'  Hurrah!! ;-D

Fancy your own Caldey Island Adventure?

You can stay at St Philomena's retreat house on the island from Easter to October on a donation basis [recommended minimum is £50 a day]. This includes a simple and clean single room, shared bathroom and three delicious vegetarian meals a day with the freedom to do as you choose. You can create your own retreat.

It's open to all faiths and none. Even though the accommodation is basic it's very clean and having a room of your own, although small, is great. The only thing that they really ask is that you are on time for the meals [packed lunch is an option] and to help with the washing up and setting the table for the next meal, which is an easy task.  I'd really recommend staying here for an affordable island adventure. It’s a real gem and I was so well looked after. I can't guarantee you'll be marooned there, but I'm sure you'll have a fabulous and interesting time if you go.  Let me know if you do!!
Visit the Caldey Island website for full details: caldeyislandwales.com
Happy Adventuring!

A snapshot of Caldey Island:
The Monastery. Built in the 1920s to house around 300 monks, only 11 currently live here.
Beach to myself!
Part of the ruins of a Norman building which was as the original monastery before the new Italian inspired building was built.
Lots of lovely textures to be found around the island

One of the many beautiful stained glass windows that was designed and made
by one of the monks in the 1920s.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

The Seal of Curiosity

Inspired by the seals of Bardsey Island, my Seal of Curiosity is now available as a hard enamel pin badge. :-D

This litte quirky Seal was inspired by one of the seals I drew on the Bardsey Island Manuscript that I created after my stay on the island. The Lifesaving ring around the seal, for me, represent Creativity, Adventure and Nature as these are the three core elements that I consistantly return to when looking after my mental health. I see Curiosity as a part of creativity and so this particular Seal is a gentle reminder of what supports my own wellbeing.

What are your wellbeing life savers?  What three things would the life saver represent to you?

Hard Enamel Badge Product Details:

They measure 25mm, made in the UK and come with a metal backing clip. 

Each seal comes with a numbered backing card and is wrapped in hand-stamped tissue paper [colour of tissue paper may vary]. 

They are £7 each plus postage & packing 

To buy your very own Seal of Curiosity click below selecting the right postage option: 

Seal of Curiosity

Postage costs: 
£2.95 [UK]
£3.50 [Europe]
£4.50 [Rest of World]

I can't wait to see what adventures you take your Seal on [and what you call it! Mine is called Jenny ;-P] - please do share with me on social media and use #sealofcuriosity ;-)

The Bardsey Island Manuscript

One of the seals from a first draft I created that inspired this badge

All images copyright Morwhenna Woolcock

Friday, 14 June 2019

30 Days Wild & being a Wildflower Detective

Getting up close to wildflowers this month and learning about them as part of #30dayswild. This is Herb Robert.

Are you taking part in #30dayswild this year? And if so, what wildness have you been up to so far? [30 Days wild is a free annual initiative by the Wildlife Trusts aimed at encouraging everyone to spend time connecting with nature.]

I’ve been learning about wild flowers and realised that I’ve been doing some detective-ising! I must admit, I’ve always rather fancied being a detective.
Well, actually one of the things I wanted to be when I was a child was a forensic scientist, until I discovered what that *really* involved. No thank you. Also, my aptitude for the sciences didn’t cut the mustard, so I’d never have made the grade. It’s only been relatively recently that I’d been thinking about things I’d wanted to be growing up – Journalist, Spy, Forensic Scientist, that I realised they all have something I common. Finding things out. I do love finding things out, and also looking for interesting things….and I’m always doing it. Always asking questions and wanting to know more about things than sometimes is really necessary! I’m naturally curious.

So choosing one wild flower a day and seeing what I could find out about it has been so interesting and joyful for me and especially sharing what I discover with others via my Instagram account. For example; who knew that Herb Robert can repel deer and rabbits and can be used as a mosquito repellent if the leaves are squished and rubbed onto your skin [not tried it yet] and that the leaves of Red Valerian are edible? Or that the Romans used to put silver weed leaves in their sandals to help keep their feet cool during their long marches? And I’m only 14 days in! Its also encouraged me to get all the books I have about wildflowers and wildflower related-ness off my shelves and on to the flower identification station [dining table] including the book about sacred and healing beers that actually feature quite a few of our wild flowers and plants.  It’s starting to remind me of the love I once had for creating my own wild liqueurs and my interest in the medicinal uses of plants. Plants that are often considered to be weeds.

This has been an interest of mine on and off for a number of years actually and I seem to wax and wane with it. Are you like this with some things? For me I think my penchant for wanting to turn EVERYTHING into a project means that I’d lost touch with just enjoying things for what they are. I have to remind myself often that I don’t have to make everything a project. I don’t have to make every single beer in the healing beer book [and enter them into beer awards and set up a local brewing group even if that is a thought that crosses my mind [see how my mind sparks?!] I don’t have to go in search of every orchid across the UK [or the world] after finding a few during my dog walks. It’s enough to notice the one flower a day, learn a bit about it [I set myself a time allowance for detective-ising!] and then to stop at that.

I have a tendency to get overly obsessed by things which I’ve realised is part of my mental health and anxiety and so need to be acutely aware when I start going down this path – sometimes I get further down it than others! I’ve learnt to be mindful and notice the signals, to pause, and get myself out of that one way thinking. What’s this got to do with identifying wildflowers? Well, I’ve been struggling with my anxiety quite badly recently and I’m using the wildflowers to help me to focus on one small thing, doing that and then moving on to the next thing. I’m setting myself time windows or time allowances so that things don’t spiral out of control. So then I'm applying that to my other tasks and activates and it's helping reduce the feelings of overwhelm.

I’m also noticing certain qualities of these wildflowers that I'd like to have myself. Characteristics such as – tenacious, hardy, resilient and potentilla – which means ‘little powerful one.'

I’m going to carry on with a flower a day until the end of June and then reflect and see what stands out and what I’m REALLY learning about this, the process and what nature has to teach us.

If you'd like to see and learn about the wildflowers I’ve identified so far – skip on over to my Instagram page [@morwhennawoolcock]. If you know anything else about any of these wildflowers – please do share!

On the topic of Wild – this month on Saturday 29th June is the annual ‘Wild Night Out’ event which encourages us all to spend a night out under the stars. Don’t be put off by thinking that’s the only way to join in – you could have a wild picnic or a wild art-tanoon as I did last year [read about that here] Or even staying out in your garden to watch the bats flit about whist you’re wrapped up in a snuggle blanket – all counts! For more info visit www.wildnightout.org I’ve not really decided what I’ll be doing this year yet, but I’ll be sure to let you know just as soon as I do.