Archive for owl
New Year, new blog post? Well, after a smidge of blog fatigue, I thought I’d slink back into the blogosphere and hedge my bets for a few months.
I do often wonder whether owls and pears are really worth getting stressed about (no; OK, sometimes), especially after I started reading my (amazing) sister’s (amazing) blog.
However, in the interest of maintaining my reputation for focusing on the frivolous things in life, while my sister (the gorgeous lady above) gets on with the serious stuff, here’s a blog post all about my new jumper.
Yuhuh. A jumper. It IS cold at the moment.
Photo © Kate Davies
Well it’s in the process of being knitted for me right now (thanks aunty Gilly). I’m feeling pretty lucky tbh and I can’t wait to wear it: the project has been a long time in the making, right from sourcing the special wool and needles from my local knitting emporium (if any of you live in Surrey and like knitting, you NEED to visit The Knit Club), to finding the mini dolly button eyes (mother of pearl, if you’re interested).
Here’s what it looked like the week before last:
Then it grew a bit:
I’m getting very excited about seeing the finished product. But I think I might need a new skirt to go with it (hope my mum is not reading this, I can just see her eyes rolling). Does anyone have any suggestions about what would look good? I’m thinking pencil.
Before I forget, has anyone knitted these Tanya Antonova owl wrist warmers from the Christmas 2012 edition of Mollie Makes? They’d match pretty well methinks, and if I manage to learn anything from my forthcoming knitting class chez The Knit Club, I might just give them a whirl.
Anyway, I’ll keep you posted with any hot-off-the-press owl jumper-related news.
And a big thanks must go to Gail for a mahoosive kick up the behind: this blog post most probably wouldn’t have appeared otherwise. Which would have been a shame, because then I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to mention her lushalicious blog Bake, Make, Rake.
You know how as soon as you make a note of something new, then the chances are you’ll see it again pretty soon?
I can’t help but see owls (and pears) everywhere – writing this blog has honed my radar. So I was always going to notice a news story on the BBC website about a newly carved owl in Harrogate to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
A few months passed; I organised a trip up north to visit friends; plans were made to meet blogging sensation Kat in Valley Gardens in Harrogate – a place I knew nothing about, but which turned out to be the perfect picnic and catch-up spot.
But there’s only so long you can spend in a park with a 3YO before you start to gravitate towards the swings. Lo and behold, outside the gate to the play park stood the carved owl throne from the article I’d read back in May.
Sculptor Jonathan Sherwood was easily located once back home, courtesy of Google, and I’m really chuffed that he has agreed to talk to us this week about his work and inspiration:
First of all, I have to ask: why owls?
A stylised tawny owl was the first thing I learnt to carve so I find them easy to create. The reason for putting one on the seat was to add something to the top of the chair to make it more interesting for kids.
How did you get interested in wood carving?
My dad [Tim Burgess] is a sculptor based in Mobberley and works in the Manchester area. I started by joining him on jobs and shifting wood around, then I had a go for myself. [Readers, a talent for owl sculpture and wood carving runs in the family: read all about Tim Burgess's jubilee Oak Leaf Throne here. It also features an owl or two.]
Apart from a chainsaw, what tools did you use to create the Diamond Jubilee Sculpture?
I used two chainsaws one with a standard sprocket bar and the other was an electric one with a carving bar on it (it has a pointy tip and no sprocket in the end). I used an angle grinder with a sanding pad, a file sander, a drill, a couple of chisels, a mallet and a crowbar. And of course all the necessary safety equipment.
How long did the work take to complete, and what challenges (if any) did you face in making it?
The work took five days; however some of the days were not full days. The whole project was a huge challenge – it was the biggest sculpture I had done (by a long way). It was in a public place which means having to stop a lot to answer questions. It was the first seat I had made and I had some problems with chainsaws and lost half a day of work due to some wood chip in my eye.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from my head and real life; I am always aiming to make my work more realistic so whatever the subject is I will look at pictures of it and then decide on what I think would look good in terms of movement, attitude and composition.
Who are your favourite contemporary sculptors?
I don’t really have a favourite contemporary sculptor: I’m not very good on names of artists and so on. If I had to name a sculptor who’s work I really like it would be Bob King who is a chainsaw sculptor in the US.
What plans do you have for forthcoming works, and do any of them include owls?
I have no plans for any work – it depends on what I get comissioned to sculpt. At the moment I don’t have time to go and make what I would like to make as I have a full-time job and will be starting my part-time university study again in September.
If you’re interested in finding out more, you can visit Jonathan’s website (and read the BBC article) by clicking on the embedded links above.
In the meantime, I can heartily recommend a trip to see the owl seat in Valley Gardens. And if any of you can suggest alternative owl sculptures then leave a comment below – as you know, I like to keep the radar honed!
I’ve taken a mini blog break recently and have been updating the Owls and Pears Facebook page instead. (You can follow the news, and owlish or pearish finds, here.)
All the while I’ve been desperately trying to cram owl and pear bloggage material back into my brain – there’s loads out there, including a long-planned pear giveaway (watch this space!).
So when I opened my email this afternoon and checked out the brand new People Tree autumn collection, I simultaneously fell off my chair with excitement, and was kicked into action. Two of my favourite brands, combined to create the owl dress of my dreams. In short, the most perfectly retro owl pattern fabric, printed in the nowest-of-now autumnal colour way and fashioned into a flattering fifties style dress. This is exactly the kind of owl news I love to blog about.
I’d like to imagine myself leaning nonchalantly against the piano wearing my dress (yes, sigh, I have bought myself one; I bet you there’s a discount code in the post tomorrow but hey ho). It’s probably more likely I’ll be sitting at the laptop of an evening, wiping off half-chewed banana from the bodice and grinning from ear to ear as I admire the pattern and type up another blog post (while the bubbas catch up on sleep, obviously). Here’s hoping…
ps – if you’ve also succumbed to the allure of this dress, feel free to let me know and/or send in a picture: I’d love to hear how you wear it and what you team it with!
I’m finding it hard to write convincingly about owls today. I’ve started this blog post about five times before jabbing the back space key with a vengeance.
Perhaps it’s because the eyes on these newest Ikea owls are not to my taste. But there’s no denying that the vintagey styling, back-to-nature colours and comforting coterie of dragonflies and spiders all add to the allure of these particular kid-focused owls.
I for one find it hard to resist an oak leaf, and the coat rack above so cleverly combines mid-century kitsch with funky storage solutions that I can forgive the slightly confused looking owls.
However, I would make a special trip alone to find myself a yard or two of the Ikea owl and spiderweb fabric above, especially because it would look just perfect with the quilt cover and curtains below, in a mini person’s room, or just for fun on a cushion or a blouse.
I kid you not, this is a photo my Dad took of the garden next door…
To give you some context, he lives in a small rural village in coastal North Yorkshire. Such ardent owl appreciation is not typical.
He described it as a sort of owlish “angel of the north”. Indeed, a six-foot carved wooden owl could be forgiven for stopping the odd bit of traffic.
Here’s a close up for good measure:
Make my day: can anyone match this owl for size or placement?
Oh dear, this blog post has been far too long in the making, but hopefully the happy context of Gail’s fabulous wedding, and the stunning owl art below will sort of make up for my tardiness.
For those of you who have not had the pleasure of sipping on a pint at The Enterprise, in London, I can heartily recommend it. Gail and Simon chose to have their wondrous wedding reception there last year and it was such a treat. You can read all about it here: One Million Gold Stars is THE blog to watch if you’re at all interested in baking, cooking, crafting and eating. Oh, and fabulous writing too.
So, back to the owl.
This wondrous specimen was nestling next to a sunburst mirror on the hand-painted wall at the back of the pub. My husband managed to capture it digitally, and the artist behind the interior decoration (Tessa Hunkin – more information to follow below) explained that this illustration is based on a postcard of a Bay Owl (Phodilus badius), taken from an album of 51 drawings of birds and mammals made at Bencoolen, Sumatra, for Sir Stamford Raffles in 1824.
Tessa Hunkin specialises in intricate and dazzling mosaic and electronic crafts, and has “always loved things that glitter and glimmer and glow”.
She has created some of the most beautiful mosaics I have ever seen, so I was truly delighted when she sent me this selection of photos of her mosaic owls:
These owls made me think of Boris Anrep’s floor mosaics at the National Gallery when I first saw them, only more colourful, and playful too. I could look at them all day and never get bored. In fact, if you want to commission your own mosaic to stave off the January blues, you can contact Tessa here - mmmm – next year’s Xmas present wish list here I come!
I just love the thrill of discovering an astonishingly unique and beautiful owl or pear objet. And this forest owl necklace is exactly what I’m talking about: it’s chic, it’s retro but it’s on trend, and frankly, it’s drop-dead-gorgeous.
In the run up to the present-giving season, I’m looking for things to blog about which I know would make the perfect gift. But I am also keen to find out more about the designers and artisans themselves.
So who the heck is behind this masterpiece? Folks, it’s time to meet the creative genius that is Natalia Lovat, and talk about pliers, vintage screens and Etsy treasuries.
Let’s start with the necklace of joy – how did it come about?
Forest Owl necklace is made from chunky green 1980s beads which I found on eBay. I often search through eBay looking for old beads, broken jewellery and vintage pieces that I can take apart and turn into something new. The owls are also an eBay find, I wish I had some more, I think I have just one left! I used copper to connect the beads as it looks beautiful with green.
I imagine the necklace being worn during the day, with lots of colour. It’s perfect for wearing on a winter day with a woolly cardi or jumper and a nice warm scarf. Or it would look fab with a grey dress or top.
Could you tell us more about your background in design and what inspired you to create such beautiful jewellery?
I have an art college background and a degree in knitwear design. I worked in the fashion industry for just over eight years, for top end designers and high street suppliers, as a production manager. When small people came into my life all the travelling around had to stop. I have always wanted to do something more creative and eventually start making and designing for myself. I started a course in silver jewellery making and was hooked from the first blast of the torch and have not looked back since.
I still go to evening classes, mainly for the use of the studio and equipment for a couple of hours a week. My fellow students are great and I enjoy seeing them each week and talking about new projects and ideas. It is two indulgent hours which is purely about making jewellery: heaven!
I started making pieces for friends and family as gifts, and that soon progressed to making pieces to sell. It has been a slow progression, but lots of fun.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
It’s hard to pinpoint anything in particular that inspires me – much of my work is organic and inspiration comes from the smallest of things sometimes. As a lot of the beads I use are upcycled/recycled/vintage, I am inspired from the moment I open the packet or hand over the cash. Often just one bead or charm can lead to many pieces.
I try very hard not to follow trends as it can be distracting from my style. However I love flicking through magazines, keeping an eye on what’s happening on the catwalks, and of course I love a bit of research ‘shopping’. So I’m sure on some level trends filter through into my work, even if it’s just the necklace length. If I am ever stuck on what to make I just make myself a mood board, and that always gets the ideas flowing.
Do you have any exciting plans for the future?
In 2012 I would like to continue making and growing Natalia Lovat, especially the silver jewellery making. I’d like to have some pieces in a shop/boutique and I would love to have a piece of Natalia Lovat jewellery in a magazine feature or fashion shoot.
What are your hints or tips for budding jewellers and creatives?
My best piece of advice is don’t give up the dream: it’s never too late to start something new.
Could you share your recommendations of places to visit for creative inspiration online?
I love searching through Etsy and Folksy, not really for inspiration but to see all the beautiful things that people make: there are some awesome designers out there. Also, putting together treasuries on Etsy is my new addiction! [O&P: my fave Natalia Lovat treasury is here].
My favourite blog is What Katie Wore. Katie always looks amazing, so bright and cheerful and has such a unique and quirky style (I think Katie would totally rock the Forest Owl necklace, by the way). [O&P: see below for Katie in a most handsome colourway - click on the image for a link to her outfit, as worn on 10 August 2011)
What is it about owls and pears that appeals to you as a designer?
I have always loved owls and pears! They are used throughout design, and especially in textiles, in so many beautiful and unique ways. Finding something with an owl or a pear on always makes me smile and can often lead to a purchase!
What's in your toolbox? Are there any vital tools or accessories that you simply couldn't do without in your studio?
Tools I can’t do without: this would have to be my pliers - they are essential for so many things.
I'd love to know more about your studio - could you describe your workspace for us?
My studio/workspace is one side of the dining room, which seems to be growing! I have a beautiful vintage screen hiding all the equipment and boxes; I just have to tidy up the desk when we have people over for dinner.
Do you like to work to music, and if so, what are your favourite tracks for inspiring creativity?
I always work listening to music. Either the radio (I’m a 6music girl) or the iPod. At the moment I’m listening to the new Laura Marling album a lot – A Creature I Don’t Know. Or else the iPod is on shuffle so I don’t have to keep getting up and down.
Finally, your owl necklace is my current Etsy eye-candy, but you have plenty more beautiful pieces to choose from. Could you show us three favourite items in your Etsy shop?
My current favourites would have to be the Silver Kisses Pendant, the Silver Pearl Cluster Earrings and the Queen of Heart Necklace (illustrated below, from left to right).
I rue the day when the architect who designed our house decided to install purple window frames throughout. Apart from anything else, it’s makes it very hard to coordinate blues and greens into our interior decoration. And that’s precisely what I’d love to do with this truly vintage wallpaper design by Voysey, in the V&A’s fabulous wall coverings collections.
The pen and ink sketches above, created for ‘The Owl’ wallpaper and fabric, celebrate the owl in its natural habitat. You can check out the original designs here at the V&A, and luckily it looks as though you could get your hands on a roll or two via Trustworth Studios, who have Voysey’s owl wallpaper in stock, labelled ‘Whoot’.
The next offering is brought to you courtesy the ever-thoughtful Kat (author of one of my blog faves KatGotTheCream), who in turn heard about designer Abigail Edwards via Arianna Interiors- another blog of wondrousness. Not only is the delicate and detailed design of this Owls of the British Isles Wallpaper right on trend, it captures most beautifully the individuality of ten different owls.
Moreover, 5% of profits from the sale of this wallpaper will go to The Barn Owl Centre to advance the conservation of the barn owl and other species of owl.
Those of you with a love of all things ‘owl’, will most surely have stumbled across the incredible My Owl Barn at some point, and I read there with interest about Anthropologie’s colourful owl wallpaper.
But I was equally taken with this Little Owl Wallpaper. The detail is hard to see in the image above, but it offers a perfectly cosy, stylish and warm-hearted interior decoration solution, all thanks to the pearlescent (and eco friendly) owl design. Rock on Anthropologie – more of the same please.
Finally, if you can’t stomach the thought of wallpaper paste and trestle tables, and frankly, your other half is not as tuned into ‘feature walls’ as you might have hoped, then perhaps the wall decal is more your cup of tea. I love this origami offering from RadRaspberry on Etsy (also to be found on Facebook).
anothergalstreasure and NotJustBags:
There are days when I long for something a little more whimsical, more light-hearted, more comforting than terrible twosome tantrums and online bank statements. This is when owl cushions such as these come into their own.
Little Blue Elephant is the brainchild of Nina Mistry-Rhoades and as the company name might suggest, has a more dominant line in four-legged elephantine friends. However, Nina’s owls are equally covetable: as she explains in her own words: “my elephants are very graphic and simple and the owl shapes are the same, very stylised.”
This back-to-basic line of design is just what I need amidst the maelstrom of colour and pattern that seems to adorn most owl-related items in the shops at the moment. Nina instead focuses on ”textile design, from florals to repeat patterns. But my work really leans towards a childrens palette of geometric patterns and bold colours.
I like the simplicity.”
Nina is inspired by “modern fabric designers and colours. I love Cloud9 fabrics, Lecien dots and little ditsy floral designs. In fact I like most things that are bright and colourful.” Yet the patterns and colourways featured in the owls illustrated here reflect her interest in current design, and also hint at a deep appreciation of more retro/vintage combinations of fabrics and motifs.
I was not surprised to learn that Nina honed her creative skills studying textile design at university before pursuing a career at a leading UK card company. However, her frustration with briefing designers rather than getting stuck into the actual work herself, followed by the arrival of children, meant that it was evening classes in dressmaking that finally unlocked her artistic confidence.
Quite frankly, I know I can harp on about owl eyes, but anyone who can make the most of an owl’s derriere in such a stylish manner deserves much applause and acclaim. And here’s hoping that Nina’s plans to design her own “nursery range, from bedding to wallpapers and not forgetting, cuddly toys” comes to fruition quickly and successfully.
I’ll keep you posted with any Little Blue Elephant updates here and on Twitter. But in the meantime, you can seek out Nina’s creations via her Folksy shop here, and her Facebook page here. And don’t forget to check out her latest designs on Flickr, follow her on Twitter or read her blog for more background information on how she sources her materials and where she draws her inspiration from.