Summer Highlights

Well hello again. 

It’s sweltering here as I sit in the coolest room in the house (which happens to be my tiny hidey-hole), writing for the first time in a couple of months. I’m not complaining, not really. We’ve had so many summers that failed to fly, summers spent wondering if the sun would ever come out at all, summers when the cotton frocks and sandals stayed firmly in the wardrobe, so it seems churlish to get frustrated with the heat at the moment.

Findhorn Bay in July

But of course, some of us aren’t built for heat. I know people (I’m married to one of them) who come alive when the temperatures rise. However, for me, it’s difficult to function well. It’s not just a physical issue with the heat – although let’s just acknowledge that ladies of a certain age, living with random hot flushes are experiencing a double whammy this summer – it’s also a mental fog that seems to descend in proportion to the rising temperature. Perhaps it’s that fog that really annoys me most.

Enough moaning though, because apart from the heat, I’ve been having the most amazing few weeks. There have been trips to Scotland, Wales, and various parts of England. And it’s all been simply wonderful. I’m still in the frame of mind that rejoices in the freedom to simply travel again. Trips to the seaside have been especially emotional, as it was the thing I’d begun to miss most during the plague season.


Well, in no particular order….

The Botanic Garden of Wales.
Honestly, it makes your eyes water to see the size of ‘houseplant’ in the hot house!

My brother lives near the garden and has been sending me photos of his visits for years. So a couple of weeks ago I finally made it there in person. It was a scorching day, but what a remarkable place it is and even the heat didn’t stop us having a wonderful time. There’s so much to see, so many different plantings, so many different environments. If I lived closer it’s a place I’d be sure to visit regularly, no two visits would ever be the same, always something new to see.

Kidwelly Castle
What a forbidding entrance!
The mist rolling in and adding a special touch of mystery.

Odd for this confirmed castle-holic to admit, but I’d never been until this summer. I can’t imagine why, because it’s simply brilliant. If you were even vaguely interested in castles, this one would tick every box. It’s got everything you could want from a castle. And there’s so much of it still intact that you can walk around. I’ll admit to feeling quite overwhelmed by the place. 

Findhorn Bay

Our visit to Findhorn Bay was on another very hot day and there were perhaps thirty people on the beach…that’s Scottish beaches for you. Perfect.

Cromer Pier
Cromer Pier – proper seaside.

Here’s a tip for you. There’s are bar/cafe at the far end of the pier which opens all day and into the evening. It serves teas and coffees as well as beer etc, but also ice cream, bar meals, and snacks. But the best thing is that if you sit outside, you have the best views of Cromer and the sea. At sunset, the place has a lovely atmosphere. Funny how watching a sunset with a dozen strangers can make you feel quite connected.

There have been lots of other special moments over the last couple of months. Have you been somewhere that’s stayed in your mind recently? Do leave a message if you’d like to.

In Other News.

I have managed quite a lot of artiness in between all the trips out, but it’s all been of the playing and experimental kind. While trawling the internet, I came across Laly Mille. I’ve been watching some of her mini videos and I’ve subscribed to her newsletter because I love her style and her attitude to creative play/practice. Perhaps you’ll find something inspirational there? I’ve put links below for anyone who’s interested.

Instagram & Vero

I think my love affair with Instagram is fading away. So different now to the place it was when I first joined. In those days you had a good idea whose posts you’d see and who would see yours. It was actually fairly social. Now, it seems to be endless adverts and video clips that mean nothing to me.

But I do like taking photos and recording the little moments of joy and wonder as they happen and I miss having a place to put them. And in fact, the habit of doing that is something I rather like, it is a small thing, but it helps me to slow down and appreciate the wonders around me.

So, I have just started an account with Vero. Vero, as far as I can tell, remains chronological and does not run adverts. Of course there are far fewer people there at the moment compared to Instagram, but for me, it has never been about the numbers. It’s a little clunky, but I’m alright with that, at least for now. So if you are already using Vero and would like to find me there, I’m @mostlymotley (Or I think if you search for Ann Pawley you’d also find me).

Well, that’s enough from me for now. I hope that wherever you are, you’re happy and peaceful.

Best wishes,

Until the next time

Anny x

The Botanic Garden of Wales –

Cromer Pier

Kidwelly Castle

Laly Mille’s website

Thinking and not thinking

Just sitting here listening to thunder rumble around somewhere not that far away – isn’t May a frustrating month for weather? No sooner have you turned off the central heating for the summer when temperatures plummet and the rain decides to give you a months worth in one afternoon. Oh well.

Anyway, I’m just sneaking another post in before the end of the month.

Last week found me heading north to the Midlands twice in three days. First I popped up to Warwickshire to meet my brother at Baddesley Clinton. I’ve been lots of times, but it had been over twenty years since my brother’s previous visit, so it was a pity I thought that the upstairs wasn’t open to visitors due to a lack of volunteers. As he’d driven for three and a half hours to get there I thought he might be more disappointed, but apparently not, and certainly the lovely peaceful atmosphere in the house and gardens was as rich as always and we enjoyed our stroll around.

On Wednesday of the same week, the OH had a pressing need to be in Stafford with his work, so we took the opportunity to stop off in Lichfield – famous for its three-spired cathedral – which neither of us had ever visited.

The Lichfield Angel – an Anglo-Saxon carving, probably from the original shrine to St Chad. I adore him!
The cathedral’s history depicted in stained glass – I rather liked this.

I stayed in Lichfield while he did what he had to do. An interesting town, I rather liked it, although I think you’d have to say that the cathedral is the main attraction. I’m glad I’ve been – another tick in the book.

The rest of the week has been mainly domestic, with various trips to the Hidey-Hole interspersed. 

In the Hidey-Hole

I’m still very much enjoying using collage in the pieces I’m making, although I can feel myself beginning to push some boundaries. One piece that had been collaged within an inch of its life just failed to come together and eventually, I got out the gesso and went at it. And the result? Oddly enough, the next morning I added a little crayon and splattered some ink, and voila! Suddenly it felt finished and actually quite satisfying. 

This is the piece that I practically painted over!

I know things are on the move artistically because I’ve been on a YouTube deep-dive again and this is nearly always a sign that I’m looking for something, even though I can’t quite tell you what it is I’m looking for. Do you know what I mean? I’m sure I can’t be the only one.

Anyway, as ever, I’m torn between that image in my head of the kind of art I like to see and the actual art that seems to materialise when I get down to work – and I’m not commenting on the skill or otherwise of the execution here, no, it’s more fundamental than that – it’s more to do with mental images of elegant, sophisticated colour palettes and expressive moody landscapes that I appreciate and would like to be able to create and the fact that when I put paint to paper nothing like that ever appears – instead I seem to have to bring out bold, scribbly, colourful abstracts.

Here you get an example of the kind of colourful scribble which flows so freely when I let myself go.

But I was reminded by another artist on YouTube that the only way to find your voice is to make art – thinking about it alone creates nothing, you have to make something. And it’s that something that leads you on. 

I’ve been reading a lot lately about thinking and not thinking. It feels really radical to attempt to think less, to at least let thinking happen without becoming wrapped up in the thoughts, but I’m getting better. Now, I can see that thinking about what you are going to create is fraught with possible dangers – for instance, the fear that you’ll criticise your work in your head before you even begin. When I don’t think, my work looks totally different from what my thinking mind admires, but at least what I create is genuinely mine. 

The current work in progress – nothing subtle here is there….x

There’s no conclusion here, it’s just a process, but I want to share the experience – letting go of expectations – letting go of the desire to work in one particular channel, and instead allowing what wants to come to happen. 

Ah well, that’s me for now. Tomorrow will be June – I do hope the weather picks up and we can get some proper warmth into our bones. Wishing all happy and well.

Until next time,

Anny x

Whistle Stop April & May

Well hello again.

What a busy couple of months it’s been around here (hence I’m afraid to say the lack of recent posts). I’ve just sat and listed the main events and it runs something like this…

  • Visit to Croft Castle 
  • Visit to Builth Wells
  • Visit to Bath
  • Visit to Glastonbury
  • Visit to Wells
  • Visit to Hampton Court Palace

Now, in my ideal world – you know the one – I’d sit and write something interesting about each of these places – goodness knows there’s plenty to talk about. But the sad reality is that I am a flaky blogger, and I know that even with the best intentions, I’ll probably not get around to it. So, instead, lovely readers, I’m just going to toss them all into this post in a kind of emptying the fridge recipe and hope that will be alright.

Croft Castle
The view from the walled garden over the back of the castle – definitely not symmetrical
Difficult to photograph because of the low light, but this is my favourite room at Croft Castle.

First, there was Croft Castle, Herefordshire. Anyone who’s read my posts for a few years will probably be yawning now and saying oh no, not that one again. But as I shall just have to keep saying, this is my pretty much all-time favourite house (there’s just one other potential candidate for that title – a discussion for another day perhaps).

Croft Castle has everything that I think makes a perfect historic house. It’s old – although its exact date is something of a mystery. It’s called a castle, but it feels more like a country house. It has links to lots of historic events and people – from Owain Glyndwr to Prince Arthur and it’s only a short walk from the castle to Croft Ambrey, a magnificent Iron Age hill fort that deserves a post all to itself. Oh, and a walled garden where they grow vines!

It happens to be situated almost halfway between my brother’s home in Wales and ours, so makes a great place to meet up every few weeks – fine by me.

The fabulous news from our most recent visit is that both the cupola on the church and the glasshouse are both now being repaired. Hooray!

WonderWool Wales – Builth Wells

Next was Builth Wells – or more precisely WonderWool Wales, held at the Royal Welsh Showground. A fantastic day out indulging in all things wooly. I came home with a variety of new threads to add to the stash, including some terrific acid greens which I seem to have become addicted to using. A brilliantly organised event, not least because they clearly recognised that the audience would be 95% female and therefore reassigned most of the toilets for women for the event. What a treat not to have to queue for hours.

Speeding along, our next trip was to Bath, Glastonbury and Wells.

Bath, Glastonbury & Wells
Looking out from the George & Pilgrim
The Chalice Well – simply wonderfully calm and peaceful

What shall I say? Well, Bath was wonderful, nicely bustling, and still a delightful town to walk around, just gawping at the general feel of the place, whilst also spotting the film locations for our favourite version of Persuasion, (the one with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root). Number One daughter and I finished our afternoon in Bath with the time-honoured game of crazy golf. It’s a family tradition, we have history and it wouldn’t really be a trip to Bath without it. Glad to see that there’s been lots of work on the course and the gardens were looking simply gorgeous. Oh and I won…only just.

We then traveled on to Glastonbury. A first visit for N1D who quickly fell for its unique charms. I think it’s safe to say we ‘did’ Glastonbury. We walked up the Tor, we visited the Abbey, the Chalice Well Gardens, and the George & Pilgrim – and we shopped. Two days in the town is enough to give yourself a basic introduction, but I guess you could happily spend an age getting to know its various facets. Anyway, we loved it. For me, the Chalice Well Gardens was the highlight. A place of perfect peace.

Vicar’s Close, Wells.

On our way home, we stopped off in Wells (or Sandford if Hot Fuzz means anything to you). A fairly quick visit, but we still managed to enjoy a stroll through the cathedral, watching the clock do its thing as it has for over 600 years, and marveling at the hourglass crossing tower. If you go to Wells, don’t miss a short walk up to Vicar’s Close. A remarkable lane of medieval cottages, another little gem. N1D and I ate a Cornetto in the Crown at wells pub – we are Hot Fuzz fans, before making for home.

Hampton Court Palace

Finally, my daughters and I met up last week to visit Hampton Court Palace. N2D had been on a school trip a few years ago, but neither N1D nor I had ever been, so off we went. Admission isn’t cheap so we were determined to make the most of our day there. 

What shall I say about it? To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. I’ve seen it on TV so many times, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel, but my main reaction was a series of breath-taking ‘wows’.

It’s huge – that’s the first thing to say. It seems to go on and on. The next thing that felt odd and also rather lovely, is that so much of it is familiar, but in the flesh, just so much more impressive. I thought I’d love the Tudor parts, and I did. But I was surprised by how much the William and Mary and the Georgian sections impressed too. The Georgian rooms, despite being large, felt remarkably calming. I loved the atmosphere in there. 

The gardens were just as impressive as the buildings – although we were fortunate to be there on a very warm and sunny day which made strolling around a pleasure.

Also impressive was the way information was given. The audio tours were well-judged, giving you details without boring and allowing you a decent amount of time to take everything in. The written information was equally well supplied and informative. And how refreshing to be treated as adults and given interesting content. Our only slight disappointment was not getting to spot Lucy Worsley. We all love her.

So, there you have it. A whistle-stop tour of April and May events. Phew.

There has been needlepoint in the evenings and occasional trips to the hidey-hole for cutting and gluing, but perhaps that will wait for another day.

And finally….

 Just one more thing. If you use Instagram you may want to find me there on my new account A_Mingled_Yarn.  I had a kind of mental falling out with Instagram some months ago and I decided to stop using it at all, but the truth is that I like taking photographs when I’m out and about and occasionally the art that I’m making – and posting to Instagram works as a kind of simple visual diary. I fancied a fresh start though, hence the new account. I haven’t yet really adopted a regular posting practice there, but I thought I’d mention it here anyway. If you are interested, please take a quick look.

So that’s it for today.

Until next time…

Anny x

Through a different lens.

Hello again.

Sometime last week when I made my way into the Hidey-Hole, I found that I just didn’t have the urge to do anything particularly arty. I know this is entirely normal and nothing to fret about, but I wondered if there was anything I felt like doing that might be even vaguely art-related.

And suddenly I had the answer – I decided to take a photo of every piece of work in my stash.

Photographing the Stash

The stash is in fact two A3 sized cardboard boxes from Amazon and two A3 sketchbooks, which are where I put the artwork that I deem finished – either because I’ve reached a point that I’m happy with, or at least I don’t feel like taking it any further, or because I have reached the stage of really not liking something and I want to move on with a fresh start.

The stash has been steadily growing over the last two years and in all that time, I’ve almost never been back to look inside and see what I’d been creating. Which to be honest has always been my way of going about things.

It was/is the same with the textile art pieces that I make. The enjoyment is all in the doing, in the stitching, so once it’s completed, I lose interest and just want to move on to the next piece as fast as possible. Off the completed work goes to the stash, totally forgotten.

Anyway, I followed through and duly took each piece from the stash, put it on the kitchen table, and took a picture.

Well, what an eye-opener!

I rather think I could write a book about the revelations that came up while doing it – although you’ll be relieved to know that I’m not going to bore you silly about it all now – but I thought I’d mention a couple of things that really surprised me.

The first thing, is just how different a picture can look in the photo compared with how I think it looks in real life – I’m not talking about the quality of the reproduction or colours, no, what I mean is that in many of the pictures I can see (or not see) aspects of composition, contrast, colour use, focal points and things like that, which aren’t anything like so clear in the flesh.

I’ve heard some other artists say that they take photos of their work whilst working, but this is the first time I’ve really begun to understand why that might be helpful.

One thing that I noticed particularly was that I don’t really achieve enough contrast (for my liking) – and that’s something I hadn’t realised before.

The other thing that really struck me was that in fact there does seem to be an element of style and subject beginning to show itself, despite my concerns that everything is simply random. It may not translate to other viewers, but I begin to see some themes in process, colour and subject that I found oddly reassuring.

As I went through each piece, I tried to decide if they were finished, or whether they might be reusable in some other way. I knew there were several pieces that I had stopped working on without feeling that I’d resolved them. I’ve put those selections into another box, so perhaps the next time I lose the urge to carry on with the current piece, I might dip into the box and see if anything sparks my interest.

It took a couple of hours to take the pictures and I didn’t go back to look at them straight away, but I’m so glad to have taken time to do this. I’ve just been going through some of them again to show you a few, and while doing it I made other discoveries that I’m sure will help me – and who knows, that might carry on.

Somehow the detachment of time and looking at a photo instead of the real thing allows an opportunity to be your own constructive critic. And it certainly helps that when you go back over a lot of work, you begin to see patterns that aren’t otherwise obvious.

(I’ve littered this post with a tiny selection from the photographed stash – it seems that I paint trees far more often than I thought…).

In other news…

I had a lovely afternoon in Worcester on Sunday. A flying trip with the daughters. The river and the cathedral were looking gorgeous. How exciting to see everything beginning to unfurl for spring – hooray!

Until next time.

Anny x

Garden aspirations

Hello again.

It’s that time of year when all sorts of things that have been lying dormant in the garden suddenly start to reappear.

Of course, the main things that reappear in my garden are the bindweed, ground elder, creeping buttercup and green alkanet, but hay-ho, some things are sent to try us.

On the plus side, although I am a very average and intermittently enthusiastic gardener, we do have some extremely talented squirrel gardeners who over the years have managed to plant – in lovely and appropriate locations – an ornamental cherry tree, several horse chestnut trees, a hazel, a most attractive hellebore and a handful of hyacinths.

I like to imagine that it’s their way of thanking me for providing them with so much free food via the birdfeeders – or perhaps they just enjoy the challenge.

Last year, we did manage to make quite a good show with a selection of plants chosen with much care entirely on the basis of having strong slug repellent properties (did I mention that we have slugs here – hoards of them?).

I’ve been poking about in the border, but I’m not sure how many have survived the winter – to be honest, I actually can’t remember where and what I planted. So, it will be exciting to see what comes up.

We have had a couple of early trips to the garden centre to indulge in our fantasies of herbaceous borders and cottage gardens. It’s wonderfully inspiring, but I’m conscious that there’s quite a gulf between my expectations and the reality in our small north-facing plot.

I suspect that my gardening aspirations are deeply coloured by the numerous visits over the years to proper gardens, especially the ones attached to stately homes. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I imagine myself another Miss Jekyll, commanding drifts of white flowers to magically appear and last all through the summer. Ah well.

Since discovering the joys of collage, I’ve been trying out a variety of ideas for pictures. Am I alone in finding that the art techniques and indeed subjects covered, that are most appealing to me as a viewer are rarely those that I seem able to actually create?

For instance, I love to see work in subtle, earthy tones. Moody, ethereal landscapes are often what I enjoy by other artists. But when I try to do something similar, it just doesn’t work. Or perhaps I should say it hasn’t worked yet, who knows what might happen at some time or other.

But for now, when I make art in whatever medium, it seems that I have to use colour. Almost all my stitched art features strong colour, bold yellows, purples, reds and greens. It seems so far at least to be the same with collage – bright colour rules.

I wonder to myself about this. Somewhere inside, I seem to feel that neutral shades, earth tones and textures are – how can I express – more sophisticated?

If pressed, I’d say this is a throw-back to school days when we were told that serious artists use neutral palettes, bright colour is what children play with.

Well, just lately, I’ve realised albeit with a slow dawning, that there’s nothing wrong with bright colours, in fact using colour is a really good way to bring joy into art. I know it’s not for everyone, that’s the way of art, nothing will appeal to everyone and nor should it. But there is a place for bright, colourful artwork in the world and if it so happens that it’s the kind of art I seem to produce, then that’s fine.

And then I thought, well, maybe, as I enjoy looking at gardens probably more than actually making my own, why not try to paint/collage some pictures of gardens. I spent a happy hour or so trawling through old photos that I’ve taken at various stately homes and gardens. Here are just a small selection. They’re my starting point. I’ll see where they take me.

Ascott House
Cawdor Castle
Baddesley Clinton
Chastleton House
Packwood House

I’d like to thank all the people who work in the gardens at these places. I hope they know that the gardens are just as important as the historic houses for many visitors.

Until next time – all best wishes

Anny x

An early Bath…

Hello again.

Spring is in the air – can you feel it? I’m so ready for the turn of the wheel this time. 

A day out in Bath

A couple of weeks ago, I headed off for a day trip to Bath – my first visit there in over two years.

It was wonderful and really did perk me up no end. I was delighted to find that the stall in the covered market ‘Not Cartier’ was still there. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of sparkly bling which speaks directly to the magpie in me. It’s also the best place I know to find interesting broaches. I decided a while ago that I would wage a one-woman campaign to resurrect the wearing of broaches, and so you won’t be surprised to hear that I brought a couple home with me.

I was also incredibly lucky to find that my favourite posh hippy shop had a sale and so having tried on more clothes than I have for years, I also brought a new frock and a tunic top back with me. I live with this vision of becoming someone who usually wears dresses and woollens in a cool and chic way. But somehow when I get up each morning, I seem to reach for the jeans and fleece and stay in them until bedtime. Oh well, who knows, maybe this time…

Anyway, Bath was just what I needed. I didn’t take many photos because it was extremely cold and I didn’t hang about between shops/cafes etc, but I did take this photo of a nonchalant gull. There’s a bit of an issue with gulls in Bath and there are signs all over the place asking people not to feed them. This chap was sitting about four feet from just such a sign – you could see the contempt in his eyes.

Hidey-Hole stuff

Back in the Hidey-Hole and it’s been more collage fun.

I wish I could convey the pure happiness that I feel while I’m cutting and gluing. But it’s even better really, because this process of creating papers, painting backgrounds, sticking paper down, painting again, stitching again – repeat until finished – manages to let me incorporate so many of the techniques I’ve been experimenting with over recent months and gives me a way to bring everything together.

Collage also has the distinct advantage that it seems to have enforced periods of waiting – mostly for glue or paint to dry – which are absolutely perfect for feeding the washing machine or putting the vacuum round. I do enjoy being in the hidey-hole, but the fact that I can have all this fun whilst still keeping most of the other plates spinning seems especially fortunate.

And then there’s the needlepoint.

Yes, I’m still stitching. It is such a perfect form of meditation – for me at least. 

Last night I finished the most recent piece. I’ve tried to take a couple of photos but you know how tricky the light is here. I’d say that one photo slightly underplays the saturation of the colours, whilst the other goes a little far the other way.

A little underplaying the colours.
A little overplaying.

I’m not going to exhibit any of this textile work, but if anyone would like to have it, perhaps to make it into a cushion cover or to frame – or whatever you can think of, please send me a message. I’m open to offers. Bear in mind that it’s just a piece of hessian/burlap approximately 12” square, stitched in a variety of threads – silk, wool, linen. I’ve had my enjoyment in the making, so if it could have another life with someone else, that would be wonderful. 

And so there we are for now. I hope that you’re having fun in whatever way gives you happiness. Until next time,

Anny x

The Secret is Process

Hello again.

This is a fairly long post – but I hope you’ll read it…x

I thought that today I’d talk a little about something that’s sparked a creative leap for me. 

And it’s really so simple, I can’t think how I forgot about it (because I suspect I did already know it, and you do too, I’m pretty sure).

So what’s the revelation? Just this, don’t worry about the end product, concentrate on the process.

I’ve just learnt this lesson the hard-ish way. So I thought I’d write about it here in case it helps anyone who’s in the same predicament, and also so that if/when I forget it again, I can pop back and give myself a poke in the proverbial.

So, a little background.

My art journey really took off when the needlepoint artwork I’d been creating just for the fun of it, came to the attention of some extremely lovely people who encouraged me to make it available for sale.

I was delighted to find that there were indeed people out there who liked it enough to want to own it themselves. This was a massive boost to my self-confidence and I started to think of myself as an artist, rather than just a woman who stitched quite a lot.

This lovely cycle went on and on for a few years. It felt great. I wrote about stitching, I met other artists, I sold some work.

Ah, but you know there’s going to be a but don’t you…

Yep, you’re right.

Creativity, as with so many other things in life, comes in cycles. And just as I’d enjoyed the ride for some time, eventually the enjoyment dwindled. Hand on heart, at some stage, just before the pandemic as it happens, I realised that making stitched art had stopped being really enjoyable. It had become a source of discontent. I still liked the feel of stitching – the process of stabbing cloth with a needle and painting in threads – I just stopped creating anything that I thought was good to look at. Which is not really where you want to be if you see yourself as an artist who sells their work.

I decided to embrace the lockdown and have a break.

Although in fact, I did still stitch because the process kept me calm, I just stopped caring what it looked like.

Instead of giving so much time to threads, I picked up my paints for their first outing in many years. It was fun, but I had a mindset that told me as an artist I should be creating good work, and even to my eyes, it was pretty obviously not all that good at all.

So I went back to pastels. I’d loved them when I was a teenager. And yes, I still loved them, and no, I couldn’t exactly promise you I made anything even vaguely decent.

So I tried a whole raft of other media – and then I mixed a whole load of media together. Result? More mud and dissatisfaction. Although, perversely, also a lot of fun and happiness…go figure.

In mild desperation, I decided that I should go back to basics and draw. I drew. Turns out I can draw, not all that bad at drawing. But the results? Just not inspiring – not for me and I very much doubt for anyone else either. Dead end.

Slightly deeper frustration set in. What was the problem? Why couldn’t I bring anything to the point where I felt it was good art, good enough to share with random strangers? 

More thought and more googling. Of course, the answer was that proper artists are inspired by a topic, a place, a thing, landscapes, still-life, abstract, florals, realism, a message they want to share with the world. In short, they know what they want to paint, they know what they want to communicate. They did the work and developed their style – something unique, some eloquent, recognisable means of artistic communication.

Excellent. Now all I had to do was work out what I wanted to paint, communicate, focus upon.

How? Ummm, maybe by painting the things that inspire me, give me joy, fascinate me, intrigue me. Hooray. I should paint castles, ruined abbeys, hill forts, mountain scenery, stained glass windows, stone circles, standing stones, ancient monuments, Norman church architecture, medieval manuscripts…..argh!

Slight problem here. Over the years, I’ve tried to make work inspired by all these things – the things that actually really do excite and intrigue me – and nothing has ever come off that felt even remotely like good art. Oh yes, I can draw a castle, a standing stone, a hillside. No problem there, it’s just not going to leap out and shout at me, let alone anyone else ‘look at me, I’ve got something to say!’ To be honest, it’s just boring.

A much deeper despondency set in. Face it, I’m not an artist. Stop pretending to be. Give up.

And then, fairly randomly, I was given a Gelli printing plate for Christmas.

I’d never used one before – had no idea what to do with it. But once the Christmas festivities were over, I sloped off to my hidey-hole and started to play.

The hidey-hole.

For the first time in years, since the time when I needlepointed purely for the hell of it, I played with materials with absolutely no expectations, no ideas at all of where I wanted to go. I gave myself over to the process of printing unpredictable and unrepeatable sheets of colour.

And inevitably, there comes a time when you see this rapidly growing pile of coloured papers threatening to topple over and spill into the next room and you think, I really should come up with a way to use these.

What I actually decided to do, was to stick them over a piece of mylar I’d previously painted on. I discovered the welcoming arms of collage.

Suddenly, all the other media I’d spent time experimenting with seemed to find a place within this ‘new to me’ process. The mylar I’d fallen in love with for its ability to stay flat whatever you poured over it, makes an excellent base for the collage. The preparatory scribbles to free your hand and mind suddenly provided an interesting textured background, the acrylics dabbed and scored also made a great background. Pastels it turns out are a great way of planning composition. 

In short, all the aspects of using the various media I’d been playing with that I most enjoyed but couldn’t master singly, seemed to offer themselves as parts of a process that felt exactly right for me. It turns out that I was a collage/mixed media person and I never knew until I let myself go.

Now, here’s the thing.

I was so excited by the process, I didn’t give a thought to the end result. I just cut up little pieces of paper and stuck them down over the painted background. I put things wherever they seemed to want to go. If I didn’t like it, I stuck something else over the top. I carried on. No expectations, no focus, just process.

The first couple of pieces took on quite an organic flavour. I’ve never really had much time for pictures of flowers, but somehow that’s what appeared. And do you know? They felt right to me – they express me. I could never have told you that I was inspired by organic shapes and flower colours, but that’s what I seem to produce.

And that’s where I am as we speak. I gave up totally on trying to paint any particular thing and instead embraced a process, with no expectations, just enjoying the feeling of relaxation as I cut and stuck as the muse decided. I have no idea if any of it is good enough art, the daughters are complimentary, but hardly an unbiased audience. It doesn’t matter. This is the first work I’ve made for ages that pleases me, and that it turns out makes all the difference.

I’m not suggesting that this is a process you should try – you’ll have your own. But what I do think is helpful, is to stop thinking about end results and instead get into the flow of your preferred process. 

I have no idea where I’m going with this, and that’s alright. For now, I’ll just keep playing and seeing what happens. Do I still think of myself as an artist? Actually yes. I make art. That’s all there is to it.

Phew, this has been a long post. Thanks for reading.

One more thing before I go. 


Just to say that part of my ‘letting go’ was to stop posting on Dreaminginstitches. I just felt that I’d done all I could there. However, after a couple of months, I missed having somewhere to post my occasional photos other than here and I wondered about beginning a new account, which would have no strict focus – exactly as this blog is intended – just random stuff. And so I created a_mingled-yarn over on Instagram. If you use the platform and would like to find me there, that would be lovely, but please, only if you really want to. 

There, this is definitely the end of the post.

Much love

Anny x


Hello and a happy New Year to you.

I always hesitate to ask how people’s Christmas was, and this year – or should that be last year’s – was probably even weirder than the one before for a lot of us, so shall we move swiftly on?

It’s a gradual slide into January and the routine around here. Fortunately we’ve had very little of the weather we normally associate with this time of year, but we have had rain – quite significant amounts – you can see that the water meadows next to the canal have been doing their thing…

I have a childish delight in seeing the ducks and geese floating in the fields when the meadows flood.

I don’t seem to have been out much. More because I enjoy a time of winter hibernation even under normal conditions and I didn’t see any reason why it should be different this year. I find a few weeks of snuggling up on the sofa with a duvet and a good old movie on TV – Death on The Nile, the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, any Jane Austen – with fairy lights twinkling in the sitting room and the kitchen and probably with a glass of whisky to keep out the cold, does a lot to help keep my spirits up.

We did venture out on one afternoon to Stowe gardens for some fresh air and exercise.

A rather bleak kind of day, but there’s always something impressive about the place – perhaps it’s how much interest has been shoe-horned into the space. What were those eighteenth century landscape gardeners on! Imagine anyone creating it today.

News from the Hidey-Hole…

Just to be clear, the Hidey-Hole is my nickname for the tiny room in the corner of the house which I can’t bring myself to call a studio. You’d understand if you saw it. It is still partly the downstairs shower room and I have to vacate when the daughters want to use it, but nevertheless I am extremely pleased to have my own dedicated creative space inside the house – warm and cosy, even if it’s a little on the cramped side.

Well, the news is that Father Christmas brought me a gell printing plate.

And I feel a bit like Mr Toad in The Wind In The Willows.

Suffice to say, I am having a lot of fun.

I’ve been creating a stash of printed papers, creating textures and mixing colours, which I’ve just begun to use as collage over a couple of the paintings I’d made that weren’t really going anywhere.

I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying the whole process. It feels like being back in primary school – although it was called Infant School in my day – and playing with all the art supplies. Being covered in glue and paint and goodness knows what.

I can’t remember ever doing anything like it since, so I’ve watched a zillion YouTube videos to pick up some techniques and ideas, which is just wonderful!

Anyway, who knows, maybe next time I’ll take some photos and you can see what I’ve been up to.

Right, time to cook the dinner.

Stay warm and happy.

Anny x

In and out in December…

the Grand Union canal.

It’s no secret that I tend to find the low-light days of winter something of a challenge, which is why I’m delighted to say that so far this year, I’m managing to stay pretty buoyant. Maybe it’s the generally mild weather we’ve been having or just a determined effort to stay relaxed. Whichever, all I can say is that we’re now really close to the solstice and so far, so good.

Part of my strategy for staying well is to get outdoors as much as I reasonably can. It used to be easier when the Delinquent Dog insisted on a decent daily walk, but the old chap isn’t up to all that these days and we have to content ourselves with short strolls near to the house. I miss getting out into the woods and countryside so much and try hard to get out when I can.

We’re lucky to live a short hop away from the Grand Union canal, which would have been the perfect place to walk the Delinquent Dog, had he not come hardwired with the urge to attack any other furry creature he might meet. Narrow canal paths do not lend themselves to quick avoidance detours – not without getting very wet at any rate.

I’ve taken to having a quick walk along the tow-path every few days without the boy (you can see how glorious the weather was from the picture at the top of this post on a recent stroll). And there have been occasional walks around the Park at Woburn – always a delight.

There have also been proper days out.

First, a trip to Worcester with both daughters. We were there a few days after Storm Arwen which had brought down one of the stone pinacles from the tower of the cathedral, which crashed through the roof below. If you look carefully you might be able to see where the tarpaulin is now covering the hole. The pincacle came from high up on the tower, so all-in-all I’d say it was lucky not to have been a worse outcome.

the damaged roof at Worcester Cathedral

We happened to be in Worcester on the final day of the Christmas Market, so it was fairly busy, but also rather lovely. Twinkly and smelling of mulled wine – quite put me in the festive spirit.

the Guildhall, Worcester at dusk.
excellent message I thought…x

Later that week, I met up with my brother in Worcestershire and we headed off to Hanbury Hall for tea and cakes and a wander around the house. This year they’ve decorated the house in the style of Christmasses of the 1970s and 1980s and oh my goodness! What a good job they’ve made. I haven’t laughed so much for an age.

We spent our afternoon remembering toys, films, tv, pop music and food from our youth. It was magical! Tacky, but totally magical.

It wasn’t just indoors that had been decorated. Every one of these little trees had a glitter ball on top – over 200 of them, how fabulous!

Meanwhile, back indoors, there has been more needlepoint. I’ve given up trying to think about what I’m doing and instead I’ve fully embraced the stitch to relax vibe that I used to have. For now, that feels absolutely the right thing to do. I’ve always thought that stitching was primarily a meditative practice and so it feels again for me.

this is the current piece – rocking orange…x

There’s something snuggly about sitting on the sofa in the evening, listening to the TV and quietly sewing. Well, it works for me.

It’s a funny old time of year and I hope you’re doing alright. Stitching keeps me relaxed and calm, but do whatever works for you. We’re all different.

Anny x

Making Hay while the sun shines.

Well hello again.

How’s it been? We’re still waiting for the November weather to turn cold. It’s confusing, when I look outside, the light tells me it’s winter, so I find my thick fleece, woolly hat and gloves. Then, suitably togged up, I set off to walk the boy and what do you know? Within minutes I’m melting in the heat. I’m not really complaining, it makes a change to get this far into November and not to be scraping the windscreen in the morning, I’m just finding it a bit weird.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, we went off to Hay on Wye to stock up on essentials – books, of course. It was our first visit in eighteen months and I was so happy to be back in my spiritual home.

It felt so good to be slowly scanning the shelves for that book you just had to have. In the end, having given it my best go, I came back with three books. One about the Domesday Book – something that I’ve been becoming more interested in over recent months – more of that perhaps another day. Another about the history of the countryside by Oliver Rackham – it was a punt, but I’m really enjoying it so far. And the third is a book about Celtic and ancient places in the United Kingdom  – which I bought mainly because of the absolutely wonderful black and white photographs by Anthony Gascoigne. 

Now, here’s a request. I’ve scoured Mr. Google for any information about Anthony Gascoigne and I can’t find anything, zilch, nada. Does anyone out there know who he is? I’d just love to see more of his work. I chose the book because I’ve visited most of the sites covered, and I know just how challenging it is to take good photos at those locations. I love standing stones, but they are mightily difficult to capture on film/digitally – they have a personality, and it’s really hard to capture that, and yet somehow, he does it. He creates mood. So, chaps, if anyone can tell me more, I’d be really grateful – he’s a pro!

We pushed the boat out on our trip and stayed overnight in Hereford, which meant that we had a day out in Leominster too. I love this town, it’s got just the right mix of old town charm, and a Wetherspoons. What more could you need? Well, actually it’s much better than that too. We went ringing at the Priory and then went back the next day so that the N1D could be shown the Romanesque carvings in the daylight. ( Our poor children, what have we done to them? They’re so psychologically scarred that they’ve both independently bought themselves membership of the National Trust and English Heritage – and they’re only in their early twenties!)

Leominster Priory is a total mishmash, but nonetheless fascinating for that. It shows you the story of English history in stone. I rather like it there.

All the pictures in this post were taken at Leominster Priory in November 2021. The carvings are over 800 years old. Doesn’t that make you tingle with excitement? Oh…x

In other news…

I’ve been slowly stitching in hessian again, but I haven’t taken any photos yet, so maybe that’s for another day too.

Best wishes, keep smiling.

Anny x


Well hello again!

I doubt if there is anyone reading this who was subscribed to Mostly Motley seven years or more ago, but if you are, then all I can say is Wow! Thanks for your patience.

If you do remember me – or indeed if this is your first visit – you probably want to know what I’m intending for this blog going forward.

So, let me explain.

When I first started this blog, I chose the name, because I wanted people to know that it wouldn’t be a single topic blog – it wouldn’t be focussed on one subject, in fact, it would be a mixed bag – whatever took my fancy when I came to write a post.

The received wisdom then – and quite possibly now too – is that if you’re blogging, you should concentrate on specific niches and not be too random. I see the same thing with social media, which soaked up a huge number of bloggers from way back when.

Anyway. I’ve tried to do it both ways. I’ve tried to maintain several blogs, covering a raft of interests. But in the end, I’m just not that sort of person. I’m interested in lots of things and if I don’t include them in one place, I feel that I’m not really being authentically me.

So, if you’re reading this and wondering if it’s worth subscribing to receive new posts – well, the big passions in my life are.

  • exploring Britain’s old places, and
  • making art, sometimes in threads, but lately also in paint.

But I’m also out there with a camera most days, walking in the countryside and photographing the changing seasons. I also read a lot of books, listen to a range of music, walk up mountains, go charity shopping for bargains, go bell-ringing, cook meals, dig the garden, and about a zillion other things.

And I might write or post photos about any of these topics.

A mixed bag – mostly motley.

Of course, I’d really love it if you wanted to come along for the ride. I’d be even happier if you wanted to leave the occasional comment. But the choice is yours and I’m just going to carry on and be me.

That’s it…x



It’s lovely to see that people are still coming over to visit Mostly Motley, but having tried various combinations, I’ve now decided to concentrate my blogging over at Dreaming in Stitches for everything that’s not history related and Mists of Time for fellow history junkies out there.

Please do come over and visit either – or both – of these places and see if it’s for you – you’ll be very welcome.