A Very Happy Easter

This year I decided to follow the German-speaking tradition and have an Easter tree.  I have been in Switzerland around Easter several times, and love the little scenes they set up in shop windows, cable car stations and everywhere else.

The decorations for my tree, the wreath and lights have come from many countries, from Latvia to China and back to the UK!  So enjoy some photos of them on this happy day.


Painting Yarn Bowls

There is a shop on The Street in Kirkwall, called Aa’ Fired Up, where you can paint pottery blanks and they fire it for you.  (There is one in Lerwick, Shetland too.)  One of the many blanks they have available is a large yarn bowl, so three of us went together to paint our own bowls.

The place is very well organised, with tables set out with the various paints and brushes.  We were told how best to proceed, and shown the reference plate with the finished paint colours, often quite different from the colour in the bottle.

We all decided to paint the inside first.  Sharon and Jackie chose a pinky-lilac colour and I chose a greeny turquoise.  We had been told to give it three coats to get the intensity shown on the plate.  The paint dried very quickly so we didn’t have to wait between coats.

Sharon and Jackie used a purple for the outside of their bowls, and both chose to screen print things on.  I used the pinky-lilac with two coats only, and then painted on some stylised lavender. 

Then we went away with instructions to come back a week later to pick up the fired pieces.

Sharon’s bowl:

Jackie’s bowl:

My bowl:

We were all very pleased with how they had turned out! 

My Lenten Cross

I was vaguely searching Etsy for stained glass one evening in February, when a driftwood cross came up among the glass offerings.  (I find Etsy’s search engine often does this!)

I couldn’t get the image out of my mind, so the next day I went back and looked some more.  The Etsy shop is The Driftwood Gallery, based near Weymouth on the south coast of England.

The Christian tradition I come from does not do Lent or crosses, but I have always taken on board ideas I like and find useful, from many traditions.  And this cross spoke to me in so many ways, I could take reflections from it for a year’s worth of sermons!  Here are some of the ideas I have pondered over the past few weeks.

The driftwood pieces which make up the body of the cross show signs of providing a home and meal for marine worms. 

Between the ‘branches’ there are shells, small animals protected by the wood.

There are pieces of sea glass – broken glass that the rocks and waves have tumbled to smoothness. 

Broken pieces of pottery, some with still-sharp edges, have found a home, and their colour enhances the whole.

On the top of the cross there are three, equally spaced holes, a perfect reminder of the Trinity.

Some of the shells are big, bright and shiny.  They do not eclipse the smaller, duller ones, but together they enhance the whole piece.

The individual branches are just broken, and some burnt, bits, but together they make a thing of beauty.

But most of all, this cross reminds me of how the church should be.  A collection of odd, seemingly useless, pieces that come together on the firm foundation of the cross to protect the weak and embrace the broken.

March Remembered

March seems to be a season of its own up here.  Some days hark back to winter, others forward to spring.  And all the while, the days lengthen perceptibly.

At the start of the month the sun was still low enough for some interesting sky shots.  I love the juxtaposition of the 900 year old Cathedral spire with the two industrial chimneys of the power station.

March was also the month of the shed!  We have no flat space to put it, so it is going in the car port.  Nick and The Butler have done all the work.

It is not finished yet – ‘flu has got in the way – but it is going to be great when it is! (The same ‘flu that meant I didn’t write a post last week.)

The dogs have continued doing what they do best – sleeping and getting in to mischief.  Magnus was not pleased to be woken for some snaps, so he proceeded to yawn hugely until I have finished!

Outside the bushes were changing.  The Alder has these cone-like fruiting bodies which stay on the branches all winter.

Silver Birch has a host of catkins which look dull and brown in some lights, and a brilliant rust red in others.

The mosses and lichens are starting to grow…

… and by the end of the month some bushes like this Blackthorn, have come into bud.

We have had some lovely days, where I was able to open some windows for the first time.  They have a setting where they will open a couple of inches, but no more.  Eilidh spent hours trying her hardest to get out…!

The end of the month also saw the first cruise liner of the year, the Astoria.  My usual afternoon dog walk has good views of ships coming and going, and also at anchor.  I am no sure yet whether we will be able to see those at the Hatston pier.  Time will tell!

The Longhope Lifeboat Disaster 1969

Fifty years ago today the Longhope lifeboat answered a shout to go to help the Irene, a cargo ship which had lost power and was drifting on to rocks on the east coast of South Ronaldsay.  The weather was horrendous, with hurricane force winds, and the Pentland Firth, one of the most dangerous pieces of water in the world, was boiling with mountainous seas.  Eight men were aboard. 

The next morning the lifeboat was found upside down in the Firth.  All eight men were in the cabin.  The coxswain still had his hands on the wheel.

Longhope is about a mile across the water from Flotta where I lived until recently.  The graveyard is beyond the village.  A lonely and lovely spot.  As you enter, the memorial to those eight men is visible between the pillars, stark and haunting.  A simple representation of courage.  The graves of the men who died are nearby.

They are not forgotten.

Three videos about the disaster.

The first includes interviews with two men who helped launch the lifeboat that day.h

The second is a song written by a local girl with photos and paintings of that day.

The third shows how much all of Orkney relies on the lifeboat crews.  St Andrew’s School is on the East Mainland and they produced this video.


The Brims shed where the TGB was launched. Today it is a museum.

As a result of the disaster research was done to produce self-righting boats. This is the current Longhope lifeboat at her berth in the village of Longhope.

Embroidered Photos – Additions

In the first blog post about my embroidered pictures I showed you some of the pieces where the embroidery was used to enhance a photo.  In this part I am showing you some examples where the embroidery has been used to add something to the photo.

The photo above came from the same shoot as the last one from my first post.  Here I used ribbon flowers to mimic the rosebuds on her dress in colours taken from the photo on the fabric.

I used this technique on several portraits.  This is a girl I knew who hoped to go into modelling and she asked me to take some portfolio shots.  (She got taken on by the agency!)  Again, this shot cried out for ribbon flowers.

Flowers did not feel appropriate for a male friend, so I used needle lace leaves instead.  These are made by attaching the wire to the shape you want to a piece of card, then stitching as required before taking the leaf off the card.  It is a technique I enjoyed very much.

Sometimes a photo feels empty.  It needs ‘something’ to give it a focus.  That is what I felt about this photo – it needed someone on the bridge, but nothing too complex.  I therefore decided on the dress and parasol only, and enhanced the trees to bring the focus right in.

This beach scene was another empty shot.  When I saw the flat rock, I knew it needed a mermaid.  Once she was complete, I felt it needed something else to balance the picture, and the boat she was luring on to the rocks seemed just right!

Sometimes I took shots with embroidery in mind.  An example of this was a row of trees below.  We had been watching hot air balloons from my parents’ house so I looked out for a suitable place to photograph what I wanted.

The original photo for the picture below was a small section of a photo of shadows on grass.  I wanted to embroider a garden and it formed the ideal background.

One of the last pieces I made used a photo of a lochan on Hoy.  There were hundreds of huge dragonflies flitting about, but they were too quick and too translucent to photograph with the camera I had that day.  So I added my own.  This is again goldwork, but this time most of the embroidery is not on to the fabric, but on wires.  The four wings were made separately as the leaves above.  The body was made with two strands of quite thick wire, embroidered over in gold.  The eyes are gold beads  This was then attached to the photo fabric and the wings attached to the thorax.  A flat bead was added over the wings to form the thorax, then the wings were bent into the right shape. 

February Remembered

It was a funny month, weather-wise.  It started with snow, and became spring-like.

At the beginning of the month, the days were getting longer, and my dog walking was happening after sunrise.

Mists and cloud still made for great lighting.

By the end of the month it was the sunsets which gave the wonderful colours.

The grass was growing, and the sheep were out.

There were days where the stormy blue-grey skies, and the low sun, made my stained glass angel glow.

The dogs continued to make me laugh!  This is Eilidh reacting to a video of Scottie puppies playing.

Towards the end of the month we had a mild spell, with plenty of sun.  The the mixed woodland of the Muddisdale walk was especially colourful – here the silver birch (with Magnus)…

…. ash….

and alder. The verges are beginning to show signs of spring.  Snowdrops and crocuses came out very early this year.  We are just hoping we will not pay too dearly in April….!