Tuesday 29 May 2012

Six Weeks and Counting

Apart from Cambridge Open Studios being this region's largest art event, it is also my biggest push of the year.
Whilst I take part in other shows during the year, this is the one where my all-new work is produced and shown.

The planning began as I packed away COS 2011 and has been in and out of my thoughts on a regular basis since. Not only do I have to prepare my exhibition work but as with all open studio events, the studio itself has to be prepared to make it visit-worthy. That means for two weekends, my domestic environment is completely re-arranged to turn home into gallery. If anyone knows the usual organised mess I work in, they will know it is quite a miracle transformation (and I'm sure I am not the only artist that this is applicable to) but somehow, transform it does.

My focus this year is 'Local' meaning anything within a 25 – 30 mile radius of here and it seems quite appropriate that I have also had a second local focus to work on. Cambridge Open Studios is a huge event, this year with over 250 members opening 180 studio doors to the public. Technically we are out of county, but as we come under the Cambridge postcode area, we can also be members of one of the longest established open studio organisations in the UK. However, being 'out in the (relative) sticks' has its problems too so this year a group of 13 of us artists have pulled together to try and shout out that Open Studios happens here in our little corner too.

Saffron Walden & District Trail brings us all together in one convenient leaflet to complement the now familiar yellow Cambridge Open Studios guides that appear at this time each year. Our studios range from pottery to chair making, photography to printmaking, textile art to illustrating and of course, a wide range painting styles. Whilst this year we are unlikely to have a web presence of our own, the trail leaflet provides visitors with the information needed to get started. It will soon be available in our area, and found in galleries, shops, libraries, tourist offices, in fact, the same locations as the main guide.

So, do look out for the Saffron Walden & District Trail leaflet, pick up a copy along with the main guide and make a plan to come and visit us during the weekends in July.

Weekend 1  July   7­­­ – 8
Weekend 2  July 14 – 15
Weekend 3  July 21 – 22
Weekend 4  July 28 – 29

11am – 6pm Meet the artists in their studios

Cambridge Open Studios                            

...also taking place in Saffron Walden & District!

Look out for these yellow flags in July

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Beautiful May

Why do I love this time of the year so much? Well, when the sun shines, the stunning array of colour, blossoms and insects is just a riot worth joining, and that is exactly what I did this morning.

Waking up to a blanket of mist, there was a feeling of anticipation as I ate breakfast that it would just burn off - and sure enough, it did. Rather than just the usual walk around the park, I took off to one of my favourite local walks in the woods. On the way I passed along the chestnut avenue, the road verges lined with cow parsley (hopefully the council won't come and cut it all back!) Admittedly both the candles and cow parsley were not as big or blousy as I have seen them on previous years, but a stunning sight none the less.

The field where I had watched the hares in the snow earlier in the year, now a blanket of yellow, edged by more cow parsley and punctuated with bushes covered in May blossom. Wheat fields were lush after the generous helping of recent rain, tram-lines still visible and graphically criss-crossing from side to side.

Arriving at the woods, I was able to sit quietly on a log under fresh green leaves, still yet just a light canopy and allowing the sun to gently dapple the last few bluebells left under the trees. Mutt, on her lead and now used to being a photographers assistant, sat quietly beside me as I used her as an extra pair of ears. She would hear any movement from the deer before me but today, not a glimpse. They no doubt were glimpsing me as they protected this years off-spring nestled somewhere in the undergrowth.

Butterflies flitted from flower to flower, the orange tips not sitting still long enough for me to catch a shot, small whites and speckled wood butterflies being more willing subjects.

Slugs, however were still in abundance!

As I sat, listening to the bird song, (the chiff chaff and the chaffinch seemingly shouting the loudest) I thought of what really makes May the best. From beginning to end, it has to be the flowers. Starting with the smaller ground-dwelling flowers such as bluebells, wild garlic, buttercups, cow parsley, and campion, up to the hedgerows and blossoms of chestnut candles, hawthorn, lilac, wisteria and laburnam- to name a few.

Add to that a drop of sunshine, as today - perfect!

Monday 21 May 2012

Sparks Will Fly - Saffron Walden

Marina Mightier, who arrived in Saffron Walden on Saturday

Essex County Council and Chelmsford Borough Council have teamed up with outdoor performance specialists, Walk the Plank, to develop a cultural celebration of the Olympics from May – July 2012 with an outdoor performance programme called

"An excellent selection of photos which really capture the spirit of the afternoon."
Uttlesford District Council
(via Twitter)

Saturday 19 May 2012

Frizz, the Guide Dog Puppy

"Please could you come and photograph a guide dog puppy who is just about to leave his puppy walker to go onto the next stage of his training?"

"Of course. Oh, and what colour is he?"


Black. Probably the most challenging animal colour to any photographer. (I know because our mutt is black!) Coupled with fluorescent lighting and an excited audience of the junior Boy's Brigade in the local Baptist hall, it could have been a recipe for disaster. To top it off, there was an extra request for "A special picture of Frizz" that could be given to his hard working puppy walker. Although a seasoned trainer, Hazel Mander-Callaby was particularly sad to be having to say good-bye to her current charge, and as a dog owner too, I can feel for her. Having lived and breathed the experiences of this young puppy for many months, for Hazel to make the break, although knowing this day would always come, it is going to be hard.

More details about Guide Dogs and the Local branch can be found on their website

Thursday 17 May 2012

Funky Canoes, Dodgy Nuts & Ringing Bulls

Sometimes it is the places that are closest around us that are least explored, so when I was taken by my better half into Cambridge today and told we had to wait under the lamp post on Parkers Piece, I was beginning to wonder what might be in store. Having mistakenly arrived rather too early, we were able to people-watch, as those going about their every-day business criss-crossed on their bicycles in front of us.

At half-past one, a cheerful chap and his basset hound arrived, enquiring if we were waiting for the guided bike tour. Ah! So that was why I was told to wear comfortable clothes, shoes and possibly a pair of gloves! A bike tour. I hadn't ridden a bike for a couple of years but knowing that Cambridge is bike-city and dead flat, I wasn't worried, although Gus the basset looked rather more worried when I remarked that the hound didn't look very bike-like, and where were the bikes?

Thankfully Anthony reassured us that we would all be provided with bikes just as soon as our tour companions arrived. A Canadian-Iranian girl on a day trip to the city and a girl from Taiwan, who had also been on the morning tour around the city were to join us. This afternoon trip was to be a ride out to Grantchester along the river path.

Just a short walk away from Parkers Piece was Anthonys base for Cambridge Bike Tours where we were kitted up with our wheels for the afternoon before setting off on the hardest part of the ride, negotiating some of the city streets. Stopping off near Silver Street Bridge, we were filled in with facts about the rivers Cam and Granta, which met at this point, and where he pointed out the punts to our foreign visitors. The comment of the afternoon came from our Canadian companion.

"Oh, punts! I thought they were just funky canoes"

A ride along a cow-parsley lined cycle track and few streets of elegant houses, brought us to Grantchester Meadows, where Anthony was able to point out some of the interesting instructions on the sign and fill us in with more local facts, some that even we as locals were not aware of. However, at this point, he was unaware of the dodgy nut on his crank, that was to give him trouble for the rest of the afternoon.

A short while later and the nut had fallen off but as with all the best guides, he was prepared and a quick delve into his tool kit showed up the omission of a 14mm spanner- just the one he needed!

Undeterred, we rode through the Orchard Tea Gardens, famed for being the haunt of the Grantchester Group, which included E.M. Forster, Rupert Brooke and Virginia Woolf. Next on to the Old Vicarage, once home to Rupert Brooke and now home to an famous (or infamous) writer.

A few more nutty moments punctuated the ride.

Orchard Tea Garden
Statue of Rupert Brooke

A short ride later, we found ourselves in the cosy little pub called the Blue Ball, where we stopped for well deserved refreshment. Over a half of the local brew, we all caught up on what had brought each of us on the ride, with the question from the jolly landlady, why such locals? Well, apart from it being one of my significant days with the ride being a special surprise, it was nice to get out and be shown things we wouldn't necessarily have found for ourselves, such as the lovely little pub. We were also treated to an introduction to the old pub game of ringing the bull. Surprisingly for us, another thing we had not come across before.

Hanging from the ceiling was a cord with a metal ring attached. The trick was to push it in such a way that it would swing up onto the hook high up on the wall opposite. Not as easy as it looks! However, we all managed to ring the bull at least once before we polished off our drinks and set off on the ride back to Cambridge through the meadows...

...punctuated with more dodgy nut moments.

Back into Cambridge and in sniffing distance of home came the exclamation

"Oh, it's gone!"

Anthonys troublesome nut had finally rattled itself free for the last time, providing us all with something to smile about as we parked our bikes up at the end of the ride.

Such a pleasant easy afternoon spent with good company and in a lovely location where we discovered more about what goes on on our own doorstep. I can fully recommend taking a discovery ride out with Cambridge bike tours, loose nuts or not!

Some of the simplest things in life are the most enjoyable.

Monday 14 May 2012

Dance Session

Some recent, hand-held grab shots during a studio session with some amazingly flexible dancers. It revealed that even using high ISO to allow fast shutter speeds, these dancers still moved so fast that it would only be by the use of a studio flash rig that the action could really be captured successfully.

Monday 7 May 2012

Monday Night in Clon is...

...trad night in DeBarras.

As I couldn't get along to say hi to all the guys tonight, here are a few shots I took at one of the sessions I went along to in Clonakilty, a few weeks back.