I'm travelling into a new way of working, a new country, a new language, and a new hobby which I'm passionate about. Come with me for some of the journey...

Monday 22 October 2018

Czech Autumn Splendour

Hello all, and welcome to one of my travelling posts.  There's a little bit of autumnal watercolouring to come soon, but this post is in celebration of the extraordinarily beautiful autumn I've been enjoying here in the Czech countryside.  The weather has been beyond glorious - sunny and mainly very warm.  The cold has only just set in in the last couple of days, and this morning a beautiful frost spread itself across the fields in the sun to contrast with the blaze of treetop colour.

There's still a while to run on this month's Autumn Splendour theme over at A Vintage Journey, so consider this post a little bit of extra inspiration to come along and play!

I've been having a pretty busy time of it, laying the groundwork for relocating here some time next year (some of the metaphorical eggs I mentioned hatching in my slightly cracked recent Box of Eggs).  So I'm afraid if any of you are hoping to see me in action on major dollshouse work in Cestina's Small Worlds museum, you'll be disappointed (though there is a tiny touch of dollshousing to enjoy at the end of the post). 

As it happens, these particular trees are just twenty paces from the museum itself - this is a "road junction" here in the small town of Bavorov!

Just opposite that is Kostel Bavorov (Bavorov church), the largest village church in South Bohemia.  There's been a church on this site since 1370, but it's been restored and added to over the centuries, particularly after a major fire in 1649, and again at the start of the 20th century.

In between the architectural planning, and sourcing of tiles and toilets and so forth, Cestina and I have been driving (and occasionally walking) through the countryside with jaws dropped open at the glories on display, whether that's fairytale pine tree forests...

... or glowing leaves catching the sunlight and taking your breath away...

... or best of all the two in direct contrast with each other. 

Sometimes, we've simply been en route to another flooring shop or bathroom supply store...

... although even then we sometimes took the long way round on the way back, just to admire the views on offer (with me shouting "stop the car!", every now and then when I couldn't bear to leave a scene unrecorded).

I tried playing with the panorama function on my phone, but of course everything ends up smaller when you add a panorama to the blogpost because of the formatting.  I'm hoping that by clicking on it you might get a full screen version.

When I first got here, several weeks ago, everything was still gorgeously green.  So in our earlier trips to the DIY and builders' suppliers in larger towns, it all looked very different.

The Czech Republic has a vast system of freshwater ponds for breeding fish, conceived and constructed in the sixteenth century, so everywhere you go you see wonderful rybníks (ribneek - with a touch of a roll on the r) set amongst the trees and rolling hillsides. 

These photos are of a rather large rybník - a glittering expanse of water, too wide for one photo (I hadn't remembered about the panorama thing at this point!).  We simply had to stop the car and get out.

As you stand there in the silence (only a very occasional car passing), and beautiful fir trees behind you on the other side of the road, you hear frequent deep sploshing sounds as the surface of the water is broken by a huge freshwater carp leaping into the air.

Now that I think about it, I think we encountered that particular rybník on one of our days out, rather than on a working drive.  We'd headed over to the lovely town of Třeboň (good luck with the pronunciation on this one! It's sort of Trrzhebon - the hard t, then a roll on your r at the same time as making the zh sound, e as in eggs, and then bon as in bonbon, but with a little nyuh sound built in to the final n)...

It happened to be the weekend of the Václav holiday.  The feast day of Václav (Vatslav, stress on the first syllable - known to us as Wenceslas), patron saint of the Czech nation, falls on 28th September.  It's celebrated across the Czech Republic as a state holiday, also commemorating Czech statehood.

Fetes or festive markets (known as a pouť - vowel sound rhymes with oat, and it's a soft tchyuh sound on the end) are held in celebration, if not on the day then on the nearest weekend.

As it was Saturday 29th, we bumped into Třeboň's pouť, and spent several happy hours browsing the stalls and listening to traditional folk music - though I seem to have completely failed to take any pictures of any of that!

For another of our days off, I'd asked if we could visit the Šumava (that's a soft Shhh at the start, and a dark u as in put, with the stress on the first syllable).

The countryside is lovely around here, but we're also just a 45-minute drive from the Šumava National Park where, as we discovered, the sheer breathtaking beauty of the landscape goes up several notches!

I've only managed to capture a tiny part of the wonders of this Urwald, or primeval forest - a Šumava Google image search will make you gasp.  (The very first photo of the post is from here.)

On the other side of the Czech/German border, it's known as the Böhmerwald or Bayerischer Wald, so you may have come across it under that name.  Our whole day's driving took us round only a tiny portion of the park.

These final photos are all from the stop we made at a conservation park within the National Park, a wolf enclosure near Srni (yup, just those letters all in a row on your tongue in pretty much one syllable).

At the foot of the mountain/hill (undecided, but it was pretty big!) there's an information centre tucked amongst the trees.

Then you make your way up the steep hillside, zigzagging through the trees on very well-maintained paths.

Along the way there are wooden boards with information about wolf habitats, or wolf paw prints, or wolf food preferences (please don't pick me!)...

... and there are benches so that you can pause to enjoy the view (and catch your breath if necessary).

Signposts keep telling you you're on your way to the wolf enclosure...

... but there were times I thought it the whole thing might be a hoax just to get you to take some exercise by walking up a mountain.

I didn't really mind though, as the trees were making my heart sing, and I had the whole place almost to myself all the way up.  (Cestina wasn't up for the ascent.)

Eventually though, the promised "skywalk" appeared between the trees.

A huge area of the mountainside is cordoned off for the wolves - they will hardly know that they're confined, I'm sure. 

Over the top of their habitat, right amongst the tree tops, there are wooden walkways...

... and shelters maybe six metres or more above the ground...

... (with more information boards about wolf behaviour and life cycles)...

... from which you can peer down onto the forest floor way beneath you in the hope of spotting the odd vulpine shadow weaving between the tree trunks or over the rocks.

I had no luck all the way along the skywalk, but where it opened out onto a platform at the far end, there were more people gathered (maybe ten or twelve), and some of them were staring fixedly at a point amidst the rocks.

As the mountain is steep, you are looking down the hill in one direction from the platform...

.... and in the other direction it rises away above you.  Pretty much at eye level there he was... a wolf, dozing in the afternoon sun.

He was tucked in amongst the branches and stony outcrops - so well camouflaged that you could hardly see him unless he moved... 

... and when I look at the photos I tried to take, even I can barely spot him, so I'm afraid you'll just have to go there and see for yourselves.

But it was utterly magical to see him, living as close to in-the-wild as possible, and basking in the sun, much as I love to do myself.

And even if you don't have the luck to see a wolf, I think it's worth a visit just for the forest walk and the skywalk amongst the tree tops...

... especially given that all it costs is the couple of pounds to park the car... (and this photo was taken in the carpark, pretty spectacular in itself!).

Well, I think I've probably kept you quite long enough.  I decided early on in the post-writing that I'd save my autumn watercolours for another day...

... but I did promise you a little trip into Small Worlds.  You may remember the Tudor Tavern from 2014... 

... and the addition of my first dollshouse dolls - characters from Shakespeare's Henry IV plays - a couple of years later.

In my imagination the tavern was definitely The Boar's Head Tavern (as written in the Shakespeare plays), but at the time it was going under the sign of The Lion.  After the dolls arrived, Cestina decided it was time to sort out the discrepancy... 

As you'll see if you visit my Pinterest Signs board, it used to be customary to hang more than a mere picture outside your pub or shop, so, with the help of a sawn-off plastic farm animal pig's head, repainted and with added tusks (craft flower stamens), Cestina has created and hung the Boar's Head sign.  I love him!

I hope you enjoyed this diversion around the Czech countryside.  I'll probably be on my way back towards the UK by the time you read it (via a brief stay with friends in Germany)...  I'm very reluctant to leave but needs must.  Hope you all have a great week, and I'll see you again soon.

Jak se do lesa volá, tak se z lesa ozývá.
The way you call into a forest, that's the way the forest echoes back.
Czech proverb
I guess our equivalent might be 'you reap what you sow'... more practical, but less poetic!

Saturday 13 October 2018

A Box of Eggs

Hello all!  I've been busy playing (or laying?!) with eggs over at PaperArtsy for this fortnight's colour challenge, A Box of Eggs.  The idea was to create projects using some of the gorgeous new paint colours designed by Courtney Franich (a.k.a. Cork, who is also Miss PaperArtsy) which include some beautiful pastels and neutrals, as well as darker tones to pair with them.  Obviously these colours could take you anywhere, but from the moment I saw the title A Box of Eggs, my mind became fixated on it...

I've found it's best not to argue with my mind once it gets an idea, so that's exactly what you'll find if you hop over to PaperArtsy - not just one, but two boxes of eggs.  Yes, okay, it's possible my brain's a little scrambled.  But go on, off you go, best get cracking or you'll miss the fun... !!

A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.
Bernard Meltzer

Thursday 11 October 2018

Encore - Nature Assemblage

Encore Posts
Projects which made their first appearances elsewhere for Design Team duties or Guest Designer opportunities, but which only had a sneak peek here, are being gathered together in the pages of my virtual scrapbook while I'm away.
As always, the Encore Posts are formatted differently from the regular ones, so that you can easily spot them.  Please don't feel that you have to comment all over again!

Hello all!  Thank you so much for your lovely comments on my jumbo Autumn Splendour tag.  It seems I'm not the only one for whom it's a favourite!  I've another creation with autumn leaves for you today, but this time they're real leaves.  This assemblage canvas was created back in May 2017 for the PaperArtsy "Assemblage" theme.  Those leaves, and the fact that it uses Lynne Perrella stamps - she's on my mind because of the recent release of her Egyptian stamps, which I was lucky enough to make some samples for - as well as the subject matter of a woman connecting with the landscape around her, all made it seem like good timing for this Encore.  Here's what I wrote back then...

Hello all, Alison from Words and Pictures here to share an Assemblage piece with you this evening.

The definitions I read spoke about Assemblage as essentially being three-dimensional collage - 3D objects projecting out from the substrate - and from the first moment of reading that, these Lynne Perrella houses popped into my head.

My imagination took flight from there - the woman from LP036 (probably my top favourite image from Lynne's latest exquisite releases) trapped inside the buildings, her domestic life, her position in society.

Her joy lies in escaping into the grounds of the large manor house she lives in and gathering botanical specimens, or natural keepsakes to remind her that there is life outside the walls of narrow society expectations.

And though her life is regimented, and she tries to follow the conventions in displaying her collections by lining them up and labelling them, nature always breaks out of the mould.

The twigs and branches refuse to be confined in straight lines...

... and so do the dried flowers, so carefully preserved.

The Frozen Charlottes are part of her own broken self - expected to behave in certain ways and follow certain codes...

... but feeling fractured and constricted by those expectations.

You can see how her obsession with the natural world has infected even her appearance!

And she feels ever more constricted by her world...

I'm indebted to Amanda at Treasured Moments of Inspiration for the background here.  I had my layout all in place, but I was struggling with what should go on the canvas itself - design paper?  Brayering?  Stencilled texture?  My usual crackle?  But thanks to a moment of inspiration from the blog visiting, I have these layered tags.

Over my tags, I applied a glazing technique picked up from one of Donna Downey's Inspiration Wednesday videos.  I used the PaperArtsy Matte Glaze mixed with successive layers of paint - applying and then wiping back with cloths both wet and dry, until I was happy with the look.  The paint layers were Nougat, Taupe and French Roast, knocked back at the end with Snowflake both as a glaze and, eventually, plenty of spattering.

I added harlequin stencilling with the Snowflake and text stamping using script stamps from Hot Picks 1006 and 1217...

... so that the background would echo the Tim Holtz paper used to make the houses.

I used a variety of mediums to add extra depth and shading - a Pumice Stone Distress Crayon, a Ground Espresso Distress Marker, and a Sepia Archival ink pad, and the final touch was some French Roast spatter to add extra depth.

The Matte Glaze mixed with French Roast was also perfect for distressing the Frozen Charlottes.

It's really easy to get the look you want, as the Glaze gives you so much extended time to play.

I almost forgot the roofs - another stamp from the LP036, featuring the little cottage where she dreams of living out a simple life...

... instead of in her father's great mansion with all the attendant privileges and duties.

So that was the journey my imagination took into the mind of this woman and her collection of natural found objects, as I was assembling this creation.

Thanks for coming along with me to share her story, and I hope you'll be inspired to gather some three-dimensional stories of your own.


So there's another Encore post safely gathered in to my online virtual scrapbook of my creative journey.  One day maybe I'll have them all safely here in one place, but I warn you there are more than 100 of them still to go!  And of course every time I create something for another blog and only have a sneak peek here at Words and Pictures, that number goes up rather than down... ah, well.

Thanks so much for stopping by today, and I hope the autumn weather is being as kind to you as it is to me here in the Czech Republic.  There's something new up next (which this canvas also gives the tiniest little hint towards - you'll see what I mean on Saturday!) and after that I hope to find time to share some of my autumn photos of the beautiful Czech countryside with you, as well as a couple of the watercolours inspired by that landscape.  I've definitely been connecting with the nature around me, just like this woman, though feeling considerably more free!  In the meantime, happy crafting all!

There is an eternal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives.
Josephine Hart

I would like to share this as part of Simply Neutrals Tuesday over at Apple Apricot