Friday, 26 August 2011

Mother and child

57. Stained elm carving by Christine Kowal Post
 mother and child, 94cm high

This carving dates from the 1980's, the time when we first met Christine. She had spent her childhood in Africa, where her father was working as a university lecturer. Christine returned to Britain to study at art school. I remember being amused by her description of herself as having been a painter of robins in the snow! But when she discovered carving, all the dynamism of her early African experience found true artistic expression.
The story of this mother and child is poignant. It is about a decision; the child is being denied.

58. Snake woman by Christine Kowal Post, 53 x 50cm.

Snakes were a reality of life for Christine in Africa. This one makes a delightfully decorative pattern, and although it has got the woman by the throat I am sure she will survive!

59. African carving, mother and child, 43cm high.

Joliba Trust.

We've bought a carving from the Dogon Tribe,
a mother with a child
not by her side but clinging to her back.
She is dressed well
and wears one cowrie shell
upon a necklace made of string.
She stands erect, long bodied,
full, firm breasts
squat haunches and big feet on which she rests,
leans slightly backwards and her navel forms a point.
Above the slender neck a solemn face
her simple clothing worn with timeless grace,
string earrings
and a loincloth made of sack,
a patina of dust softens the black.
All aspects of a gentle motherhood
carved out in wood
revered and understood.

Monday, 22 August 2011


56. Knitted vest.

When my first child was born, my friend, Glennis, taught herself to knit and created a very funky pair of bootees. Flushed with this success, she moved on to children's jumpers of ever increasing complexity. After a while I put in a request of my own, for the patterned vest above. I was delighted with the result and quite fancied a night-time version in dark purples and blues. It never materialised. She'd had quite enough of knitting by then, thank you very much and my green vest is the last knitted garment that she made.

She moved on to altogether bigger things, as co-founder of  'Creative Recycling.'

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Greek boy.

54. Greek boy, plaster cast, 127 cm high.

We have lugged this unwieldy plaster cast with us on each successive house move. He stands now in his most cramped position to date in our small study, his hands outstretched to the book shelves, his fingers forever unable to hold a book. He was formerly missing a few fingers, not to mention other essential parts of his anatomy. The metal armature stuck out from the palms of his hands until Peter began repairs with fine scrim and fresh plaster. It resulted in my poor Greek boy looking as though he had just returned from Accident and Emergency.
In our previous home he was placed on his plinth in the conservatory where a climbing hoya made good use of his outstretched arms. 

One evening a visiting American lecturer came to supper. He studied the cast and Peter said, "We all think of the Greek ideal of beauty and the subtlety of their carving, but look at this - they were no good at fingers." The lecturer looked more closely and agreed. (He laughed about it later!)

We have a selection of casts, all acquired from schools and colleges at a time when they were being thrown away, unwanted. 

55. Marble fragments, 5 and 4 cms high.

These small heads were rescued from a builder who knocked them from a damaged urn because he 'liked' them! We have the vandalised pieces, four in total; two sections of the urn and these heads. We noted the way that small fragments were displayed at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and Peter got to work with blocks of wood, metal rod and glue to present ours in similar fashion.

Thursday, 11 August 2011


52. 'Blue Onion' porcelain platter by Meissen. 42 cm.

This old platter was kept on a plate rack in my parents' kitchen and was lifted down when used for family gatherings. It was designed by Johann Joachim Kaedler in 1739 and is one of the most popular and copied patterns in the Meissen pattern library. It is thought to have been copied from a Chinese bowl made in the K'ang Hsi Period (1662 -1722). The original design was of peaches and pomegranates. When it was given to the Meissen painters in 1728 these fruits were not known to them and so the motif was changed to onions. Over the years the pattern was simplified to make it easier to paint.
The platter now sits on top of my kitchen dresser.

53. Parian plate, 32 cm diameter.

We found this plate in a junk shop when we were first married. The message, 'waste not want not' was entirely appropriate for our financial state at the time! It has the look of a Victorian collection plate, but as you can see, we use it to store the results of years of happy beach combing.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011


49. Baking booklet from the 1940's

This was my first cookery book, much used, and just about hanging together by means of some masking tape. It is not a pretty sight, but the recipes are excellent and still used. A friend recently bought me the full-colour update, in which the ingredients are no longer limited by rationing!

50. Icing set

Having children meant mastering the art of cake decoration, and this 'Nutbrown' set saw a lot of action on birthdays and special occasions. 

51. Plaster cakes, 4cm diameter

Work took me to London on a regular basis. I always tried to find a small present to bring home for my daughters when they were young. Luckily the Harrods store sold a good selection of doll's house food. This tiny plate of 'fancies' is all that has survived.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Citroen cars

47. Citroen 2cv toy S30
Raid Afric 1973, made in Italy by Polistil.

We were on holiday in Venice thirty-four years ago when our six year old daughter fell in love with this 2cv in a toy shop window. She did the nose pressed to the glass routine whenever we passed the shop en route to a restaurant for our evening meal. On the final morning we succumbed and bought the longed-for object.

My brother had driven back to England from work in Algeria in a pale duck egg blue Deux Chevaux. When an Alsatian dog ran out into the road and hit his car, the dog escaped unharmed but the car was badly dented. When Dyane's were imported into England we bought one, our first new car. We knew from my brother's experience that the car would be tinny, but also that it would be great fun to own. It did not disappoint. We made a few alterations; the round ball on the gear stick, which had a tendency to fly off, was successfully replaced by a length of ribbed hosepipe.
It was a car designed for good weather. The roof could be pulled partially back with the flick of a wrist and completely rolled back with a little more effort. On warm weekends we flung our camping gear into the boot and headed to the coast. During the summer holidays we traveled through Europe. Our tent was very small, but we always sat out in style because all the seats in the Dyane were easy to remove.
In winter months there was a muff which could be attached to the front grill, giving the pious hope that some engine heat would warm the body of the car. We were inevitably chilled to the bone for the first fifteen minutes and had often arrived at our destination before the car had warmed up at all.
After a few years Peter defected and bought an estate car but I drove the Dyane for a total of seventeen years. I was spotted wherever I went. "Saw you at .. ' friends would say and other Citroen owners would hoot their horns or wave. I knew that it was time to move on when I was overtaken while driving up a hill by a piano, (on a trailer.) By the time I sold it the car had had two engines and a re-spray. The new owners were enthusiastic and looking forward to driving it at vintage car rallies!

48. African tin 2cv

Our elder daughter, the rightful owner of object no. 47, had learnt to drive on the Dyane. Many years later, after a visit to Africa, she brought me the present of this 2cv, made entirely from a used French insect spray can.
I am not remotely a 'car' person, but, you may have gathered, I really loved our Dyane! 

Monday, 1 August 2011

White blackbird

45. 'White Blackbird.'
Limewood, 32 x21 inches.

This carving of Peter's is one of my favourites. It hangs on the staircase wall and I walk past and enjoy it several times each day. The idea came from our Japanese print of the blackbird flying through undergrowth. The colour balance has been reversed in the carving, which depicts the brambles and trees our own surroundings.

46. ' The Conversion.'
Meadow oak panel, 67 x 24 inches.

In the early 1970's we converted a granary and stable block into our holiday home and this carving records the work in progress. Two millstones had been set into the upper wall of the building, and one is still in place in the carving above. Try as I might I could not find a way of keeping them set into the wall whilst also putting in windows. The windows won out and the millstones are now in the front garden. Everyone who worked on the project is depicted, apart from me! The carving shows Tess, my Dobermann, the local farmer on his tractor and our daughter, feeding the ducks. Animals being herded along the road are a common sight in the village, although in this hill country of the Yorkshire Dales it is far more usually sheep.