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Home, Home on the Range !

August 19, 2019

If you’ve ever had that feeling that you would like to live somewhere a little more isolated, or perhaps wish to escape the consumer culture and plan a life on your own.

Here’s a few interesting options to consider.

The Katshi pillar is a natural monolith located near the village of Katskhi in western Georgia. The pillar its approximately 40 metres high and overlooks a small river. The rock has a small medieval hermitage on its top which has been dated between the 9th and 12th century and was used by Stylites, Christians who lived on top of pillars to avoid worldly temptation until the 15th century when the practice wsa stopped following the Ottoman Invasion of Georgia. While the pillar had remained unclimbed until 1944 religious activities started again in the nineties and now a monk lives there full time and takes 20 minutes of vertical stairs just to get down from the pillar.

The 59-year-old monk Maxime Qavtaradze is the only inhabitant of the pillar. His only visitors are priests and a group of troubled young men who are seeking solace in the monastry at the foot of the pillar. A photographer called Amos Chapple paid a visit to the Stylite monk Maxime but was not at first allowed up onto the pillar. Instead he had to spend four days taking part in seven hours of daily prayers including a four hour stint from 2am until sunrise. When he finally was granted permission to scale the ‘dicey’ ladder to the top, he was worried that it might be too dark to get back down. After making it to the top, Maxime told Amos that he became a monk after a stretch in prison and decided he wanted to make a change. The monk slept in a fridge when he first moved to the top of the pillar, but now has a bed inside a cottage.

Ellidaey is an island in the Vestmann Islands, south of Iceland, on this Island there is one lonely house. The story of this secluded house is fascinating.

“Three hundred years ago, Elliðaey was inhabited by five families. They lived there in huts and survived by fishing and raising cattle on the island’s grassy pasture — and by hunting puffins. Over the next two centuries, sustaining a community on Ellidaey became increasingly impractical and unappealing (to say nothing of inbred). People started to leave; sometime in the 1930s, the last permanent residents of Elliðaey moved away.

The island’s former residents found that Iceland had many places more economical than Ellidaey from which to fish and raise cattle. But, as it turned out, there weren’t too many better places for hunting puffins. So, in the early 1953, the Ellidaey Hunting Association built a lodge on the island for its members to use during their commando puffin missions.

Hidden between the mountains in northern Portugal near the city of Fafe and a large wind field is the “Casa do Penedo”. (Top Image) The house was built starting from four giant rocks that were already on site and it was inspired by the American cartoon “the Flinstones”.

The house was built in 1974 by a local family and was supposed to be their vacation house. However, over the past years the house started to attract attention from tourists, architecture enthusiasts and others fascinated by its complete integration with the surrounding nature.

The Irony of this story is that as the interest for the house grow the owner Vitor Rodriguez, had to move elsewhere to find the peace he was looking for.

Because of its popularity the house has been increasingly targeted by thieves and robber who believe it must contain something valuable. So, the house now has bullet proof windows and a full metal door. Nonetheless, the interior remains comfortable and rural with stone and wood furniture.

The Crystal Mill (Old Mill) or historically known as the Sheep Mountain Mill, is one of the most beautiful, picturesque and reputed to be the most photographed area in Colorado state. It’s located above the Crystal River in Crystal, Colorado, between the towns of Glenwood Springs and Aspen on Highway 82, seven miles southeast of Marble.

The Crystal Mill is reachable only in the summer and fall months; it is accessed by a road that requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle, a sturdy pair of boots, a mountain bike or a horse. Operation shut down in 1917, but the site has been preserved with the help of the Gunnison and Aspen historical societies. The Crystal Mill is a wooden powerhouse built in 1892, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Astonishing is that Crystal never had nor does it have now, electricity.

Taktsang Palphug Monastery is more well known as Paro Taktsang and is a Buddhist temple complex which clings to a cliff, 3120 metres above the sea level on the side of the upper Paro valley, Bhutan. Mountainous Paro valley is the heart of Bhutan; here the only international airport of the country is located.The Taktsang Palphug Monastery is one of the most famous touristic destinations of the country and the cultural icon of Bhutan. Visiting the Paro Taktsang Monastery is an unforgettable experience thanks to its unique location and the views of surrounding majestic mountains and emerald green valleys.

The remote location of the monastery makes it amazingly beautiful and unique, but also creates technical difficulties. When on April 19, 1998 a fire started in the Monastery it was burned down completely: the temple was hard to access and the emergency assistance was impossible.

No wonder, that when you are looking at the Taktsang Palphug monastery from Paro valley or from the bottom of the cliff, it seems almost impossible to reach the Monastery. In fact, there are three paths leading to the holy place. The first path is a trail passing through the pine forest and decorated with bright, prayer bannerettes symbolizing protection from evil forces, positive energy, vitality and good luck. he other two paths are passing through the plateau, called “a hundred thousand fairies’ plateau.”

The refined architectural appearance of the Monastery is shaped in the best traditions of Buddhist. The complex has white buildings with golden roofs. Paro Taktsang Monastery consists of the 4 main temples and several dwellings. All buildings are interconnected by staircases with steps carved into the rock. Almost every single buildings of the monastery complex has a balcony with a breathtaking view of the surrounding area. The main shrine of the monastery -the prayer wheel is located in the courtyard of the temple. Every morning at 4 a.m. it is being rotated by monks to mark the beginning of a new day.

The interior design of the temple impresses with its luxurious beauty: gold-plated dome and flickering lights that are illuminating golden idols. In the hall of Thousand Buddhas, which is carved into the rock, a large statue of a tiger is located. The tiger is respected as the symbol of Paro Taktsang because of the legend, according to which the location of the Monastery was chosen by a tigress. The tigress brought here on her back the founder of Bhutan’s Buddhism guru Padmasmabhava.

There are eight caves in the monastery; four of them are comparatively easy to access. The cave where Padmasmabhava is believed to have entered first, on the back of the tiger, is known as “Tholu Phuk” cave and the one where he meditates is known as the “Pel Phuk”. Monks of the monastery are supposed to live and meditate in these caves for 3 years. They rarely visit the adjacent Paro valley.

Located at the Canadian-US border on the St. Lawrence River east of Ontario, Just Room Enough Island was named by the Sizeland family who purchased it as a vacation lodge in the 1950s. What the Sizelands didn’t expect was that Just Room Enough Island would quickly become a popular tourist attraction because of its oddity.

Just Room Enough Island is part of the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River. It is the smallest of the 1,864 islands in the famous archipelago shared by the cities of Ontario and New York. The Island counts as a legitimate part of the Thousand Islands because it satisfies these state-given criteria: 1) Above water level year round; 2) Have an area greater than 1 square foot (0.093 m2); and 3) Support at least one living tree.

And if that doesn’t float your boat (groan) or your home, then be careful what you wish for  : )

Interior-wise If I had a choice, I’d choose to live in the buildings below. Stocked with sixties retro furniture… naturally!

So if you live in one of these type of homes, please feel free to ask me over to stay for a few days lol

Even for a short break, I’d find this environment inspirational and creative for drawing.

Alternatively you can borrow from Sculptor Offentlig Konst and take your home with you… on legs!

Finally here’s a couple of other tucked away home environments.

Which one is your favourite ?

Bill Sokol Mid Century Childrens Book Illustrator

August 12, 2019

Bill Sokol is rather elusive online, apart from his sad obituary from the NY Times in 2004 and his fabulous book illustrations, there is little info to discover.

I did track down this little gem which tells us a little more.

He must have illustrated about 40 books from the mid sixties onward. Many for children, joke books, stories, fables and even…

… one or two with his wife Camille.

Interesting to see his wide variety of styles.

Books on how to sew.

Some for the space cadets.

Or those who like animals.

Or nature.

Books for teenagers.

About history and legends.

Books for adults too.

Here’s a small selection of the covers he has created.

Alvin was obviously a popular choice.

Life in the woods for Proffit the Fox.

Naturally I love these sixties posters, don’t they just make your mind feel relaxed straight away.

If anyone knows any more info about this wonderful illustrator, do send me a message. Thank you and Happy Monday to everyone.

Lena Krempich Beetle Art

August 5, 2019

If you suffer from Entomophobia (i.e. a specific phobia characterized by an excessive or unrealistic fear of one or more classes of insect) then today’s post may not be for you. Because today I’m looking at the beautiful work of Russian Embroidery Artist Lena Krempich and it’s all about bugs!

With a little help from Googles skill at translating Russian to English, I sent some questions to Lena and she sent some replies and here we are with a short interview. Isn’t technology great when it works lol

Hi Lena, thanks for agreeing to take part on Fishinkblog today.

Where did you first study your art ?

Hi Craig, It’s a pleasure for me to show my work to your readers, however I didn’t study anywhere, I taught myself everything. I’ve had a needle in my hands since I was 5 years old. Thank you to my mum for not being afraid to give a small child a needle !

How long have you been making insects and what got you interested in them to begin with ?

I made the first beetle about six years ago, it is still kept by me. Of course, it is very different from those bugs I am making now. Insects have attracted me since childhood. I read a lot about them. I could sit in the grass for hours and watch them. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to bring them home.

I also loved sewing and embroidering. So my two hobbies grew into one – textile sculptures of insects with embroidery. A perfect fit.

Roughly how long does it take you to make one Beetle ?

The creation of one beetle takes an average of about three full days.

Have you ever had someone be frightened when you wear them on your clothes ?

Personally I am not afraid even of living beetles, so of course I’m not afraid to wear them myself. But there were cases when passersby noticed a beetle on me and shuddered. Then, realizing that it was not real or alive, they sighed with relief.

I assume you know the work of Mr Finch ?

Oh, of course I am familiar with the work of Mr. Finch, they are amazing! I follow his creations.

Which artists inspire you today ?

I like and follow the work of these people on Instagram
Polalab Beskonechnayaistoriya Peresvetti Cedricmarcillac Disfairy.ilaria Kuroda_yoshie Mosmeatextileart Lemonpepperstudio

How wonderful to see the many stages that go into the creation of one of your fabric beetles. Your photography really helps to show them off clearly.

Many thanks Lena for showing the Fishinkblog readers your intricate and stunning work.

If you’re feeling the insect love and would like a tame one for yourself, head over to Lena’s Etsy shop here.

Watercolour Workshop with Susan Kane

July 29, 2019

On Saturday I bit the bullet and took a Watercolour Workshop with the lovely Susan Kane. I have never been a confident painter when it comes to Watercolours, Goache or Oils as I’ve never really been taught how to use any of these mediums. Sounds strange for an artist to say that, but I’ve always had more confidennce with pens, pencils, then later printing inks and techniques and later still digital and ceramic / 3D imagery.

I have admired Susan’s work for quite a while, initially when seeing her chalky pots and teapots.

Through to her stunning watercolours. Just look at the movement and dancing colours below … wow !

There’s a 2014 interview with Susan on the ‘Made in Bristol’ blogsite here.

I love the swirling stems, the almost Japanese sense of placement and the calm, serene feelings they create when looking at them.

Susan is resident here at the Manchester Craft and Design Centre and also works from a downstairs room delivering the Watercolour Workshops.

fir + wren at Holm

This was my view for the 3 hours, plants, people and paper.

Initially we tried painting outlines with just black paint, each sketch was timed for 1 minute. then we tried it with our non-dominant hand (which in my case was my left hand) and that felt so strange. Then finally another minute observing the flower or stem you had selected to paint and a minute creating it with your eyes closed.

Great techniques for loosening the mind and freeing up the senses, to hopefully allow for smoother, longer strokes and a calmer sense of movement.

We later had a few minutes to add colour to the sketches that had dried, and tried using masking fluid and a wash which we dried with a hairdrier and then painted back into the white area left when the fluid was removed.

This is one of my favourites of Susan’s work, beautiful colours and windswept forms.

Throughout the afternoon Susan gave us quick demos before we had our turn.

A great introduction to Watercolour and one that I hope will encourage me to pracise my techniques further. I wouldn’t say that my paintings were much to get excited about just yet but it’s about making that start and then learning from your defeats and triumphs : )

Prints of Susan’s work are currently in Ikea. She has worked professionally as a designer for 30 years, predominantly in floral, printed textiles, including 3 years working for Mary Quant.

With work sold privately to global collectors, commercially to Marks & Spencer, Monsoon and through agents to an international textile market.

If you wish to sign up for one of Susan’s classes this year, you can do so

Contact Artist

. (Or at The next one is August 17th, details and booking info here.

Thanks again Susan for the inspiring afternoon.

Sale Arts Trail 2019 and AWOL Studios Open Evening

July 22, 2019

I should have posted this last week but the anniversary of the Moon Landing took priority. I had a great weekend (13th/14th) taking part in the Sale Arts Trail at Minikin Art Cafe. Many thanks to the lovely Claire and Alfie for keeping us company over the weekend.

Here’s some of the work from the other artists I shared the weekend with. Porcelain ceramics from Nicola Briggs.

Jewellery made from crocheted and French knitted silver wire by

Suzanne Claire

Finely embroidered cushions from Avrile Corbett.

Sophisticated Millinery by Emma Fozard.

Ceramic Jewellery from

Tracey Birchwood Jewellery

Thank you to everyone for your creative chats, to the organisers Jo and Sophie and to everyone who came on the trail for a look or who purchased items from us.

Saturday was also the Open Studios evening for, exciting for me as this 5 storey mill has been home to artists for the past 14 years and I didn’t know about it ! The artists had opened their studios from 6 til 10pm but as we didn’t arrive until 8pm (after my evening meal !) it was a rush to try and see as much as possible. It feels quite a refreshingly, creative space.

I didn’t meet Wayne Hart but thought his stone carvings were great. (

Nor did I get to speak to but her daughter told me what a change moving to AWOL has made to her mum’s work over the last six months.

The two pieces above are older work and below is a new more fluid, looser style, that is developing. Wonderful colours.

One of the first artists I spoke to was Loren Fetterman a really interesting guy who is a painter, illustrator, and custom tattoo artist. Loren also has a degree in computer games, an M.A. in Religious Studies and a lifelong love of martial arts, eastern philosophy, and western esotericism. Quite a creative mix.

He is such a talentented illustrator and manages to entwine, folk lore, ancient symbols and mystical entities into his wildly creative designs.

If ever I wanted a tattoo, he’s the man !

Also an interesting guy to chat to with a calm and peaceful soul too. Thanks Loren, I enjoyed our musings on illustration and life.

I had another conversation with portrait painter and art teacher Christopher Clements, who directs ‘Northern Realist’ which teaches short courses in drawing and painting rooted in the classical atelier tradition. You can find out more by clicking on the Home button below.


Christopher manages to inject such life and character into his canvasses that they almost come to life through his paintings. Great work.

Illustrator Kirsty Haikney works with Barry Yearsley, together they form a working partnership called Double Thumbs Up.

” We met working in museums, designing and curating exhibitions. We bonded over our love of doodling, drawing and making. We began making and designing gifts together in our lunch hours and spare time, selling our products on Not on the High Street and Etsy. We still sell via those sites and have now expanded our business to include wholesale into gift boutiques and shops. In 2016 we left our museum jobs to work on Double Thumbs Up full time. Now, as well as designing and selling, we work together on other creative projects, keeping a hand in exhibition design, curatorial work and product design. ”

Here’s a sneaky preview of some of their latest designs.

The last artist I managed to speak to was Ian Morris. He has both a B.A. and M.A. in Illustration and has been recognised by the Association of Illustrators, acknowledging him in their Top 10 Upcoming Image Makers, featured in Varoom.

His creativity shines through his work, and with a touch of Quentin Blake thrown in the mix, he has a multitude of great styles.

He is even appearing over a four page spread in next months BBC History magazine. This young chap is going places… fast.

Finally a couple of shots showing my work and stand from the weekend. I did manage to sell a few of my ceramics, framed original illustrations and greeting cards.

Perhaps not as busy as previous years but with the Wimbledon Final, Grand Prix and England v New Zealand Cricket match all on the same day, there was more than a little sporting competition lol

I got lots of compliments on my display and the new greeting card designs also proved to be popular.

If anyone who couldn’t make the weekend is interested in making a purchase, you can contact me with an idea of what you are looking for and I can send you photos of what is still available.  Many thanks.

Thanks to everyone at SAT and AWOL for chatting and allowing me to photograph their work. Such an inspirational day all round.

The Moon Landing … Fifty Years On ! Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong make history.

July 19, 2019

Tomorrow, it is 50 years since the first Moon landing and I thought coming from a house that seems to have more books on Space than most, I’d mark the passing of this monumental occasion. Here’s just a few of the adult ones.

And then there’s the children’s ones too !

On July 20, 1969, American astronauts Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin (1930-) became the first humans ever to land on the moon.

About six-and-a-half hours later, Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. As he set took his first step, Armstrong famously said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The Apollo 11 mission occurred eight years after President John F. Kennedy (1917-63) announced a national goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. Apollo 17, the final manned moon mission, took place in 1972.

Timeline of the 1969 Moon Landing

At 9:32 a.m. EDT on July 16, with the world watching, Apollo 11 took off from Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins aboard. Armstrong, a 38-year-old civilian research pilot, was the commander of the mission.

After traveling 240,000 miles in 76 hours, Apollo 11 entered into a lunar orbit on July 19. The next day, at 1:46 p.m., the lunar module Eagle, manned by Armstrong and Aldrin, separated from the command module, where Collins remained. Two hours later, the Eagle began its descent to the lunar surface, and at 4:17 p.m. the craft touched down on the southwestern edge of the Sea of Tranquility. Armstrong immediately radioed to Mission Control in Houston, Texas, a now-famous message: “The Eagle has landed.”

At 10:56 p.m., as Armstrong stepped off the ladder and planted his foot on the moon’s powdery surface, he spoke his famous quote, which he later contended was slightly garbled by his microphone and meant to be “that’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Aldrin joined him on the moon’s surface 19 minutes later, and together they took photographs of the terrain, planted a U.S. flag, ran a few simple scientific tests and spoke with President Richard Nixon (1913-94) via Houston.

By 1:11 a.m. on July 21, both astronauts were back in the lunar module and the hatch was closed. The two men slept that night on the surface of the moon, and at 1:54 p.m. the Eagle began its ascent back to the command module. Among the items left on the surface of the moon was a plaque that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon—July 1969 A.D.—We came in peace for all mankind.”

Armstrong and Aldrin blast off and dock with Collins in Columbia. Collins later says that “for the first time,” he “really felt that we were going to carry this thing off.”

The crew splashes down off Hawaii on July 24. Kennedy’s challenge has been met. Men from Earth have walked on the moon and returned safely home.

A lot of my favourite Illustrators have shown their own view of Space.

Space Alphabet

5 More Moon Landings and One Aborted Mission

There would be five more successful lunar landing missions, and one unplanned lunar swing-by, Apollo 13 (whose lunar landing was aborted due to technical difficulties). The last men to walk on the moon, astronauts Eugene Cernan (1934-) and Harrison Schmitt (1935-) of the Apollo 17 mission, left the lunar surface on December 14, 1972.

The Apollo program was a costly and labor intensive endeavor, involving an estimated 400,000 engineers, technicians and scientists, and costing $24 billion (close to $100 billion in today’s dollars). The expense was justified by Kennedy’s 1961 mandate to beat the Soviets to the moon, and after the feat was accomplished ongoing missions lost their viability.

Obviously all this talk about the Moon and Space inspired many many books to be written on and around the subject, especially for children.

Sadly Neil Armstrong passed away in 2012, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin both turn 89 this year !

Well done gents for making such an incredible historic journey. I wonder if you would ever feel quite the same after stepping out onto the Moon and coming back to Earth ! What do you think readers ?

Jane Walker Printmaker

July 15, 2019

Artist and pintmaker Jane Walker studied Illustration and Printmaking at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee. She creates beautiful still life paintings and Linocuts often in small runs of about 12 per print. Her love of 1950’s textiles and ceramics shines out through her work.

She creates cards for The Blank Card Company and prints for The Castle Gallery in Inverness, amongst other places.

Here are a few watercolours.

Her work has a calm serenity and even the fruit sometimes appears as a picasso-esque form, flattened to exist within its angular surroundings.

Jane works using a reduction technique, where more detail is initially carved away from the lino block prior to each subsequent colour being printed. Leaving the lino block with the last, usually darkest colour, taking up a tiny area of the block. In this way the design can only be used once and the number of prints are limited by how many are created during the process.

There’s a strong graphical element to Jane’s work, and in her newer prints, the still life has become flatter and more two dimensional.

I really like her inclusion of textiles, pattern and form. Some vases appear over and over in the still life painting which makes me think Jane draws what she sees before her.

We can see from jane’s images that she has a great collection of vases and pots.

Like the Ken Eardley floral vases above, which also appear in the framed print with pears.

The more I look at Jane’s work the more detail I notice. Shadows overlapping areas and changing it’s hue, or a bright pop of a colour which ‘sings out’ like the cherries above.

Stunning work. Do drop by her online gallery and treat yourself to a print. Which still life is your favourite and why ?