The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Visiting Celia Hart’s Studio (Cambridge Open Studios 2007)

cochin hen (copywrite Celia Hart 2007)My sister Seraphina visits a few open studios each year. She always encourages me to do the same. July is a busy month on every front, so until yesterday I hadn’t experienced this pleasure. When I saw that fellow blogger, Celia Hart (Magic Cochin but simply Celia when she visits our blog) had opened her studio I decided to take the afternoon off.

It wasn’t just the draw of meeting a fellow blogger. I’d really liked the work that I had seen on her blog and in her virtual gallery. Gorgeous, magical themes. A confident, fluid line that just makes me tingle.

Celia is a talented artist who is a freelance illustrator, printmaker and book designer. She also cares for a coterie of 4 hens and 2 cats who lazed and pottered in her sunny garden in the mode of all creatures (human and otherwise) who are indulged and fed by others. Just like me on a good weekend, when D has unearthed the trays.

I had borrowed his car to make the trip, so I didn’t have the cosy companionship of Jalopy. As I reached the outskirts of Celia’s village I suddenly felt overwhelmed with shyness.
“Just drive home. Ring her tomorrow and say that your cucumbers were wilting and you couldn’t leave them,” suggested Fearful Voice.
“Don’t be a prat,” barked Princess Confident.
So I parked outside her house and walked in.

Celia was as enchanting as her prints. I loved my visit.

The air was full of a strange combination of chicken and art conversation.
“My black cockerel is called Snowflake.”
“Your Japanese series of prints are exceptional, Celia.”
“Our red spider mites are blackish brownish and we spray them with foam.”
“Did you now that Celia shares her name with the famous Communist from Cuba?”
“Do the chickens have dust baths? Our Chickens dig large holes in the lawn and sit there, with just their heads peeping out.”
“The print of the leaping hare is exceptional. You’ve just caught that moment.”

Husband Cliff was dragged from his chair to meet us and charmed me with the offer of a cup of tea and a detailed tour of the garden.

Celia briefly held her chickens in her arms, smiled, chatted and indulged all visitors. She joined us as we rushed to inspect her prints, her studio, the bookshelf stuffed with tomes that she had illustrated and her wonderful, billowy, magical garden. Largely herbaceous, the walled garden had a small bluish green Gothic door that screamed,
“Open me.”

I clicked open the latched and we discovered a sleepy kitchen garden and greenhouse, both bursting with life (not a sniff of blight). We found a small brook on the boundary. This 6 inch trickle can rise to 4 feet on a rainy day. Statuesque artichokes towered behind pots of tomato plants. Courgettes with vast green, healthy leaves scrambled over a border filled with last year’s compost.

Unfortunately Sunday was the last day that Celia’s studio was open to the public this year. However, she sells unframed prints from her gallery by mail order. I couldn’t resist opening the coffers and investing in some spoils. The wonderful digital print of a chicken delicately reaching for blackberries and a couple of beautiful lino print cards. The cards will not be going anywhere. They are destined to be framed and hung on the wall beside my chair. The print will have pride of place beside them.

Feeling great, I wafted home to find D suffering from a severe bout of cabin fever. We tend to work in the evenings and weekends and this routine is rarely broken.

He leant back against the sink and stared through the open back door into the garden. The Min Pins were lazing in the sunshine.
“Let’s go out next weekend, together. Even if it’s only for a couple of hours. You just seem so alive.”

Thanks Celia, just the right tonic.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Joanna,

    I was so lucky to be able to visit. And you are absolutely right about the shyness.

    We are definitely going to take a break and go somewhere this weekend.

    Hi Celia,

    I didn’t notice the ground elder and the nettles!

    Hi Kate,

    The studio and garden were lovely. And it was fun meeting Celia.

    Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

  2. I so envy you the chance to see Celia’s studio and garden. Her writing and pictures are so enchanting, that I would have loved being there. I arrived here via Celia’s blog where I am often eyeing the beautifully-coloured veggies … to find another interesting blog that I will have to keep on visiting. Thank you!

  3. It was good to see you Fiona – and to chat about Mrs Boss and the keets, tomato blight and the itchy subject of red mite. Thanks for calling in – my garden always looks good when the sun shines! I only put edited highlights on the blog – so don’t tell anyone about the ground elder and the nettles!


  4. Joanna

    I am SO jealous – but it’s too far to go on a whim.

    I bet you’re glad you didn’t chicken out – when you meet other bloggers there’s no need for shyness after the first hello, because you already know each other. As a shy person myself, it’s a revelation.

    And it’s true, there’s nothing like getting away from the usual routine to revive the spirits – even a simple treat will do it (best of all visiting a garden, particularly at this time of year).

    Enjoy your outing this weekend

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