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May in our artisan plant and flower world is one of the busiest months of all . A chance to change the spring baskets and window boxes of our clients to the full lovely , tumbling blooms of summer. Our palette changes to rich reds , aubergine s , vibrant oranges and summery pinks. Painting with flowers is one of the most rewarding jobs I do although we must know our onions! The summer bedding is planted when no colour is showing , it is only when those first few weeks have passed under the greenhouse covers in May will our creation come into full bloom .
Looking back over a lifetime in this trade , the greenhouse work is immensely enjoyable but for me the early mornings when we make our deliveries are just the best.
Loading the vans the night before , we set off full of boxes and blooms in the very early light . We enter the city long before the day rushes in ,jostling with other delivery vans on the narrow,cobbled streets of York . The sun still very low but the misty promise of a beautiful day. Cheery window cleaners say hello and lovely breads and pastries unload to world famous cafes. It is a secret world. We unload our summer flowers, - geraniums tumbling from their boxes hanging from crooked tudor buildings in the most ancient of streets. I think of all the artisans who have worked in shadow of our beautiful Minster and played their part in our amazing city.
The work completed we head back to base and leave this world to others who will enjoy the coffee, fresh bread and laden shelves from all those early workers. Of course they may look out of the window and marvel at our beautiful work , feel inspired and lucky as we do to work in such a lovely place and wonder..did those flowers grow overnight?
Garden in a sieve!
You will need
An old colander
Paint and brush
A little moss
Paint your colander and leave to dry
Line with a little moss and arrange your leaves first and then your faux florals
Tie your string or plastic coated wire to make a hanger.
For a live version for outdoors
Fill with compost and plant
Strawberry plants or cascading summer bedding plants.
Water and hang in a sunny spot !
Julie's top tips for summer bedding.
When planting summer bedding flowers choose vibrant colours
-Like red trailing geraniums or orange begonias. These will give you colour from late may through to the autumn. Take care not to hang outside until the frosts of May have finished - usually by the last week of May.
Welcome to my celebration of the simple things in life and my simple living .
Create a Flowery teapot...
You will need:
An old teapot or jug
A few faux florals
Brighten any tiny corner with an up cycled teapot or jug. If you already like the pattern, simply arrange your florals in a relaxed style to create a nice little centrepiece for your dresser.
Try painting out your teapot with a base colour of your choice and add a simple motif.
Daisies, leaves or even a little script all fairly easy to do.
Julie's top tip:
Use chalky paints to get a nice vintage look and don't be frightened to experiment. Try Enamel paints from the model shop, paint straight on to China.
A lovely long month and a chance to get plenty done. Frozen waterways and the nights drawing out a little. Every little bit of spring to look forward to!
January is a month of resolve and a great time to set new goals. The challenge of my work is never greater than in January. - Short day-lit days to paint by and my efforts to keeping warm against the cold, painting outdoors. Fellow boaters often ask about my work, curious to my waterside creativity. I set out on such a very difficult challenge of building a brand for the British high street from such humble surroundings and aiming at near impossible goals.
Our visitors always think of narrowboating as fairweather living but for us we take everyday as a wonder and the extremes of weather even more so. On the waterways, I'm mindful that something special happens in the rain. The rain drops show the winter colour so beautifully and the mist heightens the woodland fragrance with every turn. Inside Calamity Jane, the rain patters on the roof and we enjoy our warmth and shelter from the wet. With the January snow we watch the canal turn into a winter wonderland and the wind rocks our boat on her moorings when we settle in for the night. For sure we know it isn't inclement weather we enjoy but our protection from it! My Dad opened my eyes to the wonder of the world around us and to make the most of every day no matter the weather. On Calamity Jane we most certainly do just that. My little design - the fledgling captures the cool colours of winter and reflects on my being a little fledgling myself in my early artisan days.
We would just like to wish a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our fabulous and valued customers....
I Love December...
Spice, berries and nutmeg by the side of my stove...twinkle lights and cedar pines. Icy cold nights broken by the blaze of my fire. The wonderful nostalgia in every decoration I unwrap. Knowing home is where the heart is...
Two dimensional Christmas decorations
You will need:
Snippings of evergreens from the garden
A lovely ribbon
Cut your branches and berries to roughly the length you would like for your decoration. Trim the lower third of the stem of leaves and thorns until it is bare.
Hold the centre stem cupped in your left hand 2/3 rd down whilst you add more stems with your right (or vice versa if you're left handed) binding with the brown string as you go.
The stems should cross in your hand with the bare stems making a fan towards you.
Keep adding stems and keep the string binding tight. Take care the string keeps in the same place and doesn't travel down the bare stems.
Now for an insiders florists tip..give all a good spray with leaf shine untill it looks really glossy.
Finish with a secure knot and hide the string with a lovely big bow. Hang on the wall or your front door.
Enjoy and wait for admiring visitors!
Julie's top tips:
Keep it simple by using dark green foliages available to you. Faux berries can be saved and used year after year. Do wear gloves when foraging for Holly and berries in the garden.
December and the Christmas holidays are a story of two halves from our waterside world on Calamity Jane. The busiest month of the year for the high street retailers, the manufacturers are busy busy busy getting the new products ready to launch in the early spring shows. It is a very exciting time in my work and I must stay focused and enjoy this final detail stage of our journey to the high street each year.
But for all the hustle, bustle, sparkle and magic that Christmas brings it is the most simplest of family traditions that we seem to hold so dear. Calamity Jane holds many restrictions for space! So a Christmas tree indoors is just a challenge too far! With a little faux red berries and fresh cut holly I decorate Calamity Jane in a more two dimensional style, tying the berries and branches with a rich velvet ribbon to hang as mini sheaves of Christmas in the nooks and crannies of the boat. My finishing touch - a home made fresh wreath for the bow of Calamity Jane seems a very personal thing to make and enjoy.
The dark nights are perfect for lots of candles on my hearth and mantlepiece. I love to make little candle coasters from upcycled old tiles, wooden off-cuts or even jaded teapot stands. They're easy to make and can be personalised for your lovely home. Try leaf motifs or simple lettering script which can look really homey.
You will need:
An old tile, teapot stand or wooden shape
Card or felt
Glue gun and glue
What you need to do:
Paint your coaster with the enamel paint (it may need a couple of coats) and leave to dry.
Cover the base with felt or a nice thick card if you are using a tile.
Paint a simple border of leaves, words, motif or flowers
Light your candle!
Julie's top tip:
If you're not too good with the paint brush, free hand a stencil or trace a design
and remember ...Keep it simple!