During my One Year of Stitches project, around late summer to autumn 2017, I found myself looking ahead to 2018 and thinking about a stitching project that would keep me engaged every day. Whilst stitching my Celtic Wheel of the Year piece, I’d often wished I’d constructed it in some sort of book form, rather than as a two dimensional artwork that would be framed. Being a long-term lover of Edith Holden’s The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady and Nature Notes, I started to wonder if I could create a modern-day textile version that would illustrate my Nature Notes for a whole year, and thought it might be a worthy challenge. I decided at this stage that I would hand bind it, so I cut out lots of pages from some plain calico fabric and made a start on January 1st 2018, documenting the whole year on my Instagram page.
I am, like lots of people, spellbound by Nature and turn to it constantly for inspiration for art, writing or relaxation. I am very blessed to be living in the Forest of Dean. It is an area that is rich in wildlife and has a diverse range of habitats, so I’m rarely short of being able to find something inspiring.
In winter, the woods here have a peaceful serenity about them and offer shelter from storms and deep snow to all sorts of flora and fauna. The frosted boughs and branches of the trees seem to reach up and draw like dark ink upon the sky, while last autumn’s seed heads stand proudly, displaying their crystal ice coats. Everything waits patiently for the coming of spring, which lets life loose again with bright yellow celandine stars shining alongside the cheery faces of the primrose and speedwell. Migrant birds return gradually and bluebells bloom en masse, delicately daubing their own impressionist artworks throughout the Dean. In the background, ferns are busy unfurling. In summer, the woods are filled with life – butterflies, bees, dragonflies, birds, wild flowers, ferns and, later, the first glimpse of sloes, hazelnuts, tiny acorns, elder, hawthorn and blackberries. The air is warm and smells green and fresh. Autumn brings a spectacular turn in the colour of the mantle of the broadleaf trees and an explosion of fungi and fruit. The scent now is primarily of the forest floor – that rich, musky, earthy smell… Before we know it, we are back into winter and able to catch sight of deer through the bowing bracken, while inky, bare trees allow brief glimpses into the lives of squirrels and resident or winter-visiting birds. There is so much life here, and this description covers just a tiny portion of the woodland. The Forest of Dean area has many habitats and a rich history, ripe with inspiration for a lifetime of work.
My Nature Notes project, as I said at the start of this post, documents the flora and fauna spotted during 2018, both at home here in the Forest and in London, the Lake District and Scotland. Basically, wherever I went and encountered nature, I recorded it in mixed media or textile on the calico pages. The year tracks from January through to the end of December and will have my accompanying nature notes attached on every opposite page. These need to be applied and stitched around to secure the page edges. There is a lot of ‘finishing’ work to do, such as constructing the endpapers and textile covers, and I plan to make a clamshell box to keep the journal in. This is totally new territory for me, so I envisage it will be a bit of a journey. Nature Notes was, in itself, a huge journey of discovery about many things, and I plan to document the rest of that here and share it with you. I hope you enjoy it.