Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The legend of The Black Shuck

In therapy I have found my art (sounds rather cheesy I know). My new hobby has taken over my life. Not completely, family will ALWAYS come before it. However I have found myself addicted to paper-cutting. I feel a brilliant sense of satisfaction when I see the final results of something I have imagined, designed by hand and then painstakingly cut over the space of a few hours (and sometimes days). The feeling is as unique as the art itself. I've begun challenging myself and experimenting with the craft. Many use box frames so shadows are cast in the right light and others apply techniques that create a marvellous three dimensional effect - despite being mounted flat against the board. I want to take the two and combine it with the idea of pop up paper books - something we experimented with in our primary school days. I am so inspired by folklore - particularly if it is local to my area and would really like to put together a pop up book that incorporates the story into a visual feast. To start with, I came across these Bell Jars which were used at a wedding. They are very small but just the perfect size to encapsulate little scenes. This one represents The Black Shuck, a ghostly hound that haunts the coastlines and countryside of East Anglia.

"For centuries, inhabitants of the East of England have told tales of a large black dog with malevolent flaming eyes (or in some variants of the legend a single eye) that are red or alternatively green. They are described as being 'like saucers'. According to reports, the beast varies in size and stature from that of simply a large dog to being the size of a calf or even a horse. Sometimes Black Shuck is recorded as having appeared headless, and at other times as floating on a carpet of mist. 

 According to some legends, the dog's appearance bodes ill to the beholder - for example in the Maldon and Dengie area of Essex, the most southerly point of sightings, where seeing Black Shuck means the observer's almost immediate death. However, more often than not, stories tell of Black Shuck terrifying his victims, but leaving them alone to continue living normal lives; in some cases it has supposedly happened before close relatives to the observer die or become ill. 

 By contrast, in other tales the animal is regarded as relatively benign and said to accompany women on their way home in the role of protector rather than a portent of ill omen. Some black dogs have been said to help lost travellers find their way home and are more often helpful than threatening. These benign accounts of the dog become more regular towards the end of the 19th and throughout the 20th centuries".

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A little hobby to occupy maternity leave - The Paper Meadow

If I'm not kept busy crafting, up-cycling or designing something I get bored. Very bored, and very quickly.

Now that college is over I have two WHOLE empty days to fill while my darling son is at nursery. So out came the craft box and a little craft diary my Mum gave to me earlier in the year. It is filled with numerous ideas for you to try out every month and the beginning of July just so happened to be the art of paper-cutting.

So I dug out an old DIY scalpel, some paper and pencils and my super old cutting board, sat in our meadow under the Apple tree and got to work. It was there that I fell in love and have't stopped since. It's perfect. Its therapeutic, is helping me de-stress and I find I'm grow patience as a result.

This is my most recent design, based on Sleeping Beauty. The name is blurred as it is a commission for a friend of a relative who has recently had a baby (I don't want to risk them seeing it and knowing it's for them before they get it - however unlikely that is).

After getting a couple more requests I set up a page to display my work. Right now I am waiting until Friday before I say a definite "yes" to anyone as I need to find some pretty, locally made box frames and try out a few different mounting techniques.

So, watch this space! My new hobby might just be growing into something wonderful.

The Paper Meadow on Facebook

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Another quick fix.....

Surprisingly, this little project only took 3 hours in total. I also did it completely on a whim so don't have any before pictures (which I am notoriously bad at doing anyway. I will try to get better, promise). Sorry.

I needed to do something with my sons room to make it a bit more welcoming and homely for him. He loves pirates, so the pirate theme is an obvious route to go down.

I wanted to start with his bed - the centre point of the room and the place where most of our battles take place during the dreaded bedtime hour.

I got to work, attaching 4 posts to our existing toddler bed and painting them white. Then, I got an old double bed sheet we had kicking around (we upgraded to a King size with memory foam....Luxury!) and cut it to size. I outlined a skull and crossbones, painted and hung it over the posts. Then I tied some lovely red and white stripy sections of material to the posts to hide some unsightly rivets and finished by tying the "sail" up either side of the skill and crossbones.

Toddler not included...unless we are having a bad day in which case he comes FREE

Voila! One easy, simple pirate bed.

Monday, 7 July 2014

A beautiful, hand-painted cot (no £££'s needed, just a steady hand).....

....for a naughty breech baby! We found out today at our growth scan that our little girl is following dead on the 50th percentile, which is fantastic news. When they scanned me, however, they discovered one foot up next to her face and her happily playing with it and her bum and other foot down in my pelvis.
Also looks like she is blowing bubbles in there! 

It's a good thing I started on the nursery earlier than planned, as if she doesn't turn I will be in for that c-section earlier than I considered.

The first big job was our old cot. It was given to us by my sister after her 3rd baby (my gorgeous nephew) had finished with it, which means after DS it has "housed" four babies. They bought the IKEA Diktad over a decade ago and finding a mattress for it is awkward - It seems cot's are no longer made in this size.
 Before: Brown and uninteresting. 

 As you can see, although it is a lovely, sturdy cot it lacks any sort of interesting features, colours, patterns... anything that would make it a little bit more exciting for a baby. I wanted to color each of the bars differently and cover the brown in white Our only problem? We were absolutely SKINT last month. But I am impatient. So I had to get my thinking cap on....

 Leftover acrylics + Leftover B&Q paint = RAINBOWS&UNICORNS!!

Ok, so I lied about the unicorns. Although, it does give me a few whimsical ideas about further nursery decoration.....

Anyway, I already had the white paint in the garage so in lieu of a grand (yet costless) idea springing to mind I made a start on painting the cot white....and then it hit me (...literally. I knocked into the bookshelf while painting and a whole box of forgotten acrylic paint smacked me on the noggin. Ouch!).

I got to work mixing in little bits of the acrylic into blobs of white paint from the big pot (I found an old, plastic egg box was perfect for the job) until I had the exact colours I was after.

Half job...

I finished off a white base coat on the bars (I found 2x coats were needed to cover the dark adequately enough to colour over) and waited until it was dry before putting the first coat of colour on.

It then took 2 more coats of colour each on the bars and 3-4 more before the white covered the wood underneath completely. All in all it took about 2 weeks to complete....
Soooooo pretty <3

...but it was 100% worth it. I could not be happier with how it turned out :D

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Quick fix

Having had a busy weekend, I was delighted to find some time in the evening to sew these gorgeous cusion covers to go with our "new" sofa..

Mum donated the patterned fabric and I used old offcuts from other projects for the backs, finishing with little lace ties to hold the cushions in place.

Molly x

Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Harmony test and its role in Eugenics

My dissertation research is making for some very hard reading. I have to get this out before I can continue writing about the topic and the controversy surrounding new prenatal screening methods or my ability to remain academically un-bias will cease. I am writing this to get things clear in my head and am not necessarily after opinion, although I more than welcome it.

I’m 23 weeks pregnant and, as with my first it hasn’t been a breeze in any way, shape or form. At a critical point in my pregnancy, while choosing my topic, I was given a 1 in 15 chance of having a baby with Down syndrome or some other form of trisomy.

I read and read until my eyes were sore. I posted on Mumsnet, desperate for advice and reassurance that I wouldn’t be that one, that if I went through the invasive procedure I wouldn’t fall into the percentage of miscarriages that can occur afterwards. Then I was pointed in the direction of the Harmony blood test.
At this point it made sense, given all I had learned about the subject, that my dissertation topic be the ethics and practicalities behind prenatal testing – including CVS and amniocentesis. But recently I have found that it goes much, much deeper than that. Until now I have only been scratching the surface.

My first concern arose from the potential for gender preference to influence the decision regarding whether or not to abort the fetus, regardless of any medical need. With the test showing gender as early as 7 weeks gestation teams in America have already seen an increase in needless terminations following the test – which in itself in not considered diagnostic and have a higher false positive rate than we are lead to believe. Many practitioners will, in this situation, conclude that should continuation of such a pregnancy present a great risk to the mental wellbeing of the mother (and therefore the welfare of the child) that a termination should be granted. In other words, if you are determined enough to play the mental health card they will allow a termination on the grounds of gender preference.

The second, and what I find the most innovative yet concerning use of this new technology, is its role in eugenics – a technique used to “improve” genetic quality in our population

Historically eugenics was practiced in brutal forms and most famously during World War II where Adolf Hitler based the potential for strength in German society on the preservation and improvement of the Aryan race – something we all know he put into practice during his reign of terror.

In good practice it is hypothesised that eugenics will eradicate some of the more prevalent single gene disorders, such as cystic fibrosis and Huntingdon’s disease although many will argue that this is unlikely. 

When it comes to the Harmony test, however, it makes the process a whole lot easier.
Advocacies for Down syndrome heavily oppose the use of testing and diagnostics for the purposes of abortion – arguing that it will see a steep decrease in the overall population of those affected with Down syndrome, putting eugenics into practice before a mother bonds with her unborn child.

What do I think?

Scientifically, I think that the Harmony test is both a blessing and a curse for service users. I think it will be exceptionally difficult to regulate when it is made available on the NHS with regards to gender disclosure and “selection” without an outright ban on it, which is argued to be against the rights of the parents. Alternatively, it will make decisions and overall diagnostics easier on pregnant women and, as mentioned previously, prevent certain disorders being passed to children.
Ethically, morally, socially? I think it is an absolute minefield and only foresee much debate and activism where the subject is concerned.

Little space, big ideas.

During our most recent move our beloved wardrobe fell apart *sob*. So we sourced an old pine chest of drawers and some free standing clothes racks with wheels on as a quick solution to our problem. The only problem with these were that they completely dwarfed our already teeny tiny back room.
View from the door

I spent the day yesterday while Bear was at nursery sat in the middle of the room staring down our current clothes storage. I decided then that I had too many clothes for this and removed all the clothes from the rack and the drawers to sort through.

Then the genius happened...............
They won the staring contest.....

........I took it's wheels off and sat the light, empty rack on top of the drawers. Voila! Mamma 1 - 0 Storage!

......but I won the war!

 Of course, I secured the base at either side with screws to stop it from topping over. The rack itself has no weight to it, particularly at the bottom; cue frequent incidence of being buried under a ton of clothes! So securing it was an absolute must for this project.

The drawers are going to be painted in the same style as the vanity (which is also a work in progress) and should all come together this week. Watch this space.......