Monday 25 January 2021

Dydd Santes Dwynwen

Hello Friends

Today I will share with you a little known day of celebration in Wales “Dydd Santes Dwynwen” which is celebrated annually in Wales on January 25th.  Her story, drawn from the mists of time that veil myth and folklore, is often equated to being a Welsh Valentine’s Day.

{pronounced Doo~in~wen, but said so quickly that it sounds more like Dwin~wen}

image found on Pinterest {also available via many other online sources}

Dwynwen was a 5th century Welsh noblewoman, the fairest and most beautiful of all the twenty four daughters of King Brychan Brycheiniog. She fell in love with a prince named Maelon Dafodrill and he with her. They wished to marry, but her father doubted Maelon's integrity and, despite the heartfelt pleadings of both Dwynwen and Maelon, he forbade them to marry. Unable to disobey her father, and distraught by his disapproval, Dwynwen ran away into the forest and prayed to God for divine guidance to help her fall out of love with Maelon. She fell asleep on the forest floor and while asleep she was visited by an angel who gave her a potion to erase all memory of Maelon and to turn him into a block of ice. The angel then granted her three wishes.

For her first wish, Dwynwen asked that Maelon be thawed and life restored to him.

Her second wish was that God meet the hopes and dreams of all true lovers.

Her third wish was that she would never, herself, marry.

The three wishes were fulfilled and thereafter Dwynwen devoted the rest of her life to the service of God.

With her father's blessing, she left the court of Brycheiniog, and taking her elder brother Dyfnan and her sister Cain, crossed the sea in a small boat and eventually landed on a small island just off the coast of Anglesey. Here Dwynwen build a small cell of mud and wood, and over the years that followed many young women joined her and so founded a convent.

On the island is a sacred well {as so often happens in the ancient Welsh folk tales} sometimes depicted as a cauldron, and therein swims a sacred fish with the ability to predict the fortunes of couples. Another tradition says that if the water boils while you are present then good luck in love will follow. 

At the end of a long life of devotion to God, Dwynwen lay on her bed and prayed for one last glimpse of the sea that had carried her to the island. Legend says that a large boulder blocking her view split asunder and she once more looked out on the ocean that had carried her here.

After her death, aged 80, in 465 A.D. the church became a place of pilgrimage. Dwynwen's belongings were placed in a chest known as Cyff Dwynwen and pilgrims would bring a white pebble and place it on the chest in memory of Dwynwen.  Later, money was donated and nearly one thousand years after her death it was used to build a small stone church on the site and was called Llanddwyn, or Church of Dwynwen, the ruins of which can still be seen today. 

Dwynwen became the Welsh patron saint of lovers and, according to some, friendship. The most famous quote attributed to her is “nothing wins hearts like cheerfulness”. Over time she also came to be associated with the healing of sick and distressed animals, a purpose for which she is still invoked today. However, Dwynwen is not actually recognised as a saint by the Catholic Church.

Although gaining in popularity, the story of Dwynwen is not well known, not even in Wales, but of late card giving seems to be establishing itself as a modern tradition.  We do not have the hype and hoopla of Saint Valentines Day on Dydd Santes Dwynwen, just a quiet and personal observance of a little known Welsh woman who became a Saint. However, we do have one other unique tradition to do with love and marriage and that is the Love Spoon.

Book about Dwynwen with a hand carved Love Spoon

The Welsh Love Spoon is the traditional symbol of engagement or betrothal was given by the young man to his future wife.  It is hand carved by the young man from a solid block of wood and is full of symbolism to his commitment.  For example:

A Bell: togetherness in harmony, marriage

A Ball in a Cage {difficult to carve from solid wood}: each ball represents the number of children he hopes to have

A Chain {difficult to carve from solid wood} the number of links relate to the number of children hoped for, or a symbol of togetherness

Cross: Faith in Christ or God

Heart: Love

Diamond: Wealth and Good Fortune

I hope you have enjoyed this tale, and maybe on the morrow, while many of us also celebrate Burn's Night,  you will think for a moment of Dwynwen and her life.

~~~I wish you all Dydd Santes Dwynwen Hapus ~~~

Until next time 
Stay Safe, Stay Well

Deborah xo

Friday 15 January 2021

Gelli Printing is Fun and Addictive

Hello Friends!

One thing Lockdown gives many of us is time to try new things.  I have had a Gelli Arts printing plate for a little while, but it has remained unopened for fear of ruining it.  I know how ridiculous that must sound to some of you, but they're not cheap and so I became terrified of it, a bit like White Page Syndrome from which a lot of artists suffer.

The other day I decided to bite the bullet, and having watched several videos on the line, and on the telly, I decided it was time to leap.  After all, they make it look so easy, and this thing cost me money to just sit on my shelves!  I had everything I need to hand, so gathered it all together.  It took a few days longer than expected, though, as I couldn't find my Brayer.  Eventually, after starting a proper Brayer Hunt, and going methodically through boxes, it was found.  Print making could commence!

Here's what I needed to get started.

1. Gelli Plate. Mine is a 6" square

2.  A Brayer {I love this thing}

3. A glass cutting mat, optional but recommended, to protect kitchen counter

4. Selection of paint {I'm using acrylic here} and paper {you can use almost anything from tissue to watercolour paper and everything in between, except gloss surfaced, but I'm using ordinary letter quality today}

5. Some stencils or masks.

Later on, I'll be using all sorts of things, such as bubble wrap, corrugated card, mark making tools, stamps, and too many things to even think about right now.  I just want to get going on my first print!

First I opened the Gelli Plate, my tummy churning with anticipation and excitement.

Then I picked two paint colours, put tiny dots on the plate, and, with excitement mounting, I rolled the Brayer across the plate to spread the paint out evenly, and allowing it to blend.

I love how well it blended!

I wiped the Brayer to clean it on a piece of scrap.  This will build up many layers of colour and pattern over time and will eventually be used in a project.  The great thing is, nothing goes to waste!  Seeing how the colour has blocked tells me that I am using a highly absorbent paper.

Time to pick a stencil!  I choose this one with a skeletal leaf pattern which I like.

So, I carefully placed it on top of the painted Gelli Plate, covered with a piece of paper {you don't need to see that, it's just a sheet of white paper}

and after pressing gently on top of the paper using my fingertips to push the paper into the stencil to pick up the paint, I slowly pulled it back to reveal this lovely crisp mono print!

I removed the stencil from the plate to find the paint had absorbed into the paper where the stencil did not cover, and where it did cover the paint, the paint remained on the Gelli Plate, so

I just put another piece of paper on top of the plate and pressed gently again to lift the left over paint, and the pull revealed this yummy print

There was still a little paint left on the plate, so to clean it up I put a dot of cream paint, which I spread over the plate, pressed in a third sheet and the cream paint lifted all the residual paint leaving the plate clean to be put away until next time, probably tomorrow.

So, that's three 6" square mono prints, and I am out of the starting blocks at last!  It was amazingly good fun, less calories than cake making, {did I really say that?}, and I now have something to play with that yields great results in a short space of time.

Here's all three together for a better idea of how different they are

My mind is already racing with experiments and ideas to try!  I can see this taking over my kitchen!

Until next time
Stay safe and stay well
Deborah xo

Tuesday 12 January 2021

Strange, but True

 Hello Friends!

I just remembered something, which makes me want to sing "It's A Small World After All" and I apologise for giving you today's earworm.  However, strange as this story is, it's perfectly true and so, today's blog is short and sweet, but I really do want to share it with you.

In 1983 I moved to the most picturesque village in northern California called Ferndale.  You can visit it virtually here, for I don't have many photos as it predates digital, and most of what I have is too faded to share, or not that good.  It has changed a lot since I lived there, but I tell you it was one of the happiest times in my life.

I digress.  On Main Street there was an old fashioned artisan butcher's shop where I bought all my meat {they did the most amazing smoked turkey crown to order at Christmas} and on a Saturday there was a young local lad, a cheeky chap, full of energy and enthusiasm, working in the back of the shop.

Time passes, I moved away, life rolled on as it does, and my time in Ferndale became compartmentalised in the region of my brain devoted to Happy Memories.

At some point along the way, I discovered a wonderful magazine, which I know many of you enjoy, called Victoria Bliss {stay with me on this} but once I moved back to the UK, I had to give it up as overseas postage was prohibitive and my copies arrived damaged and months late.

Many years later, in 2007, I finally got internet and a computer at home, and started to explore this wonderful world of the t'interweb.  One of the first things I Googled was Victoria magazine, whereupon I discovered a forum of like minded kindreds.

Stay with me, if you are still here, it will become clear.

I joined the forum and made many good friends, some of whom comment and read my blog.  {Waving}

Now, here's where it gets a little complicated.  One of the forum ladies, let's call her L1, joined Facebook and persuaded me to join, which I did.  Somewhere along the way, L1 made a new friend, let's call her L2, with whom I quickly became good friends.  

Moving on, L2 introduce me to L3 {all these different ladies' names begin with L, by the way} and through L2 and L3, I met B1 and B2.  All these ladies know each other personally.  Eventually, I became friends with the sister of B1, M.  

Time passed, and as I got to know M, a strange, but true, story began to unfold.  Her son is a cameraman working on the film set of Diners, Drive Ins and Dives which I used to watch occasionally.  Turns out the cheeky, cheerful, and energetic young lad working in the back room of the butcher's shop in Ferndale California was none other than Guy Fieri, host of Triple D!

Who would ever have guessed that the young lad in California would be the start of a thread connecting me to a friend on Facebook all those years later, and the connections and friendships made along the way.

Strange but True.

Until next time
Stay safe and well
Deborah xoxo

Friday 1 January 2021

Have Gesso, Will Journal

Hello Friends!

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i chi gyd

Happy New Year one and all

How was your Christmas?  Did you stay up to welcome in the New Year?  I am sure we all found strange and alien ways of marking these days, but we did it, and now, with hope on the horizon, more than ever, diligence and respect for others is so very important if we are to get through this.

In my home, for as long as I can recall, and that's a long, long time, a jigsaw has been part of our Christmas festivities.  Always at least a 1,000 piece, but in truth that is about the largest that is manageable on my coffee table.

This, rather last, year I had two from which to select.  Of course, by "select" I mean which to do first, because finding and placing the pieces does become rather addictive, a truth universally acknowledged by anyone who loves jigsaw puzzling.  If you care not a jot for jigsaws, then look away now!  {or simply scroll by to the next bit}

Here are the two boxes

Both are paintings as opposed to photo images.  I picked Dawn Flight to do first as it's been in the cottage the longest.

I found it truly tried my patience, for it is full of very odd shaped pieces indeed, some curved, some pointy, and even some with straight edges in the centre which caused great frustration during the initial sorting out of the edge pieces! 

I would get them in place, then before I could secure them with proper interlocking pieces, they would slide apart and have to be brought together again.

I persevered and, et voilĂ , done!  {apologies, image in two parts, due to Instagram formatting}

One of my favourite books that I read this past Christmas was this little gem

It's called "Home For Christmas" and is penned and illustrated by the inspirational American writer and illustrator, Susan Branch.  It is her memoirs of her particular childhood Christmases in the 1950's which  Her muse for the cover image of Santa Claus is her husband, Joe Hall.   I think he makes the most perfect Santa!

I found it to be one of the happiest, joyful, and most uplifting reads I have had in a long time. I laughed, I cried, I shared her pain of suspense, and excitement in her anticipation, and more as she shows us how love and family are the most important gifts of all.  

Now on to 2021.  Wales is back in lockdown and so I am looking for ways to entertain and amuse myself for a few weeks.  I came across this book, a lovely hardcovered almanac I bought in a January sale from 2019 {how long ago that seems now}.  

I have mixed feelings over it, as it is packed with information, but I found some of it wholly irrelevant to me {for example, hard to calculate tide tables information} yet other things, such as recipes, quite useful. Some of the pages are quite beautifully illustrated too.  However you look at it, it's as out of date as last year's chocolates.  So, what to do?  Well, I'm seeing a trend for altered books, so I am jumping on the bandwagon.  Have gesso, will journal!  

There are around 260 sides and I would guess about half of them are now irrelevant so I shall lightly gesso these, one at a time, keeping some of the text visible, and then journal with my own information, whatever I decide, keeping within the general theme of almanac. I might even use it to keep a record of the garden as it progresses through the year.  We'll see how it goes and I will share regular updates on here, Twitter, and Instagram.

Just for fun, here's a picture of my Christmas dinner.  I made nut roast, roast parsnips and potatoes, braised red cabbage, bread sauce, and cranberry relish.  Normally, I also have a mixed root mash and mushy peas, but really didn't feel like a Christmas Day blow out.  As it was, I was too stuffed for pudding.  After snapping this, a red wine vegetarian gravy was added.  I enjoyed it a lot, and the left over nut roast did well for a few days of left overs.  Sometimes, I think left overs are better than the meal!

Until next time
Stay safe and stay well
Deborah xoxo