Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Solstice Greetings

I’m writing this at sunset (or what would be if we could see the sun) on December 21st. Winter Solstice. The mist is rolling in off of the moor and drifting through the lanes and into our garden. On this longest night we are happy to be safe and warm by the fire in the living room, preparing for the holidays. 

We have much to celebrate because Toby and Sarah are with us through the holidays and just into the New Year. We have been blessed with much more manageable weather this year -rain and mist but no snow or ice -but we are prepared to be snowed in with lots of firewood, wine, board games and chocolate. What more could anyone want at Christmas. Well, maybe a turkey. 

We send Solstice greetings and blessings to everyone reading this. May we all be blessed with light and joy in the coming year. 

I took this photo a few minutes ago, just before sunset. I thought it would be a perfect Solstice picture but when I got there it was even more perfect because someone had placed Holly at the base of the stone. 

Here is how Buster prepares for Christmas. He is guarding all of the empty wine boxes we’re getting rid of. He can’t wait for wrapping paper.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's Good to be Home!

Well, we’re home at last after an absolutely wonderful five weeks away. We’ve done so many different things, most of which you will already know about if you have been following the facebook pages and the gallery and Henson sites as well. It truly touched our hearts to meet and talk to and with so many people in so many different situations. Thank you all for your support. It means the world to us. 

On our first night in New York, staying with our wonderful friend Guy, we ordered in Chinese food that is our traditional treat after a long plane flight from England. It duly arrived and was consumed with gusto. We ended (as one does) with fortune cookies. As Brian read his, he burst out laughing and said ” well, this couldn’t be more appropriate!” It said “adopt an attitude of gratitude” -and that is just what we did, with such amazing results. Our trip was blessed in so many ways and we are truly grateful for it all. 

But - it’s GOOD to be home! Our house was well taken care of as were Elfie and Buster, but the house missed us, the animals missed us and I think the house faeries did too. They haven’t played any tricks on us yet (I’m touching wood) and the house energy has been so welcoming -except for the boiler and radiators, all of which are making the house sound rather like a ghost ship creaking and groaning on the high seas. I woke this morning to the bedroom radiator sounding like an out of tune wind orchestra -interesting, but not appreciated at 6am. 

We haven’t been out on the moor for a walk yet. We brought bad coughs and colds back with us so we’re staying warm by the fire and luxuriating in British TV. The weather isn’t cold but it’s very rainy and windy and isn’t the sort of thing you want to walk around in. So, we’ll stay in and get ready for Toby and Sarah to arrive for Christmas next week. We can’t wait! I may even do some dusting in their honour. Well -maybe not. 

That’s it for now. But I’ll be writing regularly again now that I’m home. 

Here are just a few photos from our time in New York. 

1.This is obviously our preferred mode of transport. The wackiest stretch limo ride we’ve ever had -to the University of Connecticut and back, having visited the wonderful puppetry department there. 

2.A moment of quiet before the gallery opening.

3.New York Magic - a beautiful carousel in Bryant Park 

4. More New York Magic 

5. My favorite view of the top of Grand Central Station

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Writing while traveling

Well, I’ve learned something. Writing while traveling isn’t as easy as I thought it would be - for me, that is. We’ve been in the states since the first of November, in New York, Baltimore and Michigan and the vagaries of internet connection, etc. have defeated me time and again. Never mind. 

I did manage to take a few great pictures of festivities at FaerieCon that I’ll share with you. We had a wonderful gathering - meeting many old friends and making new ones as well. Our wonderful Gallery owner Heidi Leigh and her daughter Kristie, came as well, bringing catalogues for the exhibition and giving a talk on the show itself. We had such fun ushering them around the Bad Faery Ball and introducing them to the delights of the marketplace! Brian and I are always so happy to talk with people who come to the booth and the workshops.

My sculpting demonstration was a whirlwind of flying fingers and Fimo. Luckily, I had sculpted and cured a piece at home that I could continue working on so that in the end, a rather funny character emerged. I can’t wait to get her home and finish her. I might even finish her in New York if I have a day or two off. 

We’re so excited about al of the events over the next few weeks. I’ll not talk too much about them here since you can now go to the Animazing Gallery website and facebook page and also our website (which is up and running again). Lots of info on all of these sites with links to everything going on.

This is a week of rest for us after a few nightmare travel days. We’re spending time with family and friends in Northern Michigan. It’s wonderful. So very different form Dartmoor, but still, very beautiful with a special magic of its own. I’ve been spending time saying hello to the trees I grew up with. They’re getting ready to sleep for the Winter, but perhaps they know I’ve come to greet them anyway. 

That’s it for now. We are jealously guarding our few days of vacation so it’s time to go and relax! 

I’ll write again from New York – internet connections permitting. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Preparing for Our Travels

This week has consisted of mainly getting ready to leave the house and come to the states. It’s always a struggle to go away. Buster and Elfie know what’s happening and they follow us from room to room looking worried.

But - even if it’s hard to leave, it’s exciting to think about everything we’ll be doing once we get there! (or “here”, depending on where you are and where we are,when you read this). 

FaerieCon should be SO much fun. Please come and say hello if you see us there. Don’t be shy! I’ve stopped having anxiety dreams and am looking forward to the meditations, the demonstration and the presentations! Maybe it’s because I’ve packed everything up already and I know it all fits in my suitcase. 

We took Elfie on his last treat walk on the moor today, so I’m afraid you get another photo of a stone hut circle. It’s again, a new one we hadn’t seen before, but yes, it does look just like a hut circle. . Sometimes I wonder if they were all very individual to look at when they were first built and in use, or if they were a bit like a modern housing development where everything looks alike. We’ll never know, but I like to speculate on how people thousands of years would have turned their dwelling place into something unique to themselves -if indeed they did. 

I decided to make a Fizgig for Kira since she might be lonely. I’ve never made one before and to be honest, I had a harder time getting a ball of fur to look right than anything else I’ve done. Apologies to the original Fizgig - I think I’ve made a distant cousin. But perhaps Kira will like him anyway. Elfie liked him a bit too much and I had to rescue him after I took this photo. 

I’ll try to keep up with this while we’re away. We’re doing SO much while we’re in the States this time. I’ll let you know where we are as we go through the month. 

And just for you animal worriers - we have wonderful people house sitting for us so Buster and Elfie won’t be lonely and neither will any of the faeries that live in the house. I just had a thought - I wonder if outdoor faeries come in the house when the weather gets cold, like spiders do? Do the regular house faeries mind? So many questions -so few answers. 

Happy Halloween, Samhain, Day Of The Dead, all souls, all saints and anything else you are celebrating this week!

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Promise I'll sculpt something in mashed potatoes or cheese

I’ve been lying awake at night trying to remember everything I need to do before we leave for the States early next week. It’s sort of a nightmare waking or asleep and every time I think I’ve finally remembered everything and written it all down, something else pops into my head which sets off a whole new chain of things to remember! I woke this morning from a dream about FaerieCon in which I had forgotten to pack anything I needed for any of the things I’m going to be doing. It didn’t matter because I’d missed the workshops anyway! I haven’t had stress dreams like this in ages. If this is prophetic and I really DO forget everything, I promise I’ll sculpt something in mashed potatoes or cheese. (hmmmm-could be good!). 

We drove down to Cornwall this past weekend. Bodmin Moor is very different from Dartmoor where we are. It’s (to me anyway) a much bleaker place but perhaps that’s because the wind was fierce and freezing. Actually, it can be very beautiful. There are some amazing prehistoric sites and evidence of tin mining everywhere. And ponies. There are always ponies. 

Here is the ancient tree for this week. It’s in the gardens at Dartington Hall in South Devon and as far as we know, it’s one of the oldest yew trees in England. It is over 1500 years old -perhaps closer to 2000 years old. Standing under this tree is an experience that is almost impossible to put into words. It is SO very alive and watchful and absolutely “present” -if that makes sense. We were there this morning, standing under it, thinking about how many mornings this tree has seen. Staggering, when you think about it. 

I was looking through some of Brian’s old sketchbooks and found two pages I’d never seen before. I wanted to share them because they’re charming and say a lot about how mischievous Toby was when he was two or three. Not that I’d forgotten, but it was fun to be reminded in sketch form! 

And finally, a photo of Kira in our garden. It’s interesting to see her in scale with trees. She likes green! 

That’s it. I’m going to go back to worrying about what to pack and what not to forget. That should keep me busy for the rest of the week! 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Out on the Moor

Well, this week galloped by  -literally. I was working in my studio yesterday when I heard a strange crunching noise. I couldn’t place it right away. I could tell that it was something coming up our gravel drive, but it didn’t sound like a car and it didn’t sound like people walking either. I looked out of my window just in time to see a heard of wild ponies, about ten of them, walking up the drive and into the garden. They’re quite light footed. It wasn’t a plodding sound like you would expect  -more of a little tiptoe dancing sort of sound.
I shouted to Brian and we both ran out, arms spread wide, to try and chase them out the gate and back on to the lane. Luckily, we were in time to round them up before they had a chance to spread out and cause havoc. When we first moved to our house, many years ago, I loved it when the ponies came in, but now, having seen what they can do, the charm has worn thin. The first time they came in, they ate all of the newly planted roses and left hoof prints and pony droppings all over the garden. They always look so very guilty, as if they know exactly what they’ve done wrong, when we chase them away. I wish I’d had time to photograph them, but it was far more important to get them out!

Here’s a fine picture of Buster looking noble next to the stone lion creature. He knows he’s handsome!

We’ve been out on the moor again in the good weather. We came across this signpost. You’ll just have to imagine what goes on, on a “permissive” bridleway!

 This picture is of a small stone circle that is actually a ceremonial circle (as far as we 21st century people know) and not a hut circle where people lived. The stones are low and unimposing but it’s a strange place with strange energy. We always approach it with caution because people still use it for various purposes. This looks like – well, I’m not sure really (but nothing bad as far as I can tell). Interesting pattern though. The stone trough in the middle is a focal point for much of what ever goes on. I expect who ever put the coins there won’t mind a photo taken of them since they’re right out in the open. Hope it’s prosperity!

We have been meaning to visit Okehampton Castle for ages  - since spring actually. Unfortunately, it closes at the end of September and we’ll have to wait until spring again. This was taken from the road just by the gate. It’s an interesting, very early Norman castle and it’s said to be haunted by Lady Howard who rides out in a coach with a headless coachman. Now that would be worth seeing. Or maybe NOT!  Just a bit of ghoulish information for you all this week. I know it’s early for Halloween but why wait.

"My ladye hath a sable coach,
And horses two and four;
My ladye hath a black blood-hound
That runneth on before.
My ladye's coach hath nodding plumes,
The driver hath no head;
My ladye is an ashen white,
As one that long is dead.

"Now pray step in," my ladye saith,
"Now pray step in and ride."
I thank thee, I had rather walk
Than gather by thy side.
The wheels go round without a sound
Or tramp or turn of wheels;
As cloud at night, in pale moonlight,
Along the carriage steals.

I'd rather walk a hundred miles
And run by night and day
Than have the carriage halt for me
And hear the ladye say:
"Now pray step in, and make no din,
Step in with me and ride;
There's room I trow, by me for you,
And all the world beside.""

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dartmoor Archaeology

OK - here’s your bit of Dartmoor archaeology for the week.  I know, I know, these hut circles all sort of look alike in photos -but they really don’t at all.  Each one is SO individual; the rocks chosen with such care and attention to shape and size. Walking among the remains of dwellings that are at least two to three thousand years old is a moving experience.   It always gives me a sense of peace and hope; for if these circles have lasted that long, and weathered the storms both natural and man made that have swept this country for all that time, then maybe they’ll last a little bit longer.   Long enough for my descendants to come and marvel at them as well.  The pictures here are of hut circles in Fernworthy Reservoir that are usually below the water.  They only are visible when the reservoir is low, as it is at the moment.  My romantic soul loves the fact that they are hidden for so much of the time and then all of a sudden they just appear on the shoreline.  There is another group of hut circles higher up the hillside that also come and go with the changing seasons. In the early spring, when Brian and I went walking there, the circles were absolutely bare and exposed, with only short grass around them.  Now, at the beginning of autumn, they are completely hidden; covered in tall grass and bracken.  If we hadn’t seen them early in the year, we would never have known that they were there at all.  It just makes me wonder how many things there are; right under our noses that we just don’t see? 

The single standing stones are also aspects of the landscape that seem to come and go, sometimes exposed and sometimes hidden in the yearly growth of bracken, brambles and grasses.  The stone on the hillside is one that we see most of the time -it’s very exposed; but the one amongst the trees is a new discovery – for us anyway -I’m sure lots of people have always known about it.  But that’s the fun of personal discovery - it doesn’t matter how many others have found something before you -it’s always amazing to discover something new for yourself. 

On the way home, I saw what looks like a bit of prehistoric something -but really, it’s probably the last remnants of a medieval barn.  Looking at the opening -gateway, doorway, what ever it is - makes me wonder what would happen if I stepped through.  Of course you can see right through it, but -what if it’s really a doorway to another world?  I may have to go back and find out. 

We rearranged the furniture in the upstairs hallway, which meant moving all of the dolls and models to a new home.  This is where they ended up for the moment.  It’s a troll, role call.  Most of these figures were photographed for the book. 

I have the feeling I’m forgetting something important I wanted to tell you -hmmmm. Well - it can’t be helped. I was sidetracked by the standing stones and whatever it was will just have to wait until next time.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Clear Skies & Desk

We’ve had a glorious week of sun and warmth! It’s been better than the whole summer. And the best part of it was that we really didn’t have that much work on so we were able to get out and enjoy it a bit. 

I went out looking for “Amanita Muscaria” ( I think that’s how it’s spelled) mushrooms to photograph for you but they don’t seem to be around yet. They are the archetypal fairy toadstool - red capped with white spots. Usually we have loads of the down by the river, but apparently not yet this year. And no - we DON”T eat, smoke, ingest them in any way! We deal with faeries but we’re not crazy (well, we might be).

I took photos of these mushrooms that I liked the look of and thought were toadstools, but found out later were actually really good to eat. I’m not confident enough to pick mushrooms to eat. 

Here’s Brian and Elfie out enjoying the sunshine, sitting on trees that form an old field border. They form into such wonderful shapes after so many years of hedging.

We’re coming to FaerieCon! You probably know that already. We really didn’t think we’d be able to attend this year, but it’s all working out really well. We’ll have lots of new things to share with everyone, about what we’ve been doing and will be doing in the coming year. The line up of artists and writers this year is wonderful. We’re looking forward to sharing panels and exchanging news ( and drinks in the bar after!) with everyone.  

Nothing from my desk or worktable this week. It’s cleared and waiting for a new project. I’m going to have a little break now.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Letting Go & Moving onto the Next Stage

Hello! Sorry I couldn’t write last week but I was delighted to leave you in the very capable hands of Toby. I think I’ll have to do more of that! 

Things are finally slowing up a bit. We have the first draft of the Troll book in and we’ll see where we need to go from there. It feels good to have gotten it to this stage but letting go is always a real wrench. People often ask me if it’s hard to let a doll or figure go after I’ve made it, but usually, it’s a good feeling to know that it has a life somewhere other than our house. It’s the same with any project I suppose. Letting go and moving on to the next stage is always such a big step. I could change words, work on costumes, re-take photos forever and still never feel quite satisfied or ready to just say -OK, that’s enough now. It doesn’t get easier even though I feel like I’ve been working for about a hundred and ten years now!

Actually, I’m feeling pretty good. Brian and I went to a wedding this past weekend and danced into the early hours of the morning. Now, this isn’t something we do very often but every once in a while it’s just SO much fun! Paid for it the next day though. 

I haven’t had the chance to wander on the moor at all recently so I don’t have many photos. It’s supposed to be lovely weather this coming week -better than anything we’ve had since spring, so Brian and I are planning to go out exploring somewhere tomorrow (If I can drag him away from the painting he’s trying to finish). The leaves are turning and the birds are gathering in huge flocks. As I think I said last time, it’s rather a relief to have autumn here now -and I DO love this time of year.

I’m showing you another very messy picture of my worktable. I wish I were neater. It would make things much easier at times, but I’m really NOT. And the worst thing is, it only takes about five minutes for my table to be in a complete state of chaos. No friendly elves ever come and tidy up for me in the night. I ask you -don’t I deserve a little help from an elf or two?

I’m not going to make this very long today. I’m in the middle of defrosting the freezer and so far I’ve uncovered a mammoth and a few ice age artifacts of unspecified origin. It’s always exciting and a little scary.

Just a bit of news. I’m going to be giving workshops in New York at the gallery for perhaps the two weekends before the exhibition opens. They will be one day workshops, sculpting a head (and hands probably) and finishing with painting, hair, detailing and what ever we can get done in that time. I’ll tell you more about it next week when I’ve worked out the details. I haven’t had the chance to do that yet. This is fun and not quite as hard or tiring as a three day workshop, but still with good results at the end. 

I’m sending a picture of Buster dressed up. We have to make our own entertainment in the country. He didn’t like it very much so I don’t think I’ll try it again. He found it insulting, but he DID look pretty spiffy.

This is one of my favorite trees. It’s just up the lane and I’ve loved it for thirty years. It just gets more beautiful all the time. 

That’s it. That’s me done for now. I hear the freezer calling.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Balance in Life - Toby

After speaking with my parents, it’s become apparent that they are fully in the Land of Troll. My father was last seen wearing the troll hat in the garden again, holding a stick-like device, with three rocks strung underneath, moving in very odd patterns throughout the garden. My mother is currently trying to translate a very eager yet not quite coherent Troll. She's been trying to write his story down for many days but his language is very jumbled and he does tend to wander off topic very easily, and she’s had to make him 35 cups of tea with one sprig of rosemary, nettle, and just a dash of milk. He's settled himself in her wing back chair and is recounting his tail, so she may be there a while.

Therefore this week I will be writing instead of my parents. Oh, I’m sorry, Hello I'm Toby Froud, son of Brian and Wendy. I am writing to you from Portland OR, where my wife and I live. Even though Portland might be half a world away from England where I grew up, it certainly doesn't feel that far at times. The surrounding country side is beautiful with large old trees and moss covered rocks, mushrooms, berries, and an abundance of wildlife, and without a doubt Faeries.

I am currently working for a company called Laika, who created the film Coraline. I am working in their puppet department on the next feature Paranorman. My life has been lived out in miniature for quite a while. In addition to my work at Laika, I am currently working on pieces for the Animazing Gallery show this December in New York. I am extremely excited and honored to be a part of this show, it will be the first time my parents and I will have shown together.

With that in mind I’m going to put up a picture of a piece I call "Balance". Maybe for obvious reason he is named this; he takes a powerful spot on our mantle. Over the last year, he is the one creation I always come back to, look at, smile, an take a deep breathe. Balance is a very important thing in everyone’s life. We rush through life, through each day missing so much. He reminds me to stop for one moment and just look, maybe out the window or at the place around you and take it in. Believe me it doesn't matter if it’s a mess, mine usually is, but what matters is that you’re actually in it. 

He stands in one place on top of a pillar up on one foot, but always ready to move with his arms out. There he stands smiling out at everything he sees, and he sees a lot. He is balance. 

Here is the story for "Balance"
He started as a young thing, not quite knowing what to do or where he fit in. He could do a few things but none of them very well, and the things he could do very well, didn't seem too important. Everyone around him seemed to know they're path, and be able to walk, held high, knowing they're direction. He tried to be many things, moving quickly, which he was good at but not for very long, holding things up was pleasing but he would always try to hold too much and in the end drop everything. He tried to lay down and just be, but that wasn't for him, his fur got all matted, and his head got all damp. He wasn't sure what to do. So, he sat for a while, but was soon told to get up cause that’s what this guys job was already. He didn't know what to do, who to be, where to go, so he started walking. He walked and walked, first in circles then in lines, until he didn't want to walk any more. He found a stump and stood on it, as he looked he saw someone on another nearby stump standing proudly, but looking at him with scornful eyes. "Hey this is my job stop standing on that stump!" "But I like this" he replied. But he didn't want to move, he didn't want to have to leave. With that, he threw his right leg in the air and planted his left leg on the stump moved his arms in circular motions into the air and stopped, "There!" he said "now I am Balancing!, not standing", he stuck his tongue out, blew with all his mite, and then smiled. There he is to this day planted on one leg Balancing and smiling at the world, for he found his place, and the thing he was best at which no one could take from him.

-Toby Froud

Monday, September 12, 2011

Summer is Over

Summer is over. I can’t say I’m sorry, since it’s been much of a nothing here. Brian and I feel better now that we don’t wake in anticipation of a bright, warm, sunny day, lazily stretching ahead of us, ending in a glorious sunset and balmy evening. Enough of that! It just never happened this year. So -here we are feeling Autumnal –and all the better for it.

We are still so busy working on the troll book that we haven’t had a chance to do much of anything else this week. The most exciting thing that happened was yesterday when Elfie caught a hedgehog. He’s done this before so you would think he’d remember -but no -he grabbed it and started running away with it before he realized that he had a mouth full of prickles. Brian and I spent the next fifteen minutes pulling them all out with tweezers. We now have a dog with a very sore mouth and a rather grumpy hedgehog somewhere in the garden.

We did recently grab an hour or two when the sun was shining to take a drive on the moor again. It changes so rapidly, from minute to minute, that there is always something new to see –or something familiar to see in a new way.  
These three photos are all different parts of the moor. The heather and gorse are in full bloom right now and the hills are covered in purple and gold. The little valley, hidden away near the base of a huge tor, is like a forgotten world in miniature -green and lush and secret. And finally -a road that goes right through what must have been a stone circle or hut circle at one time. I love the way the stones flank the road. It feels as though you are driving through a magical gateway when driving between these stones.

Brian’s sketch of the week is a small pixie like being. Sometimes the seemingly insignificant ones hold the most importance. I have the feeling he may be one of these and what ever it is that he holds behind his back is of great value -if only we knew what it was.

From my desk -just a photo of me sculpting hands. When I teach -the moment we get to hands is usually stressful for my students! Personally, I LOVE sculpting hands and feet. I always have. I try to pass this enthusiasm on to the class, but their reaction is usually to panic. Oh well.

That’s it. Back to work under grey skies and high winds. We’re getting the last of the hurricane wind -but it’s gentle compared to what it was on the other side of the Atlantic. So -Autumn, central heating, warm socks and hot tea. That’s my day.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Troll Spotting

Happy Labor Day for those of you in the U.S. and happy Monday for the rest of us.

I finally found the spotted ponies! They DO exist as you’ll see in the pictures. I came across this rather large group of ponies on Meldon Hill, near our house. I know they’re just ponies, but I DO think they look quite magical! They weren't very cooperative when I asked them to pose for photos though. I didn’t want to disturb them too much.

I spent the weekend teaching  Armorel Hamilton, a doll maker friend of mine, to make hand puppets. She has taken doll classes with me and is a great “creature” maker but wanted to see if she could turn them into puppets. We had a lot of fun and now have two new crazy additions to our collections of creatures.

Brian has been busy as well. He discovered that if he wears this “Troll Spotting” hat, he has a much better chance of seeing trolls in the garden. Having said that  -when ever he sees one, it’s pointing and laughing at him.  I don’t know  - it seems like a perfectly serious piece of troll spotting equipment to me.

This is the extent of our harvest of runner beans so far. It’s been a lean year in the veg. department but we are expecting at least three more in the near future. We also have about five ripe cherry tomatoes. All in all, just about enough to feed a group of not too hungry faeries.

Time to get to work. This is a piece I’m working on at the moment. It’s not for the book but I think it might be in the New York exhibition. I’ll know more about who he is as I get further along. I’m not quite sure what he’s doing yet!