No doubt, you have been keeping notes of your garden this year – what you have sown, grown, planted and transplanted, be it flowers or vegetables, herbs, shrubs or fruit. Or a mixture of all of them, arranged formally or mixed together decoratively in a potager, or harking back to the increasingly popular cottage garden style. How have you recorded your successes and failures? Just as notes, or on a garden task board (very simple to make; visual and easily adapted to whatever you grow)? For the latter, all you need is an inexpensive pin board, some luggage labels, and pins upon which to hang the tags.
You may care to keep more visual records in a small notebook: ongoing lists, words, verse, and any reminders of what you have done, a written diary, or better still, an illustrated one, a I did here. An ordinary A5 sketch book with paper that would take water-colour paints is what I use – I have a tiny traveling paint-box that goes everywhere with me, and I use a waterproof pen so that the writing doe not smudge.
Sometimes I like to make my own pocket jotter that will literally fit into a pocket. I have quite a number now, made from stiff art paper bought in a pad, with pages folded to a size that will comfortably fit into my hand, so I can sketch standing up of need-be. The pages are held together with a pony-tail band, which allows me to turn them back on themselves for an even sturdier surface. I create a memory of a particular day, or a place to which I have been – a National Trust garden, or a Show such as I will be visiting in a week’s time, at Hampton Court. Sometimes, as in the image above, I will plan the page on the spot, drawing the little picture-frames and then infill after reference to a photo I have taken.
When at home, and before I had the courage to make tiny cartoon sketches, I would use an A4 notebook and decorate the page edges to ‘frame them’ with paper napkins. Choice of book can again be an ordinary stiff-surfaced sketch book, or as here, one with coffee-coloured paper – often less daunting than to have a stark white page staring at you. Select a napkin relevant to your theme (this was Autumn) – they must be the 3-ply type. Cut around the selected leaves or flowers, and separate the plies; attach the image layer by positioning it on the page and ‘stroking’ it into place with acrylic wax. Leave to dry. If that seems too complicated, you could of course use pictures cut from magazines, brochures or seed catalogues.
I collect paper napkins as often as I do plants and amalgamate different images to make page displays to accompany text. These – for a herbal – are being positioned into a hand-made notebook, the pages have been ‘prepped’ with thin white gesso, acrylic paint and sprayed ink, and then stamped with text using a rubber-stamp plate, very feint to simulate an old diary. The napkin pieces were then ‘auditioned’ until I had them to my liking. Depending on the piece of work, I will fuse napkin pieces to the background using heat-set bonding – always remembering to protect above and below the surfaces with baking parchment to avoid wrecking either the work or the iron.
My ‘Salad Days’ piece is languishing at present but began out of an experimental piece to celebrate the creation of our courtyard potager. The pages are created from brown paper bags to which I applied strips of masking tape on some pages, and whole sections of napkins to others, planned in such a way that the colours complemented each other. The taped pages were coloured by applying scribbles of water-soluble wax crayons onto one page, spritzing with water and then folding together, creating a ‘blot’ print. Text is written, and all the varieties I was trialing have been typed onto fabric labels ready for stitching into place – but I have mislaid them!
Map Trails are fun to create and can be as simple or detailed as you wish. Tear a strip right across the folds of an old map and lightly cover with diluted white poster paint and, when dry, spray sparingly with walnut ink. You don’t want to obliterate all the map; the idea is to ‘antique’ it. To continue the antique theme, I used a brown artist’s sketching pen for my text, leaving space for photos printed on very thin ‘layout’ paper (45gsm) which were then stitched onto muslin and fused to the map. This particular map trail has been with me to so many places: from my Spring garden, to Pembrokeshire, France, Dorset, Northern Ireland and the River Teme on the Shropshire/Welsh border.
Create your own memory books – my advice is to just begin. You can follow some of my techniques on my Journal blog, where you will currently also find details of my Caravan Open Studio event – starts Sat 29th June; all the items illustrated above will be on display.