Cup And Ring Marks In Northumberland

If you have visited Northumberland you will know it has some amazing beaches, rolling countryside, moors, hills, and lots of castles, more on those later.
IMG_5790If you delve deeper into the history of Northumberland there are Iron Age hill forts, Bronze Age burial sites, also quite a few rocks with Neolithic and Bronze Age cup and ring marks which I’ve read about but I’ve never actually seen them before, even though they are the most important collection of prehistoric art in Britain.

There are over a 1000 examples of ancient rock art in Northumberland, we visited two sites at Lordenshaw and Old Bewick.

Lordenshaw carvings are easily accessed by car, they are situated near Simonside, which we climbed to enjoy views of most of Northumberland, and found a rock carving which gave me the chills, it looks like it’s  designed to catch liquid which would then flow off the rock via a lip. Maybe I’ve just watched too much TV, a scene in “The Vikings” came to mind. There are also rocks with long carved channels which must have allowed something to flow along them.



IMG_5468And lots of cup and ring marks.

It was more difficult to find the carvings at Old Bewick, having to walk through heather and bracken, there’s a lot of history here, Bronze Age burial cists. IMG_5768Two Iron Age hillforts, as well as the rock carvings. There’s  also a WW2 pillbox, but it’s the cup and rings that interested me most.




IMG_6067We found a quite large rock cut into a round basin, which on research happens to be the biggest known cup mark in the world.
IMG_5815I hope the cup and ring marks will inspire some of my art in the near future, I certainly enjoyed seeing them for the first time. Hopefully I will go back and see some more next time we go home to Northumberland.

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Loosening up my watercolour style.

For a long time now I have wanted to ‘simplify’ my watercolour painting style, breaking away from the traditional methods I learnt so long ago, and maybe even venture into mixed media work.

When I saw Lesley Watt’s post on Art Elements about online watercolour classes with Laura Horn I thought this could be just what I needed, so I ordered some classes to take on holiday with me.
I enjoyed Laura’s classes very much and watched them several times over while I was away but I didn’t work through the videos as I was going as I prefer to watch several times, digest for a while then do my own thing. I tend to do this with books as well.

Inspired by what I had learnt from Laura and with my island trip fresh in my mind I jumped in and painted, and painted until my paper block ran out.

Zen Art by Jill EganZen Art by Jill Egan

Zen Art by Jill Egan

Zen Art by Jill EganIt took me a while to adjust to different ways of working, I’ve never been happy working on watercolour paper that wasn’t stretched but using a paper in block form suited me perfectly.  Also I was finally giving myself the freedom of allowing ‘cauliflowers’ or ‘blooms’ to form in my paintings, which was definitely a no no when I went to watercolour classes. I love those blooms in the paint.

Zen Art by Jill Egan

Zen Art by Jill Egan

Zen Art by Jill Egan

Zen Art by Jill EganI discovered Posca pens, which I now love, and I got to use acrylics and inks which I haven’t used very much in the past. I have always loved the flowing serendipitous qualities of watercolours, also texture and pattern are my ‘thing’.

I’ve been aware that I’m spending less time working these days , I’m slowing down, I think it’s an ‘age thing’ or just life happenings. I am relaxed, and deliberately taking more time to enjoy the ‘Zen’ aspects of life and connect with mother nature more.

Zen Art by Jill Egan

Zen Art by Jill Egan

Zen Art by Jill EganI have been thinking about how I will define my creative self as I get older, I’m planning on going back to my roots with watercolours and stitching, but seen through ‘new’ eyes, 20 (or for some things even 40+) years on. It’s a transition that I won’t rush. 🙂

Zen Art by Jill Egan

A new website is on it’s way, for my art which isn’t ‘kiln fired,’ more on that later when it’s up and running. I need to think up some titles for my new paintings, I find this very difficult indeed because when I paint I’m obviously influenced by something that has touched me, but I don’t articulate through words, I do it with my brush, words don’t come easy.

But now I need to decide………

do I make prints ………

or ………

sell the original paintings?

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My Upcycled Ecoprinted Top

My friend came over for a few days, we usually do something crafty, this time I decided to make a top where I’d eco printed the fabric myself. This has been on my to do list for a while so it was good to finally get round to it. It took 3 days to complete, on the first day I dyed the fabric. I downloaded a free pattern for the York top from Seamwork  

Upcycled ecoprinted top
The fabric is recycled 100% cotton ( I’ll tell you more at the end of this post), I cut the fabric slightly larger than the pattern pieces so there would be plenty wiggle room after dyeing just in case something didn’t work out and needed to be avoided.
Upcycled ecoprinted topThe fabric was rolled on copper pipes, tied with yarn and boiled for 2 1/2 hours. I threw a couple of handfuls of onion skins into the pot thinking I would get a golden brown colour.

Upcycled ecoprinted topI have to say I was surprised at the colour, which wasn’t brown, but I wasn’t too sure the leaves had printed very well. I left the fabric to dry overnight.
On assessment the next day I realised I had some lovely delicate green leaves as well as some darker cotinus prints. What I liked most was the patterning from the onion skin dye which ranged from pale lemon yellow to ochre. It’s hard to tell from my pictures but the light background colour is lemon not white.
Upcycled ecoprinted topOn the outside of my bundles serendipity gave me a lovely graded colour effect, also the pink yarn I’d used to tie my bundles had transferred to the fabric, I hoped to use this effect as a border at the hemline front and back and also on one edge of the cuffs when cutting my pattern pieces so I took care to match up the front and back so the ‘border’ was the same depth . There’s a lovely pattern centre front as well.
Upcycled ecoprinted top


Mirror image cuffs,look how the geranium leaf front and back prints differently.Untitled

And sleeves
Upcycled ecoprinted topI haven’t made clothes in years but I was taught well by my mother who had served an apprenticeship as a dressmaker and who sewed and taught dressmaking all her working life. It all came back to me very quickly, it was like she was sitting on my shoulder telling me what to do next.

I  made my own bias binding for the neck.

Upcycled ecoprinted topI had to wait a day for this nifty little tool to arrive but it makes things so much easier.

You slot your strip of fabric into the tool, pin the end to the ironing board and as you pull the tool along you iron the fabric.

Upcycled ecoprinted top

Upcycled ecoprinted top

The pattern had a tie fastener at the back neck  but I thought it would be too bulky. In the middle of the night I woke up knowing how my Mum would finish the neck, with a thread loop which is barely visible. I don’t know if I have ever done this before but I had watched Mum do it many times in the past.

Using double thread I made a couple of loops which the button would go through but not too loose.

Upcycled ecoprinted top

Then I buttonhole stitched over the loops of thread and finished off the ends securely on the back.Upcycled ecoprinted topPerfect!

Upcycled ecoprinted topHere’s my finished top, I think it turned out well 🙂

Upcycled ecoprinted topIt’s a little on the large side but the next one will be perfect.

Upcycled ecoprinted topI have to say this turned out far better than my expectations, the top wouldn’t  look out of place in a boutique in Positano. I am looking forward to making more eco printed clothes, maybe a skirt or another top.

I said I would tell you about the cotton fabric at the end of this post. I’ll let you into my secret, it’s made from a cotton sheet that I used to cover my craft fair table, shhh don’t tell anyone 🙂

I’m wearing it to go out to dinner with my friend next week. 😀

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Sketchbook fail, but still finding inspiration from Luing

While I was away I had such intentions of taking my sketching things out on my walks and filling up the pages as fast as I could. OK I come clean, that didn’t happen very often. I felt I just wanted to be a sponge soak the island into my soul. I did a few sketches plein air, using sea water on my finger to blend the colours.
Luing inspirationI tried to capture an otter but to be honest I just wanted to observe them.
Luing inspiration
I think the dry weather prevented me doing much crafting in the cottage as we went out every day. On the one day of rain I did a stitched sketchbook page, and some eco printing, as I wanted to capture the sycamore flowers and small leaves before they were gone.

Luing inspirationSome ACEO sized eco prints are making their way into my Etsy shop. I think they work so well with my little ceramic ring dishes over on Etsy.



I did some studying in the evenings when I was too tired to do anything but read and watch online videos, I signed up for some lessons with Laura Horn. I was taught traditional watercolour techniques all those years ago, I’m working on loosening up and painting with mixed media at the moment.

I’m having a blast, this is my “Island of Dreams” painting, I can hear the surf. 😊

UntitledHopefully there will be more mixed media work to show you soon.

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Like all good things ………

Like all good things or time on Luing came to an end. I have been looking back over my time there and I have to say it’s a place that has touched my soul. I felt so relaxed and at one with nature. I have never slept so well, but we did walk over 150 miles in 3 weeks.

Yes, I could live there quite happily, if only I could drive. But that’s just how it is.

Some things I learned staying on Luing.

  • It’s quiet
  • Sound travels a long way
  • You ration food
  • The perfect place for an introvert
  • You don’t need much stuff
  • There is no rush
  • Wind turbines sound very loud
  • I feel whole when interacting with nature
  • What comes around goes around

My last observation is based on watching the wildlife; an eagle being bombed by a crow,  the crow being bombed by an oyster catcher.

Talking of eagles we were very lucky in having 3 sightings of a white tailed sea eagle, the first sighting was very close, it was sitting on a pile of stones when we turned a corner,  it watched us for a while, it flew to another pile of stones, then another encircling us before flying off.


IMG_4201Another sighting quite close up was of roe deer. The first time it was just one, but the second sighting there were two. Usually they would be off as soon as they caught sight of humans but they stood for a while just looking at us.

IMG_4980There are lots of hares on the island but no rabbits, so I didn’t have the problem of trying to decide if it was rabbit or hare by the ears and tail.  There seemed to be a resident hare in the village who came hopping past our window in the evenings. I saw another regularly coming back after our evening otter watch.


IMG_4432There were so many bird species I couldn’t name them all here, hen harrier, wheatear, rock pipit, greylag and Canada geese,  red breasted merganser to name a few; and not forgetting the dolphins and otters of course.

I hope to go back again some day 🙂

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Trip to Corryvreckan and an encounter with dolphins.

We took a Seafari trip to see the whirlpool Corryvreckan; having donned the waterproofs provided and the life jacket I was beginning to wonder what I was letting myself in for. I needn’t have concerned myself as I had a great time being bounced around at speed in the RIB. I was even splashed in the face by a wet dolphin tail, twice 🙂

We went past Fladda lighthouse………


……….and Belnahua (I love saying that word), one of the slate mining islands, this tiny island was once home to 200 inhabitants. The ruins of  some of the miners cottages still remain.From the air this island looks like a doughnut, the heart of the island was quarried and later flooded by the sea.IMG_4899We had a wonderful surprise when a pod of dolphins came to swim alongside the boat. They were clearly playing with us, swimming right next to us and going under the boat. I could have touched them they were so close. This was an incredible experience which I hadn’t expected.
IMG_4852We also saw common seals.


IMG_4835Then we went through the Grey Dogs, a tidal race between the rocks, it was fairly calm, just a small standing wave today.

IMG_4860We spotted a white tailed sea eagle.


Also red deer.

IMG_4867Corryvreckan is the third largest whirlpool in the world but it was very calm today, the tide was against us so it wasn’t very impressive.


I’ve saved the best ’til last, here’s a video of my dolphin encounter, I hope you enjoy!

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Otters on Luing

We went to Luing for 3 weeks in the hope of seeing otters in the wild. We have tried looking for these elusive creatures many times on day trips but we’ve never been successful. My husband joked that we would probably see them on our first day on Luing, and he was right.

Walking along the shore something in the water caught my eye, just a glimpse. I thought it might be a seal. OH got his binoculars out and said, “it’s not a seal, it’s an otter, there are two of them swimming together”.

There were actually three otters when they climbed out onto the rocks. We sat and watched them for a good half hour, fishing, eating and playing, we could hear their little squeaking noises.


OttersThen they swam further along the shore, we watched them until they were just tiny distant specks.

We walked this path daily for 3 weeks at different times of day in the hope of further sightings. We had 7 sightings in total. The second time we found some large rocks to lean against, being slate the sun had warmed them up so we laid back and watched the water. We must have blended in quite well because an otter came on shore quite close to us. It came within 15 to 20 feet of us, it saw us but didn’t seem too bothered. We watched it going back into the water to catch a fish, eel or crab, sometimes it would come ashore to eat it’s catch, then it swam along to what we now called ‘Otter Rocks’.



We started to know what to look for when looking for otters, something that looked like a floating log, moving along making a gentle wake. Or just a glimpse of a tail or head. Two or three otters swimming together with arching bodies could easily be mistaken for the Loch Ness monster. We watched three swimming together  in a line or spiralling around each other as they swam.

There was a book in the cottage called ‘On The Swirl Of The Tide’ by Bridget MacCaskill, it’s a beautiful read about a year studying otters, I’ve found a copy on the internet.

OttersHere’s a lovely quote from the book, which I can relate to now….

“In the bubbling, splashing seething cauldron of foaming water it was quite impossible to sort out who was who while they were madly corkscrewing round each other’s smooth bodies, swooping into the seaweed forest below, curving and swerving through it’s restless stems, rising to box and bite, then breaking away to start the game all over again. Excited wickering echoed around the giant rock sides of the Narrows and told the rest of their world that the otters were having a party”

Bridget MacCaskill.

We had another otter sighting, playing on the rocks and eating a huge fish. We watched the male otter bringing fish to the smaller female, who was lazing around on the rocks. They are very playful creatures, rolling on their backs in the seaweed and sunning their bellies.

Our next sighting was to be the last one along this shore, we were on our way home one evening when I caught a glimpse of a head in the seaweed. There was a pair of them, they swam to the rocks and entertained us for almost two hours. It was a joy to watch them playing, fishing and eating. They love to roll on their backs like dogs. Then we lost them on the other side of the rocks.

We noticed a caravan had been brought down to the shore but there didn’t seem to be anyone in it, it stayed unused for a few days. Then one day there were men in waders, placing something on otter rocks  for shellfish farming apparently. I felt sad as I knew the otters wouldn’t come back. I went every day still to look for them, even walked much further around the bay where I often watched them heading. There were more rocks on the other side of the bay but they were difficult to get to, which is where they are probably playing and fishing now.

When the tide was out one day I went over to some of the rocks to look for evidence, there was spraint, (old and new, but not fresh), and lots of crab shells and legs, chewed molluscs and bivalves that had clearly been cracked open by very sharp otter teeth.
Otter spraint


Not surprising when you see their teeth.

OttersI’ve put my video clips all together for a little otter fest, I hope you enjoy.

I had given up hope of seeing otters again, but when we were waiting for the first ferry of the day to go home I caught a brief glimpse of another otter on the shore at Cuan Sound. It seemed to me they were saying goodbye, or was it me saying goodbye to the otters?

I feel so privileged.

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3 Weeks On An Island

I’m heading off to a tiny Scottish island for 3 weeks. To get to the island you have to take what is known as the ‘Bridge Over The Atlantic’ to Seil Island, then a small ferry takes you across to Luing (pronounced Ling).

Cuan Ferry to Luing
Luing is part of the Inner Hebrides archipelago; it’s one of the ‘Slate Islands’.
Map of LuingI have visited a few times as a day tripper but I want to find out what it’s like to live there for a little while. There is another reason too, but that’s for another post with a bit of luck.

The island is only 6 miles by 1.5 miles, it has the Atlantic Islands visitors centre which serves amazing seafood and cakes made by women from the island. It also has some information about the area.
Atlantic Islands Centre, Luing
Seafood chowder from Atlantic Islands Centre on Luing
There’s one shop on the island which sells a bit of everything.
Luing storesLuing one of my favourite places, I  have been before for a days walking but never stayed there. There are such lovely inspirational views everywhere, and there is THE other reason I mentioned too.

I have packed clothes, food, wine, midge repellent, more midge repellent, insect bite cream, midge nets, and Skin So Soft, I’m not taking any chances with those pesky midges. I go to Scotland regularly and I’ve never had any real problems with them in the past so fingers crossed. Also, I have my walking boots, waterproofs, pop up hide, camera and everything I think I might need including art and craft supplies.

I know most people take minimal art supplies on holiday but that won’t be enough should it rain for 3 weeks so I have stuffed as much as I can into a box and a bag. I bought a small sewing machine as I have a bit of a plan of what I want to do while I am on the island should it rain a lot. I have a basic eco printing kit with me, and as I still had a bit of space in the box so my lino printing stuff went in at the last minute.

Here it is all is nicely packed up ready for the off.

UntitledHopefully I can share my walks, wildlife spotting, and art making with you over the next 3 weeks.

So this slate miners cottage will be our cosy little home for 3 weeks.
This is the view from the back garden.
UntitledEdited to say……..

I  intended posting whilst on the island but couldn’t  upload my photos.  I have just got home and I will tell you all about my little adventure in my next few posts.

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Raku jewellery

Another quick post today, there is so much going on just now, all will be revealed later.

Here’s some raku jewellery components that were inspired by the raku art tiles in my last post.

UntitledThese will be listed in my Etsy shop eventually but there is so much going on just now I haven’t had time to list them yet.

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Raku Art Tiles

Just a quick post from me today to show you my raku art tiles. I made these when I made the clocks but I forgot about them until now.

These art tiles are inspired by my sketchbook work that I did on Dionne Swift’s Drawing for Textiles course, which for me wasn’t just about textiles.


I love the colours and textures, here are some closeup pictures






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