Just a minute . . . Celia Hart, illustrator
PUBLISHED: 11:52 28 July 2015 | UPDATED: 11:52 28 July 2015
Tessa Allingham grabs a few moments with a local artisan
In one of the lofty red brick walls that surround Celia Hart’s garden, is a green wooden door. It has a gothic-style pointed apex, black hinges and a heavy black latch and holds the promise of secrets and treasures and wild beauty beyond.
“Very Tom’s Midnight Garden isn’t it!” Celia smiles as she pushes it slowly open to reveal a rambling vegetable garden where squash and courgette plants are starting to scramble over an artistically cobbled-together wigwam of slender branches, a greenhouse is fragrant with tomato plants (many of them Celia’s favourite heritage varieties), and a gooseberry bush is fruiting abundantly.
A row of strawberries needs a bit of attention. “I really must weed them; the peas and beans too. Everything’s going a bit mad.”
Thing is, she hasn’t much time. The hidden garden around her delightful village home just outside Haverhill is a source of joy and inspiration, but Celia has had her nose to the grindstone of late.
“I must get this commission done, they need it by next week,” she says, talking in the light-filled studio in the home she shares with her accountant husband, Cliff. The commission – one of Celia’s trademark linocuts – is a regular one for Gardens Illustrated. The piece sits on her sloping workstation, surrounded by typical printmaker’s paraphernalia of pens, chisels, paper, cuttings, sketches. “Every month I create a linocut to illustrate Frank Ronan’s column; I’m sent the copy and mostly left to decide how to tackle it.” In this one, about the author’s time spent in Normandy, she has set pelargoniums against a backdrop of typically French townhouses and included the charming detail of people shopping in the market, walking a dog, watering a window-box. “I sketch or paint ideas then photograph them on my iPad and play around in Photoshop – I love technology! Then I’ll flip the final image, print it out on tracing paper and trace it onto the lino.” At that point, the image is carefully carved out before being printed by hand and then scanned and checked on screen before a digital file is emailed to the magazine. It’s a process that requires meticulous care and attention to detail.
Capturing the shape and characteristics of plants, flowers and wildlife is what Celia does best: “I remember learning to read using my gran’s nature books. She taught me the names of wild flowers and birds before I even started school. Now I take inspiration from the garden here and from walks in the Suffolk countryside.”
If she’s not busy with a commission – she shows me a magnificent woodcut book cover she’s just finished – or creating designs from hand-carved blocks that she sells in small numbered editions, she’ll be developing her range of greetings cards sold online or in galleries and shops throughout the UK. Exuberant, exquisitely executed images of nature abound here too: birds singing, hares leaping across a wintry field, an owl gliding in the moonlight. Mr Cheep, her handsome cockerel and his flock of ladies (there’s nine-year-old Phoebe and his own mother, Saffron-Spice, though Holly is his favourite) often feature too.
Preparing for her third FolkEast at Glemham Hall at the end of the month is also occupying Celia’s thoughts when we meet in June. She’ll display a range of her work and demonstrate linocut techniques in the Art Arcade. The festival is a favourite of hers. “There’s a lovely crowd and I always sell some cards and original prints which is a bonus! It’s brilliant fun; I can’t wait!”
See Celia’s work at FolkEast, Glemham Hall, August 21-23. Visit her online gallery and shop at www.celiahart.co.uk and follow her on Twitter @celiahart