Tag Archives: Celtic

Welsh Cakes And Cockle Hats

1 Mar

27 tinkers cakes

Today is Saint David’s Day, Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant, in Wales and small girls are dressed in a traditional Welsh costume with a daffodil corsage, small boys are put into Welsh rugby shirts with a leek corsage and copious Welsh Cakes are eaten. For aeons these have been baked on a griddle or bakestone, maen in Welsh. Pice ar y maen translates as cakes on the stone and this method of cooking is shared by all the Celtic nations. There is another version, substituting grated apple for dried fruit and cinammon for mixed spice and these are called Tinker’s Cakes (Teisennau Tincar). I made some a while back and drew them.

little me

Here’s three-year old me, in my Welsh costume, traditional Welsh flannel which was very itchy as I remember. There are two types of hat – the more common stovepipe hat that I’m wearing and the smaller black straw bonnet that we called the Cockle hat, after the cockle women who used to sell seafood from large baskets on street corners, like in this famous portrait by Evan Walters.

Walters, Evan; The Cockle Woman; Carmarthenshire Museums Service Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-cockle-woman-177587

Walters, Evan; The Cockle Woman; Carmarthenshire Museums Service Collection

I can just remember one of the cockle women selling on the corner outside the Lower Lamb pub on Swansea’s High Street on a Saturday morning. My dad would pop over to buy some cockles and laverbread (a Welsh seaweed delicacy) and cook us a Welsh breakfast with bacon and eggs, the cockles fried till they popped in the hot bacon fat and the laverbread turned into the cockly bacony grease to warm through.

The Greyhound’s Kennel

20 Feb

Twlc Y Filiast

This is the first of the ancient stone monuments I drew a couple of days ago when I was trekking around muddy Carmarthenshire with an archaeologist and a film maker. The Welsh name is Twlc Y Filiast which translates as the Kennel of the (female) Greyhound, but the monument is also known as Arthur’s Table or Ebenezer’s Table. It’s a Neolithic chambered tomb. There are a number of ancient burial sites associated with greyhounds. In Welsh, greyhound is milgi (female is miliast) and means a thousand dogs (or a thousand bitches) as a greyhound was considered to be as valuable as a thousand ordinary dogs because of it’s hunting ability, absolutely vital in ancient societies.

The setting is strange and ethereal. I’m used to seeing dolmen out in the open, often overlooking the sea or set on top of a hill and it was odd seeing this in a shadowy hollow by a stream just behind the now closed* village school in Llangynog. It’s well hidden and easily missed and the route was treacherous after the many weeks of torrential rain and awful weather.

Llangynnog 1

I had almost finished the drawing when I noticed the stone face in profile, looking towards the stream and the woods on the opposite side. I drew with willow charcoal onto a vintage British paper. I had a range of drawing materials but I instinctively reached for the willow charcoal; when I reflected on my choice later I realised that I had gone for an organic, natural material that had itself come from the woods and would have been used by ancient peoples.

*Many village schools have been closed by the Welsh Government, depriving rural communities of an important resource. A national disgrace in my opinion.

The Blue Stones

21 Oct

pentre ifan

I’ve been thinking about how to develop the drawings I did last weekend in North Pembrokeshire. I have seven drawings from four different Neolithic sites and I thought that one or two of them might look good as cyanotypes.

Cyanotype is an archaic form of photography invented in early Victorian times by Sir John Herschel which results in a blue image. The original charcoal and carbon drawing onto marbled paper was done in the field at the enigmatic ancient burial tomb of Pentre Ifan in the Presceli Mountains in Pembrokeshire, Wales. This striking Neolithic dolmen is almost 6 thousand years old. It is a lasting reminder of Celtic ancestors and the site is inspirational. I worked quickly in the late afternoon Autumn sunshine to catch it before the sun went down.

I turned the original drawing into a negative and coated a sheet of Bockingford paper with the cyanotype chemicals. I put the negative onto the paper and put a sheet of glass over it. I exposed it for three hours in the weak Autumn daylight, as the Victorians would have done. It was then washed in cold water to develop it.

Here’s a lovely video from Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, showing how Pentre Ifan might have looked when it was originally built.

 

This artwork is for sale through Artfinder

 

 

Norman & Celtic

21 Jul

21 dynefor

Husb and I spent a lovely afternoon in Llandeilo, meeting up with a friend and going for a walk through the woods to the old Dynefwr Castle which dates from the 12th century, Norman times. The heatwave was going full blast and it was really hot by the time we reached the castle so I found a shady spot to sit and scribble. Here’s a bit of it, drawn into my A5 clothbound sketchbook that I’d prepared with ripped parcel paper, drawn with Faber Castell Pitt pens, sizes S, F and B in sepia. I used a bit of Indian ink wash on the shadows and a touch of white conte crayon in the highlights.

21 dynefor 2

We passed though an old overgrown graveyard next to a small chapel and I took a snap of this amazing gravestone, completely carved with Celtic knotwork designs.

The Celtic/Welsh May Cat, Y Gath Mis Mai

25 Sep

Pastel drawing: The Welsh May Cat.

Sparta, our two-year old tortoiseshell [calico] cat is simultaneously a tiny, sweet, adorable, cuddly little kitty and a rampaging murderous scourge of anything smaller than her that moves. Worse than that, she brings her prey into the house. People tell us she’s bringing us ‘presents’ but you know, I’d rather go without her little gifts. The worst thing of all is that they’re often alive when she throws them at our feet and we’ve often had to deal with terrorised rats, mice, voles and birds trapped in the house.

This morning we found a fairly large rat hiding in our hallway; it had probably been there all night. We devised a strategy to try and get it out the front door as it didn’t seem to be injured and it’s horrible to have to kill an animal. It was hysterical with fear and it’s not a good idea to get too close to a panicked rat, but eventually it rushed out the door. And all the while Sparta lolled about on top of the boiler in the kitchen, looking bored!

My father-in-law, who is a fluent Welsh speaker, told me about the Welsh ‘Cath Mis Mai’ translated as ‘The Month of May Cat’. According to Welsh tradition, you should avoid giving a home to a kitten born after the month of May as they will invariably bring their prey home. Sparta’s birth month? September!

Here she is in a pastel drawing I did on BFK Rives 250 gms paper that I had previously coloured with acrylic pigment mixed with acrylic medium and metallic powder.

 

 

Cooking Celtic Cakes

28 Aug

Ink drawing: Tinker's Cakes on the griddle.

We have a glut of cooking apples this year and they’re a type that doesn’t store very well so I’m trying out as many apple recipes as I can find time to. Today I made Tinker’s Cakes, which are a variation on Welsh Cakes, a traditional Celtic dish, using apples and cinnamon instead of currants and nutmeg. The cakes are cooked on an iron ‘maen’ or ‘planc’ in Welsh, a griddle or bakestone in English. This is a very ancient way of cooking over a fire. Celtic cooking was done either in an iron cauldron, giving rise to one-pot dishes like Irish Stew, Lobscouse from Liverpool and Cawl, a Welsh lamb and vegetable soup, or a griddle. You can still buy cakes and breads cooked in this way from Swansea market and Scottish oatcakes, pikelets, crepes and pancakes are also part of this tradition.

We went for a run along the beach earlier so we were starving when we got back and I thought we deserved some nice Tinker’s Cakes hot off the maen, with some lovely Welsh farmhouse butter melting into them. We nommed the lot! I’ll have to do another run tomorrow to work off the calories!

I did a drawing of the cakes in my sketchbook while they were cooking. It’s in Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens, sizes S and F with shading by FCP again, only this time their set of ‘Shades of Grey’ brush pens.

Cooking Celtic Cakes

27 Aug

Ink drawing: Tinker's Cakes on the griddle.

 

We have a glut of cooking apples this year and they’re a type that doesn’t store very well so I’m trying out as many apple recipes as I can find time to. Today I made Tinker’s Cakes, which are a variation on Welsh Cakes, a traditional Celtic dish, using apples and cinnamon instead of currants and nutmeg. The cakes are cooked on an iron ‘maen’ or ‘planc’ in Welsh, a griddle or bakestone in English. This is a very ancient way of cooking over a fire. Celtic cooking was done either in an iron cauldron, giving rise to one-pot dishes like Irish Stew, Lobscouse from Liverpool and Cawl, a Welsh lamb and vegetable soup, or a griddle. You can still buy cakes and breads cooked in this way from Swansea market and Scottish oatcakes, pikelets, crepes and pancakes are also part of this tradition.

We went for a run along the beach earlier so we were starving when we got back and I thought we deserved some nice Tinker’s Cakes hot off the maen, with some lovely Welsh farmhouse butter melting into them. We nommed the lot! I’ll have to do another run tomorrow to work off the calories!

I did a drawing of the cakes in my sketchbook while they were cooking. It’s in Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens, sizes S and F with shading by FCP again, only this time their set of ‘Shades of Grey’ brush pens.

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