A visit to Drummond Castle Gardens, Crieff

A few weeks ago I visited the extraordinarily beautiful, lush and sculptural Drummond Castle Gardens in Crieff, Scotland.

"Drummond has all the characteristics of a courtly, 17th century Scottish Renaissance garden. It is a composite garden, restructured in early Victorian times and renewed again in the 20th century when the garden framework and the exceptional interest of the original 19th century design were carefully preserved."

Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone

Looking through the many photographs of the day, it's as if there was no-one else there but me and that's pretty much how I remember it; a mid-week July day in the middle of a Scottish heatwave - extraordinary in itself!

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

The gardens are so grand and majestic and the weather was so glorious, it could have been any of the great formal gardens in Europe or beyond. In fact, Drummond is on the list with the finest, and I can see why.

Featuring French and Italian influences, Drummond is an eclectic garden with its fountains, terracing, urns and statuary.

Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone

These trees particularly transported me to Isola Bella in Italy, while the soft warm grass and flowers were in total opposition to the slush and snow on display when I visited the Gardens of Versailles.

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone

It was so peaceful and serene, and I couldn't help but smile as I wandered, though I was alone.

"A ballad describes the gardens full of “evergreens and flowers…and the waterworks are a’ let on..."

Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

Approximately 130 steps lead down into the garden, towards a multiplex 17th century sundial at its centre, however this was unfortunately away for refurbishment on my visit.

A fountain is always a focal point though, while the white statues were so stark and regal against the backdrop of green. 

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

There was a 15-minute woodland walk which I decided not to do, purely because I was wearing inappropriate footwear. I was intrigued by the kitchen gardens however and loved the big glasshouses and cold-frames filled with plants, flowers and fruit.

There was a polite sign asking people not to touch or pick the peaches to prevent bruising and wastage.

Fair enough, but it was tempting. I can imagine how Eve felt in the garden of Eden...

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

This scene with the wheelbarrow and the hose pipe just struck me as so perfect and beautiful. I love the sense of hidden hands toiling to make this garden beautiful; their tools on display as if the garden itself is an outdoor art gallery, which really, it is.

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

It's similar here with this beautific statue with the weeds and earth at her feet. The juxtaposition makes it interesting and the colours make it pop.

The buckets destined for the compost heap inject a sense of life and realness into the scene, like seeing the fruits of the effort that go into the maintenance of such a pristine space.

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

Then there was this tree with eyes. Real eyes it seems, like an old, magical tree. I wonder what stories it could tell from the days of the Jacobite Rising?

Meanwhile, the regimented curves and lines of low-cut hedges created a mini-maze effect, shaped in part like an Aztec eye. 

Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

These foxgloves nestled between shady rocks reminded me of those I saw on Arran a few years ago, their abundance so gleeful and cheery. The colour is so special in contrast to the greens of weeds and ferns and moss. It was the perfect goodbye from Drummond Castle Gardens.

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

Drummond Castle Gardens are open May to October, with no access to the Castle. Find out more & buy tickets.

Cherry blossom joy inspired by Marie Kondo

This week I've been reading 'Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to Tidying Up' by Marie Kondo, the sequel if you like, to 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying' (which incidently, I have yet to read.) Cherry Blossom time & sparking joy with Marie Kondo

I'm late to the party on these books I know, and I'm also a bit of a hoarder; collecting bubble wrap and 'nice' empty boxes and 'things-that-might-one-day-be-useful-for-that-amazing-project-I've-yet-to-start...'

I expected the book to be all about discarding as many possessions as possible, being ruthless with your sentimental 'komono' items and keeping nothing if it wasn't of the utmost practical use.

There was an element of that (the part about her getting rid of her vacuum cleaner because it didn't spark joy was particularly amusing), but much more than getting rid of things, the focus was on what to keep, and most specifically, what to keep that sparks joy.

Does what it says on the cover. Good start.

But I didn't really think I had that much to learn about all this.

I love tidying and reorganising things and feel like I've been on a mission for half my life to do just that.

But then that's the problem too.

The point of the 'KonMari Method' is that once you decide to keep only the things that spark joy and allocate them all a space in your home, there should never be a need to undertake a big 'clear out' ever again. A hefty claim when you consider the modern crisis of fast fashion, perk-me-up purchasing and the Western culture for accumulating possessions as status symbols.

And it turns out I had a lot to learn.

Cherry Blossom

This week I've KonMari-ed the clothes I keep in drawers - basically folded them into squares and rolled them up, and it was pretty joyful KonMari-ing the kitchen. I will never again be defeated/deflated/deafened by pans and oven trays falling from the cupboard.

And I've started using things I'd almost forgotten about.

A beautiful pen, a roller-ball perfume stick, hot pink lipstick, a heart-shaped casserole dish and some bright, colourful dresses that I'd never had 'occasion' to wear.

Use the things that spark joy!

I also discarded about 15 pens that didn't work, didn't write well or were just cheap promotional pens I've gathered over the years and kept for no reason except maybe 'you can never have too many pens'. Except you can.

I've recycled manuals and papers and been able to part with things I've agonised over for years.

I'm not going to analyse the book in any further detail (and plenty of people already have), but I do want to share this anecdote that Marie Kondo gives in the book. I think it sums up the point of it all for me and I keep thinking of it because it's such an uplifting story:

Not long ago, I went cherry blossom viewing with my family for the first time in fifteen years. We didn't go anywhere special, just to a little park near my house. Despite the sudden notice, my mother had prepared a picnic lunch...but that was not all.

My mother opened another package to reveal a bottle of pink-hued amazake, a beverage made from sweet fermented rice, and small pink glasses with a cherry blossom pattern. When filled with the pink amazake, it looked like cherry blossoms were blooming in our glasses. 'How beautiful!'

The blossoms I viewed with my family that day were the best I had ever seen. The glasses that my mother had chosen showed me the precious piece I had been missing.

Her take-out thought after this wonderful day with her family was: I want to live my life in such a way that it colours my things with memories.

I love that so much.

I want to live my life in such a way that it colours my things with memories

Cherry Blossom time & sparking joy with Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo also suggest some changes that might occur when you start to tidy:

  • You gain a little confidence

  • You start to believe in the future

  • Things begin to go more smoothly

  • The people you meet change

  • Unexpected things happen in a positive way

  • Change begins to accelerate

  • You begin to really enjoy your life

I don't agree or disagree with these statements - I didn't feel shy or disbelieving in the future before I read the book (or before I started this special process of tidying to spark joy), but I think for some people the act of tidying up can become a deep psychological process because it forces you to analyse how you really feel about each possession and also why you are keeping it.

One statement I do agree with comes near the end of the book:

Tidying is contagious.

Yes, yes it is!

Do you have a special 'cherry blossom' memory?

Designing the French Riviera S/S 2017

For the last week I've been obsessively designing patterns for the Make it in Design 'Beginner' Summer School. It's been so much fun! The brief was for simple, stylised designs for multiple applications across fashion and home.

The colour palette was provided as Pantone colour samples and I used these by colour matching them in Photoshop/Illustrator using the eyedropper tool (I haven't worked out how to load Pantone palettes yet).

My first thoughts were of palm trees, ship's wheels, sunsets and prawns. A heady mix for the French Riviera jetset!?

Palm Tree Line Drawing

I'd forgotten how tricksy Illustrator is. Why can't you move between artboards and still have the colour selected? #firstworldissues

I managed to learn a few new Illustrator skills in the process. Like adding gradients (a key element in the design brief), and isolating different elements of an image-traced live-paint group to change colours.

After playing about with the below design for a while, I couldn't decide which version I liked best - thoughts?

Then I had to remind myself: gradients don't repeat, but they still look nice for a single placement.

I can see this design on a beach towel, face cloth, napkins, plates (especially picnic plates!), t-shirts, a beach bag. Loads of possibilities.

The limited palette really helped me to focus on the designs, and re-use colours where I would normally have gone for more of an obvious impact. I think it's proven to me how much cohesion it creates too. That's particularly true with the pink ship's wheel design below. I created it in another colour way (not shown here), and had fun playing with scale.

Here's a few of my other favourite designs for this brief:

French Riviera SS17 'Graph Prawn' surface pattern design
French Riviera SS17 'Leaping Prawn - with Gradient' surface pattern design
French Riviera SS17 'Pink Ship's Wheel' surface pattern design
Print
French Riviera SS17 'Leaping Prawn' surface pattern design
French Riviera SS17 'Sunset Palm' surface pattern design

Most of the designs are simple grid repeat vector patterns, but the 'Graph Prawn' is a single 'placement' design. He's cheeky isn't he?

Which one is your favourite? I'd love to know.

***Update, Update 15.08.16***

So excited to find out that I WON one of the '20 ways to draw...' books for sharing my pattern-progress on Instagram. Taking this as a sign to focus more on my patterns and design work!