Sunday, 26 June 2016


I've just been watching a great TV programe about Chippendale furniture. Appearing on it was a gentleman who restores laquer work or japanning. I have been self taught , so I was relieved to see that I do the job in the same way as him...although I often use loose leaf as well as transfer...but one thing he uses which I never cotton wool....he uses it to wipe off , but I find that any tiny trace of gilders size will pick up fluff from the cotton wool..... but he does his job everyday so probably doesn't have any stray gold size.

Above shows damaged box and below is my restoration.

The history of lacquer is over a thousand years old, originating in China. In the 1930's modern laquer techniques were very popular giving a shiny gloss surface. It is still used in Japan and all over the world. There are three main categories of laquer, the first is the' true' laquer then 'resin ' laquer and finally  japanning or Japan work. Modern laquer paint is another variation of japanning being sprayed onto furniture to achieve a high gloss tough finish.

New decoration for a frame .

True laquer used the sap of specially cultivated trees. The sap has to be processed and coloured before its used and is very poisonous. It was built up in lots of layers onto thin wood creating a wonderful smooth surface. I think this was sometimes done on a boat because there is less dust. The artists that did the fancy gilding and decorating were never given the job of prep because they were needed....I know sounds an awful way of treating workers but that was the way it was.
Resin Lacquer was made from the female of an insect related to the cochineal beetle. The insects fed on sap , were collected , crushed and heated slowly. After sieving ,the top clearest layer would be dried to form sheets that would be flaked and stored. Mixing with alcohol made a liquid that could be again built up in layers. It was used in Indian and Islamic laquer.

Top: New Victorian style firescreen.
Below ; gilded box. My design is based on wallpaper in Brighton Pavillion.

Japanning is the European substitute for oriental laquer, and was popular in the 1718th century. the wood or papier mache was built up with layers of shellac or varnish, even 20 or 30 coats ! The colours mostly used are black, red, green, blue and yellow. The raised designs were built up from gesso and then gilded. This is not as strong as the laquer base which is why so much chips off.
I used this technique when repairing, and nearly always aim for an old appearance, The Grandfather clock case had a new base and I designed a new decoration for the base, matching the original top and laquered it to match.

Brand new but aged

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Painting a Gypsy Waggon-Part Two

The first things you have to think about is,,,,
How much work does it need and how much do you want to do ?
You might decide that the paint and waggon is in pretty good condition so you are just going to tidy it up, maybe dose the bare wood in woodworm treatment and varnish the paintwork.....n
Hopefully your waggon won't need a complete rebuild but before dismantling or stripping .....
Photograph it...under, inside close up etc.
If you are not sure what type,age or builder than check it out and ask questions. Not long ago I popped to see a waggon that someone had been 'restoring'. They said that all the carved porch brackets were rotten so they had burnt them ! BIG mistake. There are some great wood treatments and wood hardeners but you could also have a mould taken of them or splash out and have a carver make you some new ones. They add so much to what sometimes is a plain boxy waggon.
If you can, even though it seems like a lot of work it is sometimes better to strip all the paint off back to bare wood and metal,,,again recording as you go,
Xmas card by Katie B Morgan

You might find remains of old colour and decoration which will be useful when you redecorate. Wear a mask when sanding...If the paint is old then it will be lead based...white,red and black lead paints....If its really ancient then you can even have arsenic in the green paints...probably unlikely because it was widely used in the time of William Morris, but be careful.
If the paint is sound then I prefer to keep it...some of those old paints are really tough so leave them and rub down and key for new top coats. I once had a person 'help me' by completely burning the paint off some old wheels...the old paint that was on them was brilliant and in really good condition.
If the paint and woodwork is sound then you'll be able to skip the next bit....If not, then here goes...get ready for lots of elbow work!
Try to repair rotten wood as well as you are able, and likewise any metal work. Don't just burn rotten pieces of can treat them, fill if necessary, sometimes use but you can have moulds taken and use these for decoration.
Most DIY shops will help you with the best timber and metal treatments in your part of the world. Don't skimp because fingers crossed once prepared you will never have to do this again.
If the canvas is rotten the remove and take out all the tacks....quite straight forward on a bow top but can be more complicated on a reading for example. Once again some of the old tops on straight sided waggons were often painted in white lead.
I would treat all wood with anti rot, woodworm etc treatment and you will then need to leave the waggon for a few days before starting to paint.
I'm restoring my own old waggon at the moment, a long job fitting it in between jobs but I will use photos of my own work to update you on my progress.
In the meantime hear is a link to an old film of Fair Hill at Appelby Horse fair
I have had a set of new wheels made, and had new furniture built inside. Now I am taking off all the loose flaking paint. The old canvas has been completely removed and I have a new canvas ready and waiting.I'll add some photos soon.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Wild Garlic

The Bothy Shop
Down an old path behind my bothy workshop is a blanket of wild garlic....a fabulous smell and free food.

I've been making soup with it and now the flowers are almost over but there's just time to make some more wild garlic soup....and it's tasty and easy.

You just need a hand full of leaves, an onion, some potatoes and some stock.
fry the onions,add stock and chopped potatoes...boil for twenty minutes.... add washed and chopped garlic leaves , simmer a bit longer then eat or blend to make a smooth fantastically green soup.
Add a lovely swirl of cream and some fresh bread...of course made using the flour from the neighbouring Stanway water mill. To add to the colour sprinkle some finely chopped red pepper.

The smaller leaves earlier in the season have a more delicate taste but now that it's later you can always cook with half nettles and half garlic leaves.
If you'd like to read more about wild garlic then please click on Vegparadise.

Friday, 20 May 2016

The 'Bothy Shop'

Katie reading Land Love Magazine in her workshop

After seeing my workshop looking so beautiful in June LandLove Magazine it inspired me to make even more use of it. Last Sunday was National Mill weekend and so we all opened our workshops for the day. I had the fire going and everyone nearly all made the same comment ' I want to live here' it got me thinking. 
The bothy workshop

I paint furniture, walls, objects etc so I have opened a blog shop called the 'The BothyShop' ( and an Etsy shop called The Bothy Shop Every now and again I could have a pop up Bothy Shop , both in my workshop and elsewhere.
This week my workshop will be open as part of the Winchcombe Music and Arts Festival.
I hope you can pop in and see me!....and If you can't make it then please follow me on twitter or facebook...and we can have a chat there.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

New article in Landlove magazine

Yesterday I had the pleasure of seeing myself and my dog Jet featured in the June issue of 'Landlove', a lovely magazine for everyone who loves the countryside, food, travel, crafts and gardens. It's heading is 'loving the simpler things in life' which pretty well sums me up !

katie b morgan
June Landlove magazine
As you can imagine I was both excited and nervous at the thought but both
Kerry Fowler and Sussie Bell were great, completely putting me at ease. The morning of the shoot I quickly threw on some clothes and my green apron....along with my flowery wellies, because it was really muddy by the workshop that day.....had I properly thought about it I could have dressed up a bit but nearly all my clothes have a bit of paint on them somewhere.
My mate Jane, from The Winds of Change Gallery, almost choked laughing when I told her what I was the wellies that really finished her off. The two things that I didn't need to worry about was my workshop and Jet, both very photogenic.
I love my workshop, It's a complete haven, unashamedly idyllic, the sound of birdsong and the toots of steam trains......the flip side is it's tiny and a wee bit damp so I can't store paper, gold leaf and other perishable materials, and there is very little phone reception. Food, cups, milk and kettle are stored in an old tin trunk at the end of the day just in case of any long tailed visitors!
A lot of the time I have to work on site because my jobs are often big but when I can I whizz back to the 'Limehouse'.

Jet the dog outside the Bothy Shop
Jet outside The Limehouse
The day of the shoot was pretty nippy, and unfortunately the chimney stack of the fire had drifted away from the wall so no fire ( It's mended now), but I had big chunky biscuits, Jaffa Cakes and Coffee. I later found that one of the earlier featured ladies had fed Kerry and Sussie with smoked salmon...oops!
Kerry Fowler was very easy to talk to and true to her word sent me a copy of the words......two days later after the word 'ferrules' came to mind.....ferrules not quills, although they are made of quills on my best brushes.
Sussie Bell, again a delight did wonders with her photography, actually, quite a privilege to have been photographed by her. I was glad to see one of my plates sneaking into a photo, the previous craftsperson had been a potter so they couldn't really show mine. You can also see a tiny bit of one of Robs rustic chairs.
All I can say is, a big THANK YOU to Kerry Fowler and Sussie Bell for making it a lovely day, it was great to meet you both, and thank you for making me sound so interesting !
The timing for this magazine is perfect with The Winchcombe Art Trail on 23rd to the 30th May, part of the Winchcombe Festival of Art and Music.

 My workshop will be open and I am also running a free event, 'Sketch, Walk and Talk' to everyone that can walk, talk and hold a pencil...or any combination.

 I can give help but really I'd like it to be a way of meeting new friends and perhaps seeing Winchcombe in a new way. Don't be nervous if you want to come on your own...I'll be on my own too so please come and join in, the more the merrier. For those who can't sit on the ground please bring a fold up seat. I'll bring a bag with extra paints, pastels and pencils for anyone to try. Fingers crossed it will be a dry day and hopefully be an event that we can do once a month.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Words from the Canal

In the winter evenings I always sit doodling while keeping warm and watching telly. One evening I decided to make a project for myself and start to illustrate day I might even string them together to make some stories!
Katie B Morgan
My coloured version of one of my illustrations from 'Words from the Road'

I self published my first book 'Words from the Road' in 2014. This book is full of romany words and their meanings alongside my black and white illustrations. I've been told that they are great for colouring in. The wonderful Peter Ingram helped me enormously with the correct lingo.
Once I'd finished I set about illustrating my second book 'Words from the Canal'.
Years ago I used to visit friends who had beautiful working narrowboats. They delivered coal in the winter and turned their homes into 'trip' boats for some of the summer holidays. I loved staying on them and really loved it when I had the chance to spend a few weeks living in an original boat cabin.
Of course I found it quite magical but it would have been a very different story years ago for families living and working these boats.
Katie B morgan
Words from the Canal
When I have stayed and visited canals and boat museums I found myself collecting words used on the canals ....there are lots, too many for me to use in my little book.
Katie B morgan

I have now published this book ' Words from the Canal'. Once you've read it you will know that I could have called it 'Words from the Cut' and my first book could have been called 'Words from the Drom'. My third book is under way....fingers crossed it will be ready to publish by the end of the year. If you do purchase them, I hope you enjoy them and perhaps add some of the words to your own vocabulary...oh and if you like colouring in...then I'd love to see what you have created.

Both books are available to purchase from my bookshop on Blurb

Books and cards are also available via The Bothy Shop 


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