Wednesday, 14 September 2016

My Magazine feature

In the summer my workshop was featured in the Landlove magazine. It was beautifully written by Kerry Fowler and fantastically photographed by Sussie Bell. It's a few months since it was published so I'm hoping that it is OK to show the scanned pages. 
If It's not legible then please  click here for link to The Bothy Shop - Wordpress.
The Bothy Shop -

The Bothy Shop -

The Bothy Shop -

The Bothy Shop -

The Bothy Shop -

The Bothy Shop -

Monday, 12 September 2016

The Demon Drome

Quick update....Last Sunday we had a glorious day at Goodwood Revival,....and were pleased to see the Demon Drome there putting on a great I thought I'd upload the blog that I first wrote in 2011 again.

Today we drove over to Prescott Hill Climb for their last main show of the Season. It was a great day ,Hot rods, Bikes and of course the Famous Hill Climb races. In one corner was The Demon Drome...The Wall of Death.

 You first walk up some wooden steps and enter a circular show, you are basically stood on a wooden ledge at the top of a large 32ft approx wooden barrel. When the show starts motor bikes are ridden up the wall,not only do you find yourself inches away from the wheels of the bikes with the noise and fumes but to add to the excitement the walls move !

The first Motordrome was built in 1911 at Luna Park in Coney Island. It was a board track quite long with sloping wooden sides. Unfortunately as the bikes became more powerful terrible accidents happened. The races also became more predictable with the first bike to lead often being the winner. With this motordromes became less popular..But the riders found that with increased speed ,centrifugal force made it possible for them to ride sideways on a vertical wall. By 1915 the walls had become vertical and were initially known as silodromes, later to become known as The Wall of Death. The first silodrome was based on the dimensions of the diameter of a grain silo which was approx.20 to 36 feet at the time.
The Indian and BSA Motorbike Companies realised that the shows were great advertisements for their bikes, and as you can see The Indian is still used today...a favourite of mine.

George 'Tornado'Smith is credited to have brought the Wall of Death to England from America. The link to George Tornado Smith is well worth looking at. ''Fearless Egbert'' was also one of the earliest riders working in ''Collins Famous Death Riders and Racing Lion'' in the 1920,s and 30's. The tame lions rode alongside the drivers of racing cars...and apparently one lion in particular used to roar if the rider didn't keep going !  An old film of a Wall of Death
Margaret Gast was one of the earliest female stunt riders and was known as the 'Mile a Minute Girl' after a world record in 1900 travelling 1000 miles in 120 hours.

This Demon Drome was believed to have been built in 1927 and was originally ran by Pat Collins Funfairs. There were no lions today but there was a girl rider . The Demon Drome is run by a few families who all 'live' the 1950's

If I heard correctly the one chap bought the bikes first and then bought the show, almost as a paid hobby. Dave 'Dynomyte' Seymour, his son 'Duke' and some more of his family are the stars of the show. The whole set up is great, from the outfits to their outside airstream catering, stall selling shirts etc and their cars.  If you are ever near a show then its well worth visiting. Years ago after seeing Alan Fords show I'd said I'd love to sit pillion, I almost had the chance but I can't remember why it didn't happen, a bit like when I was asked if I'd be interested in being a Rat Girl at a circus sideshow...I'd have had to sit in a large cage letting rats run about...I seem to remember that I had to get on with a painting job, but sometimes now I'm older I wish I had given them a go. There is a link to the Demon Drome Site below below.

They will be performing at Prescott Hill Climb this year on the 1st and 2nd October at the American Autumn Classic.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

A link between the church and the fair at Govan Church, Glasgow

This summer I was in Edinburgh visiting family. I was only there for a short time and really wanted to revisit Glasgow.....a day is not long enough!
As well as visiting Kelvingrove Museum, the transport museum and walking part of the amazing graffiti trail I made a point of visiting Govan Church.

Govan Church, Showman's Yard Glasgow
Govan Church and Showman's Yard

Inside are some of the most striking stone carvings that I have ever seen, The Govan Stones, Viking Hogback stones.  Large black curved burial stones looking like upturned boats or the humps of whales, they gave me goosebumps! I thought they were magnificent....stunning. I would have loved to have seen them all those years ago when they were in their original positions.

viking hogback stones,katie morgan
Three of the five Viking hogback stones in Govan Church.

Whilst walking around I noticed a little galloper painted and part of a stained glass window. The curator said that the fairground families that had the yard next door had paid for the restoration and had added the galloper into the glass. Now that I'm home I'm enjoying trying to find more out ,of the link between the fairground and Govan Church.

katie morgan
Galloper decoration on stained glass in Govan Church.

This area was once the home of Fairfield, a massive shipyard.

Picture by Hawkeye Aerial Photography courtesy of BAM

 When it finished two old fairground families set up quarters but were never allowed to live on them full time. Now the area across the river has had the beginnings of development with the building of The Transport Museum ( Riverside Museum),the land around is starting to be more valuable. Tara S Beall was Artist in residence at Glasgow's Riverside Museum and tried to promote the knowledge, history, culture and modern life of the two local fair families, the Stringfellows and the Johnstones. In 2013 there was a three day event and I think that she is still involved with helping fight the causes of these families.
For over 50 years Govan Church has been important to the show folk holding weddings,christenings and funerals. When restoration was needed the families had six windows restored.. ‘

The inscription added to the base of the St Elizabeth window reads:
Inside Govan Church,Glasgow

It appears that cultural traditional events, lives etc are sometimes classed as intangible which means that they are not protected in the same way as 'tangible' such as buildings etc. In 2013  the UK had not signed a UN charter to help protect cultural heritage and the 'intangible. Social events and craftsmanship is 'intangible' but the vehicles,buildings and tools are 'tangible'. Now that we are heading for leaving Europe will any of this change? I think a big can of worms are being opened. If anyone needs to correct me or knows more, then please comment, Thank you.

There has been a fair in Govan for 260 years, and at some a bit of local folk lore arrived. A sheep's head is carried at the head of the Govan Fair procession every year. The story goes that a young man was once refused permission to marry the ministers daughter so he came back at night, cut the head off the ministers prize ram and carried it through the streets of Govan on a pole. On the first Friday in June this event takes place with the grudge being 'put to bed' with the minister crowning the Govan Fair Queen.

Well I'm not going to delve further in this blog post, but I will say that Govan is worth visiting. There is a huge community spirit and a lot of voices who need to be heard and all care for the area. I loved visiting Govan Church and of course being a fairground decorator/painter, I loved finding the little stained glass galloper.

You can find lovely stories and images on this site -Govan Reminisence Group

Saturday, 13 August 2016

My sgraffitto at the Winchcombe Pottery

Years ago I used to have a painting workshop in one of the buildings at The Winchcombe Pottery. I used to chat with Ray and Mike Finch, Eddie Hopkins and visiting potters, but didn't have a go. A few more years later I used to swap eggs for egg cups with Ray Finch......but it was only last year that I started working with clay.
winchcombe pottery
Blackbird by Katie Morgan
Last October I joined a Saturday morning class at the famous Winchcombe Pottery. Matt Grimmitt taught us all and after my many attempts at slip decoration , told me about sgraffito.....I am now completely hooked! I love Thomas Toft slipware dishes but I find that my style of illustration seems to work well on the earthenware pots.

winchcombe pottery
Geese by Katie Morgan
Matt kindly made me some mugs and I decorated them giving them to friends and family as Christmas presents. 

winchcombe pottery
Pigeon by Katie Morgan
This year I am achieving one of my ambitions by decorating platters celebrating Winchombe Potteries 90th Anniversary. They are made by Matt so have three marks, The Winchcombe Pottery, Matt Grimmit and my own.

winchcombe pottery
Pigeon by Katie Morgan
These celebration plates will be available to buy from The Winchcombe Pottery.

winchcombe pottery
Apples by Katie Morgan
All photographs taken by Alison Morgan - AlisonMPhotography

Just a little note own work is fired at the pottery but I am not employed as a Winchcombe Pottery, Potter.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Rag and bone

We regularly have a scrap van going down our street...shouting out ''scrap iron' through a megaphone, sometimes blowing a very out of tune trumpet. What an old trade, probably started in the middle ages or has there always been people collecting other peoples rubbish so they can put food on their table ?.
The rag and bone man with a horse and cart or old pram used to be a regular feature in cities and towns. The rags they collected were often separated into different colours and qualities. Most were cotton and wool so it was easily recycled. Rags were sold to firms to make a cheap fabric called 'shoddy' hence the phrase shoddy work etc, and some fabric was used to make paper. Bones were turned into glue, knife handles, toys and ornaments. . Bones were also burnt into a powder, called 'Bone Meal' which could be used as a fertiliser. Rabbit skins could be used to trim gloves and hats and empty glass jars were used again by jam producers and other producers.
The name Totter is also used. A tot used to be a slang term for a bone, so a 19th century totter was a bone collector.

Henry Mayhew wrote a report in 1851 called 'London labour and the London Poor'..he wrote ''The bone-picker and rag-gatherer may be known at once by the greasy bag which he carries on his back. Usually he has a stick in his hand, and this is armed with a spike or hook, for the purpose of more easily turning over the heaps of ashes or dirt that are thrown out of the houses,and discovering whether they contain anything that is saleable at the rag-and-bottle or marine-store shop '

The men would sometimes give goldfish, a balloon or simple china to a householder  that gave them a good load. In 1936 a public health act said that they were not allowed to give children under the age of fourteen any article, but goldfish were declared not to be an article.

The trade declined in the 1950's but now the increased price of scrap metal has led to more being collected..some people are complaining of the noise..

The most famous Rag and Bone men have to be Harold and  Steptoe, and their horse Hercules ....from the 1960's TV series.
do you know when I moved in here my neighbour jokingly asked when was Hercules arriving....I suppose it must have looked quite funny. Instead of the usual removals van I had Robs open truck with a sofa, grand father clock and fairground horse on board..! good  conversation for the  for curtain twitchers !

Twenty years ago there was a man near Wigan that drove a horse and cart collecting anything but lately I haven't seen any....Do you know of any?
Here are some lovely old films showing the old Rag and bone man with his horse and cart .
Getty Images

Scrap metal collection and rag and bone man in the 1950's, film

Mitcham Rag and Bone man, Tom, on Magpie in 1979

Dolly The Last Working Horse in Dublin

Monday, 1 August 2016

St Andrews Church, Clevedon

At the end of a warm but blustery day trip to Clevedon, I discovered St Andrews Church. On a notice board showing points of interest, was a mention of its amazing stone carvings.....So before the trip home I called by to see them.

St Andrews is thought to have Saxon origins and has been extended throughout the years, but both the outside and inside still have interesting Celtic stone carvings depicting two headed men, animals and birds.

Each carving may have had significant meanings which have been lost throughout the centuries, but some are still recognized. The Raven frequently appears in Celtic mythology. Bran Fendigaidd (Blessed Raven) is written about in the Welsh Triads, These are set of medieval manuscripts that include Welsh folklore. In Ireland their mythology tells of a war goddess called Badb, who takes on the feature of a raven when she creates havoc and terror amongst Queen Medb of Connuaghts army during the battles against Cu Chulainn and Ulster. In Cornwall , King Arthur is thought to have changed into a Chough in his last battle, and in Norse mythology Odin was known as the Raven God. The yearly Viking festival of Up-Helley-Aa in the Shetland Islands of Scotland still uses the image of a raven.

Above is the two headed man. These are sometimes seen as a figure with two heads, one male and one female. Originally there was the Phoenician two headed god El, then the two headed god Janus in Rome but Celtic gods often have three heads.  One Celtic story tells of Dian Cecht ,the god of healing and medicine, a god held highly by Druids. Weirdly, in his story, he was so jealous of his son Miach, because he had better healing powers than himself, that he killed his son by slicing his head in two. 
365 herbs grew in the ground above his grave all with healing and medicinal powers. The two headed man could have been any of these, including good and evil, or any opposites.
Sheela na gig
Sheela ni gig's are carvings of naked females holding their vagina open and may be symbols of fertility, life and birth. The true meaning has been lost and many have been disfigured or thrown away because people thought they were too rude. In some parts of Ireland they were linked with the wise women, healers and midwives.

Wheel of Life or Celtic cross

The Celtic cross, is a symbol of the Celtic Christian Church, and was originally the emblem of the sun god Taranis. The animal above it could be a boar, dog or horse,....I'm not quite sure. The dog was a symbol of loyalty and good luck. The Boar was the companion of Diana the Celtic goddess, and the horse was linked to quite a few war goddesses.

Moustaches are a sign of Celtic man but the carving above looks more like a cat. Cats were guardians of the underworld or otherworld.  Teutates the father-god often appears as a bearded horse.....just to confuse matters......They are all wonderful, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to know what their true meanings are...I just enjoy the craftmanship and artistry.

The church is also known for featuring in Broadchurch. an English TV series. My next church must be Kilpeck in Herefordshire. The carvings look amazing.

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.


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