Bird Inspiration

Thank you for all the love for Cross-Country Knitting volume 3. Kate and I are so enjoying creating these mini-collections! We talked so much about birds while we were working on these designs, I thought it might be interesting to write a bit more about why I'm so in love with them.


A puffin we met at Sumburgh Head on our trip to Shetland in 2012.

There’s such a variety of bird life, even in our back garden. Birds seem to me to have different personalities in a way that other animals just don’t. The friendly chaffinch; comedic puffin; wise tawny owl; hungry gannet; violent arctic skua; beautiful blue tit; tiny nuthatch. They are all different! It's a real pleasure to watch them feeding while we have breakfast. We keep the feeders topped up with mixed seed, niger seed, sunflower seeds and fat balls. This seems to encourage a good mix of birds - although we do have a special fondness for the goldfinches. They seem so much more exotic than sparrows or tits. That said, the sparrows have a pleasing sociability when they are chattering away in the hedges. It's a bit like watching some kind of slow-paced birdie soap opera. We often wonder what they are up to!

As my friends and family realised that I liked birds, they did what all good friends and family do, and lavished me with bird-related cards and gifts! Here's a post from when I first started my blog, about some of the birdie birthday presents I received: A flock of birthday birds! 

I particularly love illustrations of birds, and here in Frome, we have a great selection of talented artists and inspiring shops selling beautiful art. I have the difficult task of walking down Catherine Hill on an almost daily basis, and I completely fell in love with Mel Day’s beautiful wire bird sculptures (

Mel Day Blackbird

© Mel Day (

Jim was kind enough to buy me a little owl sculpture for my birthday, and it sits on my shelves looking pensively at me while I work. Back then, owls were my favourite and my best.

I’ve spoken to Kate many times about my love of Kate Broughton’s illustrations. I came across her work at Seed in Frome (when it was on the Hill - now to be found at the Black Swan art centre). Her drawings have a simplicity which I love as well as cute facial expressions. The barn owl is so quizzical! My brother and sister in law were kind enough to buy me a wonderful poster of British Garden Birds for my birthday this year, and it now hangs in front of my desk in the office. Inspiring stuff!

Kate Broughton birds

© Kate Broughton (

I also love the look of her Coastal Birds print (how predictable of me? It includes a Puffin!), and who wouldn't want a poster of British Tits? She really seems to portray the personalities if the birds she draws. And the fact that you can get everything from posters to temporary tattoos is very appealing too - there is a great range of things that would go well as stocking fillers as well as larger presents. Go and check out her work!

My last bit of bird-related enabling was another find at Seed (I think they must share my love of birds!) - the ceramic artist Alice Shields

Alice Shields Fancy Pants birds

© Alice Shields (

She studied Ceramics at Bath Spa University, and now sells her hand-drawn illustrations on both ceramics and these fabulous tea towels. Although this one seems almost too beautiful to use for drying a saucepan! I love how intricate her drawings are - a contrast with Kate Broughton's pared down style. Alice infuses her birds with the same personality I love when I see them in the wild.

So, I hope that my walk through my favourite bird artists hasn't damaged your bank balance too much! I know that I instantly added a swallow print by Dee Beale to my Christmas list after I saw it on Kate's blog post about Cross-Country Knitting...

I'll be back soon with some knitting... I sketched out about 8 blog posts on the way home from town yesterday. Apparently I've got a lot to say at the moment, so watch this space!