October 23rd, 2018 / posted by paularath

Coopers Cottage, our home for two weeks

Following our rather intense two-week watercolor workshop with Australian artist John Lovett, we wanted to have some time to absorb what we learned and paint on our own before touring more of England. It’s way too easy to lose your rhythm as an artist, and once you let go, it’s often hard to get back.

The back of Coopers Cottage. The open door on the left leads right into our “studio.”

I did some homework early this year and asked several friends from England if they would recommend a small, quiet, quintessential English village for us to live and paint for a spell. Two sources came up with the same village: Lower Heyford, in Oxfordshire. One of those friends was Chris Oliver, a dear friend and colleague, the former travel editor at The Honolulu Advertiser, who lives half the time in Kailua and the other half in Cambridge, England. Chris has a friend who lives in Lower Heyford and she and her husband, Gareth, have visited there often. The other source was Brett Thiebaut, who attended Oxford and fondly remembers Lower Heyford.

Jerry enjoyed painting on the patio at the back of the cottage.

I went online and found just one cottage for rent in Lower Heyford: Coopers Cottage, available through ShortLetSpace, a company based in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. I booked it immediately.

We were happy that the TV didn’t work, as we had plenty of time to read novels.

The cottage is 400 years old, at least the central thatched part is. On either side are additions. Where ladders once were, there are now stairs going up to the bedrooms. The kitchen and bathroom are new and very efficient, except we didn’t have hot water the first week. But we had a tea kettle and I just boiled water for a bath.

Lov ely claw foot tub with a garden view

The wood fireplace in the living room is lovely, although it was seldom cold enough to warrant a fire. Our good weather continued after the watercolor workshop.

The back garden of the cottage

Lower Heyford is very quiet and rural. Traffic is sparse and non-existent after about 6 p.m. There are lots of lovely walks to take, around the neighborhood and up and down the canal on the Cherwell River.

A typical morning walk along the canal going toward the train station

Lower Heyford is known as a hub for long boats, the barge-like boats that people can rent to travel on the canals, through locks and under bridges.

On weekends the long boat business really picks up.

We were delighted and surprised that there are many thatched roof homes in Lower Heyford. One such home was being thatched while we were there and we had an interesting discussion with the thatcher.

A professional thatcher at work

The average roof needs to be thatched about every 25 to 30 years. The decorative portion, which also keeps the thatch pinned down, is refurbished about every 15 – 20 years. Luckily, there is a new generation that is learning the trade, so thatching will continue to be viable.

Isn’t the design of the thatch beautiful? The job took about five weeks for two or three men.                                                           Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Here are just a few of our neighbors’ thatched roof homes.


Photo by Jerry Mayfield


I love these windows.


Can you see the little red box? That’s the community’s mail box, inside this private home.                                                                            Photo by Jerry Mayfield


A five-minute walk away was the local pub, The Bell Inn, with good draft beer and yummy steak and kidney pie. Kizzie’s, where they served a delicious breakfast and lunch with great coffee, was a godsend.

Our local pub in Lower Heyford

Lower Heyford offered us the perfect respite for a quiet, serene and creative time well spent. Perhaps next year we’ll rent a cottage near Cambridge or in Chipping Campden….

Paula Rath

October 16th, 2018 / posted by paularath

Stonehenge, almost sunset                                            Photos by Jerry Mayfield

Stonehenge is, without a doubt, the most famous set of rocks in England.

However, there are many other henges and rock circles scattered around the landscape, mainly in the Wiltshire District of Southwest England.

We hired Anne Martis of ToursByLocals to take us to Wiltshire and show us several significant henges. Anne, who lives in the Cotswolds, is highly knowledgeable about this part of the country. She planned our day perfectly, so that we would catch the last shuttle from the museum to Stonehenge and have this incredible place almost to ourselves at sunset.

An Avebury stone circle

We visited Avebury first. This is a Neolithic henge monument containing three stone circles, including the largest megalithic stone circle in the world.  It was constructed over several hundred years, from 3700 – 3500 BC. It is a place of religious importance to contemporary pagans, and we saw a small group sitting in a circle near the male and female rocks, clearly absorbed in their thoughts.

These rocks at Avebury are called the male and female rocks.


My watercolor interpretation of the Male and Female Avebury rocks leaning in toward one another.


Entryway to the West Kennet Long Barrow

We then walked up Silbury Hill to the West Kennet Long Barrow, a Neolithic chambered tomb (also called a barrow). You can walk right inside the passage to experience the atmospheric internal burial chambers, where some 50 skeletons were discovered. It is estimated that 15,700 man hours were spent in its construction.

Rocks leading to the entry to West Kennet Long Barrow

Archaeologists date the construction to around 3600 BC, around 400 years before the first stage of Stonehenge, and it was used until around 2500 BC. It was such a moving experience to walk through that sacred burial place!

A Wiltshire white chalk horse carving

Only about a mile away is one of seven white chalk horse figures carved into the English landscape around 3,000 years ago.


When I lived in London in 1967-68, my roommate was sort of Twiggy-looking model named Caroline. She was a bit of a wild child, and on New Year’s Eve she and some of her friends piled into her tiny red Triumph and drove from our flat in Earl’s Court to Stonehenge. I heard tales of their dancing and drinking among the rocks until sunrise. I suspect it was orgies such as this one that now prevent the rest of us from getting close to the rocks. There are ropes that prevent visitors from getting closer than about ten feet away.

A different side of Stonehenge

It’s okay, though! This place, sacred to so many, still holds a spell, especially as the sun starts to sink in the sky.

Mahalo to Anne Martis for insisting we have a photo taken at Stonehenge.

Stonehenge is Britain’s most celebrated prehistoric monument, thought to be between 4,000 and 5,000 years old. No one knows why it was built, but some believe it was constructed as an astronomical observatory or a sanctuary for a sun worshiping cult, or perhaps a combination of the two.

Regardless of its original purpose, Stonehenge holds tremendous power over anyone who stops to appreciate its awe-inspiring beauty.

Paula Rath


October 13th, 2018 / posted by paularath

Please come to our Autumn Pop-Up Artist Sale next weekend!

We have all been creating like mad so you can expect lots of fresh new art and craft.

I recently visited Lynda Sakraida‘s studio and she has been creating some of her most beautiful bags EVER.

Here are images of just a few of the cards I have been making for the sale. They are all mixed media fiber art, sewn onto watercolor cards.

Every card is unique and one-of-a-kind, which is also true of Lynda’s bags, Jo’s ceramics and Cora’s jewelry.

So be sure to come early for best selection.

And, as an added bonus, Interior Accents is offering 30% off on all furnishings and accessories.

Paula Rath


October 11th, 2018 / posted by paularath

I love John Lovett’s painting of St. Michaels Mount!

Who knew there is a place in Cornwall that looks much like Mont St. Michel in France? Yep, it’s called St. Michael’s Mount.

It’s an island just offshore from the town of Marazion. It’s surmounted by a castle and fortress and contains a chapel where some religious rites of the local people were conducted. At the base of the Mount was the small community where the majority of the Mount’s inhabitants, the families of fishermen, resided. Now the island is under the control of the National Trust.

St. Michael’s Mount, a view from the shore of Marazion

At certain times of day, people can walk out to the island. However, we got there just as the tides were coming in and it was impossible.

My painting of St. Michael’s Mount. I used really rough paper!

Instead, we clambered over big rocks on the beach, chose a rock to sit on and another rock on which to place our palettes, paints and paper and merrily painted among the stinky seaweed.

Dartmouth, often referred to as the Jewel of the South Hams, was busy with tourists the day we painted there. It was a bank holiday and lots of Brits like to travel to this port side town for a breath of sea air and some shopping.

Dartmouth features a cobbled marketplace and ancient narrow streets with lots of art galleries and specialty shops. Ice cream seems to be quite a thing here too. And boats. Lots and lots of boats, John’s favorite subject.

Nearby is England’s version of Annapolis, the Royal Naval Academy, where their naval officers are trained.

The group gathers to study and paint boats on the water at Dartmouth.


John Lovett’s painting of Dartmouth port.

I finally succumbed to John’s passion for boats and tried to paint one of my own.

Paula’s painting of, you guessed it, a boat.

I found this lovely plaque in Dartmouth.

This plaque sits in the main town square in Dartmouth.

It’s interesting that World War II is still a clear memory in England. They never want to forget what a nightmare it was for them. And we were, during those terrible times, viewed as their rescuers.

Paula Rath




October 10th, 2018 / posted by paularath

Jerry’s painting from Polperro

After leaving the Cotswolds, our painting group packed up our palettes and took a bus ride to Plymouth, in the heart of Cornwall.

OK. I must confess I was a little disappointed in what we saw of Cornwall. I am a passionate lover of Masterpiece Theatre’s “Poldark”  on PBS and I expected to see those rugged, moody cliffs and moors. Those were about ten miles away from where we stayed. But what we did see was several lovely little seaside fishing villages and a surprising island called St. Michael’s Mount that looks a lot like its namesake, Mont St. Michel in France.

One of the fishing villages where we painted was Polperro, also known as “Smugglers Village.” Located on the southeast coast of Cornwall, its landscape is marked by a myriad of caves, ideal for smugglers’ hiding places.

I played hooky from painting class and went on a boat ride up the coast to see the smugglers’ caves. It’s a beautiful coast and there are countless caves, ideal for hiding.

These Cornwall fishing villages are so scenic! The colorful little cottages tumble down to the sea and there are all sorts of boats, from fishing and crabbing boats to tugs and leisure yachts. This is one of John’s favorite subjects to paint, so he went to town!

John Lovett’s painting of Smugglers Cottage

Jerry was also inspired by Polperro Village, as you can see in the painting at the top of this story.

We visited another fishing port, Mevagissey, where the subject was boats, and there we a lot of boats from which to choose, all shapes and sizes and purposes.

I must mention how incredibly lucky we were with the weather throughout the watercolor workshop. Having two weeks of clear weather for plein air painting in England is truly remarkable!

Jerry interprets Mevagissey in his inimitable style!

Mevagissey is famous for its mussels, scallops and crabs. You could see men shucking them (is that the correct verb?) in little seaside warehouses.

We loved this village. It has little narrow, winding streets and some lovely shops. Lots of Poldark-related merchandise, such as Poldark Rum, Poldark chocolates and Poldark biscuits.

We ate fish and chips in a fun pub filled with locals, including the “local dog,” a golden retriever name Leopold. Dogs are welcomed everywhere in England, and we often saw water bowls in front of places of businesses for the neighborhood – and visiting – dogs.

We also visited Dartmouth, home of the British naval officer training college, and St. Michael’s Mount. Those are up in the next blog.

Paula Rath