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Mr Monty’s Art Emporium pops up at… Smithbrook Kilns, Cranleigh

Smithbrook Kilns Smithbrook Kilns 2

From now until Christmas, Mr Monty’s Art Emporium is collaborating with Icon Stamp Art at Smithbrook Kilns, Cranleigh not far from Guildford.

You’ll be able to see (and buy of course!) a selection of work by the fabulous UK-based artists who are part of my Emporium.

I don’t get out beyond my territory much so I can only go off what The Staff tell me but they’re usually pretty reliable, so here goes.

Smithbrook Kilns has grown from the site of a derelict brickworks into a hub for an eclectic (big word for a little cat!) mix of businesses which include:


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Why cats love catnip

CatnipCatnip (Nepeta cataria) is a well-known cat favourite, and stories abound about its effect on felines – not only house cats but some of my larger cousins too.

It’s easy to grow and strangely enough the plant is quite safe from cats until you pick a few leaves and bruise them to release the smell we love. There are exceptions of course and some cats will dig it up.

catnip-leaves-loNepetalactone is the whoo-hoo stuff that really does the business in catmints. It cleverly attaches to our nose channels, and can cause us temporary euphoria, sometimes it makes us playful or a bit aggressive, and some cats I know just want to roll around in it.

There’s no known danger if a cat eats catnip. If I were to eat too much I might be sick but I wouldn’t be poisoned. As catnip is mildly sedative (for humans too) it might make me rather sleepy –  but it’ll be hard to tell really because me and all the other cats I know can sleep 15 hours a day anyway!

Cat in catnipTypically the reaction to catnip lasts about 5-10 minutes then cats will be quiet and sleep.  We won’t react to catnip for another two hours.

The science boffins say catnip resembles a component of female cat urine odorant MMB. Some people have even suggested it might mimic kitty sex communication pheromones.  Talking of sex, I’m told there’s no difference in reaction whether a cat is male, female or spayed – so there!

But little kittens don’t like the smell and some are even afraid of it.

Noses apart, some of the catmints have nicer flowers and a more human-friendly smell than others. Herb catalogues will be a source of these more exotic catnips. Your cat probably doesn’t care – I know I don’t.

There are other plants we like too but for different reasons. For instance if catmint is my party plant, the indoor spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is my salad bowl. Nice to chew on, but it has zilch effect on my mood.

A huge thank you to Valerie Munro of Auntie Planty for helping me write this post and for the scientific bits.

Valerie is a horticulturist who helps people create the garden of their dreams by mentoring them and solving their plant problems. So you’re still in control of the work but you know exactly what you need to do to achieve what you want.

She has two cats – Jack and Buddy and here they are.






Inspired by Monty does Surbiton Festival 2014

The Staff are frantically getting ready to take Inspired by Monty to the Surbiton Festival on Saturday 27th September. They’ll be in St Andrew’s Road – stall number 60 – I’d be grateful if you could make sure they’re working hard…

They’ll be promoting both strands of the business – Mr Monty’s Fuss and Feed, and my Art Emporium.  And we’ve got lots of fun things for you to do too!

Sharpen your wit and take part in my caption competition, which will be judged by Tim Harrison – The Good Life newspaper owner and editor, and master of the witty one-liner.

The best caption under a photo of my good self will win a delightful ceramic called Laughing Cat by Cornwall based artist, Jane Adams.

Laughing Cat - ceramic by Jane Adams

Laughing Cat – ceramic by Jane Adams

You’ll have chance to reveal your inner artist too with our draw a cat competition. There are some fabulous prizes in three cat-egories (tee hee – see what I did there?)

The under 10s winner will get a lovely art set which includes a drawing book, coloured pencils, connector pens and clips, grip pencils, and a fish shaped pencil sharpener.

An art set for the under 10s winner

An art set for the under 10s winner

The 11-16s winner will get art materials (sketch book, brush set, Windsor and Newton gouache set) and a book – Draw Paint Print Like the Great Artists by Marion Denchars (plus a Cass Arts bag to keep everything in!).

Fabulous art materials for the 11-16s winner

Fabulous art materials for the 11-16s winner

The over 16s winner will win a delightful machine embroidery by Linda Miller whose work is in the permanent collection of the Victoria and Albert museum.


Beautiful machine embroidery by Linda Miller

Beautiful machine embroidery by Linda Miller

LindaAnd please help us find the most popular, and the most exotic, cat’s names in Surbiton by telling us your cat’s name and sticking a pin on the, ahem, Mappa Monty!

Competition winners, and Surbiton’s most popular feline name, will be announced on the website after the festival.

So please do go along, say hello to The Staff and take part in the fun.




Remembering the brave war animals


Image of the Animals in War memorial, Park Lane, London (taken by Cat Morley!

Image of the Animals in War memorial, Hyde Park, London (taken by Cat Morley

I’m hearing lots of things about World War I at the moment because this week marks the 100th anniversary of its start.

I’m learning that it was a terrible time and many people lost their lives in dreadful circumstances. Really, you humans are a strange breed. You are capable of the most amazing acts of kindness and love, creativity and invention, and yet you also commit the most terrible atrocities.

Anyway, I’m also learning that many animals were involved in the First World War and that they did some very brave things.

These brave creatures, and other animals that have served with the British forces throughout history, have their own war memorial on Park Lane in London. It was designed by David Backhouse – an English sculptor, and was unveiled in November 2004.

Mules from the Animals in War Memorial, Hyde Park, London (Image by Dominick Kosciuk

Mules from the Animals in War Memorial, Hyde Park, London (Image by Dominick Kosciuk )

And if you go to see it, look out for the goat – it was modelled on Rosie, who lived with The Staff’s friends Annie and John in Wales!

Back in 1914 The Blue Cross – a wonderful charity that still does a terrific job today – cared for many animals injured during the conflict.

Originally, The Blue Cross was a fund set up by Our Dumb Friends League, which was formed in 1897. ODFL used the fund to care mainly for horses that were casualties during the Balkan wars of 1912-13.

It was reinstated during The Great War and sent vets, nurses, first aid and clinical supplies out to the front.

But as well as looking after injured animals, it also had a happier role. It’s kennels in Shooters Hill, London acted as a quarantine centre for animals returning from the war.

Monty (my namesake!) was a dog who had befriended a British sergeant in Turkey. He served with him in Gallipoli and apparently was instrumental in saving the lives of two soldiers.

But at the end of the war, the sergeant couldn’t afford to pay the quarantine fees. Blue Cross to the rescue! They stepped in and paid the fees so Monty and his human companion were reunited and able to spend the rest of their days together in more peaceful circumstances.

The kennels disappeared long ago and houses now stand where animals once lived. However, there’s still a pet cemetery with around 240 graves – some dedicated to brave animals who served beside their humans in various conflicts.

You can hear the story of The Blue Cross and Shooters Hill here 





Introducing Mr Monty’s Art Emporium

Elaine and Graham – ‘the staff’ have been out and about searching for talented UK artists for Mr Monty’s Art Emporium.

They’ve gathered together some excellent work and I can hardly wait for the open house weekend on 10 and 11 May at our cosy little home in Surbiton.

I’d like to welcome on board, in no particular order, the following lovely talented artists. Drum roll please…

Linda Miller imageLinda Miller – embroiderer extraordinaire who has created five exquisite little pictures exclusively for my Emporium.  Linda has work in the permanent collections of the V&A and Crafts Council and we are delighted she wanted to be part of the Emporium.

It was one of her pictures – Sooty the Wonder Cat – that started the staff’s collection. They had just got a gas bill for the same amount as Linda’s picture cost. The decided that, in 20 years time, they wouldn’t remember the day they paid the gas bill, but they would still have Sooty.

They’ve looked at this lovely picture every day since. And the gas bill got paid somehow.

Cat-Bag.jpgShane Thompson – illustrator based in Falmouth, Cornwall. Shane has designed a fabulous motif and printed it onto tote bags. Again, the design is exclusive to Mr Monty’s Emporium.

Peeping-cat.jpgBridie Cheeseman – illustrator, also from Falmouth. Bridie has produced five delightful gouache images for the Emporium. I call them ‘secret cats’ because you have to look hard to find the cats in some of the paintings. Take a close look at the self-portrait in her bio too…!

Laughing-Cat.jpgJane Adams – ceramicist, painter and gallery owner in St Just, Cornwall. The staff have been customers of her gallery for a few years now, and love her fun, quirky, cat ceramics and paintings. They were thrilled she wanted to be part of my Emporium.

Jane has been owned by many cats over the years and is now employed by four felines.

Sweet-Peas.jpgAlison Barter – Herefordshire-based painter. Alison works from an idyllic studio in her garden surrounded by beautiful countryside. And it’s reflected in her work. Her main focus is botanical painting but she adores cats and can’t resist including them in her work. The staff tell me her work reminds them of Elizabeth Blackadder’s paintings – I’ll have to take their work for that.

Alison also does commissions. So you could ask her to do a painting of your cat together with your favourite flower. Or you could commission a gift for a cat lover.

Cute-cat-admiring-cushion.jpgNicola Barter – Alison’s daughter. Nicola has a business called The Catkin Boutique and she makes cushions, bags, earrings and even temporary tattoos printed with images of cats.

And she’ll make earrings based on your own cat! I think Elaine should have some of moi…

Lost-cats-quartet-4-of-4.jpgPaddy Hamilton is a Dungeness based artist. He doesn’t usually do anything to do with cats – he has two dogs…

But he did have these very poignant prints called ‘Lost Cats’. They were inspired by a notice stuck to a lamppost about a cat that had gone missing. The notice was still being replaced three years on. So sad. I think the story reminded the staff of when I went missing and they stuck notices on trees and lampposts around where we live.

Oh OK then. Here are the dogs

Fly - he's the daddy.

Fly – he’s the daddy.


Jet - Fly's boy.

Jet – Fly’s boy.

Elaine Mason and Michael Farnsworth run Glass on Glass from their studio in Herefordshire.  Elaine is the main designer and produces a beautiful range of glassware including bowls, coasters, candle shades and cheeseboards.

The staff have chosen some very nice cat inspired pieces!

Dena O’Brien is a very talented fine art printer based near Redruth in Cornwall. She’s busy making some pieces exclusively for my Emporium, which will include a print of me! I hear she’s making cat print lampshades too…

Dena will do commissions so keep a look out for the Monty print to give you an idea of what she could do for you.

Poppy Robinson is an illustration student at Falmouth University. Although she’s never had the good fortune to share a home with a cat, she has always been drawn to us. She says she is inspired by our colourful personalities, our elegance, and our playfulness. What a nice, clever lady!

Poppy has created paintings in gouache just for my Emporium. Thank you Poppy!

CushionNicola Walker is a Surrey-based textile artist.

She’s producing several pieces of work including some fabulous cushions with applique cats. You could ask her to make one for your cat too!

The staff will also have work in my Emporium. Graham has made a range of fabulous painted textiles of my good self, each with a quotation. Some are about books and reading, and others are quotes about leadership inspired by me and my cleverness.

Elaine has a range of feline photos – framed and unframed, and some have been made into cards.

We’ll have other artists joining us over the next few months as well, so keep an eye on the website.

And we have a fabulous vintage range too. I do like to keep Elaine and Graham busy and focussed.

How you can buy the work
We’re launching Mr Monty’s Art Emporium with an open house weekend on the 10th and 11th May, then you’ll be able to buy work online.

If you’re interested in something online but would rather see it in person, you can make an appointment to come and see us. Or my staff will come to see you with the piece of work you’re interested in if you don’t live too far away.

I’m planning to send the staff off to do markets and fairs too so  watch this space! 



Cats that float on water

I’ve been sent two images this week of cat sanctuaries. IMG_0264This one snapped in Amsterdam from Robert and Cath Stubbings (Daisy’s people). And this taken in Barcelona taken by Natalie Hayes who works for a Devon Rex called Jelly. (My people met Jelly’s daughter Moonie in Cornwall last week.)

Barcelona cat sanctuary

The Amsterdam sanctuary is very unusual – it’s on a boat on one of the canals! Home to Amsterdam’s stay and abandoned cats, the Cat Boat has become a tourist attraction.

Started by a kind lady called Henriette van Weelde in 1966, it’s been looking after needy cats for almost 50 years!

And this is Moonie – Jelly’s daughter…


Higgs the Highland Kitty hitches a ride

Wow!  Higgs the Kitten is even more adventurous than me. Take a look at his story and picture in The Metro .

He actually likes going on holiday and enjoys riding around in a rucksack carried by one of his staff.

Me, well, I like to make my own way and I really don’t like being in that noisy thing my people call ‘the car’. Things speeding past without me moving – it’s unnatural.

But hats off to Higgs anyway. Enjoy your travels you brave little kitty.

Thanks to my eagle-eyed roving reporter Sue Grose for spotting the story.





Doppler the weather cat


Just read about Doppler, a ginger tabby, who sadly passed away in February aged 16. (You’ll need to scroll down past Dr Who to find his obituary).

Doppler worked for WSTM, a local TV station in Syracuse, New York, on their weather forecasts. So he was a weather cat like me, but on telly. And not as soggy.

He retired in September last year and was well-looked after by an animal welfare expert for the last months of his life.

16! Apparently that’s 84 in your years! I bet he’ll be much missed by his colleagues at WSTM and the station’s viewers.