Fat fossil books.

The Lapworth Museum of Geology within the University of Birmingham is a great little museum that is free and open to the public. I’ve been intending to go there for ages, and as I am just starting my fossil books project it seemed a good idea to go. It’s quite an old fashioned sort of place, which I particularly like, as I love a museum that shows lots and lots of specimens in glass cases, rather than three poised objects with a  button to push, instead of lots of things to see. It’s just about to start a major refurbishment which will change it somewhat. I got a good fossil fix though, and took far too many photographs. Here are just a few. IMG_2174 IMG_2192 IMG_2209 IMG_2160 - Version 2A couple of days later I went to Winterbourne house and gardens, which also belongs to the university, to meet up with some friends. These are the university botanical gardens, and there is a sweet little gallery on site where the friends and I, as the Quatrefoil group of artists, will be exhibiting in 2016. I can remember the days when I thought that was too far away to even think about, but time moves faster these days. In the gallery at the moment is an exhibition celebrating, guess what, the Lapworth Museum, with even more fossils and bones to look at, so I had a double fix this week. The gardens are always lovely too. IMG_2226 IMG_2230 IMG_2240 I’ve started my fossil books in a box, or to give it it’s advanced title, a Multi Media Boxed Book, for my Artist Books book. Unfortunately, although the box started life as a big enough box for the project, it is no longer. This is due to unforeseen circumstances, honestly. The two fossil shaped books were measured so that they would fit nicely into the box ,[yes, I even measured them, after a fashion] as shown below. These are just the two covers, with a large image in the lid that I was going to use to line the box, along with some other prints. The ammonite is obviously an ammonite shape, but the other shape is the actual shape of a piece of rock with fern fossils, which I photographed in the museum. The whole project is based on digitally printed images of my photographs, and some relevant materials from my collage box. I have had a lot of fun with Photoshop changing some of them to my requirements, and printing on a range of papers and acetate. DSC_0180There are lots of pages in each book, and as I have added many chunky gemstone beads to the first finished book, it has grown too fat for the box, so the lid won’t shut. Well, I didn’t see that one coming, well actually I sort of did, but chose to ignore the obvious.  I’m not about to discard any pages though am I, I just need another box, as the second book will be equally chubby. I could make  a box, but feel a certain lack of interest, due to laziness but also because the idea was  to use a found object, to complement the representations of the found objects it is/was holding. So now I’m searching for a suitable box, which may mean a trawl through a few charity shops, which is dangerous. Here are some of the finished pages. They are about 16-17 cm long. DSC_0026 And here is the first fat book, 8cm or so thick, looking like a stack of papery pancakes. DSC_0027

Crucible 2 and The Rainforest Pages.

Yesterday we went to see Crucible 2, the sculpture exhibition at Gloucester Cathedral, which is free, very popular, and closes at the end of this month, should you fancy a visit. Crucible 1, which we also visited, was, I happily thought, 2 years ago, or maybe 3; but no, it was in 2010; eek, time whizzes on does it not?



I enjoyed the range and variety of sculpture displayed throughout the Cathedral and its environs, and the wonderful juxtaposition of glorious stonework and ancient architecture with the 100 pieces of contemporary work worked well.


Foreground, Jubilee IV, and Sitting Couple on Bench, both by Lynn Chadwick.


Part of the glorious cloisters, with work by Sarah Lucas.


Indulging here in my tendency to prefer animals, Warthog by Jonathan Kenworthy.


Boar II by Terence Coventry.


Another Lynn Chadwick, Black Beast.


Tortoise, by Michael Cooper. This was bigger than it looks here, at least a metre long.


There were many more interesting pieces, including two visceral pieces by Damian Hirst, Anatomy of an Angel [Black] and Fallen Angel, which I particularly liked.

Back in the studio, ok, the end bit of the kitchen, I’ve finished Rain and Sun, except true to form, since I am known to change my mind from time to time,  it’s no longer called that.  I decided that I wanted it to be a hanging book, so now it’s called The Rainforest Pages.


The pages are actually quite large, each about 70 x 50 cm, and will hang together and in sequence, hopefully at the NEC next spring, if the stand is big enough…

And so onto the next project, a boxed book, which may involve fossils and other such things. Here are some of the materials, which are an exciting mix of painted and printed paper, postcards, some old slides, and some other interesting bits and pieces including some porcelain low relief forms.


They will all gather, in new shapes and forms, in this old tool box, rescued from our garage clear up.



It will be nice to work smaller for a change, as this box has limited me by being only about A3 size, but I’m sure that will be big enough. I have some ideas I am quite excited about for this piece, and can’t wait to get going.


Colour and pattern.

We had a lovely walk around the grounds of Hanbury Hall in Worcestershire yesterday. I particularly like the vegetable garden and the hens, as I can safely nurse my self sufficiency urges without actually having to do it. I would still like to have a go at that life style, but the lumbar region may not agree.

So instead I bought a small round squash to cook and some chunky cucumbers from the vegetable stand, and of course I had to photograph these chaps, sunning themselves in the polytunnel.

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I’ve posted about Hanbury before, so I won’t repeat the images, but I do like the way they’ve decorated inside the bowling pavilion. Love that green.


The formal gardens are amazing, I know the work that goes into keeping our garden vaguely decent. I so enjoy strolling around looking at someone else’s hard work.


I photographed the yard floor there [ below ] some years ago, but lost the images, so yesterday took some more. I have it floating around in my creative mind that I really want to work more with pattern in the future, when the book projects are made, and these will undoubtedly be part of the arsenal. Pattern, colour, fun and freedom, that’s the way.



I’ve finished The Summer Gardens artist book, all bound and ready to go. Here’s a double page spread below. Next up to finish are the Venice and Rain and Sun books, then it’s on to a concertina landscape.


The Eye of the Needle.


I had a very good day out on Saturday, my first for ages, it seems. My friend Sue and I went to Oxford, one of my favourite places, to the Ashmolean Museum to see The Eye of the Needle exhibition, and to check out the Big Stitch event. The exhibition of English embroideries mostly from the 17th century was excellent, and the museum was buzzing with demonstrations and events.

We particularly enjoyed the small but wonderful exhibition A View of Chinese Gardens too. It is an amazing museum. It was raining steadily whilst we were inside, but, how’s this for good luck, just after lunch the rain cleared and we enjoyed a golden autumn afternoon and evening, with the waxing Moon rising in the still blue sky late in the afternoon.

We had a stroll around Exeter College and it’s wonderful chapel.

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And then to one of my favourite places, the Botanical Gardens. I’ve been there in spring and summer, but not in autumn, until now. It is a gem.



I think I’ve included these giant water lily pads before on my blog before, but here they are again, I can’t resist, they are marvellous.


And below, loving all things rainforest as I do, here’s a piece of work waiting to happen.


At home, I’ve been finishing The Summer Gardens book, and this afternoon I will be binding it. Below, here’s the cover.


Posting those images of the hot house have made me quite twitchy to make more rainforest work. I have Rain and Sun, the fabric book, to finish, which is very jungly, but you know what it’s like, starting work is always more fun than finishing it. I may just get a nice big piece of paper out later and do some colourful collage and ink flinging to keep myself happy, an ideal activity on a wet grey day.

Walking in Venice.

DSC_0005 Well I wish I was, but actually this is the title of the next artist book I’m working on. I’ve wanted to use the small circular pieces [ 30 cm diameter ] of Khadi paper in a project for some time, so as well as taking the opportunity to introduce digital printing and a holiday theme too, we’re basically feeding three pigeons from one bag of seed here. Not that a pigeon features in the pages, lovely as they are. The book is based on a combination of impressions gained upon walking in some of the quieter areas of Venice, and some repeat motifs from images I particularly liked. With my usual meticulously planned approach I printed off the images I liked best, and let things develop as they went along. The project, I thought, was finished, but today it decided that it wasn’t quite, so I will be adding a couple more pages. It has to be done. I started by printing on a variety of papers, and acetate, using my inkjet printer. I didn’t use everything I printed in this project, but will use the rest in other work. Collage means little is wasted. Some of the images are on a lovely soft Fabriano watercolour paper, and I particularly liked those. DSC_0384 Above and below, some of the printed images. DSC_0388   DSC_0408 Some initial drawings and ideas. I took motifs from the low relief stone carving shown here, and they were used throughout the pages, along with other leaf and flower motifs. I can’t seem to get away from the natural world, and the green spaces and roof gardens in Venice are very special. DSC_0402 Work in progress, above. DSC_0009 The first double page spread, with text, collaged image and fabrics. DSC_0011 The second spread, featuring a favourite church and campo in Dorsoduro. DSC_0411 This hedge is the same plant as the tree in the courtyard. I didn’t realise this when I chose the two images. I sketched some simple shapes to use as collaged elements. DSC_0016 A cheeky door opens, and at the turn of the page the hedge is revealed. DSC_0017 The left hand page features fabric and finely woven sheet metal elements, the right is a printed image of the hedge in question. DSC_0392 There are more pages to the book, and some more text. The images above were printed onto the sheets from one of those small watercolour pads, postcard size. I love the perforations, and have turned these into a collection of what I can only describe as labels, to be attached to the main book. I didn’t want to leave them out. I’ll be stitching and finishing the pages, and when that is all done, it will be a miracle. No, I meant to say I will post a few images, but don’t hold your breath, as the finishing is backing up, somewhat…I’ll be bringing the finished book to Embroidery, Fashion and Stitch at the NEC next year.

Much moving of stuff.

Well that’s the way it’s been around here, much moving of stuff, as we have been sorting my mother in law’s house over the last few days. She had a LOT of stuff too, I can tell you. I don’t think she’s thrown a thing away since 1949, and all tidily kept. It has been a revelation, you discover a lot more about people when they are gone, but truthfully I’m all for people doing whatever they like with their own houses and possessions. It’s just sad when the person has gone and the relevance of all those possessions changes radically. It’s made me enter into quite a declutter at home too. Pursuing the quiet joys of minimalism is the ideal, which isn’t ideal timing at the moment but when the mood takes you etc etc. In fact I think the simple nomadic life with a yurt and a camel may be the way to go, but I’m not sure if a camel can be classed as a minimal sort of chap, albeit a very self sufficient one. So here are few images of some completed, laid down pages for the second book, Rain and Sun, which I am making for my artist book book. All the pages are done now and waiting to be machine stitched. The first two images are two double page spreads, each about 1 metre wide. DSC_0319 DSC_0324   DSC_0339 Above, the cover in very early stages, and below, the laid down finished version. DSC_0340   Obtusely, the title will be on the back of the back cover, but that’s artist books for you, you can do exactly what you want.

Work and sadness.

It was promising to be a strange week last week, you know, when a bunch of disappointing things happen, but you just get on with it. Then we lost my Mother in Law on Wednesday, which was a shock, even though she was chronically ill in many ways. She had a complicated life which actually makes memories of her more desperately sad.

So things are not as usual around here. In between dealing with all the things one has to deal with, which naturally will go on for a while, I have done some work, which as usual keeps me going; not a lot, but here is some of it. It’s for Rain and Sun, the latest artist book.


This is actually quite large, about 130 cms wide, as it’s a double page spread with extra fold out pieces to make a panorama.


Above and below, details, but with the sides folded in.


And below, two Gelli plate prints used in two more pages. The background fabric is actually a drop cloth I cut up.


Below, the piece has moved on, with birds added. Stitch and beads will be added too.




Keeping up the gecko theme, these two are looking at the sun. The pages have grown in size, what’s new there I wonder? They are about A2 sized.

Below, my work table at the Bramble Patch Open Studios, where I had a lovely time chatting to lots of visitors, and finishing some of the pages from The Summer Gardens, another artist book. Thanks to everyone who came, making it a really worthwhile experience.