Golden needles!

For a while now I’ve been thinking about needlepoint. I must say this has taken me by surprise, I’ve never been too keen on woolliness. I do, however, like a great deal of tapestry, both contemporary and historical, and of course tapestry is woven, not stitched: but the surface of needlepoint or canvas work, call it what you will is something I find equally attractive. I have decided to blame this new interest on Tina Francis, and my friends in Quatrefoil, an artists group I am a member of, who didn’t laugh when I suggested my new interest, but instead were very enthusiastic. Then of course there’s Kaffe Fassett, and one or two there contemporary makers.

It is a technique, like many textile techniques, that is open to many interpretations. To put it simply, there is something for everyone. But, there is some exciting contemporary work going on, and that is what interests me. I like to see an established and somewhat sedate technique put to new use; for several decades now a similar thing has been happening with quilt art and embroidery. There is, however, a lot further to go in terms of routinely getting textile technique based art into the main art world, where the money and the recognition is.

I’m still enjoying my mixed media work, this is just another bit of media to add to the mix. I’m taking some print courses soon too, so that will be something else new and exciting to either incorporate or be inspired by.


I’ve based my work upon a piece fro my series From the Bright Sky: the image of this is bottom left. I redesigned it in a square format, and drew the cartoon in black pen, which was easy to see when I transferred it to the canvas, which is 10 count. I’ve gone too close to the edge, but there again I always do.

Those are the wools I am using, and I’m just waiting for some black and two whites to be delivered; I may buy a couple more colours too. The chart at top right is from a free programme which converts your image into a pattern, but it’s not quite accurate enough for me, probably because the initial image is too complicated.


The original image.


The cartoon, 49 x 49 cm.


The design drawn out onto the canvas.


Just getting going. I’m basically making it up as I go along.




The chart, don’t try to get it into focus, you will go mad. Useful colour references though, but I must admit I did that by eye.


And here they are, golden needles! Better for needlepoint apparently, and rather gorgeous too. And so easy to thread. I reckon it’s all worth it just to build up a collection of gold plated needles.

A very good time.

Well there we are, the Festival of Quilts all over for another year. I had a wonderful time on my stand, meeting and chatting to lots of people, many of whom I only see at shows, but it’s always a pleasure to see them, and all very life affirming stuff.

It seemed to me to be busier than ever this year. I managed to look around superficially a couple of times, but used the time as a chilling out exercise.

So, not many photographs, but  a few images here of the show before it opened, nice and easy to whizz around before work starts, taking in as much as possible. There were some amazing galleries, notably, for me, Quilt Art, Christine Chester, Through Our Hands and the Tent Makers of Cairo, and the chess set that won the Quilt Expressions category was glorious.





And below is my little stand. I’m having next year off, but will be working in the Art Textiles: Made in Britain gallery.


I’m still sorting out and putting things away at home, though mercifully considerably less than I took; grateful thanks to my customers.

Next week, on the 19th and 20th, I am teaching at the RBSA galleries in Birmingham. The course is called Into the Trees, and we will be working with mixed media, paint, print and stitch. There are a couple of places available.

Below are some examples of some of my work based upon trees and woodland.













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Preparation and alteration.

It’s that time of year again. The Festival of Quilts is approaching, and I am gradually filling the house with all the stuff I have to take for my stand. A lot of it is very neatly packed into Ikea boxes, which seems to be a good idea, but I can only fully properly put the lids on a couple of them, which means my clever stacking idea for the car has no legs. Still, I am indeed an ace packer of a lot into a small space, which is useful as I haven’t even brought all the other bits and pieces I need in from their storage yet. I seriously need a van though. Can I just say thank you to all of those people who have bought my Thoughts book. I didn’t know if it was going to be at all popular, being the wandering/wondering witterings of a weird woman, but it has sold out, for the time being. I have done some to take to the Festival. I’ve been altering a piece of work I laid down some time ago, which I was absolutely convinced was going to work. Well we all are, I imagine, when we start some new work, but we have to be open to change, i.e. cutting it up, in my case. Perhaps too much conviction early on is not a good thing; I fear however there are no actualities in place about this. I have recently bought three pairs of gloriously sharp new scissors though, so cutting and sticking is great fun at the moment. This piece, below, didn’t work as a piece after I had machine stitched it. I coloured the background, and stitched it some more, but it just got worse. I like this early image though, so have had a play with it in Photoshop, layering my photographs and images of other pieces of my work. DSC_0163 The Photoshopped pieces have developed by chance into a series of images which are based upon stamped envelopes, which I think will be something new and interesting to work with in some future pieces. They reminded me of my stamp collecting days when I was young. I didn’t much care for rarity, I liked the big illustrative stamps best, especially all those which I think were from Hungary. The first image hasn’t got its stamp yet, I’m still deciding what image to use. charcoal dark tide. charcoal dark tide mono. Darker Butterflies.

Butterflies The original piece which I took the scissors to now looks like this, below. It was called Dark Tide, now it’s named Night Tide, and I’m altogether happier with it. It’s not finished, there is much work to be done, mostly with metallic thread and of course the odd hundred + beads or so. It’s companion piece, Bright Morning, unfinished, is shown below. They will hopefully be in the Art Textiles: Made in Britain gallery at the Festival of Quilts next year, possibly along with their envelope offspring. DSC_0074. DSC_0157 My stand is Demo H, at the back of the hall by the food and loos, so please come by to say hello.


A few weeks ago I was demonstrating during my small solo show at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Gallery. I was very fortunate in that there were many visitors; it was very jolly. I’m always grateful when people take the time to come to these occasions, and to see the show, so thanks to all of you. The RBSA frequently supports these demonstration days featuring a range of artists, and they are always worth going to. I had some of my artist’s books on display, for people to handle and look through, and after doing so a couple of generous people suggested I should gather together all the words, text and poems I have written for my books, and publish them. So I have. It was very enjoyable to design, and is all in black and white, with 63 pages and 22 illustrations, large and small, taken from the books themselves. It’s called Thoughts. I’ve used a mix of papers in the book too, to once again make it as special as possible and be an artist’s book in its own right. Cover copyI’ll be taking some to the Festival of Quilts, but I can take mail orders too. The book is £10.00, plus £3.50 postage. Please contact me via my website if you fancy one.

Botanical, and much forward thinking.

I do try to live in the present as much as possible, but it’s not that easy at times. There are occasions when you have to ‘live’ in the future, and one of those times is when you are planning work for future exhibitions.

Hilary Beattie and I are lucky enough to have been given a gallery next year at the Knitting and Stitching shows, which is great news for us. Then there’s the Art Textiles: Made in Britain gallery at the Festival of Quilts next year too, so there’s a fair bit of new work to make.

I started this series of work which I’ve called Botanical, which is destined for  our gallery at the K & S shows. I have some other new exciting work in mind too, quite a change to what I have made recently, which is actually underway but in early stages.

But back to Botanical. I wanted to use some digital prints I had made on Khadi paper as a basis for the work. These are a mix of straightforward photographs, and layered images of other pieces of my work made in Photoshop. They are A3 sized.


I drew relatively simple shapes from leaf and flower sources and used a variety of fabrics and papers in the pieces. Here they are, firstly the  piece in progress, followed by the laid down piece. They still have a long way to go before finishing; they will have all the usual stitching and beading, as I want to make them quite rich and luscious.


















Reader, I cheated here, and drew around the gingko leaves. You can’t improve them by artistic interpretation.




Music while you work.

I had nine 30 cm square canvases that I wanted to use for some new small pieces of work, and I decided that I would employ my favourite technique of materials led design. This basically means getting out every scrap of fabric, paper and anything else you own, experimenting and editing with what you have to test what really gets you going, and then making some new pieces, in this case whilst revisiting some favourite themes, something I like to do  when making small works. I finished hand stitching the last two yesterday afternoon, whilst catching up on Mark Ronson and Florence and the Machine at Glastonbury. I just love iPlayer. The volume was up, and it took ages to do the work, of course. More Glasto catch up to do later, seriously need to go there at some point, probably should get on with that one. Not camping though, did that once, and that was enough… DSC_0223 . DSC_0227 . DSC_0227a . DSC_0234 . DSC_0240 . DSC_0258 . DSC_0249 . DSC_0254 . DSC_0262   . DSC_0265

How ideas and work develop…

…is very interesting isn’t it? I’ve had a few ideas circling in my head for ages, and various wants and needs too, such as an urge during the winter to use more colour, and a strong desire to look at and channel illuminated manuscripts in my work. I saw a lot of these amazing books in an exhibition in the British Library a couple of years ago and they have stayed with me, glowing in their glass cases in the dark rooms.

The colour need seems to have been satisfied with the Khadi paper circles with birds previously shown; they’re almost finished now. The manuscripts are still thoughts in progress, but an innocent activity such as sorting fabrics to put into fabric packs for sale at shows has led me to make some new pieces, without planning to.

These are actually for a couple of shows next year, so there’s no rush to finish them, which is wonderful as I actually don’t like working under pressure at all. I had some fabric I was laying down for the packs, below, and although I would never have chosen these to make a piece of work, I loved what happened and made the happy occurrence into a new piece. It’s about 1.25 m x 60 cm, fabrics on silk noil. I’ve had the silk for years, and actually it has nearly ended up in fabric packs before now.

DSC_0163 The piece of work, which I think will be called Dark Tide or Night Tide, waiting to be stitched.

This led to a burst of creative energy, which as usual involved getting out lots of materials. I laid down another four pieces, on silk noil, then put the materials away. I want to enjoy making these, not end up with a great pile of work I feel I have to plough through; been there, done that, time for a change.

This determined plan then failed as I got more materials out later. Still, there we go, strike while the iron’s hot and other ancient but useful phrases. DSC_0131 So a few more pieces, the one below is a companion piece to Dark, or Night, Tide, and is the same size. The elements in this one are all cut out from painted and printed papers. DSC_0157 And below are three more pieces, mixed fabrics and papers, each about 50 x 50 cm. These are probably destined for the Art Textiles: Made in Britain gallery at the Festival of Quilts 2016. The fourth piece is a paper collage, which I will stitch, simply and lightly. DSC_0153DSC_0150DSC_0149DSC_0146There is a fantastic show on at the Art Gallery here in Birmingham, curated by Jeremy Deller. The show compares and connects William Morris and Andy Warhol, and there are some wonderful pieces on show.

I loved Andy Warhol’s beautiful line drawings, and his larger screen prints of flowers, and camouflage, mentioning just two examples, displayed surreally on huge walls papered with William Morris wallpaper designs. The careers of both artists are explored thoroughly, particularly the large amount of publications they both produced.

There are some large print blocks on display which were used to block print various William Morris wallpapers, and these tools are gorgeous as objects too. The whole show is so well curated and mounted it’s a joy, and all the Holy Grail Tapestries, made by Morris and Co. are also in the show. I’ve seen these quite a lot, growing up in Birmingham, but it’s always good to see them again. DSC_0140 DSC_0141