An essay in images, mostly.

There are times, let’s be honest, when looking at pictures is much more fun than ploughing through many words. So, here is one of those times, lots of images and hopefully not too many words. IMG_2973I had a lovely day out with Hilary Beattie on Tuesday at Winterbourne Botanical Gardens here in Birmingham. I hadn’t seen her for ages, and it was great fun. This is what the gardens looked like in the glorious weather we had. Many photographs were taken; Hils must have taken about 500. IMG_2978 IMG_2979There she is, sneaking into the picture. IMG_2999 DSC_0058 DSC_0061 DSC_0062 In the second hand book shop there Hils found this bird book, which she very kindly let me have. I was going to stop buying books but this one and the gorgeous old botanical chap which follows were irresistible, and very cheap too. I love the paintings and engravings which feature throughout the books. DSC_0064 DSC_0068 DSC_0069 I’ve never seen a book so well used as this 1846 Treasure of Botany; many of the pages are taped in and repaired inside. It’s a dense read. DSC_0084 DSC_0088 DSC_0089 And now a couple more of those circles I’ve been laying down, as mentioned in my previous blog post, machine stitched and ready to be hand finished. IMG_3003 And, if you’re still with us, an image of part my show at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Gallery in Birmingham. It’s a small area, but one picture has just gone to a new home in Southampton, so can’t be bad. I’ll be demonstrating there on May 23rd, undoubtedly with all my circles.

Circles and colour.

I’ve been wanting to make some colourful work for some time, and I was recently going through my paper drawer, trying to sort it out but failing; paper doesn’t seem to like being sorted.

I had painted these large circles of Khadi paper at least 18 months ago, and over time kept just putting them back in the drawer. I liked them but didn’t have many ideas of what to do with them, until earlier on this week when I realised they were exactly what I needed to get a bit of colour into my work; and of course I was using stuff I already have, which is a bit of a thing with me these days. Instead of adding to my materials, I’m going through them and using them, and enjoying the process too. Also you end up with more space, which can’t be bad.

So here are a few before and after shots. The circles are 56 cm in diameter.


Auditioning some fabrics.


Laid down and ready to stitch.


All the fabrics are from my store of Bondawebbed materials, so they are all ready to go. The laid down piece, below.




I forgot to photograph the fabrics used in this yellow birds piece beforehand, but you can see what I’ve used on the left. Most of the bright fabrics were painted by my daughter Chloe. She throws them out and I use them…


There are a couple more pieces in the pipeline too, which I will post as they progress.


All done and wrapped.

The work for my solo show ‘Natural Histories’ at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists gallery is all done and wrapped, ready to  be hung on Friday. The show opens on Monday 4th May, as the gallery is closed until then having a spruce up. I’ve made three new pieces of work for the show over the past week and a half, which was a surprise, as I thought I had made all the new pieces I was going to; I would have liked at least one more when I finished the main body of work a couple of weeks ago but didn’t feel like pushing it. I don’t know what happened, whether it’s spring or whatever, but after a trip to Manchester recently I regained some of my old oomph, and without really pushing it, really enjoyed making these new pieces. They are very black and white, excluding the mulberry bark border on the two large pieces. I love monochrome, but I’m aiming for some bright colours in my future work; I have a great need to use orange. Here are some images of the new black and white pieces, followed by some of the other work on canvases which will be in the show. The long landscape canvases measure 80 x 40 cm, with the small square one measuring 30 x 30 cm. DSC_0838 Work in progress. The pieces were inspired by some photographs I had taken of our magnolia in flower, and an exhibit from the Cornelia Parker show I have recently visited showing the trimmed edges of canvas from some Turner paintings, plus some images I took of the butterfly collection and some plant fossils at the Manchester Museum. The images were manipulated in Photoshop and printed onto calico. DSC_0842 My drawing of the canvas edges, from memory, and the magnolia. DSC_0837 DSC_0843 DSC_0848 Above, Natural histories I, finished. DSC_0858 Natural histories II DSC_0865 Natural histories III, featuring a thermofax print. I made the screen from a photograph of a finished piece of my work based on my toad lily. DSC_0854 Above and below, details. DSC_0859 I always think that detail shots would make interesting pieces in their own right. I mostly hand stitched the pieces but used some machine stitch on the twigs, as I wanted more texture. And below, some more pieces of work that will be in the show. DSC_0754 In the night forest DSC_0770 Spring snow DSC_0805 Winter forest, dawn DSC_0834 Three leaves, autumn 9814290Secret gardens. This is an older piece which prompted me to do more pieces on canvas. There are some smaller framed pieces too, and I will be at the gallery on May 23rd and June 13th, 11 – 1 and 2 – 4, making work and available for a chat. There will also be more work to see and handle on those days too.

A good day out in Manchester, and some new work.

I visited Manchester for the first time on Saturday with my friend Sue, chiefly to go to the Whitworth to see the Cornelia Parker exhibition. The exhibition didn’t disappoint, and the newly developed and added-to Whitworth, a gallery which is part of the  University of Manchester, is beautiful.

We were also impressed by Cai Guo-Qiang’s piece, Unmanned Nature, and his video showing how he made the drawing by basically drawing with gunpowder then blowing the whole thing up, which then forms the marks. There were also videos of his many firework displays, mostly featuring amazing configurations of black puffs of smoke. He designed the fireworks for the Beijing Olympics open and closing ceremonies. Here are a few images, starting with Unmanned Nature, which also featured a large shallow pool.





And now Cornelia Parker’s show, inventive, clever and thoughtful.








The view from the gallery of the park, where we had lunch.


I couldn’t leave out this piece, one of a series of six which involved embroidering two opposing dictionary definitions on either side of a piece of linen. The embroidery is amazing, done by prisoners in HM Prisons.

I was inspired to start some new work by one exhibit in her show, which I didn’t actually get round to photographing. Actually this doesn’t matter as my memory of the piece will serve me well enough, which I will probably use as a format for some new work, which is developing both on my table and in my head at the moment. The exhibit was just strips of waste canvas, small, narrow and ragged, from the edges of some of Turner’s paintings. I have no idea how she came to them, but both Sue and I couldn’t stop looking at them.

Here are some of the materials I have sorted for the new work. I have made some prints on calico using my printer of some exhibits I photographed in Manchester Museum’ natural history collection. We had a short time there before having to catch our train home, it’s a fascinating place.

I also printed some photoshopped images I took of our magnolia in bloom, and a fossil fern. I may use the ginkgo leaves in some way, either as themselves or as little leafy print blocks. It’s all monochrome at the moment, but I’m planning on adding some bursts of colour, either as collaged pieces or as stitching.

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I’ll post developments. I’m trying to keep the pieces as  soft fabric constructions, as I want to use hand stitch, rather than rampage all over the work with machine stitching, which I can tend to do all too readily.

Bold and Bright with Ledbury Quilters.

I had a lovely day with the very talented Ledbury Quilters on Saturday, teaching my Bold and Bright workshop. As I’m always flexible with my workshops, after all, they are about the students not the tutor, you will see some of the work in progress shown here is on the Sensitive and Subtle side of the equation.

I always enjoy the range of work produced in the workshops, I find it all very inspiring, so thought I would share these with you.

stephanie redfern

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Holidaying at home.

Discovering new things to see in the city you’ve lived in all your life is refreshing. On Saturday a friend and I went to to a pop up art show staged by The Cobalt Blue, a group of Midlands artists who hold these free shows frequently at the Custard Factory in Birmingham and occasionally at other venues. I know some of the members from my studio days. Their aim is to present high quality professional art to anyone who wants to see it, and to promote Birmingham’s contemporary art scene; they’re succeeding too.

This is the first show I’ve been to, which is poor behaviour on my part, and also my loss, since it was excellent. The pieces shown included digital art, painting, work on perspex, collage, and tapestry.

This show was called The Rational Grid, and here is some work from it.


Zarina Keyani.


Jeannie Brown.


Rob Walsh.


Teoman Irmak.


Steve Evans.


Tina Francis.


Alexi K.


Tom Tebby.

Afterwards my pal introduced me to an amazing fabric shop she’d been going to for years. We’re lucky in Birmingham as we have the rag market too, and other very good and reasonable fabric stores, but this shop, Barry’s, is the best I’ve been to, and the staff are great.

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You could spend all day in there having fun choosing fabric for any work or project you can think of. If you want to go it’s address is 1 Moseley Street, Digbeth, B5 6JX, and you can park easily and for free. I don’t work for them, by the way…

A brief holiday and some new work.

I had a brief but fun and interesting break in London with my old school and travelling friend on Monday and Tuesday, even though London Midland tried to both prevent us getting there and getting home, by having trains that managed to break down both ways. At least they’re consistent.

So a quick romp through the two days: we went to the National Gallery, very busy, the National Portrait Gallery, not so busy. I’ve not been there before, but loved it. Then the second day we went to the Courtauld Institute, to see the Goya show, and indeed the rest of this lovely little gallery. We did a great deal of flanuering, in dull and then raucously windy weather.

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Trafalgar Square, with floating people.

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The latest occupant of the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.

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A very windy second day, but lots of sun. The queues for the London Eye were phenomenal.


Below, the view from the hotel room onto Tavistock Square, quite a treat.


I’ve started to make some canvas based work for an upcoming show. Interestingly a ladybird sharing similar colours to the piece landed on it when I was laying it all down. This reminded me of an occasion when a black and yellow dragonfly landed on my daughter’s black and yellow bike some years ago.




More work in progress.

Right, back to the machine now, I’ve laid down six pieces so we’re at the machine stitching phase.