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.

A room with two views.

I’m really quite sad that the Fashion, Embroidery and Stitch show at the NEC in Birmingham is all over and done with. I had a wonderful time, meeting and talking to so many charming people, many of whom I know, and also lots of new enthusiasts.

I had taken over a large gallery space from Hilary Beattie, who was unwell; lots of people wish you well Hils!                                                                                      It was room – like with large door spaces, and the wall space was great to work with. And as for tables and being able to really enjoy arranging work and things for sale, well, all I can say is that it won’t be the same when I’m back to my usual small amount of table space in future shows. It was lovely to walk into my ‘room’ in the mornings.

Friday morning was fun when some of the stand holders watched the eclipse from the back of the NEC. It was a clear sky, and someone had the pinhole method, reflecting onto some paper, on the go, and some goggles were shared around too so I got a very good view of it. 

So just a few images of my stand, all gone and dismantled now, sad face.

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Back to work then, after I have caught up with all the domestic and garden tasks that have been ignored. I’ll be starting to make some work on canvases for an upcoming show at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Gallery, and I’ll post its progress.

Books, all about that space and next week is show time, folks.

I’m frequently in the mood these days to edit possessions and move a few things along, mainly due to having accumulated what seems now to be too much stuff over the years, as one does, and aren’t we lucky to have been able to do so. Also because last year the task of clearing out my mother in law’s house left me thinking that I didn’t want to ever cause anyone else that much work. She was clean and tidy but I think had kept everything she had ever owned. I look back and I’m not sure how we did it.

These days I also like space and empty corners and room in drawers and cupboards too; I feel considerably more relaxed when not surrounded by heaps of possessions; to think I used to love a dresser with lots of bits and pieces displayed on it. I like the way I’ve changed though, it’s interesting to work with it.

It’s an ongoing thing, and I don’t miss things that have gone, in fact there has been so much moved along over the past 5 years or so that I can’t remember it anyway; I love to see those bags and boxes going out of the door; in fact I often think how did it all fit in our not exactly huge house?  And of course it’s great to appreciate and enjoy and use what remains.

I have let a few books go over the past couple of years. I do regret a couple of them leaving, and so I’ve decided that I’m not letting any more go; I think that’s where I will draw my decluttering line. I still hope that I’ll have time at some point to actually sit and look through some books the way I used to; I like computers, but I still love the printed book, feeling less urgency to scroll down or skip through the text, and more relaxed about looking at and appreciating images. Of course there is also the pleasure of the book as object, which is something I increasingly explore in my work.

So I was almost pleased recently when hearing that the printed book was far from dead, due to the instability of digital storage. I hope the latter isn’t true though, but I don’t want the printed book to disappear either. This does lead to a conundrum of sorts, as the space that digital storage takes up in the average home is nothing compared to a few shelves of books, let alone all our other possessions, and all we need for making art, too, and indeed a lot of the art we have already made, which can become a huge storage problem if you make large work; this is something I will have to think about seriously in the very near future.

I’ve been preparing some work on canvases for an upcoming show. The pieces are over a year old, but I liked them and wanted to mount them properly. The pieces are based on the rainforest, and when they were finished the black painted canvases I mounted them on were too dull, so they received the printed treatment. They are now very active, which I prefer; I like to think a jungle theme can handle excess quite happily. At least they are jollier, no need here for minimalism. They are each 40 x 40 cm.


More canvases on the left there too, for my new work which I’ll be starting soon.

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Space is something that is important in art, and I tend to spend ages, when I am making a piece of work, moving pieces of paper, fabric or other materials around, trimming, subtracting, and making sure that the space is used in the way that pleases me and carries the idea of the piece in the best way possible.

Collage suits me perfectly; I’ve been watching The Big Painting Challenge, and the rather grim and humourless judges would throw me out straight away, as I would rather paint a bunch of canvases and then cut them up to make some collaged work.

I’m gradually filling the hall and kitchen with boxes and Ikea bags, as I’ll be at the Embroidery, Fashion and Stitch show at the NEC Birmingham next week, Thursday 19 – Sunday 22 March. I have become the proprietor of a much larger stand than I was originally alloted, so that should be fun. There is a lot more wall space to handle than I have ever had before.

It’s ZL20, should you feel like visiting. I’ve just realised this is another addition to the discussion on space that seems to be progressing through this blog entry.

Going back to books, I’ve produced a facsimile of my mixed media artist’s book Shadow and Light. This book was at the Festival of Quilts last year, in the Art Textiles: Made in Britain gallery.

My intention was to make the printed copies into limited edition artist’s books in their own right. All the original pages of the book are there in this version, as well as new pages I have designed especially for the printed book. I have printed the pages on a lovely mix of papers and acetate too, to make it as beautiful and interesting as possible. It’s A4 landscape, with 88 pages, wire bound.

I’ll be taking some copies to the show, and the original book will be there too. Here are some images.

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I’m preparing another book or two too, one of which is a little workshop manual about making mixed media artists’ books, which will hopefully be out soon.


It must be spring…

…because although I should be doing proper work, I feel the need to sort out some very messy materials drawers. I thought I was happy with the serendipity of ploughing through stuff to find one thing and discovering other things I had forgotten about, but actually I’ve decided that this is a rubbish method of working. I decided this after I needed a box to pack some things into to take to a show, and my collage materials collection had to be relocated. Well, there was a lot of paper and so on in one small space, and I found some great bits and pieces I had completely forgotten about, so took action and sorted it all. So the result is a lovely tidy drawer and a big bag of rubbish, and the realisation that there is enough material in there to make the most enormous amount of work. I can’t quite bring myself to weed it out further though, not just yet, but I seriously mustn’t add to it either.

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It doesn’t look too bad in these before shots, but there was a lot. Below, the after shots; at least I have an idea of what I have now. Now it’s the fabric and paper drawers that need a going over…

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All in their drawer, in these old Woolworths plastic envelopes: these always make me quite sentimental.


I taught an artists’ book workshop to the Inspire textile group this week. They were great, good fun and full of ideas. I’m very lucky as this is the second time I’ve been to them; here are some works in progress below. Some people chose to work on zig zag books, and others to make individual pages. The subjects chosen ranged from holidays to insects, birds and butterflies to landscape and gardens.

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