Leaves, buds and birds.

Using colour, either bright, muted or in between, is one of the things I most enjoy about textiles. When I made ceramics, strong colour was something that happened after a series of processes. Using fabric, fibre and paper with their immediate colour hit was a joy when I changed my media, and it still is.

A recent walk in our suburban streets and a brief forage in the garden turned up some inspiring leaves, in terms of both colour and shape. The ginkgo leaf is from one of several ginkgo biloba trees planted by Birmingham City Council, who whilst cutting costs in every way seem to be keeping up their tree planting programme. Perfect, as they look good and mop up pollution and prevent flooding. I am sort of obsessed with trees, they seem to appear automatically in much of my work.

A lovely group of fresh bright greens and a fuchsia bud, with a few materials sorted, to provide more inspiration for some new work.

The colours were making me feel that it’s time to explore one of my favourite topics, the rainforest, so out came this little gem of a book picked up second hand ages ago. It has supplied me with quite a few subjects over the last few years.

I do like to use my own source material and images as much as possible, but  since these birds don’t seem to visit our garden, and I don’t visit theirs, books like this are invaluable.

Above, some collage papers and fabrics, ready to experiment with. I use these to make actual work or just to try out ideas.

Of course, the first piece I made completely ignores those luscious greens and pinks. I painted the yellow and black watercolour composition at the bottom a couple of years ago, just as an experiment in loosening up and not aiming to produce anything in particular. As is the way with these things, I produced several painted pieces that I liked more than the more considered work that one slaves over for ages.

So, here it is used in this mixed media piece, in fact it made all the decisions about which direction the work went in. The piece is mostly paper, with some fabrics, and I will add some stitch for texture and definition, but not too much. It’s 65 x 38 cm, 26 x 15 inches. I was hoping to work small, but failed.

The work below is entirely fabric, and once again the original colour inspirations have been waylaid. I don’t mind this, it’s just the way new work goes. You choose the materials that you like best and work with them, even though that fuchsia pink and those bright greens seemed to be the whole purpose of the exercise. I liked this quiet linen as a background, and also used some recycled pieces of an unfinished embroidery made using painted fabrics, for the trees.

The image goes with some words I have written about the Moon and the rainforest, and that has dictated the colour scheme too. It’s 50 x 35 cm, 19.5 x 14 inches.

Above, three shots of work in progress.

And below, a small pattern piece, in which those greens and pinks make an appearance at last, in the form of giant floating fuchsia buds and ginkgo leaves.

They have all yet to be stitched.

And to finish off, below, a little drawing to remind me of a design idea for a future piece of work, medium as yet undecided.



The Festival of Quilts 2017.

I was in the happy position of neither having my own stand nor being involved in a stand at the Festival this year, my first year off for at least 10 years. It was wonderful to just visit the show for a change.

Here are a few of my favourites. There seemed to be a very healthy amount of quilts in the competitions, with a high standard of work throughout, and the professional galleries were mostly very good too. I particularly enjoy the non professional work; so much care and love has been put into some amazing pieces.

Without meaning to I managed to buy some fabric. I didn’t go too crazy, which is commendable, bearing in mind that buying fabric is very high on my list of things that I really like to do.

I’ll be back working at the show next year, on the Art Textiles: Made in Britain stand, and very much looking forward to it.

So here are a few favourites.

Elly van Steenbeek.

Helen McBride Richter.

Mary Palmer and Anne Kiely, above and below.

Below, several images of one of my favourite galleries, featuring the work of Diana Harrison.


Bethan Ash.

Annabel Rainbow painting live and raising money for Save the Children, in another of my favourite galleries, Through Our Hands.

Above, admirers in Ineke Berlyn’s gallery, a friend and brilliant textile artist. Some of her wonderful dresses are below.


Sumandip Dhesi.

Anne Forgan. I loved this, it was called, I think, ‘My Ageing Face.’

Janice Gunner.

Margaret Ramsay, winner of the Fine Art Textiles category.




A brief romp around the Summer Exhibition.

I admit to loving the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. There’s no pressure at this show but enormous amounts of art to like, love, be disturbed by, and be indifferent to if you must, but always to seriously enjoy.

I went last week, and I’m determined not to write much at all but just to show some of the images I took. There are general views of the show interspersed with some of my favourite pieces; I have named the artist below these works.

Christine Stark

Suzy Fasht

Fiona Bradford

Covadonga Valdes

El Anatsui

Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga, detail below

Gillian Ayres

Ian Mowforth

Neil Bousfield, and below too

Suzanne Moxhay

Ian Angus

A.Lincoln Taber

The exhibition is on until August 20.

In the book corner.

This week I’ve been finishing some zig zag books, and getting some new books ready to be stitched. The new books will  be quite a long project, as they will need to be machine stitched and finished with hand stitch before I bind them. Then I intend to make the satchel I mentioned earlier for them, so that should keep me quiet for a while, especially if I stitch it in needlepoint, which I would like to. Better start that first, I think.

I’ve decided to add some finished pieces to the satchel too, which I will show at some point. These include a boxed book I made some time ago that has never been out into the world, and who knows what else will appear. Its going to need to be quite a large satchel…




And one that’s still being stitched, below.


And here are the new books, their pages in a neat pile, waiting for their turn. I had some words that needed to be put down, a selection of very short stories/paragraphs and observations. They’re illustrated with digital images of my work; I’ll post them as I finish them.


One day the kitchen will be tidy…

For the last couple of weeks the kitchen has been full of boxes and folders of work and materials, wrapped work and the sewing machine. This is because last week I was in Kent, at Search Press in Tunbridge Wells, working on the photography shoot for my book The Natural World. This will be published next year.

It was quite pressured concentrated work, but that was what I expected and I really enjoyed it. Putting these books together involves so many people, and is astonishingly complex; it’s fascinating. My editor and the photographer were great to work with, and I may have to go back there if is room for another project, which I hope will happen; I think I am slightly addicted to the process.

Now that is done, the kitchen is once again filling up with work for a show I have a stand at at the NEC in Birmingham next week. It’s the Stitching and Sewing Show, and there is an attached Hobbycraft show too.

The stand isn’t just mine, I’m sharing it with my good friend Sue Bibby. We have a large gallery space so it is a great opportunity to show a good amount of work. Come to see us on stand G26.

I can’t show images of any of the work for the book, but here are some pieces I’m making at the moment. I will also be working on these at the show, as we are both demonstrating on the stand.

These zig zag artist’s books will be finished with stitch and beads, to add texture, detail, and more colour. They are made from pre-cut and folded Khadi paper, and measure 45 x 15 cm.The turtles are swimming off the pages in this initial layout, which seems fair enough. They are made from painted and printed calico, stiffened with Khadi paper. I want to add some beach glass to the piece too, so this book will be backed with another zig zag strip for strength. Below you can see the two Khadi books, painted with inks. In fact all the books will be doubled, as I like the extra thickness.

The other pieces I am using in this book are some images of fossils I took, and played with in Photoshop. They are printed on canvas paper, and already have some beads and stitch added, as they were headed for another project which didn’t happen.

This book, above, will be backed with the painted strip shown above the main piece. I have attached all the appliquéd fabrics ready to be stitched; I prefer everything to be in place before I get going.

These two books were made from an embroidery I cut up and played around with; I must admit that’s something I really enjoy, as quite a lot of the work is already done. The little lizard is going to have more beads added to bling him up, and the backs will undoubtedly be zingy greens and reds.

The show is on from Friday June 30 until Sunday July 2. There’s lots to see, from the Knitted Beach to Japanese embroidery, Kimono dressing and lots of individual artists and groups, and of course many trade stands.

Variety is the spice of…

There are many ways of approaching your creative practice. When I made ceramics, I put my creative effort into that practice, but kept up a little textile experimentation on the side, when I had time. There wasn’t a lot of time, and I became a little frustrated.

When I eventually moved into textiles full time, I concentrated on hand stitching using fabrics I painted and printed myself, bringing in machine stitching after a year or so. I loved that practice, and still enjoy these methods of making collaged pieces.

This developed into artist’s book making, using mixed media and fabrics, still with a lot of stitch. This is also ongoing, and as long as the ideas and words keep coming I will keep doing it.

Then I developed an urge to do a spot of needlepoint. This developed because I love woven textiles, but I’m not a weaver, and I met Tina Francis, whose needlepoint works I  greatly admire.

So, at the moment, I appear to be working in all these disciplines, either separately, or in combination. Whatever develops intrinsically and without forcing, that will be the way.

So, after that long preamble, a little visual mix here of what I’m up to at the moment.

I’m making some new artist’s books. These are based on some text and stories I have written. The stories are each basically a few paragraphs long, based upon my observations of life, and are autobiographical. They are just something I need to say, and making books is my way of communicating them.

Above you can see some of the materials I am collecting, mostly digital images of my work and photographs, sometimes collaged via Photoshop, sometimes collaged with scissors and glue. The results will be applied to Khadi paper pages, then stitched.

The books are part of the satchel project I mentioned in my last post. This is an imagined travelling private library; there is a large square format book in the making, and there will be a concertina book, and perhaps one other smaller book.

Above are some of the materials for the satchel, namely the front and back. The blue fabrics are joined together leftovers from a previous project, and the floral piece is a cross stitch picture my mother sewed some years ago. She wasn’t that keen on cross stitch, but gave it a go and was determined to finish it.

Initially I was going to frame it, but using it as part of the book satchel has more meaning for me; when the stories satchel has been exhibited and done its little tour, I will use the satchel, albeit carefully.

I’ve started to get another needlepoint ready to go. This is naughty, as I have 3 on the go at the moment; they will be finished, but when I have an idea I like to move it along. Moving things along with tent stitch is not recommended if you are in a hurry…

Drawn out on the canvas. It’s not too large this time, about 30 cm long. It will be colourful, as the bird is a Gouldian finch, but I haven’t yet decided on the yarns.

Lastly I have actually made something useful. Our new bed needed an end of bed quilt to tie the colours in the room together, and this is it. I made it using a lovely piece of vintage linen curtain, with appliqué squares, and some of my very old kimono. It’s hand stitched with beads, but machine stitched around the border. It is, as usual with my work, quite stiff, but lies well and doesn’t misbehave. It doesn’t so much tie the room together as totally dominate it, but that’s good enough for me.


Clearing the decks.

I’m quite intent upon finishing some work that’s been in a state of either transition or just languishing, and have actually succeeded in doing so this week, so it’s great to feel that I can entertain some new projects. I have no idea what the new projects are yet either, so that makes it even more fun.

I do know I have need for some good thumping colour. I was going to enter a black and white piece I have into Art Quilt Masters at the Festival of Quilts; I must point out this is selected, so it’s inclusion was never assured. However, it just doesn’t seem to be me, in terms of colour,  or the way I want my work to be at the moment, so it’s not going to happen. I quite surprised myself with that decision.

Having said that, of course the first finished piece, here below, is in rather quiet blues.


It’s Into the Blue Forest, 100 x 40 cm. This is the version without the haiku I have written which sparked the whole idea. They are still brewing in a book form; this too has been revised since my last post and I am tempted to make it into a smaller, compact and somehow more personal book. I can’t believe I’m thinking of going smaller, everything with me usually grows and grows to fill all available space.

I’m thinking a small collection of books to fit into a little satchel may be interesting, to take on your journeys. I have more stories that need a home, so this could be something to think about.

On a spare canvas I mounted this already existing piece of work from a series I made called Natural Histories. It’s 100 x 40 cm too, and is called Shooting Stars. The background is painted Khadi paper.

I’ve decided that I am going to augment new work with existing work which is basically just in storage, to give it a new life and get it out in the world.

And below here are a few small pieces ready to be finished. They are all about 18 cm square, appliqué on painted calico.

I’ve been browsing my small collection of interior design books lately. I admit I love books on this subject in equal measure to art books.

These are two of my favourites, both bought second hand. I have a book token from a friend that’s burning a hole in my pocket at the moment, and I bet I’ll spend it on a lifestyle/interior design book; trouble is, there are hundreds of them out there – which to choose?