The birds are back part two.

One of my intentions this year is to use materials I already have, and although my stash is small compared to many, there’s still enough to make a lot of work. I did actually decide this late last year, and although I wasn’t supposed to be buying anything new, I had a notion to use felt for some new work ideas, so naturally I had to buy some, albeit far too much. After buying it I decided it wasn’t for me, or at least the ideas weren’t for me.

It turns out that I was quite wrong. I had started to plan and make some new work, and found myself choosing the felt as the background. It’s lovely heather wool felt, and of course doesn’t fray, which makes edging really easy. I hate thinking of solutions for edging, so felt may be the chosen way for quite a while.

I am a member of Eclectica Artists, and we have regular Zoom meetings. We decided a project of sorts would be a good idea to keep us going, share developments at meetings and eventually hopefully exhibit the results. Naturally we didn’t pick a theme of any kind, as we never do, we are fully into each of us going our individual ways; we just decided to use recently taken images to work from.

I chose some images of a rose I had photographed, and did a fair amount of collage work, and some drawn ideas for applique and needlepoint pieces. I love a stripy flower.


When I started to choose fabrics and felt, the palette reverted to was one that is basically more my normal toned down approach, except for the brighter pink I still wanted to include, below. I had wanted to use full on bright pink and acid green, but they are making a guest appearance rather than being the leading participants.

Then the subject matter veered away from roses and butterflies, and landed once again on birds. Here are three pieces, all laid down and ready to stitch. They are around 65 45 cm/26 x 18 inches.



So these pieces were distinctly unplanned, but I believe in making what comes naturally. It may be that the more vivid pieces happen at some point, I hope so.

The recent snow inspired me to take a few photographs, and print some images on some silk. The silk was fairly horrible, very stiff, shiny and bright white. I have no idea why I bought it, but I’m glad I did, as it produced some snowy lovely tree prints. The two small images of arches were a possible idea for inclusion, which didn’t happen, but like the pink and green, may do in another piece.

Inspired by the previous flying hoopoe I wanted to do another flying bird. They both seem to flying in the same direction, so they must know something. This time I chose a jay as we often have one or occasionally two in our garden during the winter. I wanted the pink, black and white against the winter colours, and I’ll use beads to introduce the bright blue on the wings.

Now I must stop putting pieces together and actually finish them, so let’s see if that’s what the next blog is about. I have five to finish in the queue, but I may need to lay down a nice tropical bird using some of those bright colours first…

Greetings everyone.

Have the very best Christmas, Yule, winter break you possibly can folks.

Thank you too for looking at this blog throughout the year, and for all your lovely comments.

Look after yourselves, let’s all keep creating and supporting each other.


The birds are back, part one…

Periodically I declare to myself that I’ve made enough work featuring birds. I generally then make a few pieces with no avians, then, without actually being invited, they’re back, flying in, perching about the place, posing under the sun, or looking at the Moon.

I’d been mulling over some autumn coloured fabrics I’ve had for ages, and also some lovely textured silks that I was convinced I would never use. You know, the sort of thing you get out, stroke a bit, and put away again.

This time I didn’t put them away. Having a little experiment with them was the start, and I was convinced that I was going to make some pattern based pieces.


This was the first piece. Boring. So naturally I took the scissors to it and then the birds arrived. Painting some calico with Indian ink for the background seemed to get it all going, and these are the two pieces, below, that happened.

I’d like to make a third, I have enough silk and so on left, and having found a context to actually use it in that I like, I’m enthusiastic about making a third piece. With a bird, probably.


Here’s one of them, below, pinned up, waiting to be stitched. It’s between two other bird pieces that have a slightly more convoluted story, which undoubtedly I will post about at some point.

Keep well, and keep making, everyone. x

Work in progress, black and white.

I didn’t deliberately set out to make a number of black and white pieces. I had some hoops, and some nice bits of painted black and white fabric, and some thick silk and so on, and they started to come together.

I sorted out a few drawings for some promts, and got going with the scissors. Hoops suit me these days. They’re easy to handle, the piece is all laid down and easy to stitch [up to a point, some of my textured painted fabric is like rock] and I can explore lots of ideas without wrestling with billowing large amounts of fabric. They’re my version of illustrated manuscripts, small detailed and contained worlds.

The start of a sea piece.

A fern piece on the go.

A somewhat exuberant starfish.

And another one.

An arch, based on topiary.

Painting some calico and the hoop with some Indian ink, lazy but an effective way of getting black fabric and doing the hoop at the same time.

Adding some white acrylic paint to another piece to make an active painterly background for the piece below.

Feeling a sudden need for a touch of colour, I added some orange to this piece and the two below.

And below, the last one, number nine, which will be absolutely covered in silver beads. I feel it needs the bling.

To follow, some close ups of some of the finished pieces. When they are all done I’ll put them on my website. They may be going to the Festival of Quilts next year, all paws crossed.

Moving across media.

I fully endorse using whatever medium inspires you for whatever project you are developing. Conversely a medium and materials frequently inspire the creative process, so although I’m fully into using what you own as much as possible, new materials coming into the studio can really spark some fresh ideas.

I like to use needlepoint a lot these days to interpret ideas, but I still enjoy collage, drawing, using coloured pencils and paints, and appliquéd stitched fabrics and mixed media. I don’t force myself stick to one medium, the aim is keeping things totally enjoyable and as relaxed as creativity can ever be.

I had some hoops left over from previous projects, and thought about moving them along, but I’m glad I didn’t, because I’m stitching some small pieces in them at the moment with great enjoyment. They are fabulous for working on quite rapid pieces, and because they are so drum – like when stretched I can indulge myself with much beading and addition of other materials, like my porcelain pieces, and the odd pebble or bit of wood.

Above and below, sorting out some materials.

The materials in the image above inspired me to start a series of mostly white and black pieces, with the addition as necessary of small amounts of colour. This idea basically came from just going through my fabrics and grouping them together.

For the moment, back to the the two original pieces, shown here in progress.

And below, two white pieces in progress. I’m not sure if the sea theme will continue, we’ll see.

These are mixed painted fabrics and an ink drawing [on the first image] on silk. They are now being stitched.

Below, two finished pieces.

This one is accurately called Fishy.

And this is Pink Forest.

Both are 26 cm/10 inch hoops, painted white.

Collage edition.

Collage is my go to idea and design tool. I like a few simple line drawings to get down a selection of composition ideas, but collage adds in the shapes, colour, pattern and texture. It’s definitely a make it up as you go along and let’s see what happens medium. I find from this approach the best and freshest composition ideas emerge; it’s as if those simple childhood tools of scissors, paper and glue banish reserve and inhibition, and also simplify, which is something I always aim for in my work.

A mix of collage papers made from digitally manipulated images and overlays of papers photographed and printed out. To these papers I add paint, coloured pencil, screen print and mixed media.

Gathering together some materials to start working on some collages in a new A4 zig zag book, below.

Below, some pages from the book, simple shapes and blocks of complex imagery, open to interpretation in a variety of ways.

Above and below, collaged papers and screen printing over the collage.

Above, ink and cut out digitally manipulated prints from a drawing I made.

Above, a mix of printed digitally manipulated images, painted paper, gold leaf and screen print over the top.

The image above is a combination of digital and cut out paper collage photographed, fiddled with in Photoshop, and printed.

A few pages of the zig zag book. It’s great to work in and stores a lot of ideas for potential work.

More pages and some on going design ideas.

Above, an older collage that inspired the needlepoint below, almost finished, in great need of blocking, so please excuse its parallelogram nature.

I started this one with the intention of it being mostly whites, greys and black, but autumn crept in. It’s a mix of Rowan wool, bamboo yarn and tapestry wool.

Take care everyone.


I particularly like looking at peoples’ workshops and studios online and occasionally in real life. Naturally there is a lot to see, from amazing huge spaces to tiny corners and work stations in cupboards.

It seems this is a shared interest as when I posted an image of my little fabric trolley some time ago I had quite a few emails asking more about my workspace, small and less than amazing as it is.

I think people struggle with too much stuff, much of which is quite nice and may come in useful some day [if we lived to 250 or longer that is] and want a magic solution. I do too.

My main room is compact, now there’s a description, about 240 x 190 cm, approximately 8 x 6 feet. There’s a lot in it but I do pare down some of my materials for various reasons, which is probably a good idea, given the lack of space. I do however feel more creative with less stuff, and to move forward editing out ancient materials that seem to demand I use them even though it’s never going to happen, seems to be the way.

Some people love their stuff though and that’s fabulous.

The little trolley isn’t in use at the moment, he may come back soon, but I thought it would be fun to show a few images of the studio/workroom, and my plan chest, and my other work station downstairs [basically not far from the tv.]

I took these images after I had tidied up, I am a tidy person but don’t mind a mess when working, obviously. Well I say obviously but really only up to a point. I do have to be careful though as I fear I wouldn’t be able to get into, or worse, out of the room, if I didn’t keep an eye on things.

I love my chair, but it is seriously too big for the space…
Cabinet drawers.
More contents of cabinet drawers, try not to get too excited now.
Fabric, some paper, and collage materials stored under the table.
The ever useful plan chest, which is downstairs, not in the little room, and two lots of needlepoint in progress in the living room.
The drawers of the plan chest, with finished work, paper etc, and yarns. I do have quite a lot of yarn, and don’t feel a need to reduce the amount except by making work. I’m trying not to buy anymore though.

And to round off, some tomatoes. Well why not, they’ve done really well this year. I haven’t grown them for many years and it’s nice to be back.


Creativity is an interesting beast, being both a joy and a challenge. I have recently found myself being increasingly challenged by feeling creative but somehow managing to block it by demanding of myself that I work at something new, different, a complete change: all the usual stuff which can stop you in your tracks.

About five years ago at a birthday lunch with some friends we were chatting about our work, and when asked what I was working on, I admitted a need to try out some needlepoint, which had been on my mind for a while. I was reticent to admit it, to be honest, as I think it has a fairly middle of the road and staid image, although I had researched some exciting practitioners of the process. 

Wonderfully, they were, as good artists and friends, very enthusiastic, almost thrilled, and this was emboldening. I have made several pieces over the years alongside my other textile practice, but find that stitched tapestry is increasingly becoming the way. Above and below, a few examples of my needlepoint.

So, I’ve concluded that overnight changes don’t work for me. I’m a slow burner, less exciting but going with the way I am is the only path that works for me. You may be different, and can boldly go, at warp factor 9, no less, and completely change tack, with huge enjoyment.

Whatever sort of artist you are, some assessment of your creative personality and, most importantly, acceptance of your make up will pay dividends. I think for me in the past this came naturally, but time can force us to be over analytical, question to the point of extinguishing an idea, and prevent us from any sort of progression.

So, to move on from a recent block, instead of demanding the shock of the new from myself, I responded to some recent advice and decided that doing things that came easily to me is fine, using inspiration that is an old friend is fine, and working with these rather than against them is more than fine, it’s the way for me. This creates a flow rather than a block, and with flow comes enjoyment, and I’m the sort of artist that likes enjoyment in my work.

Then, with that flow comes new ideas and creative directions, almost without trying. They may be slow in arriving but that’s fine. Don’t force it, just get something chilled going.

With all the above in mind, podcasts on, I got out my images folder, and picked out a few pictures that spoke to me. What I really love is collage, with some drawing and paint thrown in, a sort of loose playing around with shapes and patterns, scissors to hand, some nice pieces of printed paper to work with.

In its very early stages, above, a collage of mixed media. Coloured pencils, paint, fine liner pen, papers to be added, quite a lot of work to be done. This is heading in the direction of a design for a largish needlepoint, part of a series, but also, I hope, a piece of work in its own right.

Of the series of needlepoints, one is finished but not photographed properly yet, one is partly done, and this one, still at this stage. I know that the collage will be more complex than the needlepoint, as I tend to like a marginally simpler look with the stitched pieces.

So basically I get the spontaneity of collage and mixed media, and the interpretation into another, very different medium, something considerably slower to make, in which I can still make creative decisions as I go along, and one that will, believe it or indeed not, still surprise as it gently evolves.

Finished and almost wrapped.

I’ve finished some work which is waiting now to be wrapped in cellophane. I like the wrapping, it shows the job is done and that’s that, into the drawer, onto the next thing. Simple pleasures.

So here are a few finished pieces, and if browsers are actually allowed they will be in one at my show at the RBSA Gallery in Birmingham in November. If they’re not I’ll be sad, but there we are. I tend not to frame a lot these days; that was the plan a few posts back, but sensibly I’ve found people like to choose their own frames, and, if the work doesn’t go to a new home it comes back here, and frames are tedious to store. I am short of space and they do like to damage themselves.

Fossil sun 40 x 35 cm

Moth night 45 x 40 cm

Fossil Moon 35 x 35 cm

Gold Moon, moth forest 45 x 20 cm

Dragonfly forest 30 x 28 cm

White tree 30 x 25 cm

Blue forest 48 x 48 cm

And to finish, two jolly hoops.

Tropical night 30 cm diameter

Tropical Moon 30 cm diameter

I’m writing this on a very wet dull day, that definitely calls out for more colour. Time to get the paints out, let’s see what happens…

Recycle, reuse, regenerate…

I seem to be on a mission at the moment to use up what I have when making work. This practice has been ticking over for a while but has gained momentum recently.

I have bought some new materials this year, some paints and new coloured pencils, some threads and fabric to experiment with something new. This last purchase was probably not wise, but you have these ideas…

I have a pile of old embroideries, work that has been to a few shows, work that’s been in my browser for sale for a while, work that just went nowhere, started but unfinished work. I’ve been sorting through it and basically cutting it up, repurposing it, and hopefully regenerating it into new pieces. It’s quite a relief to be rid of the accusing pile of old work. I thought I’d finished going through it but found another couple of pieces stored away, so they are for the chop next. It’s difficult sometimes as the work is quite nice, but I seriously don’t need any more stuff hanging around; that’s the problem when you have been somewhat productive.

I’ve mostly made smaller pieces from the materials, which will be machine and hand stitched, and mounted for framing. I have a show at the RBSA Gallery in Birmingham in November, so it’s good to have a destination for some work, at last.

Here are some of the materials either waiting to be regenerated or having gone under the scissors. There are about 15 pieces in all, probably more to follow.

These pieces, above, were one big piece, laid down but not stitched. They are now 4 pieces. I made a nice new useful fabric from lots of painted silk scraps bonded onto some silk gauze, bottom left, and this will be cut up and added to the jungly pieces. I spent ages cutting those leaves out and I’m not wasting all that effort!

This piece of printed fabric, below, has been around for some time. It only needed some simple applique, as the images are too nice to cover up. That’s what I love about printing, the beautiful surprises and crunchy visual texture. It’s metallic screen printed acrylic paint on cotton, over dyed with indigo.

Any useful bits and pieces left over go into my collage folder. There’s s a lot of useful stuff in here, lots of potential for cutting and sticking. I still find collage one of the best design tools.

So, next, some hoop action. I had some hoops I wanted to use up, and these ended up featuring some recycled older work too. The first three are 30cm/12 inch hoops, the other two are 25cm/10 inches.

Working at these and in the garden, with some outdoor outings and meet ups, are mainly what I am doing these days. I’ve taken up Qigong again too. I used to really enjoy it when I went to Tai Chi, where we did series of Qigong exercises before the Tai Chi part of the class. I didn’t really enjoy Tai Chi at all, but loved Qigong. After a couple of weeks of short daily practice my frozen shoulder was healed. This wasn’t t the intention of going to the classes, it just happened.

There’s a great chap on YouTube, Jeffrey Chand.

So, a few garden images, yes I know everyone is putting up garden and plant images, but let’s celebrate the plant world, we wouldn’t be here without it.

The vegetable patch, mostly in pots around the garden. Things are a bit slow, but no too bad for a north facing semi shaded garden.

A bit more sun and the tomatoes will ripen. Above is a very mini Turk’s turban squash, which I don’t think is going to be very big, but I didn’t expect anything at all and love the way the plant is rambling everywhere, using any plant it passes to hold itself up. I have a fairly random approach to vegetable growing, fully appreciating the daily pickings. Salad leaves and courgettes seem to be the stars this year.

Hopefully, next time, some finished regenerated pieces. Have safe fun everyone!

Midsummer series.

I’m continuing with my minor obsession of stitching in hoops; actually I could do quite happily do all my work in hoops, I love a circle.

These are part of my Midsummer series, named after the subject matter and the rich dense colours in the pieces. The first three are 36 cm/10 inch hoops, the last three are 15 cm/6 inch hoops. More may follow…

Back on the blog.

Well, after having been around the block [still channelling Quincy Jones here] with blog/no blog/Instagram, here I am back again.

Many thanks to everyone who tried to follow the blog when it moved to Weebly, who proved to be particularly hopeless at blog hosting. Then I thought I’d rely on Instagram, keep it fresh and so on, but no, some idiot decided to have a go at copying my account, disappointingly badly too, I must say.

So I’ve ditched IG for the time being, quite possibly forever. It’s a shame, I liked it, but I can’t bear being messed around. No harm to any of my followers though, and thank you for all the support. Not the support from Instagram though, who are also particularly hopeless, so that puts me off too.

So, whinging aside, I hope everyone is well, as indeed there are unfortunately more important things afoot. So here’s some hopefully nice pictures, for your entertainment.

A collection of finished landscapes, all mounted and ready to go to the framers, hopefully to go in some exhibitions next year. Below, some individual pieces; they are all smaller than A3 size.

I thought it would be interesting to try out a few pieces in a mix of white and cream screen printed fabrics, and to add some porcelain pieces too, below.

I admit some black and more gold crept in, and the porcelain didn’t really want to be involved as much as I wanted it to be. It is creamy coloured and looks wrong on a strong white. Above and below, some pieces in progress.

Time now to get out the sewing machine to get going with that stage of the making. The prints are based on fossils, moths and flowers from my own thermofax screens, printed using acrylic paint. There is appliquéd fabric too.

As a complete change, I thought a touch of tropical colour would be fun to work with next. I got these two pieces of stored work out ready to chop them up and repurpose them, but it turns out I quite want to keep them as they are, and finish them, albeit with dark glasses on, especially for the chappie on the left.

I’m hoping, but not promising, to make some more colourful work. I can’t help thinking that the inevitable black and white may creep in, but I resolutely have little piles of brightly coloured fabrics around to prompt me.

For ’tis spring.

There are a lot of words being spoken, written and read at the moment, so I’m adding as few as I can. Just to say keep well and look after yourselves, observe all sensible precautions and hopefully at some point things will be back to some sort of normal.

So, some images of work, house and indeed garden, for ’tis spring. I hope you enjoy them.

A nice tidy workspace here, showing a few projects on the go and getting started. It does get messier, although I am a tidy bod.

Starting some new work based upon landscape. Mixed fabric applique, much snipping, and also showing the rough sketch which forms the basis of the piece.

Below, six landscape pieces ready to be finished, all to fit nicely into A3 frames, when done.

Above and below, choosing threads and machine stitching on the go.

Although I have plenty to do finishing these landscapes I felt the urge to start a new needlepoint. I don’t know what it is about needlepoint, it won’t let me go.

Above, the rough sketch I based the piece on. It started as a rough plan of some ideas I had for our garden, then I doodled on it, coloured some bits in, and bunged it in my sketchpad. It came out shortly afterwards when I decided I needed another needlepoint in my life.

Adding in a few other collage elements and looking at yarn colours. It’s that bird again, but he’s my favourite so why not. He likes to get into most things I make these days.

The working drawing, which has now been traced onto the canvas. Stitching has commenced! I’ll post that next time; naturally there won’t be a lot to show…

Above, lots of hexagons. I’m also making a book based on our spring garden for the areyoubookenough group on Instagram, which I’ve followed for some time. There’s a different theme each month, this month it’s Hexagon. I’ve started a little late, but hey ho.

And below, the spring garden itself. Cold and wet but lovely.

Also, I’ve been doing a bit of diy, some mosaicing around the sink and on a worktop. It’s only taken me nearly 3 years to get around to it, but it gives the kitchen a Mediterranean vibe. This is good as it’s north facing, and needs some jollity. Naturally I have a few bits to finish off, must gird myself. Also I have some tesserae left, so what to do next, one wonders…

Look after yourselves, keep on making, show us all what you’re doing.





I’m making artist’s books at the moment, which I think is probably one of my favourite activities. I love the way a theme can be explored and developed with a book, and the huge creative variety of structure you can experiment with.

This is a hanging book called Gold, based upon a poem I wrote some time ago. It’s a mixed media piece on circular Khadi paper sheets.

A digitally printed moth that I photographed in a Manchester museum, with, I think you’ll agree, rather a lot of stitches. It’s on a base of painted and printed fabric and paper, with hand and machine stitch.

This little chap is a duck billed platypus skeleton I photographed in Oxford Natural History Museum. I played around with the image on Photoshop and digitally printed it. Mixed fabrics and papers, again, with hand and machine stitch.

Hand stitched ginkgo biloba leaves, that were preserved in glycerine, porcelain ginkgo leaves, paper and machine stitch.

The poem, more porcelain leaves, paper and stitch. And a moth, also porcelain.

Three porcelain moths and a nest, mixed media with machine stitch. I do like the texture you can achieve with machine stitch on Khadi paper.

These are the components of Fossil Moon, another hanging book. It is stitched and done now but I’ll put the whole thing in my next post.

The two books above will have their components strung together, and will hang vertically. This is my least favourite part, but it must be done. I’m planning to show them in the Art Textiles: Made in Britain gallery at the Festival of Quilts at the NEC Birmingham in July-August this year.

These are some papers ready to be made into a book project that’s fairly changeable at the moment. Ha, what’s new! It started as printed papers made from a little screen of stuck down leaves [previous post] and has moved from possibly being a zig zag book, below,

to possibly being another hanging book, below.

Here are the basic components laid down as a hanging book. I stitched the butterflies last year, and there are also porcelain elements. But, the zig zag with some extra elements, such as the acetate sheets, still appeals; a good long zig zag is a wonderful thing, at least for the maker. So it’s likely back to being a zig zag, based on some words of mine, The Paths to Trees.

To save making a zig zag support, I’ve bought an A4 Seabright ready made book, which is very sturdy; some of these finished pieces, with all their additions and so on, will need something strong to hold them up. I admit to not wanting to spend my time making said necessary sturdy book; also accuracy isn’t my strength, and I do want it to stand straight.

I have a plan to finish each component with stitch, additions and so on, lay them all out on a suitable background, photograph them and have the image digitally printed professionally to finish as a hanging. I usually do my own digital printing but can’t do bigger than A3.

A couple of close ups.

And to round up, below, a couple of small pieces I’m making to fit into A4 frames, fabric applique on linocut prints, hand stitched.

Leaving sad news to the end seems to be a tradition, so here is mine. We lost our rather wonderful little dog a couple of weeks ago. He was, basically, a force of nature in a small woolly body, and has left a big gap in our family life.

He was nearly 14, we had hoped for a few more years.

Here he is, George in the night garden.




Decisions, decisions, part two.

I have a couple of projects on the go at the moment which seem intent upon revealing the depths of indecision I can explore. Starting with one intention but finding I actually want to do something else with the work as it progresses isn’t new for me; it became evident some years ago that my processes were fairly meandering. It can be slightly wearying as you fight against the way the idea wants to go, but this quickly turns to delight, as you realise that you are actually making something which is much more engaging, and has meaning for you. These two qualities are necessary for me in producing work that feels honest, to me at least.

I gathered a few visual references together for some new work. The zig zag book is full of small collages, and I find these little abstracts are increasingly informing my work.

As a warm up exercise I made a small piece, using the berries as a subject.


This didn’t excite me at all, so I cut it up.

After much snipping I had reduced it to many small but interesting pieces, and made these three wintry landscape pieces, with the addition of some black and white fabrics.

Now I quite like these, but I’m in a book mood these days, and there’s the thing. I think later on today the scissors will be out and these pieces will be manoeuvred into some sort of artist’s  book. I have found in the past that when the book mood is on me nothing gets in its way.

A textile group I am in meets monthly, and we have a little mess around with small projects during the meetings. Last week, we made some printing plates from leaves, simply stuck onto cardboard with double sided tape. Nature does it best, and I love the way simple starts can move into complex, elegant and beautiful work. Not that I’m promising that, but it’s an aim, and optimism is one of my default settings.

Here’s the plate, after being used with black acrylic paint.

Below, the resulting prints, on Khadi paper.

It was my turn to decide on the next group project so I’ve put it to everyone that they could make a zig zag book using their prints, should they choose too. I certainly will, and have gathered together some materials from my collage folder, below. I think the book will be larger, rather than sensibly smaller.

However, here’s something a little more colourful, below. These four pieces, made a couple of years ago, are going to be exhibited in Japan, with another group I am part of, namely Art Textiles: Made in Britain. They will be at Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival, Tokyo Dome, Japan, from 23 – 29 January. We have been invited there to represent British art textiles, which is all very nice, thank you.

The usefulness of winter.

Whilst I have become more of an advocate of summer, winter has its uses, in terms of getting down to some serious work. The garden and outdoors is far too enticing when the weather is decent.

So this month I’ve started a new mixed media project. It’s in my head, mostly, and as I work through various aspects of it it’s becoming clearer and more resolved.

Last year I made a large metal and paper stitched nest, which was in Art Textiles: Made in Britain’s gallery at the festival of Quilts, and is now between dates on a tour of the show, which was called Wild.

I really enjoyed making this nest, and my latest project is, basically, making another nest piece, hopefully smaller. This may not succeed.

I’ve started by making some ingredients, and from these the piece will evolve. Mixed media can drive you slightly crazy, you just have to stay calm and enjoy the ride.



Above, some leaves that I have preserved in glycerine, mainly as an experiment, but I’ve made the interior of the nest, to be called the golden nest, using some ginkgo leaves, which were very nicely preserved.

And above, some materials gathered for the golden nest. I’ve made some porcelain ginkgo leaves too, which were still being fired when I wrote this post.

Also this month, a short but jolly exhibition here in Birmingham with the Gallery 12 group of artists. Below, some of my work on the wall.

My old school friend and I had our annual pre Christmas trip to London last week. This also included a meeting with all the Art Textiles: Made in Britain bods, which was fun. It’s always great to see them. A great deal of our work is off to Japan shortly, to be shown in our own gallery at the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival in January. This is quite an honour.

My friend and I tend to concentrate on art and shopping, well, mostly browsing rather than purchasing, as we like Fortum and Mason and Liberty’s, for starters. First off, Anthony Gormley, fabulous stuff. Now there’s a mixed media chap. Love the sketchbooks.

Bread. Wonder if I should use that too?

Great piece, one stone was missing. Was that meant to be so, one wonders. The blutack remained.

At Tate Modern we went to the Olafur Eliasson exhibition. Amazing stuff, worth a visit if you enjoy a thoughtful mix of subjects, approaches and some interesting interactive pieces.

This is his piece Model Room, right up my street.

And above, me photographing How do we live together?

Below, a view from Tate Britain, no rain for the whole 3 days!

We also went to Tate Britain, to see the William Blake show. This was fascinating, and huge. He was very productive, we had to have a break halfway through, involving cake. I did particularly like his hand written and hand drawn books, interested as I am in book making and page layout.

To finish, Kara Walker’s fountain, Fons Americanus, at Tate Modern.

Nearly November.

It’s the end of the month, again, and time for a quick romp through October.

I started these pieces some time ago, and have now machine stitched them. This image, above, shows them in their unstitched state. This is quite an achievement as I can’t keep my machine out due to lack of space and I am particularly lazy about getting it from under the table and constructing it.

Here we go, a close up. Now to the hand stitching and beading part, which I like, as it’s quiet and I can listen to podcast and radio programmes without being plugged in and getting tangled up in cables.

These chaps and the following piece were also under the needle. These pieces are quite large, about 70 x 50 cm/20 x 27 inches. I’m looking forward to finishing them, but then comes the ever thorny question of what next, frame, free hanging or canvas?

I will decide later…

A piece of work ready to go into a hoop, for some evening stitching. It’s red cotton with a torn and cut lino cut print. I keep promising to put some prints on my blog but I’ve only done a couple, and I keep ripping them up for collage work. I love fine, beautiful lino cuts, but tend to do rather vigorous pieces myself.

All ready to go.

And here it is, done, but not yet stretched, so it looks a bit messy at the moment. It may be the start of a new artist book about trees.

A finished piece, above, made using some of the indigo fabric I dyed during the summer. Lovely hot sunny days of printing and dyeing in the garden…

This will be going to the RBSA Galleries Members and Associates show in November, along with the red bird piece from my last post. Just need to get them framed up, one of my grit your teeth and get on with it jobs.

Now, above, this is the start of a new rainforest piece, using more indigo fabric and some of the other fabric I dyed during the summer. The leaves were photographed in the orchid house at Winterbourne Botanic Gardens here in Birmingham, about as close to the rainforest as I will probably get.  It’s a very good place for tea and cake too, possibly comestibles that are quite difficult to come across in the actual rainforest.

The piece will also function as a teaching aid for a course I’m teaching this weekend called, predictably, Textile Rainforest. No problem with describing what the course is all about then. I am very much looking forward to seeing what we produce, the variety of work is always excellent.

And lastly, in terms of my work, another largish piece, Fossil Moon, which will go into the Art Textiles Found exhibition, which will launch at the Festival of Quilts next year at the NEC, Birmingham.

Its ingredients are photo transferred indigo fabric on cotton, and the Moon is a collection of my porcelain fossil pieces, on silk covered Khadi paper. This one will be hand stitched. It’s what it wants.

So, a couple of good exhibitions this month, both at the Midlands Arts Centre here in Birmingham, one of my very favourite places.

These drawings are enormous and amazing, that’s all I can say. The show is called The Hills are Shadows, and the work is by Jim Holyoak and Matt Shane, who work together. They are also working on a piece in situ for a few hours each day, for the first few weeks of the show.

I’ve had to keep visiting, peering and marvelling.

There’s also a great show of work there by Graham Chorlton, called Suburb. These are paintings of suburban streets familiar in every way to those I grew up and live in. Strangely, I would love to own several of these gorgeous atmospheric pieces, presumably so I could have suburbs inside as well as outside.

Briefly, from the city to the depths of the countryside; Hanbury Hall’s Apple Festival, with pumpkins. Hanbury Hall is a National Trust property, an 18th century house in lovely grounds in Worcestershire.

There were apples for sale, I bought some, all different varieties. I have no idea what they are as I eat them, but they’re very nice. The orchard there is wonderful, a place of peace, and apples. They grow many varieties; I love to smell the apples when they are on the tree, when the sun has warmed them. You may have worked out that I am a fan of apples, my only truly necessary fruit, even though the image below features pears and quinces too, and dahlias.

Book of the month time! I was buying a sort of necessary book, not about apples, when I spotted this book, below. It became purchased.

It is so beautiful, and well written, and the illustrations are glorious, and it smells fabulous, and I may even learn stuff too.





Work and light.

Ok, where’s September gone? There’s been some amazing weather this month, brilliantly lit days which show off box fresh dahlias and gloriously overgrown psychedelic Miss Haversham vegetable gardens with equal grace.

Above and below, the dahlia border at Baddesley Clinton, a National Trust property in the Midlands.

Above and below, the rampant end of the season vegetable garden also at Baddesley Clinton.

Sorry, I love squashes.

I’ve been lucky too in having seen three good exhibitions, all in Birmingham.

Two were at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Gallery, both unfortunately now finished. One was landscape artist Rob Perry’s annual show, always a joy. I love his work, and can peer for ages at his delicate drawings. This is his website

Kate Fryer was a Member of the RBSA, and died in 2017 aged 106. Life’s Journey is a meticulously curated exhibition of her work; I’ve seen her pictures over the years so it was wonderful to see so many pieces together. Her work encompassed painting, wood engraving, illustration, and fabric design.

I also visited the retrospective exhibition of Barry Flanagan’s work at the Icon Gallery in Birmingham, which includes his sculptural work using textiles and wood, a range of delicate collages, photography, and of course his famous hares. This is on until November 24.

Also at the Icon was this fascinating hand stitched silk piece by Claudia Losi. Well, actually it was made over two years by 12 non professional embroiderers, but the idea was Losi’s; I presume she added a few stitches too. It’s based upon a visionary illustration of the Antarctic by Athanasius Kircher in 1664-1665. It is very beautiful.

And now to some new pieces of my work made and in progress this month. The title of this post, Work and Light, eludes to the fact that as the days get shorter I tend to do more work; the decent weather of the summer is unsettling, in work terms. And also, of course, there has been some spectacular light this month, overwhelmingly beautiful.

I’ve been using the indigo fabrics I dyed, enjoying choosing them for use as backgrounds, but only placing elements in quite a minimal way. I don’t want to cover the fabric too much, as some of the dyed marks are so beautiful.

Above, Red bird, 40 x 40 cm/16 x 16 inches, finished. Hand stiched painted fabrics on indigo dyed cotton.

Above and below, work in progress.

I’m trying out combining the porcelain pieces with the indigo fabrics; they seem like natural partners.

And to finish, a book I couldn’t resist buying. It’s fact – dense but written with such a light and clever touch, and has a small but beautiful number of drawn illustrations.

I hope your October is as joyous as this beetles back.


Festival and print.

August means the Festival of Quilts, and this year I went for the full four days. It was wonderful. I was helping Sandra Meech in her amazing and very popular gallery, but naturally had a lot of time to see the show and indeed make one or two purchases. I tend to stock up on fabric and thread at this show, which then lasts all year and means I don’t need to buy much in the coming year. As if…

So, here are just a few favourites from the show, a month since it happened, but then I never really rush when it comes to social media and sharing. I think I work about as speedily as a medieval illuminator to be honest.

Sandra Meech.

Janet Twinn.

Michael James.

Leah Higgins.

Eszter Bornemisza.

Rosie James.

Lucie Summers on the left, and Suzette Smart.

Neil Bottle.

And something less contemporary, a wonderful selection of Baltimore Album quilts from the 19th century.

I took advantage of the recent hot Bank Holiday weekend to do quite a lot of printing, painting and dyeing of fabric in the garden. I’d bought some bargain Egyptian cotton bundles at the Festival of Quilts, and some silk and one or two other fabric mixes. I added a few metres of calico I already had, and spent three days building up my fabric stocks, which had gone very low indeed.

I don’t like going out and about in the sun and heat so working in the shade, but drying fabric in the sun was perfect.

I dug out my thermofax screens first of all, and printed up a good batch of fabric using acrylic paints. I particularly like metallic paints for this.

Some of the printed fabrics drying on the line. I keep some pieces undyed but dye most when the paint is dry.

Procian dyes mixed and ready to add to the dry acrylic printed fabrics.

Fossil prints thermofax screen prints on cotton. The colours are dye from the sheet below coming through. I didn’t mind this as the piece was going to be very colourful, as you can see below, and the marks added more interest to the finished piece.

Above and below, more thermofax printing followed by Procian dyeing.

Some of the finished pieces drying in the sun.

Washed screens draining and drying. Hot weather is so useful at times.

I also worked with one of my favourite techniques, painting and printing with acrylic paints. I like the stiff handle and texture this gives the fabric, even though it can gum the machine needle up at times.

Above, some of my materials for acrylic print/paint techniques.Homemade print blocks [always make your own, it’s easy and then they are properly personal] and leaves from the garden. Nature does the best leaves if you want fine detail. I paint a mix of richly coloured and plainer, paler fabrics, some of which I then dye with Procian dye.

Here are a few of the acrylic painted, printed and dyed fabrics.

Well done if you’re still with me! I thought it best to get the whole print/paint/dye caboodle all done in one enormous blogfest.

To round up the acrylic theme, before we get to the indigo, here is a piece of work I laid down a couple of weeks ago. The background fabric is black cotton painted and printed with gold acrylic paint.

So, this piece is waiting for my new table. It’s a kitchen/sewing table, we’re a little short of space here so multitasking furniture is a must. Actually it will mostly be a sewing table, let’s be honest.

So, indigo dyeing, which I have just started to dabble with. I went to a one day indigo dyeing course in July, and here are a few of the cloths and papers I dyed on the course.

This book was around as I was trying to remember a particular church I once visited in Venice. It’s a good weight so I plonked it on some indigo dyed papers to flatten them. Then I noticed the title!

Below is a piece of work laid down and ready to stitch, using some of the indigo fabric dyed during the workshop. I cut it and reversed one piece as I liked the back of about one third of it better than the front.

The first image shows a few fabrics I was thinking of using. Most colours go with indigo but I think, for me, it’s best to limit the choice to just shades and mixes of mainly one colour at a time. I imagine it all depends upon the background.

I’ve used this corvid before, and he may appear again, he’s that sort of chap.

I made up an indigo vat at home yesterday. I thought it would enjoy the heat, and having not done it before wasn’t sure what to expect. It behaved well though, and I was really pleased.

It was nothing complicated, just a kit I bought from good old Art Van Go, with some caustic soda added to 5 litres of warm [25 degrees or thereabouts] water in a lidded bucket. Just in case you don’t know you need the lid to keep as much oxygen as possible from getting into the vat, as successful dyeing relies on a process of reduction and oxidation.

I’m reading about indigo at the moment, and there are and have been vast amounts of recipes and additions to the vat tried over millennia. I may grow some next year. It would be fine in a good summer, as indigofera tinctoria, a legume, preferably likes some heat. Isatis tinctoria, woad, a brassica, would manage more easily in a less clement summer.

Below, some resist materials I used to wrap into cotton and silk fabrics to make patterns. I like a more random finished look as it fits in with my work.

Above, some of my wrapped bundles, ready to dye.

The resist materials at the end of the day. Love the blue pegs and balsa wood. Some thin porcelain sheets made some lovely fine marks on some silk, and patterned themselves with beautiful and subtle marks too.

Some of the indigo dyed fabric on the line. I’ll be trying multiple dips next time for some darker blues.

And a big pile of ironing.

I’ll undoubtedly post some of the individual fabrics in the next post or two. It gets you like that, each piece is so exciting, you can become quite a bore about it all.