Well, I was intending to post this a couple of weeks ago, but an organ intervened. After a couple of weeks of digestive problems, a trip to A & E several days ago resulted in the old appendix being removed. The surgeon remarked it was the size of a chipolata, so we decided there was no longer room for it, especially as it had been so naughty.

I must say the care at QE Hospital was wonderful from start to finish, lovely staff, nice food, even though I couldn’t eat much of it. And my own room too.

And thanks to lovely friends for messages and pressies. xxx

So, this is what I was doing before I did that. I was working on the design for a new needlepoint, part of a pair, the first of which I’ve shown in the previous two posts.

I started by sorting some drawings, but I knew I wanted to use the bird at the top of the picture. This is actually a screen print I made a few weeks ago.


Here he is. I won’t be using the text though.


I wanted some background material too, but then spotted a tiny drawing I had made of rowan berries, below, so decide to use this.


By turning it into an A3 print, it basically became the extra element I needed.

Below, the original sketch from my book, just a quickie in ink and coloured pencil.


I tend to make a collage as part of my design process, so painted some paper accordingly.


And below, the layout with and without some extra crayoned additions, just an experiment with my needlepoity hat on, thinking about blending colours or not.


DSC_0004 The final design looks quite raw, but this is where I will leave it, as I make a lot of decisions as I transfer it to the canvas and stitch the piece.


Managed to fit in a little more yarn shopping before the chipolata. Here’s an idea of what I will be using. The yarn on the left is gorgeous, it’s a linen mix. I bought it because I liked it, but it’s ideal for this piece, and was most probably instrumental in the design of the piece.

My first piece is moving along too, not quite as well as I had envisioned, but since I will be taking it easy for a while I hope to fit in some stitching.


I’ve decided this is the full on active piece in a series of three, called Metamorphosis, quite probably. Yes, the others will be somewhat calmer; that’s the plan at least.

And some close ups.




There we go, off for a little walk and Miss Marple.

Slow motion magic painting.

Doing needlepoint, well continental tent stitch at least, is very slow, which is why I imagine there are quite a number of unfinished projects in the world. I don’t mind the slowness at all; I knew there was no way it could be hurried, and frankly that’s fine with me. I’ve produced a lot of textile work, using other methods of making, over the last 10 years or so, and I don’t need any more large pieces to store, thank you.

I love the digital, pixillated appearance of the work, and the way it, albeit very much in its own time, sorts itself out, and reveals the finished piece, like slow motion magic painting. I’m not sure if magic painting still exists, if not, perhaps it could be the next big thing after colouring books.

Having said that, I can’t wait to try out some bigger straight stitches, to make bigger pieces at some point [ some people never change.]

However, the series of work I now seem to have embarked upon will all be in tent stitch, so that’s the next 14-29 years sorted, work wise.

Even worse, I want to illustrate some haikus I’ve written, with small stitched pieces of work. I have been experimenting with size 14 canvas and thicker embroidery threads, and quite like the look. I saw an exhibition of illuminated manuscripts a couple of years ago, and the tiny, detailed, richly coloured works have been lodged in my brain since, so they are the inspiration for the tiny pieces.

So I have large, medium and small pieces on the go, mostly in my head. No wonder I need a lie down.

Needlepoint Number One is moving along, now I have a little more time. Here are a couple of images.



Since I have no woolly stash, it seemed necessary to address that state, so I went into John Lewis at the weekend to fondle some yarn. I know all is available on the internet, but I seriously needed to spend an hour having a good old feel and think. I want to try different weights and thicknesses, so simply bought what I liked and thought would work.

The yarn wall was the quietest place in the whole shop, and certainly the quietest area of Grand Central, the new shopping extravaganza in Birmingham, which was packed with people gazing upwards in wonder at the ceilings, or downwards into their ‘phones, and possibly sideways into shop windows. Anyway, it was a bit like running the gauntlet.

So with my new woolliness, some of which is shown below, I had to have a go on Needlepoint Number Two, also below.



Needlepoint Number Two drawn out on the canvas, with the cartoon to the left. Like the piece above, it’s 50 cm square, not as tiny as it looks here.


And trying out some yarns; a merino wool, some 100% cotton yarn, a wool/bamboo mix and a variegated wool/polyamide mix. They all worked well, so they can continue to mix in with the Anchor wools to add different textures and light handling qualities.

More progress pictures soon!


The necessity of colour.

I’ve been thinking for quite a long time now that I need more colour in my work, more bold exciting colour, in large in -your- face blocks of no excuses colour.

I’ve just got back into work after a few weeks of house sorting and slow motion decorating [ dodgy back ] and now that many jobs have been ticked off that have been sitting on me for ages, I decided it was time to get the colour thing off the ground.

I’m thinking in terms of needlepoint more and more at the moment; it is very satisfying, and fun, albeit, like the decorating above, also slow-mo. I also have a new mixed media project in mind, but I bet it will include some needlepoint too. I love a new medium, it really gets the enthusiasm burning.

Designing for needlepoint is, for me, very different to designing for mixed media. If I want to start a new piece of mixed media work, I look through sketchbooks, make a couple of new drawings, followed by a working sketch, and get out an amount of materials, usually fabrics and papers, which I try out, choosing and editing as I construct the piece.

With needlepoint I seem to work best, so far, if I make a collage of the piece beforehand. This sorts out colour, detail, and the broader areas of the piece. When I transfer it onto the canvas, I naturally don’t mind a little deviation if necessary, and I may alter the design when stitching, if interesting things start to happen, and if more subtle detail needs to be added in large monochromatic areas.

As you will see, I can’t quite ditch my old standbys black and white. I think they will always be too useful, to set off colours, and add definition too.


I wanted to use this design in the piece, along with the bright pink and lime green that have been in my head for a couple of weeks. This is a screen print I made from a drawing on a course a few weeks ago.


I had some painted papers which I played around with initially, to give me an idea of what I wanted. I eliminated most of the detail and went for blocks of colour.


I then painted a piece of paper with acrylics. This was the same size as the canvas I wanted to use, 50 x 50 cm.


Part of the painted background and the painted papers [ altered to make them more useful ] which I then used as collage materials, see below.


Below, the finished collaged design, ready to be transferred onto canvas, and to be used as a colour guide.


I’ll post it when it’s finished. This may take some time…

A London weekend.

I spent the weekend in London with an old school friend; we go a couple of times a year to see exhibitions, and stay in a friendly hotel in Bloomsbury. The weather was good, we did much flaneuring, drinking of red wine [ not all day ] and talking, [ definitely all day. ]

On this occasion we went to the Royal Academy in Piccadilly on both days, to see the new Ai Weiwei exhibition, and also managing to see the Joseph Cornell show, as well as the Waterloo Cartoon and other rooms which were open, due to it being a heritage weekend. As this is a special year, age wise, I treated myself to Friend’s membership, which is fun as you don’t have to book for exhibitions, and there is a nice quiet cafe, lounge and lovely little garden available for your use. So naturally we took full advantage of this, and hope to go to as many shows and previews as possible including next years Summer Exhibition.

So, here are some images. Ai Weiwei, a renowned Chinese artist, became better known in this country after his show of ten million sunflower seeds in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern. I didn’t see that, but I found this RA show to be quite amazing, a brave and uncompromising collection of politically outspoken art. He also had a hand in designing the Birds Nest Stadium for the 2008 Olympics held in China.

See more about him at:

Below, some sculpture made from dismantled Qing Dynasty temples.




Above, ‘Fragment’, a huge sculpture made from timber from Qing temples, which forms the outline of a map of China if seen from above.

‘Straight’, his response to the Sichuan earthquake, below.




Below, ‘Souvenir from Shanghai’, a sculpture made from Qing Dynasty temple remains and his own studio, also destroyed by the government.


Below, a selection of other exhibits.


‘Grass’ and below a glass cube, sorry didn’t note the title, I spent far too long wondering about its construction instead.



‘Treasure Box.’  This deconstructs beautifully.


‘Free-speech puzzle.’ A map of China made from ceramic lucky charms.


The diorama room, ‘S.A.C.R.E.D’, in which his detention for 81 days in 2011 is painstakingly documented.


A view inside one of the diorama cells.


Han dynasty pots given a new role. Breaking, painting and grinding up ancient ceramics as he does is a difficult one, as we revere such things. In this case it is undoubtedly a comment upon the history of the destructive government of China. But he is known a a playful chap, and many copies of such pots are made and sold in China; he could be smashing, grinding and painting such copies.


Wallpaper with Twitter logo, surveillance cameras, handcuffs.

Below, I.O.U wallpaper.



‘Very Yao’, a chandelier of bicycles.


The courtyard of the Royal Academy, showing Ai Weiwei’s ‘Tree.’

The Joseph Cornell exhibition was quite a direct contrast to Ai Weiwei’s comments on the existing world.

Joseph Cornell constructed his own surreal fantasy worlds using collage and assemblage, during the 20th century. His exhibition, ‘Wanderlust’, shows how he wandered, cerebrally,  vast distances in his exploration of the world, history, nature, literature, cinema, dance and astronomy. He rarely left New York state, working alone in his New York basement studio, influencing and impressing many 20th century artists, and many artists since, both professional and amateur, who work with collage and assemblage.


One of his fascinating boxes, L’Égypte de Mlle Cléo de Mérode cours élémentaire d’histoire naturelle, 1940.

See more of his delicate and absorbing work here:

It was in this show that I bumped into Hilary Grayson; it was great to see you Hilary! I tried to comment on your blog but it wouldn’t let me. See her blog on my sidebar, living to work-working to live, for her take on the Joseph Cornell show.

The Waterloo Cartoon is so worth seeing, being the most amazing drawing, mostly in black chalk with one or two coloured pigments. It’s 13 metres wide, and was drawn by Daniel Maclise in 1858-1859, in preparation for the finished painting in the Houses of Parliament.



And now a wonderful contrast, London Fashion Week. On the walk back and for the to the RA we sat in the deck chairs in the sun in Golden Square, Soho, on a few occasions, watching the live catwalk shows. Great fun. I wouldn’t say no to a couple of the Jasper Conran frocks we saw, thanks.




The joy of workshops.

I left university in 1984, although to be accurate it was a polytechnic, as in those distant days that’s where you went to do your art and design degree. Since then I have taught solidly, mainly ceramics, and for the last ten years ceramics and textiles, in regular weekly classes, schools, hospitals, and many  venues around the country.

This is still quite a surprise to me, as I didn’t actually want to teach, having turned down a place at a different polytechnic to pursue teacher training after A levels. I left school and worked in a series of jobs, from the Civil Service to IBM, via a job in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham and a shot at becoming a radiographer. [ Can’t bear hospitals, I discovered, and fully admire all who work in them.]

However, going into teaching was a good move, complementing my work as an artist, and enabling me to meet some great people. I count myself as very lucky.

During all this time I went on just one workshop as a student, at the RBSA in Birmingham; this was three years ago. It was a printmaking and artist’s book course, and it was wonderful. I had noticed that people on my courses seemed to enjoy themselves, [no one has cried yet] so I recently decided I wanted some of that fun, and have treated myself to a few workshops and a course, as a student for a change.

I’m quite relaxed about what the results will be of taking courses; I have a number of ideas brewing that I will be hopefully starting to develop soon. But, I do want to add more to the mix, and I sensed this wasn’t going to happen at home. To change your art, I once read, you do have to change your situation. Actually I think the saying was you have to change your life, but I’ve decided a few changes of venue will do, thanks!


I don’t draw as much as I used to, so have enrolled on an experimental drawing and painting course at mac, in Birmingham. This started on Friday, and proved useful straight away. I really enjoyed just being there to draw for two hours, and like the fact we draw what the tutor brings, in this case sunflowers.

I would never have chosen sunflowers to draw, so immediately that stretches you. Also doing quick sketches with pastels, oil pastels and chalk was good, as once again these are not mediums I would normally choose. Above, a quick oil pastel sketch; we had about 15 minutes for each exercise.

I felt as if I was a long way from the subject; normally I would have had the flower very close to me, and drawn it in a much more detailed way. So, it’s good to try something different.

I’ve booked a couple of printmaking courses too. I went to the first one at Birmingham Printmakers on Saturday. This was a one day course in silk screen printing, something I have never really engaged with before.

Well, all that changed. We used the photo emulsion method, which was all new to me, having never tried it before. I particularly enjoyed it as I do love trying out new machinery! There were vacuum printing beds too, so once you have made your screen you can really get going.


I took two of my bird drawings to work from, and enjoyed printing them in black on a variety of papers, with one print on fabric too. My intention is to hand colour some of them, but working with multiple images in a mix of opaque and translucent acrylics is something I would love to try too. These workshops are mainly going to be useful to feed ideas into my textile work, including my new needlepoint experiments, but then there is also the possibility of making small scale artist’s books to consider…

I love the exact and fine detail that is achievable. These two prints, below, were printed onto some watercolour paper I had printed first with some text, on my inkjet printer at home.




This bird was originally drawn in ink and felt pen, with some white acrylic block prints applied to break up the black. It was then photocopied onto acetate, and the screen was made using the acetate sheet. I love the subtle way the detail of the white areas on the black drawing has worked in the prints.


I’ll be experimenting with colouring the prints with a range of media. Some of the prints are on Khadi paper so Koh-i-nor dyes should work well on that surface.






So the next couple of workshops I’m booked on to will involve more screen printing, using stencils this time. I’m looking forward to this as I want to involve blocks of bold colour in my work as well as finer detail, so I sense something interesting will emerge. After that I’m going to have a go at gum arabic transfer printing.

So it’s a full term all round, and I daresay I will post more results from my workshop-fest.

More decluttering.

I’m still enjoying a decluttering exercise I started some time ago. To be as accurate as possible this was started at least five years ago, but the whole procedure ramped up about a year ago, then subsided a little, and has since consisted of occasional skirmishes into areas of deep resistance.

I’ve recently been digging through materials and stored work, most of which it seemed necessary to keep forever, until very recently, that is. Now it’s time to move it along. That’s one of the problems when you are a very enthusiastic maker.

I do like space these days; in the past I loved collecting and spent years moving possessions around from shelf to cupboard to storage. Our favourite charity shop has benefited hugely [I hope.]

Materials have been repurposed to other ends, and I have added more smaller artworks to my collection of work for sale. Larger wall hangings and the like cause more problems. I’ve decided they have had their exhibiting life, and whilst a couple are on the wall I don’t live in a very large house, so wall space is not unlimited. I plan to put them into a gallery on my blog at some point, in the hope that they can go to a new home for not too large a sum.

So, a few pictures of Very Tidy Drawers. Much has been moved along, and the thrill is you can see what you have and actually feel like using it. There’s nothing worse than keeping stuff because you think you should use it. We can gather enough stuff in that way to repress us for several lifetimes.


These are the drawers of my plan chest, so they are quite large.



Below, a pile of work that I like, but didn’t think would sell, so it has found its way into a large, sturdy Khadi sketchpad I have. This will work as a resource for ideas and new work.


And here are a couple of the page spreads from the sketchbook, which is a little under A2 in size.




I’ve introduced a small shop on the blog, listing some machinery and equipment I need to move along. If there is anything you fancy, e mail via my website. Sorry it’s a bit ponderous but it cuts out so much ridiculous spam.

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.