Into the wildwood again.

It must be spring, you know, jolly flowers, bright colours, and until recently, blue skies and complacent clouds, with a good dollop of sunlight too.

So, when I decided I wanted to use some pieces of fabric I had saved up for some time, savouring them every so often as we do, of course what did I make but a selection of pieces that could only be described as wildwood pieces, not at all pretty and springlike.

I always find the best way with one’s work is to make exactly what you want to make, don’t bother with compromise, as that way lies bland; what we want is spirit and soul, and authenticity. And avoid anything that is ‘trending’ like a plague.

The fabric I used was basically all painted and printed as demonstration pieces whilst teaching. I must say the thought I put into these pieces is fairly minimal, as I like to show as many techniques as possible as quickly as possible, so the students can get on with their own work. This seems to give the pieces a freedom, and even the ones which obviously leave the class aghast I actually really like and use them consistently in my work. They work, for me, much better than over planned pieces of painted, printed and dyed fabric, or paper.

So here they are, in their very early stages.

This first piece will probably be called Bird Altar. I used two pieces of demo fabric in this, one a mono print, the other basically a quick paint daub and block printed piece, mounted onto  white painted black fabric. There’s a thermofax print and other appliquéd additions, in the form of metallic mesh, and some recycled prints. It’s A2 sized.



I recently made a piece using white tree motifs, called, adjacently, The White Trees. I do love slim white trees, in this case based upon young silver birches.


Above, The White Trees.

So below, some more white tree pieces in the making.


This is painted calico with acrylic ink additions, and a small amount of lovely washed out watercolour-like greyness, towards the right. It’s mounted onto Khadi paper.


This piece is made from two mono printed pieces of fabric, a first and a second print, which almost certainly means that they shouldn’t be called mono prints, but I’m sure you get the idea. The prints were immediate favourites with me, as the cotton I used was very closely woven and the print was very crisp. I like to use first and second prints together in this way.





I didn’t really think I would use my psychotic dragonfly fabric as much as I have, if at all, but I do really love it. Here he is, faintly terrifying in a hot summer wildwood.


They need now to be finished with machine and hand stitch, and some beading.

6 thoughts on “Into the wildwood again.

  1. As always, your painted papers and fabrics work so well together. How do you manage the machine stitch on such big pieces of khadi paper? I suppose the hand stitching isn’t easy either.

  2. Many thanks for your comment. Actually the one piece here on Khadi isn’t too big, it’s about 40 x 25 cm, but I have stitched bigger. I tend to go backwards as well as forwards with the machining, and Khadi rolls well too, if necessary. It can still be a struggle though. When I hand stitch I use a bradawl as much as possible, although a bigger needle is easy to push through, but that’s no use when I’m using beads. It is a nice change sometimes to stitch into a piece of soft fabric, not that that happens very often!

  3. I’m always keen to see where your work takes you next but this post was worth reading for one paragraph alone Steph. That’s the call to make what you want to make, don’t go for bland compromise etc etc. I’m often struck when I read artist statements how similar they are to the things I’m interested in… then I start to think ‘is that because I always gravitate towards the same type of artists’ or ‘have I been influenced subliminally by all I’ve seen – so are these ideas not mine , or original at all, any more?’ Then I wonder if I’m unintentionally copying and grind to an almighty halt and do nothing just in case. The inference to ‘trending’ has certainly made me stop and think. The exhortation to make what you like is a good one. Could you shout it a bit louder so that I get the message?

    1. Hi Lesley, a lovely in depth comment as usual!
      Influence is difficult to deal with, and I think we should free ourselves of believing it to be wrong if we can’t deal with it in a cut and dried manner. Life is but complication and nuance, and I have decided lately that I have wasted a lot of mental and therefore physical energy too on trying very hard to make things behave, become sorted, be rational, be organised. I could go on, but you get the idea. Basically many things are just rather messy and perhaps that’s the way it all works; we just have to pick our way through with as much integrity as we can.
      Also, I think if we accept that we are influenced and inspired by everything we see and hear, including and possibly especially things we dislike or disapprove of, we give ourselves permission to relax and explore in depth what we actually want to do ourselves. This is why being an artist is not the easy job people think it is, it’s a mix of inspiration/work/decision/work, and then more work; not that it isn’t one of the best jobs ever, of course, and I always feel privileged to be able to do it, albeit through years of weird jobs and much teaching to support the art making.

      I know of an artist who for many years resisted going to exhibitions. I can certainly see why; he needed to be certain of his own path and didn’t want to be distracted or influenced by other artists. But other artists do have a lot to teach us, so we have to view their work with a mix of perhaps delight and caution, and be aware and careful what we take from it. Viewing shows can give you the urge to make work, this is chiefly their effect on me, and that is always good.
      I think the way to start is always with source material that has you as the source. Your own photographs, if possible, your own simple drawings. For example, just scroll through your images and when one or two make you catch your breath, those are the ones to use. In my case they can be really boring, or badly composed [ my photography is legendary in its badness ] but that doesn’t matter, it’s what happens next. Print making and collage are also wonderfully freeing; we are not tied to thinking we can’t paint or draw well enough because our work doesn’t look like so many other famous peoples’ does. Doing builds confidence.

      I reckon and hope that most famous, and also hopefully many artists who don’t quite manage fame, learnt that their way was the only way, for them, and to enjoy but resist too much input from others. But if you are influenced to a large extent by someone’s work, just admit it. Honesty works wonders.

      The trending thing is, I suppose, necessary for businesses and those who want to sell things to us that we find palatable, and therefore in many ways can be bland and generic. Sometimes though it is good to share the enjoyment of these products, and to enjoy them ourselves, but when it comes to art and yourself, it has to be the singular path. If one’s work has recognisable links to other styles or movements this can be a mix of influence and indeed simply the way our individual brains work. I sometimes think art students at varying levels spend too much time on contextual studies and not enough time developing their own work, or that at least they should be given a choice of pathway in this respect.

      1. Even more insight in your reply on the question of making and doing. Such a common sense attitude and ‘spot on’ too. You’re right – doing does build confidence. I think you just have to be doing something even if it’s not great. Somewhere in there the real ‘you’ will emerge… and next time you’re looking for a title or a beginning go back to that line ‘Life is but complication and nuance ‘ …. speaks volumes!

  4. Thanks Lesley, that is now definitely noted down in my title list; in fact you know that may be the ideal starting point for some new work; I hadn’t thought about it as a title at all.

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