Botanical inspiration.

Spring must be here. For the first time in months a touch of gardening appealed; mostly chopping down, superficial clearing up and sweeping, and in the rain too, such was my enthusiasm.

I like to keep the garden at a certain level of decency, and it does perform quite well, at a distance, due to the fact there are a lot of plants, from shrubs to trees to perennials and bulbs, in quite a small space. Close up examination of its various areas shows more work could be done, but there we are, a garden is never ‘done’, and birds and wildlife like a bit of disarray.

The reason there are lots of plants is because over the years I kept buying  them, as basically I love plants. In another life I would have liked to have been a botanist.

So, there isn’t much of a scheme, it’s variety rather than planned order; an amazing leaf, a fascinating structure, an unusual flower will always thrill me.

So I thought I would post some images and a few words about some of the plants from our garden and the pieces of work they have inspired.

I like to work from my own images and drawings as much as possible. Here’s a selection.

I photographed these auriculas, below, a couple of years ago, and did a series of design and idea sheets from the images, and several pieces of work, some of which are shown here.

The two pieces below are about 75 cm and 45 cm long respectively.

The piece below is quite small, about 20 cm by 20 cm.

These images below are of our toad lily, the flowers of which I love, as I so enjoy a speckled plant. I used the images as a basis for textile work and prints, many of which appeared in one of my artist’s books, Mist and Grey. Some of the pages from the book are shown below.

The piece above, also from Mist and Grey, was inspired by these exquisite and tiny fallen toad lily petals, which I laminated before stitching onto the page.

Nasturtiums, plants I have loved and grown since childhood. I even wrote and illustrated a little book when I was ten called Mr. Nasturtium. They don’t grow as well in the garden as they used to, perhaps they were put off because we kept eating them. Anyway, here are just a few pieces based on this charming plant, starting with work in progress.

The two pieces above are around 20 x 20 cm and 40 x 18 cm. The piece below is a triptych, each piece measuring about 75 x 45 cm.

This piece, below, is from an autobiographical hanging book called 14 Books. I made the plant illustrations using ink and watercolour, and applied them to Khadi paper, with added fabric leaves. I then added stitch. The plant featured was in our garden for years, unfortunately it’s gone now. Its name escapes me.

And finally, to celebrate the season, a little sprouting bean I stitched some time ago.

Also, for those of you in the vicinity, I have a stand with textile artist Sue Bibby at the Fashion, Embroidery and Stitch show at the NEC, Birmingham, from March 15-18. Visit if you can, it’s a great show, and come and say hello.

Scissor action.

A couple of weeks ago I collected quite a lot of work from Search Press in Kent, which was there to be photographed and included in my book, Stitched Textiles: Nature. This is due out this year, sometime in May, no less.

It’s been a while since I finished writing it [ November 2016 ] and also since the step by step and so on photographic sessions last summer, but hopefully, and I always say hopefully, it will soon be here in person. I’ve seen the flat sheets and they look very good, mainly due to the amazing work done by my editor, Beth Harwood. How she does that job I don’t know, it would drive me crazy!

So, the returned work has required a lot of attention, re-mounting, framing and so on. I was going to send some to the framers, but I was lucky enough to buy a small selection of large gold frames at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists annual sale. I’ve been fancying a move away from the pale Scandi look frames I have favoured over the last few years, so now I have this rather grander, richer looking group of frames for some of the work. They are not new, and although I’ve done a little retouching, they do look as if they have some history. I like this, and I like reusing and repurposing  as much as possible these days. It’s a minor and enjoyable obsession. It’s a pity there weren’t more, but I found a couple more larger frames in a local charity shop too. I did have to supplement these with a couple from Habitat but there we are.

Some of the pieces featured in the book will be at the Festival of Quilts, in the Art Textiles: Made in Britain gallery in August.

So, with just one more piece of framing to finish, which I must do, I enjoyed myself yesterday with a bit of free form composition, using some fabrics I have been holding onto for a while. I need a throw, and in the spirit of using what you already own, thought it was time to use them, and make one.

So having made card templates for a leaf, a spiral and a cross, and with a lot of free snipping, I made a collection of appliquéd fabrics ready to stitch. I will wad and finish them separately and construct the whole thing afterward.

I do love design with the emphasis on the use of scissors, it’s a really free way to work, and I often like the results as much as if I’d have drawn, designed and agonised for ages over the work. There is also the freedom of knowing the throw is just for us, and it occurred to me that most projects benefit from being approached in this way.

Anyway, waffle over, here’s some images.

I used a mix of fabrics, included some I had printed and painted, scraps from my old kimono and a top I had during the 1990s, some African dyed indigo, some vintage curtain fabric, and some plain pieces of variously coloured cottons. I think I’ll go for hand stitch, using some off white thicker thread rather than lots of different colours.



Close to home.

I find that the same themes, with variations, appear over and over in my work. These include the rainforest, landscape, natural history collections, birds, the sea. However, one piece of subject matter to which I have frequently returned is extremely close to home. This is our small, suburban back garden. It has appeared in many pieces work, and has influenced countless others. I have been looking out at it and looking after it for nearly 37 years, so obviously it’s fairly profoundly etched into my conscious and subconscious mind.

So, when people ask where I get my ideas from, I often list those inspirations above. But I could make work based upon our garden forever. It’s small, crowded, interesting, not perfect, houses a pond with two ancient quite ugly fish, of whom I am very fond, has something going on throughout the seasons and entertains a good variety of birds. At the moment, there is an open space beyond the garden, which in winter affords a different dimension and sense of distance, as well as foxes and badgers. So I count myself as very lucky indeed, and what follows are some pieces of work inspired by this little plot.

Firstly, The Summer Gardens is an artist’s book I made a couple of years ago, which hasn’t been out and about very much. I may take it to a couple of shows this year. Below are some images of it’s making and pages, some of which, shown here, are based upon our garden.





Below, a number of pieces either of the garden, or in the case of the last four images, work that was inspired by the garden and that have become woodland pieces. This is no surprise as the garden has a few [over] large trees and we are overlooked by even larger trees too.








So, there we are, close to home and plenty to be going on with.

All the pieces of work are between A3 and A1 in size.

Happy New Year!

More images than words in this post, well, not really, but hopefully not too much in the way of text.

A little round up of finished work, work in progress, and shots of some rather nice materials.

First, some work waiting to have some hand stitch applied and to be mounted and finished.

This is In the Blue Forest, based upon some haiku I wrote earlier in the year. This piece has been through several permutations, which is basically the way it works with me and multiple part pieces; many changes are made before I’m happy with the arrangement.

The Light through the Trees, also based upon some haiku. These two pieces will be framed when completed; I have a few exhibitions coming up this year so they will earn their keep.

Above, Yellow Birds, a piece which has a story attached, which may appear in the finished work, or at least beside it when it’s exhibited.

A little screen print of one of my favourite bird drawings; he looks quite worried this chap, in need of reassurance. The needlepoint they have been photographed on is actually finished, but I have yet to hang it on the wall to photograph it properly. It’s serving as a useful background in several shots though.

Some rather lovely yarns from Blacker Yarns, a birthday present in early December. They’re below too. I don’t want to un-hank them.

Below, a chunky winter journal that I completed just before Christmas, using a mix of papers and some fabric too. It’s a collection of memories, textile pieces, and a story I wrote, Mistletoe, which I hope to also turn into a needlepoint. This may drive me nuts as I am planning, at this stage, to include the text stitched into the piece. This is not a definite, I’m still at that lovely stage of imagining it done before it’s even started.

Below, a needlepoint in progress, a little Gouldian finch. This one is moving along quite well due to the holiday season.

And to finish, a recently finished jolly needlepoint, Two Leaves, 40 x 22 cm. I decided upon a few colours to use to start with, but then reverted to my usual habit of choosing as I went along. An interesting seasonal shift happened, moving from winter on the left, to spring in the middle, and summer on the right; then in the corner perhaps a bit of autumn and early winter moving back in.

So, there we are, work to be getting on with, finish, and then new pieces to start on, when these are done. Yes, they must be finished first, and that’s as close as I am coming to a New Year’s resolution.

So, Happy New Year! This year may your creativity blossom, your inspirations flow, and may you give yourself enough time and space to have a go at all those new ideas and projects you have in mind.

Ready for framing.

I am doing quite well at the moment finishing work. I must say this is my least favourite part of the whole process, so I tend to have a pile of pieces of work in various stages of incompleteness always in the periphery of my vision, making feel guilty about starting anything new.

But I think it’s necessary to keep new ideas flowing and developing, and not at all good to dam them up until all the more tedious tasks are done. It’s also very good to move work along, and that’s what’s happening with these three pieces, they’re off to the framer. So shall I ignore the ‘to be finished’ pile this afternoon, or start something new?

From top to bottom, Morning Moon, Three Leaves, and Forest Flowers.

Moving the needlepoints along.

I started this needlepoint in December 2015, and have just finished it. Phew.

It did rest for a while, as I have the habit of starting other needlepoints, [ this is not a good idea ] and also making my fabric and mixed media pieces, which move along more quickly. Needlepoints go into a different time continuum as they approach their completion, just to really irritate you. Those last few rows will not let themselves be hurried.

This one started like this, as a collage; the bird image is a screen print from one of my drawings. You will see the blue was edited out in the final piece.

Below, the drawing on the canvas.

And the finished piece with some close ups. It’s about 55 x 55 cm, 21.5 x 21.5 inches. I used a variety of yarns, including linen, wool and cotton.

It’s vaguely skewiff and needs blocking.

Optimistic as always, I will say now that I’ll be back soon with yet another finished needlepoint…