February news.

Phew, just in time for February news. Actually I’ve not a lot to show, having spent time getting work, fabric packs and patterns ready for an upcoming show at the NEC, Birmingham. This is Embroidery and Fashion, part of the Creative Craft Show which also includes Sewing for Pleasure. It runs from 14 – 17 March, and is a really good show, with a strong mix of textile artists, workshops, fashion shows and commercial stands. I am sharing the stand once again with my friend textile artist Sue Bibby.

So, here’s what’s been happening. I have almost completed another pattern, which will go into my Etsy shop. Here it is, below, in progress.

I’ve also been making some porcelain pieces in a ceramics class I go to weekly. I was a ceramist for over 20 years and it’s good to get back to some work with clay. Porcelain is glorious, not the kindest clay body to work with but the most beautiful, and the strongest when fired.

I’m making small pieces to incorporate with textile work at the moment, but some vessels may happen at some point. Below is some work in progress; these are black and white pieces, which should be exciting to work with when they are fired.

I’ve used some of my print blocks to print black porcelain and to impress the clay. I’m hoping to make some tiger pieces next, in orange, yellow and black.

And here are some of the finished fired pieces, a range of leaves, moths, fossil shapes, sticks, and the plain pieces at the bottom which may eventually have words written onto them. These pieces are between 2.5cm/1 inch and 10cm/4 inches.

The works in which I will use these pieces will mainly be my series Stories of the Lost and the Found, which I have started to plan and work on properly at long last. So, below is the start of the first piece, which will be stitched in a hoop, I think, as I really enjoy hoops at the moment; actually it may be that the whole piece will made and shown in 30cm/12 inch hoops.

And to celebrate the amazing last few days of sun and warmth here are a couple of images taken on a walk in a nearby country park. It’s sadly back to rain and grey now, of course, which I suppose is at least better weather for getting down to some work.


January news.

These days a lot of blogs generally seem to have been superseded by Instagram, but those of us who like a bit of a woffle tend to plod on regardless with the blog format as well as all the rest. I seriously think I did more actual work in the past, before all these sharing platforms took over. I do enjoy using them but think that one day I will simply stop and grow my own veg instead.

So, let’s woffle on. For the last couple of months I have been working on some patterns to sell as instant downloads from my rejuvenated Etsy shop; better not duck off social media just yet then. I really enjoy the design and the making up of the patterns, having also done this in the past and in various articles I have written for magazines.

I have spent some time recently weighing up my work and deciding whether to go completely arty or completely commercial. Many hours were taken up with these musings, until I came to the conclusion that as I enjoy and want to follow both paths, that’s what I’ll do. It is generally one thing at a time though, and the patterns have taken over while I get the shop up and running. Here are the first four, below, all designed to stitch and stay in their hoops if the maker so wishes, or to be used as framed pictures, quilt blocks, or indeed whatever the maker wants to use them for. They are nothing if not versatile little chaps.

My other work is following, in direct contrast to these jolly patterns, the usual convoluted path. I am working on a collection of mixed media work called Stories of the Lost and the Found.

This work has been featured previously on my blog, but has moved away from the original book format I was contemplating. I’m using a mix of digital print, collage, needlepoint and stitched textiles combined with porcelain in these pieces. Yes, I have managed to make it as complicated a project as I possibly could, but in my new attitude of acceptance, well, that’s the way it is.

The needlepoint part of it is great as it sits around waiting for the evening when I work away at it, completing a very small amount in a not ungenerous amount of time. The project needs to be done for summer 2020, which sounds as if I have ages, but things are at the moment very very slow moving. I think I need a few lists to clarify what I need to be up to, but, until I can present a logical and coherent statement of intent, here are a couple of images of the needlepoint that is on the go at the mo.

Below, the design and drawing out stages.

And some early stitching, below.

This piece is an autumn piece, and there is text to accompany it. In the image below you will notice that it’s been through a change or two, those giant floating berries weren’t quite right. As usual at this stage there is serious veering to the left. I love tent stitch but it’s naughty. It will look fine when blocked. It’s around 50 x 35 cm, 20.5 x 14 inches.

Lastly, I’m teaching a course, Beautiful Birds, at the RBSA Gallery in Birmingham on February 21. It’s my favourite place to teach, and the students seem to like it too!  Contact the gallery if you fancy coming, it starts at 11am and runs until 4.30pm.       www.rbsa.org.uk 



Art, nature and stitch.

That’s quite a grand title for what is basically a round up of some recent activities.

I’ve been finishing some work and starting to design, make and produce patterns and step by step instructions for some new appliqué patterns which will be available soon. I’ve been thinking about doing this for ages, having done something similar for various magazines in the past, and of course there are some projects in my book. I enjoy devising these patterns so have decided to make more. They take time though, so won’t be appearing just yet.

So no images for those yet, but here are a few images from a recent trip to London, followed by some tapestry inspiration from Coughton Court, a Tudor house in Warwickshire. Then there’s a new needlepoint, and some images from a visit to Packwood House, also in Warwickshire.

Below, the view from the London hotel room window onto Tavistock Square, followed by four images from the fantastic Oceania exhibition at the Royal Academy.

The stick charts, above, were both beautiful and useful, being accurate navigational aids made from canes and shells.

A black headed gull who posed on these railings by the Thames for some time, obviously determined to be photographed.

Next, some images from the Anni Albers exhibition at Tate Modern. Weaving is something I love and admire, but I certainly don’t think I could ever do it. This was a most inspiring exhibition.

The centre image above was my favourite piece in the show.

One of my favourite textile activities is needlepoint, and I am much inspired not only by modern weaving but also considerably older tapestries. I am lucky enough to be able to see quite a lot of these in the various National Trust houses I visit. I spend a lot of time peering at them like Mr. Magoo, and I like to photograph areas of them which then look like wonderful abstract patterns, with the obvious subject matter removed.

One day I may incorporate some of them into a needlepoint piece, but ideas for needlepoint run faster than the actual making! I need larger holes and bigger stitches, obviously.

The faded yet rich colours of these tapestries are wonderful. Pinks and blues aren’t my usual go to colours but that may change.

And now some images of my latest piece. I hope to make a series of pieces for a show in 2020. To be honest things are not moving on as quickly as they should be. Perhaps the Christmas break will afford some more hours.

And this, below, is how far I’ve managed to get after a couple of weeks. My excuse is I only work in the evening on the needlepoints. I need longer evenings. It measures 42 x 36 cm, 21 x 14 inches. No more excuses, I just need to get on with it.

Below, winter sun at Packwood House, and one of the gorgeous oak windows there, elegantly decorated by nature with rosehips.
















Something colourful.

I’ve been making and finishing some fairly colourful pieces lately, using some newly purchased fabrics, and a mix of my own painted and printed fabrics. I have an urge every so often to break out and use a lot of colour; I’m not colour shy but have tended mostly in the past to use it more circumspectly on black or white backgrounds.

I must say it’s been fun, but, I’m ready for a bit of subtlety now! My brain keeps presenting me with white textured surfaces and esoteric subject matter, so I’d better listen I suppose.

Talking of colour, it has been a wonderfully coloured and long lasting autumn this year; todays grim rain may put an end to that, but as I write this the holly tree in our garden is as heavily berried as it’s ever been. Lots to eat for the birds, who generally strip it well before Christmas, so when I bring some holly indoors I have to augment it with some fake berries on twigs.

I do however have a new project to work on that may demand less white and more colour, one that I’m quite exited about, so that will undoubtedly appear in these pages. The esoteric white pieces may have to wait.

So, some finished pieces. These are around 45 x 45 cm.

And the piece below in progress, which is now finished but I didn’t photograph it, unfortunately. I add painted papers to the pages of the black concertina book on a regular basis. I like the act of simplifying a shape and collage is the best tool for that, I find. The shapes then find their way into other pieces of work, but I do love the way the book looks too.

I’ve also started to make some individual pieces based, vaguely, on log cabin blocks. Some are less obviously vaguely log cabin than others. These are quite colourful but I imagine I will tone them down by stitching across them with off – white thread. I’m not sure yet, but they will be displayed together in some way. They are quite addictive to construct! There are 14 so far.

I’ve used digitally printed images, on fabric, of my own drawings, work and photographs, with a mix of other fabrics. They are each about 25 x 25 cm.

Lastly, some watercolour and collage work, with no particular destination, for the moment, at least…

Enjoy whatever you are working on at the moment!


A summer celebration.

To celebrate summer, which has unfortunately mostly ended, I thought I would gather together some summer pages and words from some of my artist’s books. The books are basically constructed using mostly fabric and paper, with stitch, and my words. I’ve been making them since 2009, when I made Into the Cacao Grove, my first artist’s book.

This post was prompted by a lovely person in Guildford who wants to read some of my poetry [she kindly describes my words as poetry] to her poetry group. Their theme next month is summer, so this led to this gathering together of some summer images and words. This is, I confess, quite a long post.

The books here, or rather the pages I am showing from the books, are collections of bound pages, excepting The Moth Pages at the end. I bind in a not entirely traditional way. Three of my artist’s books are quite large, the largest being 90 x 56 x 8 cm, and quite heavy with it. They are well travelled and frequently make appearances when I teach. I hope to be taking one at least to Embroidery, Fashion and Stitch next March, depending upon how much space we have.

To start, the cover of The Summer Gardens. The whole of this book is on my website, if you want to see and read all of it.

There are selections of pages from all my books on my website.

Next, some pages from the summer section of Shadow and Light, one of my big books that measures 75 x 35 x 10 cm. First, the cover, then I have grouped each two page spread together.











Below, two sets of pages from The Stone Bird, another biggie measuring 80 x 58 x 9 cm.


Continuing with three pairs of pages from Concealed Revealed, a book featuring a collection of my haiku.



I couldn’t resist including The Moth Pages, as it rarely has an outing, being rather large hanging book. It’s based on the lime hawk moth. Below, the full piece. It measures 2.5 x 2 m, and is made from a mix of fabrics, digitally printed fabrics and papers, stitch and embellishment.

Colour and light.

The light changed a couple of weeks ago, from bland summer light one day to more considered autumnal light the next. I’ve noticed before that it can seem to be an overnight occurrence. Whilst I miss the long summer days,  I love the complexity of this light, and the cooler interludes suddenly invaded by a a few hours of hot sun before some quite wonderful clouds move in to take charge of the situation.

I was at the Festival of Quilts in August, and one of the many things I enjoyed there was stocking up on some fabrics. This was interesting, as I only intended buying calico to paint and print on. The thing is, new fabrics bring stimulation and new ideas, increase creativity and basically are just so much fun to choose and buy. To be honest I just loved buying stuff. However, it’s not just adding to my stash, honestly, my fabric supplies had gone right down to basically just some calico, and my own painted and printed fabrics, which were also quite low.

So, here’s my new fabric drawer, full of lovely raw materials for future work. I also bought more calico to use for some new painted fabric, as I always like to use personal fabrics as well as commercial fabrics in my work. There’s a mix here of Moda Grunge, Oakshott cottons, silk, felt, African and Japanese fabric, plains, and a couple of patterned pieces I liked.And probably one or two other bits of cloth I’ve missed.

So, some new work has emerged using the new fabrics, which proves, as far as I’m concerned, everything I’ve just said about increased creativity…

One of my favourite little birds, Gouldian finches, make from a mix of painted fabrics, commercial fabrics and silk organza, waiting to be hand stitched. 48 x 48 cm/19 x 19 inches.

Below, the whole piece and the stitching started.

Below, more colour with this red throated bee eater, the same size as the piece above.

I’ve used quite a lot of my pained fabrics in this piece, but the background, as in the Gouldian finch piece, is Moda Grunge fabric. This is handy fabric as it looks hand painted; I have a very small studio so it helps not to have to paint large pieces of fabric for backgrounds, I can concentrate on smaller more intense painted and printed pieces. I need more acrylic paints too, goodo, another shopping trip!

To finish, some early autumn reading. Not having been on holiday for quite a few years gives one the wonderful justification for a little book buying spree. Naturally this justification can be used indefinitely.

I saw the Opus Anglicanum exhibition in 2017, and it is one of a handful of my favourite exhibitions of all time. The book is fantastic.

Another favourite exhibition, one I saw a few years ago, was of illuminated manuscripts at the British Library. The colour and detail of the illustrations in the manuscripts and Opus Anglicanum embroidery is such an inspiration. So I went a little crazy and bought three books about medieval manuscripts; Christopher de Hamel is such a good writer, witty and erudite and addictive. The Seeds book I have wanted for ages, it is so brilliant. And lurking beneath is Dorothy Dunnett, not that we can ever accuse Dorothy of lurking. It’s the first of the House of Niccolo series. I now have all eight books, purchased by various methods, from charity shop to new, and although I have read the first two, some years ago, I’m starting at the beginning again. Got to love Dorothy, also witty, erudite and addictive.