Moving things along.

In my last post I gathered some images and ideas together with the intention of starting a new piece of work. So here is its progress, so far.

I started by making a patterned design from my image of the mystery king shown in my last post, using Photoshop. I printed this and one or two other images onto calico and linen, to make some interesting fabric to use in the piece.


This image shows a mix of photographs, screen printed fabric, metallic fabric and the digitally printed fabric. The digital prints are the kings, the fine black lines on white are actually a Photoshopped image of our magnolia in bloom, then there’s the mosaic floor of the V&A and the library, and a winter tree in a local field. The open book is a print on Khadi paper, which I couldn’t quite squeeze into the piece.


A close up of the kings fabric.


Two fabric pieces and two photographs that influenced the colour scheme. I knew it would involve black and white, but the stark branches, and the blue and yellow of the apples image inspired me to base the whole piece upon this particular photograph. The blue wasn’t right for the piece however, but the apples and branches worked with the long landscape format.

I usually find that I gather too much stuff, both visual resources and materials, and whittle it down as the piece progresses. I think we are so enthusiastic at the start of a project that we want to put all our favourite things in. Making a truly huge piece along the lines of some of the enormous tapestries I saw in the V&A would be amazing.


I decided to use the three largest pieces of fabric in a sort of triptych arrangement; simple is always best, and it meant I didn’t have to cut into them either. They are A4 sized. Then it was thread decision time, and after that, time to machine stitch the piece.

I was going to stitch the piece entirely by hand, but I like the drawn stitched line, and this is quite a large piece that could absorb more detail with ease.


A few close ups of the machine stitching.




Choosing threads for hand stitching and beads.

And below, the whole piece,  which is about 90 x 39 cm.dsc_0051-1

Back soon with another favourite book and also some related small pieces I am making.


I’ve been inspired to make some new work this week, mainly due to a trip to the V&A to see Opus Anglicanum, the exhibition of English Medieval embroidery that finishes this weekend.

It’s a truly marvellous exhibition, and it will be interesting for me to see how it will directly relate to my work, with its 21st century approach.


The design and stitching of the pieces in that show is stunning. I enjoyed too the large ‘lantern’ made by the V&A and suspended over some showcases. This lantern featured the illuminated cut out names of some of the known embroiderers from the period, a touching and deserved tribute to these artists whose work is still thrilling us today.

I imagine, for me, it will be the colours, the metallic stitching, the flora and fauna in the pieces and the layout and design of the work, those floating orderly elements, that will influence me most. I won’t be attempting the tiny, tiny stitches though, I’ll be going for the XXL approach.

There were also some illuminated manuscripts in the show, which I love anyway, for the gorgeous jewelled colours of the painting, the dense handwritten text, and the sheer presence of those books. What particularly grabbed me too were the gilded edges of the pages, so vividly metallic and lustrous; that will make an appearance in a piece of work somewhere in the future, I’m sure.

But, as usual when I am in an interesting building, I do like to note other random things that attract me. The way I pick up these images is so relaxed and serendipitous that almost without exception I know they will feature in my work in some way.

I didn’t record too many on this occasion, but have added to them at home from images already on my computer, thus building a creative towering cumulus of delight. Sorry about that, it came into my head, so I used it.

Here are a few images for the first of the pieces, which I think I may call my Place project. These are for the winter piece; I can never resist a seasonal format.

The first three are sort of blurry as I took them on my ancient ‘phone, but I don’t mind, as I love this look, especially if I decide to digitally print some fabric or paper to use in the new work.

They show the library at the V&A, a view of the mosaic floor and a statue of a Medieval king; sorry to be vague about the latter, but even the V&A are not entirely sure which one, and I admit I neglected to note down the alternatives. I’ll check when I’m next there, just in case anyone needs to know…

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And below, other images that may be brought into play.

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Basically then it’s trees and a door, which made from trees. So far we have wood, stone and paper. And leaves and berries/fruit too. So there is quite a lot to work with, so I better get on with it.

Keeping up my new practice of showing some of the books I enjoy, here are this posts selection. Piper’s use of space and perspective, his shapes, the placing of chosen elements, his mixed media approach using ink, paint and collage, the broader painterly areas against finer inked detail and more graphic areas, the deeply satisfying colours he chose; amazing. When I see them in real life it’s difficult to leave the gallery.


Hitchens intense atmospheric paintings never fail to excite me; I just want to absorb them. If you are ever in a tight corner, have a look at these two artists’ work.




Decisions, decisions.

I’m finding it’s time for a rethink of my working practices, most notably sorting out that which I don’t want to do, and also that which I have started, and don’t want to finish.

I have a habit of enthusiastically blogging projects when I start them, and in most cases the work is finished in due course. There are always some things that have to be let go, even though I generally will keep them for a while, get them out every so often, convince myself that of course I want to finish them, and then put them away again.

Two such things are the piece ‘In the blue forest’, my last blog entry, which was ages ago. I used to blog very regularly, but as we all know life has a way of stepping in and using our energies in other ways. I like blogging, so will be more persistent in bringing it back into my life.

‘In the blue forest’ then, started, much fondled, happily discarded. Too big and too draining. Like wise my old pal the  stuffed 3 d raven, from an older post. I loved the idea of him being finished, but came to one day and realised that it wasn’t going to be me who would finish him. He’s unstuffed now, but I still have two flat raven shaped pieces of him.

One or two other pieces have gone a similar route, and I would recommend it if you are bogged down with work you think you ‘should’ finish, but that leaves you slightly depressed when you actually think about doing that. I always think the work that is right for you is that which gets you out of bed in the morning at the thought of it, that you could actually start to do without doing all the things you need to do before you get to do the things you really want to; the work that really excites you.

So I’m spending a little more time sorting and clearing. It gives me brain space, I notice more is what is going on around me, it cheers. I love that people can work in what I view as chaos, who are unaffectedly surrounded by many projects in progress. I used to be more like that, but no longer; we are just all different, and sometimes we change.

I am still working on a selection of needlepoints, and loving it. This one has had a rest due to  other work having to take precedence, but I’m back with it now. This piece is about 40 cm wide.



Unrolling it for the photograph shows I haven’t done as much of it as I thought I had…


Much as I enjoy looking at images on the internet and reading articles, I still love books more. I’m digging out some old favourites, and enjoying a new addition here too.


I bought the Dorothy Tucker book years ago, in a book sale. It’s a gem, with a wonderful mix of work, it just gets me every time. I’ve decluttered a few books over time, and this one has never been on the exit pile.

Celebrating the Stitch helped hugely in setting me on my textile path. It’s still relevant, absolutely full of good stuff, including D R Wagner’s amazing work, a piece of which you can see on the cover. And to further my interest in all things yarn based, Tapestry A Woven Narrative is a recently purchased luscious commentary on contemporary weaving.

More inspirational books next time perhaps.




In the blue forest.

I bought a selection of patterned fabrics at the Festival of Quilts in August, and have started to put a piece of work together using them. This is quite a new thing for me, and I certainly enjoyed choosing them. But as you will see the character of them changed slightly as the piece developed…


Here they are. I’ve started to cut them up and arrange them, experimenting with shape and layout. There are one or two prints, of birds and a chameleon, which I decided not to use. I wasn’t sure what I was aiming for at this point, but was interested to see what happened.

I enjoy writing the occasional haiku, so whilst working with the fabrics I decided to write a few words, and so the piece started to come together. This frequently seems to be the way I work now, with text informing the development of the work.

There are seven haiku now, which I did want to include with the piece, but it’s more likely they will be shown separately.


I need a longer table.



The fabrics are lovely but needed softening and personalising. I used white acrylic paint, which I brushed and printed on to the piece after it was constructed on some calico backing. Once a fabric painter, always a fabric painter, it seems.



I don’t usually work with blue, but I love indigo and the soft blues in this piece. And birds always invite themselves along…


I did intend to hand stitch the whole thing, but kept putting it off. I decided this was because I didn’t actually want to, so out came the machine. I like the machine stitched line though, it suits the work, and I will add hand stitched detail in different threads, without the pressure to cover the whole piece.


Back to the machining!


A new needlepoint.

I haven’t finished the needlepoint I have been working on recently just yet. I always seem to need to start another just before I do; it’s almost as if it just forces me into the final stretch, eventually.

I think it’s mainly because I need a change of colour palette to work with, needlepoint being, as we know, not the speediest medium. I have no idea why I like doing it, I am quite an impatient and fast moving person. It’s probably the tapestry/digital look, and working with new and luscious materials too. Also, once you have done the design, you just get on with it, so it is quite versatile in terms of listening to stuff, glancing at the tv frequently, and peacefully plodding on.

Having said that, I have done some unpicking already on this one, since I keep trying to include some black, as is my usual wont, and the piece keeps saying no. Unpicking takes longer than stitching; I’ve put the black wool away now, so it no longer tempts me.


Initial sketches.


I drew the design freehand onto some paper, then basically cut the shapes out and draw around them on the canvas.


Above, the piece drawn out on the canvas.  The large leaves on the left will actually be quite pale and ghostlike against the background, and I’ve already, during the stitching process, begun to eliminate those borders around the hill shape. I want the piece to have a sense of space.                                                    It’s about 1.25 m x 70 cm.


Whilst choosing the materials, I realised that this bowl, which is on top of the plan chest where I keep the yarn, was exhibiting some similar colours to the ones I had chosen. I have since decided not to use the blue and the black, but the bowl has influenced me, and I will include some orange.


There’s wool, linen and wool mix, which I love, although it’s not that easy to stitch with, and bamboo.


Above and below, some stitching in progress. Love the little monkey face.




I’d like to say watch this space, but only if you absolutely have nothing else to do; this one is going to take some time.

Walking in Venice, an artist’s book.

I posted an image from an artist’s book I made in 2014, on Instagram, so here, for those who may be interested, is the rest of the book. It’s mixed media, using photographs I took in Venice, some of them digitally altered and printed on different papers, with fabric, machine and hand stitch. It’s mounted on 30 cm diameter Khadi paper.53

The cover, superimposed on a view of part of Venice, actually quite a lot of it, from the ‘plane.


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If you’ve read Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers, you have to visit this square and the Chiesa dell’ Angelo Raffaele. When we went it was very quiet, and just starting to rain.





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I’ve just started a new artist’s book, it’s going through a complex gestation, but is slowly coming together. Posting Walking in Venice here has made me consider another circular book, so that’s moved things on a little too, happily.

On not mono tasking.

I have read several articles and blog posts recently about how multi tasking is just plain bad and not at all good for you. Well, it seems sometimes there isn’t any choice, especially when cooking for instance, unless microwaving something in a packet is on the menu.

When it comes to work projects there is a choice; I try very hard to do one thing at a time, but never succeed. I’m not sure why, as part of me wants things to be simple, i.e. the mono work life, one project at a time, or always producing the same sort of work in the same medium, but the rampant brain always wins, and conjures up a few other projects to throw into the mix, or indeed to make the mix.

I can’t ignore these projects, I am putty in the hands of this other character that resides within. So, at the moment I am making a new artist’s book, as shown in previous posts. This is of a slowish evolution; the narrative is developing now, so I have an idea of what is going to happen. I don’t push it, I just have an idea every so often, and jot it down on random bits of paper. This morning something came into my head as I was eating cereal, and yesterday it was when I was peeling carrots.

So it looks as if it’s all food related then; fear not, the story contains no cooking or food related story line, it must simply be a default dreaming state for my brain. I’ve no idea why, I am certainly not thrilled by peeling carrots, although they look quite pleasantly tidy when they are done.

Other times I can get a few lines drift into my head when I am out on a walk. This is much more acceptably poetic, of course. I generally have forgotten them by the time I am home. I will take a notebook in future and look quite eccentric as I plod our suburban streets, stopping every so often to write something down.

So, there’s the artist’s book, and the needlepoint, which stalled a little as I was writing  a book for Search Press, the first draft of which is now done. I hope my editor isn’t overwhelmingly bewildered when she opens that document.

As you can see here, the needlepoint hasn’t raced ahead. That’s not the nature of needlepoint though, and as an excuse I did make lots of new work for the above book. Not needlepoint, I must point out, that would take years at the speed I go at it.


Below, I can never resist a close up of needlepoint, it’s so digital.


Then there is this new chap. I started him last summer, 2015 that is, not the one that’s just gone. He is a rather large textile raven. He had been put away, but won’t let himself be forgotten, so I have decided to finish him. It will take time, as he intends to have quite elaborate wings and tail, and body too I imagine. As usual I will be making it up as I go along.

Don’t worry, this isn’t him, it’s just a cotton experiment to sort how the pattern I had designed would work.





There he is perched in the window. He is actually stuffed but looks flat in this image. He is made from felt and has a large polystyrene ball inside, with wooden legs pushed into it. He is not himself just yet, more work will need to be done.

He is stable but more work will be done on his legs too, and feet will need to be added. The wings and tail have been cut out; I’m just about to dig them out of the drawer to continue with them. He’s 57 cm long from beak to tail, and will get bigger I imagine, when his tail feathers are added, and his beak finished properly.

Some years ago I made some large ceramic ravens, and there are ravens in an artist’s book I made called The Stone Bird, so they are all based upon each other. Here are the ceramic ravens, with their nest and egg, photographs of photographs, but clear enough I think.



So it seems that mono tasking with my work isn’t ever going to be on the cards. And that’s fine, as I think you must simply do what you have to do and make sure you enjoy doing it.