Dark Tiger and Nest.

I’ve been making new work for the Art Textiles: Made in Britain gallery at the Festival of Quilts this August at the NEC in Birmingham. This wasn’t actually  my original plan, I was going to show some work that is in my new book, but I was waylaid by some pieces I’ve made in a sculpture class I’ve been attending at mac in Birmingham.

I decided to use the objects I’ve made to start off some new pieces for the show. The theme for the gallery is Wild, which is, as they say, right up my street.

I was planning to use plaster and other messy materials in the class, but after a rummage through the materials in the studio spotted a variety of wires.    I’ve wanted to make a giant nest for some time, but hadn’t got round to it, and without the class would never have made in with wire. I did like the result of all that twisting and weaving.

Here are some images of Nest in progress.

It started with a base of chicken wire, too which I added a mix of aluminium wires.

After the initial basic construction I brought it home to finish. I decided to use Khadi paper printed with some of my words and images and cut into leaf shapes, to line the bottom, and added some plastic leaves made from milk containers, pebbles and beads. I wanted to keep to the cool, austere palette of colours suggested by the silver wire.

The leaves and beads were stitched onto the base. I can’t pretend, this took ages and I was glad when I’d finished. The nest is about 65 cm in diameter so it was quite unwieldy, if very light.

And below, the finished nest.

The next piece that developed from the sculpture class is a series of five panels called Dark Tiger. I’d spotted some dowels in the materials cupboard, and wanted to use them for something, so started to wire them together. The resultant screens lead to Dark Tiger.

Here they are, a little pile of screens that have driven me slightly crazy by constantly entangling themselves with each other.

The designs for Dark Tiger emerged from this collage, below, that I made some weeks ago. It’s around 80 x 30 cm. I liked and wanted to use these painted and printed papers for something; it had no destination at the time. I added some black and white images of tulips, some bold stitch for texture and detail, and this was the result.

Thinking it would be ideal for the project, I photographed it, and printed various images of it onto fabric using my inkjet printer, using cotton poplin and cotton twill on a roll. This fabric is made by Blumenthal Craft. It’s really easy to use, with good colour and definition, but I did a test piece as you need to jiggle with your images to get exactly what you want.

 Some of the printed fabrics, and also some images and drawings of mine I printed out too; these didn’t make the edit for this piece.After constructing the five panels using appliqué, I machine stitched them, and added many beads and some hand stitch.

Above, a close up of one of the panels, and below, the centre finished panel, mounted onto the wooden frame. The tiger is from one of my drawings, she’s had a prowl through Photoshop. The frames have been inked black with Indian ink, and the stitched textile panel was mounted onto a double layer of A3 Khadi paper, also inked black. There has been much use of my bodger, or bradawl to give it it’s proper name.

The screen will be about 2.5 metres in length. I’ll be working on it at the Creative Craft Show this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the NEC, Birmingham.

Sue Bibby and I are sharing stand E28, and it looks as if it’s going to be a great show, with lots of textile artists and suppliers, so come if you can.

If you don’t like the heat it’ll be really cool too, the NEC has great air conditioning.



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A blog post without an image seems weird, so here’s a gentle summery picture, one I made earlier.


Scissor action part 2.

Working with collage has been one of my favourite ways of exploring and planning new work for a very long time. This is how I start, below, by basically getting out far too many papers and mixed materials. Generally I then begin to put groups of related materials together, and that will either spark ideas, or furnish ideas I already have.

I usually make the collages as preparation for work in other media, namely textiles, artist’s books and needlepoint, but lately some pieces have branched out and declared independence.

I began this piece, above, with the intention of making just one collage based upon spring. I then decided to use the text in another piece, and also liberally took the scissors to the coloured papers; this caused it to develop into five pieces, echoing, I like to think, the generosity and vitality of the season. Many enjoyable hours were spent in digital experiment using some of my images taken in museums and gardens, and in printing out more papers, even though I had planned to use what I already had. This plan nearly always fails.

The finished pieces are all A3 size, and although I planned to print them digitally onto fabric, I like the flat crisp appearance of the paper pieces, so I reckon these are the finished pieces now. It’s possible I may add some long metallic thread stitches, through some pre-made holes; there is a nice little Japanese tool available for this, and I am tempted to buy one.

I placed 3d objects on the collages too, which would work interestingly should the pieces ever become digitally printed textile works. If they were printed onto fabric I feel they would work best if they were quite large, perhaps about 2 m wide. It’s a thought.

Onto some collages now that I think would work as textile pieces at exactly the size they are, which is about 65 x 55 cm. I like them as paper pieces too though, and like the collages above I placed some 3d objects on the first piece.


They definitely need more fine detail, for which stitch would be ideal. The collage below isn’t yet stuck down, and has no 3d additions as yet. This was entirely inspired by the acrylic painted and printed papers.

I’m using the scraps in an accordion Moleskine pad, as you can see at the top of the image.

I’m very fond of this one, above, basically because I love a black background, and it’s based on fossils. It’s a little bigger than A3, and I think could be a versatile chap, in that I would quite like to see it digitally printed, with machine and hand stitch stitch added. It would make an interesting needlepoint too.

These two collages above are now stuck down, and as they are on Khadi paper I am going to machine stitch them, photograph them with some added 3d pieces such as wood and shells, then print them onto fabric and see what happens next. It’s a convoluted project that I’m letting unfold; I possibly have some sort of constructed screen in mind.

Thanks for getting this far, nearly there now. I have been mentioning my book over the past couple of years on this blog, and it’s now available, published by Search Press, and Amazon are willing to sell you a copy should you fancy it.

Back to work on those collages, I’m running out of glue.



It’s handy to have a couple of needlepoint projects to get on with between other work and when you just need to stitch easily through some nice big holes. It’s particularly easy when large areas of one colour are being stitched, but I tend to make colour combinations and mixing decisions as I go along, so it’s not always entirely chilled. But it keeps the process lively, which is good.

Recently I decided that I wanted to make a piece of work featuring an owl, so duly drew a rather regular image of a barn owl, deciding I could make the piece more exciting using unusual combinations of yarns and stylised patterning.

However, whilst searching through some images to inspire an interesting background, I found an image of a collage I made a couple of years ago. It was quite large, so I photographed it and then let it go. I thought it may be useful in the future, and so it has been.

Immediately those two chaps in the top left hand corner introduced themselves; they were all the owl I needed. And then, the small black and white block on the right became owl number three. Also there’s a budgie in there, he’ll have to be included I think, but there again he may think he’s owl prey so maybe not…

I find using collage the most exciting design and idea tool. It produces vigorous and entirely surprising results which lead to original and quirky work. Luckily browsing through my images reminded me again of the power of collage. I’m looking forward to getting my paper and materials out to start some new collage pieces, which may remain simply as themselves or be translated into other media and work at some point.

So, back to the owls, who I can’t help calling Wols, as Owl called himself in the Winnie the Pooh books. I love those books, they have been a comfort.

Here we have the needlepoint drawn out in black pen, with the stitching started. The owls are less intimidating than in the collage as I felt I had to give them eyes.

Obligatory flat lay image of materials.

I’ve also started this piece, based once again on collage, in this case a mix of fabrics I collaged to stitch as part of a throw. I like to have two pieces on the go with different colour themes.

It’s been started, unpicked a little when I changed my mind about colours, and features a favourite subject, the full Moon, in addition to the other elements in the original piece. I notice increasingly or perhaps more attentively that he time of a full Moon makes me very twitchy and I sleep poorly. This is nothing to do with the light of the Moon as we are under thick cloud mostly these days so I didn’t even get to gaze at it this time, which is a pity, I do love it. There is apparently no scientific evidence for these effects, but I know I’m not alone…


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.