Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Braiding at the Hub

On Saturday I had the great pleasure of attending a braiding course led by acclaimed braiding guru, Jennie Parry.  The one day course was held at the Hub in Sleaford, Lincolnshire.  It was the first time I had been to the centre which is our National Centre for Crafts.  The centre is housed in a renovated warehouse and over four floors has spaces for the display of contemporary craft as well as education spaces and of course, a shop and cafe. 

The course was an introduction to creating braids and bands.  We rapidly learnt techniques in plaiting and weaving on a donkey loom (inspired by the Akha bow loom). It was satisfying to build up a selection of a samples and notes to facilitate further exploration of the techniques at home.  I'm particularly looking forward to going on to embellish the braids with buttons, beads and tassels. 

My favourite technique was creating a braid on a card (Kumihimo).  This technique required a bit less brain power and had endless opportunities for experimenting with different threads.  We had friends to lunch on Sunday and I thought I could introduce their eight year old daughter to the technique.  Instead, I ended up running a workshop for the parents who were most impressed with their creations!

Jennie Parry was instrumental in setting up the Braid Society and her knowledge and enthusaism were impressive.  It was a real treat to be able to see and handle her collection of braids. There's a link here to have a go at plaiting.

I finished the day with a sense of satisfaction at having learnt so much and been given the information to create more.  I also wanted to book the first plain to India, Oman or Thailand and immerse myself in some of the techniques of  traditional textiles.  I realised what a vast array of textile techniques there are around the planet and what a rich journey a life in textiles is.

Monday, 9 November 2009

The lowdown from Lustre

I made my annual pilgrimage to Lustre contemporary craft fair at Lakeside Art Centre this weekend.  As with previous years, I start to walk around, see a few things that I like and then suddenly, wham! I see something that knocks my socks off, that humbles me, that makes me feel too warm.  This year I had to touch and feel the beautiful ceramics of Karen Atherley.  I loved the colour, the strong figurative drawing and the intense combination of vivid colours and layering of transfers from Chinese ceramics with hand drawn motifs. 

I also really liked the felted collages of Katie Mawson.  Beautifully finished and presented, their simple symbolic forms and quiet pallette drew me across the room to them.

There was still the Angie Lewin effect very much in evidence, with images of seed heads being produced in all media.  I loved the simple rendering of natural forms in silver by Laura Baxter and I love the imagery on her website.....that tiny kiss of red.

The other trend was for spoons.  Vanessa Larmond combined wood and textiles to subvert the function of the spoon whilst creating something tactile and beautiful.  Checking out her website, I was amused by the description of her conceptual craft as "whittled spoons in woven socks"!  Magie Hollingworth's paper spoons also subverted their function.  Made of paper they had a quiet vulnerability that commanded a reverence for their form.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Mini works

It's a busy month for birthdays so before these went into the post I took a snap. It was lovely creating something so quick after the pains of weaving. Hoping to put some card packs together soon to sell. As usual, leaving it very late for the Christmas fairs. Off to Lustre at the weekend to ogle and be inspired. Also planning on getting out to photograph the changing landscape and capture some of the colour before it all blows away.

Keep on keeping on!

The tapestry is slowly creeping up the warp. I've reached a lovely section where I'm introducing new colours and starting to try and capture some of the painterly effects of the paperwork in thread. It's making my brain ache working with so many colours and I realize that sometimes I sit staring at the loom whilst my head tries to work out what my fingers need to do. I've nominated November as a weave-every-day month and keep ducking in to the studio for a 'power weave'. My plan to weave a piece each season is fast disappearing. One a year might be about right!

Monday, 26 October 2009


It's such a vibrant Autumn out there, I can't help but feel positive.....inspite of the clocks changing and the nights closing in. We went up into Derbyshire, to Dovedale, Cromford and briefly back to Wirksworth. The landscape was on fire, suffused with mist and scented with wood smoke.

The colours must have infused my soul as I came back with a richly coloured set of photos. It might be because I've been looking at the woven textile designs of Gunta Stolzl or perhaps because my brain is still working on ideas to weave as bands on an inkle loom, but I'm seeing the world in strips of colour and texture.
I love the texture and restrained pallette of fibre artist Karen Henderson. The sense of process appealed to me too. The process of my work is as important as the content and the art comes from marrying the two. I read an interview in Selvedge magazine with textile artist and illustrator Laura McCafferty in which she said "I use textiles because I was just lucky to find a medium in which I could express myself". I like that sense of destiny. Sometimes I question the sanity of leading a creative life and then have to face up to the fact that it is who I am and all the moments of my creative life have led me to this place....avoiding doing that bl***y tapestry that's waiting for me upstairs!!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Emily Barker

I recently discovered the beautiful, earthy, folk music of Emily Barker. We went to see her live last week and her sound really suited the mood of the season and a creeping sense of melancholy as the weather changes. Her album "Despite the Snow" is infused with the ache of love and yearning. Her lyrics are poetic and metaphoric, rooted in folk tradition. She is supported by the Red Clay Halo band, featuring cello, accordion and violin. The album title comes from a Robert Graves poem:

She tells her love while half asleep

She tells her love while half asleep
In the dark hours.
With half words whispered low,
As earth stirs in her winter sleep,
And puts out grass and flowers,
Despite the snow,
Despite the falling snow.


When I was studying woven textiles at Loughborough College of Art and Design, I went on a trip to Glasgow and saw an exhibition of tapestry by Lynne Curran. It was the first time I had seen contemporary tapestry weaving, and the first time I had understood the process of traditional tapestry weaving. During the final year of my degree, my woven pieces concerned themselves with colour and texture, my paperwork with shape, drawing and narrative. I went on to work with embroidered textiles, because I could make a living at it and because the opportunities to weave were so few (and commercial weaving so soul less). In London, I did a short course in tapestry weaving, taught by Pat Bloor. Having learnt to weave cloth, it was difficult to weave freely and create images. It's now years later and finally, the strands are coming together: the visual language, the patience to weave and the decision to commit to a craft. So here I am weaving again.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Did it!

 Sunrise 30cm x 30cm Mixed Media SOLD

 Echo 30 cm x 30cm Mixed Media

 Evening 30cm x 30cm Mixed Media SOLD

 Moon 30cm x 30cm Mixed Media

I'm really pleased to be able to post the completed work for the Thoresby Gallery. I like the balance between the four pieces and really felt that the mixed media style started working for me. I'm inspired to carry on working in this way and want to do some work that's a little more illustrative. I like the landscape but would like to introduce a human or animal element and might use some poetry as a starting point. I've been reading Ted Hughes but finding it a bit bleak, though very much anchored in the landscape and natural world. I've been looking too at Aesop's Fables, a favourite from childhood, with their anthropomorphic animal characters and morally sound conclusions.
Aswell as wanting to keep up the pace with the framed pieces, I've a renewed energy with the tapestry work. I like the process of editing a mixed media piece and simplifying it into shapes for tapestry. I'm excited too to try and interpret "Moon" above for tapestry. I love the pallette and some of the random marks and touches of heightened colour. I'd like to do a series on trees and tree of life motifs as they have such a strong cultural significance in textiles from around the world. I have an idea to try tapestry weaving on an inkle loom so I can weave images but on long bands and break out of the restricted format on the frame loom.
As usual, there aren't enough hours in the day!!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009


I'm enjoying welcoming the moon back. As the nights draw in little by little I'm aware of it up there and have been inspired to produce these pieces. The top one is a postcard sized piece incorporating fabric and paper collage, closely stitched. It was inspired by work on the Spirit Cloth weblog and reminded me of the amazing stitched kantha pieces I saw in India. Postcard sized was about the limits of my kantha-concentration. The second is a tapestry that's still on the loom waiting to be finished. It's the precursor really to the other tapestry (also still on the loom waiting to be finished!).
Work is in progress for the Thoresby gallery and I've been enjoying having a deadline to work to. I'm working toward completing four pieces by the 12th of October and I have two well under way. I've been out and about buying different papers to use for the collaged parts, old books, childrens' books, newspapers. Having had a huge purge of materials earlier in the year it's good to be collecting again.
I've not been out to actively seek inspiration this week. I'm still waiting for this month's Selvedge magazine which is my life line when my world becomes dominated by the lives of two small boys.
Hope the harvest moon is glowing in the sky over you.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Wirksworth Festival 2009

What a day we had at Wirksworth Festival. It was such a warm September day and the town looked beautiful and bustling with allsorts of folk up for the weekend arts and architecture trail. This is the third year that I've been and it's a place I feel really inspired by. There's so much to see and a day isn't really enough. The town comes alive with homes being opened to host artists, shops commissioning creative window displays, street theatre, music and open gardens.
I loved these cakes by Jeni Smith displayed in the bakery window. I was thrilled to find a white ceramic cake stand in the vintage shop around the corner. Sadly it met it's demise about an hour after it was purchased for me. Another reminder that nothing lasts forever.
The visit to Wirksworth festival coincided with the back-to-school week and has become part of my ritual of celebrating the end of summer. Now I'm looking forward to the richer, shorter, intense days of Autumn.

Thursday, 10 September 2009


Based on the piece I've had accepted by the Thoresby gallery, I'm doing a tapestry weaving. I'm enjoying capturing the moment of the storm in the enduring medium of tapestry. I've extracted a section from the original artwork. Like the ariginal artwork, it has a muted pallette with stronger colours to add depth and intensity. It's woven on a frame loom with a cotton warp and rayon weft. I chose rayon, purely because I had access to a supply in a wide range of colours. The work is slowly growing. I get a really calm, meditative sense when I'm weaving, totally absorbed in the moment.

Through the Storm

It's been a good week creatively. I've had a piece accepted for the Thoresby Gallery open exhibition. It's called 'Through the Storm'. It's a collage, ink and stitch piece that I worked from memory after travelling through a summer storm. I was struck by the darkness of the sky against the light summer fields.
I'm really excited because the gallery have asked me to do some work to sell in their gallery shop. I'll post up how the work develops.

On The Hills

I came across this poem that described so well the landscape that's so inspiring to me at the moment. It's written by Elizabeth Coatsworth (1893-1986) who wrote that her poems were "essentially a short record of my delight in the world and living."

On The Hills

Today I walked on lion-coloured hills
with only cypresses for company,
until the sunset caught me, turned the brush
to copper,
set the clouds
to one great roof of flame
above the earth,
so that I walked through fire, beneath fire,
and all in beauty.
Being alone
I could not be alone, but felt
(closer than flesh) the presences of those
who once had burned in such transfigurations.
My happiness ran through the centuries
and linked itself to other happiness
in one continual brightness. Looking down,
I saw the earth beneath me like a rose
petaled with mountains,
fragrant with deep peace.

I've been inspired this week by two artists. One is the Scottish artist Madeleine Hand. This picture is called Wash Day. I love the sense of pattern and rhythm to her work and the muted pallette.

I'm also liking the work of Chris Cyprus whose work was featured in this months Country Living magazine.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

In the beginning

I've been trying to give permanence to those fleeting moments of life. Not known for being overly romantic, here I tried to capture the moment that led to the reality of my here and now. I love the idea of fate bringing Dave and me together and the sense of self that gives me, and the meaning that gives to all the highs and lows of life. Sketchbook page, ink, collage and stitch on paper.


This is one of the first pieces where I worked from memory. I wanted to capture that insular, wrapped up feeling I had when my first son was born. He loves going into my studio and looking at this piece. Now he has a younger brother, I think he likes to remember when he was the centre of our world. It's on paper, about 25cm x 25 cm, paint, ink, stitch and collage.

Pink and Yellow

I'm loving the landscape at the moment. The summer seams to have drenched Derbyshire in colour. There seems to be a real heightened pallette and I'm enjoying layering colour and texture. This is only small, 15cm x 15cm and is a paper and stitch piece.

From my mind's eye

I've been trying to work from my memory. There are images in my head, some that have been there nearly all my life, and I've been trying to evoke them in my work. Some are hazy, early memories of people, some are family tales, others are fleeting moments of my life that were so beautiful or so dramatic that they etched themselves on my retinas. It's been a challenging step, in terms of trying to make my work more personal and in trying to realise an image when there is nothing tangible to draw from. It's also been liberating, making my mark stronger and honing in on what is important to my mark making; pattern, image as symbol and also image as metaphor.

Capturing the moment

Our time in Northumberland was too short. Such beautiful dynamic landscapes and huge skies. I really felt that I could breathe. Travelling through the landscape in the car my mind filled with one breathtaking view after another; deep valleys, misted mountains, the deep green of pines, chocolate fields, caramel hay bails. I have held all those images in my mind's eye to process later.
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