Monday, 26 April 2010

New work

On the hill, 15cm x 40cm, mixed media

SOLD Midnight trees, 15cm x 40cm, mixed media

Day, 12cm x 12cm, mixed media

Night, 12cm x 12 cm, mixed media

SOLD I stood beneath an orange sky, 20cm x 30cm

Shadow of light, 20 cm x 30 cm, mixed media

Journey in the rain, 30cm x 40cm, mixed media

Scar, 30cm x 40cm, mixed media

I have just completed this set of work for The Beetroot Tree gallery.  It'll be in situ ready for the Draycott Festival of Arts and Gardens this coming weekend.  Hope you can get along to see it!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Sunny days

Elizabeth Blackadder, Dark Hill, Fifeshire, 1960

William Scott, Barra, 1962

For such sunny days, this weeks inspiring images are rather dark.  I found the William Scott image in one of Sarah's books; I didn't previously know of his work but have fallen in love with this image.  Such confident simplicity.

ps.  No prizes for guessing where he was born!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Do not bend

I've just managed to get this piece in the post to my goddaughter April whose birthday was yesterday (sorry!).  It features words from the poem, "Always marry an April girl" by Ogden Nash.

Praise the spells and bless the charms,
I found April in my arms.
April golden, April cloudy.
Gracious, cruel, tender, rowdy;
April soft in flowered langour
April cold with sudden anger,
Ever changing, ever true -
I love April.  I love you.

Thinking of Spring poems, my favourite is by A E Housmann:

Loveliest of Trees

Loveliest of trees the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bow,
And stands about the woodland ride,
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom,
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go,
To see the cherry hung with snow.

Such a reminder to enjoy the beauty of spring, tinged with the weighty reality of our mortality.  It also makes me smile and remember my Grandad, he always talked of his "threescore years and ten" and how he'd be in his box!  He lived until he was ninety one so lived to see a good number of springs.

I've been enjoying the birdsong against our silent skies and have spent the weekend gardening and harvesting our first crops of lettuce, wild garlic, spinach and nettle.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Just off the board

I've just cut this image off the board ready for stitching into.  I decided to use the ink a bit more to create the background and shapes to collage on to.  I was inspired by the inky glazes on the pots I saw in the V&A.  Also inspired by Ed Kluz whose work I saw at St.Judes gallery at New Year.  I'm also trying to bring in some pattern elements, influenced by the textiles I've been looking at recently, like these:

Hans Tisdall, Pheasant Moon, 1960

Sonia Delauney, printed cotton, 1925

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Note to self

I really must go to Charleston, the home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.  It's a joyous celebration of the creative life with not a corner left untouched by artists' hands.  I've only experienced it through books but would love to visit the house and gardens.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


Whilst away we visited the faded elegance of the seaside town of Morecambe.  Far up on the north west coast, Morecambe was a childhood holiday destination of my Mum's and I tried to see beyond the insensitive development that afflicts Morecambe like many of our seaside towns, and to rekindle the excitement of a seaside holiday, long before package holidays whisked tourists to Europe.  With children in tow, it's easy to get excited by fish and chips and buckets and spades.  Sitting on the beach, you look across to the monochrome layers of the Lake District.  Looking back to the town, the promenade runs beneath a facade of elegant architecture.  At the end of the town the Midland Hotel sits like a full stop.  A fantastic piece of art deco architecture, it has been lovingly restored.  Somewhere along that promenade is Brucciani's ice-cream parlour.  A part of the Morecambe experience since 1893, this family run business has the most beautiful interiors and knickerbocker glories to knock your socks off.

Sunday, 11 April 2010


I spent this weekend with my good friend Sarah Wilson.  We've known each other since art college and although life has moved us up and down the country, we remain good friends.  All the way through that friendship Sarah has been a huge visual influence on me and I always come away from seeing her filled with inspiration.  Sarah lives out her creativity in all she does, she dresses with style, makes a beautiful home and makes and sells these great purses.  Always searching out new inspirations for herself, she readily shares ideas.  Her loves are textiles, modernist design and graphics.  She doesn't know it yet but I raided her studio and took photographs of all her lovely books to share on these pages!

Sarah's life is about to take her on some exciting new journeys.  I just hope that across the distance we can still share our creative ideas.  I'll be following her blog and wishing I were nearer. x

Thursday, 8 April 2010

V&A ceramics

I felt like a did a trolley-dash visit to the V&A.  I was so hungry for inspiration and found it at every turn of every corner.  I hadn't really expected to feel so excited by the ceramics.  I was greatly inspired by all the glazes which reminded me of the way the ink travels on my paper collages. I also remembered my Foundation tutor who suggested I pursue ceramics.

When I saw this charming article in World of Interiors I felt the inspiration to make bowls.  Irene Feesey has led a handmade life and her home is a gallery of her talents.  Her bowls are papier mache and I find them frail and beautiful.  I think my paper based work would lend itself to decorating a paper based bowl.  With this in mind I dined on ideas in the ceramics gallery.

I felt I wasn't the only designer to have been inspired by the ceramics.  World of Interiors also featured a new range of ceramics by Richard Ginori called 'Broken'.  She must surely have stood in front of the dish above.  It was a great gallery to be in; laid out so you could see through to the conservation areas and see work being prepared for display.

If 'transparency' is one of our era's buzz words, then theV&A has certainly become more transparent.  It is as if it has been turned inside out and all areas are now accessible.  As a visitor from outside London, I will certainly frequent the virtual gallery online and access information on the ideas behind the exhibitions. 

Also see:

V&A glass

The glass rooms at the V&A really appealed; the exhibits like huge boiled sweets.  Such a frail, vulnerable media yet hard and enduring. Some pieces dated back to Roman times. 

The stripey piece reminded me of the work of Ptolemy Mann. In cloth she manages to capture that same radiance.  I especially love her rug designs.

V&A textile archives

I loved being in the V&A.  Since I was last there, there has been alot of building and re-development.  The spaces felt fresher and more comtemporary, areas led more freely into each other.  Stay a while, wandering from one area of design specialism, or arts from a specific geographical area, and you start to get overwhelmed.  So much beauty, so much intense learning passed from generation to generation.  So many millions of hours creating so much finery.  And I love that about humanity.  Okay, we're about to screw it all up and fry but look what we've achieved!  There is an inate human instinct to beautify, and when I visit the V&A and see treasures of art and design dating back to antiquity, I feel alive and justified in pursuing an artist's life.

On this visit, and for the first time, I visited the textile archives.  Antique cabinets are filled with wooden frames containing fragments of cloth from all history.  There are the most detailed pieces of tapestry, embroidery, jacquards, brocades, lace and prints, all accessible to study up close.  The archive rooms are so quiet and tucked away.  The cataloguing is so reverential of the textile creators whose sweat, blood and tears went into the production of cloth.  And so irreverent.....who had the job of taking scissors to cloth to display a section?

With my interest in tapestry weaving, it was a pleasure to see The Devonshire Hunting Tapestries.  I'm normally quite dismissive of these large scale historical tapestries, faded depictions of the nobility out hunting.  These were so fresh though, and instead of looking like paintings, were so full of pattern and colour.  I was amazed to see they were woven in the mid fifteenth century, their style and patterning seemed far more contemporary.  I kept isolating sections that I wanted to abstract from and render in miniature.....I don't think I'll ever be weaving a wall sized tapestry,  each of The Devonshire Hunting Tapestries was ten years on the loom.

Monday, 5 April 2010

V&A Quilts exhibition

At the End of the Day, Natasha Kerr 2007

One of the main reasons for heading to the V&A Museum was to see their current Quilts 1700-2010: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories exhibition.  I came away from the exhibition with mixed feelings, my brain confused by the mixed bag of textiles I had seen.  Covering such a long period in the life of a Craft was bound to be difficult to curate but I struggled with a lack of cohesive curating.  The work, across five rooms, was exhibited thematically which worked in a historical context but the contemporary work seemed out of place and strange juxtapositions occurred that I couldn't understand.  I also struggled with the displays, many quilts were laid horizontally on plinths, as mock-ups of beds, but this made the detail of the quilts hard to see.  Those that were hung vertically were far more accessible.

Winter/Male, Jo Budd 2010

On the whole though it was the contemporary work that most inspired me, although it was hard to accept some pieces as "quilts".  Once I let go of preconceptions, and stopped trying to define a quilt, I fell in love with some of these textile pieces and the concepts behind them.  The piece that I hold in my mind, is by Jennifer Vickers.  Her quilt was made from 38,000 squares of white paper, interspersed with 100 coloured squares, some photographs.  The white squares represent the civilian casualties in the Iraq war to date, and the coloured squares, the 100 British servicemen to have been killed in the conflict.  It was beautiful and harrowing at the same time; the large expanses of blank, white squares, challenging the void in our Media when it comes to representing the true cost of war. The use of the patchwork quilt as a social and historical device was aptly chosen and resurrected by the maker.

A Chinese Dream (detail), Susan Stockwell, 2009

In terms of my own work, I liked the artists whose work bucked the trend and used paper instead of cloth to make their quilts, having myself made the journey from working with cloth to working with paper but still calling it textiles.  I was attracted to the delicacy of the surface and it's vulnerability and the denial of function of the quilt.

There were many traditional quilts to satisfy quilt purists, as well as film celebrating and emulating the craft.  The film by Clio Padovani, projected onto a plinth, patched elements of film together, the projected light creating an elusive, shifting surface of textile fragments.

Coming away from the exhibition, my mind too holds an elusive, shifting bank of memories from the exhibition.  I was so hungry for this exhibition to satisfy.  It had to uphold the craft, be reverential of it's makers and lead the way in defining the "quilt" in the 21st century.  A tall order indeed.  It fulfilled those challenges but I would have preferred to see the contemporary work separate to the historical.

Saturday, 3 April 2010


I travelled down to London with a group of American tourists, visiting from Kansas.  They were over for a wedding and taking the opportunity to visit London.  It was great to have their company on the trip down.  One of the questions they asked was where to buy British knitting wool.  I'm not a knitter but I realised just how far we have come away from our strong textile heritage.  We might still have a landscape speckled with sheep, but we no longer have much left of the textile manufacturing industry.  Finding a wool shop, let alone one stocking British wool is really hard.  Farmers now struggle to get 50p for a sheared fleece, such is the competition from manmade fibres produced in China.

As an ambassador for textiles, I was able to point them in the direction of Loop in Islington.  Closer to home there is the wonderful Yarn in Beeston.  As I say, I don't knit, but in the company of a knitter and a crocheter, I made my first visit to Loop.  Already a fan of Julie Arkell, the shop uses her work to enhance it's displays.  The shop is a work of art, beautifully presented and utterly tactile.  Although not stocked with entirely British yarns, there are beautiful hand spun and dyed yarns, as well as larger ranges, intermingled with gorgeous displays and jars of buttons, needles and knitting accessories. 

The Handweavers' Studio

One of the purposes of my trip to London was to get supplies. As I come to the end of my first tapestry, I feel that if I don't get another onto the loom, I might never start another! 

When I lived in London, I lived in Walthamstow, which was then home to The Handweavers' Studio.  It has recently relocated to larger, lighter premises in Finsbury Park.  It's an absolute treasure trove for weavers.  There are shelves of beautifully coloured yarn, books, postcards, fibres, magazines and a gallery of contemporary hand woven fabrics.  At the back there is a light and airy teaching studio set up with looms.

"Is melon good for meloncholia?" Lynne Curran 2000

Krokbragd rug. Valerie Opher

My new yarn stash

I came away with more rayon as I love the range of colours and also the fineness of the yarn and the detail I have been able to achieve, especially in the building of curves.  I also picked up some precut cards for weaving, with a view to experimenting a bit with different fibres.  For my next tapestry (yes, I still have to finish the other one) I'd like to keep with the curves but create a more abstract piece.
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