Black and White in Bakewell

Summer has been amazing and sunny and long but now there is something in the air and a few crunchy leaves on the paths giving away that Autumn is coming.  Which is my perfect time of year. We have just moved house, I have taken on a much bigger role at work and I’m going to be a grandma in a few months. It’s all very exciting but this week we are at a cottage in Bakewell in the Peak District to have a rest and recharge.  It’s taking longer to wind down this time.  Can’t think why!

Bakewell is famous for the Bakewell pie or pudding.  I hate it as I don’t like almonds.  There are so many pie shops in the small town centre but I can forgive that as it’s very peaceful and pretty with the river running through. We just sat gawping back at the size of the rainbow and brown trout in the river Wye a few feet away, and so many of them! I did wonder what they made of my turquoise nail varnish on my toes when I dipped my feet in after a long walk, but I think indifference best described it. Which about sums up the expression on a trout.  

Him Indoors couldn’t remember if salmon could be ticked or whether it was a practice reserved for trout. He couldn’t detect any signs along the river prohibiting trout tickling and therefore deduced that he could probably legally do a bit should he wish to. He was promptly informed that if he so much as twitched in their direction he would find himself in the river alongside them.

But now to arty endeavours and my ‘bag of unruly thoughts’ (India Flint) that I took away with me. My head is always less peaceful, although I’ve been trying hard not to think too much this week.   I took away materials for exploring ‘noticeable edges’ where I have limited myself to working in black and white.

Out t’back of the cottage is a wonderful set of roof tops which caught my attention. Yes, it was me hanging out the toilet window trying to get a camera round the double glazing several times – sorry Bakewell. But it had to be captured in the light, and mist, and dark… I did a bit of sketching one morning (not out the toilet window I might add). I don’t really like sketching because I still believe it won’t look like it should do like so many of us, but I think I’m getting better and it’s just a very good way to understand what you are looking at. It gets into your brain and finger-tips.

This is my original sketch.

And to prove it was still in my visual memory, this is a quick line sketch a day later without looking at anything.

I do believe that over time observation from being interested in whatever you feel  connected to grows your brain. I don’t know about seeing differently as they say, but I think artists see better.

I like playing with photo apps and this was made using Pixlr where you can create multiple exposures with different effects. 

 Layering the roof tops with the ‘difference’ filter creates these odd colours and isolating small areas suggests some possible designs.  If you work from a photo that is in your photo stream as opposed to your camera roll where it offers you a ‘duplicate and edit’ choice, you never lose your original by accident. But the apps are all pretty good and despite saving an edit, if you go back in to the app you can usually undo any changes. 

I started this at home which I have been stitching into. I wanted to explore the inked edges that I’d trialled in my sketchbook. 

This is made with acrylic paint rather than ink and torn bits of fabric. The base is the lining paper I was working on with painted scrim bonded on top. The fabric has all been dampened down and placed on plastic so that I could run a brush down the edges. It’s best to lift paper or fabric that’s been painted with acrylic when it’s still just damp because the paint will stick a bit, especially if it’s not thin. There are some small pieces of chiffon that have painty lines on them made by printing the left over paint using the edge of an empty mixing palette.

I think it might end up as a tall cylinder. So far so good I think, but I don’t want the stitch to compete with the edges. I’m trying to work with darker stitch at the bottom and lighter at the top.   

I took Val Holme’s ‘Collage, Stitch, Print’ book away with me, and thought perhaps my itch hadn’t been scratched, but it did make me want to try a collagraph plate with some available threads. I used the Amazon packaging as the base and made something…ish…sort of…and had a go. I didn’t really like anything as it all looked such a mess, but in order to explore all possibilities before ditching it I started layering the offerings over each other and could see a bit of potential.

Half a pot of gel medium later and many taking offs and ons, these were made and I think I might like them – not too sure about the white?  I will live with them for a while to see if we become friends.  I have bought some double-sided carpet tape from the market to make some more collagraphs at some point. Another path to explore.  

Packing clothes doesn’t take me long. Packing art equipment is a whole other ball game, but I managed to bring my nuking appliances, thank goodness. I harbour a secret desire to burn edges as many of you do…they are just delicious, aren’t they? This week though, having torn up lining paper and made painted edges, I decided I liked them and didn’t really want to burn them, so how was a girl to satisfy her desire? 

By making holes I decided.
I had waxed the strips of paper and did wonder if burning holes would work or whether I’d set the cottage on fire as they turned into great balls of fire. Happily, not. One heat tool on the back doorstep gently singeing away in the afternoon – very nice.  Just playing around now to see how to progress things and how best to show off the holes.   

Maybe some landscapes? Maybe small tea light wraps?

These? Well no idea what I will do with these yet, if anything.  Just a little compulsion to make a long row of them.  It will probably pass once I return home. 

Finally, I made this with the newspapers from under the strips and some layout paper. Sewn, painted, stitched.  Unlike much of the above, this just worked for me and I was ‘in the zone’ quickly plonking bits on and whizzing up lines with the machine.  I enjoyed making this the most. 

I think I have annoyed myself quite enough now with all this playing in monotone. Sometimes you can just go at things until you have completely irritated yourself, or maybe that’s just me?

Anyway, I’m off home today back to real life and having emptied my bag of unruly thoughts for now, I will see you when it’s full again!

New Horizons

It’s been a while since I posted anything. I’m just emerging from a lengthy and arduous house move which theoretically should have been quick and easy, but eight months later… Still, all is well now, and I actually know which piles contain what art materials which is no small thing. I have a new studio space and some creative storage solutions to find which I’m hoping IKEA will help me with.

I actually have a lovely new horizon to look at out the back.  These are the Yorkshire moors (about 20 mins drive away) and they say ‘If you can’t see the hills it’s raining and if you can see them, it’s going to rain!’. But we have had some glorious weather over the last week like everyone else which is making the neighbour’s advice about battening down everything in winter seem a bit unreal. 

Our newly-formed textile art group met this weekend which is a new horizon in itself, but just to be extra cheesy it was also the theme of the day. Some of us have been exploring ‘noticeable edges’ for a while, but with a lot of new members joining for our second meeting we worked on ‘horizon’ as a topic which would fit into the edges theme. We spent the day introducing ourselves, looking at sketchbook work and then using paint and torn papers to tune into colour before starting to translate things into fabric.   

This is a photo from Castle Hill, it’s the most prominent landmark in Huddersfield and we now live at the base of it. There are the most gobsmacking 360 degree views as you walk around it. Our little area at the bottom is called Hall Bower and I’ve just discovered Hall Bower Hookers. I was wondering if Him Indoors would mind if I joined? 

 Oh, forgot to say, they do crochet. 

Whilst I was busy with textiles based on looking over to the moors, the rest of my family went walking up there.  This is Joel’s photo – he’s pretty good with a camera.  

So I’ve just started piecing bits together using some Procion bag-dyed samples from Experimental Textiles which have been waiting for their moment.   I’d like I to try out some more adventurous stitch at some point so this may be a good place to try some.  Not sure, I may be seduced back to the simple. 

I’m also chuffed to bits that the paths around our house are full of ferns and grasses as I want to do a pile of printing over the summer. I have a bit of a thing for ferns, I could fill my garden with them and other architectural greenery but Him Indoors likes a bit of colour. By colour, read ‘municipal park planting’ and you will be getting close. The thing is, I have a spot at the Manchester ICHF show in February and I will need to take little bits of work to demonstrate with. I keep getting nervacitement every time I think about it. The Wise One is largely responsible for encouraging me and I love her for that, but I’ve also had to take up mud-wrestling with my inner critic. 

Some little colourful printy bits using lots of teabag paper. Please say you can’t detect any echoes of park planting… 

Old Man Eyebrows and Hair n’ Swear will also be going along with my more limited palette of pebble work. I’m also trying to write something in time for the show but time is flying past rather too quickly so I shall see. I have in mind to make more smaller forms with noticeable edges which will hang together. 

Well that’s about it. I shall try not to spend too much time staring into distances and get down to some work.  I have a talk to give at our guild in November which may be entertaining – not completely sure they know what they’ve done there. 

If you are going to the ICHF Manchester show in February, it would be great to see some friendly faces or be introduced to new ones!  
Please say ‘hello’.  Just between you and me, there will be a store of emergency Freddos and giant chocolate buttons under the table.  

Feeling Edgy 2

Since dipping paper and fabric edges using India ink, I have found myself making some more pod-like structures. I didn’t dip the edges as I guessed the CMC paste would stop the ink soaking in and there was the small problem of having everything turn back to mush. However, I used the dipping exercise as inspiration and will return to fabric at some point to explore some more ‘noticeable edges’. 

I’m also slowly weaving tiny bits of shredded paper from work into pieces that I’d really like to join together and dip somehow.
I hate weaving but the possibility of this working is driving this particular insanity. 

I’m also experimenting with pulpy paper and dipped edges.  This was a quick experiment but has a bit of potential.  I dipped the edge first and let it dry.  The strips look complete but they are actually little sections pasted together.  The fibres relax enough to reform them together.  One long strip would just buckle when wrapping round.  

I started in a bit of a mad frenzy with the other forms and ended up with a rather gooey offending article that I had no patience with. It looked pretty disgusting and I tried machining it when damp which wasn’t exactly a success. I had used mawata hankies and silk fibres and the inside was too fluffy to sew as well. So I chopped it up and used bits to test some potential textures…

Starting again, I gave myself a good talking to and slowed down to take more care. This time, I used teabag paper to line the ballon I worked on so that if I wanted to sew anything I could. I haven’t actually put any other pods through a sewing machine yet, but I think they would be OK.   

The first one is made with silk hankies and cotton fibres. When dry, I used silk fibres dyed with India ink and pasted them around the edge. I left them long and fluffy but they weren’t quite right. I sewed long stitches along the edge to blend the black fibres in and add some interest. Once the sides were pulled together and sewn I cut the fluff off as it was competing with the stitch marks. The resulting material using this technique is stiff enough to keep its shape and stay rounded.

This next one was made the same way, but having found some natural fibres in a rummage bag at our guild, I used some stiff linen fibres (at least I think that’s what they are).  These made the pod really stiff and crunchy to touch. Having made the previous form with a straight edge, I really wanted a hairy one so I left plenty of length on the edge. These bowl forms look rather strange to begin with but once pulled together they become much more interesting. Before pulling, they are just too tempting not to be worn on the head by Him Indoors. In fact, all my makings seem to be just the right size to be ignominiously reduced to two things, a hat or a butt-flap if 2D. I’m just not given the proper respect. It was difficult work out how to bring the sides together as the material was now really strong. I worked out that small beads could secure nylon threads across and pull the edges together. Having tested some options, I used small round stone/shell sequins and a tiny copper bead to secure each knot. Once the first one was on, the others were easier.   
I give you ‘Old Man Eyebrows’!

I have a head full of ideas for these forms and am just enjoying playing with whatever takes my fancy, so next I thought let’s do a black one with a white edge. I used teabag paper and layered up three layers with paste before a painting it all over with neat acrylic whist wet. I had no idea that it would have this lovely mottled effect inside when the balloon was removed.   

Now I envisaged this one with a white tufty edge frill so I started using sets of the same linen reads to sew pieces through. The paper never tore at any point, it’s just great. The threads were really tangled and it took an absolute age to get them all sorted. Honestly, it took days to do this.  I started and thought ‘What have I begun?’ But I’m a bit of a completer/finisher so I decided to accept my self-entrapment and soldier on through all the effort and annoyance.  I had to be SO patient, and on day three it received its name.   

I give you ‘Hair ‘n Swear’.

(secured with a tiny bead and one nylon thread across the middle)  

Hair and Swear with a side parting… 

The pile of offending fibre

Before pulling together

Some different edges

So there we are, I’m still messing about other ones so I shall post any further friends that get created. I did think a set of black ones would be nice, with knots, then loops and the final one with tufts but I can’t quite bring myself to look at linen thread for a while. My relationship with Hair ‘n Swear has effected me too much…

Actually I lie, I have really enjoyed these. I find 3D irkingly difficult but using a balloon to make a very simple shape was comfortably familiar and has allowed me to play around with design rather than being exercised with construction problems. I’m thinking eyelets, and getting knotted and…and…

Feeling Edgy

Hillstone Fibre Arts has been born. We are a group of friends living around Huddersfield, each with different experiences in textiles, embroidery, and mixed media. ‘Hillstone’ was chosen to honour the lovely West Yorkshire landscape that we live in, and some of you may know that the dominant landmark is Castle Hill – a stone folly up on a hill that overlooks one of the largest towns in the county.
We have now met twice and have started to get to know each other more. As always, I love being part of a group where you can learn so much. The different backgrounds also add a bit of magic into the mix. We have chosen a theme of ‘noticeable edges’ to explore which has already thrown up some fantastic ideas and draft beginnings.

At the moment, I’m interested in using dip dying on different papers and fabrics. I’m not sure where it will lead to, but I know to trust the adventure. 

I decided to employ my logical, scientific side and tore up strips of every conceivable type of paper in my shed, and nearly every type of fabric. These were given a 30 second dip into watered down India ink, only they weren’t actually because some just sucked it up so fast I cheated and pulled them out. Other unimpressive results were left longer in the attempt to encourage them to be a little more magnificent. Good job I didn’t become a scientist – I think a spot of light subversion and championing of the ‘unfair test’ is much more preferable artistically.   

These were placed onto plastic bags to dry. Now this was a very important variable as it meant that the ink made more interesting marks and wicked up the material further than when on paper towel. Time was also a factor and it took about an hour for the ink to find its final resting place in this small experiment.

  •  Cheap printer paper worked well 
  • Crinkling paper didn’t particularly make a difference 
  • Handmade paper wolfed up ink 
  • Some cottons didn’t do a thing, other ones did 
  • Pre-washing fabric is important
  • Wetting edges first was often better, but sometimes marks were too pale 
  • Silk was generally fabulous 

A range of silks…

Two of my favourite – artist canvas and copier paper

Some edges resembled landscapes when placed together 

‘Edges’ seems to be another one of those timeless themes that grabs people’s attention, and many use the wicking of dye into fabric to great effect. At the moment, I want to do something in monochrome so that the edges are kept as the focus but not too sure what yet.

I then took a silk fibre bowl and suddenly had a very unscientific urge to pinch the edges together. I found this unexpectedly amusing. So much so that I let out a small titter in my shed. To this day I cannot explain myself, and no, no alcohol was involved. Just the mad inner world of a woman of a certain age. Following a couple of good slaps and some fresh air, it occurred to me that this might have potential, so I’m wondering if some pod-like vessels with different edges might develop. I’m considering how an inside edge might be done?  

And how this idea might be linked with some previous shapes…

And then, I recently noticed an old shop in Basingstoke (my old childhood art shop actually) which had sadly closed. The sign above the door was now rotten and letting water drip down the paper which covered the door and window. I did a kind of sideways skip across the walkway and got out my camera. What I really wanted to do was break in, but had to settle for a few photos. The couple about 10 inches away from me politely kept quite quiet and slowly edged away from the mad old bat crouching down. But you know, I’m in good company and plead ‘guilty as charged’. 

On the subject of the creative process and how Cezanne followed his goals despite what his peers thought about him, G Petty writes ‘If others think you are mad – you are in good company’.

Finally, I’m trying to finish another piece of pebble work.  The idea is to reference the motion of the sea using small cylinders of different sizes with noticeable edges of blue.   The tea and rust-dyed silk that will be wrapped around also has stitching responding to the edges of the print. Two projects influencing each other.

I’m looking forward to a chunk of time to develop these ideas. I like to think I may be on the edge of something great, but I fear it is more likely to be the edge of reason!

Ta ta.

Pebble at the NEC

This week, the Fashion, Embroidery and Stitch show came to the NEC, Birmingham. My pebble work was displayed as part of the group’s theme of ‘line’ which was very exciting. People were very kind and interested so it was a real joy to chat about it in the moments I was stewarding the stand as I was also helping set up the Vlieseline workshops for Kim and the tutors. There were some truly awe-inspiring pieces of work and plenty of inspiration. Of course, a major attraction of such shows is a spot of retail therapy, but I now look forward to seeing the exhibitions the most. I found the Capability Brown display from the Embroider’s Guild particularly stunning, as well as leafing though the sketchbooks which Amanda Hislop had on her stand near to us.

Having an exhibitor’s badge allowed wonderful access to some interesting conversations with the public and other well-known artists which I thoroughly enjoyed. The other benefit was entrance to a cafe where you don’t have to queue for your cuppa which was a priceless perk.

Being there for a whole show was a good experience and I learned so much about hanging, spacing and labelling. I am really grateful to Kim for the experience of helping out as I do feel I have a comprehensive idea about all that is involved. She has opened up some lovely opportunities for me and it was just fun being together with her and Jayne for the week. We found a brilliant pub for evening meals, sampled most of the puddings on offer in the Birmingham district, and probably cleared Cadbury’s out of Freddos in the space of five days. We managed the temperamental van between us which wouldn’t start for a couple of days, and due to Kim’s uncanny skill of entering almost entirely correct postcodes into the sat nav, we had a very interesting tour of Solihull. I may have also developed a reputation for acquiring tubes. A girl can’t have enough sturdy tubes to wrap her work around.

So having made my purchases, done a bit of selling, and cut up more pieces of parchment than I care to mention, Kim gave a warning as to what breakdown would be like (not ours personally, you understand). Work was stripped before walls were taken apart so quickly by a posse of fine young men that within a couple of hours it was all gone. It was the oddest feeling. Having been immersed in an arty, stitchy world for a few days, it was as if it had never happened.   

But it did. So here are some photos to prove it… 

Our work on the IDC stand, thanks to Brenda.




Alison, Kate and I share a love of lichen so I feel I must just show you ‘The Trouble with Lichen’ from Alison.    

And a few 3D pieces – Kim’s exhibition vessels, and some work from Tracy, Marilyn and Mary.    


Finally, I got back to find Him Indoors had bought me some beautiful flowers, he’s a good lad. What a nice end to the show.  It only took about 2 hours for me to un-chat my way through the last few days, I think he got off fairly lightly :) 

It’s the first day of Spring today.  New growth and some new ideas hatching…

Happy Easter! 


Getting a handle on things

I stopped over midwinter. Something of a new experience for me. I always have something on the go, and it always involves thinking. I just needed saving from myself and to give the brain a rest so I just pottered with a cross stitch where I just did what I was told for a while. No tiny endless decisions about placement, shape, stitching, colours…

But now I’m ready for another adventure (‘adventure’ being something where you don’t know the destination as opposed to ‘journey’ where you plan to reach a certain place). 

I have been reading a few comments from those who dye fabric saying that they do so partly because they don’t want to change handle of it. After reading a couple of these, something consciously popped out of my head with the words ‘but you do!’  Sometimes this is what I want as well – to use a fabric with its new colour but retain its other properties that lured me to it in the first place. However, I’ve realised that changing the handle is part of most of my adventures with a material. Changing something about how it works, what you can do with it, and a little bit of ‘what would happen if?’ are all part of the delicious possibilities on an adventure into the unknown.   

I have just finished this piece. It started out as a pile of scraps from bees-waxing most of the Inkberrow Design Centre in Redditch last time I was there. Fabric, bark, paper all change in different ways and having only done this once, I’m definitely going to explore this more. Fabric stiffens and has sculptural qualities as it can be set and reset, bent and cracked. It feels completely different. Putting a needle through feels different. The handle is utterly changed. 

I decided to look for a definition of ‘handle’ on the web and came across a whole world I didn’t know existed. I feel it only fair to communicate some of what I learnt for your edification… 
Essentially, fabric handle is concerned with how a piece feels – how soft, bendy, rough or smooth it is. This was traditionally decided upon by the people in the cloth industry. It was simply about qualities a person felt as they used their hand, and very skilled they would have been at it, too. The handle influenced the tailoring, processing and drape of a fabric but there was no consistent language or measurement and as many of the experienced handlers left the industry, a common and objective approach was sought.

I give you the ‘Hand Evaluation Standardisation Committee’ formed by Professor Kawabata. But what I found interesting is that this was formed in 1972 which seems very recent to me. They argued that if the handle comes from mechanical properties of cloth, if they could be controlled then they could be measured objectively.  So a system was developed to do just that.

Now, Japanese words are very alluring and rather romantic I feel. Shashiko sounds better than darning don’t you agree? Well the professor and the committee came up with some primary hand qualities as follows, the words from which I intend to ruminate on for a bit:

Koshi – stiffness

Numeri – smoothness

Fukurami – fullness and softness

Shari – crispness

Hari – antidrape, stiffness

Sofutosa – soft feeling

Kishimi – scrooping feeling

Shinayakasa – flexibility with soft feeling

Did you see that one? What the heck is a scrooping feeling? I’ve definitely had several of those lately without even looking that one up!! 

But this is my most favourite sentence as a result of intensive research: 

‘A universal quantitative measure of fabric handle should be considered as the basis for considering reliable fuzzy membership functions’. H Behery.

Not quite sure how one responds to that? 

I have found I particularly like painting silk organza with acrylic, using bees wax, layering up fabrics by bonding them together or using a lot of stitch to bring them together into a new whole. I rarely keep a fabric’s softness in what I do and I have no idea why – think it’s just because I love combining lots of things together, although they do get harder to sew.  

I have more printed organza for pebble work, and have been plotting some more ideas.  Just auditioning some pebble prints in the images below, not quite sure about them.  I did think that after playing with this theme for so long, I’d be done with it but there’s a bit more to come out yet. I think I may move away from block prints but the original theme was ‘line’ which I’d like to retain.     

In amongst this is a gel transfer print of some rust at Filey beach.  It has been cut up and combined with fabric and paper. I’m starting to find lines of interest and add texture. The different combinations,  thicknesses and areas of stitch are interesting to handle.  


I thought I’d also share these lovely layers from the allotment round the corner from the Design Centre that I have often snuck onto at lunchtimes.  Always worth a peep around the corners of things…


In celebration of two years working together, here’s one of the girls.  Kim has done a good job with us.  We started out on the same journey, but we have all got our own style and interests now.  She has helped us all find a voice for our adventures.  Thank you xx


We are putting a few bits up at the NEC in March where I shall be helping which is exciting. I have started to plan something locally with some textile buddies and am looking forward to that, but my trips to Redditch are now at an end.

I think I can feel a scooping feeling coming on…


I have been enjoying several articles and videos that people have shared via social media. It’s a real window to so much that would have taken years to discover in the past. I have been collecting some thoughts about volume. Let’s start with volume of work. I’ve been saying to friends that I’m often disappointed that what’s in my head doesn’t come out well in reality and Ira Glass has something to say about this :

‘All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there is this gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not that good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. A lot of people never get past that phase. They quit. Everybody I know who does interesting, creative work they went through years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. Everybody goes through that. And if you are just starting out or if you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work… It is only by going through a volume of work that you’re going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.’

– Ira Glass

I was rather taken aback that this man knew what it was like living inside my heed. Spooky! I’m an optimist though and sometimes a thing is created that’s instantly pleasing – I am open to surprises and serendipity. It’s not all hard work.

Another good article is this one:

Next, volume of ideas. At work, I’m always talking out loud about what could work, how we could try this, or plan that, and I know some of what comes out of my mouth is rubbish. It’s a risk, but occasionally something actually works having put myself ‘out there’. I don’t have trouble with volume of ideas, I have trouble sticking to any. So look, someone else who understands…

‘To be creative, what we are looking for is not one idea but dozens of ideas – some good, some average and some rubbish. We need to go through the wrong stuff to get to the right stuff.’

– Michael Dunn university of Derby.

Finally, volume of experiences:

‘Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesise new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect.’

– Steve Jobs

Well we’ve just had our penultimate weekend together in Redditch, and produced a rather surprising volume of work. We had thousands of dots to connect this weekend in the form of little wax pellets to play with (did you like that seamless segue?). None of us had used wax before but we all enjoyed experimenting with paper and fabric in abundance.

I had taken down some work where I had cut out the lines from my pebble blocks using a strip of Decovil and bonded silk chiffon painted with acrylic.  Something a friend had mentioned about the rhythm of the sea shaping the pebbles had set me off thinking about reflecting a turning movement.

The cut out lines applied onto a thinner strip.

These are the lines from the pebble blocks I used.  They were stamped onto layout paper so I could place them, then transferred with carbon paper.

I wanted to see if wax and papers would be good for making these forms so l laminated two pieces of handmade paper with beeswax.  I had taken some blocks with me so these were melted and painted onto the paper.   Once dried, I wrapped them round a tube covered in parchment paper and lightly heated them with a heat gun whist pinned top and bottom.  This formed them nicely.

Really liked the hairy one!

The smaller ones would hang, but the bigger ones wouldn’t keep their form.

Looking through again.  I found myself interested in photographing these from this angle, and there was a bit of a link to my work at the summer school.

I certainly produced a volume of work, practically waxing everything is sight!  Here are some of the 2d samples, just seeing how it changed materials.  I wish you could feel the bark, it was completely softened and malleable, and one of the best results we all had was with handmade paper.  It cracked deliciously when crumpled up.

 Little bit of stitching.

 Happy bunnies!

I ended up with a whole studio to play in.  The space is great for working with BIG ideas.

And here are some snippets of work from the group…

 Mary, Val and Kate
 Alison, Tracey and Marilyn

Waxed baby wipes were a real revelation.  They will pull on the bias and keep their form, as does silk voil.  Lots of potential there.

‘Fred Flintstone’s Sunday Best’ was also finished.  This was part of my pebbles work.

The front. 
The back. 

The West Country Quilt show in Bristol was a success.

The girls did a fabulous job hanging and stewarding and there was a lot of learning about how to approach exhibiting work etc.  We are going to be able to put a few pieces up at the NEC in March as well. All very exciting!  However, it feels a bit sad because I can’t carry on travelling so far and I think Spring next year will see me leaving Out of Line and hopefully establishing a small group nearer to home.  I’m not thinking too much about it yet because they are such good friends.

Finally, this is the ‘Solace’ project if you haven’t seen it – just might be something nice to start over the holidays or to mark the New Year.

Wishing you all a Happy Christmas and New Year.

Towards Ambiguity

Well this month, I have completed a couple of pieces that are off to join our other work from last year on the Inkberrow Design Centre stand at the West Country Quilt Show, Bristol. Nov 12 to 14th.  Apparently they are looking forward to our two display stands as they will add extra interest in being a bit ‘different’!    

Our group this year is now starting to plan together as Out Of Line, an apt name in so many ways. No one is quite sure how next year will pan out, but we hope to exhibit some work together as we fledge from ExTextra. We’ve found that we have somehow grown a few feathers and it’s nearly time to take the plunge.

I have been thinking about what I felt was lacking in a recent piece I finished, and came to the conclusion that it was missing some sort of energy – it just felt a bit lifeless. It was a piece about about stone which is pretty static on reflection 😀. Seriously though, I didn’t plan it, I was just playing around with bits of dyed fabric from some  Leaf litter and thought it might look good stitched. I cut some paper up to audition some pebble shapes on top but got a bit stuck after that. I have really loved playing in my sketchbook, and the discovery of paint on silk chiffon/organza as a texture for stone so I used that, but was far less pleased with the product than the process. It isn’t bad, it’s just missing something.  



We discussed the layout of the pebbles at ExTextra with mixed opinions. Was it a design thing, if I had done five so that they could be out of line or grouped more pleasingly might that have been better? Yes, I think so.  I quite liked parts of it, but there was always something making me itch, if you know what I mean?
Just about the same time, I read Helen Terry’s blog and she mentioned the need for ambiguity, and I took this to mean not representing a subject quite as obviously as I had done in this case. I thought ‘that’s the word, that’s what’s missing – something that feels more interesting to look at.’ I’ve long been drawn by art that suggests the human form rather that representing it more overtly. There may be a few reasons why, but I’m sure one of them is that it leaves a sense of mystery and allows the brain to wonder for a minute. I love the work of Dan McCaw and how he paints people. They are painted in a way that hold your gaze.

Dan McCaw ‘Transitions’

Dan McCaw ‘Lunch Group’

Incidentally, his use of colour and light is wonderful.

It’s a complicated thing, because we all appreciate art that re-presents a subject to almost photographic precision as well as that which hides it good ‘n proper. In the world of mixed media and textile art, ambiguity is not likely to be far away but we may not be conscious of employing it as an element of design. We just know when we haven’t.

‘Exploring this process of perception and interpretation is at the heart of what I like to do. But at the same time I think marks and imagery are more interesting if they never quite resolve themselves but remain somewhat unexplained. Ambiguity leaves room for a wider range of interpretation. As soon as they resolve themselves into something definite it closes off some of the possible layers of meaning – which is far less engaging in my opinion’

I’m hoping that adding a little ambiguity will also add more energy and interest to whatever comes next. I would like to try and more freely interpret my sources of interest. Actually I really would, but there’s a huge part of me rolling around chortling at myself right now and telling myself to go and hoover until normal service is resumed. Following that, getting to the shed and not messing about like a fart in a pickle jar and actually doing something would be even better… 

I’m still trying to approach things in a more relaxed manner and allowing ideas and learning to overwinter, but I have to say this idea of ambiguity has rather taken me. So I’ve just tried some quick prints at our last ExTextra weekend and am experimenting layering different parts of the print blocks onto sheer fabrics. These ones are messy so I think I need to tape down anything that moves and try some more. I’ve also started ruminating about shards, but that’s another story (I think there may be medicine for that sort of thing).

I’m going to do some felting with a good friend in a few days and I can say with complete confidence that whatever I produce will definitely be ambiguous.

Off to hoover…

Autumn and potatoes

The present is a strange mix at the moment. It is a really busy for me at work as the academic year begins but we have just taken our son to college so home is still and quiet. The garden is looking full and green, but toadstools are appearing and leaves are turning. Seasonally and personally it is a real time of transition. 

 I absolutely love Autumn, it is my favourite season. The colours of closing down are always breathtaking; the smell in the air and the first sight of warm breath in the chill delight me. From being a small child I have also loved trees so as you can tell, I’m in my element.

Taking back all the goodness from the leaves and storing it over Winter is playing out before us in the show we all hope for at this time of year. It struck me that I have been very active over Spring and Summer, taking in workshops and events and reading my head off! I have reached the point where I think I need to store all that and overwinter it. Even for someone like me that enjoys thinking and ideas, a winter is necessary just to take stock. I am beginning to appreciate how creativity goes through its seasons.

 As a result, Autumn finds me trying to let go mentally and enjoy a more relaxed pace pottering with colours that excite me, and playing with smaller possibilities. I let go of a big idea recently which was another lesson for me. Many people have to let go of pieces of work, or stashes of fabric etc. but with me it’s often my ideas that have to be dropped, even if I have got some way to resolving something – hopefully not before some of the good bits have been stored away. I think I have finally been able to understand that this is part of the natural creative cycle and what sketchbooks are for, but it has been one big battle for me. It amused me to remember the name for a page in a book – ‘folio’ or leaf. It’s ok to have possibilities and let most of them become leaf litter for another season.

‘From these myriad possibilities, a few thoughts develop as front-runners. These prized ideas are then well worth the energy it takes to further refine, develop and utilise…
Grasping appreciation for the tremendous value in exploring ideas and respecting the function of play is crucial in developing a creative approach to thinking. For artists, it should not only be permission, but a downright insistence on trying out all kinds of possibilities with abandon. It’s not just that it’s allowed. It’s more the case that it’s essential.’

                         ‘The Art of Making Mistakes’ Melanie Rothschild 

Well, from the sublime to the ridiculous then…

I have mostly been mucking about with potatoes recently. Remember potato printing at school and the smell of the powder paint? This humble and unassuming vegetable has has me in its grip regarding its potential for exploring pebbles. Nothing new, everybody’s done it, but I just wanted to have a go and get it out my system. A small group of us are starting out together and exploring ‘line’. I have decided to follow my ‘rock, paper, scissors’ theme and look at the rocks and pebbles that interested me over the summer. I’m really looking at more stylised line and have some large print blocks at the ready but this was a little aside, or as my friend likes to say, an artistic ‘amuse bouche’.


 Pretty simple prints – they work best on ordinary cartridge paper so the paint can soak in and produce a crisp image.  Sometimes you can get away with printing straight onto hard surfaces, but unless you are a precision-cutting potato printer extraordinaire you will need a small pad underneath to get the best results. 

After mucking about with colours I like, I tried using the colours in the pebbles themselves.  The cloth that I dyed with rusty beach objects would lend itself well to these.   


To be honest, I think my potato printing will become leaf litter, but it has infused me with the pebbleness of pebbles and helped me observe more.  This little piece is definitely informed by my spud work.  It keeps one down to earth.


Finally, I did actually complete something recently, using Abaca tissue and hand-dyed fabric and threads.  I had to work backwards and put the white line in afterwards when I realised that the negative space just wasn’t going to be bold enough.  If I could have kept the texture from the paper initially laid down, I would have liked that.  Stitch changes things.



I’m writing this on a weekend break.  Meet our neighbours.  This just tickled me.

Ta ta!


Persist or Desist? That is the question.

Since the summer school, I have had the usual million thoughts about carrying on with my wrappings. Should I? Why should I? How will I? I have had insights and meaningful little thoughts, a lovely email from a friend who injected some thinking about gyres into the mix, and chance to work in my sketchbook on ideas and trials to laminate fabric and paper successfully. ‘Sounds very artistic and fulfilling’ I hear you say, but in fact it has been a really messy, stressy time with moments oscillating (which is a pretty good word – needs using more) between highs and lows. It all culminated with a conversation with Him Indoors who told me as I was describing my wish for others to understand the ideas behind my very important work (cough!) that it was complete rubbish. ‘People’, he said, ‘see what they see and not what is in your head, and nothing you can do will change that unless you write an epistle to go with said important work.’   
Well!! Rude!! After a fleeting moment of indignation, I was left with an insight that actually he was completely right (which is something a woman should only admit to a man on VERY rare occasions, about once a year usually suffices). I know this because after many conversations about ‘the feathers’ he still sees them as leaves, which is fine, but associates my piece of very important work with a pixie dress (yes! I know!) despite knowing all about the story behind them. This is due to a love of fantasy computer worlds and creating costumes for characters, and nothing I can say will change this association in his head. Secretly, this is quite annoying and I find myself harbouring a small inclination towards physical violence. 

So, the lesson about doing art for yourself and not others has gone in a bit deeper with this latest chapter of my tortured mind. Nevertheless, I am left with a number of ponderings.

When you have an idea about creating something, what is it that keeps you struggling with it until something is resolved? Do some artists have much larger reserves of patience or sheer bloody-mindedness to keep going? I’m presuming the idea has to be big enough to drive a compulsion or fascination along with a hefty dose of graft. Take Picasso, what allowed him to persist painting the same scenes over and over again, or Mondrian to carry on abstracting and ‘subtracting’ from his work until he reached what we best know him for?

Is this true?

               ‘There’s no shortage of remarkable ideas, what’s missing is the will to execute them’
Seth Godin 

Some of this must be about knowing yourself, and your circumstances. For instance, I know that I tend to work quickly, and can get a bit bored so I might have a shorter window to explore ‘the important thing’ before it evaporates. I also work full time and how to prioritise the time and energy I have for art is a factor. There are also different levels at which inspiration abides with us. We all have lasting interests; I have a deep love of nature formed in childhood which is reflected in most of what I do, and for some reason I am also helplessly drawn to linear, vertical lines. Then there are events, circumstances and relationships through to fleeting observations which generate creativity.   

For me, there is the chase of the idea. I am definitely an ideas person at home and at work, and love the synthesis of bringing thoughts and materials together creatively. I recognise that it’s this part which often gives me more of a buzz than the execution which I can feel a bit disappointed about. But I have also found that it can tie me in knots and sap the playful element of making so I presume there has to be a balance so that one doesn’t consume the other.

There’s also something about being able to see that you might be able to do a thing. Not that you can literally see the finished article, but a kind of knowing that you have a fighting chance of working through to something pleasing. When I have that feeling I can be in the flow and persistence is easy, but when it’s absent that’s when things are really hard. At that point (and it may be completely normal) that is when the decision to desist, or at least evaluate whether the idea/source of inspiration is still important enough to struggle on with, faces you. I think that is my Picasso point – do I carry on or not? And this time, it’s ‘not’. And it feels uncomfortable. I feel a little bit guilty, which is odd.

I now have a sketchbook full of abandoned ideas and pages which represent quite a lot of time which I struggle to believe is not wasted. I know it isn’t really, and I did enjoy much of the exploration, but I think as someone who has never studied art, I’m still coming to accept that this is part of the natural process:- lots of possibilities conceived along the way and only a few coming into being.

You may have lost the plot by now, or be thinking that I might benefit from a lie down in a soft and darkened room, but I can only say that I find writing about what I feel is going on as I create helpful in terms of making sense of it all, and then letting it go. Of course, Him Indoors would probably be rolling around the floor in helpless convulsions of laughter reading this, but that’s the point! I’ve written this because I wanted to and you, lovely reader, are invited to receive it as you will. You may think ‘yes, it’s a bit like that for me’ or ‘get help for that mad woman immediately.’ I generally respond well to giant chocolate buttons.

Following chocolaty drugs, I promise to be much more normal and have pictures next time, but for now I leave you with this:

“Creative activity could be described as a type of learning process where teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.”
 Arthur Koestler