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Sunday, April 30, 2006


Whilst I've not been around this week, it has come to my notice that my friend Thelma has been very kindly tooting a trumpet on my behalf! I spoke about the little books I made, the Visual Poetry series, and about the 'Flying Dreams' series, of which she owns number two. She has very kindly put pictures up of both pieces of work on her blog, so that you can see what I'm talking about.

The One That Got Away

I talked about making a piece for an exhibit that had the theme of spring. Somehow, through illness and just general vagueness, I missed the exhibit...but I still have the piece. Originally, I started with a wool pieced base, but couldn't get it to express what I wanted to, and so have ended up with this piece, instead. It is called Emerging Spring, and it reflects the way that spring suddenly pops up, in gardens and fields, a shock of bright green amongst the dark browns and blues of winter. It is a piece of very fine hand dyed cotton, with wool felted into it randomly, machine quilted on a layer of dark green velvet, and mounted on a green cloth, stretched over canvas.

The idea was very simple. I hope the piece reflects that, even if the getting there was more complicated than I'd thought.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Locked Out

Well, who knows how long it will be before you read this? (Nearly a week, as it happens). Apparently, Blogger isn't satisfied with doing strange things to my blog the last time I posted (as you can see from the apparently identical, though differently titled, pieces from a couple of days ago). It told me it wasn't going to publish the first version, so I gave in, wrote another version, it published that, but when I went to look at it, it had published both. So I deleted one. Not so's you'd notice on the blog, as it is still there... ah me. Or it was when I wrote this seems to have gone now. Now, it has decided that I'm a spam blog. Or its spam-prevention robots have decided this. It seems to think that I post a lot of rubbish. I'm offended. Greatly. But I've applied to be presumably, eventually, I'll get to send this post.

Am I cross? Oh, yes. But it will give me time to sort out some interesting pictures from the sixty or so I took when out with Andrew, Sarah and Robin at Grimes Graves on Tuesday. Meanwhile, you'll just have to make do with a painting, 'Green River'. And the thought that I haven't really been doing all that much, art wise, other than pining for my studio and patting the odd bit of lutradur.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Normality Returns...

my interview has been printed in the EDP (sadly, it's not on line, though the newspaper itself it), and it was very helpful, making the workshop sound interesting and my work sound good, too. It's very gratifying when someone prints that my work 'sings from every canvas and cloth. Vibrant, energetic colours, different textiles and textures make you want to reach out and touch them'. Which is just the kind of effect I want to have on people, so I'm delighted.

Now, though, it's back to what laughingly passes for normality around here. Dealing with calls about the workshop (I hope), and the related admin, like creating posters and fliers, and getting back to work on some of the pieces I prepped earlier in the week. Like this piece here (click on the photo for a larger view), 'Three Blue Dots', a carry on from the Eight Blue Dots and a Blue Circle which I showed you a few days ago. I've decided to keep them together, and have a variety of thoughts on how to mount them, of which more another day. But, in the interests of international friendship and all that jazz, I'm in the process of making some more postcard sized pieces to send to my friends.

My son and his fiancee are en route to here to stay for a couple of days. With all these visitors, the house is remarkably clean and tidy, wish it would stay that way without the endless effort it takes to keep it...sigh...

Friday, April 21, 2006


I've done it, now. I talked to a very pleasant reporter from the local paper, about life, art, dancing with the demon depression and this new group we're trying to form. The article should appear tomorrow, complete with photographs, fortunately all with work in them, so there's something to look at other than wee me ! I have no idea what the reporter will say, but I know that what I said was that when you live with depression, you have a choice. You can disappear under it, allow it to take charge of your life, and live as if there was nothing other than depression in your life. Or you can accept it for what it is, a volatile illness that comes and goes in intensity, and live with it, focussing on what you are able to do, and not on what you are unable to do, and get on with doing it. And accept that sometimes, the demons will take over, and you will not be able to do anything at all for a while.

So, now I can perhaps get back to work! Maybe after a nap...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Fame At Last?

I recently met a lovely lady named Helen Simpson, who, as well as being an accomplished artist, is an occupational therapist specialising in employment and mental health. Understandably, she has a particular interest in working with artists. After a couple of long conversations, we agreed that there was a need for a group that would bring together artists with mental health problems, to see if we could support each other in meeting our personal goals, and to share information and support in facing the kind of challenges that artists with mental health face in day to day life.

Today, the press release advertising the workshop that will mark the beginning of the group was issued, and I've just had a phonecall from the local paper. They want to do a story about the group, and are coming tomorrow to interview me. I've never done anything quite like this before, so it will be a new experience for me. But I'm working on the principle that all publicity is good publicity. So, wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

One Of Those (Less Than Perfect) Days

You know the kind of thing. You visit the doctor, who doesn't know what's wrong with you, whether it's a virus, a bacterial infection or what. You break sundry machine needles. You fall asleep in an uncomfortable position and wake up with a stiff neck.

But there were some good points to today, too. I got a surprise package in the mail, my diary and sketch book, lost somewhere between Edinburgh and Norwich, sent by a kind man in Norwich Airport, thanks to the letter from the dentist with my address on. And a book from Amazon, 'Figuring It Out' by Colin Renfrew, an archaeologist with a passion for modern art. It is subtitled, 'The Parallel Visions of Artists and Archaeologists'; I said recently (and possibly, it might have been here), that I saw artmaking as part archaeology; this book talks about the way that artists and archaeologists think...and how the thoughts of the former might well be fruitful for the latter. And, I suspect, vice versa. I've wanted for a long time to talk to an archaeologist (any archaeologists out there fancy a dialogue? Just drop me a line.). This book may be the Next Best Thing.

And then, there's the work. Lutradur on velvet, stitched and cut back, to prove that applique can be trouble free and interesting, using lutradur. The image shows a section of it, waiting for more stitch. I'm pleased, so far, anyway. Not bad going for a less than perfect day.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Beauty and the Beast, Hustling!


I woke this morning with no voice to speak of...or should that be, with? Not that it bothered Robin unduly, as he left the house on autopilot before 5am, to catch the early shuttle to Amsterdam. What a gadabout! It did disrupt my day quite convincingly, though. I had intended to go to Helen's workshop and take some photographs for my soon to be finished website (I have to keep telling myself that to encourage myself a bit, it's hard work this website stuff, and I'm not doing anything technical at all). But somehow, Spreading Germs didn't seem like a good thing to do, so I cancelled, made a doctor's appointment for tomorrow and...well...did some housework. I figured I felt rotten anyway, so I might as well use the time constructively. And I now have a nice tidy downstairs, ready for an assortment of visitors.

Now, that's the third time I've typed this post. Every time I've tried to add a picture, the machine has this time, I'm sending it without one. The photograph I tried, and failed, to send, is of another of the pieces I'm experimenting with, the randomly cut pieces of handdye with some stitch. This new one made me think of Beauty and the Beast At The Disco. Now that's rather a long title for a very small (journal sized) maybe The Hustle will do instead...

Monday, April 17, 2006

A Day Off

Well, I had to have one...Robin is off work for the holiday weekend. So we went to buy bits and pieces for the computer, including a Paint package that I've wondered about for a while... and ended up in a Jaeger factory shop. No, I got nothing.... not even a scarf. Hell, I'd have settled for a handkerchief!! Robin, on the other hand, came out with a large bag containing a suit, two shirts and a jacket. There's something very wrong with that picture...sigh...

Meantime, the cats sat at home wondering where their dinner was, and the dolls sunbathed in the conservatory. Made from the same pattern, they seem to have come out male and female, he, the supercilious one, perches on top of a six foot bookcase. (note the Mummy on the shelf below. No, not his Mummy...) She, who seems to be annoyed with him, sits on the window ledge, glaring. They don't talk. Just as well, really. There's enough noise in the house without quarrelsome dolls joining in...

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Jury...

is still out on yesterday's cards/piece. So it's not too late to tell me what you think...

Meanwhile, I'm going back to work. I made up a number of small pieces in the same way as the postcards are constructed, and intend to play with them today. The first of them, 'Flower Girl', is pictured here. It has been on my mind for a long time, that idea of taking a pieced of dyed/painted fabric, cutting it up, stitching and reassembling it in smaller units. Whenever I've focussed on the idea, though, deliberately tried to do such a thing, I've found it impossible to do. Yesterday, focussed on the making of postcards, rather than the making of Fine Art, the latter just blossomed... Sometimes, all you have to do is stop thinking. Or at least, stop thinking about The Idea...just let it take shape as it wants to. And it will.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

More, Or Less?

I had this intention, to make postcards. Well, I owe one or two, and I thought it would be a good way to ease myself back into work. So, I cut up a piece of dyepainted cloth, which I liked, but, other than using it with some lutradur, didn't have any specific ideas for. And look what happened... I seem to have a series of little dyepaintings, clearly related, Eight Blue Dots, One Blue Circle. Now that I've finished them, the whole seems to be more than the sum of the parts. I like synergy, when it happens. It is almost never intended, but is a gift when it arrives.

But it does give me a dilemma. What to do with them now? Split them up, and imagine that dynamic spread over the world from the US to New Zealand with sundry other places in between? Or keep them here, framed and interacting, or perhaps in a box, so that I (or someone) can take them out, rearrange them and enjoy the new meanings? Decisions, decisions, decisions.... Meanwhile, I've taken out some more dyepainted cloth, ready to slice it up and try this particular exercise again, on a slightly larger scale.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Simple Cloth

You may well have come across Jane Dunnewold's book, Complex Cloth, which describes many different ways of making marks on fabric, combining several layers of surface design to make the 'complex' cloth for which she is, quite rightly, famed. I taught a workshop on dyeing last weekend, and had a very happy time with my students, making simple cloth. Or is it?

Well, yes it is. It's very simple to make. The techniques are simple. Relax, scrunch (or fold), pour, rinse, wash. How easy is that! It's the results that are complex. I know a lot of people who avoid dyeing because they think it's too hard for them to learn. I'm here to say, it's easy. And fun. I warned the class to wear old clothes, but particularly enjoyed the lovely lady who modelled a binbag in place of an apron. We decided that the black bin liners with the drawstrings would probably be the couture model, a touch of the Vivienne Westwoods, methinks!

Meanwhile, thanks to Kitty Johnstone for letting me share images of the cloth she made at the workshop on Saturday. And thanks to all the students, I don't know about you, but I had fun!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Retail Therapy

Or that's what I expected, anyway. A wee trip out with Kittie to buy thread. What I'd forgotten, was that I haven't been in Edinburgh for a long time. So when I said, can we go to 'The Embroidery Shop', a veritable Aladdin's cave of threads and fibres, she said...nope. It is no longer... Well, what about the quilt shop I used to teach at. Ditto...gone... Well, I thought, while I'm out with the Bold Boy, I'll pop into John Lewis. No, Madam, they said, we closed our dressmaking department two or three years ago. Sigh. So I had to content myself with this lovely ball of yarn, which is much more interesting than the scan suggests, full of metallic yarn and odd excitements.

But I did manage a quick detour into Borders, where I bought 'The Art of Will Maclean'. I love Will Maclean's work, it is truly wonderful, as a quick search of the internet will prove to you. He works not just on paper, but with found objects, and for me, his work is quintessentially Scottish, rooted in Highland culture. Wonderful.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig!

Thank you to everyone who sent good wishes for a happy time...I had that, and more! Workshop and talk both seemed to go well, and I'm hoping to have some photos to show you of student's work. Sadly, I had so much stuff to take with me that I couldn't take my digital camera, too big to fit into the suitcase. Must start looking for a baby digital to carry around in my pocket...that would be good for workshops and the like. And there are stories to tell, but I'll save them for later.

The 'Bisy Backson' reference, incidentally, is from Winnie The Pooh. I think it's Rabbit (or was it owl...) who has that as a sign on his door. Busy, back soon, I think he meant... but that in itself wove a story. I'm very fond of Pooh Bear. I have a large print which used to be in my workroom, which showed Pooh and Piglet pacing round and round a large tree in the Hundred Acre Wood, with the caption, Thinking, Thinking, Thinking....

So. I got back, yesterday, from a wet and windy Edinburgh to a windy Norwich, then to Longham and the four cats, all of whom required at least one cuddle... I think it's obligatory that fibre blogs have at least one mention of cats, so that was mine. Tomorrow, it's the optician, and new glasses (and hopefully I'll be able to see, better....), and some work on some postcards that I cut out today. Onwards and upwards, as they say...

For today, though, a Scottish looking visual...what happens when you ask PSP to 'pattern' a picture of green and red leaves with a light is vaguely reminiscent of Black Watch tartan somehow combined with thistles...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Bisy Backson

I'm off to Edinburgh, to teach dyeing, visit my son, his fiancee and their new kittens, give a talk and generally have a good time. Back on Tuesday.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Keeping The Faith

A couple of weeks ago, I showed Heather and Helen a piece called 'Shapeshifter'. I wasn't happy with it, oh, no, not at all. They made supportive noises. Helen pointed out that I'd be adding lutradur, and that it was very early on in the development of the piece. I struggled to articulate the meaning of the piece, what I was trying to achieve with it. I cut it down a bit. It still didn't look right. Sadly, I didn't take a photo at that stage...wish I had.

A couple of days ago, I picked it back up again, still despairing, and put it on my design wall. I wondered about adding lutradur...and then finally, did. Experimented with different colours and designs. And finally, added the new layer, cut it back in some places, and then added more marks. It now says what I wanted it to. I wanted it to feel wild, mysterious, challenging. Almost threatening. I think it does that now.

I'm glad I kept the faith with this particular piece. I rarely ever abandon a piece, of my own or of someone else's. Sometimes people send me pieces that they feel are failures, and I experiment with them, try to help them to be what they want to be. Altered quilts, I think. One of them will be going to this year's Festival of Quilts in the UK, a joint piece between myself and Thelma Smith. It began as a top I didn't like, and sent to her. She changed it, sent it back, and I worked on it some more. It's amazing what can result from perceived failure, if you invest a little more time and energy in its growth. And your own, of course.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Blue Tree Dreams

I spent part of the morning working on the piece I showed you yesterday (or maybe the day before...I forget). It has found its name, Blue Tree Dreams. It seems to have a structure, now, and a meaning. After all, what would a blue tree dream of? What it was, and what it is, combined, I suppose. If you click on the image, you will get a larger view. Now, I have to decide if it is finished. I think it might be...but doubtless, if it isn't, it will tell me.

Now for the boring stuff that has to be done before I go away, like washing, and ironing. Sigh.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Work In Progress

I'm feeling a bit better, today, which is lucky, as I've got Things To Do. The month's goals to consider. A workshop to prepare for, a talk, too. And a visit to the dentist, in all of that.
There's also the work I was doing last week, that has been at a standstill, waiting for me to pick it up again. The picture today is a scan of a work in process, which is, as is the way of things, going its own sweet way. The scan shows about half of the piece, which, in its present state, is lutradur fused onto a green background. You can see a treelike structure dominating; I rarely use deliberate representational imagery, but a tree suggested itself, and I went with it. But then, instead of allowing the image of a tree to dominate, the stitch wanted to develop from and around it. So, I find wood-like stitching developing from the original image, and beginning to take it over. I rather like that. I'm not sure where the piece is going, and that's good, too. I'm just taking a line for a walk...and enjoying the view.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Visual Poetry

While I recover, slowly, here is another picture of books, this time a trio of books I made some time ago. I called them 'Visual Poetry'; as you leaf through the images, they seem to tell a story of sorts, or at least they do to me. Sadly, I no longer have them, so I can't show you what I mean, but I do have a box of unfinished Visual Poetry books to work with when my ear gets back to normal.