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Monday, October 31, 2011

Workshop Fun!

I was lucky enough to be asked to run a workshop in Swaffam, last week, in the Assembly Rooms. I have to say that it is probably one of the swankiest venues I have ever taught it. The workshop was on customising shopping bags, the little cotton bags that can fold happily in your handbag, to come out in case of emergency... very green. We had a lot of fun. We used freezer paper to make stencils, and then, after painting with fabric paint, wrapped the handles with fibres, and made and added a beaded charm and/or a ribbon bow (pink, of course!). As you can see, many participants made flower based bags, but one enterprising young gentleman called Harry drew a great car, which I turned into a stencil for him. He painted it with great gusto, added his name at the bottom and went off happily. Sadly, I didn't get a photo; it was a great bag!

I rarely work with kids, and had a great time with them. They are, by and large, much less scared of experimenting than adults are, and seemed to have a great time. Even the teenage girls With Attitude managed a smile... but only one. Must Do More...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Felting Frenzy...

is what seems to be going on right now. I was in the shed on Friday with my 'apprentice', Gemma, and taught her how to wet felt. One of the things we made was this short scarf, made with wool fibres dyed by my friend and fellow Etsian, Kary, aka The Knotty Sheep , gentle lilacs and blues. I added some white silk fibres, for texture and colour. The scarf is short, and looks like an unstructured collar when you wear it. I can't decide whether to fasten it with a brooch or to make a ribbon or Evolon flower to fasten it. Similarly, I can't decide whether to keep it or sell it. That last one is not much of a problem, though...there will be other, different, possibly better scarves to come.

Gemma took to felt making like a duck to water, as she always does. It struck me, as we were working together, that the principles of most techniques can be taught in about an hour, if the student is paying attention. The rest of the learning is down to practice and imagination. All you need for that is time and confidence. Try it...what do you have to lose?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


are not usually in my repertoire, but I found myself merrily playing with this little one. I'm contemplating even smaller ones, to tie onto handbags with gold cord. I like working small; they are quick to make, and it's difficult to get too bored. And when I do, I go off and do something else.

I'm waiting for a skip to arrive, decluttering isn't done by halves around here. I had hoped it would arrive this morning, as we're more than ready for it, and close to the depot, to boot, but no such luck. So, in the meantime, I've filled the car with stuff for the charity shop (and I really mean room for anything else in the back). And I'm sitting here smelling the sweet potato and leek soup that we'll have for dinner, not to mention the chicken, slow cooking in garlic. No baking today, or at least, not yet...but there's time. Maybe some more of that lovely, moist gingerbread, a new recipe for me.

All of these activities are creative. Decluttering, cooking, baking, all require creative thought. How can I rearrange things so that I need less? How can I make these recipes taste better? I call it practical imagination, for those of us who are in creative denial. Ask yourself... what did I do today that was creative? And what will I do tomorrow? Creativity, or practical imagination, feeds the soul, just as the soup feeds the body. It doesn't have to be a giant step; just changing the balance of the ingredients to suit your taste is a creative act...just like changing the colours in a quilt pattern to suit you .

Monday, October 24, 2011

Felt Texture.

I love the texture of felt. I spent Friday in the shed, experimenting with wool tops, silk and thread ends. This particular piece started off as a rich brown, with the white layered on top of it. The purple pieces are my hand dyed silk fibres. This is a small piece, waiting for stitch. I might just do that by hand, add texture to texture... The purple makes me think of tree trunks; perhaps some blue stitching to suggest a sky...tiny blue random stitches, a pale blue.

I had forgotten just how much I enjoy wet feltmaking. It is, quite simply, painting with wool. All that glorious colour and texture... right up my street. I'm not an expert at this by any means and I don't pretend to be any such thing. I just love doing it, and I don't do it often enough. I don't use my embellisher often enough, either... Must Try Harder...

So...what do you love doing, and don't do often enough?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chop, Chop!

I spent the afternoon in the Little Green Shed, cutting up fabric to make a variety of different things. It's boring work, but once you get into a rhythm, it's quite meditative. I even switched the music off and worked in glorious I nearly shot out of my skin at a loud knock on the side of the shed. Robin, bellowing that the neighbours didn't believe that I was there at all, as there was no music and no giggling. Now, I knew that they associated me with giggling...most people do. In fact, I spoke to an old friend on Skype a couple of days ago, and almost the first thing he said was, oh no, you've still got that awful laugh! As if I could lose it...

That laugh has got me into trouble over the years, of course. I once taught a conversational French evening class that was moved into another room, because the Floral Art ladies protested at the level of hilarity coming from next door... and many people have found me at shows by my giggle. I don't think that's a bad thing to be known for... and I try to make sure that my workshops ring with laughter; having fun is the best way to learn.

I now have lots of different bits of fabric to play with...and a husband on holiday for three dAdd Imageays. That suggests that play time is likely to be deferred until Thursday... oh well... he doesn't take holidays very often. I might even get to Go Somewhere... though it's more likely that we will spend the day flinging things in a skip, and taking others to a charity shop. Don't we lead an exciting life?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I Know, I Know...

but it's nearly the end of October. I know you don't like to hear the C word much before December, but to get all the presents made, you have to start early. So here is my first attempt, a pincushion with a definite Christmas theme to it. I made it 6" square, because I hate wee footery pincushions...I only lose them. This one has three different fabrics on the top, including a hand dye, and is quilted in gold variegated metallic threads, as well as having an embellishment of some sari yarn around the edges. The back is made of Evolon, so that it isn't too slippy; nothing worse than a pincushion slalom...

I'm just about to do a lot of this kind of thing, so bear with me, as inevitably, it will make its way onto the blog. Much of it will be for the Etsy shop, but some of it will be for my loved ones... but I'm not saying which is which, so if you like something in particular, and you're on my Christmas list, perhaps a few hints would be in order... Mind you, I will also show you some of the felt I made yesterday, too, once it is dried and stitched. So it's not all holly and mistletoe...honest... and I promise, no Christmas music. Not at all. Not a note. No sir.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I am reminded that I paint a bit, too. This time, I came across a small piece I made for a project that came to nothing. It's a small watercolour, on board. I think it's fun! I haven 't painted in some time, but would like to make more happy pieces like this one. I'll be interested to see it with a mount. Mounts and frames make a huge difference to pieces, somehow. In fact, I think this particular piece has potential as a fabric design, so may well have a go at doing some yardage. Or try it out on Bertha...I have the photographs, and I know how to use them! I think this would be interesting printed large, and then embellished with stitch. Watch this space...

This train of thought is typical of me, really... I find something, not necessarily an art work, and then start having ideas around it. I think that's why I enjoy working as a coach with people who are blocked for some reason. There are more ideas in the world than we have time to work with... coaching lets me share them around! Anna wrote about her experience of coaching here.
She was great fun to work with. All it took was a little shift in her thinking for her to realise that her work did have a direction...and off she went, block well and truly busted! What do you need to change your thinking about, in order to be more creative? And who can help you see it?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Which Twin's The Toni?

I try to avoid pictures of me on the blog, but this one is an exception. It was taken in the Mirror Maze in the Garden of Surprises at Burghley. I would have given up early on, but Terry is made of sterner stuff, and found her way to the centre, then insisted that I joined her, to the amusement of another group of tourists, who joined in. The maze is reallyquite surreal, all those mirrors, particularly when you end up in a dead end... mildly nauseating. Far too many copies of me! There's lots of water in the park, too, gorgeous fountains, and a wonderful moss garden, complete with steam, or was it very fine spray? I'm not sure. The walls there were set with semi precious stones. And I was happy not to trigger the last of the surprises, which I think would have triggered a water feature at the exit. It wasn't warm enough to enjoy a wetting, no matter how much fun it was!

I'm hoping to go back to Burghley soon, to visit the house, as well as the town of Stamford, which reminded me of the Shambles at York. We didn't stop there, but drove through it; much of the architecture was amazing. Must try to talk Robin into it....

Yet More Burghley

As always, the natural world demanded my attention on the visit to Burghley; and how could it not, with a deer park, and various man-made and natural attractions. I was struck by the beauty of these huge, furry leaves, though I don't know what tree they came from (anybody know?). The patterning on the leaf is fascinating; hugely detailed and reminiscent of tree bark. The reverse of the leaf was just as fascinating, though more muted. I took this one home with me, but within a couple of hours, the green had gone. For want of waxed paper to iron it with, I sprayed it with a wax coating which you would usually use on waxed coats; that has preserved it to some extent, but the stunning colour is gone.

I wouldn't usually think of such a colour combination; isn't nature a wonderful artist? Watch this space for lime green appearing in my palette in future! I bought some, recently, and haven't used it yet... now seems to be a good time! Perhaps in a small piece, just to see how I like it... and then, who knows!

More Burghley...

Sadly, I can't attribute the photos in the last post...or at least, not yet. I abandoned my leaflet at Terry's house, and don't have the information, though I did provide a link to Burghley itself, from whence doubtless more information can be obtained. I can, however, enthuse hugely about the ongoing exhibition there. I really enjoyed looking at Julian Wild's 'Incomplete Systems', the featured exhibition there this year. They are truly amazing. For me, at least, they somehow express huge amounts of energy held captive within a construction. I was truly impressed. The image above shows one of the sculptures in situ; click either of the links for more detail.

Three dimensional work is challenging for me; it requires a depth of spatial awareness which I just don't possess. Believe it or not, that's why I'm learning flower arranging; anything that has to be viewed from all sides, and look good, has to be helping me to develop that awareness. Similarly, I recently spent a day working with clay. Whilst I was happy with the form of what I produced, the finish of the objects was not as I wanted it to be. If we are wise, we learn continually from all kinds of activities, some art related and some not...and, more importantly, we apply what we have learned.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Out and About...

with Terry and Mitch today. We went to Burghley, probably best known for the annual Horse Trials, but which has amazing gardens as well as stunning architecture. I love the look of this tower. Mostly, though, we wandered through the sculpture park. There is a lot of sculpture on show there, some of it changing annually, some in the permanent collection. There are lots of surprises; a wonderful variety of approaches and materials, mixed media, like the cows, stone, as the reclining woman above, lots of wood ( not surprising in a garden), and metal. I ended up taking over a hundred photographs, many of the sculptures, but also many of the trees and what remains of the flowers in the gardens. We were there for a morning, but I could just as easily have spent all day there. Amazing, and well worth a visit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Am Smothered...

by cat...and for once, it's not one of mine. Terry's cat Smurf has been on my knee for most of the evening, making playing with the computer difficult... err...impossible. When I shifted, though, she moved a bit, and I'm now typing round her. Not sure how long that will last... if Smurf has her way, I'll move my hand and she'll spread out again, giving me regular nose rubs, and purring like a train.

This house is full of animals. I had forgotten how enthusiastic young cats can be about yarn, until I got my knitting out and found one of the other cats pouncing on the yarn. He didn't get quite as far as chewing it, but it was a close run thing. Not sure if I'll actually get anything done much... but we are going to visit a Sculpture Garden tomorrow, so I will be doing something Cultural...

Meanwhile...the parrot has been very quiet...and Smurf has moved again...siorhyoug losulikda....aaargh...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


into new work and new attitudes, I guess. Relaxing, making work that is fun, interesting, challenging but not painful. Rather work that rejoices in beauty, joy, colour, texture... and is what it is. I will continue to make difficult work, painful work, but I don't feel that it has to be all I do.

Meanwhile, I'm contemplating a new venture, or two, and a couple of ideas for books... but first, I'm going to have a few days off, going to visit my friend Terry, who doesn't do art stuff at all. Looking forward to visiting Sherwood Forest for the first time, walking with her and her puppy, looking for twigs to make dolls with, and some other ideas, too.

I may not be making much in the way of money, but I am rich in ideas and friends and colour and life... oh, and flowers. Looks like everything's coming up roses... Fingers crossed, anyway,

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's Scary... quickly time goes by. It's Monday again, and Monday evening to boot, and I somehow lost the weekend... I did have a meeting with another textile person today, to talk about a possible collaboration, which will be fun. And then there was flower arranging class, with a traditional tied arrangement, all roses and alstromeria, not to mention lots of foliage. Photos tomorrow... I love the roses, they are flame coloured, and variegated...will be taking a number of photos of them at different stages of their life, to see what I can do with them on Big Bertha.

I am, however, excused from chicken feeding and dog walking duties; Haydn and Judy are back from their holiday. I will, however, be wandering about Dereham Common nevertheless, with or without dogs, collecting bits and pieces for the next arrangement. Watch this space! Oh, and I'm going to experiment with wreath making, tomorrow, using fabrics. That should be entertaining. I used a wreath form as part of the arrangement this evening, and discovered that it's not as easy as it looks to cover it with foliage... but I managed. Eventually. Phew. Fabric should be Much More Manageable... but you never know.

And in honour of the arrangement, an image of part of a flower.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


is making its presence felt. The image is a partial shot of a leaf I found in my garden; I thought the colours were beautiful. Like many of the other small images I've shown you recently, it has been printed on canvas, using Big Bertha, my large scale Epson printer, and then stitched into. The whole thing, mounted up, is just over 8" square; the piece itself is about 4 1/2 square. Small but perfectly formed...

I'm sitting here with two jumpers on, thinking about firing up the heating. It does seem a bit early for that, though, but if it continues to be as chilly as this, I will. And I think I'll look out my autumn/winter wardrobe, see what it is like. As it is, I'm now on my fourth scarf, a lacy knit from variegated colours, conker colours together with some rich green... that should be lovely when it's done. And I'm contemplating hand quilting something large, just to keep warm! And it's only October...sigh.

I've been out shopping this afternoon. Bought a frame to see if I like these small images framed up and ready to go. For small things, it's cheaper to buy a frame and see, than it is to make one by hand. Framing and I have had a whirlwhind romance, and then decided we don't like each other much. So I'm sticking to cutting mounts, which I can do well, and leaving the framing to Haydn and Robin. I also bought some fun double knitting wool in seriously bright colours, should cheer me up if nothing else does! And it's carry out curry tonight, which will warm the cockles nicely, particularly as I don't have to cook it! I'm off to set the plates out...

Saturday, October 08, 2011


what to do next. I've spent the day sneezing, and we're going out shortly to visit a friend for the first time. I was looking through my images to see what I want to work with next, and came across this one. It's a foxglove blossom, seen way up close, and I think it's magical. It makes me think of a pathway, a fairy pathway. When I took and edited the image, I think I just looked at it as a design, with no particular thought other than how it would fit into the long strips of images that I was preparing. It just goes to show how much you can miss if you are working within a particular context. I'm wondering about this at a very large scale, how it would look...

Meanwhile, my thoughts are turning to the festive season. Presents, of course, and stuff for the shop. It's going to be a frugal Christmas, for all kinds of reasons that I won't bore you with, so I hope my nearest and dearest will like what I'm making for them... Of course, I can't say what exactly I'm working on for them... For the shop, though, lots of little things. And I'm going to go out as soon as this cold has vanished (let it be soon...), to take images for cards and ornaments. I'm having fun!

Friday, October 07, 2011


I haven't made a doll in a while, but recently made several; one of them features in this image, standing in front of a large oil painting. Now the gardeners working in my garden are under strict instructions not to throw away sticks that might make good Totem Dolls. I seem to be doing a lot of things that I haven't done in a while, recently. Knitting, for instance, three scarves down, who knows how many to go... flower arranging (just bought a lovely glittery basket in a charity shop for £1, someone will be getting an arrangement for Christmas...)... baking (the caramel shortcake with white chocolate is particularly yummy). I've even done some housework! Domestic goddess status surely must be bestowed soon...

Above all, I'm having fun. I think we sometimes forget that all this making stuff is supposed to be fun, too. Joseph Campbell called it 'following your bliss'. I call it joyful. We're both right.Now, what could you do to bring a bit of joy into your life, right now?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

More Than A Passing Interest...

in passementerie, methinks. I did a workshop recently with my friend and hopefully soon to be collaborator (well, okay, partner in crime...) Claire Hedges, whose website is here. Claire weaves bespoke braids, makes plush (and posh) pompoms, brilliant buttons and terrific tassels. The images are my efforts at the pompoms and tassels...not anything like hers, yet, but hey, I can keep practicing! Claire's work pops up in private homes, but also in National Trust properties. I'm planning to interview her for the blog, as I think what she does is fascinating.

I didn't think I'd enjoy passementerie, altogether too traditional and tidy for me, but in fact, I did. Though Claire would probably say that there wasn't much in the way of tidy about my tassels...sigh. I did try, honest! And I did get enthusiastic enough to feel that I'd like to try more of this; the green tassel is one I made at home (in true Blue Peter style). Hoping to get a bit more tuition in return for a wet felting lesson... Could Do Better.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Going Conkers....

...aren't they beautiful? Shiny, with a wonderful waxy feel when fresh, and a gorgeous depth and variety of colours and texture. I picked this one up on a walk with Judy's daschunds. I'm not the only one with this enthusiasm, of course...they are beloved of schoolchildren everywhere, not to mention the occasional artist. My lovely friend June Underwood has made some lovely art featuring horse chestnuts, including this piece, which I am fortunate enough to own. Looking at it, I realise that I am boldly going in my current work where June has already been, but I know she won't hold it against me! And I'm taking a slightly different tack to hers; I look at one thing at a time, close up; she creates compositions, whilst I take close ups. I'm sure there's probably more to it than that... any thoughts, June?

I feel some autumnal art coming out of these photographs...but not necessarily of the conkers themselves, and not solely textile, either. I'm fascinated also by the outside protective coating, aka The Spiky Bit. Inside, they have incredible texture and beauty; I have contemplated making jewellery using them. Now that I'm interested in floral art, I find myself contemplating another piece similar to the one I blogged about earlier in the week, but this time using what I can find on my walks...a picture of autumn.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Ah, The Glamour Of It All...

usually, when people hear that you get paid for making art, they say how interesting it must be... and of course, most of the time, it is. But, just like everything else, it has its boring bits. My boring bits are here, in the images. I spent some of today doing them. Firstly, I coated some Evolon with medium, so that I can make more prints on Big Bertha. Then, I cut a lot of mounts for the small prints I've stitched into recently (the mount cutter has miraculously reappeared!).

Fortunately, though there are many boring bits like this in art work, it's the results that make it worthwhile... the work itself, the effect it has on me and on others, the feedback... it creates beauty and change. Which is why I do it. The final image is one of the stitched pieces. I'm very happy with it. I hope you like it, too.


...I didn't expect to fall at the first hurdle.... missing a day in the first week of Blogtoberfest...oops. This is what distracted me; my second flower arranging class. I spent two weeks wandering around looking for a suitable container; the brief had been to find something long and thin. I could find everything but. Finally, in a garden centre, I found this shabby chic type box, intended for holding small plants. Cheap, too (hurrah). I used razor shells to delineate the sections, and filled them with flowers.

I can hear you wondering what this has to do with my textile work? Well, the final touch was to scatter some metallic Angelina amongst the flowers, to give a touch of shimmer, and to refer to the sea. I think it worked rather well!

Flower arranging is newish to me. I haven't done any arranging since I was at university, when I used to work in a flower shop to earn some extra money. Then, when I showed some of my work at a Flower Festival recently, I started wondering about trying it out...hence the classes. I'm thoroughly enjoying this form of creative play.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Hunny... one of my favourite places in Norfolk. Hunstanton is a seaside town on the North Norfolk coast. If you walk past the shops and the fair rides, along the esplanade and keep going, you eventually get to these wonderfully coloured cliffs, which look like coconut ice on a huge scale. The cliffs are chalk, and the pink staining is apparently caused by rust. When you look at individual rocks, you can see the similarity with rust dyed cloth.

I think when we look for inspiration, we look at things on a big scale...whole landscapes, like the one above. For myself, though, I like to look small, like the landscapes in the little rocks in the other photographs. They have huge potential...perhaps I should have brought the white one home and tried dyeing with it... but I outwalked my strength, yesterday, and couldn't have done so if I'd been paid!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Come In No. 138,,,

...your time's up!

I've joined Blogtoberfest this year, to encourage me to post Every Single Day. And there will be A Giveaway at some point, so watch this space!

Meantime, I'm wondering about windows for the International Quilt Challenge. The logical thing to do is to work from a photograph, but... when I was studying in Russia, a long time ago, I had to write a Russian dissertation. I wrote about the translation of Robert Burns' poetry into Russian by a poet named Marshak. He made a really good job of it, by the way, albeit with ideological slants that occasionally made me wince. I doubt Rabbie would have minded...but I digress. The first sentence was that translation was like a window; whilst you could see through it to the reality beyond, you were always held back and away from chunks of the meaning. That is because in all fictional writing, there is layer upon layer of cultural references, some of which just don't translate from the source language, others which translate only partially. I think it's just like looking through a window; you can see what's going on, but you can't necessarily hear anything, or smell you lack some information about what is actually going on in the room. I'm wondering how that might be expressed in visual form...

Incidentally, I'm the administrator for the International Quilt Challenge group. We have a waiting list, with a number of names on it, and if we gather enough, we will start a second group going on the same basis as the first. Let me know if you're interested, please, by email or message here or on the IQC blog.