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A step forward … in a witch-like way

February 7, 2018

Late last year when I began embroidering coffee sacks and realised the need for lots of threads, colours and textures; thinking that I might spin and dye my own.  I did get out my spinning wheel and that proved successful for some shades but dyeing was more problematic.

I had a go with inks, while I did have some happy accidents, it was not reliable and there were disasters.  Using an indigo in a vat was exciting; I felt like some woman from the middle ages and noting my appearance I may have looked the part in my garden shed in the depth of winter.  Sadly, due to my vigorous stirring and the use of iron instead of alum my indigo turned out green; a nice green but not blue as I wanted.

Then, I tried solar dying, a jam jar with some dye and mordant is placed on the window sill the energy of the sun will supposedly after a few days with give good colour.   This made me smile, although my front window is south facing and does get the sun from time to time; February isn’t the time.  Weeks later, 3 jars for the world to see containing what looks like vegetable soup with an ever-growing layer of mould are standing waiting for the sun.

If I had wanted to look like an old witch then I am going down the right path.

So, thinking that the embroidery season may be closing and the need for thread is now.  I must find a quicker and more reliable way to source colour from natural dyestuffs at home.  With much research I have found a way; the results are pleasing; it looks like I may be self-sufficient, at least using dried plants or powdered seeds and bark and easily available from the www. Growing my own will be a different ball game and I will have to wait for the sun.

Yesterday, using madder, dyer’s green weed, and weld with alum, iron and copper I have 6 lovely shades: brown, red, dark green, light green, dark brown, yellow.  In just a few hours, in my kitchen with no mess or harmful chemicals; the witch-like qualities remain but a small price to pay for delight.


Half-Term with RGA at the Reading Museum

February 6, 2018


I am an exhibiting member of the Reading Guild of Artists and we have been asked to do a Pop Up in the Reading Museum during the half term holidays; next week.  While the museum will be show casing their Medieval collections and new extension, we have been allocated a spacious gallery where we can share our experiences as artists, with families as they take in the other sights.   We have organised workshops and demonstrations with a Medieval theme throughout the week.

We are all pleased to have this opportunity to share,  as artists we spend much time alone, exhibiting is good but to extend our knowledge is the best.  I, value the opportunity to share,  for one learned my craft at home with my parents, a creative and practical pair who taught me to make something lovely from the ordinary to cover a stain on the wall, to cheer me when I was sad or release anger.

So, I will be there next week with a well-stocked work box, coloured pencils and paper and some surprises…

Also, I will be showing some work that has not been seen in public yet … so it will I hope be an exciting week.

Happy New Year …

January 7, 2018

For the last 60 years or so I have performed and put myself into a required box to survive; I don’t need to tell you, we all do one way or another.  It makes the world go around.

When I retired, thwarting these ingrained rituals was difficult on all sorts of levels and I have spoken of this at length. I have invented coping tools, but undoing the old routines and replacing them with new wasn’t an option either.

However, thinking I was on the homeward strait and no way back; it was clear that untying the bounds, does at least sooth the wounds and the fresh ones for a while are exciting and dare I say not always comfortable. Nonetheless, with some relief, I am in a better position to say I greet the new year and the challenges.

Challenges, that it seem to have blossomed outside the confines of my studio; to outreach opportunities and collaborations in other studios working with clay and fabric.

Its Christmas … so?

December 24, 2017

Life at No.5 has been uppsy downsy, for someone who abhors the use of vague or frilly terms to describe illness and particularly mental illness; it means I am trying to face it. Christmas, I mean, that is what we do; be merry, happy and full of good cheer or be damned.

Believe me I try, but today with the person I love the most (her siblings are OK with this) is on the other side of the world, nursing her own ups and downs.

Throughout the year we conduct our lives like any other family home or abroad, my situation is not unique, families are dispersed and I am sure suffer as I do.

So today after a couple of other emotional upheavals (another useful euphemism in festival time) I will be in a pit and my love and good wishes go to those who try but fall short of merriness.

Last but not least …

December 11, 2017

I have begun to embroider another sack; it is the third and final one of set begun a few weeks ago.  This recent set are ‘landscape’ the sacks opened up are 150cms wide and 100cms deep.  The previous sets were portrait 50cms wide and 200 deep; and together they work as a tryptic.

While these will perhaps will be a bit clumsy hung together will be perfect apart; also, the subject matter is fairly random.

The first is a self-portrait, the second is an odd piece looking a bit like game of Scrabble with missing pieces … and played by someone who would rather be drinking a cup of coffee.

This last one is in its sketch stage and will celebrate, I hope a day spent walking by the Thames at London Barrier.

All to be exhibited next year …

Be a tree ….

December 9, 2017

Today I am going to my local arts centre where we have a monthly book club.  Each month we meet, drink tea and eat cake while we look at books.  Books that we each bring in and to share for no particular reason; we just like them. So, you can image the ‘ingredients’ can be varied

Today for instance I am taking: Noa Noa a journal of the South Seas by Paul Gauguin, Wabi-Sabi for artists, designers, poets and philosophers by Leonard Koren, the Nature printer by Simon Prett and Pia Ostlund and Be a tree by Alice Peck … They are all perfect books and the latter reminded me today about being a tree … so added some leaves to some rather odd marks in my sketch books today !!!

Face the impossible … is best

December 8, 2017

For the past few weeks I have been in and out of difficult places and times; even though I have been working and quite productive in my studio and making concrete plans for next year.  My condition alongside the depression is complicated grief and like it says on the tin; is complex so I am often unable to have a sense of the cause or the cure. Acceptance of the impossible is painful; but the trick.

So, while I have been facing this enigma I have been drawing in a couple of A6 sketch books; with just two tubes of paint picked at random and a handful of brushes I make marks on each page until they are covered and covered again each morning. After an hour I close the books, not looking until I begin again the next day.  They are not and will remain unfit for human consumption but enough to say there are lots of empty pots, tables, windows that open out on to nothing -ness and as yet unwritten poems …