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River Flowing By … while I walk.

March 10, 2018

Towards the end of last year, I began walking the Thames , in sections starting at the Barrier and going up stream towards and past my home in Reading to Gloucester and her source. We have reached Kingston and still have a while to go but I hope to complete this year. I don’t plan to document it,  for a number of reasons but mainly because it is just a river and to be frank, pretty spoiled. However, I have some dear walking buddies, who like me like the walking, the banter and even the search for a cheap and cheerful snack is an adventure.  Also the looking for evidence that the river does flow by and seeing the natural habitat that clutches at the muddy water’s edge against the metropolis that grows more quickly than the river flows it seems.

As a river girl, I enjoyed sailing so, while I neither have the time or the inclination now; I do delight in little wooden boats like the ones my dad built and maintained on my beloved Hamble River.

Early in our walk we did pass some piles where some boats were moored and those against the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf with the cormorants, and seagulls and the herons in the mud did urge me to hold it and use it in an embroidery.

So, when the theme for the RGA Annual Show was announced it seems appropriate to celebrate the beginning of my walk even if the rest goes unnoticed.

It took many weeks to complete and I hope that it selected next week to hang the Fire Station Gallery in Henley where I will be passing though I hope later in the year.  Fingers crossed


Solar dyeing and Fika what’s not to like?

March 9, 2018

On the 2nd January 2018 I attended a free workshop with Oxford Spinners, Weavers and Dyers at Oxford Modern Art Gallery.  We learned the art and science (as much as you can in 2 hours including lovely fika) of solar dyeing.  We mixed mordanted fleece and spun wool with various concoctions, such as bark, leaves, nuts; items foraged in the garden during the previous week, in a screw top jar.  At home we added hot water and placed them on a sunny window ledge.  In the summer exposed to long stretches solar rays the procedure may only take a few days; in the winter it might take weeks even months.

While I do have a southwest facing bay window I didn’t hold much hope; but as the ingredients were beginning to look like unhealthy witch’s brew after two months I decided to take a look. After washing, drying and spinning I have a beautiful selection of colours to begin a weaving this afternoon.

I used madder and citrus with alum and iron, acorns with alum and iron, and mulberry bark with alum and iron

Me and my ugly child …

February 20, 2018

Earlier this year while enjoying embroidery, I thought I might try weaving; especially after seeing the work of Hannah Rygen at the Modern Art Museum in Oxford.  I have been teaching myself and the results are mixed.

There is a right and a wrong way to weave and once that lesson is learned, and it seems most weavers have been doing it a life time like printers I have found, then one can become creative.

After a couple of near disasters, I decided to make a last-ditch attempt. After all this embroidery lark was only going to be for the winter, wasn’t it?

Still with China Mieville in mind, and the ships coming and going to the island and while its inhabitants were watchng for God.  Having already embroidered a galleon as it sailed away I decided to weave a picture of those that that have been wrecked on the rocks in the bay.

Two hulks lay broken and wanton on the rocky shore as the tide ebbed.  The idea was good and in my mind, it worked as I said only three weeks into a lifetimes practice there is room for improvement.

However, I didn’t wish to abandon my ugly child she had bought me joy over the last week or so; albeit at times through gritted teeth and frustrated tears.

I it turned over and began carefully stitching in the warps and wefts that dangled miserably on the back.  Using some fine linen thread, the result is beautiful.  The hulks now covered by the tide, the sea weed lifted in great luscious fronds from the ocean making perfect resting place for the mighty ships.

My ugly child blossomed; in my dreams …

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.