Sunday, 16 September 2018

Stitch and shape and not much else?

These little cards have been prepared for Swindon Open Studios next weekend, 22nd and 23rd September. As I posted here previously, I will have work on show and for sale with Great Western Embroiderers in Cricklade United Church Hall and will be manning my table both days, ready to talk about what I do. It will be a pleasure to see you if you live close enough to come.

They feature tiny abstract pieces (around 3 inches square) and are a different approach for me since they are simply impromptu experiments in stitch and cloth. There has been no preliminary photographing, planning through sketchbook work or forethought of any kind - and there is no conscious underlying imagery at play. I just went to my fabric stash, chose a small selection that appealed to me and selected threads in an appropriate palette.

Thus the pressure was off and I played. My main thoughts, I suppose, were with stitch (as both construction and decoration) and with shape, although there was some conscious use of texture and pattern. I also explored diagonals and intersections and the careful posititioning of stitch. 

The whole thing has been a very entertaining break for me, though it was surprisingly taxing to do with every decision to be made on the spot. Stitch in my abstract pieces is mainly for construction and in my more representational pieces is generally for decoration and the development of imagery. It is rarely both in the one piece ... something to take forward, perhaps?

Another thought (not a new one for me) was that more is often too much and simpler is better. I always have to remember that. 

So, nothing is ever done completely in isolation, whatever one may think!

*Full details of Swindon Open Studios and the other contributors is to be found on their website here. 

Friday, 14 September 2018

Brunel Broderers

I have recently been accepted by Brunel Broderers, a small group of textile artists and embroiderers who (currently) come from Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Bristol.

The work of the group is very varied and there is much experimentation with members frequently pushing at the boundaries of what is usually considered to be embroidery. For the first time in a while, I feel excited at the textile challenges ahead.

I joined them recently for a small exhibition of  work at the West Country Quilt and Textiles Show at the University of the West of England, north of Bristol. Each member chose a few pieces of recent work that they wanted to display and we stewarded for the four days of the show.

It was a good beginning for me and I have been made to feel most welcome. I am looking forward to meeting regularly with the group and exhibiting in the area ... and I'm very much looking forward to the future!

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Swindon Open Studios

I will be taking part in Swindon Open Studios with Great Western Embroiderers this year.

My work will include much that I've posted here before plus cards and some small pieces such as  these, on photographs manipulated in Photoshop Elements, printed onto cotton and hand stitched  ...

and others similar, several of which are still to be finished!

We will be in Cricklade on Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 September. Details (including opening times and address) are given in the poster in the side bar, right.

I will be manning my table throughout the two days, along with 6 other members of our group. For those living close enough, it would be a pleasure to see you.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Aftermath at Tate Britain

Recently, I met a friend in London for a visit Tate Britain to see their current Aftermath exhibition. This traced the developments in art in the wake of World War 1 and evoked powerfully the horrors of life in the trenches and the lasting effects of the conflict after it had ceased. It was a most challenging and thought-provoking day. There were so many heartrending images of suffering to view and many will stick long in the memory.

Unfortunately, however, my choice of images has been limited as photographs were not permitted. I've relied therefore on those shown here on the Tate Britain website.

The first painting below was by French artist Paul Jouve and was to be seen towards the start of the exhibition. An abandoned helmet became a poignant symbol of suffering and destruction for many artists caught up in the conflict. Here the sense of pointlessness is highlighted by the cherry blossom on the tree in the background - a poignant link to the normality of the past. In a similar vein was a painting by Sir William Orpen. Standing in front of both these paintings, the desolation and sense of loss were palpable. In both, the heartless destruction of everything was highlighted by the apparently sunny colour palette.  They each evoked strongly the silence and absence of all life once the fighting stopped.

Paul Jouve - Tombe d'un soldat serbe a Kenali 1917 (Grave of a Serbian soldier at Kenali 1917)

Sir William Orpen - A grave in a Trench 1917

I found another by Sir William Orpen in my searches after I returned home. It seemed to evoke especially strongly the utter devastation and futility and the undervaluing of life in the wake of the battles.

Sir William Orpen - Destruction: part of Zonnebeke 1918

There followed powerful evocations of both the terrible wounds incurred by many survivors of the trenches and the effects of the conflict on the women and children left at home where homes and lives were destroyed. 

Otto Dix - Prostitute and Disabled War Veteran. Two Victims of Capitalism 1923

Christopher Richard Wynne Nevison - Ypres After the First Bombardment 1916

After the war, many artists returned to prewar classicism (among them surprisingly to me was Picasso), seeking the comfort of the known. Yet others reflected on the utter pointlessness of the conquest. They called into question every aspect of society, seeking to destabilise conventional gender roles and social order. Out of this questioning arose Dadaism and Surrealism, represented in the exhibition by the work of Hannah Hoch and Max Ernst among others.

Hannah Hoch - Cut with the Kitchen Knife Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany (1919 - 20)

Max Ernst -Celebs 1921

A simple piece of sculpture by Wilhelm Lehmbruck made a particular impression on me.

Wilhelm Lehmbruck - The Fallen man 1915 -16

Lehmbruck was a German sculptor. This displayed so graphically that the horror and sense of pointlessness were felt equally keenly on both sides of the conflict.

The exhibition is on until 24 september. I highly recommend it, though it was a gruelling ride. We had booked our visit as part of a package which included lunch in the Rex Whistler restaurant. This provided an excellent meal and some much-needed light relief to the challenges of the exhibition.

I suspect that this is a formula we will repeat, though perhaps next time we will find more cheerful subject matter.

Friday, 10 August 2018


It just so happens that we've visited several beautiful gardens this summer. This has given me much food for thought and some hints on new work, perhaps this time involving colour.

This afternoon, since our return from Scotland yesterday, I've downloaded my (many) photos and begun playing. I consciously sought out individual speciment flowers and architectural features but there were many other things that caught my eye. In the short amount of time available today, I worked especially on individual flowers or pairs, selecting parts of the images and applying layer by copy and layer by cut in Photoshop Elements.

First of all come two images of individual sunflowers photographed in the gardens of Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire. In these, I've played mostly with cropping and cutting the images and filling almost the whole page with the image.

The other images are of Inula hookeri (commonly known as fleabane, I believe). These I found in Biddulph Grange Gardens, a delightful National Trust property near Stoke in Staffordshire. Here, I selected, cropped and adjusted colour somewhat.

And last of all, a single fleabane, with colour greatly enhanced.

Like the sunflowers, the fleabane has the merit of being a circular and fairly robust flower with a clearly defined shape. It seems so far that these work best when the aim is to fill the whole page with the image. They are also presumably the same plant family as the sunflowers (Compositae), though Google refused to confirm this for me. Perhaps there is something of a tentative theme emerging already ...

However, this is very much feeling my way. All so far is very representational and I have done almost no abstraction. This will come later no doubt. It usually does.

It seems that the more I work with a theme, the more abstract my work becomes.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

More drawings

This time in Scotland I’ve found mor time to draw than I often do. I include here two sketches completed during warm afternoons in favourite places in Aberdeenshire.

The first was completed on the banks of the river in Glen Tanar about 35 miles due west of Aberdeen. I’ve posted about this wonderful, peaceful place many times before. This time was especially quiet and we were undisturbed for the whole afternoon. I sat opposite this tangle of randomly-growing aspen branches for some time before beginning.

The second drawing I did yesterday on our favourite family beach at St Cyrus looking north east to the headland south of Aberdeen. Despite it being warm and the first Saturday in August with schools still on holiday, there were no more than thirty people on the beach at any one time and the beach is three miles long. It’s a wonderful, untouched and unspoilt stretch of sand backed by a nature reserve - and, we have always said, only saved from mass tourism  by N E Scotland’s unpredictable summer weather.

Both these places hold so many happy memories of times spent with our children when they were young and with friends who also love the quiet places of this area, and now with grandchildren. They 
are very precious to us all. 

Saturday, 4 August 2018

A favourite restaurant and a summer’s evening

Last night we went out to a favourite restaurant, The Cowshed, on the outskirts of Banchory here where we are staying in Aberdeenshire. It serves simple, well-cooked meals from a varied and interesting menu, but most of all, it has a wonderful view of the fields and hills from its restaurant windows.

On a warm summer’s evening, it’s unbeatable for pleasurable viewing while eating. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2018


With French visitors staying and awful rain and storms in the last few days, we have been struggling to show our beloved Scotland at its best. But on Sunday evening, the weather relented as we drove home. Mist and a subtle sunset turned the landscape to mystery. One of our visitors felt she was seeing the soul of Scotland. I think she was right.

And the quiet was profound - no traffic, no wind, just the call of a buzzard to its young. 

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Plants in the right place

It is often said that a weed is only a plant growing in the wrong place. Since l dispute the subject frequently with my husband, I’ve come to the conclusion that the definition is in the mind of the beholder!

In an entirely tamed garden such as he favours, these small unassuming plants would have been dug up and discarded as undesirable. Today, I found them growing wild and undisturbed beside a wall near a track through a local wood and I could study them freely. Here, they were not weeds at all. They were most determinedly in the right place and what a pleasure they were to draw up close.

Stinging nettle, growing where it should

Camomile growing profusely

I must apologise for the rather scrappy nature of these uploaded photos. Here in Scotland, with only the editing software on my iPad to rely on, I have done all I can. 

Sunday, 22 July 2018

A warm evening walk

It’s been a beautiful hot summer’s day - doors and windows still open into the evening - and over the years of visiting here in Aberdeenshire we’ve not had many of those to enjoy.

This evening we walked round by the river (Dee), a favourite walk always enjoyed. This time there were many swallows and house martins catching insects but no fishermen. The river is very low. We could almost have walked across. It’s an extraordinary summer we’re having.

Looking up river weat towards Aboyne 

Wild rose bushes against the evening sky 

Blogger on the iPad is not impossible... but not easy. Why I ask?

Friday, 20 July 2018


During the tidying up that I mentioned last time, I came across some drawings that I hadn't posted before - often precursors to or developments of things already posted, but hopefully interesting.

A local hedge group, Malmesbury Wilts

Hedge in South Island New Zealand previously embroidered, 
here traced in 2B pencil, smudged and some negative spaces erased

Olive tree traced, enlarged in size and flipped horizontally and reproduced

Tree as above, repeated twice and reduced in size

A favourite tree group in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, 
negative spaces filled with 4B graphite stick and blended

We are returning to Scotland tomorrow for three weeks of (maybe) good weather. I will no doubt commune again with this last tree group in its beautiful setting in Glen Tanar, near Aboyne. The peace and tranquility of this place have been a continuing delight over 45 years of marriage. 

I will hopefully find time to draw and if Blogger allows, will post occasionally during our stay. 

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Tidying up

No, not tidying my work room, though that's much needed (and my husband would be delighted). This time, I've been concentrating on three of my sketch books or work journals. I've blogged before about these here and many times in passing elsewhere. My sketchbooks form a record of my thoughts and the processes I go through to develop and finish a piece and are very important to my practice.

This tidying up, ahead of an attempt to join a new stitch group, has made me look afresh at what I've been doing in the last couple of years - a very useful exercise indeed. It has forced me to look at everything I've done recently, whether taken to fruition or not. It has highlighted some pieces for future completion that I might otherwise have overlooked and some areas where a lot of new work could perhaps bear fruit.

So, very useful then, and I include here some of the pages I've come across as I looked through in this case the first of my Structures sketchbooks. Here I explored shapes, patterns and forms in high rise and exceptional modern buildings in Queensland and Sydney, Australia. This visit was especially meaningful for me and triggered the development of a new approach to my work and further exploration of the use of my own photographs as a basis for stitch.

Starting with the exploration of metal and fabric structures found above in a cultural performance space near Cairns in Queensland and below in the Sydney Opera House,

then exploring circles,

and near circles or ovals,

and then the beginnings of some work ideas,

and finally, exploring colour in the Red Centre and Aboriginal art.

I have been surprised at just how useful I've found this process to be. It has focused my mind, made me consider further the nature of my practice and its effectiveness and uncovered several pieces of future work, and perhaps even suggested new directions.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Pictures and a book

A small pamphlet style book was my solution for this month's meeting of the Stroud Artist's Book group,

and Mondrian the chosen artist. I felt unable to select just one of his paintings (the actual brief) and chose instead to try and represent the essence of his geometric work which I find fascinating. 

This proved to be surprising difficult. My original intention had included shaped and cropped overlays printed onto card and good quality tracing paper so that images could be overlain and some ghosted images seen through several layers. My printer, however, had other ideas. It disliked the tracing paper intensely, devouring it at every opportunity. After a morning of experimentation, I largely abandoned the idea, although the shaping and cropping remained.

The 'seeing through' idea still appeals though and needs mastering on my supposedly 'clever' printer - so I now need to invest in another roll of freezer paper to use as a carrier, and no doubt more time perfecting the art.