Gallery of past work

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Ink Blots

I couldn't resist sharing these two little experiments done at an art group I go to sometimes. Ink was
dropped at random onto very wet 140lb Bockinford watercolour paper and allowed to bleed. The colour was deliberately very intense and unmixed.

I thought the effects were extraordinarily organic and reminded me of many things - moss on a stone wall comes to mind at this moment - but maybe this is just because I've been looking out of my workroom window at the small wall on the edge of my garden - and the sun is shining!

And what fun I've had playing with colour and orientation in Adobe photoshop!

Perhaps I should try tiling them....

and the other one ...

and manipulated ...

Serendipity is a wonderful thing....

Friday, 25 January 2013

Doodling and drawing again

I've been doodling in stitch again, partly to work out the hand stitching lines on my large Geology piece, and partly for therapy. This time, I made my stitch large, in Perlé 5, and free-flowing.

I've also been drawing to help with shape and direction of machine stitching lines. This was great fun to do but I'm not sure how much either approach is going to help with the final piece.

I'm still struggling with it.

Although I have some lovely painted fabric, now it's dried, it doesn't seem to relate hugely to these drawings or to my original plans so I'm going to have to think hard.

Then as I'm not sure which is the most interesting and I haven't got time to investigate these approaches any further, I'll have to make a decision.

Saturday, 19 January 2013


I couldn't resist the lure of all that untrodden snow. Even on a grey January afternoon, there was lots to observe. I wish I could reliably recognise the tangible but fleeting record of wild visitors.

I'm sure I saw the prints of a small deer, a rabbit, a fox or two and a number of large birds under the yew trees behind our house ... and, of course, the trail of our cat as she walked, surveying her patch.

There was the view from the bottom of the garden into the small copse and out across the fields,  
the lovely tracery of trunks, branches and twigs in the wild hedge behind the house,

and the texture of the snow on the Silver Birch trunk, picking out the rough bark. 

Also, later in the afternoon, I couldn't resist manipulating one of the photos in Adobe Photoshop. I removed the colour and upped the contrast almost to maximum and got a graphic effect that pleased me. Perhaps I might abstract it for a textile sometime.

Friday, 18 January 2013


Here is the sample piece I started just after Christmas as I was trying to focus myself. I like to have little embroideries like this on the go all the time if I can. I call them stitch doodles and find them very therapeutic. I think they're the textile equivalent of expressive drawing and taking a pencil for a walk and they free my mind.

Above and Below Ground
Handstitch on manipulated mono-print ground
Interestingly, I always handstitch when I do these little pieces.  I love the feel of the fabric in my hand and can experiment without the stress of finishing something specific for an exhibition. I also like the creative scope it offers. I can consider each individual stitch before I commit myself which machine stitch doesn't allow.

I usually start with an abstract background in appealing colours, perhaps related to the larger project of the moment, choose some threads and just let my needle and my mind wander across the fabric in whatever way seems appropriate. All sorts of things happen that I don't expect.

This one was begun on a small mono-printed background that I'd photographed and then manipulated in Photoshop (I love it!). I then printed the image out in various colours onto a cotton ground using jet FX inkjet transfer paper.

I'm calling it Above and Below Ground as I think it has a nod to my current geology pieces with a hint of layers at the bottom of the piece and of the landscape and its contours above. I guess it doesn't really matter what I call it. Others will have ideas about what it represents.

Monday, 14 January 2013


At last this morning, I've finished tidying my room and, spurred on by all the unaccustomed work space, I've managed to get started properly on my first Cotswolds geology piece.

I painted a trial length of fabric - shown left. As I'm impatient, I dried it on the Aga top, hence the circular marks. Apart from that, the colours are quite good but will need to be much more intense on the final fabric.

This afternoon, I painted my first length of background with much more concentrated Setasilk paints and am letting it dry naturally - no cheating on the Aga this time. It's shown here drying - and looks quite promising so far.

I love the rich colours that are possible with this method and the way they blend and run into one another - my reason for choosing silk and these paints.

I just hope I've painted them on with enough intensity so that they deliver the colours I'm imagining.

Sunday, 13 January 2013


I'm really trying to focus my mind on my big Geology pieces for our group's exhibition in a month's time. The pieces I'm planning will be quilted panels on silk and the fabric is now ready to be painted or printed to represent layers and folds before I begin to stitch. I must begin in earnest if I'm going to get even one of them finished and I have to admit I'm struggling.

I'm not sure whether it's the size, the more structured form of the work or the time pressure that's holding me back. I normally work more intuitively so maybe I've just done too much planning. Yesterday, to change my mood, I tidied my work room - not just a delaying tactic, but much-needed and it's freed my mind a little.

Mono-printed paper manipulated in
My main problem is that I'm keen to stop the work becoming too linear as rock faces when seen exposed in cliffs or quarries are rarely undisturbed and have many fractures and folds in them. To help me represent these variations using paint as well as stitch, I've played around with some mono-printed and painted papers I did a while back - enhancing colour and contrast in Photoshop, tearing and sticking and leaving gaps to give contrast and these are the results.

I quite like the colours in the first piece (lighter in reality), although I will include more soft yellows to reflect the colour of the Cotswold stone.

Painted papers torn and stuck
I like the slightly random effect of the second test piece and especially the torn paper gap. I feel sure that this, at least will make its way into the completed work.

I've also gone back to a small silk-painted piece I did at the start of this project - shown in full in an earlier post. I've enlarged it in Photoshop to help me focus on colour and fold lines. I think also that the handstitch is quite close to the fluid effect I want to achieve.

Silk painted fabric with running stitch
to represent folds
 - so I think I know where the surface treatment will go - a combination of each of these - but I'm sure also things will evolve as I go along - they always do.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Roanna Wells

When I find an artist whose work I admire, I really enjoy exploring further. This may be someone a friend has mentioned, a name referred to in a book, or someone's work seen in a gallery or found on Google.

Looking at good work is instructive - and such a pleasure. I've come to the conclusion that those artists I like best seem to produce work with a simple graphic quality, and are able to express an idea without over-embellishment. I just wish I could restrain myself and produce work of such clarity and depth ....

Scattered Five - Roanna Wells
I came across the work of Roanna Wells for the first time in Gwen Hedley's book Drawn to Stitch and then saw her at Art in Action in Oxfordshire, a couple of years ago. Her basic idea is so uncomplicated - just fine black thread on a cream wool ground, the stitches seeded across the surface.

Two years ago, I bought the little piece shown here - Scattered Five - and I look at it everyday. I never tire of it. The patterns seem to represent whatever you wish or nothing in particular at all. Perhaps it represents a high cumulus cloud on a warm summer's day - or maybe a murmuration of starlings over the Somerset Levels .... and maybe it just doesn't matter what you see....

Obama Inauguration, Washington 2009
(Reproduced with permission of the artist)
However, more recently Roanna's work has interpreted the forms within crowds as seen from above on significant occasions in her series Interpersonal Spatial Arrangements. It's such a clever idea and very effective. 

The two pieces here are currently to be seen on Roanna's website (along with several others) and I love them both. I think though that the Obama Inauguration piece is my favourite. The sweeping, arcing shapes are wonderful and the crowds depicted in stitch are beautifully suspended in that moment of expectation that swept the world on his election.

Roanna can be found on her website,

I feel sure she is one to watch ......

Drowning Victim, Coney Island Beach,
New York 1952
(Reproduced with permission of the artist)

Thursday, 3 January 2013


I promised details and a poster of the GWE exhibition in Malmesbury starting in February and here it is.

We're all stitching madly and, seeing the developing pieces of work at meetings, I think we can promise our usual wide range of styles and subject matter. Given a broad focus, it never ceases to amaze me how differently people in the group interpret the brief.

The poster is one example and features a piece of machine embroidery by Shirley Watson. Shirley digitises her own designs using her Bernina computerised embroidery machine and software. 

I shall be exhibiting my geology pieces, although I'm not sure how many I'll manage at this stage. I may struggle to complete all of the three large pieces I mentioned in a previous post - but time will tell. I'm always optimistic till time catches up with me....

We very much hope we will see some of you there - do identify yourselves if you come. The exhibition will be stewarded quite a lot of the time and the group are very friendly and always willing to talk about their work.