Monthly Archives: January 2017

Life as a Textile Artist

It’s been a busy few days! Workshops, talks, new work and hospital arts.

St Bede’s Hospice have asked for a new project that will help transform a small sitting room into a quiet and restful sanctuary for patients, family and staff. I have designed a wall feature of 5 or 6 long panels that will cover the back wall of the room. Together, the panels will create a tranquil, garden scene. The design will include flowers, foliage, insects, birds and bird houses. The bird houses will be pockets, into which people can tuck thoughts and messages for their loved ones.

My intention is that patients and visitors (and staff!) will help to make the flowers, birds and so on. These will be painted onto silk and then appliqued onto the painted background. We have also received a lovely donation of fabric scraps which will be used to create more of the garden details.

Meanwhile, in the Chemotherapy units, another donation has inspired the workshops; we were given a big tub full of all sorts of buttons. Its great fun just to sort through them all thinking about what garment they might have come from. However, its nice to have something to make, so for the last couple of weeks we’ve been making button jewellery. Another donation provided the means of stringing the buttons – old suture thread – waste not want not!

For the next few sessions, we will still be using the buttons but this time they are going to become flowers with felt and sequin additions!

On Saturday, I was being a ‘Crafty Hen‘, assisting at a workshop for a Bride-to-Be and her friends. It’s a lovely thing to do – each party chooses their craft workshop – it might be to make Fascinators to wear to the wedding, bunting for the reception or, as in this case, a patchwork quilt. The participants each make patchwork squares for the quilt, perhaps thinking about how their friendship with the Bride (and Groom) came about, or using wedding motifs like rings, hearts etcetera. This time we got a cat, Tinkerbell and views of mountain walks in amongst the wedding dresses and champagne glasses!

On Sunday, I met up with my fellow ‘Fusionistas’ (the textile network I belong to – Fusion Textile Network North East). We spent a happy afternoon going over plans for our next exhibition (at Gallery 45 in Felton, Northumberland) and also doing a bit of eco dyeing – any similarity to a coven of witches around a cauldron was, purely, coincidental! Now we just have the agonising wait whilst the bundles of fabric, thread and paper dry out naturally, before we can unwrap and see what colours and images have been transferred.

Monday involved a trip to Ponteland Embroiderers’ Guild. I was booked to give an illustrated talk about ‘Life as a Textile Artist’ – see what I did with the title of this blog post! I do find this a useful thing to, once I’ve got my head around the idea of talking to a group of people about what I do all day! I have to think about what has influenced and inspired me, how I developed the techniques I use and what other skills I have had to acquire to enable me to call myself a professional. This gives me an opportunity to reflect on how things are going, what I perhaps need to do to keep on track and what I should develop further. This time, after the talk, I discussed sketchbooks with a few people – we all appreciated their importance but recognised the need to use them more! Everyone uses them in a unique way, to record, file and develop ideas. I find that I have several sketchbooks on the go at once, as I work on several projects at the same time. this means that I sometimes lose track of what is where! So my learning point from Monday afternoon is to try and keep my sketchbooks in a more orderly fashion…well, I can try!

And today, after catching up with admin-I made a start… more developments for the ‘Connections’ exhibition linking into my connection with the Isle of Arran and with landscape generally. 

A work in progress … 


Pondering whilst hand stitching. 

With each piece I get so far with machine stitching and then discern the need for the marks that only hand stitch can make. 

I guess it’s the first indication that a piece is nearly complete. 

The act of hand stitching slows things down and gives me time to ponder on the piece in hand; what does it need to resolve it? It’s like adding the final seasoning in cooking!

I also find my thoughts move onto what’s next – a new piece on the same theme, a change of idea, a return to sketchbook observation. So, whilst I used to find hand stitching frustratingly slow, I’m growing to appreciate the pause and reflection it encourages (just don’t tell anyone😉)

Those Cheviot Hills – 2017 

Connecting with Landscape

2017 has rolled in with strange weather. One day freezing, the next double digit temperatures. Winter weather alternating with, what feel like, cool English Summer days. Goodness knows how nature will cope with these crazy days. 

It has given me chance to get out walking in the hills and at the coast, feeling a connection with the landscape. The more society disappoints me the greater the appeal of land and sea. 

A sense of space, peace. A feeling that nature will still be there; serene, powerful, beautiful, long, long after this political posturing that makes me so distraught . I walk in the landscape; amongst the hills, by the sea, seeking affinity, looking for signs of continuity, harmony. Walking thinking, looking and recording. What makes it beautiful, what will endure? 

New work emerges in sketchbook and sample form, getting more deeply engrossed in the detail of landscape, connecting colour, texture and form to understand, better, the nature of a place. 

Working with blue; weathered and worn, like flaky paint on coastal huts, layered like sky loaded with clouds bearing weather in many guises, textured like waves, building and crashing, thrusting spray and foam across rocks and shoreline.

Trying to capture the essence in colour and stitch. A new focus and challenge for new challenging times.