Winter Days

The days are grey and light levels are so low but there is work to be done and plans to fulfill.

This week started with grey morning clouds stretched like thin muslin. Ragged scraps of blue patched in the holes between clouds. Gradually, a wind felted the clouds into a thicker blanket of cover, leaving the blue only as memory.

Snow came swiftly in the night, blanketing streets and fields.

A cold crisp day with the sun burning up through lilac and apricot skies.

So much colour above whilst the landscape is monochrome, damp darkened trees etched out against the snow.

This week has been about plotting and planning- practical everyday things like how to deal with the cold and creative research for new pieces. I’ve been asked to develop new artwork for the chemotherapy ward, so I need to work on compositions and figure out how I can involve patients in their construction.

I’m also thinking ahead to Springtime workshops and shows. To this end, I’ve been restocking my shelves…

Detritus from the streets becomes...

These hub cap wires are important! I collect them as I walk around my local streets- reducing the rubbish in my area and repurposing the metal rings as a frame work for art…The frame for wildflowers growing in the city

Little landscapes

It is cold and dark here in the North East today, so I’m cozied up by the fire doing hand stitching (😱🤣) I know, I know but it seems the right thing to be doing today 😊

I have a series of workshops to deliver in the next couple of months and I want to have new examples of both my tin can pieces and miniature scenes. The new work is more reflective in style of my recent large landscapes, rather than the happy camping scenes that began this series.

This one is inspired by sketches from Dumfries and Galloway- but I didn’t tell you that- it’s so beautiful there but if I keep telling people then it’ll get as busy as the Lake District!

It will be housed in a mackerel tin collaged with papers relating to the area. Working from my sketchbook studies, I’m building up the scene with hand dyed fabrics, then adding detail with hand and machine stitch.

It’s stimulating to switch between large and small scale pieces; having to rethink composition and detail. Although sometimes the difference in the time it takes to complete a bigger or smaller work is minimal!

The next piece I’m working on is a miniature scene of a woodland brook. Usually with these pieces I like to ‘break out’ of the frame somehow, to extend the work beyond the confines of the rectangular support. I’ll be experimenting with how to do this- perhaps the trees or a branch will grow up and out.

I’m already planning how to show the textures of the fallen leaves, moss, grasses and water.

Reading list

I am an avid reader, I love getting lost in a good book- whether it be a novel or factual. Books can influence how my art develops, giving an insight to a theme or suggesting new locations for sketchbook work. I love it when different strands of life give me new reading pathways to explore.

Urban Efflorescence- my new series inspired by wild flowers in the city (see Etsy ) has set me on a trail of reading and research into nature in urban environments.

It seemed prescient that my weekend paper recently had an article about this, giving me a booklist to work through and, as always one book leads to another…

I want to include some collage elements in smaller sample pieces, so this lovely old wildflower reference book will be put to good use. An eBay bargain, I love the illustrations and information. It is hard sometimes to identify the plants I discovered on the cycle path from the black and white images but once I have put names to blooms I will endeavour to include the appropriate pages in the textile pieces.

Esther Woolfson’s book ‘Field notes from a hidden city’ looks into the nature and wildlife of Aberdeen.

She records nature and wildlife activity around Aberdeen over the course of a year, writing about how nature adapts to survive in the city environment. Plants and animals, birds and insects use hidden corners of the city as their habitats. I want to find and record these spaces in my city; to celebrate this ingenuity.

Melissa Harrison writes novels that explore contemporary issues; where the natural world becomes another character in the story impacting on the behaviour of the people.

In ‘Clay’ the natural spaces provide hope and respite. In ‘At Hawthorn Time’ the natural world endured where human life expires.

Next on my list is Alys Fowler’s book ‘Hidden Nature- A voyage of discovery’ although the book seems to have hidden itself in the library as although listed as in stock it can’t be traced! So before I read about Birmingham’s secret nature I’ll be following Simon Armitage’s trail along the South West Coast Path in ‘Walking Away’.

This seemingly endless list of nature books is guiding my research and convincing me that this is a valid theme to investigate. That it’s not just me seeing the value of these urban spaces where nature thrives. So when I have completed my current commission I will be hunting for the wild spaces in my city, starting with that cycle path.

From small beginnings….

Being part of a textile network is so important for me. As part of Fusion, I get to exhibit, talk textiles and take part in workshops. All of this gives me motivation to keep creating and try new ideas.

This weekend has been spent in the company of my Fusionista pals being tutored by the wonderful Alison King

The aim of the workshop was to develop ideas from studying and drawing small natural forms. I took a basket full of inspiration but chose to work with a tiny fragment of seaweed that has been on the shelf in my workroom for some time. I like the tonal contrast, the curving form and the link to my beloved coast.

Our first task was to draw a detailed section of our chosen object

The biro really captured the rhythm and strong tonal contrast in the seaweed. Working small and detailed isn’t my usual style but it was good to have the opportunity to focus on drawing- I always aim to draw regularly but work, family life and deadlines interfere!

This was the drawing that inspired all the work from the weekend. We progressed to working with ink and sticks – I love working this way – the marks are so bold -and there’s that element of risk brought about by using something quite inflexible.

Alison wanted each participant to follow their own route from the initial start point- so I ended up outside with a 6 ft length of paper and my paint brush lashed to a stick !

It was a bit breezy but luckily not raining. It felt very free to work in this way in this scale. It was good to be reminded that I relish working on a large scale.

My next task was to try and convey these expressive marks in fabric and stitch.

After an intensive, immersive weekend I have a full sketchbook and lots of ideas bubbling in my mind….large scale pieces to follow.

Urban Efflorescence

I make most of my local journeys by bike. It’s quick, cheap, healthy and, this summer, inspirational!

My journey into Newcastle takes me along a cycle path with a wild flower border. This summer the border has been absolutely gorgeous; a mass of blossoms awash with colour and buzzing with insect life.

It has been a joy to watch the border grow and develop. Each time I cycled past I thought I must do something to record and celebrate this lovely feature.

I want to capture the way these supposed weeds are reviving our urban landscape. I’ve spotted more, deliberately planted, wild flower borders along main roads and on roundabouts. The variety of flowers is gorgeous to see and I love the lack of order – not ‘unkempt’ at all – just natural!

Another aspect I want to capture is the depth and layers, as the plants grow up, over and through each other. Looking through the bright, verdant leaves to the dark spaces beneath.

I think there also needs to be an element of recycling (no pun intended 😊) in these cycle path scenes. As I cycle or walk around my local area I often find these rings.

etal rings appear on roadsides, pavements and hedgerows; rusty, grimy and misshapen. They are used to hold car hubcaps in place but obviously get dislodged when hubcaps are damaged and fall off cars. I've got quite a collection now and have been thinking about how I might use them.

I have also sourced a very old book on wildflowers that will feature in new pieces of work and, as I'm inspired by cycle paths, I think I will have to include some of my lovely old puncture repair tins too

at is all this leading to? A new body of work, quite different in style to my landscape pieces but still using my favourite processes of appliqué and free machine embroidery. I am busy developing ideas in my sketchbook(s) but here are some of the first pieces in this new series.

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f these pieces are currently in Ripon Cathedral at the Great North Art Show, others will be listed on Etsy.

I'll blog soon about how the series is developing but I'd love to know what you think of them too.

French Street Art

Travelling around a small part of France, examples of street art started to catch my eye. There were sculptures, paintings, installations, graffiti and yarn bombing Some were bizarre, some beautiful but all were engaging, reminding me that art is everywhere.

In Rennes, an artist has dotted the city with fake radishes- just for fun!

Cancale, Brittany- a tiny house becomes an art gallery

A pilgrim ponders his journey at Mont St Michel, sculpture on the street

Setting up for a circus performance in the street, Pontorson

Coco the clown with his ‘elephant’, free circus show outside the town hall.

Son et Lumiere projection on the town hall, the story of Pontorson, is it Norman, or Breton?

Yarn bombing, Avranches town hall.

A little creativity turns a street lamp into a lighthouse.

Capo Di Monte style floral wreath adorns a tomb in the local graveyard.

‘Look after your town – eat a seagull!’

Stencil graffiti of civic pride

Political commentary on a derelict building

Pacman added to a drain cover outside someone’s house.

Everywhere around us, wherever we go, artists embellish and enrich our environment, making us pause to admire, consider and question. Encouraging all of us to engage with and participate in artistic activity. These creative gestures, hasty or considered, commissioned or unauthorised make me pause and savour the place, connecting further with my surroundings.


Right/Write ! 

I have a flagon of coffee, an apple, reference books,  notes and an empty house – I’m not coming out until this thing is written….or until 11.30 when I have to go and hear youngest sing at the Sage Gateshead 

NB. That’s the vital notebook that the kids used to play hangman in, at the cafe at the weekend AND LEFT IT THERE 😳 Thankyou beloved OH for tracking it down on your way to work 

#family #worklifebalance #workingparents #creativelife