Friday, 31 May 2019

first month at haarlem artspace

The 1st of May was my official first day as a studio holder at Haarlem Artspace in Wirksworth. I'm sharing studio 15. Haarlem Artspace is at a point of growth and transformation - expanding into the ground floor as gallery, communal kitchen and studio spaces and rearranging/rejigging the second and third floors, with new creatives joining existing Haarlem artists. Along with a palpable unease around such changes, there's also an expansive, outward and welcoming energy, of invitation, of question - who are we? What do we stand for? What could we conjure within the walls, beyond these walls?

Haarlem Mill is a building with presence. It was built by Richard Arkwright in 1780 and was the first steam engine powered cotton mill in the world. Haarlem sits in beautiful surroundings, green space footsteps from the door and Wirksworth, a short walk away is an attractive ex-mining town, with shops, cafes and a cinema. I get the bus to the studio and watch the landscape roll by, during the 20 minute trip the realisation that I live here creeps into me again and again... I've not quite landed yet, having moved from London nine months ago. 

A week after moving into the studio Haarlem hosted 'Collectivism', a four-day residency and one-day Resilience through Collectivism Conference, bringing people together for an exchange of ideas on the themes of collectivism and collaboration. The residency was jointly facilitated and co-curated by artist Alice Gale-Feeny and artist and Haarlem Artspace Director Olivia Punnet.

The ground floor space was so new, having just been made useable the weekend before. It was wonderful to see the space animated and full of people, greeting each other, sharing the pick and mix breakfast on offer and beginning to create a shared space. We each introduced ourselves with an image of our work, and I loved that, connections in practice were revealed, links tentatively formed, potential given breathing space. As well as Haarlem studio holders and associate artists, there were four selected artists who'd answered a call out on Arts Jobs (Arit Emmanuela Etukudo, Hayleigh Longman, Penny Newell, Adam Moore) plus guests from Instituto Procomum from Santos, Brazil - Haarlem's partners on the British Council's Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies programme.

Memories that have lingered since the residency/conference are 'dialogue and ways of meeting staring from a fishbowl conversation format' a workshop led by Alice. Five chairs were placed in a circle within a larger circle of chairs surrounding them. People sitting in the inner chairs were invited to talk about the 'spaces they share', and people sitting on the outer, larger circle of chairs were asked to listen. 

There was an air of tension as the inner participants began the conversation. There was one empty chair in the inner circle and a number of empty chairs on the outer circle, everyone had the choice to move from a speaking chair, to a listening chair. As the discussion flowed the room became dynamic with movement, then stillness, as the group shared and listened with intent. The conversation took fascinating/unexpected directions, more so than if everyone had been allowed to speak at anytime. It also meant that at times, those on the outer circle might have a response but the opportunity to move into a speaking chair would be missed, or the conversation had moved on by the time they got there...

A highlight from the morning of the conference was the 'On Resilience' workshop with Lottie Randomly, leading to deep sharing and connection with conference participants. During the afternoon it was fascinating listening to Georgia, Marilia and Simone, directors from Instituto Procomum share the work from their hub in Santos, and their new Colaboradora project. Introducing the idea of the Commons and commoning as an institutional practice, a way of seeing, a framework.  

Haarlem Artspace created a space of care, with a variety of food and drink available during our time together, releasing the group from a mundane daily task... The indoor and outdoor spaces around the mill building provided breathing space, communal space to share informally and be together, to wander and wonder.

Such a precious gift.           
Watercolours in response to our fishbowl conversation

Thursday, 30 May 2019


On a spring walk with my sister from Matlock to Cromford we spotted broken crockery at the edges of a soil path. I've sometimes watched my sister on a beach, crouched down, contentedly searching through shells and stones for hours and we had a mini version of this on our walk. Together, fingers picking through soil we collected pottery shards - of plates, bowls, cups - domestic stuff, now broken, once precious (maybe), once whole. Blue/white patterns emerged as we gathered and I rejected brown shards, returning them to their soil resting places. At home I carefully washed the chosen shards and lay them on a paper towel to dry.

Later, in a Bakewell charity shop I saw a boxed flower press. Thinking it may be useful for lino printing I paid £2 for it. At home I unscrewed and opened up the press, revealing green blotting type paper and to my joy, layers of flowers, placed by an unknown someone.

An idea began to form of broken pottery and pressed flowers, things that were once whole, alive but now hints, shadows, suggestions of what they once were... 

I decided to paint them in watercolour. I'd always been nervous of watercolour, hearing that it was an unforgiving and difficult medium... I've found the opposite, it is forgiving (except when the first layer is too dark) and joyful to work with. Dried mixes on the pallet awaken with water, the colours blend beautifully and with my smallest brush are straightforward to work with.

I'm painting to scale, my drawing, textile design knowledge and colour mixing training kicking in... taking me back to a younger self, building on what she learnt during a HND in General Art & Design in the late 1980's - a lifetime ago.


Paintings in my studio space at Haarlem Artspace

Friday, 24 May 2019

uncle fred

Since beginning my Close Knit project in 2009 I've been searching for my Uncle Fred's burial place. Yesterday I visited his grave in East Finchley Cemetery! 

Fred was the oldest son of Frederick and Ada Furmage, there were three daughters before him, two sons after him and my mum, Doreen was the youngest. 

Fred had a mischievous twinkle in his bright blue eyes, always ready for a quip or joke. I remember him as a neat and dapper man with carefully combed dark hair. The life and soul of the party. People liked Fred.

Every now and again I'd have another try at finding Fred. In March I joined for a month and discovered a family tree by a man named Kevin which had Fred's wife, Auntie Marge on it. I emailed Kevin and hit the jackpot - he knew where the grave was!

I'll finish Close Knit: a body of work this year. I'm currently re-knitting George's yellow gravestone cosy after it got damaged, and have Henry and Fred to knit for and then Close Knit will be complete. When I began knitting in 2009 I never imagined it would be a decades work, I'll think about next steps when I've completed the knits - how to share the project? Where? With whom?   

Friday, 10 May 2019

summer lodge

I'm excited to share that I'm participating in this years Summer Lodge at Nottingham Trent University. 

For ten days each July, the Fine Art studios and workshops of Nottingham Trent University are transformed into The Summer Lodge and play host to a gathering of thirty diverse artists. It is intended as an opportunity to think through making by being able to work for a while without many of the usual constrains and distractions. It is a collective space in which to undertake experiments, pursue new ideas and allow unexpected leaps of imagination.

belper arts trail

My first arts trail went fantastically. Visitors were so positive and I enjoyed many interesting conversations about linocut, print, dry stone walling and hedge laying. I sold a good number of prints, and it's heart warming knowing my work depicting local landscape is in local homes.

Below are images of my stand, showing inspiration, linocuts and prints of various sizes and colours. If you would like any further information or wish to purchase a print, please contact me at

 Sketchbook & linocut

Boundary lino prints

 Square lino prints

 Peak Tor & Essex Hawthorn lino prints 

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

a rock and a hard place

Two and a half months of hand sewing, swearing, pricking my finger and bleeding have resulted in this beauty. Time lavishly spent on an old, much washed pillowcase. This work has a very personal story behind it... It brings to mind a postcard I have somewhere by David Shirley with the cheery message 'good luck in the strange and brutal kingdom you call home'.

a rock and a hard place

limited edition linocut series - it's all about the boundaries...

My boundary linocut series will be available for sale at the Belper Arts Trail on Sunday 5th and Monday 6th May. I'll be exhibiting at Attic Batik next to the Market Place on the Upper Trail. 

Limited edition of 25 each on either white or soft white (cream) Somerset satin 100% cotton 300gsm paper.

Dry Stone Wall/Cromford

Hawthorn Hedgerow/Bakewell 

 Dry Stone Wall/Castle Top

 Hawthorn Hedgerow/Matlock 

Monday, 25 March 2019

a rock and a hard place

When my mother died in 2017 I kept the sheets and pillowcases stored in the large drawers under her bed. These textiles felt significant at the time and are significant still. They retain the scent of her fabric conditioner and breathing it in brings tears to my eyes.

Within my AA2A placement at Derby University I'm working with my childhood memories of Mum reading fairy tales to my sister and I in bed. She joined us, sleeping with us for safety from my alcoholic and violent father. So sheets, pillowcases and storytelling hold an added complexity for me, and again lead me to notions of safety and danger. Is the dark wood dangerous? Is my home safe? 

The fairy tales I loved were written by Alison Uttley, who was born just three miles from where I live. I visited her farm birthplace last Autumn and became fascinated by the dry stone wall and hawthorn hedge boundaries around the farm. The notion of boundary and bedding became linked for me.

With this in mind I am over halfway through hand stitching a dry stone wall from Uttley's farm onto a charity shop pillowcase (I can't bring myself to use my mothers bedding yet, it's too precious). Night after night I stitch, much like the protagonists in Uttley's tales. Will it say what I wish when finished? I'll only know when it's complete

Haarlem artspace

Very excited to share that I have a studio at Haarlem Artspace. I've found Haarlem Artspace to be an incredibly welcoming place since my move to Derbyshire and have enjoyed their exhibitions, talks, workshops, monthly crits and general hospitality and support. 

Its the first studio I've been in that is warm and the plants are alive and flourishing. Bodes well!


A week or so ago I found this embroidery in a Matlock charity shop, and bought it for the princely sum of £5. It measures 10.5 x 8.5 inches and is densely packed with skilful stitch depicting flower, tree, leaf, bird, path and sky. I find it remarkable. The directional and repeated stitches remind me of the cuts I've been making in lino to suggest form and surface of dry stone wall and hawthorn hedgerow.

I opened the back of the frame hoping to find information about the maker, and discovered dated 1980's patterned kitchen roll, carefully folded as padding behind the work. I tenderly replaced this treasure, a time capsule, hidden behind stitches. 


Wednesday, 6 March 2019


My work tends towards the time consuming end of the spectrum... at times ridiculously so. Last year I completed and photographed an acid yellow 'gravestone cosy' for my Uncle George's headstone in Slough. The images were perfect.

A couple of months later my MacBook Pro expired, having not backed up these photographs were lost. The following August I relocated from London to Derbyshire, making traveling to Slough a bigger challenge. In December 2018 I took the trip, photographing the work on a sunny winter day... The sun revealed a deep crease in the knitting (having been folded during my relocation) that I just couldn't remove by pulling the knit into shape. The shadow was so obvious on a majority of the images that the trip was in vain.

This week I traveled again to Slough, having washed and gently ironed the knit. I'd checked the weather forecast daily, hoping for an evenly cloudy day and I got it! Placing the knit on the headstone my heart sank - it had grown by inches and no longer fitted the stone. It turns out you can't wash these knits!

Today I ordered five balls of acid yellow wool and will reknit the work and at some point travel to Slough and photograph for the final time... 

Audiences don't witness this side of an artists process and in my exasperation felt the need to share my frustration. This is the third knit in the series that I've re-knitted, the firsts not fitting as intended. There are many hidden hours within this work, each stitch made by hand, using the first stitch my mother taught me.

I back up once a month. Lesson learnt.  

George (crease not visible)

Tuesday, 5 March 2019


Family lore is that my maternal grandfather was buried in a communal grave. Mum was 9 years old when he died in 1945 and I wonder if she ever visited her fathers burial place, I imagine not.

My intention is that Close Knit comes to a end this year, a decade after I began hand knitting 'gravestone cosies' for my ancestors. I've been searching for the site of my grandfathers burial, wondering if there may be a distinct area, a marker. Unable to find any record and with the end of my tether fast approaching I enlisted the help of a friend who's brain works in a distinctly different way to mine - she is the most un-dyslexic person I know!

The evening of the day I asked for help an email appeared with information that led to the discovery that my grandfather had a grave! Grave 360 in area Y6 at St Pancras and Islington Cemetery. 

74 years after his death I found a forest, undulating with burials without marker or headstone. Checking the backs of the headstones framing the forest I attempted to understand the sites layout, wondering if I could get near to where grave 360 might be... It was impossible, the passing of time erasing any order.

Maybe it is appropriate that my grandfather rests in a forest, my dear forest. Canopied in green, amongst his London contemporaries.   


Sunday, 10 February 2019

derbyshire hedgelaying

This weekend I learned basic hedgelaying. We learned the Derbyshire and Midland style of laying at Carsington Water in Derbyshire. It was great working outdoors and using tools such as bill hook, axe and hand saw to pleach small trees and lay and stake a hedgerow.

This experience deepens my understanding of the local hedgerows and I wonder how this will inform my drawing and print.

 Clearing away outward facing branches

 Pleached hazel and hawthorn

 Left to right, working along the row of small trees


Staked hedge 

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

the first cut is the deepest - limited edition linocuts

It's all about the boundaries...

Since moving to Derbyshire last Autumn I've become fascinated by the dry stone wall and hawthorn hedgerows that delineate the landscape. Within my current AA2A (artists access to art colleges) residency at Derby University I'm re-exploring linocut and print as I consider these edges/boundaries and what they represent to me personally. 

My linocuts received such a positive response on social media that I decided to offer them as a limited edition... If you would like to buy either a dry stone wall or hawthorn hedgerow print please email me at

There is a choice of paper, white gives a bright contrast to the black print, soft white is actually a pale cream colour and echos the faded paper of my childhood fairy tale book (see below).
Price per print: Contact me for details.

Prints are supplied unmounted & unframed, each print is backed with cardboard & wrapped in cellophane

P&P within the UK: £6 (first class signed for)

Edition: 25 of each linocut on either white or soft white paper (please choose)

Print size: 15.2cm x 20.3cm

Paper size: 28.5cm x 37.5cm (a touch under A3)

Paper: Somerset Satin 100% cotton 300gsm

Ink: Dense black

Hand printed in Derbyshire on an 1886 Albion press

Somerset soft white (pale cream)

 Somerset white

Somerset soft white (pale cream)

 Somerset white
Alison Uttley was born in Cromford, Derbyshire in 1884. I loved this Fairy Tales book as a child and still do. I'm hoping, within my linocuts to echo the illustrations by Ann Strugnell, they had a deep effect on little Karen and set me up to see the magic and wonder within the everyday and familiar.

The Bird of Time

The Field that Didn't Wish for Company

One-Strand River