Saturday 29 December 2018

lino cut

Unexpectedly, I'm beginning to explore printmaking rather than screen printing on my aa2a residency. The field and farm boundaries of hedge and stone wall lend themselves to lino. I'm using my finest carving tool to capture graphic, linear qualities, echoing the illustrations in the fairytale books of my childhood. 

Last night I finished carving my stone wall lino, when I get back to Derby University after the Christmas break I'll print and reflect upon the outcome. It's nerve racking spending many hours carving, not knowing if it will give me the result I desire... but, it's the only way to progress. I'm using this residency to learn and develop new skills, so sitting with the 'unknown' is companion to that. Exciting! 

Monday 26 November 2018

edges and boundaries

I'm trying to resist rushing into my aa2a project at Derby University and have allowed myself until the turn of the year to sit with and consider my developing ideas. I've spent a number of enjoyable and chilly hours drawing and photographing hedgerows and pathways, and photographing stone walls to draw later. 

Today I visited Alison Uttley's birthplace for the third time, drawing and redrawing a pathway by the boundary of the farm, I spent time walking the hawthorn hedgerows and stone walls near the farm house. Drawing allows time to pause, think, to look, notice and understand these boundaries that inspire me. The notion of boundary is important within my evolving ideas, a physical barrier representing safety and respect.

 Overgrown hawthorn hedge near Bakewell

 Hedgerow near Bakewell

 Hedgerow drawings

 Stone wall boundary Castle Top Farm

 Wall and path boundary at castle Top Farm

Stone wall Castle Top Farm

Thursday 1 November 2018

lay of the land

My aa2a project is being conjured from the ether. I took the train from Matlock to Derby today to work in the university library. 

Now I know where author Alison Uttley was born I'm beginning to understand the lay of the land and where to look for a fleeting glimpse of the farmhouse rooftop from the train. I've read Our Village, Alison Uttley's Cromford and Country Hoard (bought in Scarthin Books) and the farm landscape is enlivened by her writing.

Today I took this photo and enjoy the blur, centred is the farmhouse, hunkered down, grounded, immovable.

art library joy

Felt so at home in Derby University library today, gathering and rediscovering my core and repeatedly visited art references. My dyslexia was fierce, looking up books made difficult by one minute being able to spell a word and the next unable... Got there in the end!

I carried off the Subversive Stitch and Louise Bourgeois An Unfolding Portrait. Its thrilling wandering an art library, thankful for the opportunity.

Monday 22 October 2018

anni albers at tate modern

There is a hierarchy in art with textiles low down the pecking order. When at Goldsmiths in the early noughties the Fine Art MA would not share a catalogue with the Textiles MA. I reflected on this while walking round the final shows in which it was impossible to spot the boundary between courses. We use textile - association, thread, fabric and process as a material ripe with context, history, culture and meaning. It is simple, we are artists.

From a tiny look at social media I sensed the deep intake of breath from artists and designers around the opening of the Anni Albers show at Tate Modern. Fortunately I was in London for the opening weekend and got to see the highly sophisticated craft of weaving united with the language of modern art and abstraction.

I read EVERYTHING in the show, and noted down these snippets from Anni Albers which resonated...

Room 2

A Start: Weaving at The Bauhaus
'One outstanding characteristic of the Bauhaus has been, to my mind, an unprejudiced attitude toward materials and their inherent capacities.'

'... went into weaving unenthusiastically, as merely the least objectionable choice, but gradually threads caught my imagination.'

Room 6

The Pliable Plane
'The essentially structural principles that relate the work of building and weaving could form the basis of a new understanding between the architect and the inventive weaver. New uses of fabrics and new fabrics could result from a collaboration: and textiles, so often no more that an afterthought in planning, might take a place again as a contributing thought.'

Room 10

Material as Metaphor: Prints, Drawings and textile samples
'... Circumstances held me to threads and they won me over. I learned to listen to them and to speak their language... And with the listening came gradually a longing for a freedom beyond their range and that led me to another medium, graphics. Threads were no longer as before three-dimensional; only their resemblance appeared drawn or printed on paper. What I learned in handling threads, I now use in the printing process.' 

aa2a residency - derby university

When I lived in London there were constant reminders of my mum and her family who lived for generations in central London. From my bedroom window, tiny on the distant horizon the BT Tower was visible and this totem transported me back to memories of Auntie Lil's spotless kitchen in Camden Town, where the tower loomed large beyond the window, and of Uncle Fred who lived a stones throw from the tower off Oxford Street. At Leytonstone tube the central line could have taken me to my mum's house and Epping Forest where reminders abound. Taking or not taking these journeys wasn't the point, the associations and memories were sparked, keeping Doreen and my London ancestors current in my thoughts.

Moving to Derbyshire has removed this layer if association. This land holds no family connection, and this fact has left me adrift somedays while I sit with complicated feelings. When packing up my Leytonstone flat I had the foresight to include my precious storybooks from childhood. Immediately after moving to Derbyshire I reread these books, wishing to reconnect with my mum and wondering about my adult reading of these tales with a birds eye view of childhood. 

One story, The Woodcutter's Daughter by Allison Uttley stood out, it was eerily familiar, as if trying to grasp fragments of a dream. It tells the story of Cherry-blossom who lives in a forest, a girl who sews by the fire, who mends and makes. When my mum read us these stories she slept in the room with us, and looking back I realise she was using us as protection, my dad was an alcoholic and mum suffered domestic violence. That was the backdrop to Uttley's fairytales in our house.

After re-reading the stories I was intrigued by the author, and tapped her name into the search bar and much to my astonishment discovered Alison was born just a few miles from where I now live. The seed of a project idea began to form and I walked to her birthplace last week. 

My childhood memories are tainted and complex and I want to explore my associations with The Woodcutter's Daughter and bedtime story telling within my placement at Derby University. I've taken a deep breath and recognise my courage in being transparent about this starting point, and it feels right.      

 Wood End, Cromford

 Birthplace of Alison Uttley

 Path along the boundary of Castle Top Farm

 Castle Top Farm

 Short cut at the farm boundary

Steep wood at the farm boundary

Thursday 4 October 2018

life drawing

Gave myself the treat of an evenings life drawing last week, my first in Derbyshire! This was the final drawing of the night, 30 minutes, charcoal. 

artist access to art colleges - derby university

Wonderful news! I've been offered a placement on the aa2a (Artists Access to Art Colleges) programme at Derby University. It will allow time, space and technical support to research and realise a project idea.

It was an odd experience waiting for an interview in the university I graduated from 25 years ago!

The first creative yes in my new life!

Tuesday 2 October 2018


The tree hand embroidered onto this child's nightgown grows at the end of Englands Lane in Loughton, Essex. As a girl I remember sitting underneath its branches and colouring in my flower fairy book. This memory leads to the next, that afternoon I developed sun stroke and spent the rest of the day in our back bedroom, curtains drawn, being sick. This memory is vivid and hazy all at once.

Throughout my life I've held a soft spot for this gnarly hawthorn, probably growing before the housing estate was built in the 1940's. I'd often walk past it when visiting Mum. 

Last year my sister and I packed up Mum's house after her death and this spring, knowing I was leaving the London/Essex area and moving to Derbyshire I photographed the tree, intending to embroider it onto a girls nightdress. Now made I can see it's not quite right, Mum would have appreciated the work BUT there is another version that could be made, an embroidery onto a 1970's synthetic nightdress, less pretty, odd. Can I spend another 100+ hours hand sewing? 


All I need is to source or make a nightdress, I have a pattern from the era purchased from Ebay, but (annoyingly) its buried in a storage unit in Derby with most of my belongings...

For now, I'll take a breath and appreciate the focus and effort involved in making this.       

 Hawthorn dress in a holly grove

Thursday 6 September 2018

long time... no post...

Hello! The focus of the last few months has been packing up my London flat and relocating to Matlock, Derbyshire. Yesterday I set up my new folding table and created a work area in the flat I'm renting with my sister while we find our feet in the town.

This is significant, a start, a small space in which to focus on my practice. I did my degree in Derby during the early 90's, so its a return to a much loved region. 25 years on I'm the same and different and hopeful for the new opportunities that will unfold with this geographical shift. 

Wish me luck!    


Embroidery and plant shadow

Wednesday 13 June 2018


The closest knit of my Close knit project. Placed and photographed yesterday.  

Doreen, 2018


It was very pleasant two evenings ago to pick up my fine needle and make a start with embroidering my hawthorn tree image onto a girls handmade nightgown. After a long search for the right dress I purchased the nightgown in a vintage shop in Cromford, Derbyshire this February.

Resting on its small wooden hanger, haunting my living room, the dress called to me begin, begin... It had to be patient and wait but, finally, tiny grey stitches pierced their way through warp and weft. Picking up my needle brings me closer to myself, it makes sense, it brings me home.

This hawthorn tree is near my childhood home, I'd photographed it recently and created the tracing, musing upon my childhood, the forest, the lack, the wonder, the meaning behind taking needle to cloth for this solitary tree and the solitary girl.      

Wednesday 11 April 2018

leytonstone life drawing

Life drawing from last night, 10, 25 and 45 minute poses from this untutored class run by Jennifer Wolf. Different model each week, materials provided and a focused atmosphere! Apologies for the average photos and nasty auto enhance - best I can do on a dull London morning.

Tuesday 10 April 2018

15 years

Epping Forest, 2003

 Epping Forest, 2018

15 years separate these images. At 32, during my MA in Textiles at Goldsmiths College I returned to my childhood stomping grounds to work within the landscape using white acrylic wool, a camera on a tripod and a laser to create a floating white boundary line within the trees. This work led to my final piece, There's no place like home, exhibited at Goldsmiths during the summer show of 2003. Click on my artwork section to view this piece. 

Over the years I've kept an eye on these trees, leaving the wool in situ, curious as to how it would weather and degrade. On a walk with my sister a couple of weeks ago (who helped me install and photograph the work in 2003) we revisited the site and I decided to return with scissors and remove the wool. Mostly out of concern for the trees, but I began to ponder making something with this weathered material...

Today, I journeyed on the Central Line to Debden, cycling to Epping Forest, past the street I was raised on and my childhood home. There is something magical about being alone in a forest, birdsong filled my ears, I spotted a treecreeper perched on a trunk, noticed solitary bees buzz and bumble, searching at ground level. The rush of an unseen steam, full after yesterdays persistent rain added a consistent sound layer as I marvelled at soon to be obscured tree forms spangled in green expectant buds. The air had a warmth in it, the forest calm, holding imminent promise of ping and pop as spring roars in.

One by one I unwound wool from the trees, disturbing tiny translucent slugs that I'd not noticed before. The wool created a damp and spongy base for lichen and moss. Unwinding, paler wool was revealed appearing white against the tree, but grey when placed on the forest floor. It took time. Some trees appeared unaffected by the wool, bark smooth, unblemished, others retained indentations, reminding me of scarification marks in skin. While untangling I thought of myself, a different person from the one who wrapped the trees in 2003, 15 years is a long time and so much has changed. Only once did someone pass by, a man who commented that what I was doing looked 'very scientific'. I was wearing my fluorescent vest for cycling, so may have had an unintended workman like appearance. I was happy when he wandered off with his bounding black labrador.

Now the wool rests on my living room floor, untangled and drying. 3D forms will emerge using my beloved hand stitch and knit. I've no rush for an outcome, it can come to me when it's ready.    

Thursday 8 March 2018

the forest

This is the view from the house I grew up in. The edge of Epping Forest across the road, what good fortune!

Tuesday 6 March 2018


A light drizzle spotted my camera as I captured these images today. Completely undisturbed I sat with the work and the grave, carefully placing the knit onto the headstone and finding it a perfect fit. The grave is lovingly tended, a remembered place with daffodils in their spring prime, their yellow blooms hopeful as we turn towards the light.

George, 2018

Monday 26 February 2018

stitch by stitch

Slowly, slowly my Close Knit project is nearing completion. The knit for my uncles grave was finished a couple of weeks ago and soon I'll revisit Slough and photograph it on the headstone. I've hesitated over beginning the piece for Mum, but have cast on 107 stitches and made a start. The colour I selected for her is Sailor Blue, she had a jumper in that shade that suited her.    

King Cole Pricewise DK - Acid (038)

 Paintbox Yarns Simply DK - Sailor Blue (139)