Monday, 5 September 2016


Hi there - another quick blog showing our exhibition.  I do apologies for the poor photos which I took on my phone.  Sian Fenwick has much better ones on her Facebook wall.  The work covers a wide range of techniques, and each work has an accompanying story which are only briefly alluded to in the exhibition labels, we leave the rest up to your imagination.

Sian Fenwick

Stephanie Edwards

Caroline Kirton

Jackie Bennett

Jill Taylor

Linda Gifford

Marian Murphy

Jackie Hodgson

Joanne Bowes

Catherina Petit Van Hoey

June Faulkner

Helen O'leary

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Things you may not want to know … and things you might...

I've been having some health issues this year and although I have restrained from talking about them on Facebook and my blog, I thought I would share some of my experiences. Hopefully this will help others suffering similarly to talk about their problems and also to enlighten their friends and families.

There have been some great breakthroughs in the acknowledgement of the fight with cancer many people go through, and the discussions of mental health issues have done a lot to breakdown the misconceptions held over stress, depression and anxiety and so on. However my problems are with my bowels, and this is something that is still difficult to discuss. Although I am quite happy to share my problems and symptoms,  I am very sensitive to the fact that many people do not want to talk about toilet matters.  It is very hard to judge when one should stop when explaining why you cannot go out, or why I need to feel I have easy access to a loo.  For many years I have suffered from what I thought of as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and possibly still do, but in May my symptoms became more alarming which resulted in my GP referring me for an urgent colonoscopy.  This has resulted in a diagnosis of mild Ulcerative Colitis. This is related to Crohn's Disease which is a much more life changing and a serious matter.  However I am much reassured and hopefully newly prescribed treatments will prevent me from having bad flare ups. This is coupled with a brilliant service run by the the Luton and Dunstable Hospital which means I have daily access to a nurse to answer my questions on-line, and the ability to log symptoms, treatments etc. It is call "Patients Know Best". The principle being that the patients are the most knowledgable about their own symptoms and with guidance the best to managed day to day treatment. Hopefully my disease will remain on the mild spectrum, but what a brilliant service!  I have been on a steep learning curve. I have learned Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), as opposed to IBS, is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks itself and caused identifiable inflammation in the digestive system, whereas IBS seems to be much more of a mystery.  However both seem to be affected by stress and anxiety.  Interesting IBD doesn't seem to have any identifiable food triggers whereas in some people IBS does.  My doctor  suggested I read as much as I could about the syndrome/disease - something I thought many GPs discouraged, but educating myself made me realise how many people's lives are ruled by their bowel, so this is a brief educational blog. My symptoms showed up after two nasty bouts of bronchitis and a cat bite which resulted in me having three lots of penicillin in a short period of time which may have trigged the more acute flare-up.
Typically this is what happens to me when anxiety, stress or a break of routine occurs … We are having a stressful week with mother-in-law being rushed into hospital, very frail and confused. Unfortunately travelling to Oxford to see her Wednesday has put my digestive system out of kilter and we have had to cancel going to a concert Thursday evening. Change of routines, travelling, disruption to regular meals times all see to be triggers for me, which is why I hate to commit myself to being somewhere or having someone depend on me.  And of course the anxiety of feeling that I may be letting someone down adds to the likelihood of symptoms. I'm the only driver in my family and we want to go and see her again soon, but the prospect of a 90 mile round journey over bank holiday is worrying if you cannot rely on your bowels!!  
(By the way m-i-l stable and being well looked after)

Okay that's enough of that, but I hope to raise awareness of these rather unacknowledged complaints.

I have managed to do a bit of sewing in the meantime. So here is a more light hearted catch-up.
Way back in April we hung an exhibition at Ashridge Forest Visitor Centre as part of the Nation Trust/Embroidery Guild's combined effort to celebrate Capability Brown's tricentenary.   He didn't do a lot on the Ashridge estate, but he did shape what is known as "The Golden Valley" which was the inspiration for my quilt here.

Hanging the show was quite an experience as the visitor centre had never hosted an exhibition before, but we were pleased with the results.  It's on until February if you fancy a lovely walk in the woods, free entry. 

The other exciting thing that has happened is that I am taking part in an exhibition with Herts Visual Arts Textile Group in Hertford Theatre Gallery starting next week. It is called The Fabric of Life and we have all taken on a very different view of a connection with Hertfordshire. The variety of work is great with machine and hand embroidery, woven tapestry, constructed pieces, knitting and felt work. I have three pieces based on photographs I took at St Albans Cathedral.  I went to college in Hertford and spent many of my weekends in St Albans, the Cathedral Park being a favourite student hang out!

Details of Aisle

'Wall' in hand stitch phase
'Window' under the machine.

 'Window' (20cmx20cm)

'Wall' (20cm x 20cm)

'Aisle' (37cm x 50cm)
This last piece is a bit more adventurous for me.  It started as an experiment.  I layered up some recycled cotton, felt and wadding and machine stitched on the arches.  I then dyed it using old rusty tools given to me by my father and strong tea, which reacted with the rust resulting in the grey hues.  I then added colour with Inktense pencils and hand stitched over this colour.  I had intended to make a larger work, but feeling poorly hadn't the energy.  I had intended to create a border and make a more 'finished' piece, but this reflects how this is a snatched impression of inside the cathedral. My fellow exhibitors encouraged me to leave the edges rough and with loose threads.  This picture is a little dark, the sun has gone today.
I invite as many of you as possible to visit the exhibition, and if you can make the Private View, that would be delightful.

Here are some of the photos I took my inspiration from.

Thank you for sticking with me with this, hopefully my next post won't be so long in coming.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Time Marches on.

March is nearly through, so I thought it was about time I posted again. I've just spent another fabulous weekend on a stitch retreat, this time with Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn. Despite having a horrible sore throat and other cold symptoms which kept me awake it was everything I'd hoped.  Since retiring I have set myself the challenge of developing my skills as a textile artist. The Creative Quilt-making C&G cert. set me off. However I have always found hand stitching more challenging. Machine embroidery gives quick(er) results than hand stitching, but I love the richness of texture and surface detail that can only be achieved with hand stitch. Jan and Jean must be two of the most well known practitioners of creative embroidery, so it was definitely worth listening to what they had to say about embroidery as well as their amusing anecdotes about their travels teaching round the world. They combine machine and hand stitching, embellishing, bonding, dissolvable fabrics, infact any method that produces the effect they are looking for.
I think the most important thing I've taken on board this year is the need to practice and experiment and then more practice and more experimentation. When you're attending a workshop with a skilled teacher it is so easy to take it for granted that you will be able to go home and apply the skills you've just learned about.  I frequently have a go at home with my newly purchase materials and manage, unguided, to make a dog's dinner! So thank you Hilary Beatie, thank you Maggie Grey and thank you Jan and Jean for giving me enough techniques to practice for the rest of my life! Hilary, on the retreat, and Maggie at a demo at Art Van Go convinced me that I must stop being so precious about my sometimes expensive materials and be prepared to create some colourful dog's dinners. I'm not going to improve my results if I don't get experimenting. Jan and Jean impressed upon us that they continually experiment and practice their stitching, never taking anything for granted.  I just watched Hilary Beattie's quirky video on Facebook where she talks about how she made herself a career in textile art. Nobody could deny that beneath all of these artist there are years of hard work and an underlying self belief. Hilary shared with her viewers how diligent she was at making a five year plan and then breaking that down into one year, months and weeks - and she stuck at it. 
So... time to make a new plan? I did make one when I started out, to learn about textiles. I can say I have covered much that I'd aimed for. So now may be a good time to set out some new objectives. I do not need to plan a career or a way of making a living. I do not want to commit myself to a lot of exhibitions,  However I do want a challenge and to move forward.  I shall take my time sorting out some priorities and setting myself achievable goals as well as challenges. I will share my journey here, but don't hold your breath, but committing myself here on my blog is the first step.

I also popped into Art Van Go to see Maggie Grey give a super demonstration of Pebeo Prisme ceramic paints to add a few special effects to her multi media pieces  Had to treat myself to a few pots and trialed a few inchies.  They are great fun - not sure how I shall be using them, but the effects are lovely.

Here we are at Wyboston - a  large group, but we did have two very experienced tutors.

First evening I took a bit of stitching to bed!

We practiced textured stitching, trying to raise the surface and make lots of texture.

 On Sunday we all displayed our work Jan and Jean were very supportive and totally inspiring.

A visit to our local craft shop yielded a few bargains which I have subjected to some dyeing, inspired by Double Trouble, to increase my yarn selection.

Below are two close up of 3 inch square samples experimenting with depicting a flint wall

Below: exploring some more ideas

I keep postponing posting this post! I'm busy experimenting, but if I wait any longer I will have to rewrite the whole thing, so I'm pressing the 'Publish' button and saving anything new for next time.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

It's about time...

Oh dear, it's February.  No excuses I'll just get on with it...

Rather shocked by the death of David Bowie whose music I have always loved- he's been one of the artists who has always been part of the sound track of my life. I saw him twice in the seventies and I searched out my badge from the '78 gig. 

I had to make a couple of pages in my journal (written on now) and I keep finding Bowie tracks running through my head, I'm still very sad.

Mr T go a copy of Black Star last week but we still haven't found the right moment to listen to it.

 The high light of January was my Stitch Retreat weekend at Wyboston Lakes.

It was a follow-up from last year's gelli print weekend with Hilary Beattie.
Most of last year's group were there and as quite a few of us have kept in touch via Facebook it was a matter of getting back with old friends so everyone felt at ease straight away. I hope that those new to the group felt that way too.

After unpacking all of our 'stuff' Hilary took us through a routine for sorting potential material for a new piece.  We brought some of our prints from last year and other papers and fabrics we'd dyed, printed etc.

I've 'stolen' Judth's picture here as I'm in it (back, right).  So the first evening we sorted and then worked on our materials till we felt we had enough to create a collage.

I retired to bed quite early, shattered, only to find when I was in my PJs I'd left my iPad in the work room.  It was a long walk back, our bedrooms seem to on the outer reaches of the complex. I didn't quite have the nerve to walk through reception in my flowery jim-jams, but hastily pulled a layer of clothes over the top.
 On Saturday Hilary gave us lots of ideas on developing layouts for collage backgrounds. One of her ideas was to use traditional quilt blocks, but in a much looser way.  Here are a couple of pages in my sketchbook using a "log cabin" layout.

We then used these ideas on our fabric and paper pieces and applied the background to a piece of felt.

The next task was to stitch the pieces down.

By Sunday morning everyone had their sewing machines out.

We finished Sunday afternoon, everyone determined that we should repeat the weekend next year.
I cannot begin to describe how much good the break did me.  Hillary was brilliant at sharing her processes and working methods.  Of course  everyone works in a different way and this was reflected in our final 'show' when we looked at everyones work. I will include a link to Hilary's blog where you can see the photographs she took of everyone's work.

I came away with a battery of practical ideas for developing sketchbook work, with ideas for layout and colour.  I found one of Hilary's recommendations second hand on the web, and I had to buy some Gelato colour sticks to play with.

  I also came away with a nearly completed piece of work which I have finished stitching at home, and it is now ready for mounting. What is great, is that it is thoroughly me, using pieces I'd stencilled with one of my own designs.

I tried the mounting method Hilary shared on this little sampler piece. It's part of the Capability Brown project.  So I now have a small hanging. When I have time I shall try it on my larger piece.

Meanwhile I need to get back to my proper Capability Brown piece.  I was pleased with the free cut pieced background, and I'm now playing around with ideas for appliqué.

My weekend away gave me the break I so desperately needed.  Home life can be a bit stressful, and I know I can be my own worse enemy.   It was wonderful not having to take anyone else's needs into consideration for a couple of days.   I'm going on another retreat in March with Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn. How lovely that a couple of friends from this weekend will be there too.  Looking forward to it very much, and guessing it will be very different. I'm also looking at the possibility of some others later in the year.
Here are a couple of links to other blogs about the weekend:
Heather - one of my fellow retreaters:

Hope 2016 is going well for you - so far…

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Nearly November… No Nearly 2016!!!

I started this post way back in November when I was doing a lot of 'thinking'.  I am committed to take part in two exhibitions next year and I like to take my time, considering my options and then ideas seem to come in a rush.  Firstly I am part of our local Embroiders' Guild group creating work to celebrate "Capability" Lancelot Brown's tricentenary next year. The Embroiders' Guild has join up with the National Trust and English Heritage to stage exhibitions and events across the country in many of the great houses who employed this man to landscape their estates I am working from Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire where he landscaped the "Golden Valley"… and secondly I have joined another group exhibiting next October in Hertford. More on that another time.

I used to visit Ashridge a lot at one period of my life and had no idea of its history. In fact the main forested area was a deer park dating back to pre-tudor times.  Brown didn't do a lot there, but it is part of the beautiful Chiltern landscape which I have photographed a lot. As an extra to my Brown piece I have been working on some small collages in my sketchbook and some samples.  This turned into creating miniature landscapes which I have pieced together, my Chiltern Ninepatch.

Work in Progress:
"Chiltern Ninepatch"



Patch rehearsal

Stage 1

Stage 2 

Now do I add more embellishments and then make it into a hanging or a cushion cover?

The Chilterns around Luton.

I'm going to publish now - trying to keep in brief and trying to post more often. 
My end of year resolution.