Monday, 9 February 2015


I can't believe it's more than two weeks since my weekend retreat with Hilary Beattie. It was just what I needed to charge my batteries. Going away for a weekend with a group of strangers is always going to be exciting, wondering what sort of characters you will meet. Of course we all had a lot in common before we started as we had all seen Hilary's work and were interested in learning from her. Wyboston Lakes is a large complex with an hotel, spa, golf course and conference and training facilities by the A1. We were in the training complex with a hundred-plus psychiatrists,  our group of fifteen were somewhat outnumbered but they gave us plenty to giggle about at mealtimes.
I shouldn't think our workroom had seen anything like like us and all our paints, inks and dyes. Poor Nichola who organises the Stitch Retreats was frequently seen on her knees with the Fairy Power Spray and a baby wipe cleaning splashes off the carpet or the wall! Over the first sessions Hilary showed us how to make texture  and use a Gelliplate to print lots of gorgeous papers, finally we made a start on some collages in our sketchbooks and on canvases. The staff at the hotel were friendly and helpful and didn't bat an eyelid when we wandered through reception with splattered aprons and painty fingers or raided the garden for interesting leaves or visited the Ladies washrooms with a handful of mucky brushes. Hilary is a dynamic and inspiring teacher and best of all, very encouraging. She is also great fun which helped make the weekend most enjoyable.

I had been struggling to complete a piece for our show with Spectrum at Textiles in focus at Cottenham Village College. I had started piecing some fabrics, but I wasn't very happy. With Hilary I had started a long narrow canvas, and looking at a rubbing I had made from a card cut-out of wrought iron shapes, which have been my theme a light went on. I cut up the rubbing and stuck it to the canvas and added leaf and flower shapes cut form my piles of various printed papers.  I added some stitch and ended up with a piece which I was finally happy with. Here it is at various stages.

Finally, I'm really enjoying BBC's Wolf Hall and I think I'm just a bit in love with Mark Rylance, what an actor and well done Hilary Mantel for creating such a likeable character from a man with such a shadowy reputation.