an artists' view

an artists' view

Monday, 31 December 2012

new years' eve

Winter water.
In 2008 I made paper boats, and sailed them away on the lagoon nearby. This was the first.
I love the way this one seems to be held by the branches of the trees. And the reflections of the trees are so clear on the water's surface.

This is the beginning of a new project. 2013 will be a new challenge, creatively. A new journey is ahead; and this water-course will play a major part in it.

The end of one year, the start of another. 'Let's hope it's a good one.....'
Happy New Year.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

moon jellyfish

Tomorrow is the full moon, so to celebrate that, here are some moon jellyfish that I photographed when I visited 'The Deep' in Hull a few weeks ago. They are transparent, and move around the small aquarium by pulsing their mantles. It was amazing watching them.

Today I've visited an exhibition 'Light & Line' at Barnsley Civic. It's a selection of textile artworks by Polly Binns & Anne Morrell. Their work is very subtle. Binns' is a severely limited colour palette, greys, whites, silvers. They are on the edge of existing, and the workings on the back and front of the fabric play with perspective and space. They were mysterious and contemplative as I stood in front of them. They changed as I viewed them close up, and from a distance.
Morrell's work is more densely worked, with hand stitching running across the fabric. She uses a wider variety of colours, though she also uses white and cream thread and fabric. I was particularly taken by the way she uses removed stitches to create 'gaps', and absence/s. Ghost stitches, if you like.
Binns has created work in response to the Norfolk landscape where she lives. She has inspired me to consider how I can begin to work with the landscape I live in; something I've been thinking about for a few years now. 
I think 2013 may be the start of this project.
'Walk; and work', Polly Binns says. An inspiring thought!

Monday, 24 December 2012

happy xmas

It's xmas eve.
Everything's done that needs to have been done, and I'm sitting quietly, listening to the radio (Jarvis Cocker!) and drinking wine. The presents are under the tree, all ready for tomorrow.
Merry Xmas.

Friday, 21 December 2012

solstice-the standing sun

The sun stands still at the solstice. Last night, tonight, and tomorrow night are the shortest days; the longest times of darkness.
I'm lighting candles, enjoying the lights on the xmas tree, and celebrating the dark.
I made a xmas wreath, with greenery from my tree, and some eucalyptus branches from my friend's garden. It hangs on the gate; evergreens, the symbol of life through the winter.

And below is a photo of the iconic stones of Stonehenge. Taken when we visited Wiltshire last year.
Stonehenge was a place where both the summer solstice and winter solstices were celebrated. Both solstices occur at the same time; just at different places on the planet.
Whilst we shiver in the dark of winter, in the southern hemisphere they are celebrating the summer solstice, their longest day.
I love this planetary sense of balance and movement.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

twinkle twinkle

A star on the tree.
A peace star.
My tree is full of decorations that have been given to me.
Xmas presents; Xmas present.

Monday, 17 December 2012

approaching the dark

In my home studio hangs this star.....a gift from my friend Pauline. An appropriate photo to share at this time of year.
Meantime I'm surrounded by temperamental machines!
My lovely old (70+ years old!) sewing machine, that was passed onto me by my mum, has stopped. Perhaps it too, wants a rest for the holidays? So I borrowed my friend Jackie's sewing machine. A much more up-to-date beauty! After a quick look, I discovered...oh! no foot! So whilst dropping off my machine at the shop, I bought a new foot for Jackie's. Only to try it today....and find that machine isn't working either!
My van, Blanche, is in the garage for her MOT (and more!); and the pooter is playing up, switching itself on and off, at random.
Despite all this, I'm getting 'merry like xmas' as Maya Angelou says it!
The tree is up; the wreath is on the outside gate. And I'm almost ready with the gifts and cards.
The dark is here; and I'm lighting it up, as we approach the Solstice. I sit with tree lights on, candles, and the fire on. It's a most seasonal vibe.

Friday, 14 December 2012

'knitting ninja'

Outside Mocha Moocho, a favourite cafe in Wakefield, is this knitted collage. It's attached to a railing surrounding a silver birch.
I've no idea who 'knitting ninja' is; but they've created a lovely 'art intervention', of knitted foods, in the main precinct, close to the Cathedral. It adds a much-needed splash of colour in this grey winter light. I like the idea; public art created and installed by the 'public'! Good work, knitting ninja, whoever you are!
I wonder if there are more of these, adorning the streets of Wakefield? I'll keep a lookout.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

'boro'; stitching and patching

Inspired by Saskia, Grace, and other women following Jude Hill's stitching web-classes, I've bought a man's shirt, and am in the process of using running stitch (sashiko stitches in Japan) to attach patches of cloth to it. This has the benefit of layering the cloth, to both strengthen it, and give it more insulating properties. I believe this is in the spirit of 'Boro'...if not exactly the technique!
'Boro' is another Japanese term, which refers to the mending, and re-using of cloth. It fits well into my ideas about re-cycling and mending.
This shirt is being made with the cold of winter in mind; to keep me warm. However, I'm a very slow hand stitcher, so it may very well be next winter, before I get the benefit from it! In the meantime, I can stitch away, with no pressure. It is a pick up, and put down project.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Avocado Compost Dye-ing!

Compost Dye-ing!
SLOW DYE-ING! This avocado has been 'wrapped' around a piece of fabric, and put into my compost bin for the last 3 months. Today, I hoiked it out, to have a looksee. I think I would have left it for longer. But for a first tryout, I'm happy with it. There are lots of brown/black marks; it's more a mark-making result than a dyed fabric.
This is a wet close-up of the fabric as it was drying on the line. The vivid blue colour has faded; there are some holes, which gives it a nice texture; the brown marks are quite subtle.

Sunday, 25 November 2012


The exhibition is up!
Jill and I went up to Westgate Studios yesterday, and put all our felt and textile pieces up in the Project Space.
Above you can see 3 of my felt pieces (right), and 3 of Jill's felt and wood pieces (left).

Jill has also made leaves from felt, which hang in the window space. Above is a photo of them displayed, and below is a close-up of one. You can just make out the way that the leaves cast shadows onto the window blind! Lovely.

Below is my fabric piece 'Palimsest', which I've shown earlier in this blog. 
But with a bit of photo-shopping, I've managed to get the whole piece into one photograph.

We worked really hard to put it together yesterday; and I came home ready for a relaxing evening. It's that moment of calm when there's nothing else to do, but just wait for Wednesday, and welcome in the visitors.

Friday, 16 November 2012

felt from the past

My mum was clearing out some junk (treasure?) recently, and found these. After checking that it wasn't Helen's, my grown-up niece, she asked me if the felt collages were mine.
Well....I have to say I don't remember them at all. But....I like the conceit that they're mine!
An example of my early years creativity, and enjoyment of making collages. And also, revealing my early affinity with felt and textiles....which lay dormant until the 21st century.
Of course, it's also, sociologically, a material example of the education of primary school children in the mid-twentieth century. Learning through play, and manipulation of materials. Development of hand-eye co-ordination, and motor skills. Funny how these things have to be described and de-constructed. Rather than enjoyed, and encouraged.  

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Jarvis @ wakefield

Today the new library and museum opened in Wakefield. To celebrate that, Jarvis Cocker, the musician and songwriter from Pulp, and Sheffield, was invited to do the honours. Here Jarvis is, after drawing the strings of the velvet curtain, announcing the 'official opening'!

He talked about how he had been banned by his local library for not returning books within the due date. And how he thought there had been a mistake, and he thought he was being invited to knock a library down, as libraries are threatened with closure all around the country.
Jarvis kindly stayed to chat and sign autographs for us fans who'd turned up to see him. He was very accessible, and chatted with everyone. I managed to get my CD of Pulp's 'we love life' signed, and I said how much I enjoyed his R6 programme, 'Sunday Service'. He told me he was thinking about how he had to get it organised for tomorrow.
What a charming man he is!

We in Wakefield have lost 2 libraries in the city centre, which have been replaced by this one smaller one...and a number of branch libraries have gone, so it's not quite all good news to say this new library has opened. However; it does look splendid; though I shall miss the intimacy of the Drury Lane library (a Carnegie Library, gifted to the city), and the 1960's architectural brutalism of Balne Lane central library. I've spent many a happy hour there, perusing the shelves, and harassing staff with requests for books on obscure artists. My education has come through using libraries; as a child I used my tiny local library from early on, and when I got into art college, I made use of the request service for writing essays and my dissertation. Afterwards, studying for my teaching certificate, and years later, my M.A. I regularly called into the libraries in Wakefield to look at, and order books. And of course I've borrowed books, novels, CD's, maps, read newspapers there, and used the local studies section. I still use the libraries extensively.
I'm pleased to see the opening of a spanking new library. Though I'm sorry to see the old ones go.
My childhood library, another Carnegie Library, has long gone, to be replaced by an anonymous glass and metal shed, kindly paid for by Tesco's, who bought the land around it, and built a massive supermarket behind it. I've also noticed how new libraries always seem to be smaller than the older ones....hmmmmm.

Friday, 9 November 2012


The Exhibition 

                        1) to engage in fanciful daydreaming; the idle or absent-minded indulgence in fantasy.
                        2) gathering tufts of wool shed by sheep & caught on bushes.

After spending some time dreaming of, and counting sheep, Jan & Jill have gathered wool from various sources and created a series of art works using wool, and incorporating fabric.

They have made 2D & 3D works, reflecting their different interests and influences. 
Jill has been making felt for a number of years, recently completing a City & Guilds course. Jan became interested in wool and felt-making, and began to explore textiles as a medium. Through experiments with dye-ing using plants, stitching and mark-making, Jan is extending her artistic practise into the material world.

The artists; Jan Millington & Jill Halsall

The media; Felt and Textiles

The venue; Project Space, Westgate Studios, Wakefield

The date; Wednesday 28th November 2012 as part of Wakefield Artwalk
               (to view by arrangement with Westgate Studios after 28th)

Monday, 5 November 2012

studio #3....Bonfire Night

When I was inhabiting A13 studio in Westgate Studios, I had fantastic views over the city, and to Emley Moor mast...which until the digital age, delivered our television signal, locally.
This was a particularly grey, yet glowing sky, from winter 2008.

Today I've been working in my home studio; with the heater on I was nice and cosy.
I was putting together my City and Guilds portfolio, for my course tomorrow. It was great to sit and spend some time on it. The day's been bright and sunny, though as the light has faded, the temperature's dropped, and it's got very cold.
The cats are all sitting in front of the fire; and I've made sure they're all in for the evening, as tonight is Bonfire Night, and there are fireworks going off all around us. We're keeping warm and safe, away from all harm.

Last Friday I went to Leeds, and called into the Art Gallery, and the Henry Moore Institute next door. 
There was a small exhibition of Helen Chadwick's photographs. Large, cibachrome, richly coloured photos. She used flowers, fruits, and household cleaning fluids, such as Windowlene, and Swarfega. She also used Lime & Lemon marmalade, and Germolene, to give vibrant colours and textures to her sculptures, which she then photographed! They are beautiful. I love the way she incorporates ordinary 'domestic' materials into her artwork. 
Well worth a look, on the Henry Moore Institute website, here

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

hAppY HalLowEen

The witch in the kitchen!
Happi Samhain.
The winter's arriving with cold days, and long nights.
Pumpkin to carve, and soup to make!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Dyed, Printed, Stitched & Spun #2

Am still working on this piece. It includes print on fabric, spun and dyed wool, machine and hand stitching.
It's taking quite a while, but I'm hoping I can get it completed and to the framers in time for the 'Woolgathering' exhibition next month at Westgate Studios.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

A little Birdhouse In Your Soul

This is one of the bird boxes that Jon and I made a couple of years ago. One is hanging outside the living room window, and can be seen from the sofa in the sitting room, and was inhabited this spring; another is attached to a tree in the front garden; and this one has yet to find a home!
Now that autumn's here, and the leaves are falling, I'm hoping to find the perfect spot for it. Somewhere I can observe it, in case it becomes a home for new bird families. Being able to watch the birds fly to and fro this spring, as they fed their chicks, was wonderful. And all from the comfort of my sofa!
I didn't paint up to the entrance hole of the box, as birds sometimes peck to enlarge it, and make it more comfortable for themselves. Depending on the paint used (I used acrylics) this can poison the birds. So I decided to play it safe, and leave a gap.
The birds need all the help we can give them.
I've just heard on the news this week about thousands and thousands of birds drowning in the North Sea. Land birds such as robin and thrushes, somehow lost their bearings, and ended up out at sea, and were found drowned by sailors. Boats out to sea, found themselves used as perches by birds, who were exhausted, and needed to rest, before flying off again, desperate to find land.
See this for photos.

Sunday, 21 October 2012


Whitby Museum is a treasure-trove of fascinating objects. It's a 'proper' museum; none of this 'interactive' stuff here! Above is a photo of a woven/knitted outfit on display, taken on a visit years ago now. It seems fitting to include it here, as I'm working on a City & Guilds qualification in creative textiles. Nothing as elaborate as this, thankfully! We're creating mostly samples. It's taking up a lot of my time though, so I expect my blogging will lessen over the term/s.
And of course, my socks knitting continues. Still not near to turning the heel, which is where I'll need some help.
There's the upcoming exhibition to prepare for too; 'Woolgathering', at Westgate Studios, in November. So I'm kept pretty busy at the moment.

I've been out tidying up some of the garden; had baked apple tonight from my apple tree. A bad harvest this year, hardly any apples; but then everywhere has had bad harvests, with the weird weather.
Sitting in my home studio over the weekend, I spotted a squirrel lolloping along the fence outside. S/he did a stop-over at my birdtable, to collect anything the birds hadn't taken. Unlike some people, I don't mind squirrels on my birdtable. I don't have gangs of them. And there's plenty of berries around at the moment for birds and squirrels alike. Good harvests there then!

Thursday, 11 October 2012


 Three photos; not quite matching up......overlaps.
The stitched and layered 'jigsaw' piece; using sashiko stitches; organzie overlay; map lines; aerial photography earth lines.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Kirsty MacColl 1959 - 2000

'One day I'll be waiting there, No empty bench in Soho Square'

Kirsty would've been 53 on 10th October, next Wednesday. And I for one will be raising a glass to celebrate her life.
I was lucky to see her twice; once in St George's Hall, Bradford, where there was no trace of her famous stage-fright. And a second time at Leeds. Where after the gig, we hung around like stage door Johnnies, and managed to get taken into the dressing room, and actually meet and chat to Kirsty.
Well, I say 'chat' fact we stood there gobsmacked, while she kindly tried to talk to us about how we thought the gig had gone, and what had the sound quality been like....She was warm, engaging, very down-to-earth, and 'normal'. Not at all 'starry' or up herself. She was lovely. And everyone who knew her, or worked with her, tell the same story.

Today, friends and family and fans, have visited Soho Square, to celebrate Kirsty's life and music. There is a bench (photo above) with a plaque engraved with the lyrics from her song 'Soho Square', from the album 'Titanic Days'. 

Her albums/CD's have all been remastered, and re-released. So if you've not heard the beauty and wit that is a Kirsty MacColl song, or heard her sing, apart from the 'Fairytale of New York' xmas song with The Pogues, then go out and purchase any, or all of them! You have a treat in store!

I don't normally try to persuade people to buy music, as it's such a personal thing. But Kirsty was wonderful, and I feel cheated that I won't get to hear any more of her songs. She created girl-group choirs out of her voice, overtracked and layered up. A one-woman 'Beach Boys' sound. We miss you Kirsty. Happy Birthday. 

Friday, 5 October 2012

Knitting Socks

I've begun to knit my very first pair of socks. This is the first sock. 
I'm using up some old wool, as I'm expecting to make lots of mistakes. This is the rib; I'm starting the sock at the top of the rib, and working down the foot. I'm not looking forward to turning the heel; it looks pretty complicated. I think I'll be getting some assistance with that!
Everyone is ribbing (!) me about how I'm a bit late to be knitting socks for Xmas presents! Ha, how right they are. Perhaps for next Xmas?

Wednesday, 3 October 2012


 Photos from my recent visit to Spurn Point.
The door inside the lighthouse.......
 Cracked window looking out of the lighthouse.
Looking out the lighthouse window to the groynes on the beach. 

I love the way the colours come together at Spurn. The greens, browns, greys, blues, are a soft background that the lighthouse structure frames and focuses. 
To stand in the lighthouse, was to experience the overlap of the outside world and the inside of the building. And the rust particles and peeling of paint of the lighthouse structure, emphasised my sense of dilapidation, and things being worn away. Just as the sea pounds the Spurn peninsula, wearing the pebbles to sand. Everything is shifting at Spurn, all is in motion.  

Monday, 1 October 2012

paul & paula's wedding

My busy week, ended with a special day on Saturday. My friends Paul and Paula got married in Wakefield. It was a fantastic day, bright and sunny, and full of lurve!
And they hired an old 1950's bus, on which everyone travelled to the reception, in fine style.
I couldn't resist photographing the metal balls on the back of the seats! 
 Paul and Paula after they'd got married, outside the church.
Inside the old bus; decorated with bouquets of flowers throughout. What a way to travel!

Sunday, 30 September 2012

richard hawley & simon armitage

a fuzzy Simon Armitage, signing books, to ghosts in the machine!

A busy week, last week.
On Tuesday I went to Leeds to see Richard Hawley; on Friday I saw and heard Simon Armitage, in Wakefield.

Richard Hawley was awesome. He played a lot of songs from his new CD, 'Standing at the Sky's Edge', which I've been listening to avidly, for weeks now. It really mixes his trademark 'crooning', with something more psychedelic, and guitar-based. There are lots of drones in the music, which I dearly love, and nature references within the song's lyrics. 
Also a lot of....quiet....then LOUD....sections; where Hawley's voice is soft, and the main focus of the song. Then there is a shift to loud, rocking guitar-based sounds. His lyrics too, are subtle, and don't always go where one immediately expects. He eschews cliche...which is always delightful. 
The stage set, too, deserves a mention. He had trees, standing behind the band, appropriate in view of the subject matter of the new songs, and the way he referenced the natural world. 
I presume the trees were in pots of some kind; and they had magically maintained their green-ness, and leaves. During the show, they were light-drenched in hallucinogenic colours, like stained glass windows in Gothic cathedrals. 
I was struck by the connection, as the Gothic cathedrals have columns, with carved greenery and leaves, marching down aisles, creating a forest of stone. The ceilings are intertwining branches of stone, supporting the roof, and impressing the viewer even more strongly of the outer world of nature, brought inside the religious buildings.

My feeling of being inside a cathedral, was emphasised even more, by the fact that Hawley had a music stand beside case he forgot his lyrics? It looked like a church lectern! The world according to Rev Richard Hawley! Mmmmm!

Simon Armitage was appearing in Wakefield as part of Wakefield's first Literary Festival. He did his reading at Westgate Chapel, which accommodates  a bigger audience than the Orangery. Simon was reading from his book which documents his walk (from North to South; against prevailing weather and wisdom!) along the Pennine Way. He was humorous; serious; interesting; profound; just what you want and expect of a poet!
He was asked if he'd listened to music on his mammoth walk, as he's well known as a massive music fan. He replied that he deliberately didn't take his iPod, as he wanted to immerse himself in the experience of the walk, and get away from those things we use everyday that can distract us from the world around us.
He did say that he'd been in a pub, on one section of the walk, and put some music on the jukebox, and it sounded almost physical. That he felt as if he could have reached out and touched it. That it was hallucinatory.
Such is the power of music. It can create synaesthesia within us. 
Simon Armitage's gig, then, connects to Richard Hawley's. The connection of their experiences of music; and the power of both music, and the natural world. When I experience these connections, I am lifted, and my soul is fed.       

Monday, 24 September 2012

Spurn Point; 'Textures of Spurn'

View through the lamproom window of the lighthouse at Spurn Point. Looking to the north (east) of Spurn Point.

We visited Spurn Point yesterday, to see Alice Fox's textile (and print) exhibition 'Textures of Spurn', on show at the Lighthouse. It was an opportunity to not only see the work (I've been following her artist-in-residence blog) but also to go inside the lighthouse, which is no longer in use.
Despite the weather; cold, windy, cloudy, with occasional rain; the views were fantastic, and the shape of the spit of land was made visible. 
The clouds were dark and threatening; the wind hummed through the telegraph wires like an Aeolian harp; the sea boomed and crashed.
It was an elemental place, and we were scrubbed clean by the sand blown across our bodies; faces and hands, scoured. I returned home with sand in my hair; dishevelled.
We walked the 3.5 miles from the car park, down to the lighthouse. Walked the steps up (and down) the lighthouse. Then walked the 3.5 miles back to the car. 

It was an exhilarating walk. A walk of memories, of previous visits to Spurn. And worth the walk, to climb the lighthouse steps, and see Alice's artworks. 

Alice Fox's enormous textile piece, 'Spurn Cloth #1', tied, and displayed around the circular space of the lamproom at the lighthouse.

 Another view of the lamproom textile piece, 'Spurn Cloth #1' by Alice Fox.

'Spurn Cloth #2' by Alice Fox. Hanging down two floors of the lighthouse space, at Spurn.

You can see Alice's blog, which tells the story of her residency, at

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Dyed, Printed, Stitched & Spun #1

The cotton is dyed using onion skins, a lovely orange brown colour. I've printed onto another piece of fabric. And the wool, is from my first attempts at spinning using a drop spindle! Not fit for knitting with, but very useful for adding texture to a fabric piece.
Not sure quite where this piece is going yet. I need to do some machine sewing on it. I tried handstitching, but it will just take too long, despite the added control it gives me with my mark-making. I'm hoping I'll be able to do some handstitching embellishment over the top of the machine stitch.

Today is bright and sunny, although cold; and we've reached the Equinoxial time of the year, so I shall be utilising the daylight that we have, and stepping out into my studio across the patio, to work on my canvases. After today, we'll be slipping inexorably into the dark. Winter is ahead of us. 
And I have begun knitting my very first pair of socks! Rather appropriate for the dark winter nights! Though too late for xmas presents! No, I think my first pair will be for me. I can iron out all the mistakes then!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

sarah lucas @ Leeds

Above is the cover of Sarah Lucas' catalogue from her exhibition at Henry Moore Institute in Leeds. The sculpture, 'Gourd', is a cement cast of..well, of a gourd! One of a series of cement casts of fruit and vegetables. 
The catalogue reads;
'her concrete marrows and squashes have the fullness of the votive vegetables offered to fertility gods around the ancient Mediterranean.'
I like the contrast between the softness of the fruit and vegetables, and the hardness of the concrete; the greyness of the cast, with the real-life colour of the grown produce.

Below is the sculpture, 'The King', created from casts of plaster and wood.
The catalogue says of 'The King', that it is 'a mechanistic spiral of dagger-like paired plaster penises suspended over wooden blocks.'
I saw a whirling wheel; a swastika; a cross; an altar; a circle; action; movement. Delicacy of structure - it hangs from wires looking as though a sudden draft would cause it to fall. And solidity of materials - casts of wood and bone.
It has memories of archaeology too; the ancient picks used by neolithic people, made from deer antlers, with which they built Stonehenge, Callanish, and sundry other stone circles and monuments.

The catalogue says of this exhibition;
'In 'Ordinary Things', a selection  of thirty-one works spanning 1993-2012, these processes take in cutting, moulding, handling, stuffing, displaying, and assembling , utilising conventions that move from the monumental to the ready-made, the formal and quick-build, via the representational, abstract and true-to-materials.'

'Lucas' use of found materials could be straight from the strategies of Arte Povera, that loose grouping of artists whose sculptures are resourceful compositions of objects and materials bearing the traces of use, responding to changing economic and artistic contexts.'

'Sarah just didn't think about making art that could easily be exhibited, or sold, or archived, or consider the practicalities of flogging it. In that way...her work was women's work, done because it had to be done, for its own sake. Its currency, like the flesh of the animals and vegetables Sarah uses as a medium, was soft and vulnerable, not hard and bankable.'

Friday, 14 September 2012


Sections of fabric, hand sewn with 'sashiko' stitches; organzie, machine sewed, layered over it. 
Some of the fabric is hand-dyed; others are scraps from my textile 'grab-bag'. Pinned on the wall of my studio, trying to get enough light on it, to photograph.
I now have to put some small stitches in, to attach the organzie to the fabric behind. I'm hoping it will go into the 'woolgathering' exhibition I'm having with Jill Hallsall at Westgate Studios Project Space, in November, for the Wakefield Artwalk. 
You can see another photo of this piece at 'stitching & dye-ing'#2 dated 17/06/12.
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