an artists' view

an artists' view

Thursday, 26 December 2013

'there's an angel floating round my house, floating round my house.......' *

Stained glass window at Westgate Chapel, Wakefield, on Xmas Day. Kate, the secretary asked me to commit to an exhibition next year. I've been feeling un-confident about my painting, and about my art in general. Feeling the slate has been wiped clean, and I don't know where to begin to start making again. Perhaps this is an opportunity to make a commitment to my muse, and put my toe in the water again? I'll consider it, and decide soon.  
Thank you to all those angels fluttering round me this last couple of years......
Angels bringing gifts! Thank you, 'angel-Loz'! I'm a lucky girl! This second book by India Flint arrived on Xmas Day! 'Tis beautiful, like her 'Eco-colour' book, which fired up my enthusiasm for dyeing with plants. Am looking forward to delving into this treat!
Jill, my felting-friend, made this needle-case; she said only we two would get the reference! Who would've thought Neil Young's song lyrics would have applied themselves so happily to a needlecase!!!!! Ho Ho Ho!
And Bea; who has generously given throughout this difficult year. Opening her gift, I unravelled a length of patterned silk! She knows quite well I don't use new silk, and so got me this! Needless to say, the dregs of the walnut dye-pot have a portion of this silk soaking in it. I suspect the dye-bath is exhausted by now, but, I shall leave it in, to just 'see what happens' always when dyeing with plants; magic happens.

*Oh, and the lyrics; are from Kirsty MacColl. Much missed. X

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Xmas Eve

A different Xmas Eve.
I went with Pauline to visit her Polish friend Gosia. We watched Polish TV (!) without understanding a word, though we did make out the carol 'Silent Night'! Gosia kindly made us a traditional Polish xmas eve meal; saurkraut; carrots; onions; cabbage; white mushrooms; cooked together, and yummy. Thank you Gosia. We drank tea, and wine. And exchanged gifts. Which we then opened! In Poland presents are opened on xmas eve, not xmas day, as here in England. We shared chocolates, and looked at our gifts. It was a lovely way to spend the evening. And fascinating to hear how other people celebrate Xmas.
'Have yourself a merry little Christmas..............time.'

Saturday, 21 December 2013


The winter solstice.
The dark of the Year.
The wheel Turns.
'We rend; We end; We return, again'.
The stars shine on.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

churches & angels

The Annunciation, as depicted in a stained glass window at Penistone church. I love the image of the angel on the left hand panel of the window; the one seeming to balance on a olden orb. Looks like she's made of feathers, or maybe flames? Or perhaps feathered leaves? Maybe a relation to the Greenmen you find in churches? This one a leaf-angel?
And here's a stone angel! Found at Silkstone church, Barnsley. Very solid; and the stone pillar which seems to pierce the angel, adds an odd touch. Or perhaps I should see it as the angel emerging from the pillar, miraculous-like? 

Sunday, 15 December 2013

winter; sunset & sunrise

 A couple of evenings ago, the sun set like this.
 One morning walking to work, the path led into mist.......
The sun was rising over the railway embankment, illuminating the grasses on the field.
The beck runs through this field; the beck that leads to the river Calder.
The sun is low in the sky now. Dropping down to the solstice.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

'Irene's Emporium'

Last weekend I spent the day on a stall, selling hand-printed cards, prints, postcards, Xmas tree decorations; plus various bric-a-brac items. Some of the bric-a-brac I'd carried home with me from mum's house, perfumes etc.....not opened or used I hasten to add!
And I made a wee 'tree' to hang my fabric tree decorations onto; trying to make for a festive atmosphere! What I didn't sell, I'm sending to people instead of Xmas cards. Some are in the post right now.
My friend Jill had a stall; and I spent my takings on some lovely 'croched bunting'! Which will go in campervan Blanche soon.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

crazy shirt

Not quite a 'crazy quilt' because I've not done any padding/quilting on this shirt. But it is 'pieces' I've stitched over the shirt; the purple cotton underneath. I started it last winter; as part of my plan to keep warm throughout winter/s, and also an attempt to reduce my heating bills; in this country we have people having to choose between eating, and heating. So; having come across sashiko stitches, and learning from Saskia about 'Boro' and the way fabric and stitches are used in traditional Japanese working-class communities, I decided to 'just sew' and patch a shirt that I could pull on over my clothes, and layer up to keep warm. Because it's so random, and un-designed, it won't matter about keeping it clean, or neat, or tidy. I can just chuck it into the washer when it needs washing; I can just put it over layers, and put a fleece over the top of it if I want. It's cotton, so it's not too bulky; I can use it in the studio; in the garden; camping; it will be useful in all sorts of situations.  
And it's on the final push! I've stitched almost all the way round the shirt, and am onto the left-hand front side. Gonna leave the sleeves as they are. The patches are a mix of bought fabric; gifted fabric; and fabric hand-dyed by me.
The stitches strengthen the fabric; they create increased insulation; they add texture; and each one made by hand!

As I'm typing this, R6 Tom Robinson show is playing music in tribute to Nelson Mandela, to mark his death. And tonight is the anniversary of John Lennon's death. Feels a dark time, as we lead up to the longest night.
Dusk fell early. I was out in the garden pottering about; watching a stunning sky of orange clouds illuminated from below.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

black bean dyed

Left a piece of cotton/linen fabric in a dye-pot of liquid from some boiled up black beans. This was the fabric when I first pulled it out the pot. A lovely purple, with blue blotches.
 A close-up of the dyed fabric.
Rinsed and ironed the purple has come out, leaving a pale blue, akin to the colour of fabric I've dyed with woad. I like the mottled look of it though. I think that's some remnant of the mould that was taking over the dye-pot!

Monday, 2 December 2013

rend and mend

I've been playing with creating another collograph plate; this time printed onto the fabric I wrapped around the rusty pole, then over-dyed with woad. There's plenty of cotton fabric; it's an old, worn, sheet. So this is the first print; a small experimental print.
Now, I have to think what to do with it next. My feeling is to cut it into strips, and stitch other fabrics in between the strips.
Rend, and mend.
I've printed this onto some wallpaper from a sample book; that's come out interesting too. Just done that today, so I'm waiting for them to dry.
It's lovely sitting in my studio with the light going, and dusk drawing in. Sometimes Poppy, one of the cats, comes and sits outside, crying at me to let her in. And we sit there, enjoying being together, and watching the light fall.
I was out in the garden over the weekend, clearing round, sweeping up the leaves; and I'm on with the big houseclean all ready for the xmas holidays. It's going to be a strange one this year; no Lucy; no mum; no Ann. I'm trying to have no expectations, and just go with whatever happens. The weather forecast says snow is on the way. Oh well; go with the snow/flow.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

dorothy caldwell

A couple of Thursdays ago, I went to the Knit & Stitch Show at Harrogate. I bought plenty of supplies & equipment. And filled my eyes with the artists on display.
The loveliest by far was the textile work of Dorothy Caldwell.
She was on her stand, and I managed to catch her when she wasn't busy, and grab a quick word. She was friendly, open, happy to talk. And happy to allow me to take a photo (top) of the huge textile piece. Which can be unusual at Harrogate, where there are lots of notices saying 'No photographs please' where people are displaying their artwork. I told her I'd read the article about her in the most recent edition of 'Embroidery' magazine. She liked it, as did I; it was my first introduction to her work. I asked about her friendship with India Flint, whose blog I follow, and books I read. We both expressed our admiration for India.
Dorothy talked about the similarity between inner Australia and sub-Arctic Canada; that both were 'deserts'. An interesting concept, given that one is baking heat, and the other is biting cold.
Extremes of landscape; something that I'm unfamiliar with, living in Britain. We have a very temperate climate; a blessing really. Although the last two years have been fairly extreme in our weather; 2012 was almost continual rain throughout the whole of the summer. Then we had a very cold, very LONG winter, which seemed to go on until April 2013.
This summer has been glorious sunshine; hot, warm, and balmy. But, interestingly, we've not experienced much of spring or autumn. We've had beautiful spring blossom, and fabulous autumn colours on the trees. Yet I've missed that feeling of moving through from one season to the next; it's been more of a sudden abrupt shift. 

Sunday, 24 November 2013


This is a strange photo. You might not think it, looking at it; it's a pretty straightforward photo of the sky and clouds. Nowt special.
But for the fact that I have no memory of taking it; the mobile phone took the photo itself! Very weird!
Meantime, out of the world of spookiness, I've been stitching on Berenice's Brother (which always makes me laugh like a drain!) and creating wee xmas decorations for the craft stall I'm having at the start of December. I'm also making some as presents; Shannon asked me to make one for her niece, Josie, who is only a baby...Josie's first xmas! So I've done that.
And I've been invited to exhibit some work at Harry's Bar for the Artwalk next week. I've dropped a couple of pieces off; they can then choose which they want to hang. It's the first time I've exhibited anything since November 2012. Things have been....well, complicated. I've not painted since last September. And partly that was because I was concentrating on completing my City & Guilds course in Textiles. And partly realising that I haven't got the resources to set about painting just yet. My painting mojo has gone away for awhile. But she'll return. I just have to give myself time. So this tiny project of fabric xmas decorations is fine. It's about all I can manage at present. One day at a time; one stitich at a time.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Silkstone Church

The massive marble carving of Sir Thomas Wentworth. Carved from Carrera marble; made famous by da Vinci and Michaelangelo, as well as Barbara Hepworth.  Sir Thomas died in 1675; and lived at Bretton Hall, where I was a student in the 1980's. 
The carving is pretty amazing; here's a griffin/eagle at the foot of Sir Thomas's wife, Grace, who became a Countess after his death. Her carving is slightly higher than his, because of her higher status. She died in 1698.
 Wings; feathers; symbols of flight. Depicted in the element of marble.
More feathers; on the hat of Sir Thomas.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

stitching & Klee

As I've got more sorted with the decorating, I've managed to create enough space in the spare room to get out the sewing machine, kindly lent to me by Berenice. So I've been playing with it, trying out some different stitches. My old workhorse machine, from mum, only does plain running stitch, so using Bea's Brother (?) is quite a step forward. Mindst you, coming to terms with the fiddly technology of 'lower bobbins'....what I refer to as the 'shuttle' with mum's machine! quite daunting. After trying to change the thread on the 'lower bobbin' and failing dramatically, I had to go and have a cuppa and some food. Upon my return, all went well!
I've been making some xmas decorations for a craft stall I'm having in early December.
Klee 'Clarification' 1932; Oil on canvas; 70.5 x 96.2
Another loan, from Helen, is the Paul Klee catalogue from the current Tate exhibition. I was struck by this painting, the way the marks are like stitches. Below is a close-up to show the effect more clearly. The image in the catalogue isn't as pink as shown above; I was photographing in less light than was appropriate. 
I'm not a massive Klee fan. But his story is a powerful one. His involvement with the Bauhaus, and leaving Germany as the Nazi's took power and changed the cultural agenda. He is part of world history, as well as art history. 
And the news has just told us that Doris Lessing has died.
Weird co-incidence; as I was in the loft clearing stuff away last week, I went through my boxes of books to get out my ancient copy of 'The Golden Notebook', thinking I'd like to re-read it. And Pauline lent me her copy of 'The Grass is Singing', which is on my pile to read. Again, a re-reading. And usually I'm not one who goes back to books these days, feeling that time isn't on my side to get through all the books I want to read! Exceptions are made, occasionally. And Lessing was an exceptional writer. Perhaps I'll open those pages tonight?

Saturday, 16 November 2013


 Some rainy weather brought jewels to my path. Diamonds on a fallen leaf. 
A couple of weeks ago, Pauline and I took Minnie, her friend's dog, a walk round the grounds of Nostell Priory. We tired all of us out, and finished with coffee and cakes in their caff. Round the edge of the lake we saw this tree....I saw a face (two faces actually! Kissing! In public!) only later when scrolling through the fotos on my fone.
We'd had some blustery winds earlier, and the leaves were starting to come off the trees. This copper collection, gathered in the water, set off against the green rushes.
And Evening Primrose! Still flowering in (then) October! Reminder of sun gone; and sun to return. Some day.
I don't know much about the growing season of Evening Primrose, so maybe they are usually found in flower in October? They seemed fragile to me, in that cold October daylight.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

sewing box


Saturday, 2 November 2013

compost dyeing; avocado

The whole piece of silk; wrapped around the stone of the avocado, then placed inside the 2 halves of the skin and tied, then popped into the compost bin this summer. 
 Detail of the piece of silk that was closest to the composting material.
Close up of the silk that was wrapped furthest inside the avocado skin. Who would've thought I'd get such lovely delicate shades of yellow! The silk is still wet, from the rinsing, and has dried a bit paler.  A lovely surprise. The summer has been very hot and sunny, so the compost has been particularly active. I think I'd like to fold and tie up some fabric, and place it into the compost just as it is, to see what patterns emerge. Will consider that for next summer.
Meantime; myself, brother-in-law and niece have been to St Helen's church to the service for All Soul's Day, in remembrance of those who have died. I called up at the cemetery after, to put some flowers on the grave where mum's ashes are. It's a wild and wuthering day; windy, wet, and cold. Winter is a-coming in.

Friday, 1 November 2013


'October it has gone and left me with a song'
Sandy Denny

A suitable ale, for the time of year.
Happy Samhain.
Too much of the magic brew, results in the effects below!

Sunday, 27 October 2013


Ivy growing up the ash tree in my garden. The flowers are an important food source for bees in the autumn.
The ash tree where said ivy grew. The ash tree that is gone. It had got way too tall, and I'm hopeless with heights, so couldn't get up a ladder to saw it back. So, very sadly, I had to get someone to come and take it down. I really hate chopping down trees! I've spent so many years planting trees; growing saplings from seeds. It breaks my heart to lose one. Especially when ash trees are now under threat from ash die-back. But; it was too big; and blocking out the light coming into my garden; so I had to take steps.
The bonus is for those of my friends who have stoves or open fires! They've been given a 'windfall' of ash logs. As ash wood burns green, and doesn't need drying before putting on the fire, I've been a very popular person! We've been raising glasses and toasting the ash tree; and they've been toasting themselves!
Sadly not home-grown produce; but gifts given from people at the textile group I go to. Buy pumpkin tomorrow for Hallowe'en. Seasonal produce; celebrating the season.
And we have gales forecast tonight and tomorrow. The wind's been blowing the leaves from the trees creating golden confetti. Me and Pauline took puppy Minnie out to Nostell Priory yesterday, and blew our cobwebs away.
I'm indoors now sweeping cobwebs away on ceilings and walls, as I decorate. The nearest I've got to using a paintbrush for months! I'm getting ready to hibernate; hunkering down in response to the diminishing light, and entering the darkness. Samhain on Thursday. Celtic new year; I'll be glad to see the back of this year; it's been a tough one. First, there's this darkness to travel through. One foot in front of another is my mantra.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

sliced slate

wall? bridge?
a line of slate slices, delineating space
The slices of slate create the boundary wall that encloses this garden. Undulating.
The garden is up near the council buildings in Wakefield. It was made for the Chelsea Flower Show (not this year) then subsequently re-created as part of the urban renewal of Wakefield and the surrounding District. The rusting metal question mark on the right, was, when installed at Chelsea, a sculpture by Barbara Hepworth, who was born in Wakefield.
 Some of the late greenery and poppies of this civic garden.

Sunday, 20 October 2013


Wakefield Cathedral has had a refurbishment.
Within the structure of the building is now a labyrinth set out on the floor, in stone. Two different colours, to mark the path. 
Of course churches and cathedrals have a long tradition of using labyrinths as part of their christian practice. Chartres, in France, is perhaps the most famous. 

 The view of the labyrinth in Wakefield Cathedral.

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