Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The Way Home

I've been quite disorientated during the last couple of weeks.  After a wonderful trip back to the UK during which I had an enjoyable time exhibiting at the NEC, I was thrust back into American life with quite a jolt.  One minute I was sipping a cup of Earl Grey in the sunshine, the next it was a tall soya latte in Starbucks looking out at the misty rain of Seattle.  I don't normally create pictorial work but this little piece came from the heart, a mixture of nostalgia and memories of home....

And so I find myself packing again, this time a trip back to the UK for an exhibition at the RBSA Birmingham and then onward to visit my beautiful daughter in Turkey.  With family now scattered across the world, I find I'm contemplating more and more the notion of 'home'.  Is it a fixed location?  Where do I consider 'home' to be right now?  Can I make a new 'home'?  Is 'the way home' a physical path to be followed or a spiritual one? 

So many difficult questions!  And I thought I was just making art!  For now I'll concentrate on packing my bags & leave the philosophical thinking for the 9 hour flight home! 

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Take a breath!

This piece is finally finished...

...I am so happy to finally be able to put down my needle!  I'm only giving a sneak viewing of the hanging as it is destined for a special exhibition back in the UK in May so I'd like to keep it under wraps until then.  The piece has taken so much of my time & energy, it is heavily hand stitched and every time I thought I had finished, my needle would say 'just a few more little stitches here!'  Some pieces just have a life of their own though & more and more I feel like I'm just the conduit for some creative force which is using my poor tired hands to do its work!  I'm sure I've actually worn down my middle finger since a thimble which fitted quite snuggly when I started this work now annoyingly drops off all the time!

So, it had its final light rubbing with a Markal this morning & has now joined the 'done' pile in my workroom - very satisfying.  I've optimistically called it 'Sunset over the Lake I' which of course hints at at least a second companion piece.  We'll have to see if that creative force strikes again! 


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

This week's love.....

This week's love is the exquisite work of artist Huguette Caland. 

Silent Memories by Huguette Caland

Influenced by textiles, Caland produces intricate drawings using paint and marker pens building up layers of colour and pattern. This little video of her preparing for a large exhibition in 2009 is a gem & I love that even well established, successful artists  still have doubts about their work; Caland declares 'I feel like demolishing everything!'  I think we all feel that at times!

Isn't is wonderful that her house is filled with not only her own art but that of all her friends?  You just know that her life has been filled with love and joy.  I'm going to make a point in 2012 to buy a few pieces made by my lovely art friends.  You can see more of Caland's work on her website http://huguettecaland.tumblr.com/ 

I for one will be rushing out to buy some marker pens!!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Tools of my Trade....

....vintage linens, foraged flowers & plants, a good stick for stirring, vintage threads.  These are the tools of my trade.

I've been doing so much hand stitch today that I've aggravated an old tendon injury so I'm taking a break to snap some pretty pictures for my website which is way overdue an update.  I also need to get some new business cards printed for an upcoming show back in the UK at the end of March.  I really don't enjoy all this marketing stuff so I have to force myself to keep on task, hopefully there will be at least one decent image I can use.

The eucalyptus is from a bunch of flowers given to me by my husband - very unexpected!  I couldn't help popping them into a dye pot today with a scrap of silk so the kitchen has been filled all afternoon with its heavy, heady scent - very healing. 

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Sunset over the lake

Sunsets over Lake Washington are ablaze with colour,  the sky is on fire whilst the water turns into an inky, indigo dye bath with flecks of violet and gold dust.  We live across the Lake from Seattle so as the night deepens we watch the city magically transform into a  twinkling outline as if every building has been draped with fairy lights.  

Trying to create art which even approaches this natural beauty is impossible but the view has inspired me to work in a deeper, more vibrant colour palette than my usual.  I think indigo dye would be perfect for the lake colours but I'm more than a little scared by the indigo process and with exhibition deadlines looming I don't have time for experimentation, so I've used logwood combined with iron and tannin modifiers to give deeper hues.

 The piece is still on the work table, it still has alot of handstitching to add but I like the vivid contrast of the onion dyed silk against the logwood.

This is probably going to be the first of a series of  'Sunset over the Lake' pieces, a good excuse to sit by the Lake with my camera and sketchbook!

Monday, 30 January 2012


I'm sure all creatives are secret collectors - hoarders of curios, interesting textures, found objects which inspire, ignite the imagination and ensure every drawer of the house is stuffed to its brim!  I'm no different.  It is a family joke that when we go out for a walk, Mom returns with pockets bulging full of driftwood, sea glass, rusty metal, smelly crab claws, good sticks.  My favourite place to forage at the moment is Richmond Beach .....

It's always windy here & I think this is why so many treasures wash ashore. We've found entire trees here along with  huge pieces of metal, delicate glass softened by the sea and buckets of crabs' legs, shells and glistening stones. 

It's a really inspiring place for me, I love the wildness of the sea and the randomness of its offerings - such a contrast to urban America where everything is controlled, pruned and pampered.

I always catalogue my 'finds' in a field notebook, adding sketches & photos and I now have over a year's worth of records of my walks with details of found objects.  For some time now I've held an idea in my mind about making some kind of   'foraging' or 'collecting' bags or vessels.  I've struggled to work the idea through, sometimes my skills just don't match the beauty in my head!  But I have in my imagination a whole wall filled with these small bags/vessels, a visual map of my walks, each one plotting a certain point in time, each as beautiful and unique as the objects found.

I started by doing some research into antique 'pockets' at the V&A and the Bath Costume museum where I found hundreds of ideas, these are some of my favourites...

I love the simplicity of the pocket design but I tried different variations of the shape, I'm influenced by this research but I don't want to just copy the bags.  My first attempts were too 'busy' so I'm trying to simplify the embellishment and make it more abstract, here's a glimpse ...

The bags are made from recycled fabrics as is all my work, hand dyed using natural materials found mostly on my walks so that's quite fitting I think.  They have actually turned out quite different to how I expected, sometimes as an artist you are just a channel for an idea and it manifests itself in its own way!  I'm making 10 to start with, for a show in March and then maybe more depending on the reaction to them!  They are not at all practical but I think they could each be framed as a work of art & I'm thinking of simplifying the idea to produce a range of functional bags.  Check in soon to see my progress!


Friday, 27 January 2012


Way back when I was a student one of my lecturers told me that if I wanted to make beautiful things then I had to ensure I made the effort to go out and see beautiful things.  I thought about this piece of advice when I recently visited the Luminous exhibition at Seattle Art Museum, a beautiful show of Asian artefacts from the art collection some of which had been brought out of storage for this occasion.  It was a visual feast, I fell in love with the painted silk screens - this one below was a focal point of the exhibition ....

It looks so contemporary with the black crows flying out of the luminous gold background.  The absolute highlight however was this silk gate installation created especially for this exhibition, featuring animations of various motifs taken from some of the exhibited artefacts.

Stunning!  Of course I now want to do some film making of my own!  The exhibition sparked off so many ideas that I fully understand why it's so important as an artist to continually seek out new inspiration & to see things 'in the flesh', not just in a book or on a screen.  There's a Gauguin exhibition starting in February & I'm really looking forward to visiting and hoping I'll be inspired by his use of colour.

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