Friday, 30 April 2010


It suddenly feels so very like April (even though it will be May tomorrow!). The garden seems to be relaxing into itself, with plants expanding by the day and all looking so strong and confident, not least the tulips. There has been such a change between the beginning of the month and now.

I'm reading The Secret Garden with my daughter. I'm ashamed to say I'd never read it before, but seeing as I'm researching gardens for my dissertation it seemed a fitting time to get round to it.

In the section we read last night there was a little passage that just summed up what was going on outside perfectly. When asked what spring was like Mary says:

"It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine, and things pushing up and working under the earth"

The damson blossom that I mentiond last time is now so full on the little tree that the branches are encrusted with flowers and the rest of the garden has a delicate sprinkling of white confetti. It's certainly never been as laden as this before. The two white swathes I mentioned have now been joined by the blossom on Joe's pear tree, finally out properly (this was taken a couple of days ago).

I have done a little weaving this week, which was such a relief after all the reading and non-tactile work I've been concentrating on. I'm still on the orange warp. I was trying to play with the different greens and greys (there are a lot of grey/greens and green/greys) that are in the garden right now it so it was interesting to put these together with the orange and see how they react with each other.

I do find greens a challenge - there are just so many! To be honest I try to avoid using green because whenever I do it seems such a tricky balancing act that I've tended to shy away from it. I did have to use greens in 15 Images as the colour palette I worked with was presented to me as part of the brief. I did manage to bring some variation in by using different shades of the specific types of green, in different threads and print materials. Of course just using different fibres that have been dyed at the same time in the same vat present different shades and qualities, so I tried to incorporate this.

For the first performance last August at Farfield Mill, Cumbria we used a plasma screen for the animated digital images and there were problems with some of the colours appearing differently to how I had seen them on my computer screen, particularly the greens. The performance on 10th May in Bradford will see my images projected onto a white wall, so we'll have to see how they work using that method...By the way, the event is listed in Embroidery magazine this month in the What's On section, which is great. The only problem is that it is listed as a free event and due to some slight changes to the arrangements with the University there is a small charge for tickets. If you'd like to come then I recommend booking a ticket as seats will be limited.

This post was going to be about tulips, but they'll have to wait for another time now...

Current listening: The Punchbowl, Seth Lakeman

Friday, 23 April 2010

Nothing much to show...

I've been busy reading, researching and writing so have nothing practical to show for the last couple of weeks...

Things in the garden carry on regardless though and there was a point a few days ago when everything was very still, waiting almost. Then we had a night and morning of rain and it seemed the next day that it was this that it was all waiting for because everything seemed to suddenly relax and fill out and grow into the space around it.

There is a dominant white swathe across the garden at the moment, formed by the fragrant clematis armandii, which spreads from by the gate, across the side of the garage, into the ceonothus and beyond.

This is then continued on the other side of the garden by the white damson blossom and then similar blossom on next door's tree (which is something similar to a damson but we've never quite worked out exactly what).

On my round of inspection the other day I noticed that the tiny flowers on the gooseberry bush have little swellings at their bases with promise of fruit!

As well as beavering away at my essay for college this week I did attend a meeting at Bradford University about the forthcoming performance of 15 Images on 10th May, which will include the projection of my textile based digital images alongside the live performance of the music, as well as my actual textile images being on display at Gallery II for the evening.

This collaborative piece was premièred last August at Farfield Mill, Cumbria and it is exciting that it is soon to receive its second performance on my home turf. Later in the year it will go to Dartington in Devon in connection with tapestry weaver Jilly Edward's exhibition Sense of Place at High Cross House.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Putting things off...

I'm procrastinating. I have an essay to write, but the sun is shining and the birds are singing and there are musical sounds from two cellos coming from the dining room.

A little spring clean on the verandah to clear away the detritus that collects over winter might enable me to work here (this exact spot at my parent's home is one of my very most favourite places to be on a sunny day) whilst also giving a little interaction to the small people in my life who are pottering between house and garden (when not making music sounds in the dining room).

Leaves swept, tiles scrubbed, table wiped, chair re-positioned...

...but of course I sit down, space prepared, books and papers gathered... and its just as difficult to get started.

Current listening:
The First Year Violoncello Method, Lesson 5

Saturday, 17 April 2010

more squares...

This time squares of industrial felt with print and stitch. I've just been to see Dionne Swift's exhibition 'Felt Ground Series' at the Ropewalk Gallery in Barton-upon-Humber. I'd seen this work before at the Knit and Stitch Show in Harrogate last November and it made a big impression on me then, so I was keen to see it again. This time it had the space of a good sized gallery room which was empty of other people for most of the time I was there. In Harrogate it was in a smaller exhibition space crammed into the large hall with all sorts of other textile exhibits and a whole load of people, so this time there was the space and peace to take it all in much better.

This work is simple and complex at the same time. It is calm and un-cluttered and is framed without fuss or not framed at all, but it combines a range of different processes and there are layers of detail that you notice slowly. The colour palette is limited but the range of textures involved is wide, with the different textures of the collagraphs superimposed onto a substantial, heavily textured and three dimensional base. I find the pieces quietly beautiful, particularly the series of small square felt based pieces. I also find them exciting because of the particular mix of textile and printmaking processes - something I'm keen to explore myself.

The Ropewalk (a long low red brick building which sits well in this north Lincolnshire landscape just next to the Humber Estuary) has a small sculpture garden, which today was full of spring sunshine. It also has a very nice cafe!

We walked along the path from the Ropewalk building that leads to the bank of the Humber Estuary with a view of the Humber Bridge. The tide was low with exposed mud flats leading down to where the mud-coloured water flowed slowly. Boats sat on the mud of a small estuarine tributary, waiting. Last year's bleached phragmites reeds glowed a pale gold in the late afternoon sun and water-formed ruts and runnels in the wet mud glinted, reflective. A group of five small waders padded about, feeding in the mud, leaving trails of footprints, lines of script.

Plants poked stiffly out of the mud like Dionne's loose threads poking stiffly out of the felt; shadows in the uneven mud made patterns like the inked prints we'd just seen.

Driving yesterday along the lanes of North East Lincolnshire I stopped to photograph the blackthorn flowers and unfurling hawthorn leaves.

The branches of this blackthorn were lined with white beads, ready to burst open...

Current listening: Moment musicaux, Schubert.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

A few days away

I spent the Easter weekend in the heart of the Mendips, North Somerset. This is where I have spent almost every Easter of my life, surrounded by one big family of all ages (some actually related and many not). I associate this place entirely with this time of year, although of course the degree to which the daffodils are out or the blackthorn is in flower depends on where Easter falls. This year the blackthorn was more and more in evidence as we made our way south and on the way back, after a couple of days of sunshine, it was out even more, looking like the hedges had been brushed with cream. And the verges were speckled with primroses.

Of course there was an Easter egg hunt...

...and there was lots of music, including three generations of my family
playing together with others and my daughter's first orchestral experience!

On our way home on Tuesday we stopped at Moseley Old Hall, near Wolverhampton, a beautiful Elizabethan house owned by the National Trust with a reconstructed 17th century garden, complete with knot garden, nut walk and arbour.

We've often stopped here for a picnic on our way back north after Easter as it is conveniently placed about half way home. Because of the way Eater shifts it means that the garden is in slightly different stages each time we come. Looking back through my photos I see we were here in 2004 with the tulips well out and fruit trees heavy with blossom. This week's visit seems timely though as I've been reading a lot recently about garden history, including the development of garden style around this period and how it changed through subsequent centuries.

Once of my strongest memories of this place is how the nut walk is carpeted with spring flowers and in particular with snakes head fritillarys. We were too early for them this week, or so I thought until I found one just beginning to unfurl.

As we walked round the garden we kept coming across a peacock and disturbing it from settling amongst the flowers of which ever bit of the garden he was in - quite an exotic mix: peacock with daffodils.

Although we'd only been away for a few days it seemed like everything in the garden at home had grown at least four inches.
The view out of the back of the house is dominated by a bright yellow forsythia, which brightens up even the dullest of days.

Thankfully the last couple of days have been sunny and mild and as I write this I have the glow of someone who has spent all day outside
and the slightly aching body of someone who has been digging out unwanted shrubs!

A walk in the woods yesterday revealed still wintery looking trees, but some really beautiful pink sycamore buds and pussy willows bursting with that same vibrant yellow as the forsythia.

Current listening: Bach's St John Passion

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Big stitches

The other day I went to a session at college on scaled up stitches. We had some large tapestry frames to stretch fabric onto so as not to be restricted by the confines of an embroidery hoop. I used a wooden frame that had originally been part of a kitchen cabinet and it did the job admirably!

The idea was to experiment with stitches that we were used to using on a small scale and see what happened when you scaled them up. We were also encouraged to use thick threads, ribbon, strips of fabric etc., basically anything that could cope with the fairly open weave of the loom-state cotton we were using and as large a needle as we could get hold of.
It was certainly quite liberating to just experiment and let the thick thread draw. Using patterned fabric in strips gave some interesting results but I particularly enjoyed layering up different stitches and different weights of 'thread'.

This weekend was beautifully sunny, mild and spring-like. I spent an afternoon spreading the contents of the compost heap that had been rotting down for a year onto the garden - wonderful stuff! The garden was left with this dark blanket pulled cosily up round the emerging leaves. Neat and tidy is not a state I tend to seek in my garden - it is at its best when slightly out of control - but there is something pleasing about this clear space that is full of anticipation of what is to come.

These tulip leaves are emerging like hand-crafted origami sculptures

This morning there was bright sunlight shining onto wet branches, giving them a coating of brightest silver. It also shone through fresh leaves and onto fine raindrops, setting them alight.

Our window sills are sprouting with all sorts of exciting things.

There are daily changes and, in some cases, hourly!

I haven't been in my studio much this week but I did snatch a few minutes at my loom. I'm having an orange phase and have been enjoying putting different shades together but also including other colours subtly in amongst the orange.

Current listening: Rufus Wainright by Rufus Wainright