Sunday, 30 May 2010


Yesterday was a day of new acquaintances. Not only did I meet these two lovely ladies but I also met the two week old baby of one of my oldest friends and my four month old first cousin-once-removed!

I've been around chickens before and I've sketched them before but I've never really 'met' any before.

What's more, they were kind enough to provide us with some breakfast (the larger one is a double yolker)!

Current Listening:Nic Jones: Penguin Eggs

Thursday, 27 May 2010

weaving colour

Lately I've been looking at colours that represent a seasonal feel and I've found it useful to bring these colours together using salvaged magazine pages. I always keep pages that have particularly striking colour combinations but they tend to just sit in a box and not really get any further, until I use them for something like this...

I select the pages that fit the mood I'm after and tear strips off so that any image is broken up into fragments. Then I weave the strips together into a block of mixed tones and textures. I find it can make a good starting point to bring colours that have the right kind of feel together and from this I can pick out particular combinations that work.

This lot was spring.

From that I picked out key colours and mixed them in paint.

Then summer...

which developed further into striped forms

Winter stayed in stripes instead of the woven block of the previous ones.

What I like about these ready made collected colours is that they have textures and variation in them that you wouldn't get from a painted sheet of paper, so there is immediately another element in the mix. Sometimes this can complicate things but other times it helps to get a more subtle feel for a colour palette, particularly when it is going to be developed into textiles.

Autumn started like this

and ended up like this

Current listening: Noah and the Whale: The First Days of Spring

Wednesday, 26 May 2010


I handed my dissertation proposal in at college this week. This seems a little odd given that I've been thinking about, planning and researching this project for about a year. It isn't the first proposal I've written but it now has to be in for assessment and my ideas have developed since the first attempt I made.

Because I've done my degree part time so far I've been able to give some time during this relatively quiet year (I did all the practical part of stage 2 last year) to the dissertation, which forms part of stage 3's assessment.
So I'm getting ahead of myself in preparation for doing my final year full time starting in September.

All this thinking about and visiting gardens forms the background to looking at 'gardening as an outlet for creativity'. I will be visiting some gardens of artists and that is where the meat of it will be - looking at how artists use their gardens and how their artistic practice might influence their gardening.

Last week I visited the allotment of a friend and we had fun walking round looking at the different allotmenting styles and trying to figure out if there was a link between the way people approach gardening on their allotments and what they do as a day job.

There was definitely a bit of a male/female thing going on with 'the old boys' keeping very tight ships, everything in rows, not a weed in sight, highly organised and controlled.

Then there were the more experimental (usually younger plot owners) who were happy to mix it up a bit, allow a few self seeded things here and there.

Of course there was the wonderful resourcefulness of the allotment-er in evidence with things collected from where ever they were available and no longer needed and put to good use as supports or containers.
This lot was awaiting deployment, although some of the items seemed to have things growing in them already.

We noticed that some people approach their allotment as a whole garden, dividing it up in a 'designed' way and having sections that are definitely arranged to be aesthetically pleasing rather than it all being about maximising production.

One thing that was obvious is that allotments provide a lot of pleasure for their owners, as well as satisfaction and some lovely food!

Current listening: Benjamin Britten: A Ceremony of Carols - not exactly seasonal but lovely all the same.

Blue phase

There has been a decidedly blue theme to this week. This started with the annual family bluebell pilgrimage at the weekend. They were just starting to go over, but still breathtakingly beautiful and filling the air with their scent.

The garden is also entering a blue and purple phase.

The striking red and yellow tulips are now over but their contorted drying petals are still sumptuous in colour even if it has changed with their decay.

Alliums are just opening like slow motion fireworks in the front and back gardens. Just like I watched my tulips opening in detail, I've been watching the alliums going through this process:

Small blue irises are just poised to burst open and the ceanothus' buds are edging ever more blue every day as they prepare to open.

Current listening: Fyfe Dangerfield: Fly Yellow Moon (to counteract some of the blues)

Monday, 17 May 2010


I did some weaving today and it was just what I needed. Finally it was warm enough to work with the door open to the garden so the plant smells and breeze could waft in.

I'm thinking of summer colours and warm days... A little optimistic perhaps, but a little optimism is surely always a good thing?

I'm weaving small samples which I will separate and I intend to play about with them as blocks of colour and see how they work in relation to each other.

This will build on some of my paper and paint thinking.

They're a bit like little rag rugs as I've used torn strips of silk for much of the weft. Lots of these fabrics have such depth to them as they're 'shot', using different colours for warp and weft.

Afternoon weaving listening: Simon and Garfunkel: Best of.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Alice in Wonderland

I've been thinking about the gardens that I visited last week. The one that occupies my thoughts most right now is Hidcote in Gloucestershire.You approach this garden, that sits on the edge of the rolling costwolds, along country roads and through small villages. The nearby town of Chipping Campden is an absolute delight, with its warm honey coloured stone buildings and interesting looking shops. My Mum lived there when she had her first job and it is a place that is mentioned with affection in my experience.

The garden is considered one of England's greatest but was created by an American, Major Lawrence Johnstone, in the Arts and Crafts style with a whole series of garden 'rooms' each designed to have their own particular atmosphere.

Seeing the garden at this time of year when everything is growing and producing fresh new leaves is a very different experience to seeing it at the height of summer when colour will be everywhere and there will be an exuberance to so much of the planting. What you see now is actually how the structure of it all works and how complex the texture of the planting is.

A bed like this will be a riot of colour later in the season but now, if you look closely, is actually a riot of textures, leaf shapes, form and structure. It really is like a tapestry of plants.

This green phase is so much more subtle than what is to come but just as exciting.

Each space in this garden has been thought through in such an imaginative way and you really feel manipulated by it. There are parts that feel dark and sinister (the yew obelisks in the first picture are positioned so close that they really feel claustrophobic and threatening); there are parts that feel light and airy and magical; there are parts that are invigorating and parts that are calming; there are changes of scale that really do make you feel like you could have tasted from Alice's little bottle or nibbled at her little cake.

It really is a roller coaster of emotions!

Of course at this time of year with things still emerging there is so much exquisite detail, not least the new fern fronds. There was a feast of these at one of the other gardens I visited on this trip (but that can wait for another time) but here the perfect unfurling spirals sat so beautifully next to these dark brooding tulips.

And of course the place is full of vistas and views that lead you on around the place and give you glimpses through from one space to another. Some of these are really quite formal but I like some of the more subtle views.

And this brings me to a view of my tulips from my studio window...

Current listening: Elgar, The Dream of Gerontius (which I'm singing tomorrow evening in Leeds Town Hall)

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

From behind

Why is it that things often look more interesting from behind?!

Or perhaps from the front but at a different angle...

And isn't it amazing what a difference the lighting makes? These photos were taken within a few metres of each other but some in natural light outside (they greyer ones) and the others in (good) artificial light inside my studio, which gives a pinky light to everything. You learn so much photographing your work!