Wednesday, 30 March 2011

workshop prep

I'm doing some final preparation for a workshop I've been asked to lead at the weekend in Cambridgeshire. It's the first time I've done anything like this so I'm a little nervous. I'm sure preparation is the key and it's been difficult to shoe-horn it in with everything else I have to do at the moment but hopefully it'll be all the better for it. I'll let you know how it goes...

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Too far away

I would so like to go to this.

to the lighthouse (again)

Spurn point in East Yorkshire isn't an island, but in a way it feels like it is. Standing at the top of the old lighthouse that is almost at the tip of this long spit of land there was sea almost all around.

The last lighthouse I wrote about was on the south coast and the Woolf reference was tied up with the other places I visited on that trip: visiting gardens to feed into my dissertation research. The dissertation is nearly completed and, although I'm now really consumed with my studio work and the final push of this degree, my mind is also on what may come next.

Growing up on the North Lincolnshire Coast, south of the Humber, the view across the estuary to Spurn point on the north bank was a familiar one. This week I got that view in reverse, looking across the water from Spurn to the south bank, complete with its landmark: Grimsby Dock Tower (OK, not the most spectacular landmark in the world, but one that is tied up with my past, and in this flat landscape anything tall can be seen from a long way away). I have visited Spurn before and certainly did during my time working for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, who own and manage the reserve, but I don't know it well and I'm intrigued by this strange landscape.

I was lucky enough to visit on a beautiful spring day with bright sunshine and blue skies and had the most magnificent views as a result. The tide was down, in fact about as low as it ever gets, so there was a whole network of sand bars and channels exposed right the way round the sweep of the spit.

Most people don't get the view from the top of the lighthouse and so I felt doubly lucky to have this privilege and on such a gorgeous day. From this vantage point, looking back up the spit of sands and marram grass...

and down to the point, where the life boat station is...

you realise just how narrow the land is here. And it is constantly shifting. A little way back up the coast from the reserve I was reminded of the constant change by this:

The road stops precariously, broken off above the beach, and these static caravans perch in the same way, waiting for the next bit to crumble into the sea.

I hope to get to know this part of the world better, but in the mean time I have rather a lot of stitching to do...

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

duet performance

For anyone within easy reach of Plymouth on Tuesday 5th April there will be a performance of a new duet version (for jazz piano and trombone) of Fifteen Images at Plymouth Art gallery. Details here and here. This afternoon performance will take place following a lunchtime lecture by curator Helen Carnac in which she will discuss some of the ideas behind the Taking Time exhibition, to which Fifteen Images is currently linked at Plymouth.

This will be the first performance of the duet version and will feature Matt Robinson and Kieran McLeod, both of the Royal Academy of Music. Sadly I won't be able to be there but if any readers do make it I'd be interested to hear what you think...

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Harlow Carr

Yesterday at Harlow Carr Gardens it seemed that everything was waiting for something to happen, poised, ready. The whole place was neat and tidy, cleared of all the winter debris; fresh soil in bare and empty beds; bare stems with bobbles of buds just waiting to burst open. The flowers that were out were all small and low, but shouting loud with bright colours.

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Saturday, 19 March 2011

impressions of stitch

With the bright sunshine we had yesterday I finally managed to get some decent photos of some of my embossing experiments using stitch. What I love about them is the fact that the impression isn't just of the stitch that was on the printing surface of the collagraph (in this case fabric with stitch and, shown below, cardboard that had been stitched into) but also of the thread that was on the back, so there is this multi-layered impression of a continuous thread.

I've been stitching into and printing onto my felt

I've tried out a variety of stitches, partly to explore what stitches might best interpret my mark making experiments from earlier in the project but also to get to know the felt. It is an absolute joy to stitch into! I love its solidity but also the subtle ridges you can get with this kind of repetitive stitching so that when you run your fingers over it there is a change in contour. A combination of the pushed in, embossed element and the raised up is what I'm trying to play with here: things going in and things coming out.

It's always worth a look at the back as sometimes it's more interesting than the front!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

spring in the east

Yesterday I went east a for a couple of hours on the train and, despite the gloom and mist all the way, found that spring on the east coast is definitely a week or so ahead of here. This effect is usually evident going south but I don't remember noticing it as markedly going east before. I guess it has more to do with the milder coast rather than the direction I travelled in ... anyway, in my parent's garden there was some lovely cherry blossom; the daffodils were opening, unlike the tight buds I have in my garden; and I found some nettles pushing confidently through. I gathered a carrier bag full to bring home for dyeing, something I've been waiting to do for a while, eager to find a nice green.

However, I must be doing something wrong. Instead of a green I got a rather boring pale brown. What am I doing wrong? Am I heating them too much? I poured on boiling water from the kettle and then simmered/steeped very gently for an hour before removing the wilted leaves and adding my fabric. Perhaps it is because I left bits of stalk in there - should it really be just the leaves? Do I need to tear the leaves up more? Advice please!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

writing and stitching

I've done quite a bit of planning and writing this week. The second draft of my dissertation is due in soon so I gave some necessary time early in the week to completing the sections still not written. I wrote my introduction and most of chapter 3. It feels like the end is in sight now!

We had a really interesting and useful talk from Clare Lane on Wednesday. It means so much more hearing directly from someone else's experience than being told the theory of the steps you might take after you finish a BA. Clare is currently artist in residence at Bradford College through the AA2A scheme and it is fascinating to see her working in the print room and experimenting with the digital printer, pushing the boundaries of how it can be used.

I spent most of Thursday stitching and planning various different stitch-based samples. It was good to have a hands-on day after a few days of computers and writing.

Yesterday I collected an order of felt from an industrial felt manufacturer in Dewsbury. After my felt deliberations (see previous posts) I decided to go for their product as it really is right for what I'm trying to achieve. The wool is from New Zealand (not British wool as I'd originally hoped to use) and the felt has a really smooth surface and solid structure.

Current listening: The Decemberists (in my head having heard them live last night)

sketchbooks on show

Some of my sketchbooks from last semester are featured in this current exhibition at the Yorkshire Craft Centre:

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


These are the results of the clamped paper and silk folded bundles that I dyed with onion skins last week.

Monday, 7 March 2011

green trail

Have a look here for some images of a little natural dyeing project I was involved in last autumn.

Friday, 4 March 2011

this week I:

made some changes to my space at college - down came the inspiration images and references, up went fabric samples and print experiments;

did some dyeing with onion skins on folded paper and silk - shown here clamped ready to dye;

learnt to do Canadian smocking - my first attempt came out a bit wonky but I now understand how it works;

(I prefer it from the back actually)

did some printing and folding

and quite a bit of thinking!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011


“I was scrubbing the stone flags of the larder, on my hands and knees, weighed down by this sense of pursuit; I felt that circumstances were robbing me of my identity, so precarious still, as poet, or as whatever it was I hoped to become. Suddenly, as with the shifting of a gestalt, I realised that I was the same person whether scrubbing a floor or writing a poem; that my dignity as a being was in no way dependent upon the role which I had at any moment to assume; for all such roles are merely that, and the person free of them all.”

Kathleen Raine, The Land Unknown

(In: Autobiographies,1991: p194)