A Barn Covered in Fleece

While we were on holiday last week we noticed yellow signs around for the C Art Open Studios happening in September so we paid a visit to an installation near Ashness Bridge to look at the work of a couple of young artists – one who had covered a stone barn in fleece and one who had filled it with animal skulls and feathers… well what’s not to like about that!!

Barn Covered in Sheep Fleece

Barn Covered in Sheep Fleece with wool balls – Annabel Lewis



We hummed and aahed about buying one of Natalie Williamson’s skull sculptures but in the end I settled for a pendant made from old copper jewellery and mouse skulls!

There were also a number of woolly balls scattered around the area and we clambered around the hills looking at them…This is me sitting on Ashness Bridge with one of them…DSCF8168

No wonder I look so happy with such a beautiful view to look at…and in the sunshine too!


The Open Studios are on until 28th September 2014.

Learning to Layer

I’ve been working on my hydrangea embroidery quietly – mostly in my lunch breaks at work. Trying to decide how to draw / paint in stitch I’ve been experimenting with layering simple stitches. The first layer of small running stitches was inspired by looking at the amazing Japanese cloths in the recent Boro exhibition at Somerset House.


On top of that I’ve put single strands of purple and French knots. It seems to be working rather well even if I am making it up as I go along!!


Ps I can’t believe it’s only a week since I got back from Portugal ….. Seems like a world away…..

The Soul and Essence of Embroidery…

Small bag by May Morris in William Morris Gallery

Small bag by May Morris in William Morris Gallery

I went to the William Morris Gallery in Wathamstow recently for an exhibition by Nicola Jarvis called ‘The Art of Embroidery’ – works on paper and textiles created in dialogue with the techniques and ideas championed by William Morris’s daughter, May Morris.  I have to say that my favourite bits of the exhibition were the designs and embroidery by May Morris exhibited alongside the modern work. There seems to be limited information out there about her – perhaps I am just looking in the wrong places – but from what I can find it seems that she was a worthy successor to her father, as Director of the Morris embroidery department, with her own work which has an amazing degree of skill and delicacy of shading, and in her promotion of women’s craft work with the founding of the Women’s Guild of Arts in 1907 (as the Art Workers Guild did not admit women.)  I particularly liked this quote:

‘While inferior work can be tolerated for the sake of the design, if that is good….excellent work on a worthless design must be cast aside as labour lost; so that, you see, design is the very soul and essence of beautiful embroidery.’
May Morris 1893
I still have a lot to learn but I am really interested in how to create a design in stitch, so maybe even someone as slapdash as me can become an interesting embroiderer…..!

Edinburgh, Paris, Amsterdam and back again….

I have been away and, while that is no excuse for my lack of blog posts, that is my excuse for my lack of blog posts!  Also when I am tired / busy the written word seems to desert me and even my personal journal of 30 plus years stays mostly silent…

So to recap – earlier in October we went for a very relaxing short break to Edinburgh, because we love it and particularly to see the Peter Doig exhibition No Foreign Lands at the National Galleries of Scotland. His work has a great textural use of paint which made me think about the possibilities of layered / veiled embroideries. Watch this space….. 

At the Musee d'Orsay

At the Musee d’Orsay

And then mid October the Scotsman and I took to Eurostar for a longer holiday. In Paris we stayed at a small hotel near the Stalingrad Metro which backed onto a big canal basin – a really interesting area, with two cinemas one on either side of the canal, people walking their dogs, playing Petanque and learning to walk the tightrope!  We finally visited the Musee d’Orsay (they were on strike last time we tried), and went to the cinema (‘La Belle et La Bete’ in French), the Theatre (a three man Othello in English, by a Dutch Company with French surtitles!) and the Museum of Modern Art where we saw an exhibition about artists creating tapestries and carpets. My favourite was a ‘sheep’ carpet ‘Les Moutons’ by Francois-Xavier Lalanne, but as we weren’t allowed to take photos and there was no brochure or postcards showing it that’s the most I can tell you.  There is a picture of a similar work here 

Flying Dutchmen in the butterfly house

Flying Dutchmen in the butterfly house

Then we went on by train to Amsterdam and to stay in an Air bnb apartment. Our absent ‘host’ Anya had left us lots of useful information, but apart from a visit to the Van Gogh museum we mostly chilled out and wandered around pointing and going ‘Ooh’.  The sun shone on my birthday and we visited the Plantage which is a lovely quiet area of Amsterdam just behind where we were staying.  We sat outside and had mint tea and cake at the Botanical Gardens and looked at the plants and the butterfly house.

And now here we are back in London….


Earlier this month the Scotsman and I went to Edinburgh for a bit of a holiday – also to see two plays and visit his family in Wishaw.

I have often been heard to say that I think Edinburgh is the most beautiful city Great Britain, and with the sun out to greet us and lovely things to do, see and buy my opinion hasn’t changed. I had a relaxing spa visit at The Balmoral and besides the two plays (‘Time and Conways’ in Edinburgh and ‘Taking Over the Asylum’ at the Cits in Glasgow) we saw three art  exhibitions and I finally bought several very beautiful things from Ragamuffin… a shop I have looked at with great longing many times before.

National Gallery of Scotland


And here is an Anthony Gormley – outside the National Gallery of Scotland.



William Morris Gallery

A couple of weeks ago the Scotsman and I paid a visit to the newly refurbished William Morris Gallery with some friends. 

I’ve lived in the vicinity of Walthamstow for the past twenty-five years and never gone there before, but was inspired to go by seeing some of the tapestries and embroideries currently on show in the Tate’s Pre Raphaelite Exhibition

I wish there had been a bit more about the textile work although it was interesting to read about their remarkably modern ideas when it came to marketing their goods.  For instance you could buy a handmade embroidery from their workshop or if you couldn’t afford that you could buy the ‘kit’ and embroider it yourself. 

Anyway, the combination of both exhibtions has left me wanting to find out more about May Morris (William’s daughter) who seems to have taken after her father both in an artistic and political sense….

I particularly liked this William Morris quote:  “If a chap can’t compose an epic poem while he’s weaving a tapestry, he had better shut up, he’ll never do any good at all.”  Top bloke!!

Style Africa

On the 8th September the Scotsman and I visited Birmingham to see ‘Forests’ at the Rep Theatre.  We also paid a flying visit to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and saw an exhibition called Style Africa – A Journey through the textiles of West Africa..

A room full of fascinating African Textiles, mostly from Ghana, many handprinted.  I loved the use of figurative objects to form pattern – see the flying laptops and discs or the strange tree stumps in the photos.  Also a form of resist printing using cassava flour paste in the way a batik would  use wax – an example of using what you have to hand – to make the beautiful blue cloth with intricate patterning.

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