Sunday, 19 October 2014

Textile residency

I have just had the most incredible trip to Iceland for the North Atlantic Native Sheep and Wool Conference in Blonduos. It was  such an emotional experience meeting not only our wonderful Icelandic hosts but also delegates from all over the world. The standard of lectures was extremely high, much more on this to follow on later blogs. We also travelled over a large area of Iceland visiting to name but a few, the Istex wool factory, the Ullarselio wool centre in Hvanneyri where we were tempted with beautiful wools and jumpers plant dyed and hand spun by the ladies of the area who join together to sell their crafts and the most memorable part of all, the end of the round up of 15,000 sheep from the Highland summer pastures. Some pictures of the round up and the beautiful Icelandic sheep are below. Many thanks go to our hosts, Johanna and Palmi, the people, including the Mayor of Blonduos and our incredible guide, Olafur Dyrmundsson who knew every patch of land we travelled and all the people working it. The Conference next year will be in September in the Faroe Islands.
There are spaces for residencies at the fabulous textile centre in Blonduos. See the link below.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

stitched butterflies

I bought an Indian handmade light box from the wonderful Fair trade shop Shakti Man, a link to this later. It reminded me of the boxes used by butterfly collectors so I decided to make handstitched butterfly brooches to go in it. These were exhibited in my recent exhibition 2 Connect at the Hodgson loom Gallery. As 2 were sold I have replaced them with 2 new brooches to go in the upcoming show that starts on the 9th October at the Isle Gallery. The show is a joint one with 4 other very talented textile artists. These are all based on actual butterflies from around the world and are hand stitched with single thread cotton using a beading needle. The bodies are made from wrapped wool, they also have beaded eyes and metal thread antennae. As the stitching is done on calico and wire, the butterfly wings can be posed in different ways. The link for Shakti Man is

Monday, 28 July 2014

Lichen textiles

My exhibition held in conjunction with my very talented friend, Sheena Quayle, the other half of 2 Connect is now in its second week. I will give some details of a number of the works seen below.

These first two pictures are from a piece of work based on photographs I took of lichen and mosses on a tree. Most of the threads, braid and muslin are procion dyed The background is tyvek and tissue paper both painted with diluted acrylic inks. I then made layers which were integrated using hand stitching in both chunky and fine threads. My favourite stitches which I used were French knots, fly stitch and couching stitches. I wanted a sense of depth and also flowing and sinuous lines. It is surprising when studying the bark of trees that there are a great variety of colours and shades which can be quite startling on an old tree.
The 2 pictures above are based on photos of lichen and moss from a different tree. As in the other work the background was acrylic painted tyvek and tissue paper this time the tyvek was heated after painting to concentrate the colours and to give added texture as the tyvek warps when heated and forms interesting holes. Procion dyed muslin and threads were then applied, this time the stitching involved French knots, couching stitches and lazy daisy stitches.

Saturday, 26 July 2014


I am able to catch up on my blog at last as my exhibition with Sheena Quayle at the Hodgson loom Gallery is now open for the next two weeks. Pictures from that to follow in the next post.
I have been busy for the last month picking berries from my Forest Garden and have some new additions this year. The biggest crop has been summer fruiting raspberries which have been very well flavoured this year; the autumn fruiting raspberries will be ready in a couple of weeks. Sadly our strawberry crop has been a failure as I didn't renew the plants to replace the ones that have been hugely productive over the past 4 years. A job for next season.
The redcurrants mostly were eaten by 6 blackbirds but as my garden is mainly for wildlife I don't mind too much. The blackcurrants and gooseberries have done well though. My favourite berry is blackcurrant which I prefer to eat straight from the bush. As I made 50 pots of jam last year, thankfully, I don't have to make any this year so the fruit is going in the freezer to be used in the winter with yogurt for my breakfast. I  make a lovely desert by crushing digestive biscuits in a ramekin dish, cover them with my raspberry puree with a teaspoonful of whisky and then put Creme Fraiche on top....yummy.
I also grow loganberries which are now forming strong canes, Tayberries, Blueberries and Salmonberries, the latter unfortunately are taking over my garden.
The latest additions are Japanese Wineberries, a beautiful plant, pictured below and Balloon berries which grow on canes with nasty spikes and the berries are a strange black with white which gives the appearance of mould but isn't. My Nepalese raspberry plant grows rampantly over the ground but as it has been there for 4 years and produced no fruit I threatened to dig it out. The next day one flower appeared but no berry yet so it lives for another year!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Biological forms

I am about to put on another exhibition with the hugely talented Sheena Quayle under our exhibition name
2 Connect. I have been studying biological forms and Sheena has been looking at form and function.
Most of the work in this exhibition for my part has been hand stitched, my first love. I did sketches from my forest garden at the end of last year and used some of these as the basis of several pieces. I run a U3A herb group and several framed works are of herbs. I have used a wide variety of media with the stitching including watercolour pencils, paper, painted fabric and glass paints. It has been a great pleasure working for this exhibition and if anyone living on the Isle of Man would like to see it, the details are below along with a couple of pictures of my work that can be seen at the gallery.
I have also hand stitched butterflies which I hope to turn into brooches. I found a wonderful box, hand painted in India which is padded inside and has pins which I can use to display the butterflies in the manner of a collector. These will also be on display at the gallery.
On the right is a piece of work based on plantain with watercolour pencils, hand and machine stitch. Below is a photograph of lichen printed onto tissue paper and then machine and hand stitched.
Both of these pieces of work have since been sold.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Art Society exhibition

As usual, the isle of Man Art Society's Easter Exhibition was a hugely popular event with over 400 paintings for sale, none of them having been seen before. This year there was a trial run of a craft stall and there were prints available of some of the paintings. I exhibited 3 pictures, all of them sold. They were mixed media, photo transfer onto tissue paper and then hand stitched. The subject matter was my trip a few years ago to Marrakech. I had so many wonderful photos it was difficult to decide which to include.The 3 I chose are shown below. One is of a lantern shop in the Souk with a wonderful array of lamps in many shapes and sizes. Whenever I see them for sale at home it brings back immediate memories of Morocco. Another picture was of a shop that sold hand woven carpets, paintings and wonderful jewellery. I bought 2 silver bracelets there, one for myself and 1 for my daughter and my friend Jenny who I travelled with bought a carpet. The final piece of work was a fortunate spotting of a pot in a window down a small road in Marrakech, it just looked so perfect in it's setting that I wanted to do some embroidery on it.
All three woks have now been sold.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


The tomato plants that I started growing in the house were moved to the greenhouse 3 weeks ago to stop them becoming leggy. They are very healthy looking plants now, the first varieties I have sown are;
Black Krim, Black Russian, Manx Marvel (a local variety), Pink Thai Egg and Sweet 100. The latter 2 were very successful last year and I particularly liked the taste of the Pink Thai Egg. I have sown a lot of other varieties as with all my vegetables I prefer to grow heritage varieties. I do seed and plant swaps with other local growers and buy a lot of my seeds from the Real Seed company who encourage everyone to save seeds from the plants that you grow purchased from their catalogue.
All of what I call my cabbage lookalikes are in flower and attracting many insects. These plants are crosses from the cabbage family of which I grow walking stick kale, tree cabbage, couve tronchuda and regular cabbages and sprouts. There are many bumble bees, honey bees and the first of the ladybirds around the garden. The pond is bursting full of tadpoles and small froglets are hopping around the grass.
A very fine pheasant has decided that he owns our farmyard and is regularly seen strutting up and down it.
I have great pleasure in watching the jackdaws that nest every year in our pigeon holes at the top of the cowhouse. They keep picking up branches that to me are obviously too big to go through the entrance, some get dropped but others are deftly fed sideways into the nest area. Also there is quite a bit of thieving goes on when jackdaws steal nesting material from their neighbours who have flown away for a few minutes. They also take some of the wool I have drying prior to dyeing, I don't mind this but am always more vigilant when I have washed cashmere on the line.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Water Competition

The Hodgson Loom Gallery have just had their annual competition with a huge entry of 181 pieces of work in many media including; watercolour, acrylic, textiles, woodcarving, ceramics and classes for young people.This year I won 2 runner up prizes one in the textile category and another in the wallhanging category. A third piece of work was based on snowflakes. I painted a sheet of filter paper which would normally be used for filtering cooking oil in restaurants. I painted it with dye-na-flow ink in a lilac/purple colour.
I had purchased a large number of handspun fibres from the family of one of the founder members of the Isle of Man Spinners and  Weavers as the lady had recently died. The fibre I used for this project was exquisitely spun white silk. I made a template for each snowflake in another piece of filter paper and couched the spun fibre onto the template with fine hand stitches. Beads were sewn into the centre of each snowflake.The title of the finished work is Blizzard.
 The runner up of the textile category is shown below, 3rd one down on the left. This was called Rivers and Lakes of Slovenia and was inspired by a wonderful trip I had to that beautiful country last autumn, The base of the work was procion dyed viscose onto which I transferred photos using the bondaweb method. As quite a bit of the detail was lost during transfer I machine stitched into the pictures and produced a new abstract version of the scenes. They were then mounted in a frame with 7 spaces. The rivers and lakes in that country are an amazing green or mint blue due to the limestone dissolved in the water. The air there was incredibly pure and improved my asthma symptoms.
Also the local people who I met there were very passionate about their country which was spotless and they are investing hugely in ecotourism and extreme sports such as coasteering.
The wallhanging runner up is called the Sulby river and is shown below on the right. It is made from bonded lurex and organza with painted  and stitched tyvek patches then heavily machine stitched.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

forest gardening course

In September last year I went on a 3 day Forest Gardening course held by Martin Crawford at Dartington in Devon.
Martin is an extremely passionate and inspirational teacher so that the group of 25 who attended the course from various parts of the world came away ready to put many of the ideas into practice. The main demonstration garden is in the Dartington Estate, near Schumacher College and is a two and a half acre site. We also visited another of his projects which is a newly developing Forest Garden next to the polytunnels where he raises his plants for sale.
Martin trials out a huge number of plants that can be used for food, timber, dyes, nitrogen fixing and windbreaks to name but a few. This is an essential project for the world in these uncertain times of climate change. Martin provided extensive notes regarding planting, usage, preparation of your own site and many other things, too many to mention here. As we went around the garden we tasted leaves and seeds often from plants we had never heard of before including leaves from trees that can be used as salad ingredients.
We were also given 2 meals prepared by Martin's wife consisting of food from the Forest garden some of which were delicious jams and fruit leathers. It was wonderful meeting the other people on the course and finding out in which way they intended to use their new knowledge.

 Above, Martin in the Forest Garden.
for further details look up the Agroforestry research trust website below.