Wednesday, 4 September 2019

garden pleasures

Just a few things in our garden which we're enjoying just now

beautiful flowers catching light , life and moisture

fluttering garden visitors evening and morning

and of course, the pond and its inhabitants including an ancient gnome

not frog


and happy darting fish

I am enjoying the approach of Autumn, my favourite time of year I think

Thursday, 29 August 2019


Follow me now down the Diyala river, past Tell Asmar, those twelve little souls, hidden away in the dark for millennia, their eyes gazing beseechingly in the house of their God

Past the fields where grows the grain to feed those gods

To the point where the Diyala melds with the Tigris, and it and the Euphrates come their closest on their way to the alluvial plains where civilisation found wings

Monday, 26 August 2019

Cooking cloth

In complete contrast to the previous post,

a little pot of gnarly bits,

a little tub of things from the garden

an old aluminium saucepan and some copper pipe, wrapped in cloth

Yes I'm having another try with eco printing/dyeing. There were so many lovely pieces at FOQ this year, and I wanted to experiment, to see what happens, which is always a fun way to learn.

The gnarly bits are Oak Gall -  a good source of tannin for dyeing or as a mordant; collected on one of my local "constitutionals". Two galls ground then simmered to extract the tannins. The leaves and flowers from my garden, collected on the day they were bundled, with the exception of a couple of eucalyptus leaves from Yorkshire. Fabric (ancient sheeting) soaked in the tannin mixture, bundled and then simmered rather than steaming. Now I will wait a few days to unwrap and see what happened.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Rivers flowing

Mesopotamia is flowing slowly along

Down the Euphrates, splitting and rejoining as the land allows

At the confluence of the Tigris and the Greater Zab, where Dur Sharrukin, Nineveh, Nimrud and Assur sit

the  Lesser Zab river, flowing in below Assur

and still further down, the Tigris and Euphrates joining and flowing past Isin, Uruk, Larsa, Ur and Eridu, magical names

All the land fed by water, cultivated by man,

And, from many years ago a different kind of river, flowing through a quiet Sussex wood, over the edge and into the past.

Forewood waterfall - found at the back of the shed, still stretched onto the drawing board. Acrylic paint must be tasty to someone

Friday, 16 August 2019

Beautiful rain

We English complain so very much about the weather. The minute it rains we're at it … "ohhh what a horrid day" … " isn't this weather just awwwwful", we've all heard comments like these, or made them ourselves. And of course on a day like today, when a town just down the coast from us is having the second of a series of four days of exciting aerial displays the rain that has arrived is a great spoiler of fun, and deep disappointment for all if parts of the show have to be cancelled.

But if, like me, you have just planted up a flowerbed, then a solid, lengthy downpour is just what you need, especially when the lawn and beds are so very dry.

In the foreground you can see the area we had landscaped just under a year ago when the pond found its way into the garden. There have been some excitements with this along the way, as the waterfall was allowing more water to fall outside its confines than was helpful - resulting in the need for regular top ups. It should be OK now, and has nonetheless been giving us and the five fish a great deal of pleasure.

The bed in question, with hydrangeas at the back, was actually planted out about eight years ago, then cleared and replanted, and now cleared and planted yet again! It hasn't been very successful, in part due to neglect, but in part because, south facing and sitting beneath the yew as it does, it stays awfully dry. I have tried this time to plant up with things like salvia and sedum, sun lovers which don't mind dryness. I shall water assiduously while the plants settle, and post a fresh image once they are more established. But for now, I'm just enjoying the raindrops falling like lines of milky light from the sky and the wonderful colour of the maple as its leaves shine in the downpour

The cat chaps, on the other hand, are distinctly unimpressed. Rum has hidden his head under his paw and is waiting for it all to go away

and Raisin is outside on the windowledge, expressing his disgruntlement, as only a cat can.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Festival time

Darling daughter and I had a wonderful couple of days at Festival of Quilts in Birmingham last weekend. There was just so much to see and be inspired by, from exquisitely executed "traditional" quilts to the marvellous art textiles in the various galleries. Here are just a few of them

My favourite, and the first gallery we visited, was this beautiful, fragile emotive piece by the lovely Christine Chester. She entered it for the Vlieseline Fine Art Textile Award and was so thrilled when it was accepted (why on earth wouldn't they?). As with much of her work, it centres around the theme of memory and loss. She shows how a condition like dementia takes so much away both from the sufferer and those around them. How the person they love slowly fades away, and then even their own memories of that person become fragile and thinned by time, once they have gone. She created all the fabrics herself, then used the very traditional English Paper Piecing technique, with incredibly fine stitching, to evoke this delicate image of her father mending his fishing nets, cap pulled down, concentration absolute. It is a picture she has used in previous works about him, each one expressing her loss and his in a different way. She wanted it to hang so it could be viewed from both sides, bringing that sense of transparency and fading memories to life. We, her students, were lucky enough to watch it evolve and when I first saw it complete, I was moved to tears. It touched deeply on my own sense of loss, bringing to mind my Dad, who I haven't seen for more than 51 years, but who sits in my heart every day.

The next gallery I wanted to visit was that of India Flint. We weren't there on Saturday to hear her talk, but it was marvellous to be able to get close to her eco printed works, to see the way the different textures of wool, cotton and silk affected the prints that she makes with her "botanical alchemy". Very special, too, to see her sitting quietly there, stitching, barefoot, like an alternative Whistler's Mother; the same pose, the same gentle muted colours, but a whirled away from 1870s America. It was good to be able to thank her for her inspiration.

That satisfied my immediate priorities. Then it was a matter of wandering through the textile forest, pausing where inspiration struck, and doing our best to manage both my and Jen's frailties by stopping regularly for food and drink, or just to rest our aching and exhausting bones for a while.

Here's some more things we enjoyed

Leah Higgins' marvellous breakdown printing inspired by the cotton mills of Manchester and Salford.

Eszter Bornemisza's complex stitched and layered works that speak of maps and cities and time 

Caroline Nixon's oh so delicate Underground Overground, eco printed and then stitched

Niki Chandler's Le Ciel Electrique.“And all in a flash night turned to day. Capturing the haunting experience of camping in a pine forest during a violent electric storm.” 
Crafted in transparents and shimmering organza, a photo can't catch the sparkling luminosity of this piece.

Alice Fox's allotment year, Plot 105 : 52 weeks. 
seasonal plants, eco printed and gathered together in fragile handmade books, part of the Natural Selection gallery of plant based artworks

The vibrant colours of Liz Jones' Moving On, made with her own hand spun and hand woven merino wool

the quiet reflectiveness of Ann Beare's The Sentinels: Silent Witness, inspired by The Purton Hulks

and finally Beatrice Bueche's shining Tree in the Moonlight

Of course we saw and enjoyed more than these, but I would run out of words, and you would run out of patience if I showed you everything.

If you want more, you'll just have to go yourself - next year