Monday, 19 January 2015

Final draft

As promised here are a few photos of the final installation of 'Draft' for the Pick & Mix exhibition. You can find more images on my Facebook page and more details about the exhibition here.

Exhibition runs until 18th February 2015 at The Dye House Gallery, Bradford College, BD7 1AY

Saturday, 10 January 2015


Last week saw the culmination of a long running project and the hanging of a challenging and ambitious piece that concludes the work. With the high levels of stress associated with trying to complete a difficult piece on time I suppose it was inevitable I would succumb to the classic post-project cold/flu. The plus side of this being a couple of days to reflect on the project before the exhibition opens next week.

The Bradford Textile Archive is held at Bradford College, West Yorkshire. It houses a wide range of textiles, sample books, ledgers and books relating to the textile industry in Bradford and also items specific to the College's long history of textile education, such as student work books. As a lecturer at Bradford College I am lucky enough to have regular access to the archive and last year based a project on the use of archives in creative practice. As luck would have it, around the same time archivist Helen Farrar was putting together an Arts Council bid for an exhibition called Pick & Mix. For the exhibition 22 artists and makers (including my friend Claire Wellesley-Smith) were invited to respond to the archive, creating work across a range of media.

My own work took inspiration from the contents of one brown archive box, which represents the working life of Bradford textile designer and former student Mr George Arnold Stead. The documents represent his personal record of designs created during a lifetime in textiles. The box also contains mementos and pamphlets from the Listers Mill.

I chose to interpret a 7 metre length of Stead's point paper designs as a ‘ghost’ of the original, stripped of its original meaning as a technical weave document. Working with tracing paper and cross stitch I started to map out the designs. Using stitch references the largely forgotten manufacture of sewing and embroidery threads in Bradford, of which Lister’s was a world leader before the 1930’s.

The mammoth task of stitching the work took much longer than I realised. I worked almost non-stop during Christmas do complete it. Most definitely a very slow act of making...

...the final stitch (above) but not the end of making. Part way through making the stitched piece I realised it would work well as a negative for cyanotype. So I created a partner piece in silk, capturing the ghost of the blocks of pattern and stitched details.  It was slightly nerve wracking creating such a big  blueprint but fortunately it worked out pretty well.

The final step was hanging the work, called 'Draft'.

More images to come once the exhibition opens next week. Pick & Mix runs from 13th January until 18th February 2015 at the Dye House Gallery, Lister Building, Bradford College, Carlton Street, Bradford, BD7 1AY.

Monday, 29 December 2014

2015 workshops

Before Christmas I had a little hiccup with my website which meant that workshop bookings weren't working. I am pleased to say that has all been fixed and folks are busy booking places for next year's workshops already. Take a look here:

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Revising and rethinking

My work for Pick & Mix has caused me worries this week. After agonising over the shade of red used for the cross stitching I came to a realisation that it was all wrong. I was unhappy with the red, unsure about the presentation and disappointed with the look of the whole thing. I think also I have been worried about whether this piece is truly representative of my own practice.

I was pretty miserable about the project and felt like throwing in the towel. However I took a step back to reflect and consider my options. One idea that had been floating in the back of my mind was to use the stitched paper as a negative for a cyanotype print. So I did some very quick sampling and was really happy with the results.

I feel the quality of mark achieved is delicate and ghostly; a mere trace. It looks much more interesting and develops the original weave drafts and lifting plans I was studying into something that is a more personal response. By taking the designs through another process they become increasingly vague and unreadable; one of the points of the work is to portray the disappearance of specialist technical knowledge.

So now the shade of red no longer matters but I still have so much work to do.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

New Workshops for 2015

I have been putting the finishing touches to my workshops for spring / summer 2015. You can now find all the details on my website.

The year starts with Scrap Magic and Repair & Disrepair workshops. These workshops take different approaches to working with scraps and secondhand materials. Cut, slash, stitch and manipulate to create a whole variety of surfaces.

This year I will be teaching a variety of workshops from my studio in Saltaire, West Yorkshire. These include stitch, mixed media and cyanotype techniques. For the first time I will be teaching a two-day Inspiration from Historical Textiles course, taking ideas from antique textile and using hand stitch and cyanotype to create original art pieces.

The ever popular Cyanotype Essentials workshop runs on 25th April and for those who have already learnt the essentials there will be a Cyanotype Experimental Day (16th May) to extend your ideas and individual projects.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Rhythms and patterns

Over the last couple of weeks I have been trying to settle into new rhythms and patterns in my life. We have a lovely new addition to the household in the form of a four year-old greyhound called Henry. For all of us adjusting to new routines and ways of doing things has been a challenge. For one thing walking is becoming more frequent but has a different focus. Henry made his first visit to the studio yesterday and enjoyed the scenic view (below).

In my studio I am also learning to work differently. The work for the 'Pick & Mix' exhibition is making very slow progress and I am finding the counted cross stitch tedious and fiddly, especially given that I am stitching on tracing paper. I am not used to working in such a constrained way, within grids and to a pre-ordained pattern but perhaps the discipline will be good for me. I may just have to break free at some point though.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


I have never been one for chain letters and such like but my friend and fellow textile lover Claire Wellesley-Smith asked me if I would take part in a 'blog hop', so I thought why not throw caution to the wind.

This blog has always been about reflecting on my practice and so it is always useful to have a few prompts in order to step back and take stock. Here goes...

What am I working on?
Just now I have a couple of projects on the go. In fact they are both works that have been on and off for a while with shifting deadlines. Firstly I am working on a project with the Bradford Textile Archive, which involves a wide spectrum of artists creating responses to the collection. My work responds to some weave designs which will be translated as hand stitch on paper (image below). The exhibition, called 'Pick & Mix', opens 13th January 2015 at the new Dye House Gallery, Bradford.

The other project I am finishing off is my 'Linear Mapping' installation work, which I have written about previously here, here and here. The work involves creating a series of threads that each represent walks. I have the finishing touches to complete before that heads down to One Church Street Gallery, Buckinghamshire for 'Pinpoint II' in February 2015.

How does my work differ from others of it's genre?
I find this a tricky question as my work is so varied. In my practice I explore very varied subjects and ideas (as you see in the above two projects), I have no single technique or material that characterises my practice although it is all grounded in a sort of vocabulary of textiles. Using stitch, natural dye, cyanotype, applique and print I find ways to make marks, echoes and traces. My work has sometimes been referred to as ghostly and, whilst this isn't exactly a quality I am looking for, I think my work often has an ethereal quality; something that might fade away, the invisible made barely visible.

Why do I do what I do?
I suppose I feel that there are some things that are difficult to articulate with verbal language, so for me art is a way of expressing but also recording an idea. I am also acutely aware of the transience of life, of moments that slip away, of fragile objects that disintegrate; making can be a way of attempting to capture this fragility, futile though this might be.

How does my process work?
My creative process is much more about immersing myself in the subject matter, than in a specific technique or material. In particular walking has an important role in my practice.  It forms part of my research process, enabling me to observe and experience my environment. Making similar walks at different times and seasons I observe subtle changes in myself and the landscape. The speed of my walking might be influenced by weather conditions and the observed flora and fauna may vary from day to day. Capturing the things I observe, trying to contain my thoughts and feelings I use a variety of materials and techniques. Often my ideas are 'contained' within a particular object or form as a kind of vessel.

So that's all from me, and I pass on the blogging baton to someone with very different work, which I admire greatly; award winning photographer and studio buddy Carolyn Mendelsohn.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Time to work, time to think

It's been a while since I was in the studio properly doing my own work. But the combination of forthcoming deadlines and some focussed time to myself means I have been doing a little sampling. These (below) are ideas being explored for a an exhibition in association with the Bradford Textile Archive, early next year.

I was also reminded this week of the need for reflective thinking and writing. Trying to foster reflective journal writing in my students has given me the opportunity to look back over some of my own journals from way back. The need to work and then pause, step back, take stock is as important now as it ever was when I was a student. The need to record it, even more important when working time is so fragmented.

I have been thinking about the relationships between woven textiles and stitch; repetition, grids and connections understood through material associations.


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