Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Twilight, tulips, and templates

I have reached the end of The Last of the Light: about Twilight by Peter Davidson, a book I have been reading in small chunks so that I can better savour the contents and the thoughts leading from it.  Out of these thoughts and feelings has come at least one design - which coincidentally I completed stitching on the same day.  It now awaits ironing and finishing.
The idea for Fading also came through my thinking about tulips.  The figure is drawn onto a photograph I took of fading tulips.
My very first encounter with textile tulips was at the age of four.  I have shown this cross stitch piece before on this blog - perhaps even more than once, but I make no apologies as I am rather pleased with what I achieved. 
When towards the end of my publishing career I took up knitwear design the tulip was a form I explored for possible patterns.
I also played about on the computer to doodle a possible needlepoint design.
Then when I decided to leave the knitwear for hand stitching I attended a masterclass course which included a session playing with photographic enlargers.  With no film involved I processed a tulip petal as if it were a negative, then developed the photographs. 
Using one such image and other photographs I had taken of Queen of the Night tulips I made one of my first heat transfer print stitched pieces: a triptych.  I'm afraid that this snap was taken recently, long after the piece was framed.
Is the tulip a cliché subject?  I don't know, but it's one which draws me back with pleasure.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Many years ago I used to have a collection of tender scented pelargoniums which delighted me.  I loved their tiny flowers and their hairy or variegated leaves whose oil left a lovely fragrance on the fingers.  Unfortunately I was unable to care for them consistently, and in the end the last ones died one exceedingly cold night.
I have not indulged myself since in keeping exotic pet plants - until now.  Last year the garden was finally made deer-proof (a shame in many ways, but that's a long story), and so it is now possible to have tulips.  Deer love tulips and bite off the buds just as they are about to burst into full flower.  All that is left is a stem with an annoying neat cut.
Iznik plate in the Ashmolean collection (image from here)
My maternal forebears came from Byzantine Turkey, and although anything Ottoman should be repellent, I have long been great fan of Iznik design, especially the tulips and carnations.  I have for some time dreamed of planting species tulips.  And so, ...
I have made a start with Tulipa Pulchella Violacea, bought in bud, and now in full flower.  They close as the sun goes, and open again with the next day's warmth.  This autumn I shall add some bulbs to begin a collection proper.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A delightful outing

Yesterday was a lovely day.  The sun shone, and it was warm enough for me to wander around outside without a coat.  I met a friend at Lytes Cary Manor in Somerset.
Although it is only just Spring, the garden is a delight, with individual 'rooms', shaped formally, the topiary both controlled and informally 'cloud' trimmed, and the pollarded trees adding to the sculptural qualities.
The stone colour of the house, paths, and walls is an attractive soft grey splashed with beautiful lichens.  It was the first visit for both of us, and we were delighted to see enough details to attract us there again and again through the seasons.
Outside the formal gardens there was a riot of delicate shining blossoms.
The long view from the front of the house shows the water tower.
In the orchard there were daffodils and fritillaries under the trees, so difficult to photograph adequately, but this ball of mistletoe caught my eye.
There were lots of details, some of which I was able to capture before the battery on my camera gave out.
Inside the house were more delights.  I was particularly taken with these few items of the many many fascinating objects.  All the following images are taken from the Lytes Cary Manor pages of the excellent National Trust collections record.
There were two of these on a side board in the Great Hall which still has its original carved wooden roof (see image of roof here).

The last two are leather figures from the 16th century which were standing either side of a fireplace, each over a metre tall.  On the collections website it does not say what was their purpose.
(I have managed to find out a little more about them here.)
There is also a beautiful small chapel with a lovely stained glass window seen from the outside here.
The only undelightful aspect is provided by the refreshment facilities: do not expect much more than tea and coffee.  But a long natter catching up with a good friend makes up for everything, really.  It was an excellent day out.

Monday, March 21, 2016


Love unfolded then, like crumpled petals
opening into sunlight,
unfurling at the stroke of spring

The whole poem, Solway by Elizabeth Burns can be read here.  Image from here.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The usual frustration

It is a paradox: the Internet opens us up to inspirational work that we would never have encountered otherwise, and yet how can we fully appreciate the subtleties that are experienced when viewing actual textiles from a metre away.  It has come to the point where most of the textile work  - as with most of the general sculptural pieces I have seen now is in two-dimensional digital form.  Today, through the current issue of Sculpture magazine I became aware of an artist who works with textiles, and I am just so frustrated that I will probably never see any of her work as live thread and cloth etc.
Julia Bland's work has intrigued and attracted me (image above from here). 
How I wish I could visit her studio ( seen above, from here) to see and find out more.  I will just have to be content with reading the reviews of her recent exhibition If you want to be free at On Stellar Rays for the time being, and delight in what looks great even in two dimensions.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Something to look forward to

Margaret Barnard: Night fishing (image from here)
The above lino print is one of my favourites.  It is by Margaret Barnard, whose work is not often seen.  I was delighted therefore to discover that there is quite a collection of her work in the Rye Art Gallery.   It has been a while since I last visited the delightful town of Rye, and so that's something to list for later this year. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Bright signs of Spring

On Sunday we drove through fog to the gardens at Wisley, and were rewarded with a beautiful sunny day once we got there.
I've noticed that our crocus flowers were late this year, unlike a lot of the Spring flowers.  They were waiting it seems for a bit of frost to persuade them that this was not still Autumn!  Now they are pristine when the display here would normally be over.
Chinodoxas shine through the low spreading acer. 
Such a powerful blue.
The walled gardens have their own charm whatever the season.  At this time of year the deciduous trees are covered in potential. 
And of course the stems of willow, cornus, and the trunks of birch look spectacular.
Our primary reason for visiting on this occasion was to see the alpine houses.  Because there were so few folks we were able to move slowly through, having a close look at everything on both sides.
Such a delightful outing, on what turned out to be a warm day with crowds arriving just as we left.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


For someone who loves both paper and ceramics as well as textiles like I do the work of Jong Jin Park is a seductive delight.  (image above from hereMy fingers itch to explore the works, and the minimalism enthuses me to try harder myself. 

My practice explores the remarkable ability of ceramics to deceive the eye. By using tissue paper and clay slip, I can make various materials looks like paper, wood and stratum but it is definitely ceramics at the same time. These effects meet with simple shapes and structures, contrasting with the straight porcelain. My practice asks us to think what is real? At the same time, you experience another deception "how was it made?"  I always enjoy the audience's reaction to my work.
(quote from here)

(image above, and more from here)
Simply elegant; simply seductive.