Friday, March 23, 2018


Rounded by its companions, part of a roof tile, a beautiful alien, found on the beach at Nice, France.  I wondered, still wonder, how long ago it left its roof.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


I enjoy so many aspects of making my pieces, but some work I would prefer to leave to elves.
I've spent time in recent weeks cutting lino, and quilting a big piece, and designing more pieces, and being delightfully distracted, ....  But for a couple of days pain in my hands and wrists has driven me to pause with the lino, and forced me finally to get down to the much gentler - but to me rather boring - task of finishing off.  This is what I would wish the elves to do for me - because as you can see below, I have allowed a pile to accumulate.
But never mind; Nature's elves have been busy, and today the first of the species tulips is in flower, and the smallest euphorbia is looking sculpturally splendid.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Quietly, into Spring

Doodle in progress

Sunday, March 04, 2018


I have been looking forward to the Tate Britain exhibition All too Human ever since I saw it announced last year.  So often anticipation is dashed, but not in this case.  I am definitely inspired - there are so many really good paintings in the show.  Some I had not seen before, and one in particular captivated me completely.
Walter Sickert: Noctes Ambrosianae  (image from here)
Sickert is not an artist at whose name I become excited.  Until now he has been only of academic interest to me, but today I saw what for me is an exquisite small piece, shown above.  With a limited number of gestured stokes he has captured attitudes and emotions of an audience.
Francis Bacon: Study for Portrait of Lucien Freud (image from here)
Bacon is top of the bill in the title of the exhibition, and has for a long time been a thorough favourite of mine, and so I am familiar with many of his works.  It is always such a pleasure to see previously unseen pieces.  I sat in front of the portrait of Freud above, and the triptych below for some time.
Francis Bacon: Triptych (image from here)
Another great favourite artist of mine is Paula Rego, and I was delighted to see familiar pieces, and one new to me, shown below.
Paula Rego: The Company of Women (image from here)
There is so much else - each room packed with thoroughly rewarding work.  It is an excellent exhibition, and I look forward to reading the catalogue, and perhaps revisiting the show itself.
Some reviews are here and here, here and here.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Not yet Spring

We have been relatively lucky with just a dusting of snow although the cold is certainly bitter.  Today I was cosy indoors, watching the birds in the glorious sunshine.
(image above from here)
My favourites of the day were thrushes smashing snails for hearty meals, and a jay busy pecking for beasties etc. among the snow covered grass.
(image above from here)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Diversionary doodle

I was scanning this snap of a burned out car when an idea came to me.  
This is a preliminary doodle - quickly drawn before the idea disappears.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Wondrous Frink heads ... with one extra

I never tire of photographing Frink sculptures when I can, especially her figures - and most especially her heads.
These were snapped some years ago at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and on Salisbury Cathedral Green ...
where a young man decided that an extra head was necessary!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


In scanning my photographs I have been encountering snaps taken but since forgotten.  Under the heading of gardens I found these, taken in a shed of a National Trust house, I think.  It was one with a splendid vegetable garden and several greenhouses, I believe.  Unfortunately I have not been able to remember which house it was.
And these two perhaps lurid images below were at a garden festival at a Chateau on the Loire which we visited on the way back from a stay in the Languedoc several years ago.  I remember that very well, not only because we enjoyed the holiday, and the visit to the garden festival - but also because of the food poisoning I picked up that evening from what I thought had been a lovely meal at a restaurant in Blois!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Interesting pots

This morning we visited the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham.  One of the two exhibitions on at present is of ceramics by Emilie Taylor.  More links about the work are here, and here, here, and here.
At first glimpse I thought that the work might be derivative, Grayson Perry-a-like; but I quickly realised that this is a wholly superficial view.  The works are similar in so far as they are ceramics which have a social message.  But Taylor's pieces very much have a glow of personal authenticity, and made a powerful impression.  There are dramatic large pots with figurative narrative as well as purely decorative slipware pattern, and striking smaller pieces with an individual figure - in this case called Portrait Pots (Persephone) - both as photographed below by Michael J Davis
The outing provided an uplifting break from the huge pile of photographs which I'm scanning.  The task I have set myself is to digitise all my photos so that I can discard the physical prints - as well as sorting through them at the same time.

Monday, February 12, 2018

In life and online

When we were away on our trip recently we visited the Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries.  There we saw a couple of exhibitions full of delightful works.  I was particularly taken by a small Robin Philipson: Whisper II, and now back home wanted to see if I could find it online.
Robin Philipson: Whisper II (image from here)
The gallery does have an online presence of its own, as well as on ArtUk, and indeed I found the image I wanted to revisit.  I decided to have a stroll through the online gallery, and was pleased to encounter an artist previously unkown to me: Dorothy Black.  In trying to find out more, I stumbled across one picture which appealed to the juggler obsessive in me. It is good to see that I am not alone!
Dorothy Black: Me and the sea (image from here)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Birds at the beach

The crows stride as they seek interesting titbits amongst the seaweed.  The skitter and stop, skitter and stop is the oystercatcher, and those daft herring gulls sitting at the edge of the retreating shore, jumping up to avoid the swell of the breaking waves: bob, leap, take-off, settle, bob, leap, take-off.  Sudden tiny movements draw the eye to a robin picking and mixing, and a sudden mob of perhaps hedge sparrows arrives, twitters, and leaves.  The curlews I could only hear, not see - evocative sound.
Never a dull moment on an afternoon when sun, rain, wind, and threatening snow all pass as I watch the life around me.  The little cove is at Rockcliffe, almost empty in this off season - empty of humans and cars, but teeming with other life.
There are so many shells right up near the land edge of the beach, masses whole and mounds more in tiny bits, not yet ground to fine particles.  And then sand, a sudden line of division, both surfaces strewn with seaweed.
The tide going out reveals delightful stands of grass on plinths of sand and earth among the rocks.  Good hunting grounds all round for those who seek.
Further out of the Urr estuary, in the Solway Firth, there is Hestan Island with its Alan Stevenson lighthouse, and definitely non pc named feature of Daft Ann's Steps.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Mid Winter break

The timing of my cold is somewhat unfortunate as we had decided to take a week off in Scotland.  Luckily I am much improved - only the persistent cough is making sleep difficult.
Today we were in Dumfries which has a mixture of elaborate decoration and decay in many buildings.  I do love the red sandstone which was a favourite with so many Victorian builders.  Robert Burns is a great favourite here, with signs, paintings, and statues, museums, ....
The River Nith runs through Dumfries, and is running high and fast at present, but not flooding.  The additional astonishing sight was the number of ducks paddling like mad to stay still while the water sped past.  There must be rich pickings indeed to expend all that effort.  I was unable to photograph them as first they were across the river from me, and also the sun was in my eyes.
It was a gloriously sunny day today, with only a couple of short showers, bringing rainbows.  There is scant snow on the tops of hills, and the air is so fresh, feeling especially good because I can breathe easy.  We enjoyed the views of the Nith estuary and were delighted in a nature reserve there to catch a couple of brief sights of an eagle being mobbed by rooks.  Far too fleeting a glimpse to photograph.
My current whodunnit reading is Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers, a Lord Peter Wimsey adventure which unaccountably I have not previously read.  I chose it deliberately as it is set in Dumfries and Galloway - at a time when the railways still ran.  Now there are only many beautiful viaducts which decorate the landscape.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Temporary break in transmission

Anne Carrigan: Head Cold
I came away from the workshop last week with food for thought - and a head cold!  So now I am indulging myself on the sofa: whodunnits, hot milk, soups, and lots of tissues.
Normal service will resume as soon as possible, I hope.  At least the image above (from here) makes me feel much better in comparison.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Back to the 3D thing

This week I went on a two day workshop on sculptural textiles with Debbie Lyddon at InStitches.  I have been following Debbie Lyddon's blog for some time and am intrigued by and attracted to her work and her methods.  When the opportunity arose to attend a workshop close to where I live - well, it would have been daft not to try it out.  Especially as I have this longterm background itch about doing something 3D-ish.
Debbie Lyddon: Auricle (detail) image from here
The two days worked really well.  The venue is great - a good space, well equipped, friendly, and generous folks.  The other participants provided such a broad range of input, and fun.  And Debbie herself is a great instructor, provider, and facilitator - as well as being great fun.  Obviously I had a great time!
But it was a productive time too.  I think that maybe this time I have come closer to what might suit my needs.  On this workshop I actually made a more or less complete piece of work.  Usually my intention is to make samples to remind me of techniques, but this time I was moved to try to marry one technique - stiffened pleats - with some element which would make the piece mine.
Wax as a surface, a material, an idea has long held an allure for me, reinforced by an excellent Experimental Batik on Paper workshop I attended some ten years ago or so at West Dean with Hetty van Boekhout (the course is on this year too).  It was the wax element of the Debbie Lyddon workshop that was initially what interested me the most.  And the sample I made for myself has ignited even more enthusiasm.
A piece of muslin was stiffened overnight with a coat of emulsion paint.  On that I stitched (using an awl to make the holes before threading the needle through) quite a thick slippery, disobedient but scrummilly beautiful space dyed thread round an outline.  Ironing wax all over this gave a fabulous feel to an even stiffer cloth, flattened the thread into the fabric, filled out the awl holes, ... gave me something very exciting.
So much to bubble away on my back burner now!  Even though I did say a couple of posts ago that I enjoy thinking, I do also enjoy trying things out.  As Andreas Gursky the photographer said in the Guardian newspaper yesterday: 'As I'm always telling my students: you won't get anywhere sitting at a table thinking.  You learn by doing.  And even if you do something wrong, the result may be much more interesting than what you went looking for.'

Friday, January 12, 2018

Looking back and forward

(image above from here)
I visited the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1982 to see a Kandinsky exhibition.  But it was the architecture of the museum which struck a deep chord.  I was with a friend, going round the show at different speeds, and it was looking down to see where she was that it suddenly struck me: this building is a metaphor for life.  I was looking back at where I had been; even my friend was part of my past: she was a colleague from my previous job.
It was even clear that as one progresses, the perspective looking back changes.  Not everything can be seen clearly.  Recently, presently, I have been using the spiral to look back.  For instance, in trying to clarify how to move on with my work, I am first looking back at what I have done to get here in my work blog.
Last year I interrupted my flow of work to look back in a different way.  I had reached a point where there are now memories that only I have, and I have photographs of people who are now only known to me, so I decided to put together a book for my great niece explaining who all these folks are, their characters, and how they are related to each other and to her.  I also included anecdotes, some of which were illustrated by the photographs.
A book of photos with text is so much easier to dip into than a box full of snaps - or even a photo album.  So much more than simple, or even lengthy captions can be put into the text of a book.   Photobox was having a sale last autumn, so I took the opportunity.
I so regret not asking more questions of all my relations when I was young, especially as both my grandmothers' generation had lived through so much history - the wars, the migrations, etc., and so many changes.  I wanted to do a little bit to pass on my own memories of individuals and incidents, so that perhaps the youngsters would be prompted to ask me further questions while I am still around and capable of answering!