Letting my students do the talking ...

Top left: Sue Warburton - breakdown screen. Top right: Maggie Pearson - open screen and sticky back plastic resist screen. Bottom left: Jan Walmesley - sticky back plastic resist screen. Bottom right: Tracey Ramsay - interfacing stencil screen.

I’ve had another couple of wonderful days with my Introduction to Surface Design students. The diversity of their work is amazing. So I will shut up and let their work do the talking ….

Top left: Tracy Fox - breakdown screen. Top right: Lynda Edwards - mylar stencil screen.

Top left: Jean and Tracey hard at work in the studio. Top right: Phil Langford - breakdown screen. Bottom left: Linda Hill - sticky back plastic resist screens. Bottom right: Jean Martin - thermofax screens.

Introduction to Surface Design - new course dates
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My current Introduction to Surface Design students are in the studio this weekend and I am excited to see their work from last time and what they do this time. I have eleven students split between two groups and every single one of them works differently, each of them creating unique pieces of fabric. It’s a real treat to see them develop their ideas!

This weekend will be session 5 in the day a month for 10 month course and our second session on screen printing. Last time we used open screen techniques and masking tape resists to print background. We also used thermofax screens to print background. This time we will be printing the breakdown screens that we made at the last session and using sticky back plastic resists and freezer paper resists to add detail to our backgrounds as well as to use on new pieces of fabric. As per usual we will pack a lot into the day!

My next Introduction to Surface Design courses start on Saturday 2nd February and on Sunday 3rd February. I have places available on both - have a look at the Saturday group and Sunday group pages for details of the dates and what is covered. And feel free to contact me for more details!

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My Road to 'Ruins' - a talk
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The first ‘first’ of 2019 is just around the corner. I will be giving a talk ‘My Road to Ruins’ on Tuesday 15th January at 7.30pm at All Hallows Church Centre in Mossley Hill, Liverpool. It has been organised by Maggie Pearson of the Contemporary Threads group but is open to all. if you are free and in the area.

I’ve been asked to give talks a few times in the past and shied away from it as I didn’t think I had anything interesting to say and I’d much rather be in the studio stitching. But I decided that, as I am now a full time artist and teacher, I better get my act together! After all I have enjoyed talking about my work at my exhibitions, when I’ve had a stand at a show and during classes in my studio so I should be OK standing up in front of an audience, shouldn’t I?

But what to talk about? I have gone with the obvious and put together a talk that starts with my first ever quilt (made in 1988 from polycotton sheeting and truly 1980’s hideous) to the present day. This might have been easier if I had kept more of the early stuff but those of you who have been reading for a while will know that I have regular clear outs of ‘stuff’. Luckily I have photographs of some of the earlier pieces although not of that first quilt so you will have to take my word for it that it was hideous.

I do, however, have a photo of my second quilt, made ten years later in 1998 from some furnishing fabrics which I thought I would share. My sister is standing on her bed holding it up. I think it would be fair to say that my work has moved on ………

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Well I wasn't expecting that!
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2018 was an interesting year. Interesting is one word for it. Unexpected, eventful, scary, wonderful would all be other good words. But I think I will settle for life-changing.

I’ve just read my post from 31st December 2017. I was pleased that I had spent more hours in the studio in 2017 than in 2016 and produced more work. I was busy working on pieces for the two exhibitions I had with Helen Conway in spring 2018. And I was planning to enter more calls for entry in 2018 and to find further exhibition opportunities. On the family front we were all still reeling from my mother-in-laws illness and passing but hoped for a quieter, healthier, less sad 2018. I was out of work but fully expecting to be back wearing my corporate hat within a few months. Life was on track.

Turns out that life wanted me to take a different track.

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It proved difficult to find the right job and with an unexpected increase in my caring responsibilities at home I eventually realised that the life I thought I was going to have, balancing a demanding day job, caring for my family and making art was unsustainable and would probably make me miserable trying. I needed a Plan B. A plan that better fitted my family and that allowed me to continue to make art.

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Teaching surface design was something I had planned to do a bit of in my sixties as I creaked towards retirement. I had given the occasional workshop to different textile groups and always loved it. And it was something I always intended to use my studio for. But would people want to learn from me? Could it pay the mortgage?

So I did my research, crunched some numbers, talked with friends who were teachers and friends who might be potential students, talked with my family ….. and made a big decision.

A seriously big decision to become a full time artist and teacher. And because I am ‘me’ I have given it my all. The studio has been named, Urban Studio North, reorganised and a rather splendid bathroom has been built. Courses have been developed and guest tutors booked. I’ve had stands at shows, demonstrated and given short workshops. And best of all I have taught some absolutely brilliant students and loved every minute of it!

2018 was a year of ‘firsts’. Full of change and full of new challenges. But there is so much more that I plan to do in 2019! So many more challenges to face, so many more ‘firsts’. …… Happy New Year!

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Happy Christmas Everyone!
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The presents are wrapped. The cards have been posted. The tree is decorated. The fridge is overflowing. And the house is clean. Well, as clean as it’s likely to get. Hooray!

Time to get back to the studio and more breakdown printing! I’m keeping it seasonal. The above print was made by embedding crumpled Christmas wrapping paper in thickened dye on a screen and letting the screen dry under a stack of books. Well you didn’t expect me to use a traditional Christmas photo did you?

That said, I would like to wish everyone who reads my blog or follows me on Facebook / Instagram a very Happy Christmas and Peaceful New Year. And I would especially like to say thank you to my lovely students - 2018 has been a year of firsts and your support has meant a great deal to me.

Love and best wishes,


Simply WOW!
Work by Lynda Edwards

Work by Lynda Edwards

This last weekend the eleven students in my Introduction to Surface Design groups printed some absolutely fabulous pieces of fabric. It was a real pleasure to watch them work and witness the occasional happy dance. The sessions were on using screen printing, thermofax screens, masking tape, string and paper resists to create backgrounds. They all watched me give the same demonstrations and had access to the same tools but each produced truly unique work. Brilliant!

Work above by Sue Wharburton, Maggie Pearson, Debs Nixon and Lynda Edwards. And below - breakdown screens ready to be pulled during next months sessions.

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Better get a wriggle on!
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I have my two ‘day a month’ groups in the studio this weekend and it is a bit of a tip. Since getting home from Harrogate I’ve been busy breakdown printing different samples, soda soaking fabric (and drying it in the studio), ordering and sorting out Christmas presents (bah humbug), doing paperwork and generally making use of every bench. Around all of that I have been doing a bit of mark making and have done a bit more decorating in the bog shed. I may even have got some sleep!

Before my lovely students arrive for their Introduction to Surface Design session on screen printing I need to:

  • Soda soak a few more pieces of fabric then clean up the mess this leaves on the floor. The weather has been very uncooperative this week!

  • Varnish another 5 screens - meant to do this months ago when I could have left the studio doors open to get rid of the smell (apologies students!)

  • Rinse, wash and iron all the breakdown samples and put a few of them up on my design wall. Hide the ones that are perfect illustrations of how NOT to breakdown print.

  • Load the rest of the design wall with quilts and samples that show various aspects of screen printing.

  • Make some more thermofax screens based on mark making for my students to use as background texture this weekend.

  • Decide on the colours I’ll use in my demonstrations this weekend and test drive the new thermofax screens.

  • Top up the print paste and thickened dyes.

  • Double check that all my screens are really clean - a speck of leftover dye goes surprisingly far.

  • Move Harrogate / show boxes out of the studio into the storage part of the bog shed.

  • Clean the bog shed.

  • Open the Amazon boxes, wrap presents and find somewhere in the studio to hide them away from my grandson.

  • Clean the studio. A bit.

  • Make it look a bit Christmassy (but not too much, bah humbug).

  • Make sure there is a good supply of tea, coffee, juice and biscuits (must hide some of the dark chocolate gingers for the Sunday class). Thought about making mince pies. Decided to do more breakdown printing instead.

  • Get some sleep….

My next Introduction to Surface Design courses will start in February. If you’re interested have a look here. My studio might be a tip today but by Saturday it will be an oasis of calm and creativity. But only if I get a wriggle on …

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Sampling for others

Whatever I have done in life I have always tried to do well; to be the best that I can possibly be. Now I recognise that there are lots of things that I’m never going to be any good at (foreign languages, clean manicured hands, nurturing plants ….) but that’s OK because they are not important to me. However teaching in my studio is important to me so I am striving to be the best that I can be.

I have worked hard to organise and equip my studio so that my students have lots of space to work and so that they don’t have to bring masses of stuff with them. I have had great fun making colour wheels to help and guide my students. And I’ve worked through my lesson plans to make sure I have lots of relevant (and hopefully inspiring) samples. But I realised whilst I was at the Knitting and Stitching Show last weekend that I don’t have enough breakdown printing samples. Don’t get me wrong, I have metres and metres of fabric printed ready for the art I need to make for my solo gallery at next years Festival of Quilts but those fabrics are in ‘my’ colours and have been made using breakdown techniques that fit in with my personal inspirations.

Not everybody wants to see rust and black fabric inspired by the decline in the cotton and mining industries. Strange but true. So this week I have been playing with other types of breakdown printing and with a slightly broader colour palette. I can’t quite bring myself to do pink flower inspired things or green landscape inspired things but I’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable time releasing my inner Jackson Pollock and squirting dye about. I may even let all my inhibitions go and print some screens at wonky angles. Blimey!

A quick thank you!
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A very quick thank you to everyone who came to see me at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Harrogate. And a quick hello to those of you who signed up to receive this blog by email!

My head is a tangle of new ideas inspired by the conversations I’ve had at the show and the responses to my stand. This is all still new to me and I have so much to learn. And so much that I want to do in the coming weeks and months. Watch this space but needless to say that it involves breakdown printing. It was also lovely to meet Alice Fox and Janet Gilbert who were demonstrating in the Art in Action space and to walk around the different galleries.

Exhausting but fun! And now I need to make up a batch of print paste ….