Festival of Quilts!
14 July 2018 2.jpg

When I decide to do something I really go for it, I give it my all and I aim to succeed. Determined, ambitious, tenacious - that's me. So I have taken a stand at this summers Festival of Quilts in order to promote Urban Studio North and my workshops to as wide an audience as possible. I will be on stand H35 which is in one of the alleys near the Nancy Crow exhibition. Please, please, please come find me if you are at the show!

My stand is only small (2 metres x 2 metres) but I want it to showcase as many aspects of surface design as possible. After all that is what I teach. As well as showing a couple of my favourite small quilts I will be showing a couple of new pieces. These are 'process' driven - they do not have a specific inspiration but they each show how printed and dyed fabrics can be used. The first one is almost finished. I'm calling it 'Off the Grid', detail below. The cloth went through 3 wet processes - I breakdown printed the first layer, then scraped through colour in the second layer and finally breakdown printed using formosol discharge paste. I will be supporting and encouraging students on my Introduction to Surface Design courses to take their cloth through multiple processes - you get such wonderful, totally unique, depth of colour and texture.

14 July 2018 1.jpg

I'm rather nervous about this new venture - it cost quite a bit of money and what if nobody signs up for a workshop! or even worse, what if nobody even stops to talk to me!! But I am also absolutely fizzing with excitement. I love talking about my work and my processes, and I especially love talking about colour. I am looking forward to seeing friends and making new friends. So if you are at Festival (9th to 12th August at the NEC, Birmingham), please stop by!

So nearly there

I am hot, I am sweaty and I am surrounded by chaos. But actually the studio is just a whisper (and a few hours work) away from being ready to welcome my first students. My Urban Studio North now contains 6 lovely, height adjustable print benches, each with their own stack of washed drop clothes. Each 'workstation' has a stool (albeit 4 still need putting together) and a wheeled trolley that contains / will contain cat litter trays, lots of pots with lids, tile grouters (the sensible persons cheap screen squeegee), lots of spoons, masking tape, pins and scissors. And lots of space for students to put their stuff. Each workstation will also have buckets. Partly I want to reduce the amount of time students spend fetching stuff the stuff that they are most likely to use but also because I don't have the cupboards or shelves to store everything I will need to teach surface design.

I still have a list of things to buy but all the 'big' stuff is now in the studio. Dyes, screen printing inks, fabric, screens are all in place. Over the next week I want to turn chaos into a calm, tidy oasis of potential creativity. But to get there I need to hang lots of my art, scour and varnish the new screens, clear out all the stuff that shouldn't be in the studio and clean. Boy, do I need to clean!

In amongst the chaos I have been developing a mini-workshop to give at the ICHF shows and stitching pieces ready for my stand that show various aspects of surface design. I have even found a few hours to try out some new breakdown printed ideas. This lovely hot spell is perfect breakdown weather with my screens drying in a few hours. Just need to find the time, and clear bench space to print that latest set ....



Good intentions
30 June 2018.jpg

I took a break this week from preparing my studio (and me) to teach and started working on my next piece for my international fibre group Cloth in Common. We have 11 members and each need to make a new piece every 2 months - so that is a 11 quilt, 22 month commitment. I wasn't 100% convinced that it was the right thing for me but decided to go for it. I decided that I would use the challenge to use colours, techniques, materials and ideas that were radically different from my current work. But with limits - I declared that I wouldn't do cute, wouldn't do sequins and definitely wouldn't be doing animals / flowers / nature type stuff!

Our 'theme' for these 22 months is 'unusual prompts' and boy, have I struggled with some of them. Hmmm .... so it turns out that I have done cute. Cherry Cupcake Baby is cute. With a punch! And I've done a stylised tree in Hope Springs. And I've used lots of breakdown printed fabric. So much for my good intentions!

1-4Higgins Cherry Cupcake Baby blog.jpg
1-5Higgins Hope Springs blog.jpg

Our latest prompt is 'road'. I draw a complete blank when I read this. Tumble weed rolling around an empty head. But then a quote popped into my head - 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions'. I'm not sure making a cute quilt will send me to hell but, when I started thinking about it, I fill my life with good intentions most of which I fail to achieve. I will get up when the alarms goes off tomorrow morning - oops I seem to have accidentally hit the snooze button. Five times. I will eat a healthy breakfast - oops that bread is going to go off if I don't eat it. Toasted with butter and jam. Right through to I will go to bed earlier ....

So for this quilt I am busy writing out all those good intentions on strips of cloth. And I will finish the quilt in plenty of time .......

I'm a demonstrator - it's official!
24 June 2018.jpg

I'm amazed with the response I've had to my workshops since launching them just over 4 weeks ago but am mindful that social media on it's own is unlikely to provide me with a steady stream of new students. So as well as having the new title of 'teacher' I am pleased as punch to be able to add 'demonstrator' to my list of titles. 

I contacted ICHF about demonstrating with them but expected to have to wait until next year. Which was OK because it would have given me plenty of time to practice demonstrating in front of my students. But fate sometimes does everyone a favour and I am delighted to tell you that I will be demonstrating at their Creative Craft Show at Event City in Manchester on 6th to 8th September. I'm excited and terrified at the same time! This is a great show to be my first - Event City is about one mile away from my home and studio so I won't have to worry about forgetting things. And I know that I'll see some friendly faces amongst the visitors. I'm trying to develop a workshop for the event as well - something that will last either 60 minutes or 90 minutes and can be done in a room where the only water is what can be carried in a bucket. So something that doesn't get too messy. This particular challenge is keeping me awake at night but I'm sure inspiration will strike soon!

I've also started placing adverts and have had new flyers printed. Thanks to the African Fabric Shop and Patchwork Parade for taking some! If you would like some please just contact me - I have lots! Maybe I should give myself another new title 'marketing manager'! Blimey, I think I might need a lie down!

Breaking eggs
16 June 2018 4.jpg

Having decided to start teaching I spent a lot of time drawing out potential layouts. To scale of course. I didn't want to lose my giant print bench but quickly realised that my not so giant print bench and my sewing table would need to make way for the students benches. I know, I know; you have to break eggs to make an omelette. And so converting my studio into a space where I can teach 6 students has inevitably meant making a mess and breaking some stuff.   

16 June 2018 3.jpg

The not so giant print bench has been dismantled. I was feeling sad that we were going to get rid of it. I forgot that the men in my life hate throwing things away. Instead it is going to be used in the cellar as a Warhammer gaming table (don't ask!). Not quite sure how it will fit but that is not my problem. At least it won't be once they move the bits out of the studio!

I thought my studio was well equipped but as I work through the lesson plans I'm realising that there is a lot of stuff I need. And that all that stuff will need to find homes. It's slow going but I am making progress. I now have a second water boiler thanks to my friend Ruth. I've christened them Stan and Ollie. I also have labels on cupboards. Next weekend we are making the tables - exciting times!

16 June 2018 1.jpg
Colour, colour, colour!

I love colour! And whilst I've always kept records of the colours I've mixed for my art I have never taken the time to systematically create colour blankets. Until now. Colour is fundamental to the classes I am teaching so creating resources to help my students understand colour seems like an obvious thing to do. And it has been so much fun, I wish I'd taken the time to do this years ago!

My favourite piece so far is the colour wheel above created by blending two primary reds - magenta and scarlet - and two primary blues - turquoise and royal blue. It's my favourite for two reasons. Firstly I didn't make any mistakes when making it but mostly because of the surprising colours you get when you mix scarlet with either of the blues. Instead of the 'purples' you might think you're going to get you get some beautiful browns.

When you mix the two primary blues with two primary yellows - acid lemon and golden yellow - all of the blended colours are colours that you would label 'green'. No surprises but using the colour wheel I can see instantly how to mix an olive green or a lime green. 

The third colour wheel mixes the primary yellow with the primary reds to create an abundance of oranges. What is interesting in this colour wheel is just how overwhelmed yellow is by red. Even a small addition of red creates oranges that are close to their red component.

And finally (for now!) I have stolen an idea from the excellent DVD 'Exploring Fiber Reactive Dyes with Claire Benn' to create what Claire calls colour tartans. I have created exactly the same 'tartan' on two different cottons - the cotton poplin that I use in my art and a more open weave plain cotton. The colours are extremely close although they are very, very slightly richer on the poplin which has a slight surface sheen. Doesn't really show up in a photo so you'll have to trust me on this. Or make you own!

What a week ....
urban studio north flyer.jpg

The last 7 days have been exciting and terrifying in equal measure. I hung my latest exhibition with Helen Conway at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery last Tuesday (with an awful lot of help from my son Callum and father-in-law Bernard). On Wednesday I was interviewed by Bethany Armitage of Quilt Now (very nerve-racking, article on the Stockport exhibition in the next issue). On Friday I launched myself as a teacher and on Saturday Helen and I had our preview. 

Definitely an emotional rollercoaster and I can't tell you how much I appreciate the response I've had to my workshops and to the exhibition with Helen. I spend so many hours working away on my own that sometimes I question what I'm doing and why. Affirmation keeps me going, big thank you to everyone that came to the preview, that responded to our posts on Facebook and an especially big thank you to the wonderful women who have booked on to my courses!

After the preview I drove up to Scotland for a weeks holiday in Dunure, my second most favourite place after my studio. The weather here is glorious and the sunsets over Arran are stunning. I have brought work with me to do but the sun is just too enticing ...... 


Urban Studio North Workshops

I am very excited to announce that my new workshops are available to book on line.


The workshops will take place in my studio, which I am calling the Urban Studio North, in Eccles, Manchester. The studio is light, spacious and easily accessible. I'm limiting student numbers to 6 so that each student has plenty of space to work and I have plenty of time to give one-to-one support. My aim is to supply as much of the media and equipment needed for each class so that, in most cases, students only have to bring fabric. 

I have developed an introduction to screen printing workshop that includes breakdown printing called Simply Screen Printing and an introduction to dyeing workshop called Dyeing to Begin. Both are two day courses, suitable for absolute beginners and are intended to be pretty fast paced with students printing / dyeing lots of beautiful cloth. I have also created a 1 day a month for 10 months programme called Introduction to Surface Design which covers dyeing, printing, breakdown printing, mark making, paper lamination, adding and removing colour and so much more! 

And I have my first guest tutor. Ruth Brown will be teaching a two day workshop on Hand Made Books tailored towards textile artists. This will be suitable for beginners and will cover a range of book types. 

Ruth books 2.jpg

I will be adding more workshops and more dates over the coming months but I am really interested in getting your feedback, good (hopefully) or bad. Do the workshops look interesting? Have I given enough information? What do you think about the pricing? Am I a mad fool?

Playing with intent
20 May 2018 2.jpg

Having spent lots of hours at my computer getting ready to teach (writing lesson plans etc) I have now moved onto the much more fun bit. I want to be as prepared as I absolutely can be which, for me,  means creating lots of samples and practising the demonstrations that I'll be giving. I know that I know my stuff and I know that I have enough knowledge to probably demonstrate 'off the cuff' but that is not who I am. I'm a control freak who writes lists, makes detailed plans and practices, practices, practices! So whilst I wait for some 'official' stuff to come through that I need before I can launch my workshops properly I am playing at the bench.

Whilst I'm not planning on giving a class on colour just yet, colour is fundamental to surface design, particularly when you are layering one colour on top of another using dyes rather than paints. Sometimes you want to achieve dull, sludgy brown but when you don't and that's what you get it can be demoralising. So I am spending some very happy hours in my studio making different types of colour blankets that, I hope, my students will find useful. Inspired by Claire Benns wonderful DVD (Exploring Fiber Reactive Dyes from Gali Publishing) I have created my own version of a colour 'tartan' on two types of cotton to see if they take colour differently (they didn't) and am now making colour wheels based on secondary colours (oranges, purples and greens). I am playing with intent and loving every minute of it! 

20 May 2018 1.jpg