Now that I have calmed down ...

It’s been nearly two weeks since Festival of Quilts and life is getting back to normal. I’ve taken the opportunity to have some time off, to have a bit of a sort out in the studio, but also to sit back and consider ‘what next?’

What is actually next is the Introduction to Surface Design group that has their last day in the studio tomorrow so I’ve been busy cleaning and preparing. It will be sad to say goodbye to them but we’ll be celebrating all that they have achieved with lots of cake!

Quite a lot of ‘what next?’ is on a list of ‘workshop prep’ to work through ready for my workshops and other events this autumn. I’ve been neglecting this a little over the last couple of month and it feels good to start ticking some boxes!

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In a couple of weeks time I will be demonstrating and giving workshops at the Creative Craft Show at Event City, Manchester. I’ve been working through the big pile of printed and dyed fabric that I have created whilst demonstrating in the studio and at shows over the last year and have started to make up packs to sell. Initially at the show but maybe online as well.

I’ve also taken the time to develop a new mini-workshop for the Creative Craft Show at the NEC at the end of October. Still needs fine tuning but will involve printing both sides of a tote bag using textile inks.

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Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be finishing my preparations for the Contemporary Quilt Summer School where I’m teaching a colour class. Preparation mostly involves figuring out how we can dye fabric and print fabric in a room without sinks! I do like a challenge. And I have things I want to do ahead of my first Creative Surface Design class which begins in September.

But beyond my ‘to-do’ list I’ve also been thinking about how I want the ‘business’ side of me to develop. This is the bit that includes the studio, teaching and writing. I’m striving to keep this from swamping the ‘artist’ side of me but, at the same time, it is the bit that pays the bills. This last year has been so hectic that I know that I need to slow down a little so my plans need to be longer term. And to maybe involve a series of smaller projects rather than the stupidly ambitious challenges I set myself recently. I’m thinking of developing a small online shop that sells some of the dyes, screens and fabrics that I already sell in my studio. But this needs a lot of thought before I jump into it as it probably involves a major revamp of my website. So watch this space.

I’ve also been thinking about ‘what next?’ for me as an artist … but I’ll talk about that next time!

I'm still floating on air ....
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Oh my, where do I start? Having my own gallery at last weeks Festival of Quilts was amazing, brilliant, fantastic, awesome, and the best fun ever! My face still aches from grinning so much!

I felt honoured to be given the gallery and humbled to be showing my art alongside that of Michael James, Eszter Bornemisza, Karina Thompson, India Flint and more. I was overwhelmed by the number of visitors and by just how many of them stopped to speak with me or to write a note in my visitors book. The series of works on coal mining got a lot of attention and I was moved by the stories of fathers and grandfathers working in the mines and the sense of sadness that still exists over the closing of mines and loss of communities.

There are so many people to thank. Festival of Quilts for giving me this wonderful opportunity. My family for putting up with me when I abandoned them to work silly hours in the studio. My sons Joe and Callum for hanging the pieces and staying cool when I fretted about getting everything perfectly aligned. An extra big thanks to Joe as he was with me throughout the show - he kept me supplied with coffee and did his best to make sure I didn’t do too much (which is not an easy task!). And thank you to the lovely ladies who provided cover during the show so that Joe and I could take proper breaks.

Thank you to my students and all of you who follow me on social media - your support and encouragement over this last year has spurred me on to achieve so much. Thanks to all those who visited the gallery, to those who brought books and postcards, to those who booked on workshops and to a very special lady who brought Mill Town 1.

But what next …. well I will post about that soon but for now I’m taking it easy. Although, because I am me, I will be in and out of the studio catching up on paperwork, tidying and cleaning, adding photos of the new pieces to my website …. and maybe doing a bit of stitching!

New workshops with Ruth Brown and Debbie Lyddon!
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I am very excited to announce that Ruth Brown and Debbie Lyddon will be teaching here at Urban Studio North!

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that Ruth Brown is a good friend who encouraged me to take that leap of faith to become a full time artist and teacher. She also happens to be a textile artist, book binder and experienced and respected teacher. You can find out more about Ruth on her website here. Ruth will be teaching a 4 day workshop at Urban Studio North called Books for Textile Artists in which she combines her two loves - textiles and books. The workshop with take place from 6th to 9th October 2020 and you can find full details here.

Debbie Lyddon is an artist and maker based on the Norfolk coast. Her work includes mixed media cloth, sculpture, installation and drawing. If you don’t already know her amazing work you can find out more on her website here. I am totally in awe of her work and her experimental approach to creating. Debbie is a sought after teacher … her 4 day workshop at Urban Studio North will take place from 23rd to 26th March 2021. Yes, 2021! The workshop is called Decorative Surfaces for 3D Textiles and in it you will explore the construction and decoration of 3D forms. You can find full details here.


As well as adding these two fantastic workshops to my website I have added new dates for some of the courses that I teach. The Creative Surface Design course starting in September only has one place left so I have added new dates starting in February 2020. This workshop is spread over 5 weekends and is intended to support each student as they work from their own source or sources of inspiration and develop their own way of working - their own design process. You can find out more here.

I’ve also added an extra Breakdown Your Palette 5 day workshop on 20th to 24th July 2020 as the other workshops in 2020 are filling up. You can find out more here. In case you haven’t noticed I love breakdown printing!

You can always contact me via my website, or via Messenger if you have any questions!

14 days to go ....

Just 14 days until this years Festival of Quilts opens at the NEC, Birmingham and along with it my gallery Deconstruction-Reconstruction-Evolution. I’ve just started work on the final three pieces and am reasonably comfortable that I will be ready with a few days to spare. A few days to catch up on sleep and recharge my batteries! I need it. I have really pushed myself for the last few weeks - I have dug deep as the saying goes.

But isn’t it easy to find that extra level of energy when you are doing something you love? Tired but happy sums me up right now.

Of course there have had to be some sacrifices in the name of art. I can confirm that not cleaning the bathroom for 8 days does not lead to an outbreak of plague. That having toast and jam for breakfast and lunch each day saves time. Especially if you leave the bread, butter and jam next to the toaster. And use the same plate. That my family showed a deep level of empathy by not commenting on the fact that I wore the same top for four days. Actually they are all male so probably didn’t even notice. Which also makes not cleaning the bathroom easier to get away with ….

As well as making art I have been busy doing lots of other stuff in preparation for the exhibition. I have a delivery of more books arriving tomorrow, new flyers are also on route and the fabulous Moo Printing are busy printing postcards. And I have been very honoured to takeover the Festival of Quilts Instagram account for three days this week. If you ‘do’ instagram have a look at @thefestivalofquilts.

And now I need to get back to work ….

38 days to go
Agecroft (detail)

Agecroft (detail)

38 days until my gallery at Festival of Quilts opens to the public. Loads of time even allowing for the 7 teaching days between now and then …. . Oh boy!

This morning I have been writing lists. I have the BIG STUFF list - top item is finish all the artwork (obviously) but also includes hiring a van and getting more books printed. I have the list of things that I need to take to Festival which ranges from flyers for Urban Studio North, to a drill, to packets of tissues (for when I come over all tired and emotional) and includes gaffer tape and cable ties because no well organised artist leaves home without them. And I have the scary list - my artwork tracking list. Which has a lot of blank spaces on it. I will be exhibiting 24 pieces of art. 15 of them are finished, 4 are finished but need stretching over canvas. 1 is at the quilting stage. And 4 pieces exist only in my head right now. Oh boy, its going to be tight!

So, I’ll sleep less, my house will not get cleaned, my family can feed themselves. And I apologise up front … I don’t think I will be blogging much in the next 38 days. Instead I will try to post images and quick updates on Instagram. If you’re visiting Festival of Quilts please stop by my gallery and say hello. I’ll be the artist asleep in the corner!

You can find me at

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And breathe ....

After a wonderful 5 days spent with lovely students on my Breakdown Your Palette workshop I have got the studio clean and tidy for the next set of students on the 1st of July. Of course it won’t stay clean and tidy …. I need to switch into ‘artist’ mode for the next week as I continue to get ready for my upcoming exhibition. Then switch back into teacher mode to clean up after that messy artist person!

It is rather nice to take a quiet moment to just sit in the studio and reflect on the week. A 5 day class is exhausting for students and teacher, but it is worth it. I get to see the students develop their ideas and become more confident in their work. I get to develop as a teacher. Fabulous cloth is printed. Not so fabulous cloth is also printed but that is OK because we are all learning, me included. There are periods of comfortable silence and lots of laughter. Friendships are formed. I really am very lucky, if a little tired.

Below is a snap shot of what was produced over the five days. Although there was an awful lot of golden yellow, rust brown and petrol green flying about the variety the students work was amazing.

Where does time go?
Fabulous quilt by Pat Wills

Fabulous quilt by Pat Wills

My next Breakdown Your Palette workshop starts tomorrow morning and I’m just about ready. My first Breakdown class was three weeks ago and it was glorious! Since then …. well I’ve been super busy trying to get art made for my exhibition at Festival of Quilts as well as teaching my Introduction to Surface Design classes. I have three groups of students each at different stages of the 1 day a month for 10 months programme. So over the last two weekends I have taught one group paper lamination, one group mono-printing and one group had their second session on screen printing. Lots of preparation, lots of swapping around samples on my design wall and lots of getting things out and putting things away. Because I’ve found that I have to clean up completely from a class before I feel comfortable working on my art.

I did get a special fuzzy feeling when one of my students, Pat, brought a quilt she has made from the first piece of fabric she screen printed in class. Based on rock strata and fault lines it references all the places Pat has lived that have been affected by seismic activity. Fabulous!

The studio looks like an oasis of calm right now but it has got awfully messy in between teaching days. The weather has been dreadful so I’ve been drying soda soaked fabric on two lines strung across the studio whilst constructing and quilting a rather large quilt. Lots of walking the long way around tables and benches to avoid getting soda on everything. This has made me rather twitchy. Lets hope for better weather!

Wonderful, wonderful breakdown printing!

Last week I held my first 5 day Breakdown Your Palette workshop and it was brilliant. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you will know that I am just a little bonkers about breakdown printing. It has formed the basis for my art quilts for the last four years or so and is the subject of my book Breakdown Your Palette. The workshop and my demonstrations roughly followed the structure of the book. However, having 5 days meant that I could spend lots of time with each student and could encourage them to explore the techniques that best suited their inspiration and personal tastes. It also meant that there was time for the students to dye a 15 piece colour family that coordinated with their printed fabrics. The diversity in their work was truly amazing and inspiring, I feel so proud of what they achieved.

And I’m rather pleased with myself. Yes it was intense and I was rather tired by the Friday evening but I can’t think of a better way to earn my living. The next class is in three weeks ….. can’t wait!

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I love breakdown printing!
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Armed with industrial strength antihistamines, nasal spray and eye drops I am back to being a fully functioning human being. Which meant that I was able to spend last week doing the printing I had planned for Easter weekend. Oh yes!

I enjoy every part of creating my art quilts but the bit I love best is the printing. Especially if it is breakdown printing. Turning white fabric into a big pile of totally unique printed fabric is so, so satisfying.

Of course there was a lot of work involved but I printed about 20 square metres of fabric for my new ‘Print’ series. This will give me more than enough fabric to finish the pieces I have planned for my exhibition at Festival of Quilts. The weather was good at the beginning of the week so I was able to soda soak and dry more white fabric. I made up more breakdown screens, some using black thickened dye and some using print paste. For the first time this year I was able to dry some of the screens outside. Others were dried on top of a radiator. Most screens featured grids but I included a couple of screens that I made by using wooden print blocks to stamp dye onto the screen. (All this is covered in my book ‘Breakdown Your Palette’).

Once I had a stack of dried screens I pinned out fabric on my big print bench and started printing. Bliss! I varied how I printed in order to create a palette of printed fabric that included dark, medium and light fabrics. I stopped to wash, dry and iron the fabrics I had printed every couple of days so that I could check that I was getting the ‘balance’ I wanted. Yes, I even enjoy washing out my fabrics! And it is only time you will ever see a smile on my face when I’m ironing. All-in-all a great week. I can recommend it!