Posts in Exhibitions
It's a family affair!
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A big thank you to everybody who stopped by my stand at last weeks Creative Craft Show in Manchester. As well as giving a workshop once a day I was busy demonstrating breakdown printing on the stand. Always a bit of a challenge to work in a small space without easy access to a sink but the best thing about using dyes is that they don’t clog the screen when they dry out. I was quite pleased with the pieces I printed (above). And all from screens made using turquoise, rust brown and black dyes!

I also demonstrated stamping using textile inks and acrylic shapes. Easy technique and great for kids. And to prove the point my son, Joe, decided to have a go. OK so at 33 he is not exactly a kid any more but he really enjoyed himself printing a bag with stylised Batman and Joker logos. (And yes, I am aware of the copyright issue so my demo and the workshop I’ve developed using this technique did not use other peoples logos or images).

I really couldn’t do shows without Joe's help. So a very, very big thanks to him!

Back to business as usual ....
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After a much needed few weeks working at a gentle pace it is now time to get back to work properly! I have a busy week ahead of me. I have a private group in the studio at the beginning of the week and am hoping that the weather is reasonably kind as we are going to be breakdown printing. And at the end of the week I will be demonstrating and teaching at The Creative Craft Show at Event City, Manchester.

Compared to Festival of Quilts this is a small show and attracts a broader spectrum of craft enthusiasts. But it is local, a mere two miles from home, so counts as easy! No need to hire a van and I get to sleep in my own bed each night. I will be teaching a workshop called Colourful Cityscapes which uses acrylic shapes and textile inks to print fabric for a small wall hanging. This will be the last outing for this workshop. I developed it for this same show last September and have thoroughly enjoyed teaching it but, boy, is it hectic when there are 16 people in the class! I have learnt a lot since then so the new workshop I’ve developed to replace this will not involve so much running around on my part and will much better paced - so no more red faced teacher and no more frantic activity in the last 5 minutes!

I’ll also be demonstrating on my stand (B24) and will have son Joe with me to take over when I’m giving the workshop. I’ll be breakdown printing (of course!) and, if I get organised, will be doing some mark making and stamping with textile inks. And drinking too much coffee. And talking until I’m hoarse. And doing lots of arm waving as I get a bit excited. Back to business as usual!

If you are coming to the show please stop by and say hello!

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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!

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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Evolution part 2
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Time to get real ….. I’ve auditioned fabrics and stitched some samples but now I need to commit to a ‘proper’ piece. And for me that inevitably means a large scale piece. Time for a quick drawing on a scrap of paper to work out exactly what size and I’m off!

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First I take all my beautiful breakdown printed fabrics and cut them into rectangles. I don’t ‘cherry pick’, I just cut everything up. I take the cut pieces and jumble them up then close my eyes and pull them out one by one ready to lay them down in rows on my big print bench. I try to make this process as random as I can. The control freak in me would agonise over this part of the process and would inevitable produce a background that would not be as interesting as when I let serendipity happen.

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I sew the pieces together into long rows and put them up on my design wall. I like to leave the rows up there for a while and allow myself to change a handful of pieces to balance the colour and composition of the background. Just a handful - I do not give in to the temptation to change too many pieces!

I then prepare my backing fabric and my wadding (I use acrylic felt as I like how flat it is). Having cut them to size I use an adhesive spray to stick them together. I draw parallel lines, 2 inches apart, on my wadding and use a ‘stitch and flip’ process to sew my rows together and to the backing in a single process. This way I can ensure that my rows are sewn together accurately. Yes, I fully embrace my inner control freak for this part of my process! And it has the advantage that I don’t have a separate basting stage. I have always hated basting quilts!

I now have my background. It is ready for me to add what I call my top structures and to add stitch. As with my Ruins series I am stitching lots and lots of parallel lines in my new Print series. I can’t image not adding stitch but at the same time I don’t want the stitching to distract from the fabrics. Simple lines seems to work well with fabrics that contain so much detail. In one of my samples for this series I stitched a word as my top structure. I’ll probably use this idea for one or more of the pieces I will make in this series but for this first piece I had a light bulb moment and have gone in a different direction. And it is a direction that could not be sampled on a small scale piece. Yes my ‘sample’ is 290cm wide by 100cm high and is going to have a prime position in my upcoming exhibition so you only get see these work in progress shots!

There is a saying that fortune favours the brave …. I’m certainly hoping so!

Evolution part 1
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A few weeks ago I wrote a post about my upcoming solo gallery at this summers Festival of Quilts. I’ll be exhibiting new works from three connected series. The newest of the three is inspired by the evolution of the print and publishing industry as it has responded to changes in demand and in technology. As with all of my recent work the ideas evolved in my head and at the bench whilst I was busy working on other things - as I said last time I don’t sit round waiting for the muse! So here is the story of a series that I am calling ‘Print’.

Last summer I took a few days out from preparing my studio (and myself) for teaching to do some breakdown printing. I set myself the challenge of just using black thickened dye in a squeezy bottle to create lots of different grids. I had sort of started thinking about writing my first book and thought this would be a good starting point. I also wanted to create a small breakdown printed quilt to use on my stand at last summers Festival of Quilts. I wasn’t thinking ‘ART’ but as I started cutting into my printed fabrics I was started thinking about the print industry and my connections with it. I made a small quilt which I called Process Colour #1. And went shopping for some old wooden print blocks which I thought I might try to incorporate in ‘something’ … no firm ideas of what but wheels had started turning in my subconscious.

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A couple of months later and everything seemed to come together in my head … In my old corporate life I was involved in printing tufted textiles on an industrial scale, in my art life I printed my own unique fabrics. I sometimes use thermofax screens which utilise old technology from the 1950’s. My daughter and her partner have long been involved in the self-publishing / zine movement (check out Good Press). I had spent the autumn trying to get my husband to throw out some very old Gestetner printing supplies 30 years after he used a Gestetner duplicator to print his own zines. And now I was going to self-publish my first book (Breakdown Your Palette). So many connections. And there is so much history when you look at the print and publishing industry. So many changes in technology. Wood block printing to movable type. Printing presses to lithography to inkjet and digital printing to 3D printing. The written word being accessible to the privileged few to mass publication to the growth of the internet and ebooks.

And so I spent another week printing more fabrics. Just using black thickened dye but incorporating embedded wooden print blocks with my grids. Playing with new ideas. Auditioning fabrics. Making a sample utilising thin strips. Promising but still not quite right.

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All more fuel for my mind to mull over. At some point I decided that I would create pieces using the same ‘brick wall’ background as I wanted that connection with my Ruins series. And sampled this as a piece for my Cloth in Common group. In this quilt I stitched the word ‘offset’ on top of a background made using my breakdown printed fabric. Definitely going in the right direction. Which is just as well as I need to make pieces for the exhibition. In my next post I will share the process for making my first large scale piece in this new series. My ideas will continue to evolve as I make each piece …..

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Happily exhausted!
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Two four day shows in successive weeks with just two days at home between them was always going to be a ‘challenge’ but what a wonderful way to exhaust myself! The Fashion and Embroidery Show at the NEC, Birmingham was brilliant. I was delighted to be given a bigger stand than expected as it meant I could take more quilts to show. I decided to show one of my big Ruins quilts on the back wall and was overwhelmed by the response - so many wonderful comments. Big, big thank you to everybody who stopped by the stand!

And a super, big thank you to my son, Joe, who came to both shows with me. I simply could not have done without him. He even did a bit of printing when I was busy away from the stand! This is definitely a family affair.

And now I’m home and have just finished washing fabrics, cleaning screens and catching up on paperwork. For those of you who watched me printing at the shows below are some of my demonstration pieces from the shows. The piece at the top of this post was printed in Birmingham.

I’ve indulged in an afternoon nap and a couple of early nights. Batteries fully recharged. What next? Making lots and lots of art for my exhibition at this summers Festival of Quilts. Living the dream!

Printed in Glasgow, breakdown printing and printing using screens with torn masking tape resists.

Printed in Glasgow, breakdown printing and printing using screens with torn masking tape resists.

Printed in Birmingham, all breakdown printing.

Printed in Birmingham, all breakdown printing.