Saturday, July 29, 2017

Forward planning

It does not feel like the end of July here - more like sometime in September.  The evenings are chill with no heating, and the hawthorn berries get redder every day.  I want to do some lino printing in the Autumn, so took some time today to think about designs.  The doodle below is based on someone I saw in Hyde Park one sunny day last month.

Now I am going to try to inject some feeling of Summer into the day by making frozen gooseberry yoghurt - but I might need to put on a cardigan first!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Can't settle

I have many things to get on with, most of which need a deal of time, but I find myself distracted to focus on something different.  My main determination at present is to eliminate extraneous STUFF.  Stuff which has accumulated over so many years, and has been added to and accommodated as parents have died.
Stuff might prove useful, books might be read or re-read, stuff is too good to throw away, but now obsolete, or out of fashion, or in not quite spruce enough condition to give away, ....
Anyway all this in itself should make me busy, but the very process of sorting through the stuff - especially in this case the textile stuff - has tripped me up.  I found myself making a collage of bits left over from other projects.  And now have given myself yet another stitching project.
The base is a screen print on heavy calico.  The image is a drawing of part of the plan of Winchester cathedral.  Many years ago I was part of an exhibition in the cathedral and as I live relatively near I did the early morning shift.  With hardly anyone in the cathedral I spent an enjoyable time looking at the structure of the place, and especially at the medieval inlaid tiles.
I made screen prints of the tile designs too, and bits of those are in this new collage.
The figures are offprints from other projects.  I also added some text about the tile makers, and all that would have been ok - but the idea is to pull it all together with the kind of intensive stitching that I used for City living, below.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


I have been seeking a folk song.  Several years ago, while I was my mother's sole carer and thus not my usual otherwise alert self, I happened across a television programme of a folksong gathering.  A woman described the folk tale behind the song she was about to sing - perhaps in Gaelic (Irish, or Scottish, I cannot remember).
It was the story which gripped my mind.  I do not remember it at all clearly except the bare bones:
There were two sisters; one - let's call her Catriona - had a lover that the other - let's call her Fiona - coveted.  So while Catriona fell asleep at the low tide edge, Fiona tied her hair to the rocks.  The tide inevitably came in, and Fiona walked off with the lover.
I cannot remember enough details to google effectively, so have not been able to track down the folk song, or the tale.  I keep trying at odd moments, but meanwhile the worm has been at work in my mind.  The seaweed on the shores of the Outer Hebrides provided the hair.
It is not a literal illustration of a mis-remembered story, but what hearing the story generated within my well-established relationship with the sea.  After my return from holiday I have been working on the idea above. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Holiday stitching

I am still working my way through Soliloquy, a panel at a time - only eight panels to go before I stitch them together.  I did not want to risk them on holiday, however, so I took Classic viola to finish, and Quiet work.
The latter was my main occupation, with the leaves taking up the time.  I finished the rest once I returned home, and before resuming Soliloquy.
I have written in more detail about the development of Quiet work on my work blog.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Summer between storms

I had not seen the Hauser and Wirth garden in Summer, so I jumped at the opportunity to meet a friend there yesterday.  I was so lucky with the weather: I drove through a rainstorm to get there, and it poured for hours after I returned home, but whilst there we even had sunshine at one point!
Our own garden has benefited greatly from the rain, so a good day for gardens as well as catching up on friendly gossip yesterday.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Recent fiction reading

Jessica Benhar: Woman Reading (Image from here)
I read four novels whilst on holiday recently.  I started with The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain.  I very much enjoy Tremain's storytelling.  Without effort I am wafted to place and time, immediately engaged with character.  This was no exception, and I loved the quiet melancholy through which Gustav gently progresses.  Beautiful.
Two novels were both by Margaret Drabble.  I had not read her for some time, and having just bought her latest The Dark Flood Rises, I decided to read The Pure Gold Baby first.  To say that Drabble delivers a slice of life, cut across characters and class is an over-simplification.  She examines subjects such as disability in The Pure Gold Baby, and old age and death in The Dark Flood Rises, but treats those threads within contexts which we recognise and believe - as well as the slightly off-piste, and with which she has this reader fully engaged.  Drabble created a group of people with whose lives I was so wrapped that before going on to the second novel I decided to read The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon which came to my attention in a Guardian review.
This is very much in the same vein: wrapped in a neighbourhood where everyone knows everyone's business - or so they think.  Everyone has dark(ish) secrets, and two girls set out to solve a murder in their summer holiday.  Amusing and profound as children can be, there was a smile on my face as I read this novel in almost one go.
Then on to old age and dying.  Sounds depressing - especially with me in my seventieth year and feeling the creaks of time.  But not at all: Margaret Drabble deals with so many aspects of the end of life with a light touch, amusing characters, thoughtfulness, ... I very much enjoyed The Dark Flood Rises.
William Patrick Roberts: A Reading of Poetry (Woman Reading) Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art  (image from here)
And now for something different: Quite Ugly One Morning by Christoher Brookmyre.  I heard about this on the BBC Radio 4 programme A good read just after we returned from holiday.  It is a whodunnit, written by a Scot, and set in Edinburgh - it contains lots of bodily fluids right from the first page - but was just right as the punctuation mark I needed to get back to reading my pile of non-fiction.

Friday, July 07, 2017


Several years back a friend and I used to work closely together.  We did our own thing, but every three weeks met, and gave ourselves exercises to stimulate thought, work, and discussion.  Life got in the way, and the close association dissolved, and I do miss that constant stimulus.
Of late I have felt myself on a kind of plateau - plenty of projects to process, but a whiff of same-old same-old creeping into my horizon view.  So, I decided to do two positive things. 
First I shall not fret.  I have a lot to be getting on with, as is the way with hand work - so on with that I shall get.  Meantime I shall set myself exercises.
A long time ago when I was similarly in the doldrums about what new fiction to read in order to widen my experience, I set myself the exercise of for instance buying the thinnest book on a shelf, or one with a red cover, or the first one I saw with something specific in the cover design, or title, ... etc.  I encountered very few duds, and enjoyed the stimulating experience greatly.
So, for my first exercise I chose a square sketchbook (from my embarrassingly large pile of empty or almost empty sketchbooks!), pastels, made myself a stencil, and was to use at least one postage stamp (from a collection my brother and I had as children - he does not want them, and I am thus slowly disposing of them).  The stencil I made is of a group of five running figures.
The image at the top of this post is the first attempt, with a stamp of one of my favourite mosaics.  I decided that the stamps I chose should have some personal meaning for me, and the one below reminds me of the hours I spent in Singapore airport in the mid-1980s!  (I was flying out to Jakarta for work every couple of months, with an eight hour wait at Changi between planes - those trips involved me watching a lot of tropical fish!)
After my first attempt at the exercise I wanted deliberately to do something that needed 'editing'; working on in some further way.  So this was a lot looser in approach. 
I tried not to have any idea of what that further work might be, but as I scanned the scribble this morning my memory dredged up a photo of water lily leaves I had taken a couple of years ago.  So I had a little play with that.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Summer tradition

On Sunday we went to see this year's pavilion at the Serpentine gallery.  It was a delightful sunny day, not too hot.  I really like this year's pavilion.  It is a design which could be replicated in many park or garden situation.  I very much delighted in its simplicity including the simple shapes, and elegant ingenious method of catching the rain to pour as a waterfall into the centre.