Sunday, 30 December 2012

Wow! what a year . . !

 Christmas street decorations in Granada 2012.

Well the rain has stopped in Brighton - for at least an hour now! Blimey it's been wet. My thoughts are with those of you who are still struggling with having been flooded for the second or even third time.

The sun is shining as I write this, it is a treat to write this looking out at a bright blue sky - long may it last!  I am off to France later today to stay with good friends and share New Year with them. Like most of you I have been thinking back over the past year and planning for 2013 . . and 2014 Gulp!


2012 Started well for me as I was in Spain staying with my dear friend Brenda Killigrew who runs The Old Needle Works in Redditch where I teach my ExTex course. We visited Granada at New Year and visited the Alhambra.

It had been long been a resolution/need of mine to visit the Alhambra and thanks to Brenda we spent a wonderful day there. Cordoba is next on the list.
Brenda has a house in Spain where she runs the Castanea creative courses.

 Another highlight was being invited back to Australia to teach two residential courses. This was my second visit to the Antipodes and the ladies who attend the courses and was ready for them this time. Boy do these girls know how to have fun!!!! They work hard too . . .

 Guess who won 'The most Fabulous Wearing of False Eyelashes'?

I taught in Ballarat near Melbourne and in the Blue Mountains nearish Sydney.
All the tutors worked hard and played hard and were exhausted by the end of each course - Oh, but is was fun! 
It was wonderful to be teaching alongside Marry Hettmansperger and Dorothy Caldwell (great Youtube film about Dorothy and her work again. We only meet when we teach in Australia. Mary lives in America and Dorothy in Canada.

 One of the most beautiful uses of Vilene spunbond I have seen.

Let's not forgot I was there to teach and the students in both groups produced stunning work. There are several posts back in April/May where you can catch up.
  The beginnings of the paper 'invasion' to my teaching.

All types of paper including newspaper were included in the courses and this is where I realised the paper theme was really going to take off.

Then it was off to New Zealand, I had never been before and I was so tired after my hectic three weeks in Australia all I wanted to do was go home.
Wow!! what an astounding place. I count my self VERY lucky to have been invited to lecture and teach there. I only saw a small part of the South Island, from Christchurch to Blenheim but I know I need to get back to this stunningly beautiful place again . . and again . .  and again. I will be back there in 2014 and 2015 and I can't wait to explore further and to catch up with the wonderful friends I made there.

 Three of the fantastic people I met in Blenheim, New Zealand. Denise, Bob and Christine. We had a hysterical time one night with Bob playing show tunes on the piano and Denise, Christine and I playing the spoons and dancing violently up and down the hall - of course - no alcohol had been consumed . . !

I think there are seventeen wineries in Blenheim!
 New Zealand is sooooooo beautiful.

 Something else I have been very proud of is that my Experiemental Textiles course, affectionately known as ExTex, has been running again since May. You may have seen my second book Experimental Textiles which is about this course. Originally the course was a four year one but I have re written it, taking out all the most important sessions and creating a course that is delivered over nine weekends finishing with an End of Year Show at Fashion, Embroidery and Stitch at the end of March at the NEC, Birmingham. Whhoo hooo! I have a fabulous group who are producing amazing work. If you are on Facebook you can view more of their work here.

 My ExTex girls coping well with a large scale still life.
 One of the great samples made on the 'metal' ExTex weekend.

 A great sample of transfer printing.

 A new venture has been running my own courses locally at Foredown Tower. It has been very satisfying and a great treat for me not to have to travel too far for a change ( I'm getting old)! I have attracted a small 'core' of students and others ebb and flow. There are three more weekends left later on in 2013.
 The five brave students who enrolled for the 'Creating Original Designs' weekend.

 The 'flipping out' exercise.

 The 'journeys' hanging on the wall.
A 'positive' and 'negative' printing block created from a section of one of the 'flipping out' exercises.


Of course, none of this is possible without YOU!!! The student, blog reader artist - whatever . . . It is wonderful to be able to reach out to you all, all over the globe. My blog stats tell me I have just reached the 115.000 mark of hits.
Pretty amazing really, nothing like as many as some other blogs, but not bad for someone who teaches strange and rather unusual techniques with few finished 'things' in sight. I just love process!

With all the new products coming into the textile field I still love Bondaweb the best.

 I still love Bondaweb the best! 
Painted Bondaweb ironed onto black cotton, decorated with heat transfer foil, glitter and strips of newspaper.

I know tutors are not supposed to have favourites but I thought I would show you two of the pieces that I have been most pleased with this year. 

The first piece was created on a newspaper based course at Bobby Britnell's studio. It combines all the newspaper and painted Bondaweb layering along with print and water soluble machine embroidery. Simple and beautiful
 A stunning piece by Veronica Wells created on one of my 'newspaper' courses at Bobby Britnell's studio.

 The last image is a section of a piece of work created by a student on my last course at West Dean for this year. Vicki is a full time student at West Dean and was a joy to work with. She had a great time sloshing about with all the dyes, newspaper, Bondaweb and heat transfer foil. She worked hard and fast to create some amazing textures.
A section of one of my favourite pieces of work created by one of my students this year. Vicki was on my most recent course at West Dean College. Layers of painted Bondaweb, newspaper, heat transfer foil and print.


I hope you will forgive this rather self indulgent post. It has been an exciting year with many ups and few downs - and above all - WET!!! I would like to thank all the students who enrolled on workshops - they wouldn't run with out you and you were SUCH fun!

Hello to all my friends near and far who read this - hopefully I will see you sometime this year!!! I will be doing shows in Manchester, Glasgow, London and the NEC this year so I SHOULD get to see many of you. Those of you who are reading this in Australia and New Zealand - see you in 2014. It will get here sooner that we think.

                                   Be safe - Be well
              Love your family and friends, hold them close.
                                    Happy New Year
                                         with love
                                            x x x

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Decorated Book Covers at Foredown Tower 15th - 16th December

 One of the delicious slip covers ready to be stitched to fit the book.

Well that is the last workshop for this year. It was great to back at Foredown Tower, you may have noticed it is now one of my favourite places to teach.
I had six fabulous students on the course who worked very hard and were good enough to help with eating the cakes.

      One of Claire's lovely samples ready to iron onto the Decovil light.

The workshop was 'A New Starting Point'. I have never known a workshop to be so popular, it certainly seems to have piqued everyones interest. The idea is to make some gorgeous surfaces by layering old newpapers with painted Bondaweb and all things sparkly. Gilding flake seems to be the most favoured sparkle this year. You can get this from

 Claire tearing up one of her samples ready to iron to the Decovil light.

 The paper layers are then ironed onto pre-coloured Decovil light, the new iron-on interfacing that looks and feels like leather - FAB U LOUS! We were covering hard spine books with slip covers or decorating the covers of spiral bound books directly onto the cover. due to time constraints the group had to decide whether to seal the their covers or stitch them. They all chose to seal them. We used acrylic wax. It gives a soft lustre rather than a hard shine and is water proof. You can buy acrylic wax here
 Marianne produced some FAB work . . . .

 A close up of the sample.
 Another of Marianne's samples.

 A fab one from Val.
  . . . . and from Christine.
 The following samples are Kim's (Yes, there was another one in the room). These are the small samples that the group created to get used to the technique before they launched into the larger pieces.


Kim had a great time and was very taken with the fact that you could foil the Decovil light and then print onto it. As the Decovil light is an iron-on interfacing you can iron heat transfer foil onto the adhesive side.

 This is one of Kim's samples - pre-coloured Decovil light decorated with silver foil and then printed with my fish block with acrylic paint.

 This is Hilary creating a fabulous, large sample.

 The following images are the the slip covers, sealed and ready to have the ends turned over to create the 'pockets' for the book covers to slip into.


 The following images are the spiral bound books decorated directly onto the covers.


As you can see the group had a good time. It was a very successful and enjoyable workshop and a great group to finish the year with. I will be seeing more of the group in April for the next Foredown workshop.


I'm now going up into the loft to get the Christmas decorations out - wish me luck!!


Friday, 14 December 2012

Jewelled Surfaces at West Dean College 10 - 13 December. Part the second

One of Gina's beautiful pieces that ended up as a book cover.

Only having four students on the course was a great treat for me - I'm not sure how the students felt, as many of you will know, I'm not very good at leaving my students alone to work in peace . . .

I don't quite know why there were only four bookings, I have taught in December or January with ten every year so it is a mystery. I know some students worry about the possibility of snow, and it has snowed hard once or twice at this time. Anyway, we had a great time and it was a first for me so that was good. The students worked hard and fast so I had to introduce more than I was expecting to. It's good for me to be 'kept on my toes'. I can get a bit blase if things are too easy.

'Jewelled Surfaces' involved layering newspaper, painted Bondaweb and all kinds of glittery things and then reinforcing them with different iron-on interfacings. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it. I developed this technique when I had shingles and had very little energy but desperately needed to do SOMETHING. So I gathered together all the bits and pieces I loved working with and created my 'Background and Prettys' technique. It will be featured as a project in my next book.

Marion laying up torn layered newspaper on colourwashed Decovil 1.

 More of Marion's work. Marion is a painter and used her torn strips in a very painterly fashion, I love having fine artists on my courses.

Having the chance to work so closely with each student was fascinating. Vicki is on one of the full time courses at West Dean and had permission do my course as part of her development. I was very impressed with the way Vicki got straight on with every part of the course, she was very focused and a joy to work with.

 Vicki layering newspaper onto a canvas to then add her stunning embellishments.

 Some sections of Vicki's stunning work.
  Vicki's two finished canvases.

 We also had fun with using the newspaper for faux chnille. Jean created this great sample by stitching open some of the 'channels' and then really roughing up what was left sticking up - gorgeous!

 Jean created two of the sample on the previous post. This new one was created with the baking paper that left after you have removed the Bondaweb - a very icy piece that was to be decorated with metallic threads.

 Gina created some beautifully considered work that was eventually ironed onto Decovil 1 and Decovil light to create slip covers for books. I very stupidly forgot to photograph the finished books, for which I apologise as they were fabulous.


To be paid to teach at such a stunning venue is just remarkable to me. West Dean is great place to learn new skills but it doesn't stop there. The grounds are beautiful, with a walled garden, acres of open parkland and flower borders and topiary walkways. I feel like pinching myself when I am there. I am very lucky. Oh and I haven't mentioned the food - Fantastic! Home cooked and delicious.

 Even on a dark frosty morning the view from the workshop door is stunning . . . .


I now need to get ready for my last teaching session this year. I am teaching 'Decorated Book Covers' at Foredown Tower over the weekend. It's always great fun there, we have the place to ourselves and have a 'lock in'!!!

I had better start thinking about making the cakes . . .  

Have a great weekend.

x x x