Lines (not wrinkles), London and Pots

TapeLineNovember 2nd    Last weekend I was in London, going to two workshops run by textile artist Shelly Goldsmith, in response to Richard Tuttle’s ‘I Don’t Know. The Weave of Textile Language’. Starting at the Whitechapel Gallery, investigating the quality of line was a good way into this retrospective show of some of Tuttle’s work, all of which has an emphasis on textiles. We were then let loose in an upstairs room to create mayhem, making and installing our own ‘lines’ out of fabric and thread, and incorporating heat transfer images. Great group of people, with varied backgrounds, and all ready to get stuck in. This is the part of my line that I liked. After the workshop I wandered into Kader Attia’s installation ‘Continuum of Repair: The Light of Jacob’s Ladder’. Like the Tuttle, how could I resist a title like that?! Just great, fascinating, intelligent, many of the things I was groping for through my Nature of Mending project were articulated here.

I can’t really describe either the Tuttle or the Attia, so I won’t try, but got a great deal from both, visual and cerebral. Sunday the workshop re-convened at Tate Modern, to contemplate Tuttle’s installation in the Turbine Hall, which I think is pretty horrible, and I wasnt totally alone. But we got to create chaos again in another upstairs room, this time deconstructing a garment we had brought, and creating something. All very art- collegey but great fun.


Here is a detail from my black silk piece (I abandoned the heat transfer, a technique Shelly uses to brilliant and thought provoking effect, but I was hopeless). The woven ‘name-tape’ is a section cut from a whole long length of text that Shelly brought, left over from one of her pieces, and again, finding the phrase about repair, just had to pounce on it. (Hope it’s visible)  One of the extra treats of the day was being in the Tate’s education room, high up at one end of the building, with extraordinary views 013255fccd9279bdb1204ac0b5f318392436aa00e1014ac7c7bd722021e5d99882bc2d4ded25eb067f05Home on Monday, then on Wednesday a visit to Museum of Somerset as part of the Discovery Room project which is now well under way (more about this v. soon) and another extraordinary treat, looking at and holding very very ancient ceramics. This one is about 2,500 years old….017286966b3175827ba68f127da7d2bbe92727fdecWhat a week!


July 30th 2014. The Room! New Project!

Friend and painter/printmaker Jenny Graham has been successful in her bid to Arts Council England for her project ‘The Room’. I will be joining her, and Chris Dunseath, (sculptor), Ralph Hoyte (poet) and Richard Tomlinson (photographer/moving image) to spend the next year rootling around in the stores and archives at Somerset Heritage in Taunton, alongside their great team of curators. The rootlings will culminate in an installation at the Museum of Somerset in 2016. There will be a project blog soon.
SO, I have been ruminating about collections. I don’t think of myself as a maker of collections, but I realise, I have unconsciously put together a collection of wonky pots over the past 15 years, which live on the windowsill in my studio. There are one or two things which are not pots, but which relate somehow, (and there is one bowl which is anything but wonky but makes a great foil for the others). Here is my windowsill.

studio windowsill
studio windowsill

You can’t see the individual objects in any detail here, but the reason I wanted to post a picture of my collection was more to do with their background stories than to show them off and say why I like them. Makes a change from always being primarily visual. So here are the stories. The numbers start with the little bottles along the top, and go clockwise and then into the middle, finishing with the Michael Fairfax sculpture.

1 – 5
Rejected bottles and pot collected from the debris of John Butler and John McKenzie’s wood fired kiln after their final firing at Hurstone Studios in 2004.

Beaker made by Martha Stalkopt at Hurstone studios in 2004. One of the gifts she made to all of us who had studios there when she returned to Switzerland.

7 & 8
Terracotta beakers from India. The LH one is a chai cup, (now holding pins) which I picked up from a pile of rejects next to the potter who was making them, in a small remote village somewhere in Rajasthan in 2005. James Crowden would know the name of it; he took us there to see the most spectacular step well.
The RH one I kept from a train journey from Dehra Dun to Delhi, later in 2005. Extract from my diary: ‘As soon as the train starts boys come round with newspapers. Unfortunately all in Hindi. These are followed by bottles of water and a paper cup each. A while later we get a sort of thin spicy pasty, a cup of tea (from a ‘tea kit’), a packet of crisps, one of those testicle like sweet balls (brown this time) and two toffees. After another pause, we get a carton of mango juice each, which are whipped away rather quickly, (no chance of saving for later) and replaced with a cup of spicy tomato soup and roll and butter. NOW comes the major meal, 3 hot dishes, (curried beans, curried paneer, rice & 3 chapatti) a paper bag of salad, pickle, and a terracotta pot of beautiful yoghurt’. This is the very same terracotta pot, and now holds a painted easter egg.

9. 1960s vase from car boot.

10 & 11. Two experimental fired paperclay objects, made by me at UWE Bristol whilst studying for my printmaking M.A in 2002

12. A small beautifully imperfect bowl by Japanese ceramicist Kaori Tatebayashi, bought this year at the Leach pottery shop in St. Ives. It now contains a handful of iridescent green beetle wings from my grandmother’s sewing things. They were presumably for applique, like sequins.

13 – 16 More experiments with fired paperclay, made last year for my Nature of Mending project, using nails and metal washers, with a view to incorporating into tapestries.

17. A piece of circular slate. Cannot remember where I found it.

18. Four rusted antique nails found whilst gardening.

19. A beautiful, serene, perfectly symmetrical and balanced celadon bowl with raku fired pedestal by Devon ceramicist Tim Andrews, bought 2 years ago at the Marle Gallery in Axminster.

20. As 10 and 11

21 As 1 – 5 except this was not a reject and I bought it from one of the Johns. John Butler now making green buildings in Bridport, so he would know.

22 Five pieces of fabric stitched/wrapped with metal dipped in porcelain slip then fired, by textile artist Debbie Smyth. Bought this year from the Taunton exhibition of work made during the Somerset Artworks project Z Twist.

23 Wood and lens sculpture by Michael Fairfax. A much loved 50th birthday present from the artist.

So, a rich mix of pieces by artists, some friends, some not, incidental finds and my own experiments.
Applying this process to museum collections won’t of course be possible, but maybe with imagination, making collections from within their collections can be brought to life in a similar way. Can’t wait!

Quick trip, ideas to last

Is this Heaven?
Is this Heaven?

I lived in this tiny village in the Tuscan hills in 1975, long before it evolved into its current life as a holiday village with a difference. Abandoned post war, the sculptor Fiore de Henriquez, (who died ten years ago) bought it and re-built it (mostly herself) during the 1960s and 70s. One weekend this June I was one of around 50 people who stayed there for a weekend of Fiore celebration, which included two exceptional films about her. 2 days of stimulating conversation, exceptional food and wine, and heavenly views, scents and weather. From here I travelled to Bologna for two days.083
In my next post, I will put together images from Abbzia de Santo Stefano, the Archaelogical Museum and Mambo, the new Museum of Modern Art in Bologna. These were the main things I got to see, fitting in around buying a train ticket (as always in Italy, a saga in itself), buying espadrilles, and Italian knickers, and experiencing the free movies being shown every night in the main square, along with an elegant concert in a church garden of 18th century chamber music…..I love Bologna. Oh, and of course sensational ice cream…..

June 3rd. Last 5 days coming up…

Yellow Present
Yellow Present

Give yourself a Yellow Present before Artweeks finish on Sunday…. Still some great drypoint prints to be had too – Thank you everyone who has been so far, great time catching up with people, and meeting new ones. Venue 151, on the Dorset /Somerset border near between Axminster, Chard and Winsham in the middle of a field….check directions at

Open Studios Week Two….

Flying Kerchief
Flying Kerchief

This is a very small painting/drawing of mine, bought by Eve Higgs last week. Still have two others from the same series left…..
Week two of Dorset Artweeks Open Studios is so far drier and sunnier! Myself and partner Brian Rice are right on the precipitous edge of Dorset, so only the most discerning and intrepid venture out to see us. (venues 150 and 151 So we have had some really great visitors; engaged, interesting, and able to look closely at our work as we don’t have blockbuster type crowds. We close tomorrow and Tuesday to catch up on our lives, before being open every day from Wednesday to next Sunday. Don’t miss out! There are some other exceptional venues not far away, and we are in a very special bit of countryside too.

Open Studios May 24th-June8th

Mile End

My studio will be open to visitors as part of Dorset Artweeks 2014 from May 24th, so come and visit me and my partner Brian Rice in our idyllic place on the Dorset/Somerset border, overlooking the Axe Valley and Forde Abbey (hidden by trees, but it is there!). Take care down our rather rough track access though. We are venues 150 and 151. More info

Great prints at Coleridge Cottage!

Coleridge Flyer for EmailSomerset Printmakers were approached by the National Trust at Coleridge Cottage to make work inspired by or in response to poems by Coleridge. The resulting show is a great mix of figurative and abstract visual thoughts, and in conjunction with visiting this evocative little house, is a must-do visit. Detail from my print is top RH corner of the above flyer!It is a response to his poem ‘This Lime Tree bower, my prison’.  What I like about this poem is Coleridge’s change of heart, from raging against having to sit in his garden rather than striding in the open air across much loved hills with his friends,(he has burned his foot badly) and then finding that actually there is much to celebrate in the small details that surround him in his lime-tree bower. My two prints aim to reflect the two perceptions of his situation encapsulated in the poem.


February 14th 2014: new piece for Art for Life auction

'Votive': Etching on paper; paperclay; linen and antique gold thread; acrylic and graphite on board
‘Votive’: Etching on paper; paperclay; linen and antique gold thread; acrylic and graphite on board

The ‘Art for Life’ auction, supporting the hospital arts project at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton, is now live online at: . Many artists across the region donate specially made work for their annual charity auction, all of it made on supplied A5 boards. You can bid for a piece online now, then the final auction is at Musgrove Park on May 20th. My piece ‘Votive’ (above) has been a bit of a departure, using some of the paperclay pieces I made for my Nature of Mending work. And now I am working on new small tapestries for Dorset Artweeks (May 24th – June 8th) Open Studios ( also incorporating little shards of paperclay. More on this soon, meanwhile get bidding for Art on the Block!   ‘Art for Life’ is special to me as I started the project in the early 1990’s and am so proud of how it has evolved and grown since then.


If Coleridge had a camera……

Frail Patch. Drypoint print December 2013
Frail Patch. Drypoint print December 2013

Whilst I was driving through the winter Somerset landscape recently, thinking loosely about a new print project, it occurred to me that if Coleridge had had a camera, he probably wouldn’t have wanted to use it.


Somerset Printmakers have been asked by the National Trust to mount a show of prints in May 2014 about this larger than life Romantic, poet, philosopher and journalist, in the Garden House at Coleridge’s cottage in Nether Stowey.

Although I am keen to take part, as a mainly abstract artist, I have to come at these kinds of projects somewhat obliquely.

 We have chosen as a starting point the phrase ‘Wander in Gladness’, which comes from ‘This Lime Tree Bower my Prison’ a poem about friends, and about experiencing the landscape near to Nether Stowey.

Now this is the thing about Coleridge. He embraced things fully, uncompromisingly, in their enormity as well as their detail, whether ideas, nature, landscape, relationships, or language. He was a ‘both feet in’ person, never simply an observer. Hence the thought about the camera.


I love a camera, I love viewing the world framed, and through a lens. I particularly love the results to be in black and white and all tones between. I love to find a detail that when taken from it’s context turns into something else, gains a separate life of its own. This, at the moment, is what my work is about.

 So I’ve been having difficulty reconciling my small observations with finding an image that connects with Mr. Coleridge, imagining him restless, ‘wandering in gladness’, communing with nature whilst lying under the stars, striding for miles across the Quantocks and the Lake District in all weathers.

 The poem, Lime Tree Bower, was written when Coleridge was confined to sitting in the garden at Nether Stowey with a badly burned foot (his wife Sarah had spilt boiling milk on it; there must be a story there!) whilst his friends set out on a long rambling walk through the local undulating landscape and coastline that he knew so well, and recalls so passionately in words. Initially he writes of his frustration at being left out. But then, I realise on re-reading the poem, he is finding equal richness and joy in various minute details that can be experienced even from this ‘little lime tree bower’. Great! This is my territory! It has taken weeks of not thinking too hard about it finally to find my own starting point.


Somerset Heritage Centre project continues to be developed. More news soon. Scissors still hovering over ‘Folded Loss’ tapestry – I know where to cut now, but need to wait till I have a bit of time.