New interactive pieces for The Sill, Northumberland.

The Sill, is a new landscape discovery centre in beautiful Northumberland, very close to many of the famous Roman sites along Hadrian’s Wall. The Sill helps visitors to look deeper into the landscape, culture, history and heritage of Northumberland.

View from The Sill roof

View from The Sill roof

Last year, whilst The Sill was still being built, I was asked by the Education Team to work with them on creating some interactive bags for schools and community groups to use whilst visiting their building and galleries.

Inside The Sill

Inside The Sill’s gallery, which explains many of the uses of the landscape, materials and habitats found in the area.

A large part of last year I spent working on the Shipley Art Galleries Centenary Quilt but as soon as that was finished, we started planning in more detail what interactive materials The Sill would benefit from first and how they would like them to look. So the first two interactive bags I worked on was the Moorland Curlew Bag and the Geology bag.

Curlew 1

Curlew Children’s mask

The Moorland Curlew bag was great fun to make. The bag itself is large enough to carry all the interactive pieces in plus room for teachers notes. I always find children love as much opportunity to dress up – so any chance to make wings and masks is great!

Curlew 2

Curlew wings, child size.

The Curlew bag also had a crochet nest, with eggs plus worms for the Curlew to eat!

Curlew eggs

Curlew nest and eggs.

Habitat bags always need a predator and what better than a fox – great fun for interactive role play!

Fox mask

Fox mask.

The Moorland Curlew bag itself had two sides, as the curlews nest in the moorland building their nests on the floor and they also spend their time at the seaside amongst the mudflats – which you may have seen, with their long, curled, distinctive beaks.

Using bags in the Sill

Moorland Curlew (mudflat side) and Geology bag being used at The Sill.

The geology bag looked at how the stone and the Whin Sill had been created over thousands of years. The bag itself illustrates very simply how the stratigraphic layers in the area have built up to create the landscape and stone in the area.

Geology bag strat layers

Geology bag cover, textile illustration of the stratigraphic layers in Northumberland.

To help illustrate to children visiting with schools and community groups, small textile panels were made to show how the local stone is used in Hadrian’s Wall, making roads, sandstone walls and limestone kilns.

This bag was also quilted so that rocks and stones, plus other materials could safely be placed inside.

Interactive 'stone' pieces

Four textile panels illustrating the use of stone in the area: top left – road building, top right – sandstone walls, bottom left – limestone kilns and how limestone enriches the ground and bottom right – Hadrian’s Wall.

These bags have now been delivered and I am now working on a ‘Dark Skies and Mythology’ bag plus a large, layered map which will be used up on the grassed roof, to assist discussions about how the landscape has changed over the last two thousand years.


About ‘obsesivcreativ’

Rupert Brooke poet

Hand and machine embroidered portrait of war poet Rupert Brooke

Louise is a Newcastle based textile and three dimensional artist making unique pieces, working with traditional north east techniques such as hooky and proggy matting, as well as spinning, quilting, patchwork, embroidery, felting, batik as well as upholstery and lino print.

William Morris

Hand and machine embroidered portrait of war poet Rupert Brooke

Louise is particularly influenced by nature and environmental issues. Inspiration and influences include the Arts and Crafts movement, costume of all eras (but particularly military, late C20 and theatrical), contemporary quilting and fibre arts in the US, subversive crafting and textiles.

AWAS chair 1

Hand and machine embroidered portrait of war poet Rupert Brooke

A constant maker, Louise sources materials from across the country. She is keen to react against mass production and uniformity.

Recently, Louise was very pleased to be involved in the exhibition of Grayson Perry’s ‘A Vanity of Small Differences’ at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. Louise worked with local community groups to create three large textile wall hangings in response to his work, these hung alongside the exhibition.

'The First Aspirational Tea Party' made with young mums for Grayson Perry's  'The Vanity of Small Differences' exhibition in Sunderland.

‘The First Aspirational Tea Party’ made with young mums for Grayson Perry’s ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’ exhibition in Sunderland.

Louise believes that passing on skills is very important and welcomes commissions involving school and community work, teaching textile crafts in formal and informal settings.

'All We Are Saying' blanket for Peace.

‘All We Are Saying’ blanket for Peace.

This year, with her family, Louise is heading to Sweden for a two week artists residency at the Bergby Konstcenter. The underlying theme for her residency is about the environment and she have come up with the working title of ‘Häxors Trosor’ for the residency. This is Swedish for ‘Witches Knickers’! This is a humorous term for the shreds of plastic bags stuck in trees and bushes which are such a common sight in our landscapes.  These are symbol of the sad condition of our planet, much of which is a result of a throw-away culture, with rubbish found dumped in beautiful landscapes, plastic floating in the seas and chemicals seeping into the planet’s ecosystems. Watch how the project develops here and on instagram.

Portrait project with Hadrian Primary School


This picture is made by an extremely talented Year 4 pupil.


As part of the Drawing? exhibition at the Customs House in South Shields, Illustrated Stitch I was asked to work with a local school looking at the way I work, developing my portraits using drawing and stitching.


I worked with 12 children aged between 5 and 11, who had been chosen as they all needed extra help developing their communication skills.

Through the discussion about the artworks in the exhibition, looking at how my portraits also used words and imagery drawn from a persons life, the children were encouraged to think about themselves and how they would like to be represented, what images they would use.

The two pictures above are made by young identical twins, one was interested in nature and bugs, the other robots.


We worked together during two, one hour sessions, working with six children at a time, to ensure each child felt they had my absolute attention and I could help them throughout.

The children had photographs of themselves to work from. We worked on natural calico, drawing out the portrait, looking at scale, then discussing which areas the children would like to hand stitch to create extra detail.

On the second week, the children added more colour using pastels and painting parts of the fabric with tea.


Once the children had completed their portraits, I finished they off by hand quilting sections of the portrait and creating a ‘frame’ with the stitching.

The portraits have all worked out beautifully, the colours and tones they have chosen, as well as the lovely lines they have used to draw out not only their wonderful portrait but also little key images which tell you a little bit more about themselves, are delightful. Such a fabulously talented group of very young people!

Egyptian Book of the Dead

Egyptian Book of the Dead panel

Egyptian Book of the Dead panel

In the past I have made some very exciting pieces for the Great North Museum, Hancock, many of those linked to their Egyptian collection. To add to the interactive ‘Mummy’, the dressing up clothes and other pieces, I was recently asked to make a large textile panel which showed the ‘Weighing of the Heart’ ceremony – as the heart should be lighter than a feather to reach the afterlife – to be used in school workshops.

Decorative border and gods in place.

Decorative border and gods in place.

The panel shows the Egyptian gods Anubis, Ammut, Thoth and Horus. The panel was painted on fabric, to ensure it could be easily folded and was practical to use for school workshops.

Thoth and Horus.

Thoth and Horus.

When starting to research the different gods, how they were illustrated, the colours they wore, it was quite frustrating to see there was quite a lot of variation – they both have very distinctive faces but the design changes from tomb wall panel.

Thoth and Horus completed, detail.

Thoth and Horus completed, detail.

Anubis completed, detail.

Anubis completed, detail.

One the panel, was to be written in hieroglyphics a secret message from the museum’s Learning Team, for the school children to decode. Again from researching hieroglyphics, I have discovered there is also quite a lot of variation in the standard imagery used – but my 10 year old was able to decipher it last night without a crib sheet from what she remembered learning at school a couple of years ago, so I think the children will be fine!

Anubis and Ammut weighing the heart.

Anubis and Ammut weighing the heart.

Whenever I work on projects like this, I realise just how lucky I am to be able to get involved with such interesting and fascinating projects – for this to be my job!

Hell Creek and Carboniferous Swamps!

I am very lucky in the work I get asked to do and often the Great North Museum, Hancock ask me to do some really cool things. In the past, I have made for them replica Egyptian mummies, with internal organs for school children to pull out of the mummies body; large applique maps of the Rainforest; beautiful seat covers for an exhibition about story telling and Triceratops full head wear! To mention just a few!

In a blog post in April, I posted images of some of the interactive school bags I had made for them, which I had back over Easter to mend their handles through very excessive use! Also, as part of that re-commission, I had been asked to make some more pieces which aided school children’s understanding of fossils, which linked to the Carboniferous period, this illustration shows ‘Hell Creek’ where T-Rex ruled, and the Upper Cretaceous period. I was to make textile, inactive pieces which illustrated an image from the time, the creatures which lived and with ‘flaps’ to show how they fossilized.

Hell Creek at the time of T-Rex

Hell Creek at the time of T-Rex

The pieces are each 60 cm square, with five interactive flaps.

T-Rex full skeleton.

T-Rex full skeleton.

As the Hancock Museum has such an incredible collection of fossils, it was decided to highlight those that could be seen by the school children in their galleries. They even have a full size mould of a T-Rex skeleton!

Ornithomimus in 'found' position.

Ornithomimus in ‘found’ position.

The image above, is the ‘lift a flap’ for one of the first creatures to be found to have feathers, it’s called an Ornithomimus. This represents how often fossils could be found lying in strange positions.

Carboniferous swamps and rivers.

Carboniferous swamps and rivers.

The second piece I made illustrates the land/water creatures that could be found during the carboniferous period in and around the swamps and rivers. Some of these creatures eventually evolved into mammals, like the Pholiderpeton at the top, seen about to go into the river and swimming as well below.

The one creature I did enjoy painting was the Rhizodus, a very strange looking ferocious fish, which had very sharp teeth!

Detail of the Rhizodus.

Detail of the Rhizodus.

Now I have finished these pieces, which took quite a lot of time and certainly research, at the start of June I am looking forward to starting a large painted panel which illustrates a section from the Egyptian Book of the dead – the weighing of the heart, also for the Hancock Museum. That will be great fun!

REWIND: Ravenswood Primary ‘School Values’ window hangings.

In the Spring and Summer term of 2012, I was asked to work with the children of Ravenswood Primary School to create a series of banners which illustrated the ‘school values’ and to be hung in the large windows of their dinner hall. ALL the children in the school, from Nursery to Year 6 were involved in the design of the banners and painting them – well over 500 children! It was a fantastic and exciting project to be part of.

All ten window banners, hanging in the dinning hall.

All ten window banners, hanging in the dinning hall.

Every year group was allocated a school value and in their lessons, they came up with a design for it – often linked to areas of the curriculum they were working on.

'R' for 'Respect'.

‘R’ for ‘Respect’.

I transferred the children’s designs onto cotton fabric, 2 metres by 80 cm to fit the windows. Then every child in school from that year group, would spend some time painting on their hanging.

'A' for 'Achievement'.

‘A’ for ‘Achievement’.

Using the mid weight cotton and COLOURTEX by Specialist Crafts, we were able to create a ‘stained glass window’ effect.

'V' for 'Valued'.

‘V’ for ‘Valued’.

As you can imagine, sometimes trying to co-ordinate so many children was a bit tricky but the teachers, classroom assistants and parents all helped to ensure it was a very smooth running project.

'E' for 'Enjoyment'.

‘E’ for ‘Enjoyment’.

'N' for 'Nurturing'.

‘N’ for ‘Nurturing’.

On each of the hangings, the children decided it would be great fun to paint a Raven, a symbol of the school, which they could have fun looking for whilst sitting in the dinning hall eating their lunch.

'S' for 'Self-confidence'.

‘S’ for ‘Self-confidence’.

'W' for 'Working Together'.

‘W’ for ‘Working Together’.

The large textile window hangings, also help to absorb the sound in the dinning hall, so it doesn’t seem so noisy for the younger children.

'O' for 'Opportunities'.

‘O’ for ‘Opportunities’.

'O' for 'Openness'.

‘O’ for ‘Openness’.

Besides the different year groups, some of the school clubs also created their own designs for a ‘school value’. The Drama Club painted the ‘Self-Confidence’ hanging and the School Council design and painted the ‘Openness’ hanging.

'D' for 'Diversity'.

‘D’ for ‘Diversity’.

I must admit, one of my favourite window hangings was by the children in the Nursery. There was approximately 63 children in Nursery at the time and each one choose a butterfly shape then painted it in their preferred colours.

The window hangings are much enjoyed by the children and are a lovely talking point for them, as they are able to remember which elements they painted of the hanging when they were lower down in the school.

This is a detail from the hanging painted by the 63 children in the school nursery. Their school value was about Diversity, so they each painted a butterfly, different in shape and colour. The raven appears on all of the hangings, as it is part of the school insignia and a fun image for the children to find on the hangings whilst eating their school dinners.

Learning resources for local museum.

Over the past ten years, whilst working as a freelance textile artist, I have been fortunate enough to work considerably with the Hancock, now known as the Great North Museum. It is a fabulous Natural History Museum, with even a full size T-Rex skeleton. Over that time, I have made Habitat Bags and Dinosaur Bags to be used by schools. The textile bags illustrate the theme of the self-led workshops and contain lots of fun interactive pieces inside.

This week, during the school Easter half-term, I’ve temporarily had the bags back as all their handles needed repairing. The Learning Officer at the Hancock, told me that the 13 bags I have made are used, on average, by 10,000 school children a year on self led school workshops! This is a remarkable number and the photos I have taken and used on this post show how the bags look today – almost like new!

Under the Sea, Octopus Bag

Under the Sea, Octopus Bag

One of the most fun bags I’ve created was the Octopus Bag, which not only meant I could work with beautiful colours and fabrics to evoke the colours of the sea, but that I could also have a great time with freeform crochet to make an octopus hat for the school children to wear whilst taking about and exploring the octopus habitat.

My youngest daughter modelling the Octopus hat!

My youngest daughter modelling the Octopus hat!

Camouflage is an important aspect of the way ac octopus lives, so I also create a mat to aid teachers when introducing the idea of camouflage.

Octopus camouflage mat.

Octopus camouflage mat.

Another very popular bag, deals with the Arctic and that’s the Polar Bear bag and as you can see from the photos it is great fun! I ensured that when I made the polar bear paws, they were accurate in size to help the school children understand the enormity of the creature!

Polar Bear Bag.

Polar Bear Bag.

My youngest daughter modelling the polar bear nose and paws.

My youngest daughter modelling the polar bear nose and paws.

Squirrel for the Woodland Bag.

Squirrel for the Woodland Bag.

Squirrel's 'Drey'.

Squirrel’s ‘Drey’.

Above is a picture of a squirrel’s ‘Drey’ or nest, with other elements like crinkly sound making leaves and acorns.

Meadowland Bag, the Durham Argus butterfly.

Meadowland Bag, the Durham Argus butterfly.

Dinosaur pre-history bag.

Dinosaur pre-history bag.

This coming week, I’m making some additional elements to the dinosaur bags, to help school children with the visual understanding of fossils. These photos show some of the bags that these additional pieces will be put in. The bags deal with the swamps, the nests they built, creatures that evolved in the seas, reptiles and amphibians.

Evolving creatures.

Evolving creatures.

Evolving creatures under the sea.

Evolving creatures under the sea.

Besides the Hancock Museum, I have also made the Animal and Habitat Bags for Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens and the Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Liverpool.

Marsh Harrier habitats bag contents.

Marsh Harrier habitats bag contents.

Marsh harrier mask and wings.

Marsh harrier mask and wings.

Owl bag and contents, including dressing up wings and mask.

Owl bag and contents, including dressing up wings and mask.

Once I have completed the new pieces to go into the dino bags this week, I shall then begin fabric painting a banner to be used for schools to be used as a resource in the Egyptian workshops. The image will show a section from the weighing of the heart in the Book of the Dead.

Burial Cist Plan

Burial cist planThis week I have been working on two more ‘burial cist’ plans for the Discovery Museum in Newcastle, finely fabric painting onto heavy cotton. The burial plans are taken from a sketch made by an archaeologist at a burial site, which I have then made ‘life size’, onto fabric so that children can re-enact how people would have buried members of their group 4500 years ago, placing beakers and other objects in the burial site. The Boxes of Delight  are loan boxes for schools to borrow from the Discovery Museum when studying pre history and many other topics in the National Curriculum.

Washington New Town’s 50th Anniversary Banner made by Class 5T, George Washington Primary School

Banner 50 a

Washington’s 50th Anniversary Banner

Photo (c) Ian McClelland

The pupils and I were first inspired by the documents and plans published when Washington was being planned in the 1960’s. Together, we looked at the master-plan, with its colourful use of zones, which becomes an abstract artwork in itself. We also used the extensive collection of books held at Washington Library, which illustrate what an iconic symbol of the optimism in New Town planning Washington was and is today. Collectively, the pupils and I decided to use the colourful illustration of the map to became the central point of our banner. Using the ideals of the original plan, the pupils choose to illustrate the key elements, such as schools, homes, shops and industry, that would bring the individual villages together to make Washington Town.

The pupils worked using a number of different textile techniques to create the banner including fabric painting, embroidery and appliqué. My role was to guide the pupils, help them develop their design, encourage them to try new skills and build their confidence in the arts. The finished banner is 2 x 1.5 metres.

This banner is made to celebrate Washington 50, in partnership with Sunderland Library Services and George Washington Primary School, funded by Area Community Funding.

I have been telling my family about what a great project we’ve been doing.”


GW 50 1 portrait  GW birds  GW map

I used the sewing that I learnt making the kite to make a small dress and skirt for my artist’s mannequin.” Rosie

Washington banner Nissan  Paint pots

The map made me feel like visiting some of the areas of Washington I haven’t visited before.” Gabrielle

Ravenswood Primary School Banners 2010-13

Over four years I worked with Ravenswood Primary School, creating a series of banners with the children of Year 1 and 5. The banners were funded by the schools active and very supportive PTA. The banners were made to reflect the heritage of the area the children lived in and to link it to their current topic. In many of the year groups almost 90 children worked on these banners creating the initial design idea, choosing the traditional textile techniques they felt would work well on the banners and of course, making the banner.

Over the six weeks, the children would learn how to use traditional techniques such as hooky and proggy matting, batik, embroidery, applique, fabric painting, weaving and knitting. These skills would then be used on their banner. It was great fun and the children were supported by their teachers, teaching assistants and parents.

IMG_6448                              photos downloaded 071110 328

Year 5 The Victorian Quayside 2010                            Year 1 Playing (levers and pullies) 2010

472                              Victorian seaside yr 1 2011

Year 5 Our Coastal Waters 2011                                     Year 1 The Victorian Seaside 2011

Shipbuilding banner                                        Mining banner 2013

Year 5 The Shipyards 2012                                               Year 5 Mining Banner 2013