Charles Darwin portrait, finished.


The Man from The Mount (Charles Darwin)

My textile portrait of Charles Darwin (1809-1882), is part of my series of ‘Cultural Hero’ portraits, including William Morris and W. G. Grace.

I chose Charles Darwin to be part of my series for many reasons including: he was a very cool naturalist, he had a great beard, he was born in Shrewsbury (where I am from) and he had a very interesting life! Simply, he has always been a hero of mine.


Charles Darwin portrait, first phase.

When I am working on a portrait, I never have a finished overall plan of how it is going to look. It evolves, over time as I am working on it. I tend to do quite a lot of background reading and like to find out more about the person, where they lived, so that I can drop in links to their background in the portrait. So when I first start, I machine sew the initial portrait onto white cotton, then paint it with tea!

Phase 2 Charlie

Charles Darwin, with hand stitched background.

The background was drawn on and hand sewn, it includes images of the Tatochila Theodice Gymnodice butterfly which he found 1834; Scymnobius Galapagoenis found in the Galapagos in 1831; the Vermillion Flycatcher, also found in the Galapagos and sundew heads, which are found near where he was born at The Mount, in Shrewsbury.

Phase 3 Charlie

Working on a tapestry frame, hand sewing and painting the details.

Once the lines are stitched, I start to paint in with acrylic whilst working on a tapestry frame. This keeps the textile portrait taught, as I am not working on a canvas and the fabric would very easily start to shrink and stretch in all the wrong places.


Vermillion Flycatcher, Charles Darwin portrait detail.


Tatochila Theodice Gymnodice. Found by Charles Darwin in Chile in 1834.


Detail showing the Scymnobius Galapagoenis (the Ladybug Beetle) and Sundew heads, embroidered onto Charles Darwin’s cloak.


Detail from Charles Darwin portrait.

Since finishing my portrait of Charles Darwin, I have started again working on my portrait of the War Poet, Edward Thomas, which I hope to get finished by the middle of March, ready for the anniversary of his death during the First World War, on April 9th, 1917.



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.

Final Day of Artist Residency at Bergby Konstcenter

The past two weeks, working as Artist in Residence at Bergby Konstcenter, has been very inspiring, productive, thought provoking and down right good fun! As you will have seen through the last 13 posts, the arts centre itself is a beautiful and inspirational place, based in an idyllic part of rural Sweden but also in easy access of Stockholm, Uppsala and other fantastic places to visit.

Visitors to the exhibition were welcomed with cake!

Visitors to the exhibition were welcomed with cake, as part of an afternoon tea party!

The last day of the exhibition was busy with visitors, many taking part and making ‘Green Pledges’ for me to sew into mini pennants when I return to England – written in Swedish and English.


Afternoon tea party to celebrate the final day of the residency, organised by Helen and John.

As part of the residency, it had always been planned to parade the larger pennants up into the Bergby woods and hang them with the ‘Green Pennants’ as the closing part of the exhibition. This seemed only fitting, as it is an environmentally charged work about the planet and our job as ‘caretaker’s’ of it.


Getting ready to parade the pennants to the woods…


On parade.


Deeper into the woods…


‘Sea Juggernaut’ pennant.


Hanging up the ‘Life giving bee’ pennant in the trees.


‘Life giving bee’, ‘Haxors Trosor’ and ‘Sea Juggernaut’ pennant hanging in the trees at Bergby woods.


Me, about to start hanging up the ‘Green Pledges’.

Once the larger pennants had been hung, we then hung the ‘Green Pledges’ which had been made so far as part of this environmental art project. Most of these pieces had been pledges by people from Newcastle, but there were also a few new ones from Sweden.


‘Green Pledges’ hanging in the Bergby woods.


More detailed view of some of the ‘Green Pledges’.


‘Green Pledges’ blowing in the wind.

Besides fueling and developing new ideas, working as Artist in Residence at Bergby Konstcenter, talking to Helen and John,  and to the visitors to the exhibition, it has made me realise that I don’t want to finish this project but to continue with the ideas and ethos which has evolved from my time in Sweden. I have always fully intended to finish the now 50 plus ‘Green Pledges’ and to exhibit them in other places but I also wish to encourage more people to be part of this project and to either in writing make a pledge and/or make it into a textile piece which can be hung side by side with the others. Within each of these pledges, people – young and old – have raised important environmental issues and thought about how they can help address them in a small way.


‘Green Pledges’ flying from a Suffolk bridge following my return to England.

I would like to thank Helen, John and their lovely family, who made us all for so welcome and comfortable in their arts centre and home, and for giving me this fantastic opportunity to be part of their work.

Exhibition at Gateshead Civic Centre

I should have blogged about this sooner, but I have only just been able to get images of the pieces up and the lighting was quite heavy, so the photos aren’t great. So, I do apologise.

I was asked if I could put together some pieces of work that reflected my love of the natural world. It was a pretty quick turnaround, so I was unable to make any new pieces. My work was to accompany the winners photos from a national Nature Photographers Exhibition, which has some fabulous close-up photos including amazing spiders and puffins flying!

Three of the pieces are made using hooky matting technique – which I love as it’s a great way of using up bits of fabric, has a lovely texture and has a great long tradition.

Red Poppy, Yellow Poppy. Made using hooky mat technique.

Red Poppy, Yellow Poppy. Made using hooky mat technique.

The two pieces above, I intend to be part of a seasonal set. They are inspired by the designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, which I have seen many times but absolutely fell in love with when we went to visit Hill House at Helensburgh.

I also included ‘Caretakers of the World, UNITE!’, which is inspired by the Lindisfarne Gospels carpet pages, introducing nature elements into the design.

'Caretakes of the World, UNITE!'

‘Caretakers of the World, UNITE!’

And of course, my ‘Portrait of a Green Man’.

'Portrait of a Green Man'.

‘Portrait of a Green Man’.

I also included some of my bird lino prints, which worked well with the photography exhibition. Copies of the lino prints are on sale at the Civic Centre reception desk.

It has been lovely have the opportunity to display my work at the Civic Centre in the Bewick’s Cafe, which is a busy café used by visitors, local families and the council office workers.

Lino prints of birds.

Lino prints of birds.

Whilst visiting Gateshead Civic Centre, I was also able to visit their printing department, as I am hoping to get some prints made of my now finished William Morris portrait – ‘The Maker’ – and of my War Poets. I am looking forward to seeing the samples next week! Exciting and ready for the ‘Late Shows’ which I shall be taking part in, in the middle of this month.

Birthday on a Budget/Best Present Ever!!

A Unitopian Birthday!

A Unitopian Birthday!

At the weekend my youngest daughter turned seven. For a long time now, she has been obsessed with unicorns. In fact I think many of her presents from previous birthdays and Christmases have involved unicorns. So much so, it can be very difficult to get in her room for them. When asked what she would like this year for her birthday, unicorns were once again her answer.

This year, as I work as an artist, money has been more tight than usual. There has been massive cuts in the sectors I traditionally work freelance for and I need to ensure I can still pay my studio rent, insurances etc. So spending on day to day has tightened and certainly what we would normally spend on our girls for birthday presents has cut right down.

Luckily, as you may have seen on my previous pages, I can turn my hand to most craft/making/arty thing. So, I decided to hunt out some unicorn related crochet patterns and make her seven unicorns for her seventh birthday. Which was quite time consuming, proved inexpensive. The pattern I used is Amigurumi by Lan-Anh Bui and Josephine Wan, published by GMC Books. I’ve used this book before and it has great, simple instructions for outrageously cute amigurumi creatures. I adapted the horse/zebra pattern by adding a unicorn horn, plus using very bright colours.

First crocheted unicorn, in sparkly wool.

First crocheted unicorn, in sparkly wool.

Each unicorn took about three hours to make and the wool we already had around the house or was topped up from our local Poundland. The fun part was choosing the colour combinations!

Unicorn with fairy-tale house.

Unicorn with fairy-tale house.

Over a couple of weeks, I worked on the unicorns.

Five made, two in pieces...

Five made, two in pieces…

Once the unicorns were finished, we decided it would be even more fun to make a unicorn head band! So, mixing three wools together, I crocheted a triangle shape which could be sewn into a cone shape and attached to a headband.

Crocheting the unicorn horn.

Crocheting the unicorn horn.

On her birthday, her two elder sisters had created a treasure hunt for her unicorn presents. She was given her unicorn headband to where and the first clue to find them. Then she was off, racing around the house to find all of her seven new friends. Since then, they have not left her side and great fun has been had, giving them all names.

A new uni-tastic friendship has begun!

A new uni-tastic friendship has begun!

All in all, I probably spent about £15 on buying more wool, stuffing and the headband. Not bad for the Best Present Ever’!

W.I.P Potrait of a Green Man, week 2

Sometimes there are rapid changes to this portrait, other times it can be terribly slow and frustrating. I am very happy with the stage I am currently at but have plans for further embellishment.

Portrait of a Green Man, testing frame size.

Portrait of a Green Man, testing frame size.

Below is close-up of the cap, which has been hand stitched to create a ‘herringbone’ tweed effect.

Detail of Cap

Detail of Cap

Hand stitched into the beard, using embroidery silks, are images of rosemary, violets and pink flowers – some even flowing out of his nostrils!

Detail of the beard.

Detail of the beard.

Using acrylic, I have painted the books behind the Green Man in heritage/natural colours which reflect the colours in the beard and my plans for the Green Man’s jumper.

Heritage painted bookshelves.

Heritage painted bookshelves.

With these colours in mind, I started embroidering oak leaves onto the Green Man’s jumper with a Robin sitting on one of the branches!

Silk stitching the robin over yesterdays sewing!

Silk stitching the robin over yesterdays sewing!

Embroidery Silk Robin.

Embroidery Silk Robin.

Over the next week, I intend to start embellishing the books on the shelves, colour the beard further, paint the Green Man’s shirt and add some hand stitched writing along the book shelf, maybe from a poem or lyric from a song.

Handmade Christmas presents

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope 2015 brings health, happiness and plenty of creativity to sooth the soul!

I thought I would post photos of the many gifts that we sent and received at Christmas that had been handmade with plenty of love. Some of them you may have already seen, others will be new to you. I hope you enjoy looking at them all!

Lion applique drawstring bag.

Mini OC’s Lion applique drawstring bag.

This one I just love! My eldest daughter, who’s 11, made this at school as a Christmas present for her cousin (19), who she adores. She received a special merit for it at school, which I think she rightly deserves as it shows great creativity and design.

Mini OC's Francesca Fox and Molly Pup

Mini OC’s Francesca Fox and Molly Pup

I know you’ve seen this one before! But so cute!! My middle daughter, who was 9 when she made these fab creatures, made Francesca Fox and Molly Pup for both her sisters for Christmas. Her sister’s were both delighted with their new animal friends!

Mini OC's Kitten lino print

Mini OC’s Kitten lino print

My eldest daughter has enjoyed learning to lino print. She cut, printed and framed this lovely picture and gave it to a couple of her close friends, her Grandma and her little sister – who it was originally created for. She has chosen a lovely colour for the print, which she mixed herself.

Mini OC's stocking for her TedTed

Mini OC’s stocking for her TedTed

Mmmm! When a certain someone gets an idea into her head, she really can’t be stopped. My 9 year old decided that her teddy might get presents for Christmas if her also put a stocking out! So, she went ahead and knitted this stocking with no pattern, all by herself. She knows how to increase and decrease, so all I did was recommend some wool – another Poundland purchase!! Ribbon was found in the ribbon tin and she plaited the tie top.

When she realised there may be a chance TedTed may not receive Christmas presents, as Santa doesn’t normally give them to teddies, she made him a set of hat, scarf and gloves to go in the stocking! Again, no pattern or parental involvement!

Broomstick Crochet Snood

Broomstick Crochet Snood

I plan to blog a ‘How to:’ about Broomstick Crochet over the next few days, as it’s a beautiful technique and can make any wool/yarn look fabulous. I made this broomstick crochet snood for my niece as she’d seen a similar snood which she wanted me to make for her. Which, as a good Auntie, I did. She also received the lino print of a Crested Tit, which you can see below.

Lino Print Crested Tit

Crested Tit, lino print.

I also made some of my close friends some lovely applique cushions, like these I was selling in my studio.

Inside my studio - cushions, crocheted hats and chocolates!

Inside my studio – cushions, crocheted hats and chocolates!

Besides Christmas, it was also my middle daughter’s 10th birthday and I finally finished knitting her the Triceratops I’d started last year for her birthday!! (It feels good to finish a W.I.P!!) She absolutely loves all things to do with dinosaurs and so she absolutely loves her – she’s been called triSARAHtops!

Knitted Triceratops

Knitted Triceratops

I’m sure I’ve missed a couple of other handmade gifts out but he’s my husbands very important contribution to our handmade Christmas. He made our lino print Christmas cards, which are simply delicious!

Mince Pie, lino print, Christmas Cards.

Mince Pie, lino print, Christmas Cards.

Dachshund cushions commission

After the recent Open Studios, a lovely lady asked me to create some cushions for her daughter’s Christmas Present, as she loved the Schnauzer cushions but they were the wrong breed of dog!! I had a glorious time choosing the fabrics and patterns that would compliment each other best.

Dachshund applique cushions

Dachshund applique cushions

I have used woven silk fabrics which I buy from the silk mills in Sudbury and they are appliqued with floral cottons.

Red and white woven silk and black floral dachshund

Red and white woven silk and black floral dachshund

Blue/green floral woven silk and green leaf dachshund

Blue/green floral woven silk and green leaf dachshund

In the cushion above, the dachshund looks like he’s out smelling the flowers. He makes a lovely silhouette against the light background. This was the cushion the lady choose, so I will need to find a home for the two red cushions…

Sssshhhhh! Don’t tell anyone! Mini OC at work making Christmas presents!

My middle daughter, who’s 9, has been exceedingly busy over the last week or so making her sisters their Christmas presents.

Meet Francesca Fox and Molly Pup! After looking for inspiration on Pinterest, she drew out her patterns, cut out the velvet which she had chosen, then machined the bodies up, stuffed and decorated. Might I add – this has all been done by her – the only instruction I gave her was a quick refresher on the sewing machine. Proud, is putting it mildly! Her sister’s will be absolutely delighted when they open their presents on Christmas Day.

Francesca Fox and Molly Pup

Francesca Fox and Molly Pup

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to photograph the gorgeous Christmas Cards she had also made her sisters using vintage children’s annuals and cutting out shapes for Christmas Trees, Santa Claus etc. She had been flicking through copies of my old craft magazines and I think she had spotted some inspiring articles! I will try and remember to photograph them on Christmas Day and blog them!

Animal floral silhouettes.

Open studios horse 2                                              Open studios horse 1

As you can see, I have been having lots of fun making animal silhouettes using pretty fabrics which make a lovely contrasts. They are going to be placed in simple, white frames ready for my ‘Open Studios’ in a couple of weeks.

Open studios horse 4                                                      Open studios horse 3

Besides horses, I have also been making more schnauzers!

Open studios schnauzer 2