Northumberlandia, landscape, Northumberland,

New Artist Residency at Northumberlandia

I am delighted to have been asked to be Artist in Residence at Northumberlandia.

Northumberlandia

Northumberlandia: ‘The Lady of the North’, landscape sculpture.

Northumberlandia is a landscaped sculpture of a reclining lady, designed by artist Charles Jencks. She is 100 feet high and a quarter of a mile long. You can take walk around the paths that curve around her body up to her hips, breasts and face.

Northumberlandia, landscape, Northumberland,

A view from Northumberlandia’s ‘forehead’ looking down to her nose, breasts, hip and further into Northumberland.

This is a beautiful site to visit and take a gentle walk (though recently I visited during Storm Hector and it was a but tricky to walk up to the top!) Families, community groups, dog walkers and people looking for a soul rejuvenating spot to visit, visit daily.

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Spring flowers at Northumberlandia.

The residency is in conjunction with Northumberland Wildlife Trust who help manage the site. My proposal responds to the importance of sites such as this where people are using our local natural environment, for walks and a quiet spot to be just outside a busy city, encouraging them to reflect upon how this urban/rural, relaxing place to walk is helping us and how we can help it.

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Northumberlandia festival day.

A couple of weeks ago, during a Northumberlandia festival day, I set up ‘shop’ to be able to meet and greet visitors to the site and talk to them about my residency. I am asking people to make a ‘Green Pledge’. This is something individuals, groups and families can pledge to do to help their local habitats, places they visit, the environment on a local and national scale.

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A ‘Green Pledge’ made by one of the young visitors to Northumberlandia.

During the festival weekend, visitors were making a decorating their own ‘Green Pledge’. These were made using recycled textiles, permanent pens and stitching on ribbons etc. These ‘Green Pledges’ will be hung together throughout the trees in Northumberlandia in September, for visitors to come back and see.

Caretakers Green Pledge today

Caretaker’s of the World. UNITE!

Beside creating their own ‘Green Pledge’ on the day, I am also collecting pledges made by visitors to make into larger, more worked pieces which will hang individually amongst the trees. These pieces will be made using recycled textiles, hand and machine stitched, painting, printed, with found natural and manmade items on them to ‘illustrate’ the pledge.

Though, besides making two dimensional pieces, I have also decided that some pledges will require a more three dimensional, radical approach. An example of this includes the pledge to make ‘Eco Bricks’.

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Entrance woodland at Northumberlandia.

Last week I visited Beaconhill Primary School, which is the school nearest to Northumberlandia as the crow flies. I spent the day with Year 4 and 5, talking to them about the Northumberlandia site (which the majority had all visited) and my residency. I had asked to school to be involved, as they school prides itself on having a very environmental ethos and is very proactive locally. I talked with the children about what they are already doing at home to help the environment, what small changed they could make to help further and if they had ideas or great inventive ideas about what we could do in the future.

The children were all very concerned about how much people are happy to drop and leave rubbish when visiting the countryside, our local beaches and just generally where they live.

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Pupil making a ‘Green Pledge’.

It is heartening to hear how passionate young people are about doing things to help their local environment and things that will help the global climate issues. Over the weekend at Northumberlandia and my visit to the school, more that 120 ‘Green Pledge’ fabric panels have been made to be hung together amongst the trees.

Less plastic green pledge

‘I will use less plastic’ Green Pledge.

During the next couple of months, I will be making larger ‘Green Pledge’ panels, inspired by the visitors to Northumberlandia and in September everyone involved will be invited back to walk amongst the ‘Green Pledges’ hanging amongst the trees and try and track theirs down.

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Families making their ‘Green Pledges’ to hang amongst the trees in Northumberlandia.

Please feel free to get in touch if you would wish to be part of this project by suggesting a ‘Green Pledge’ you would like to make in writing, or a physical piece that could be hung with the others amongst the tress.

 

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Portrait to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Death of War Poet Isaac Rosenberg

This weekend is the sees the 100th Anniversary of the death of war poet and artist, Isaac Rosenberg. Over the last few years, I have been working on a series of portraits of poets who died during the First World War: Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, Edward Thomas and here are photographs, with a bit of background about my portrait of Isaac Rosenberg.

Isaac Rosenberg

Isaac Rosenberg hand stitched portrait.

Rosenberg came from a deprived, working class background. His parents were pacifists who had fled from Lithuania so that his father could avoid conscription to the Russian Army, first moving to Bristol then onto the East End of London. He was the eldest son of Orthodox Jews and “for his part Rosenberg claimed that Jewishness gave him and his fellow Jewish artists ‘that which nothing else could have given’”. (Jean Moorcroft Wilson, ‘The Making of a Great War Poet’, page 3.)

Isaac Rosenberg

‘Daughters of War’ detail.

Rosenberg was a painter and a poet, he attended the Slade School of Art and trained as an engraver. Due to his background, he was automatically enlisted to the 12th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment (a Bantam regiment) as a Private rather than as an Officer, he therefore found that doing jobs such as a stretcher bearer gave him more of a gritty reality of war and this is reflected in his poetry.

Isaac Rosenberg - Daughters of War.

Daughters of War

Within this portrait, I have used hand stitched references to his poetry and his life. A number of his poems I found very pictorial and as I was reading his biography by Jean Moorcroft Wilson as preparation for the portrait, I was noting ideas for imagery. One such poem was Daughters of War, which drove my I need to find a way to illustrate these ‘spirits’ taking the souls of the dead and dying soldiers to be their partners. I stitched frenzied figures dancing, with a section of the poem hand stitched around them.
The figures of the Daughter of War, also symbolise the soldiers who also dance around a flame in ‘Louse Hunting’. This poem depicts some of the terrible issues the soldiers had to put up with day to day, besides fighting in a war.

Isaac Rosenberg

Detail from portrait of Isaac Rosenberg.

‘Break of Day in the Trenches’ and ‘In the Trenches’ were two poems which I have also used to aid the composition of this portrait. ‘In the Trenches’ talks of a poppy at the top of a parapet, not far from the barbed wire of no man’s land, and the terrible aftermath of a shell with the poppy strewn on the floor.

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Detail from portrait, poppy on the parapet of the trenches.

I have also included imagery of Whitechapel Library where, before the war, Rosenberg spent many evenings with his fellow artists and poets, in this portrait Whitechapel Library is positioned in the place of no man’s land, where he would die.

Isaac Rosenberg, framed portrait at the Sage Free Thinking Festival, March 2018.

Framed portrait of Isaac Rosenberg at this years Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival, at the Sage Gateshead, March 2018.

Rosenberg died at dawn on the 1st April, 1918 during a German raiding party but his body was not recovered until the 16th April near Arras. His war poetry is now considered to be some of the finest from the First World War.

Charles Darwin portrait, finished.

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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.

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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.

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Vermillion Flycatcher, Charles Darwin portrait detail.

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

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

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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!

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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.

The Shipley Art Gallery Centenary Quilt update

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100 finished hand patchworked squares positioned for sewing together.

Over the last five months I have worked with and meet with people from all over Gateshead, the North East and the UK to encourage people to be part of the Shipley Art Gallery Centenary Quilt. We have now received over 130 squares which have been made using traditional hand sewn,  hand paper piecing technique known as English Paper Piecing.

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Designing and making individual squares.

As part of the programme to make the quilt, there has been a weekly class held at the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead. Attending were a mixture of people who had patchworked before and people who hadn’t stitched.  This was a really vibrant and supportive group of people, who within a couple of weeks were advancing very quickly in their skill development and very confident in using the new technique they had learnt to create their own designs. There was also a great opportunity for skills sharing and even the embroidery silk which will be used to stitch the lettering was hand spun during a skills sharing moment by one of our very talented group.

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The Shipley Art Gallery proved to be a great inspiration for our designs.

I have also worked with local craft groups, visitors the the Radio 3 Free Thinking Festival, members of the local Jewish Community and a Syrian Women’s support group. This has been a lovely opportunity to talk to people about how sewing,  making and craft has played an important part in their family, community and culture.

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Just a few of the 130 squares made!

Members of the patchwork class have been helping me over the last couple of weeks to sew the 100 squares together into rows and then the rows together.  This has been a fantastic help, as I am working on the central panel which is white and cream hexagons sewn in the ‘Grandmother’s Garden’design. This will then be embroidered with hand spun silk to create the lettering. Next month, October, I will then start to quilt the piece ready to be hung in the Shipley Art Gallery for the 22nd November, 2017.

 

 

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.

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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.

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Getting ready to parade the pennants to the woods…

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On parade.

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Deeper into the woods…

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‘Sea Juggernaut’ pennant.

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

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

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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.

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‘Green Pledges’ hanging in the Bergby woods.

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

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‘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.

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‘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.

Artist Residency Day 13 at Bergby Konstcenter, Sweden.

In the last few days whilst my ‘Häxors Trosor’ exhibition has been open, many of my Swedish visitors have also been keen to make their ‘Green Pledge’. During this time I have also been busy making more from the list of pledges I brought from Newcastle.

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Visitors to Bergby Konstcenter making green pledges.

I have been using local resources to make some of the pledges, including milk cartons, plastic bread and chocolate wrappers. Helen and John the artists who run Bergby Konstercenter have also made a pledge to be hung with the others.

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‘I am making a compost in my garden’.

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‘Here I write my solemn pledge to grow and eat organic veg.’

Visitors to the exhibition seemed to really enjoy looking at the craftsmanship in the environmental textile pennants, from the heavy embroidery to intensively worked beading and the sentiment in the poetry. It was extremely heartening to hear the very sincere feedback.

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A local bee keeper and her daughter looking at the ‘ Life giving bee’ embroidery.

Talking to the visitors, asking them to also make a ‘green pledge’ has made me really think about taking this project so much further. The exhibition of the work produced during the residency is going to Gateshead Old Town Hall in September and October but I feel I would like to continue encouraging people to make pledges, so that the number of pledges made grows past the 50 we have so far.

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‘I will eat less dairy and milk.’

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‘I will recycle more’.

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‘I will try to raise awareness with my friends about the issues of sea creatures’, by Rosie age 13.

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Visitors to the exhibition.

If you would like to be a part of this project, please get in touch. You can just write a green pledge which I will make for you or you can make your own to form part of the growing numbers of green pledges made so far.

Residency Day 12 – Digital Detox

Coming out to Bergby Konstcenter in Sweden for a two week artist residency, has been an amazing experience and opportunity for me. I have absolutely loved the arts centre, the enthusiasm of Helen and John who run it and it’s beautiful locality.

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Painting together.

But, it has also provided a creative and interesting experience for my three daughters, aged 13, 11 and 8 – through a ‘digital detox’. This has encouraged intensive bursts of drawing, painting, sewing, reading and 3D art using the natural environment.

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Tablet free zone !

The girls embraced the idea of a Digital Detox, occasionally there was a bit of a wobble,  but overall they enjoyed it. My middle daughter has also read six books in the two weeks – reading some twice!

The girls have been taking their sketchbooks with them on their days out, too.

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My youngest daughter sketching with her Dad.

The ‘Young Artist’s’ exhibition wall includes the work by the young children who live here, who also really enjoyed drawing and painting.

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Young artist’s exhibition.

Sharing, learning new artistic skills and learning new words in English and Swedish has been a great bonus – especially when learnt with friends!

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I can’t say that when my girls are back in the UK they won’t be straight onto their electronic devices, but the two weeks without them has taught the girls that they can not only enjoy themselves without these devices, but  they  have learnt again to entertain themselves, regained their love of reading, and that boredom is a great way to ignite a creative imagination. They have also all said how lovely it is to play freely outside, to be able to run around with no socks on, feel grass rather than concrete and just play.

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Residency Day 11 -exhibition openning day!

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Bergby Konstcenter.

After lots of work, the ‘Häxors Trosor’ exhibition is ready to open. With over 36 ‘ Green Pledges’ made so far by over 20 people, three large textile pieces,  4 environmental sculptures and 4 painted artworks, plus the ‘Young Artist’s’ gallery with over 40 pieces on display. All responding to the challenges which face the environment today.

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Häxors Trosor embroidery.

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‘Life giving bee’, embroidery.

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Green Pledges.

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Green Pledges.

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Green Pledges.

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Green Pledges.

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Green Pledges.

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Green Pledges.

 

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Optical Telegragh – Imaginary Messages.

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‘ Sea Juggernaut’, embroidery.

I shall blog the ‘Young Artist’s’ gallery separately as it is part of the two week ‘Digital Detox’ the children have been having!

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Watercolour and pen pictures of local birds.

 

So far, the exhibition has been very well attended but I must get around to taking photos!!

Residency Day 10

Tomorrow my exhibition is opening at Bergby Konstcenter and there was a few fun things I still wanted to make! Firstly, John had found an old shop sign at the local Loppis and we had chatted about using it to put out on the main road to show visitors we were open.

I spent a good part of the day collecting materials to decorate it, as I wanted it to reflect what the exhibition was about  and Helen found me some wool to create a ‘loom’.

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Finished woven sign for the exhibition.

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I also made a couple of mini hangings for the gallery using similar materials.

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I have also been working on some pen and watercolour pictures of some of the birds I have seen locally. In the spirit of recycling, I have used an old Swedish copy of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ I bought from the Loppis, torn the pages and rewoven them to draw on.

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Black bird

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Buzzard.

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Heron.

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Swallow.