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.


Moral Compass (Loving you, I need to make a difference)

Happy New Year!

Many apologies for the radio silence over the last couple of months but I have continued being busy, busy, busy…


Machine stitched World map and compass, painted with tea.

Today, I was working with a number of AWAS (All We Are Saying, Artists for Peace) colleagues hanging a new exhibition at Gateshead Civic Centre. The star attraction is the Peace Blanket but there are some fantastic pieces in the exhibition and photos will follow over the next week or so of the new hang. the exhibition is running from 15th January until 26th February 2016.


Hand beaded compass.

As I was unable to use my original AWAS pieces in this new exhibition (as my three war poets have been at the Customs House Drawing? inspired exhibition), I have created a new piece over Christmas called Moral Compass.


Compass painted with fabric inks and seed stitched.

My new piece is inspired by my children and the need to care for them, as any other parent and carer across this mad World. As you will all be aware of the terrible positions many desperate parents have been put in trying to keep their family safe and the measures they will take. We would all do the same to protect those we loved dearly.


Compass further seed stitched, including gold and silver threads.

Starting with a play on words, I was drawn to the idea of navigating the World geographically but also spiritually and emotionally.


Detail of the hand embroidered poem.

Once I had decided on the composition of the piece, it was a fun and relaxing piece to work on.


Moral Compass detail.

The text on the piece reads:

Loving you, I need to make a difference

Make a World for you to grow up

A place of joy and happiness

A World where people care.


Loving you, I need to make a difference

For a World as beautiful as ours

Where life is sacred and respected

A World for us to share.


Finished compass internal beading.

I look forward to showing you soon, the full exhibition shortly, once the last pieces are hung and the labels placed – it was looking fantastic when I left today and the many people walking through the exhibition seemed to really enjoy interacting with each of the pieces.


Moral Compass finished and on display at Gateshead Civic Centre as part of the new exhibition.





Isaac Rosenberg 1890-1918, hand stitched portrait.

As part of my series of portraits of poets who died during the First World War, I have just completed my third hand stitched portrait. This portrait is of Isaac Rosenberg.

Isaac Rosenberg hand stitched portrait.

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.)

'Daughters of War' detail.

‘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, which doing jobs such as a stretcher bearer gave him more of a gritty reality of war.

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.

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.

Detail from portrait of 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.

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

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

I have included imagery of Whitechapel Library where, before the war, Rosenberg spent many evenings with his fellow artists and poets, in this portrait it is in the space of no man’s land exists and he will never return to.

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.



Portrait of a Green Man. Finished!

Portrait of a Green Man

Portrait of a Green Man

This has turned into a much more detailed project than I had originally planned. Started as a portrait of my husband and just to be a ‘bearded man’, he’s evolved into something else. On some of my previous blogs, you will find the portraits I did of my daughters ‘The Three Sisters’, which are lively, include torn papers from books and mainly machine embroidered. I think, as this was meant to be a ‘warm-up’ piece before I went into war poet Isaac Rosenberg‘s portrait, I just became carried away and used some of the techniques I am using on that series of portraits.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of Robin.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of Robin.

During the winter, my husband does have a beard – he hates shaving and it keeps him warm when cycling to work! In the ‘Green Man’s’ beard I have sewn Rosemary, Violets and small pretty pink flowers, these are to represent our daughters and it was his idea to turn him into a green man – traditional in areas of England, seen often on Churches and pubs (how appropriate!) The flowers are stitched with embroidery silks, as are the books and the robin.

The Robin, as a good friend of mine said, is like the spirit of a friend or family member popping by to check on you whilst you tend the garden. Robin is also one of my husbands middle names. It is also, the most heavily worked area of the portrait. A sort of mini project within the portrait.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of books and cap.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of books and cap.

The photo above shows the detail of the ‘tweed’ cap, embroidered using sewing machine thread as I wanted it to be finer and not as ‘heavy’ as the silks would have appeared. It took this picture into the framers this morning and cap was the area the framer was very excited about – he looked like a cap wearing kind of man, too.

I love the books. Books are one of our passions at home and we do have a lot of antique books with lovely decorated spines. Once the outline of the books were machine stitched, I painted them with acrylic, hoping to get the lovely vibrant colours old, bound books once had – acrylic is also used a little on the beard and eyes. I had great fun deciding which designs to sew onto the spines of the books, what colour silk to embroider it with etc.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of the words.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of the words.

Originally, I had planned to find some lines from a book, a song or a poem to sew across the shelves, to express a little bit more about the ‘Green Man’ but one afternoon, while walking the dog, I put together this which seemed to sum up the feeling:

Living in,

Once Industrial City,

Green pledges,

Charge your crown.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of the eyes.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of the eyes.

As I have done with my war poet portraits, this picture was initially coloured with tea. This has given it a lovely, all over subtle tone and stronger, more stewed tea was used for the beard, eyebrows and shadows behind the books. I am also very pleased with how the eyes look, they are very tricky and I’m not saying I’ve got them ‘right’ but there seems to be a vibrancy and life behind them. They were initially painted with acrylic but the very last touch I made to the portrait was to add the flecks of white which travel around the pupil.

This morning I took the portrait to the framers and last night I entered it for the Royal Academy Summer Show – fingers very tightly crossed as annually over 12,000 entries are made for around a 1,000 places…

Portrait of a Bearded Man W.I.P

In preparation for continuing my series on War Poet portraits (Isaac Rosenberg next), I thought I’d ‘warm up’ my creative skills, which have had a bit of a Christmas slow down, and produce a fun portrait of someone near and dear. Hence I have started a portrait of my husband, who is a sometimes strange bearded man. He is finding the process a bit concerning, as with the way I work, it’s a slow build up before you can really see how it’s looking and a stitch line slightly in the wrong direction is slower to correct than a pencil line.

The initial process, is to create a machine sewn outline of the portrait, which was day 1’s work. Using my photos as reference, I tried to create the unruly shapes the beard makes.

Day One, machine stitched outline.

Day One, machine stitched outline.

Next, I worked on the face – which needs more work and a few wrinkles… – and the cap. The cap has been hand sewn in brown, fine thread to create the textures and weaves of a tweed style cap. The shirt and jumper have been machine stitched in. The shirt I intend to paint but the jumper may well be treated like the cap, with extensive stitching to represent knitted stitches.

Day Two, tweed cap, face and clothing.

Day Two, tweed cap, face and clothing.

Behind the portrait, I have decided to place book shelves, which we have spilling over in our house, and I thought they would be a great way to create biographical references of the sitter using the spines of the book. I have also started to turn the sitter into a bit of a ‘Greenman‘, he has Rosemary running through his beard and out of his nostrils and will have Violets, too.

Day Three, rosemary and book shelves added.

Day Three, rosemary and book shelves added.

Eventually, once I have finished the majority of the embroidery, I will then start to paint the portrait. I have not decided whether to use layers of tea dye, as I did with the War Poet portraits, or to use acrylic as I did on the portraits of my daughters. Each day, my plans change and new ideas develop.

Watch this space…

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918), stiched portrait, finished

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

This has been a lovely portrait to work on. Through reading about his life, as research for the ideas to be represented in the imagery, finding out how near he lived as a young man to where I grew up, which I really hadn’t appreciated and realise how ignorant I was. I will need to sit down and put down in-depth information about the visual metaphors of the sun-dews, creeping buttercups, flying eagles, River Severn running through to the Sambre-Oise Canal, as well as the obvious fallen leaves (Autumn colours – some still young and green, others turning brown) on the Wrekin hill.

'Mental Cases' cap close-up

‘Mental Cases’ cap close-up

Close-up of uniform

Close-up of uniform

'Hospital Barge' River Severn and leaves close-up

‘Hospital Barge’ River Severn and leaves close-up

I had thought about added images of sand bags and trenches in the background of this portrait, but I decided that we are not about the way we died but the way we lived and I feel the two poems I have included in the portrait tell that part of Wilfred Owen’s story well enough.

Wilfred Owen, stitched portrait started

Wilfred Owen 1This week I started my second war poet portrait, this time of Wilfred Owen (1893-1918). He is referred to as the ‘quintessential’ war poet and remarkably, the majority of his poems were written in the last 18 months of his life – he died the week before the end of World War One in France.

So far, I have machine stitched his face and body, and after almost 12+ hours of sewing on his cap alone, I finished hand sewing the poem ‘Mental Cases’ onto his cap. The cap I have now ‘painted’ with tea, so create a look of sepia.

Rounded Sundew (detail)

Rounded Sundew (detail)

Whilst working on the poem on his cap, I have been developing the ideas for the background details. One of the many images I wish to include was that of the Rounded Sundew, the flower of Shropshire where Wilfred was born. Interestingly, it is a carnivorous plant, but I feel it’s ‘tentacles’ on the flower look almost like gunshot wounds or burst blood vessels.

I’m beginning to get a bit cross-eyed from such close work! But, tomorrow, I hope to add to the portrait a poem, I haven’t decided which yet, which symbolises the shape of the River Severn in Shropshire and the Sambre-Oise Canal, where Wilfred Owen died.

Rupert Brooke (1887-1915), stitched portrait

Rupert finished

Framed, finished hand stitched portrait of Rupert Brooke.

I have today finished my portrait of Rupert Brooke, an English poet, who died during the First World War. He is famous for writing five War Sonnets, including The Soldier and I have hand stitched a section of this poem around the map of the World, as British soldiers died and were buried across the World.

If I should die, think only this of me:

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is forever England…”

I have also chosen to include a section of an earlier poem also in this portrait. The poem is called The Beginning, a poem which I have always found moving. Below you can see a close-up of Rupert’s tie, which I hand stitched the poem onto.

Rupert tie close-up

Detail from the poem ‘The Beginning’, hand stitched poetry.

Within the portrait, there are elements of symbolism: the olive leaves to represent the olive grove where Rupert was buried in Skyros; the lilac flowers and leaves which play part of the setting in The Old Vicarage, Grantchester; hollyhocks were found in a photograph of Rupert whilst he was convalescing and the yellow hibiscus flowers symbolise the poem Tiare Tahiti.

Rupert Brooke flowers

Hollyhocks and hibiscus flowers.

The portrait is now to be framed and I have started to plan my portrait of Wilfred Owen, as I aim to create a series of portraits of First World War Poets. I am looking forward to working on his portrait as he spent many years living in Shrewsbury, where I come from and it will be interesting to research his background as well as read again through his poems.

Rupert Brooke, work in progress, stitched portrait

Rupert Brooke 1

Stage 1 of the Rupert Brooke portrait.

I have started working on what I hope will turn into quite a big project. I intend to make a series of portraits of World War I poets, using fabric and stitching to create the images.

I started this one of Rupert Brooke, a couple of days ago, using hand and machine stitch and so far, tea bags to create the right ‘tone’. I feel the image should be in sepia, as many photographs were. The poetry of Rupert Brooke has always meant a lot to me, so he seemed the right poet to start with.

Over the next week or so, I hope to add hand stitched lines of poetry to the piece as well as images of hollyhocks and lilacs, to symbolise elements in his poetry. The map behind, represents how he enjoyed travelling before the start of World War I and the fact that the ‘dust’ of many English men, was scattered across the World during the war.