It’s hard to believe it today with all the rain being dumped from the sky but we have enjoyed some lovely sunny weather lately here in the UK and I have made the most of it with a spot of mud printing in our back garden.

Printing with a mud paste can get a little messy so it’s great to be able to do it outdoors. In addition it’s very helpful when it then rains and washes all that mess away – easy clean-up 🙂

However the sunshine means that the paste can get dried out fairly quickly so you can go on with the next step in the process.

You may have seen block printing done with mud (Dabu) in India and of course not only do they have the heritage and skills but also the climate. Dabu printing is a traditional mud-resist hand-block printing art usually done with a wooden block (the metal blocks are more often used for batik printing as the wax can be melted off)

My receipe for the mud paste was little hit and miss – water, clay and lime powder which I tried to avoid using because it can burn your skin badly, but hb helped me out and we mixed it carefully with masks on – another good reason to be outside if you try this.

Make Mud Prints while the sun shines is my new saying!

It’s possible to print with anything pretty much. I own quite a few wooden blocks some of which were excellent and some too fine to cope with the build up of mud after multiple layers had been applied. I also used foam shapes and cardboard rolls with good effect. And one of my favourites was simply a big brush applied in broad strokes.

The mud acts as a resist to the dye and sometimes cracks during the drying process which can cause veining, which in my opinion adds to the final effect.

Once the paste has dried, you can apply colour.

I used a Dylon hand dye so that it would be fixable and washable but I didn’t chance the dip-dye technique preferring to apply the dye with a brush and layer up the colour to make a good dark ‘indigo’ blue. It’s worth mentioning that a pre-wash really helps prime the fabric to receiving the dye.

Finally it’s dried again and then you can hand wash out the mud and admire the beautiful fabric. Where the mud was will have repelled the dye leaving a white (or in some of my cases a much paler blue) print. It will probably be years before I dare to cut into these 😉High on my wish list is a holiday in India with some authentic Dabu printing but until then the back yard will have to do.

How the time just flies by! There I was preparing a catch up blog post about my work as Artist-in-Residence at Winterbourne House and Gardens and then all of a sudden the weather has changed, the gardens developed and what I had to show you looks distinctly wintery!

This week has been glorious, unlike the preceeding two which rained on and off so much I couldn’t chance getting out to draw or paint without a small soaking. Consequently the gardens are thriving and growing. The Anthemis border looks absolutely stunning at the moment and is top of my list to work on given long enough to do so.

I spent a day drawing arounds the grounds on Monday (and looking at old maps in the archives) getting some visual reference for some print work I’m doing and also some embroidery.

Prior to that April brought a beautiful Flowering Japonica which grew all white and blossomy in a dark corner of the garden providing lots of contrast.

I’m spinning a lot of plates atm on a lot of projects and the only way I can move forward is to do a little on all fronts and wait for the bucket to fill! I’m working in bursts when time allows but importantly, enjoying all the variety. This week in preparation of teaching my MAC Birmingham students how to print in repeat, I drew on Mondays Foxglove studies and printed a nodding row of these lovely flowers.

And if you’re interested in stitching and embroidery, this lovely workshop at Winterbourne is on sale now and you can read about it here – it’d be lovely to meet you in real life 🙂

 

Our trip to Southern Asia earlier this year (here, here, here and here) was rich in visual and cultural inspiration.

I’ve honestly felt a little overwhelmed by how deep and far I could go into this vibrant feast of creative stimulus and output – whether to start with painting or stitch or print. And all the while I’m spinning the other plates of my self-employment as an artist: delivery/teaching and all the admin that it takes to run a small business. It can be distracting and actually difficult to get time to be creative some weeks.

So I just began. One day unceremoniously. Just where I was. No fanfare or special time set aside. I just started. I took off simply by doing a little each day – whatever I had time for.

As I teach screen-printing and mixed media textiles twice a week at MAC, I kicked off this intention by focusing my preparation for these classes on my Asia photos – and I have a lot to choose from as I took nearly 7000! inc duplicates for a better shot – you know? So to make that task less anxiety inducing, I split those into files: Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. I currently haven’t got to the end of the 2.243 photos taken in Malaysia!

So if I was demonstrating cutting a screen-print stencil I based it on a motif from of a beautiful textile in the National Textile Museum in Kuala Lumpur or if I was making an example of free-machine embroidery for my Mixed Media Textiles class I referenced a drawing I’d done from a beautiful silk kimono.

Sometimes that was a basic quick line drawing, other times I had paints out to use. On some evenings I have doodled in front of the TV on my ipad pro – not that I’m especially proficient but it’s a great way to easily draw and digitalise your handwork.

It’s true what they say about ‘a little and often’ –  gradually my pile of Asia work is coming to life.

The Tutors Exhibition at macbirmingham is in it’s last week closing on

On Saturday 18th May 2019 The Tutors Exhibition  – at macbirmingham opens and in it will be one of my pattern design pieces and products – would you like to hear the story of how it came about?

I recently watched The Creative Brain on Netflix, which advocated the importance of open-ended play for creativity to blossom and this, is very much a story of that process too.

It all began with a painting I did one afternoon where I textured up a piece of watercolour paper with a lovely deckled edge and then overlaid white paint leaving the negative space to describe birds flying. And that was it – that piece of creativity sparked something else and off I went down that rabbit hole leaving this painting in the plan-chest drawer for a few months.

Then by a series of serendipitous events I found myself a member of the wonderful SteamhouseUK community where I get to play about with the most amazing array of machines and learn techniques and processes that have been invented since I was last in college.

Sublimation printing (or dye sublimation printing as it is sometimes also known) is the process of transferring images onto a fabric (or other substrate) using a heat-press to print the image. At macbirmingham we have a heat-press and we use disperse dyes to paint and print onto paper which can then be heat-pressed onto fabric (if you think that sounds fun come along to my Tues afternoon class and have a go!)

But I had never hoped to ever have access to using an actual Sublimation printer until now! In this case the disperse dyes are in the printer ink cartridges and the computer sends your image to print onto heat resistant paper in wide format.

At Steamhouse the heat-press can print onto fabric up to 175cm in width. The heat-press technique is also great for capturing textures in designs onto fabric. The Tutors show was coming up. All this got me thinking what could I make with the size of fabric that I could print to exhibit for the show?

One morning I woke up with the answer ringing clearly in my mind and it didn’t take long to make it a reality – I’m single-minded like that sometimes – use the Swifts painting to make a pattern and construct a kimono!

The pattern had to be cut down the back and re-seamed in order for all the pieces to fit one at a time into the heat-press for printing and the Swifts pattern was easy enough to put into technical repeat using Photoshop so that I could use the sublimation printer to print an all over repeating pattern.

After that it was a steady job to sew it all together nicely including a partial lining so it looked good hanging up for exhibition.

If you’re local and can make it to MAC to see the show ( – Tues – Sun, 11am – 5pm, First Floor Gallery) you’ll see that kimono hanging on the wall and who knows, after the exhibition is over I may even wear it 😉

Just popping in with a few catch-up pieces from my residency at Winterbourne House and Garden.

It’s been hard to catch a good time to be out painting because of the sudden changes in weather and temperature. One solution has been to work in miniature, although these paintings still take quite a time.

 

Everything is growing very fast and I’m trying my best to catch a little bit of it all as there’s no way I can do all of it justice. The Auriculas have long been a favourite of mine so it was nice to capture them.

This little guy had to be caught on canvas having visited me whilst sketching one day and had a good long proper chat and even hopped around the side of me as if to see what I was doing.

Finally on our epic Asia trip was the very lovely Luang Prabang in Laos.

By this time we had clocked up something like 2 train trips, 1 boat trip, 7 flights, one car ride and 9 changes of hotel so staying in one small place for a few days was a very welcome end to such a busy trip.

Luang Prabang has a lot to offer being rich in Buddhist practice and temples – the most beautifully decorated arts and crafts – mosaics, paintings, handmade paper, the tin/paper stars hanging everywhere were my favourite – too large to being home sadly.The shops are full of locally made arts and crafts too as is the daily night market.

 My favourite discovery in Luang Prabang was the Ock Pop Tok textile center

 I went for a day to learn natural dying  – which I can do but not with such exotic plants and barks as these.

I made a scarf using a resist method and a lump of wood which when boiled produced this lovely red.

In the afternoon I learnt Hmong Batik with the local master craftswoman Grandma Mae. They add indigo dye to the wax so you can see where you’ve batiked – great idea.

 This is the finished piece sitting on the kitchen table reminding us of a fantastic trip.

After 7 nights in Vietnam we took a short hop across to Phnom Penh, Cambodia which is a big sprawling city.

We went to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (no photos allowed which is the right, respectful thing)  💔 which was educational, challenging and chilling – the Khmer Rouge (KR) regime put to death nearly two million Cambodians in the late 1970’s – that’s only one generation ago.

Our tuk-tuk driver had simply told us he had no family because his parent were teachers. He said no more because in his world that is self-explanatory – the KR having killed anyone of intellect or education.

I could easily have been one of those rounded up and killed either for being an artist or for wearing glasses (a sign of being an intellectual to the KR) people were killed for no reason at all.


It’s shocking it happened, was allowed to go on and that we still don’t reference it on a world stage to the extend that we can turn up in the country and learn the depth and modern-day reality of it.

There’s a faded sobriety here and it seems fitting while the older generation live through remembering the horrors of the past and the young work to develop the future. It will always have a special place in my heart.

We moved across to Siem Reap so that we could visit the magical Ankor Wat.

Starting at sunrise we toured all the hot spots including Ta Phrom the ‘tomb raider’ one.

These guys came off badly when Thailand invaded and took some away to sell.

Everyone’s had a piece of Cambodia – I wish the loving, peaceful Cambodians all the luck, magic and resources to rebuild their country, their civil rights and their economy and standard of living.  Go visit – they need your tourism and have a lot to offer.

Our next destination was Vietnam and we arrived on the Friday night of Chinese New Year to find it heaving with people and traffic – quite the cultural baptism.

The traffic in Hanoi is unbelievable and it took us a while to perfect our technique of crossing the road – step out slowly not daring to look and keep going till you reach the other side – then breathe! Motorists scoot round you perfectly – the worst thing you can do is hesitate or stop.

It took us a while to realise that the Kumquat trees and blossom trees we were seeing being driven around are in fact the equivalent of our Christmas trees.

Hanoi was very frenetic and busy (a lot to do with CNY) and we were glad of a trip away to the beautiful and peaceful Halong Bay.

Just as picturesque in real life as it is in pictures.

We visited one of the last fishing villages which the government are trying to phase out as the inhabitants (particularly the young) don’t get access to good schooling, health treatments and opportunities. Tourism is a funny thing sometimes when it can help and hinder simultaneously.

We also travelled down to Hoi An a lovely little town of lights and water where the fireworks went off for New Year celebrations and a street party.

The shopping was great in Hanoi – lots of textiles at very cheap prices – and a lot of it modern and not well made but I did happen upon a bag of scraps which turns out to be this exciting collection of Hmong clothing embroidered scraps. Lots of inspiration in these alone.

I loved Vietnam and it’s people and would love to go back again sometime.

Back in January I took the biggest trip of my life – and it began with a rendezvous with my girl in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

We travelled up from KL to Ipoh and then right up to Penang in the North and so we saw the culture, architecture, food and arts change from Islamic influenced to Chinese.

Batik is an art form highly prized as Malaysian as it was a Malaysian artist who first fostered batik as a Fine Art.


There is also a fascinating mix of religions and temples from the brightly coloured festival of Thaipusam at the Batu Caves (top)

to Thai Buddhist temples and  Burmese Buddhist temples with different emphasis on decoration styles.

It was my first time travelling widely in Asia and I was in heaven with the all the pattern and colour.

As a new cultural experience (never been in temples before) everything looked fresh and interesting and I have stacks of inspiration for paintings and patterns.

Copyright notice 2015

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Spent a lovely (and last workshop day before Xmas 🥳) making #textileart and #drawingwiththread ➰🧵➰ @mac_birmingham From painting to collage to appliqué and stitches- fun, fun, fun 😝#illustratedstitch #applique #handstitched #textiles #workshop #stitchersofinstagram #stitchery #textilepictures
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