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 😉

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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.

Still catching up my blog – back in January I re-introduced myself on Instagram after realising that even my old friends weren’t really sure what I do day-to-day. So here it is for any of you who’d like to know too 😉

Hi friends, family and followers HNY! 🍾
I met an old friend who’d I’d lost touch with and it made me realise that these pictures here don’t fully describe my Work Life and so I’m starting a fresh year with one of those little Insta intro’s people do….
28 years ago I graduated in Textile Design specialising in Printed Textiles.
26 years ago I got my teaching qualification and began teaching Primary-aged kids with a specialism in kids with Additional Needs.
7 years ago I stepped out of the school classroom and into other places and spaces where I can teach people, work with kids and develop my own art practice.
👩🏻‍🎨 I’m an artist at heart and I love to paint. And print. And add colour to things. And meet people and share art and creativity and the good it brings.
📆I hardly have a typical week (which I love) but it might look like this:
🖼 I spend some of my time painting pictures to sell and until May 2020 I have the whole of Winterbourne House and Gardens @winterbournehg to inspire me as I am Artist in Residence there @artist_winterbournehg come and follow that account too if you like!
🌳🏢I work regularly @macbirmingham teaching Mixed Media Textiles on a Thurs night, Pattern-design/Screen-printing and Heat Transfer-printing on a Tues afternoon, running a Baby Creative class (messy/sensory play) and also the cutest Toddler Art Group. 👬👭
Then there’s work that comes in blocks such as delivering a whole range of multi-disciplinary workshops locally at places like @birmingham_mag and @winterbournehg for adults and children, working with local and national social enterprise groups developing skills with a group of refugees and offering paint-therapy for ShelterUK and I also take workshops and demonstrations on the road to art groups as far as my travelling time can take me.
🤫I design patterns commercially using any number of ways; print methods, stitch and all sorts of paint techniques and a local print agent takes them out to the textile fairs to sell them on my behalf. It’s secret work (copyright issues) and not often seen here.
📺 And of a night I still knit, weave, stitch and crochet in front of the telly because I love to.

Thank you for reading if you got this far x

Dear neglected blog – I never meant to be gone so long. I know blogs aren’t the go-to place that they used to be but I still value mine and use it as a diary of events often. So with that in mind I intend to catch up on the last 4 months beginning with China..

Back in November 2018 we visited Beijing for a week to see our daughter whose studying there.

What we were told to expect was not at all how we found it ourselves. I enjoyed the straight-forwardness of the Chinese. Loved its food culture, historic buildings, paintings, metro system, the fact that it’s totally acceptable to photograph anyone/anything/anytime – even in commercial art galleries selling private artwork, they have a shared love of people watching but without needing to be candid about it and a cultural agreement about the value of the handmade, hand painted. And of course the group dancing in the street to keep fit!

Everything was beautiful, inspiring for painting and pattern and simply new to my eyes and knowledge about Chinese history.

I bought a big stack of rice paper back to emulate the beautiful Chinese painting I saw.

And some textile treasures from the markets beautifully embroidered.

And we were well placed to go see the best remaining section of The Great Wall-cold but fun.

Of course though the very best part was a week with our girl. Read the rest of this entry »

A couple of weeks ago I was in Manchester and made the opportunity to go to The Whitworth Museum to see the Thread Bearing Witness exhibition and it was awesome!

 My first contact with it was through the Stitch a Tree Project where anyone could stitch a small piece of fabric with a tree to show their support for refugees. This project grew from work done in a Dunkirk refugee camp with children using the Tree of Life as a motif to think about strength and resilience.

 

Our stitched tress were collected and stitched together to make a forest as a symbol of support and togetherness for all displaced people around the world. It’s just a photo here but it has a big impact in real life. It makes a statement and in the under-stated way that only fabric, textiles can because it appears so domestic and unthreatening but then you consider the strength of it’s message.

Not a brilliant photo of me but unbelievably one of mine was at eye level so I could spot it! And it meant something to have taken part and put my voice to a chorus.

There were also 3 big panels Sky, Ground, Sea undertaken by Alice Kettle- huge machine embroidered works of art made with refugees contributions in the form of drawings mostly translated into stitch.

 

Big sweeps of stitch and fabric expressing the broad big spaces that refugees have to cross and inhabit to survive.

These can be view in purely aesthetic way as they are simply beautiful pieces layered with lustrous stitches, colours and pattern.

One can also feel good work has been done giving people creative inclusion and opportunity in the workshops that the project supported such as Pipka camp and elsewhere.

But I think the message broader and stronger and more urgent and seen most in Sea.

  This had the biggest impact on me;  this is not just art, occupation, awareness raising –  the floating bodies ethereal in gold thread spoke very clearly of life and death.

The brochure begins with this beautiful writing by Choman Hardi which says it all and says it very beautifully;

“I have come to learn your pain,
fill me up with your words, I have not been gassed, nor imprisoned, nor mothered children to watch them starve or wither away,
don’t know what widowhood feels like.
I have not lived in a shack, nor worked hard in fields to bring food back…

I want to document your suffering, make sure your voice is heard.
I cannot promise redress or direct help.
But I promise to listen with all that I have, stay true to your story, not distort or edit your grief”

***

When I was in London this week I also went to see the Anni Albers exhibition at Tate Modern.

Anni Albers (1899-1994) was one of the first to move weaving on from being for purely practical purposes to being seen as an art piece for itself.

I found all the technical diagrams as fascinating as the finished pieces.

And enjoyed seeing what can be made with only a few colours when they are manipulated in certain ways.

I loved the hand painted design sketches made in preparation before weaving – just as an artist would sketch a quick study.

And I am determined myself to master some of these twists and turns into actuality.

This piece is almost where weave and embroidery meet and so effective with just 2 colours.

Thoroughly inspired and if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I just started my first big weave pattern so I am stacking up the possibilities now and can’t find weaving-time fast enough!

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Had a lovely sunny day painting @winterbournehg 🌞 Met loads of lovely people with stories, chat and encouraging words and this funny guy who wanted to pose as if he’d spent the last 5 hrs painting 🤣🤣 #mademyday #artistinresidence #winterbournegardens #painting #landscapepainting #art #birmingham #enpleinair #acrylicpainting #gardenpainting #gardeninspiration
Here’s a happy me @mac_birmingham at the tutors exhibition which opened this afternoon ☺️🖼🥂 with my Swifts kimono, a length of my Poppy fabric and my pattern design work for a Huggies wet wipe packet. #exhibiting #pattern #artistonistagram #sublimationprinting #artist #surfacepattern #exhibition #surfacepatterndesigner #appliedarts #fabric #fabricdesign #kimono #heatpressprinting #heatpress #heatpressdesign #handpaintedsigns #digitaldesign #birmingham #artistinresidence @artist_winterbournehg
On Saturday 18th May The Tutors Exhibition at macbirmingham opens and in it will be this pattern design piece. I’ve written the whole story of painting to pattern to fabric up over on my blog (link in profile) Swipe through to see the final outcome 👘 shout outs to @steamhouse_uk for the opportunities @vive_designs for tech support and cheer leading 📣 @mac_birmingham for exhibiting me #heatpress #heatpressprinting #pattern #sublimationprinting #surfacepattern #patterndesigner #patterndesigns #dispersedye #dyesublimation #designer #dyesublimationprinting #exhibition #exhibiting #birmingham #birminghamuk #kimono #kimonojacket #printontofabric #alloverpattern #artistonistagram #artistic #art #bird #sewing #sewingproject #productdevelopment #birds #macbirmingham
A little teaser for you today 😉 find out soon what I used this beautiful big olde machine to do! *clue it’s in the Tutors Exhibition opening @mac_birmingham this Saturday 💫 #heatpress #heatpressprinting #sublimationprinting #steamhouse @steamhouse_uk #pattern #patterndesigner #patterndesigns #surfacepattern #frompaintingtopattern

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