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Yesterday I made the pilgrimage to London to see the Cezanne exhibition (the much hyped exhibition)

Yes, there were a lot of people as expected and some queuing to see the pictures as talked about.

What I wasn’t expecting was the inconsistency. Bear in mind that I photographed pieces I like that resonated with me in some good way – so I’m not showcasing here the works I thought best left in the development portfolio.

But let me try to explain.

Maybe it’s because I only think of Cezanne as the painter who painted post-impressionist landscapes and not as an artist who (pre-impressionism) practised, experimented and honed a style, that I found the work displayed jarring.

The Bathers – I loved this piece – it really shows beautifully how the same style and direction of brush-marks used on both the foliage and the flesh serve to meld one into the other making the people part of the landscape. In this way (style) I like his figure work.

Not being able to see the date cards (and therefore an explanation of repeated attempts to tackle a thing) didn’t help the experience that here was one very fine work of art sat next to two or three less fine works of art – mostly his figure work.

Perhaps we were being shown how he worked away tenaciously at a subject until he found his unique approach?

But I found the way it was hung left me feeling like Cezanne didn’t hit his stride but kept trying new approaches of media and style and is not the Cezanne that I thought he was.

One of my solid favourites for years, A Bend In the Road is one I love because it has such a pleasing composition.

There were a few absolute treasures that shone out from across the gallery for their clever composition or luminosity or colour palette.

In real life this painting glowed and is so beautifully and lightly handled that you feel as if you can walk into it.

Which made it all the harder to see the stuff which maybe didn’t reflect him at his best.

It was a huge show with many rooms and a lot of paintings but I wonder if some further editing of images or better explanation might have helped me appreciate what Cezanne was working towards, better.

When I go on a trip anywhere I love to find recommendations from people whose interests I share.

So in that spirit here a few of my favourite places from our trip to some of the Hebridean islands (see previous post)

My favourite yarn shop was the very inspiring Shilasdair yarns – also known as Isle of Skye Natural Dye Company – on Skye.

And as the name suggests everything is coloured with natural dyes gathered from the landscape of Skye.

The whole set up of yoga, b&b, workshops and retreats is very enticing. You can read the evolution of the company here. And yes, I did bring home some sock yarn in a beautiful caramel shade from some Ling Heather.

I also really loved visiting

also on Skye and in particular, liked the work of Julie Whatley (below)

I brought home a lovely cup with an abstract design on in shades of blue and I am enjoying drinking from it and remembering the sky and seascape of Skye.

Also on Skye was Dunvegan Castle which was full of gorgeous colour and pattern.

It’s beautifully kept and from the moment I walked in and saw that super stormy blue colour on the walls, I knew there’d be some treats ahead for the ‘colour-loving designer’.

I find stately homes often provide lovely colour palette references and patterns to inspire.

The old wallpaper in this room was delightful and set off with lovely vintage textiles and paintings.

The staff here were fun and knowledgable too and filled us with stories of the mis-matched marriage that offended the parents and ended up with the daughter down in the dungeon.

Other places on Skye that we loved but didn’t photograph were:

Lenz Ceramics – well worth the wiggly drive to find it,


Maggie Zerafa – a beautiful and fascinating process to her ceramics.


On the Isle of Harris we visited Talla na Marra for a night (where we also hooked up in the motorhome) This is some work from Marigold Williams of the Isle of Harris studio.

Talla na Marra which is part cafe, arts center and community enterprise – there is a cluster of artists studios, designer / makers, painters and chocolatiers.

This little studio set up caught my eye – imagine that being your working view.

We also really enjoyed wending our way down the coast and finding clusters of galleries and home studio artists – the road from Goosebay to Rodel was good for this.

Mission House Studio was one of a cluster of nice galleries to pop into. The ceramics were gorgeous but I also loved being able to nosey around in the artist work area.

The Harris Tweed museum was worth the visit to just to look through this beautiful book by Ian Lawson.

His photographs marrying the landscape and nature of the island and how it translates into the colours and patterns of the tweeds was just beyond beautiful.

Holmasaig gallery was a super home studio showing the very varied work of Margarita Williams.

And then further up in Lewis is the wonderful Blue Pig studio – we got such a warm welcome (and coffee and rock buns) that I hardly took a photo. Jane runs a lovely gallery from her workspace and is generous and welcoming so do go.


Well if you happen across this and it helps you on your trip, do let me know. But I hope it’s provided some armchair travel for everyone 🙂

I’m currently hard at work producing my own artistic responses to this wonderful trip, so I’ll be back with all that soon.

I’m sure I’m not alone in admitting that I am really missing trips out to see art. The constraints of this Pandemic have truly served to reveal what’s important to me in my everyday existence and also what I would consider to be a treat – there’s nothing like having something made inaccessible to make you value it.

I found myself buying some art books over Christmas to address this yearning. I found some artists who I’d never heard of before and liked the look of and Hannah Ryggen was one of those. I read that she had lived in Norway making political tapestries while running a farm and I wanted to know more.

She was born in Sweden in 1894 but lived mostly in Norway. She began her artistic career as a painter but firmly felt that her work should only be accessible in public places and so she stopped painting and selling to private buyers and concentrated instead on large public works of art made through weaving.

She ploughed headlong through criticism of her media not being Art and didn’t accept it’s second class merit as Arts and Crafts or Applied Art. People were really rude (in print) about her – her looks, way of life and artistic expression. It didn’t seem to phase her.

She hand dyed all the wools for her weaving and some of her letters describe her methods which I found really interesting and relatable.

In Scandinavia she is a big cheese with work in many public spaces and galleries. She continued a style of weaving composition that has a Scandinavian cultural thread (literally)

I love that she used her art for political and social comment (it’s made me question my own practice) using humour and ridicule to underscore her message alongside recording moments of everyday life and family lore.

I would have loved to walk around a show and seen the scale of her work in real life, the texture of her handiwork and had that irreplaceable real-life experience of art-in-the-flesh but for now this book has brought some fresh thinking and discovery.

This is also a good article if you’d like to read more about her.

Eleri Mills is one of wales most successful artists.

We swung by the Ruskin Craft Center on our home from Port Merion – I’ve got to say that seeing some real art in a real art gallery was so soul-filling after these many months of Lockdown.

I didn’t realise how much I respond to seeing art in real life until we were walking around and I was literally soaking it up – I went around twice.

Apart from the recent denial of such pleasures, I enjoyed this so much because Eleris work really talks to me.

It is full of mark making and those marks translate to say something about the landscape which inspires her but also can be abstract and I like that.

She also develops those marks into stitches put directly through the canvas.

And these are often running stitches but can be a gorgeous hue or an eye catching luxe thread but they serve to continue to talk about the landscape in an even more tactile fashion.

It’s an approach which really inspires me.

I also loved her use of scale and the way she played with diptych and triptych approaches to drawing over several sheets of paper either to expand the same scene or to make companion pieces.

It reminds me also to never stop drawing or dipping my soul into nature to feel grounded and alive.

Eleri Mills – Egni: a decade of creativity is running August – November 2020 at Ruthin Craft Centre, The Centre for the Applied Arts.

JD Innes Arenig North Wales

A while back I happened across the above image and thought it gorgeous. I hadn’t heard of the painter James Dickson Innes ever before so I did a Google search and liked what I saw and so began to track down the only book there is on him. I’ve since realised that what I saw and liked was all there was to see and like.

JD Innes Palm Trees at Collioure

I’ve just finished reading it and have mixed thoughts – he died young at 27 from tuberculosis and so he never really hit his stride as a painter. The pieces I like show that he was beginning to be onto something; inspired by French Impressionism and The Fauves he brought unusual colour to the Welsh and French landscape pieces he painted.

JD Innes Storm Over Arenig

His watercolours also describe the landscape with semi-abstract dots and dashes which is a style I’m drawn to.

JD Innes Promontories & Coast at Cerbere

What I haven’t shown you here are the terrible (sorry to say it but it was said to him at the time) portraits and mediocre pieces. I’m guessing if he’d lived he’d have continued to hone his skill and produce more pieces of worth and standing but as he didn’t, I felt this book included them to his detriment. I have piles of sub-standard stuff that will one enjoy a trip to the recycling – I wouldn’t ever show them publicly. Other than his association with some high profile names (Augustus John, Eric Gill, Walter Sickert) I’m left not entirely sure why he warrants a whole book?

JD Innes Tour Madeloc

I do take away his delicious use of colour and representation of light but stick to Googling him – you can borrow my book!

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!

This week I got one of my much-liked London fixes by popping down to see a couple of exhibitions.

First up was Oceania at the Royal Academy which was equal parts inspiring, educating and humbling.

The show is made up of ethnographic collections dating from the 18th century to the present with a free audio guide explaining the thought behind practises which go much deeper than simply surface decoration or use.

I thought it was a clever idea to look at what else was happening in the world when the RA was being founded… the answer was Captain Cooks discovery of the island civilisations from Tahiti in Polynesia, to the scattered archipelagos and islands of Melanesia and Micronesia – all collectively known as Oceania.

The indigenous populations they met came with their own histories and practices of social and artistic traditions. There is a rather sobering (and very well done) video graphic of the impact European adventurers had on these communities that we are now re-evaluating without the assurity and self righteousness of previous generations.

So there is a lot to wonder at, understand and learn in this exhibition and of course there is always pattern to be found!

Yesterday I got to meet my absolute painting hero – Jean B Martin when she did a talk at the opening of her exhibition in the Cotswolds. She has much to teach me as a painter and in real life she is both full of advice and new approaches and also witty and down-to-earth in a unstarry way which doesn’t belie her huge talent.

I discovered her work quite by accident when on holiday years ago – there was a beautiful jewel of a painting propped on the floor waiting to be framed (we were in a frame and exhibition shop)  and we loved it so much we bought it and that was the beginning of my discovery and subsequent adoration.

She also brought along her beautiful charcoal laden sketchbooks and I spent a long time getting grubby fingers and memorizing as much as I could! It was very special and I hope to put some new things into practice really soon.

Currently at the Midlands Art Center, Birmingham, UK is a wonderful Textile exhibition by The 62 Group called Ctrl/Shift. It’s on the theme of changes and shifts in the artists way of working whether that be by using new technology or a change of understanding or personal practice.

The 62 group has become one of the most prestigious Textile groups to be a member of and now has both international membership and a strict activity requirement to stay a member of and in doing so it keeps this prestige.

Here’s a few snaps of just a little of the exhibition.

Joanna Kinnersly-Taylor is an innovative fabric print maker from Glasgow.

Recast represents the change of light and space as you walk through a space.

Sue Stone uses machine or hand embroidered stitches (or a mix) to create amazing textures which are true-to-life of the object represented. She draws on the past and present, often in a portraiture style and her pieces are very close to a drawn/painted image but done with thread, fabric and dye.

Caroline Bartlett is based in the UK and produces tactile works involving pleating and fabric manipulation and which also often incorporate ceramics.

Jane McKeating   is an avid drawer – see her sketchbook film in the artists processes area of the exhibition and her instagram page.

This love of drawing translates through into printed and hand stitched embroidered art.

These pieces are found handkerchiefs which represent aspects of old age pertinent to her own experience of caring for an ageing parent.

They were my favourite pieces – so intricate, patterned and colourful yet sombre and emotive and intricately executed.

Come along and see it all before it closes.

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