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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.

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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.

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 week ago today we were soaking up the sunshine in Giverny, France, visiting Monet’s house and garden.

I think it’s a sign of ageing that I enjoy the nostalgia of a place such as this,

that and it’s cute, old world french-ness.

He lived here for forty-three years from 1883 to 1926 and I love theres still the sense that (however romantic and untrue it may be!) that he just sat here, or ate there…


The original house was very small and Monet enlarged it on both sides making it not very deep but very wide, which is kind of nice as there are now lots of windows all looking onto the garden.

The barn next to the house was adapted to become his studio although it was mostly for storage as he painted in the open air.

Above it’s the product of patience – below the reality! People everywhere.

Monet chose all the colours in the house and particularly wanted the blue kitchen to show through to the yellow dining room.

If you visit and happen to arrive when the queue to look around the house is small, then my advice is do it before the garden. We couldn’t resist the garden first and ended up with a long hot queue in the sun.

Hope you’ve enjoyed an armchair tour – here’s some fun facts I happened across if you want more 🙂

 

This past weekend we nipped over to Normandy, France to visit Monet’s garden in Giverny.

It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for years and HB had a spontaneous moment of birthday gifting and made it happen.

I’d heard a lot before I went about how small it was, how many visitors crammed in to see it, how it was the wrong season for this and that…

Some of that may be true – here’s a ‘truth’ photo of the constant crowds getting the bridge shot!

But generally I found that most people seemed to be storming around as they only had limited time on their coach/cruise ship excursion and so if you just linger and wait a quiet spot does open up around you.

The planting is unbelievable – whether you’re a gardener or a painter (or neither!) you can’t fail to appreciate it.

The borders are planted up in great long swathes of tonal groups – all yellows, reds and oranges or pinks or a quiet harmony of all-white plants.

It’s hard to get a really good photo of that as you are only allowed to walk the perimeter paths and not actually in and through the garden.

To get to the water lilies you use an under-the-road tunnel as Monet bought a plot of land across the road from the house and garden and landscaped it.

It’s much quieter in both its planting and because of the tranquility that all the water brings.

You can also paint in the gardens after hours Mon – Fri (not the weekends) by buying an artists pass at the ticket booth on the day you want to paint – buy the ticket between 5/5.30pm and then wait for the gardens to close and go back in after 6pm till 8pm.

If you want details I think the press office was the best source of information (details here)

It’s also worth knowing I think, that even if you print out your e-ticket and take it with you still have to stand in queue to go through with all those buying their tickets at the door. We had  a false sense of security that we would get flagged through an express queue -no! so we were glad we’d gone early on in the day.

I’ll do a another post showing the house soon.

Just back from a few days away in Portugal – Lisbon and Sintra.

Here’s Lisbon looking moody (read that as bad weather) My umbrella, gloves and hat were the best things I packed.


When in Portugal you must partake of the Pastel de nata – a Portuguese egg tart pastry that it’s famous for.

And of course there are old and new tiled buildings everywhere.

Heaven for the pattern lover here!

This was my favourite tile and that’s no men feat because I probably photographed 50 plus!

And of course one must ride on and also photograph the ubiquitous old yellow tram.

We also went out to Sintra (an hour away from Lisbon) a lovely rich, old town bursting with old palaces and old mansions with beautiful gardens to explore. The stand-out place being this: The Pena Palace.

There are more (and different) photos over on my Instagram account  here if you enjoyed.

 

Read the rest of this entry »

Two months since I last blogged…can’t believe how time flies. I’m determined to keep a record of my days here so lets fill that gap.

We went to South Africa  – a country with the most magnificent coastline, the biggest skies, abundant nature (even in their wintertime) whales to watch courting and beautiful national parks to discover.

I’ve tried to edit my 1000’s of photos down to just the four that sum up my experience – I loved the Bo Kaap district in Cape Town (I think you can guess why)

We drove a circular route from Cape Town to Knysna and back up through Franschhoek during which I began to see the contrasts in how people live and who and where those people are. Not comfortable and I’m still mulling over how the seeing of this might turn into a response and what that response may be.

The Egg Hillary Goodwin

I visited The Festival of Quilts – not sooo amazing as usual in my book but this one was awesome – that’s stitch work making those patterns people!

The show did inspire me to begin an English Paper Pieced hexagon thing – might be a quilt top, a curtain or a pin cushion! It’s early days.

Went to London with my lovely girl.

We braved the Natural History museum which made me glad to be in the company of a young adult and not a young (tired, crying, hot) child. It was sooooo noisy.

 

I also taught a tonne at the MAC which doesn’t look much in four small squares but has been a really wide and fun range of classes for all ages from Toddlers through to adult learners. It really is the best job I’ve ever had.

And the rest of the time in between all this has been spent contending with the biggest bit home renovation we’ve done since moving here 7 years ago. I’ll spare you the photos (v. boring to look at and it’s not finished yet) This however was a design I’d worked on for several hours….I was a little stuck mulling over colour choices and thought I’d go and walk the dog and come back fresh to it. Alas, I didn’t save a PS file (only this jpg) and while I was out the electrician cut the power forcing my computer to shut down. Game over.

That’s indicative of the last two months really – it has been hard to do any meaningful work this summer with people buzzing around, endless cups of tea to make and interruptions.

When I’ve not been out I’ve tried to hide in my studio doing quick bits of art to keep my sanity intact.

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And that about sums things up. Hope you’ve had a lovely summer where ever you are.

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That sweet moment when you click ‘Pattern Fill’ 👩‍💻 💻 🤗😆 #photoshop #patterndesign #surfacepatterndesigner #pattern #print #surfacepatterns #computerdesign #mydesktoday #patterns #patterndesigns #artistoninstagram #patternplay #productiontime
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These ladies #markitproject have learnt soooo much on their printmaking journey (as have I) Today was our last screen-printing session before we concentrate on other production tasks 🧵➿✂️ 📦🏷We have 2 fairs booked - local peeps save the dates: December 1st and 8th 🌲 #screenprinting #skillup #withrefugees #refugeeswelcome #skillsforlife #empoweringwomen #craftcommerce #womeninbusiness #learningnewskills #craftcanchangetheworld #everyonedeservestobehappy
You are invited to @mac_birmingham Textile Club next Saturday 🧵 🖌 ✂️ Only £31 to spend an uninterrupted day working on your own textile project with all materials and studio access plus my support/advice/enthusiasm/corny jokes as wanted 🤣 Print, Stitch, Machine, Dye any which way you’d like. #textileworkshop #textileart #printmakingworkshop #printmaking #screenprintingworkshop #sewingworkshop #textileartists #birminghamtextileartist #birminghammakers #textileartworkshop #workshopsuk #macbirmingham #craftworkshops #thingstodoinbirmingham #keepoutoftherain 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 student work shown by Georgina, Elaine, Hannah and Anna

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