Youngsters stitch in colour!

What a fantastic week I spent with the Year 4 students at St Lawrence School in Sussex! Their topic of the Rainforest was a perfect subject to interpret in fabric and stitch. And it was brilliant to meet so many enthusiastic 8 and 9 year olds bursting with ideas to illustrate their knowledge of the flora and fauna of the rainforest. Some children were printing leaves onto fabric… and others were using the artist Henri Rousseau and photos taken by one of the children, Bea, on her visit to Kew Gardens to inspire their drawings…

The drawings were photographed and printed onto fabric, quilted and stitched. Other students painted directly onto fabric or stitched flowers from fabric – a skill they were keen to learn…

Making scary animals in 3D worked brilliantly, as did the sad story of Jungle Dave and the foot eating croc! And every student had a go at stitching with a sewing machine – and loved the discussions about how the machine worked and how fast it would go!

Not forgetting the one minute stitched portrait of their teacher…


And after all their fantastic work I bought everything back to the Isle of Wight to stitch it all together – a beautiful, colourful, exciting textile interpretation of the Rainforest. Well done Year 4 – you were a pleasure to work with x


Virginia Woolf inspired stitch

With the sun shining again today I was reminded of one of my favourite pieces of stitched work from last year, inspired by one of Jo West’s photos from the area of the River Ouse in Sussex, close to Virginia Woolf’s country home Monks House and where she ended her life. The image contains two quotes – one from ‘To the Lighthouse’ and the other a thought provoking quote from the film ‘The Hours’ which follows the lives of 3 women interconnected by Virginia Woolf’s book ‘Mrs Dalloway’.

“I remember one morning…
getting up at dawn…
there was such a sense of possibility!
You know? That feeling?
And… and I remember thinking to myself:
‘So this is the beginning of happiness…’
‘This is where it starts!’
‘And, of course, there’ll always be more.’
Never occurred to me
it wasn’t the beginning,
It was happiness.
It was the moment…”

Enjoy the moment.


The completed textile hanging


Here is the Hurst textile hanging tied with ribbon ready for the unveiling – and the finished article! The art department was filled with visitors on Wednesday evening enjoying drinks and canapés, looking at the textile hanging and admiring the fabulous art exhibitions by the art scholars and the IB students.

The base of the hanging is a collage composed of images from the beautifully planted quads at Hurst. A mix of student photographs printed onto fabric together with painted and stitched fabric appliqué symbolises the strong roots of the school and remind us of its rural setting.

The next section of the hanging is created using photographs and oil pastel rubbings of the traditional Flint walls of the college which have been stitched in relief using quilting techniques.

…and more details to follow…


A celebratory stitched triptych!

What a fabulous project! In January I was invited to work with the art and photography students at Hurstpierpoint College in West Sussex to create a textile wall hanging to celebrate the 20th anniversary of girls at the school. Drawing, painting, printmaking, photography and text were stitched together to form a massive 2 metre square triptych, to be unveiled at the school on Wednesday 2nd March.

During their art lessons and after school study time the students enthusiastically creatively responded to the traditions of the school whilst expanding their textile and stitch skills, incorporating a wide range of media. Many of the students had not used a sewing machine before but within minutes were excited by the expressive marks that can be created using free machine embroidery. Over the weekend parents, students and teachers joined us for a great Hurst sew-in and a good time was had by all!

I brought the part made hanging back to my studio on the Isle of Wight to bring all the work together.

Here are some glimpses of the work…more photos of the completed work in situ next week…

History in Stitch

The QuayCrafts group have been commissioned by the Isle of Wight Heritage Service to create a piece of art to celebrate the centenary of World War 1 and the role played by the Isle of Wight Rifles Battalion. Using the memorabilia housed at Carisbrooke Castle Museum, we decided to create an artists book, using a variety of media, to illustrate the event. This, together with the workshop notes that we wrote will be used by Isle of Wight schools and other groups to inspire their creative responses

My pages used images and stitch to create a storyboard timeline to show how the Rifles trained and travelled to Gallopoli to fight the Turkish armies. I have also illustrated the Rifles uniform, inspired by the wealth of artefacts that can be found at the museum.

What a great opportunity to research our history and provide some much needed resources to support our hard working teachers

Osborne House Exhibition open!

I’m delighted to say that the exhibition by the ten artists of the QuayCrafts group, with contemporary craft work to be found throughout the house and grounds of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, is open now and until November 1st. Huge thanks to the amazing team at Osborne who have been so supportive of our research and installed the work so brilliantly.

Osborne House is open daily 10am-5pm

My work is based on sharing the stories I have heard from the passionate and knowledgeable staff who steward the house. When you chat to them they all have a favourite object, area or room – often one that I had not noticed, or knew little about. The first shown above is the story surrounding a little painting in the corridor outside the nursery which is a favourite of Sheila: “Sketch of Indian Attendant Mohammed with Prince Alexander”

The baby is Prince Alexander of Battenberg (1886-1960), Princess Beatrice’s eldest son. Holding him is the Indian servant Mohammed Buksh who came to work at Osborne House on 23rd June 1887 together with the man who was to become Queen Victoria’s personal attendant and teacher, Abdul Karim. Mohammed and Abdul  came from India when the Queen requested an Indian escort for the Jubilee celebrations, demonstrating her position as Empress of India. 

Sheila loves this little painting because they both look so happy and serene and content. Queen Victoria loved it too commenting about her Grandson, “…darling little Drino sitting quite comfortably and happily in Mohammed’s arms. It will be a dear little picture.”

The artist, Tuxen, was paid £35 on 13th January 1888 for this work. In 1889 Mohammed Buksh was awarded the Victoria Faithful Service Medal.

The image is composed of my sketch of the painting, printed onto fabric and appliqued. The background is my photo of the lining of a turban which I found in the basement at Osborne – this has been printed onto fabric and stitched into. Along the bottom is my recreated image of some hand embroidered Indian silk curtains, again photographed in the basement. I was able to see the child’s gown in the collection behind the scenes at Osborne and particularly loved the whitework – which was a favourite of Queen Victoria. When the Ayrshire whitework industry  in Scotland was ailing due to the shortage of raw cotton from America during the Civil War in 1861, Queen Victoria ordered miles of their trimmings, caps and handkerchiefs for her and her daughters. Unfortunately her efforts to stimulate fashion were in vain, and by 1870 the majority of Ayrshire makers had ceased to trade. The heading is based on a piece of whitework scanned and printed onto cotton and stitched into. Other fabrics are found pieces in the Victorian style.

Worked onto linen, both pieces are framed in an embroidery frame – linking them to the Victorian stitched samplers which inspired the work.

The second image was inspired by Helen’s love of the wild flower meadow behind Swiss Cottage. Designated by Prince Charles in 2012 as one of the Coronation Meadows in an attempt to highlight the loss of a staggering 97% of meadows in the last 75 years. Beautiful in the Spring with masses of primroses and glorious in the summer with an amazing array of wild flowers such as Dyer’s Greenwood, Devil’s-bit scabious and Common Spotted orchids, together with the marbled white butterfly. The meadow is alive with grasshoppers – just pop your foot in the long grass and watch them leap up!

 This piece is based around my photographs of the meadow in early July, and includes a 3D butterfly and embroidered flowers. Densely stitched and appliqued, it is rich in texture and hanging threads.

I hope you like!

Working with English Heritage and Osborne House

So excited about our current project – an amazing opportunity to go behind the scenes at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight – the stunning Island retreat of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. We are calling the exhibition “Beyond the Red Rope” because we have been given access to the roped off areas not usually seen by the public and detailed insight into the house and life of the Royal Family from the curator. I have been spending a lot of time talking to the dedicated and knowledgeable staff and listening to their stories about the house, their work, and what they love about Osborne House.

Once again I am working with the Island based QuayCrafts group – sharing our ideas and inspiration. Watch this space for more information and pictures of my work.

Our first exhibition will show how we have approached the concept of responding to such a beautiful historic building, and examples of ways of adapting our working methods to tell our stories. Osborne House will be opening a room not normally seen by the public to exhibit this work from 16th May to 1st June 2015

There will be an exhibition of the final work, located throughout the house, from 7th September.