Local exhibitions week Part 2

On Tuesday I was in Leeds so only went to the Henry Moore Institute’ s current exhibition  because the Art Gallery is closed for serious roof repairs . (I used to like the Central Library exhibitions but they now have Room 700 with black painted wall panels   and funny blue discs on the ceiling as an ‘artspace’ for events/installations rather than gallery space for local artists .) Anyway Rebecca Warren’s bronze ‘Untitled (War Commission)’ was outside the Institute –


This was commissioned by several bodies for the First World War Centenary and is by way of introduction to this exhibition “The Body Extended : Sculpture and Prosthetics” as such it was easily my favourite piece . Basically , surviving prosthetics from the 19C onwards from various medical collections including Leeds’ own Thackray Museum were shown alongside 2d & 3d works (or photographs of works) with a tenuous link to the idea of body extensions first as replacements for lost limbs and then as improvements on their original natural counterparts . This was also tied in to WW1 although wooden legs and hook hands were not first invented then nor were ‘bodies fragmented in ways that had not been known before’ – from some of the mass of verbiage accompanying the exhibition ! I would have thought that the most important extensions or replacements resulted from surgical not mechanical advances during and after WW1 . A little historical research might also have revealed the obvious fact that bringing ‘the mutilated body into public life ‘ was not new .

The Art Theory and its strange language use apart ; body extensions should surely include armour , jewellery and clothes  ? Here are finger extensions (L) and ‘moveable shoulder extensions’ (R) by Rebecca Horn . I rather like these but why not include photographs of carnival costumes as well ? Especially the headresses !

fingerextRH .1


moveable shouder extensionsRH

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Local exhibitions week – Part 1

On Monday we went to Scarborough for the day and discovered that 2 places I had heard of – Crescent Arts & Scarborough Art Gallery were shut on Mondays . The other Arty place on The Crescent  – Woodend’s Art & Craft Gallery was open . Woodend , built in 1835 , is the house where Edith Sitwell was born and lived with her brothers before going to London and scintillating as much as the Bloomsbury set . It has been converted into ‘creative workspaces’ ie offices/meeting rooms plus a selling gallery .


The current exhibition is an open show , “Moors & Coast” on from 1 August until 30 September featuring work in 2d & 3d from North Yorkshire artists . It is extensive and gives a real sense of the distinctive landscape . There were literally too many works to note down every good printmaker/draughtsperson (and no catalogue alas !) so you should just see it if you can . There was some striking textile work –


This is ‘Waterdress’ by Joan Murray (£470 – & think how much can be spent on wedding dresses !) , knitted in raw silk , cotton and fine wool . The photograph shows the blue a bit too bright . The front/overdress is more tweedy incorporating navy , grey , brown and purple . Part of it is another wheel like the one forming the clearer coloured underdress at the back . There is a Youtube video explaining how she came to use dancers to model her clothes , some of the resulting videos can be seen on her website http://www.joanmurray.co.uk

The other fascinating textile piece was by Carol Coleman –


‘Cliffhanger’ is part of a series on the cliffs below the castle at Scarborough , now dangerous because they are crumbling and will disappear into the sea not that long into the future . Anyway this is actually embroidered all over . The effect was of moss stitch but that is a hand stitch and would have taken years ! She explains that it is in fact machine ‘free’ embroidery so  would only take hours/days . I have never done this sort of thing so densely or with so many closely related colours . You really can’t get the effect properly from a photograph I’m afraid although there are some more detailed banners on her (still being built) website http://www.fibredance.com






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New home , new workspaces

We have been in York now for about 6 weeks and predictably there are still boxes all over the place , although not as many . I need space for drawing/painting/collage/calligraphy , for ceramics and for textiles . The house was chosen with this in mind – balanced out by needing less space for other things .

The 2d stuff can be done in the conservatory/sunroom even in winter (it is heated) .

2016-07-25 17.23.292016-07-25 17.20.51

As you can see there are big windows on 2 sides with plenty of inspiration to see through them . I also have a big easel – currently missing pegs – which I inherited from my mother , one of my A3 portfolios & my calligraphy board stored against the non window , non radiator wall .

The textiles will eventually be done on the front room floor and machined on a folding table Habib plans to design and make for me when he has the time . Until then it will be back to the dining table as before (but with more space) .

The ceramics will be done in my share of the double garage now cluttered with boxes etc.

2016-07-25 17.15.55

2016-07-25 17.14.20

My section will be against the brick wall to the right of the window and to the left of the full width garage door . There will be plenty of room for shelving (our Ikea Sten – alas no longer available) and an electric kiln . My work which is properly packed in boxes will go in the crawl space above the rafters – and help insulate the place . The opposite wall already has the washing machine and chest freezer so will eventually have a toilet & sink so that I will have water for pottery and any dyeing of textiles . I haven’t decided yet whether to have a wheel or not .

Unfortunately it also looks as if I will have to store my beautiful Art books here !


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Claughton Pellew exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery

We were in Norwich for a day after visiting my sister who lives nearby and discovered this post WW1 artist some of whose work had just gone on temporary exhibition in the galleries  devoted to artists with Norfolk connections (Crome , Cotman) . His full name was Claughton Pellew – Harvey and he lived from 1890 to 1966 . The most detail on his life and work I have found online at https://www.scribd.com/doc/117326171/Claughton-Pellew-1890-1966-Artist   .

Here are some of his works that we saw :

m&chcp-h This was what I first saw at a distance and it pulled me into the room . It is actually a watercolour , “Mother & Child” (and much more orange overall) from 1920 although it is very similar in style to his wood engravings and there was one based on this hung on the other side of the only oil painting ;


Pellew-Harvey, Claughton; View from the Studio; Norfolk Museums Service; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/view-from-the-studio-228911

View from the Studio 1930

He didn’t seem to have done many oils , favouring pen-and-ink with watercolour washes . His wood engravings are wonderful eg The Entombment .

?the entombmentcp-h

The exhibition was mostly of his prints and included an original wooden plate to show off his technique . I love woodcuts anyway but had not seen work of this emotional intensity done in the medium before . I did not find his work ‘romantic’ which term I think was used because so much of it is spiritually inspired . He was a Roman Catholic convert and conscientious objector to military service in WW1. Apparently there were enough of them to have their own organisation . Perhaps his religious reasons prevented his Slade friends in the process of becoming ‘The Bloomsbury group’ from having much sympathy . He actually spent time in Dartmoor when many of his more famous ‘conchie’ contemporaries were never imprisoned anywhere !

His wife Emma – Marie Tennent or ‘Kechie’ was also ex-Slade and primarily a wood engraver . Unusually there are 2 examples of her work on exhibition as well – but not enough for me to have an opinion . Her work was praised as being Japanese and Pre-Raphaelite in inspiration which I think could go for both . His work overall reminds me of Samuel Palmer in its feel (not technique) .

I don’t know how long the exhibition is on for because it does not say anywhere , not even on Norwich Castle Museum’s website . Apparently there is work of his also in Cambridge’s FitzWilliam Museum and Manchester City Art Gallery among others , but maybe not on display ?

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Critical Reflection/Taking Stock/What The Hell Am I or Was I Doing ?

1  Where am I ?

I’m 62 , living in Yorkshire , UK and call myself an artist . I do have a huge portfolio (see my ceramics , textiles and 2D pages) but have sold very little of anything and currently have no studio or workshop I can use – this may change in the near future . Here are my favourite pieces in each category :







" Prayer times in turquoise " . A3 - collaged drawings in watercolour crayon & gold paint .

” Prayer times in turquoise ” . A3 – collaged drawings in watercolour crayon & gold paint .

Because I sell so little I get fed up with pieces , hence the collage and extra embroidery . Luckily perhaps ceramics doesn’t lend itself to that sort of tinkering !

2 What did I want ?

When I first decided I was an artist and could deny it no longer I had just turned 30 (1983) and everything still seemed possible – not just for me but for the world . My artistic preoccupations were about learning as much as possible and then setting up to make & sell from home the kind of non domestic ware I was best at – although I worried that as a potter I wasn’t making very useful things ! None of that worked out too well and became impossible once my son was born . Externally the world changed too , how much I only realised gradually .

Eventually I went to Art School full-time to learn more – including about exhibiting and selling . I got a great deal out of this place (Harrogate College) , doing first a diploma there (2001) and then an MA(2003) at the university which had acquired it . (Although honestly the work I did for the MA was despite not because of the university part ! ) By now I was working with my ideas of religious art in ceramics and textiles and later even taught a class on Islamic Art briefly at another university . I had hoped to carry on teaching within Islamic Studies , rent a proper studio , be more successful at selling and as I told the director of the studio space I applied to , eventually be able to work alongside other religious artists from the Abrahamic faiths in some kind of joint project space(s) . You can tell it was a long time ago , can’t you ?

What went wrong ? Well the teaching dried up quite quickly and with it most contact with the local Muslim community , I didn’t succeed in getting on to the PhD’s I applied to and despite working hard at (free) social media I never sold anything  or attracted the attention of anyone who might employ me via the various platforms . The most interesting artists I found this way lived thousands of miles away ! I came to the conclusion that I was the wrong person making the wrong sort of art in the wrong place – and maybe at the wrong time ?

3 What do I want ? More to the point what does God want (of me) ?

I want a different world & to earn my own living . Well the world is much nastier than it was , largely because being bothered by what is wrong is pretty uncool these days and there isn’t the atmosphere of hope any more . And yes I am still a feminist but am not a ‘feminist artist’ since ‘feminist art’ has come to be academically defined as a specific genre which is (postmodernist) theory – led and has very little to do with feminism historically . As to earning my own living I can’t now have complex plans involving training for something else , working at it for years and finally doing art once retired with a pension . It is all too late for that ( oh for my 20s back again !- but I would have surely missed out on everything else ?)

Contemplating this depressing scenario I got a much clearer message ‘ you haven’t made enough pots yet’ . Also mulling over recent attempts to learn new stuff rather than buckle down to studio setting up or at least go back to daily drawing (barre exercises for the visual artist !) I realised that I had been very lucky in my arts education so far and that most of the people who taught me were retired , going blind , dead . Their replacements often seemed to know less than I did – whether they had the time to share their knowledge with students or not . Is this why there is an explosion of artists’ workshops being given all over schools & colleges ? There weren’t any when I was at school . So I thought it was already time for me to try to pass on what I know .

4 How to go about it ?

This is far less clear . I have some money left to me from my mother – and it hasn’t run out yet ! So I will be able to have a studio for ceramics in (preferably) a garage when we move + enough indoor space to do textile work . I should try to exhibit more – ‘get your work out there !’

I would particularly welcome comments on this rather long post . Please !


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Felt : how I used to make it & will I again ?

How I made it

1 Materials

My textiles file tells me that 1 sq m of felt requires 13g +/- 10% (because the moisture content varies so much) of wool in the form of fleece . This means it has come off the sheep and been washed and carded but NOT spun for knitting , crochet or weaving . So no , you cannot make felt from woollen thread of any kind but it is good for decoration . Fleece can be bought online from spinning/weaving suppliers in a huge variety of colours and breeds of sheep . Felting kits tend to use dyed merino which felts easily and evenly but is quite expensive . I was able to find both natural & dyed wool fleece nearby (it is Yorkshire after all) . In the UK your best bet is the ‘Knitting & Stitching Show’ which visits Alexandra Palace , London as well as Harrogate and I can’t remember where else . This textile Art & Craft show always includes more supplier stalls than you can find online  . A word on natural fleeces ; don’t buy the Icelandic breed if you are just starting , better never . It shrinks excessively and unevenly and can make an awful mess of your best efforts eg

As you can see the background fleece in the left hand picture has shrunk more than the top layer and twisted and pleated it as well as depositing fluff all over in the right hand one .

You will also need a fabric base to build your layers up on . It must resist boiling , hot ironing and rough treatment without disintegrating . I have found unbleached calico to be best . You will need 2 pieces each big enough to cover your project with 2-3″ border all round . Then you need cotton thread , a washing machine with a boil wash and cold rinse , a hot iron and time/space .

2 Process

Wool (indeed any kind of animal hair) will shrink , becoming thicker and stiffer under conditions of heat shock & friction . This doesn’t just happen to garments rubbed too much while hand washing in varying temperatures but can be induced in a controlled way in the unspun fleece . The result is an alternative fabric to those based on thread .

Lay out your first piece of cotton on a table or the floor . Eliminate draughts , toddlers , cats etc . Put down your base layer of fleece with the fibres running either up and down or side to side . The next layer must have them going the other way ie at 90deg/right angles . Continue alternating like this up to 5 layers . However thin you make them if they cover the previous layer you won’t have the colours showing through . Think of the 5th layer as your background and consider decoration with other threads or skeins of fleece . Knitting wool is really good here , it tends to stick more firmly to the fleece than eg cotton or viscose and will shrink a little – but less than the fleece does . Once completed cover with the 2nd piece of cotton and tack firmly along the edge where you can see the fleece is sandwiched between the 2 pieces of cotton . Then roll the sewn sandwich starting along the side you think of as the top . Holding the roll in place with elastic bands sew it shut firmly . Try to stitch only through the cotton otherwise the wool fibres could be distorted .

You may have to do a few of these before it is worth running the washing machine . The 95C wash with the cold rinse provides the heat shock and a bit of rough treatment . The consequent hot ironing of the piece both rolled up and unrolled provides the friction and more heat shock . (I also found that ironing it until completely dry facilitated peeling the felt off the cotton backing) .

Why I don’t do it anymore

When I started this blog I described myself as a ceramic and textile artist and intended to carry on with feltwork as I had stated in my  MA Rukshana Afia August 2003 (the section of “Project” , ‘ And Now ‘ at the end . I didn’t really for 3 reasons :

1 I didn’t sell much felt – in fact even less than ceramics or drawings !

2 Leeds is a terrible place for moths so I have had to keep finished work in the freezer . Unfortunately I can’t justify using up freezer space to keep the fleece as well so……

3 Wool fleece is an expensive material compared to clay and even more so compared to the boxes of fabric oddments I have from years of alterations to & mending of clothes as well as remnants and fabric bought on spec. – this last augmented by my mother’s stuff which I have inherited – so that now I can contrast silk with velvet rather than felt .

I hope this makes sense jhv57 and I haven’t put you off !



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Exhibition including 2 friends’ work

This was the exhibition of work by the first cohort of MA Creative Practice students from Leeds College of Art . Judging from talking to some , the written statements and a video on the LCA website it seems more interesting than was my MA years ago . It is being held in Holy Trinity Church , Boar Lane , Leeds LS1 6HW until this Friday 13 .

Skywards - aluminium tubing

Skywards – aluminium tubing

Jon Vogler is a retired engineer and came to my classes on Islamic Art some years ago . His garden is full of sculptures – this year I must see it when he has an open day again .

Valle Lacrimarum

Valle Lacrimarum

Hilary Readman I met when we both came to Leeds first in the early 80s . At that time she was interested more in time-based work and later taught video for 20-odd years . This new work is a shock but we are all older and have different preoccupations – not just different amounts of daring ! There was an audio track accompanying this but it wasn’t playing during the day . I should also say that the figures were actually lying down as arranged for the exhibition .

Botanically dyed scarf with birch leaf print

Botanically dyed scarf with birch leaf print

Textile hanging installation Leeds Industrial Museum Armley

Textile hanging installation Leeds Industrial Museum Armley

Carol Sorhaindo’s work was complex . Using 2 sites of ‘industrial’ decay – a  slave worked sugar mill in Dominica and a flax mill in Leeds she has developed natural dyes from the plants taking over each site and then printed on top of the subdued colours in more clear inks . Some of the printing was of eg account book pages and some used plant leaves again but as printing stamps .

10 x 7metre banners printed with hand-made textile objects

10 x 7metre banners printed with hand-made textile objects

detail of above

detail of above

Letty McHugh’s work derives from her interest in and identification with sewing women in her family tree and more widely . Her written account speaks of inheriting her great grandmother’s treadle sewing machine and her research spreading to 130 women .

Those 4 were far and away my favourite artists in the exhibition – I have written this in a rush in the hope that someone will be interested enough to visit before it closes ! Hilary doesn’t yet have a website but is on Facebook , the other three do but I haven’t the time to set up the links correctly – all of them are under their names anyway .

Posted in Figurative sculpture images, non-figurative scupture, other artists, Textiles | 3 Comments