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What is it that you want to do?

…We want to be free to do what we’re gonna do….ok, so that’s Primal Scream, but it’s still the question that I’ve been asking myself for the last couple of weeks. And I can say it’s a bit clearer now.

This is the first Residency I’ve been successful with, and as such I am learning how to approach creating the work. The proposal was pretty clear, as as such I’ve been documenting both the studio space and those who use it, but having booked a gallery space I feel that there needs to be an endpoint of the work that is coherent and considered.

As a Resident Artist, all the courses at Ochre are free, and there is a huge pull to try everything and use it as a learning curve, however I also have more of an agenda with the proposal, and feel the pressure to create! Also, the popular courses are often full, so I think I may just observe some of the ones that really float my boat, such as the upcoming etched lino and solar plate courses.

What has been great is experimenting with the heat press. This is a relatively new addition at Ochre, and enables you to paint paper with heat transfer inks to either make marks of create blocks of colour. I’ve discovered that I can get amazing images on neoprene, and it is also fun to screen print onto.

Things as simple as scissors and ink rollers look so lush in these bright hues…

So what to make? Well, the first thing you do as an artist or in my case a technician for the last few years is put on an apron. The apron you use has a whole personality, mine especially as I am not the tidiest of workers!

The dilemma now is whether to make an apron for each of the characters roles of Ochre – Mai the etching and drypoint specialist; Annee the Studio Manager and Screen printer extraordinaire; Jai fellow Studio Manager with typographic skills; Jule the Textile Tutor; Sarah, leader of the Ochre Print Able group and Ruth the Collagraph specialist- a round six.

Or do I concentrate on the areas themselves: etching; screen print; letterpress; textiles; mixed media and collagraph…is that more limiting? Similarly it would be nice to make one of the aprons perhaps more sculptural or even woven – could I use strips of my printed fabric in this way?

Loads of ideas at the moment going into our first critique…open to suggestions and thoughts please!





Into the groove

Last year ended with the exciting news that I was successful in my proposal for a year long Artists Residency at my local Print Studio – Ochre in Guildford. I had applied for this before I started working as a Technician, and as the role involves giving technician time during the Open Access on a Tuesday, I felt more equipped in my application.


It was still pretty exciting to be successful, and initially I wanted to run my Technician job alongside it. However, I feel that the squeezes being made by the Government on the FE Sector have made it harder and harder for Art Departments to offer the courses that make a career in the Art and Design world a reality for those who don’t come from families with the means to support them.


The Colleges I have worked for have made it clear that Art is at the bottom of the agenda, and want to pour resources into STEM subjects for students who are already able and well funded to pursue careers in them.


It felt like a defeat to leave my job in the same week as the Secretary for Education despaired at the lack of support for social mobility in education. Art has simply fallen off the radar of this Government, and with it the vision, innovation and excitement  that comes with a career in the Visual Arts.


However, the fact that fantastic Open Access Print Studios still exist and engage other parts of society from practising artists to disability groups, makes me realise that this is exactly where I want to be. This year is going to be great.



Back to School

As an Art Technician primarily responsible for Textiles at Alton College, I spent the last couple of days before the kids broke up from school by making the most of my Art Fund Card. I took in the Anna Sui exhibition at London’s FTM and then chose Balenciaga  at the V & A. I usually do a lot of drawing, as I think that helps me to really look and focus on the work, but lately the ease and immediacy of Instagram means that I will photograph rather than scan in my drawings.

Hence the sketchbook images for Anna Sui are over on Instagram (Henkalullah) – it is a brilliant explosion of colour with a lot of pinks and purples as you would expect. What I really loved is that on visiting with a friend, we both were taken back the the 1990’s and all our favourite music and clothes – personally I lived in DM boots, floral dresses and dodgy knitwear mostly from charity shops, so Sui’s plundering of the vintage and her signature grunge look only made me love her more. It was great to see the use of illustration in her show invites and as this is my background, it was fantastic to see a room dedicated to the design elements of a good range of her collections.

Balenciaga was more of a learning curve for me, and it was his very modern emphasis on structure and form that was a revelation to me. I immediately drew the green seed-pod shaped dress placed right at the start of the exhibition, alongside the Envelope Dress – both of which are so sculptural and playful.

They set the tone for what you realise is a hugely influential career, where shift dresses and babydoll shapes were initiated and became the standard for looking at volume. The upstairs area is dedicated to the influence of Balenciaga, showing how contemporary designers take his signature shapes and reinvent them in exiting new ways with ever-changing materials and processes.

Early on Balenciaga championed print, and the Abraham Textile designs led him to state that the fabric dictates the garment first and foremost – not only with his use of stiff silk in crating amazing shapes, but also the pattern and the way the fabric falls. The voluminous sleeves of this pink print dress could be straight from Warehouse’s latest summer collection…

This draped jacket is made using one piece of fabric – Balenciaga is also responsible for the cocoon shaped coats we were wearing a couple of years ago ( I still am!) also constructed from one piece of fabric and championed at the time by Diana Vreeland.

The designer was also influenced by other cultures, especially the kimono as can be seen here in the belt of this dress. The colours were fabulous, this exhibit also showed his favourite model -Taiga whose figure became the shape for his mannequin.

Embellishment and texture were also key points of interest for Balenziaga, he looked again at Far Eastern clothing, and you can see pattern , beading and in this fantastic jacket, some delicate pink feathered sleeves against glittery black – I didn’t have the right pink, but they must have looked so amazing when they moved.

The designer was Spanish and had stores in both Madrid and Paris – one of his most devoted wearers was Ava Gardner who lived around the corner from the V&A- she donated this damask dress when she died.

Hats were also a huge part of Balenciaga’s collections and the collection of millinery emphasises his sculptural eye. I loved this winged hat which looked very ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ . It made me think how clever the costumes are in that…’If they didn’t want us to be an army, why did they give us a uniform’.

Finally I went upstairs, and I think because I did so much drawing and reading downstairs, there are only two sketches – I loved the pvc tulip shaped mac by Nicholas Ghesquiere. Almost like a claret lipstick. In the words (almost) of Agnes ‘It’s so shiny I could die’.. that doesn’t really the follow the Margaret Attwood bit but never mind.

Also Gareth Pugh’s shearling biker jacket – using that amazing volume and shape. My colleague Gayle is a fan and I can see why – I think my pencil was blunt at this point! (It’s black- google Gareth Pugh AW13 and you’ll get a better idea).

After this I took some pictures of embellishment and print that I liked, especially Hussein Chalayan’s amazing ruffled confection.

Later in the summer a visit to Amsterdam gave me the chance to see ‘Modernism in Print’ which was great – it really opened my eyes to the work of designers such as Jan Tsichold; Dick Elffers; Ben Duijvelshoff; Wim Crouwel; Jan Bons; Piet Zwart; Karel Martens; Kees Nieuwenhuijzen; Otto Truman; Peter Duebele; Gerard Werners; Karel Suyling; Ben Bos; Gerrit Rietveld; Charles Jongesans and of course Dick Bruna (probably the only one I won’t have to look up!

Hansje van Halem was the closing modern designer who creates decorated papers, stamps and posters in the Victorian tradition ‘horror vacul’ where everything is loaded with detail.

Up in the Clouds

This weekend, Chris and I were very privileged to be invited to Marissa and Jayson’s wedding in Stellenbosh, Cape Town. It was our first proper weekend away from the girls, and a very grown-up destination too. The venue was Clouds Estate – a fantastic vineyard with views over the mountains. I tried to capture these in my sketchbook.


The accommodation was amazing.


This was our view at breakfast.


On Sunday, we got the chance to have lunch at the neighbouring Tokara Vineyard. We sat and sampled the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay over a very delicious menu…


Chris snapped me sketching this…


And then we tried 6 wines in the tasting room- this was a Swiss couple sampling some wines – there was also some amazing sculpture on the trail between the delicatessen restaurant and the tasting area.





These trees were outside the gallery  – a special commission.



The rabbits were part of the sculpture walk at Tokara.


And a final picture of the beautiful couple…


Thank you Marissa and Jay for an unforgettable weekend x

Wisley to Wittgenstein

Well, as the Easter Holidays come to a close, I find myself with only seven pages left of this sketchbook. Since dropping a day at work since March, I’ve felt so much better and more creative. The sinks and tables might not be so clean though!

The first sunny Wednesday I got free was spent in Wisley’s glasshouse, marvelling at the orchids suspended with roots tumbling. Dad and I felt rather warm as the first sunny days of spring had us both reaching for the colour pencils…


I put this drawing of cacti onto a screen and am in the process of making some bags and pencil cases with the first few prints I made at home.

On Tuesday, I got the chance to try out my National Art Pass, gaining 50% off entry to the Eduardo Paolozzi show at the Whitechapel Gallery. After the brilliant workshop I attended with Wuon Gean-Ho – still to document that – she said that the Paolozzi show was the one to see. She was not wrong! I was fascinated by his abstract screen prints and pattern making as much by the bold and often brutish cast concrete sculptures. Loved the abstract shapes, textures and colours.


This dress was amazing – the geometric print, big sleeves and fresh colours made it look so contemporary.

I just had to sit and draw this sculpture. The jazz was a bit bonkers. There was one track that sounded like a Bond theme, which made me (my usual rather jumpy self) begin to regret the perfect flat white I’d had when I arrived.

One of my favourite images, apart from the monochrome pair  (Plaza and Girot from 1964) both coincidentally on loan from Pallant House (next stop on my list!) was ‘Wittgenstein in New York’ from a series of 12 screen prints called As is When (1965) . I loved the Indebele patterns in ‘Artificial Sun’, also from this series alongside the use of metallic bronze and black ink in the print which gave it an almost tarnished appearance.


Catch it before it closes on the 14th May.


Frankly Feminist February

I am fumbling for words to describe the two very different exhibitions that I have had the chance to see over the last couple of weeks. The first was ‘Feminist Avant Garde of the 1970’s’ which has just finished at The Photographer’s Gallery in London. The second was Josef Frank, which has just opened at the Fashion and Textiles Museum in Bermondsey.

I was really glad I was in adult company for the former, as obviously the artists were very much exploring the physical representation of the female body. As interesting as it was, I could really feel the influence of the times in terms of technique and expression. There was a freshness to the imagery, knowing that this was the first time many ideas were explored photographically, and I thought I would share some of the work that stood out to me here.

In the first room, I really liked a series by Karin Mack ‘ Destruction of an Illusion’ where a stereotypical housewife is pierced by needles, the image breaking down. A simple idea, but it looked vicious and engaging at the same time.


Karin Mack

Another image I noted was by Sanja Ivekovic – I was drawn to the strange intimacy of the series of pictures and the narrative of the idea. The artist has her mouth taped, and her heartbeat was transmitted into the gallery area. As she interacts with each viewer, it is photographed and accompanied by the corresponding audiotape.


I really liked the small scale ‘Female Energy Exchange’ by Ulrike Rosenbach – these were composite images based on Venus, Medusa and Supergirl where the artist had projected herself over well known images. One of them was slightly solarized, and I thought they worked well as both a concept and a triptych.


Penny Slinger’s Bride Cake Series brought to mind the idea of having your cake and eating it – and also one of my favourite books, Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Edible Woman’ -the ideas are both playful and macabre in terms of the role of women. Have times really changed though?


What really stood out to me though I suppose because I’ve always wanted to see them in person and am a fan of their work anyway, were the prints of Francesca Woodman and the little film by Cindy Sherman. From my notes, I think it was the caption’s words and not mine that describe Woodman’s work as ‘lyrical, poetic and iconographic tableaux vivaits’ but it’s a pretty perfect description.


I’m not sure if I can put the Cindy Sherman film here, but it’s called ‘Doll Clothes’ and was made in 1975. It still looks fresh, and has none of the heavy-handedness of some of the other work.

Doll Clothes

The second exhibition made a fairly big impression on my sketchbook – I had a couple of hours just to immerse myself in the glorious colour and detail that is the work of Josef Frank. Born in Vienna and displaced by World War II to Sweden, this trained architect had a brilliant eye for pattern an colour. The show begins with an amazing room set that quite clearly shows Frank’s influence on the Swedish brand Ikea. Astonishingly, I picked up an interiors magazine which said a dark green called ‘Kale’ was the colour for 2017. The dark green of the wall in this room display brings all the colours and patterns to life.


I loved Frank’s use of hot colours in ‘Mistral’which really sing out on top of a natural linen. ‘Fruhling’ which means ‘Spring’ was interesting as you could see how the wood block was used to make a seamless repeat. The colours of turquoise and purpley brown had me reaching for the colour pencils. My favourite from this first area was ‘Poison’ which used strong colour backgrounds – barley on a blue field, vines against bright red. The yellow twirling vines had a lovely fluidity and these gentle shapes seemed to recur as a motif.


Frank’s first screen print was amazingly complex – called ‘ Three Islands in the Black Sea’ I loved the strong citrusy orange with blue against black. It looked incredibly modern despite the date of 1935.


One of the final images I drew was ‘Manhattan’. I liked the graphic use of maps and the primary colours – the familiarity of the map made me think about other ways I could be inspired by this, and I left humming..


New York, New York, a helluva town.
The Bronx is up, but the Battery’s down.
The people ride in a hole in the groun’.
New York, New York, it’s a helluva town!

Festival of Crafts

Had fun at Farnham Maltings last weekend talking about my work at the Festival of Crafts. It really made me look at the design process that goes into screen print. Originally I was put forward as a local artist to help create a poster, and shown some examples of what had been designed before. Festival of Crafts has been a fixture now for 20 years at The Maltings, so this was a special commission.

I have quite a few images of coffee pots, and thought that I could use these to illustrate that ceramics were a feature of the show, I added some images from a 1960’s French magazine about knitting and sewing..




This began to look a bit busy, and the text wasn’t so legible, which is obviously pretty important. I then thought well, it could just be typographic – I could use textures within the letterforms.



When I met again with Gemma Curtis, who organises and promotes the Festival of Crafts, we went through again what the main ethos of the show is : a carefully curated selection of work by designer/makers, then we decided together that perhaps it needed to move away from specific representations. I still really wanted to use one of my prints that I thought would be recognisable as my work, and I came upon a print that I’d made in response to a trip to California. The colours are really hot in this picture, on the bottom right is the train to the Getty Museum with a succulent plant collaged into the window, on the left is part of the building (Getty Museum) and over the top is a line drawing of Alexander Calder’s ‘Bougainvillea’ kinetic sculpture.


In lots of ways, Calder is the ultimate designer maker to me – there is a process in making the pieces move gently, casting elegant shadows. There is the idea of testing things, making a maquette, drawing a ‘blueprint’ with scale and materials – all of these things being relevant to a showcase of bespoke craft. So I thought, I wonder what this would look like blue?


I added some sugar lumps falling down, and the deep red looked good against the blue – Gemma asked me to include an element of the Maltings – the building itself perhaps?


Still a few too many things, but the Maltings definitely looked better in red than blue, I think the final edit lost the sugar lumps, but this was the final design…


Travels with my Sketchbook

This year so far has been inspirational, and now is the time to take stock of it all…My first year as an Art Technician at Alton College has been a learning curve- this week it’s been lovely to start getting the Textiles Studio in order, and make sure we have all the supplies we need.
Things that were a revelation last year were: making felt; how difficult it is to sew in a zip; how fun making photograms is; how to use foil in a heatpress; laser cutting; learning to not take anything too personally! I felt a bit sad that my only chance to teach was in photography, and deciding it wasn’t for me has meant I won’t get another chance to teach within my specialisms. However in many ways, I am happier to make my own work and take new skills where I find them.
The other thing was really enjoying the holidays that being in an academic environment affords- because of my husband’s job in development, he attends meetings in some exciting places -and this year, as a family we got to come along twice.
The first trip was to Washington – so many free museums and galleries – it was astonishing. It was mostly about the kids, but I got to go to two art galleries, one with an exhibition of American Printmaking and the Renwick, which had an amazing range of installation work called ‘Wonder’.



In August, a symposium at Aspen Meadows allowed us a trip to Colorado. This began with a couple of trips into Aspen itself. The kids and I cycled alongside the Roaring Fork River, where the girls dipped their toes in the icy snowmelt water. We also explored the Aspen Centre for Environmental Studies (ACES) which is a 25 acre nature reserve – it was wet and misty, and more of a place to visit with a school on a mission than a place to just drop in, but we all thought it was very beautiful, especially the bullrushes along the lake.


We also visited Aspen Art Museum, which was the best of the trip (Boulder Art Museum didn’t really do it for me – I did a nice sketch of the street from the window, but we actually had to pay to get in). Amazing textile work by Alan Shields, and visceral assemblage work from African American artist John Outterbridge. Loved it.

A little afternoon trip up the mountain in a gondola, and a nose around the stately Hotel Jerome, and that was Aspen.





Our first stop was Vail, which was so posh and fake Swiss that it made Aspen look look like a dude ranch. I tried to take some pictures from the window on our way to Estes (we spotted the hotel which was the inspiration for The Shining) and we were in the Rockies proper.



We went on to have breakfast in Frisco – bonafide gold rush country and Glenwood Springs where Doc Holliday famously died with his boots on. Great museum at Frisco where they’ve literally kept all the old log cabin houses and moved them so that you can see what they were like. I wanted to draw the super old fashioned till and each building was accompanied with audio and interviews from descendants of the owners. Utterly fascinating how the women of Frisco got the town out of depression and back on the electricity grid after the prospectors had left.




Estes Rocky Mountain Park is where the girls got their Junior Ranger Badges – we got up early, walked around bear lake, then up to the Trail Ridge Road -frankly terrifying to drive for Chris, but breathtaking -there was still some snow up there and it was very cold. Hence the lady in her Ski hat having a chocolate break with her man – that is pretty romantic.







We got up early and headed to Boulder on our way home – it was super hot, so we went to a Science Museum where there was air-conditioning. These were our last views of Estes.



These are my two sketches from Boulder – view from the Art Gallery, and some kids climbing on a plastic dinosaur…



We spent the rest of the summer in France, where my In-Laws visited for a week, so we made the most of eating out and going to the beach when it cooled down a bit.





Wells in Woking

After entering the competition run by Ochre Print Studio at the end of last year, Surrey Arts Partnership have kindly framed a selection of the entries. The exhibition will show work celebrating 150 years since the birth of H G Wells. It marks especially the fact that his most famous book, The War of The Worlds was written in Woking and artwork was commissioned on this theme.


I concentrated on the bacteria that eventually defeated the Martian invasion described in the book. I also liked the imagery of red weeds choking the city of London, these deep hues forming part of my colour palette. The first Martian emerges from the sand pit on Horsell Common, and the book goes on to use the landscape of the Woking area as the basis for the sci-fi chronicle. I used a strong yellow to denote this, and teal blue for the bacteria.

The Lightbox will be exhibiting my image and other selected entries alongside the 2 winners from March 26th to May 1st 2016… looking forward to the Private View!


Wrapping Paper

I’ve just realised after balancing bamboo sticks and knotting myself up in pompoms, that I forgot to take a picture of my Christmas wares at the school fair! Here is some wrapping paper – florescent holly wreaths and a design based on whales to go with Liane’s amazing ceramic work. It will be for sale at the Farnham Maltings Christmas Market on December 8th and 9th

I also have more festive images on wrap, hopefully scarves to come and hair ties made from fabric I’ve printed. I’m thinking of entering the HG Wells poster image competition run by Ochre Print this year…the Christmas Party is on Thursday – looking forward to the talks from the resident artists there.

I’ve been working as an Art Technician at Alton College since September – it’s been a revelation to be in the photography darkroom! I’ve been feeling a bit time poor, but it’s a great creative department and I haven’t broken anything so far…