Planet Textile Threads

March 21, 2018

Margaret Cooter

Progress in the studio

A worktop is ready for Wednesday's task - woodblock printing, carrying on from the class, which has finished for the term. 
Not perfect, but there's enough space to spread out a bit. And woodblock printing is meant to be a "compact" sort of production. 

Hidden in the far distance is a radio - it will be a morning of listening to whatever's on Radio4. When I was still working in the day job, it was my dream to spend the days in the studio with the radio on in the background. Now, I'd just as soon have silence ... though of course there's the temptation of podcasts ... which did not exist in the days of the day job.

I keep finding items that need to be documented before being passed on -
A collection of broken car mirrors, found in the street

From a Tate carrier bag - what a good idea to have ART, rather
than logos, on (paper) carrier bags

Menu from a Paris restaurant - 1994 - prices in francs

Can you believe it, a collection of Russian toilet paper -
from the plane and various hotels and bars, 1995
(these had been rediscovered in an earlier studio reorganisation)

An idea - unsuccessful - for the "Underfoot at the V&A" project

Years ago, the London region of the Quilters Guild had an annual
celebrity lecture - this may have been the last; I was involved in
the regional newsletter and flier production at that point

1999 - I was part of Fibre Art London, exhibiting at Leighton House,
London and also in Broadstairs, Kent

The Loomus cartoons in the Guardian are sadly missed

Creative memories from the early 2000s -
pergola at West Dean, on my first visit there;
felt stitched with a poem (Mornings Like This);
indigo dyeing from City Lit;
a fling with clothing as a subject;
 and the quilt that nearly cost me my relationship

"The view from my chair", June 1992, on an A5 envelope

4x6 cards from a larger series, each a textile collage made quickly before
going to work; they were how I kept the creative momentum going during
a time when life seemed to be just work and sleep, work and sleep

Sunsets, much the same round the world
Petworth, Chillon, London, Vancouver

by Margaret Cooter ( at March 21, 2018 01:39 PM

Marion Barnett

Carrying On.

One of the things I do have in the new, as yet unestablished studio, is a number of UFOs, things that I thought, six months or more ago, that had enough potential for me not to bin them, or pass them to someone else to do something with, as was the fate of a reasonable amount of stuff.  Looking at them now, I'm not so sure I shouldn't just have binned them... and certainly this piece in its original state was not particularly promising.  I had taken a rectangle of cotton hand dye, and felted white wool onto its surface...sadly, I didn't take a photo of it in that state.  It didn't look good.  I don't like giving up, though, and thought that a bit of surgery was in I trimmed it round the edges of the wool, to produce this :

(Note the new light grey carpet, suitable for taking photographs of random textile items...which was not really why I chose it, but...).  I contemplated cutting holes in it, too, but decided that was A Step Too Far.  It was, however, a distinct improvement, so only the trimmings hit the bin.  It sat like that for a few days, and I started to go through the stuff in the studio.  One of the things I found was a sponge, with a single felting needle embedded in it.  Bingo!  Going through the boxes with yarn and threads produced a purple variegated wool, and the piece started to take shape...until the damn needle broke.  Yes, I have loads more.  No, I can't find them.  Yes, I'm stuck, and so is the piece, looking like this... 
(This time, it's on the new coffee table, perfect height and colour for photos).  Improved?  I think so.  Stuck?  Oh yes, absolutely.  I'm planning to do some hand stitch, but really don't want to start that until I've finished with the needle felting, as I suspect I'll add a little more at the top left hand side.  Basically, I attached the yarn to emphasise curves in the felting, which is why I started where I did.  I think I'll echo the downward sweep of the yarn, and then double back to balance out the piece.  Incidentally, I rather like the yarn curving out over the edge, but it's not particularly practical, so it will be felted onto the bottom as originally intended. 

One partially down, several to go.

by marion barnett ( at March 21, 2018 12:30 PM

March 20, 2018

Marion Barnett

Starting Again From Scratch (Almost).

Over the past few years, I've been muttering about ill health and ME, and taking time off (it's summarised here).  It has been an unpleasant journey, mostly, from bedridden to remission, back to bedridden via heart issues, and very little done in the way of art over what I realise is pretty much the last six or seven years.  And I'm still living with it; I need a mobility scooter or wheelchair to go out, as I get unreasonably tired, unreasonably quickly.  There is a blessing of sorts; the depression seems to have taken pity on me, and pretty much disappeared, though struggling with grief has been the theme for the past couple of years.  I tell you this, not to  make you feel sorry for me, but rather to explain where I am at the moment with life, the universe and this illness, which is unlikely to go away. 

That said, my lovely husband and I did 'go away'; we decided to move from our home in Norfolk, back to Scotland, so that we could take a bigger part in family life up here.  It was a very extended move, as we had to wait for a house to be built, and took roughly six months, in all, but we finally moved in early January of this year.  We've slowly (emphasis on the slowly) got the house together, except for the garage, which still has a few boxes in it, and... yes, you've guessed it, my studio...which looks like this...whimper...

It was really difficult to find a house that had a separate dining room to serve as a workroom; I try only to use the stairs once a day, so needed a downstairs room for my stuff.  It looks like I have a lot of stuff...but when I consider how much I used to have, this is an anthill, not a mountain... very little fabric, an incredible amount of thread, much of which is still in boxes in the garage, feathers galore, hat blocks, sketchbooks, paper, paint.... jings.

At the moment, I'm kinda stuck.  Robin has hurt his back, and my son is busy, travelling the country for work, so the shelves that will hold all of this are everywhere but in this room.  I'm hoping to go out tomorrow to get some boxes to hold it in, though, so that at least it will look organised.  What has become apparent, though, is that even this reduced stash is too much for the space, I don't want to paint in this entirely new, pristine space, for lo! I have a talent for making a mess (surprising, huh?).  So I suspect that a summerhouse for the back garden will be in order, so that I can keep the mess outside.  It'll not be anything like the Little Green Shed (20ft by 10ft just won't go in this garden), but it'll be better than nothing, and given that I've cut down on the range of things I do, that's not unreasonable. 

So...what will I do inside?  Sewing, mainly, some drawing, dyeing if I can manage it, or if I can find someone to help me, felt making, ditto, hat making and some printing, probably just monoprinting, which is my favourite in any case.  Painting goes outside.  That sounds like a lot, but when I compare it against what I used to do, as taken from a bygone list of workshops... it doesn't seem so much.

Altered Art (books, shoes, boxes, bags, quilts name it, we can alter it!)
Artist's Trading Cards
Artists Journals and Sketchbooks
Basic Batik
Basic Book Binding
Basic Hand Stitch (decorative)
Book Covers (stitched)
Cloth Dolls (Keyhole Kate)
Colouring Paper and Cloth
Fabric Postcards
Fascinator Fun
Feltmaking (wet and dry)
Finding Inspiration
Free Motion Stitching For Texture
Mixed Media Painting
Paper Making
Printing with Natural Materials
Screen Printing
Silk Paper Making.

So... now to edit my supplies accordingly.  A couple of things that won't be going, though, are these:

This box is full of supplies for hat making, mostly sinamay.  I thoroughly enjoy making hats, though it hasn't been something I've blogged about much at all, as I recall.  It's ideal for someone with ME, I think, because it doesn't often require brute strength; rather, it involves lots of small, fiddly movements, and you can mostly pick it up and put it down again at will, so good for lots of little rests.   At the front of the box, though, there are rolls of canvas and Evolon, the last remnants of the photographs printed on Big Bertha, who has gone to a new home.  I will, however, finish them off as something to remember her by.

And then there's this little lot, emphasis on the little, barely a third of a box.  Bits of hand printed or hand dyed fabric that I couldn't bring myself to throw out or give away, and which will doubtless combine in small pieces of work...but that's another blog post for another day.   Meantime, I'll keep you posted on progress.  

by marion barnett ( at March 20, 2018 11:01 AM

Margaret Cooter

Drawing Tuesday - Southwark Cathedral

I started by having a coffee in the cathedral cafe and drew what was to hand - then later as people appeared drew what could be seen -
Rather a lot of coats on chairs - and two people missing from the scene
Never did get into the cathedral itself. Some days are like that.

 The others were busy, though. Janet B came upon the cathedral cat, Doorkins -
Judith had been happily sitting outside, but was told she was within a construction zone and had to move on; she managed to draw a lot, though -
 Carol found "heads" everywhere -
Sue found dazzle patterns had been painted on HMS Belfast, which is moored nearby -
 Jo was intrigued by the statue of the Roman hunter god -
 Joyce used shades of grey for the cityscape -
... and found, among the roof bosses, a green man swallowing Judas Iscariot -
 Coincidence - "quite a strange statue" by Janet B -
 ... and by Jo -
It's a modern statue (1989) by (prolific) sculptor Peter E Ball.

Several people had done the "homework" - to draw a creature.

Carol wondered if using plastic models was cheating - no, not at all; depicting animals has two components, the furry or hairy (or scaly) texture, and the disposition of bones and muscles - tackling one at a time is fine! -
 Sue tackled some gulls and found they were always moving -
I worked from 2D representations and was surprised to see that my drawings were much the same size as the originals - must try different sizes -
Extra-curricular activities -
Janet B had been drawing tigers' skulls at the Royal Veterinary College -
 The two skulls - and a "real" tiger -

Joyce had been out with Urban Sketchers in Leadenhall Market -

Sue took some photographs of chairs, in strange lighting conditions; she first represented the entire photo ...
 ... then found areas with interesting shapes ...
 ... and finally, abstracted them even further ...

by Margaret Cooter ( at March 20, 2018 08:28 AM

March 19, 2018

Marion Barnett

Breaking It Up?

Isn't she beautiful?  Femme En Blanc, by Van Gogh, painted in 1890; that's all I know about her, factually at least.  However... I've recently discovered online jigsaw puzzles.  Yes, I know, it's taken me a while... but it's a lot easier doing jigsaws online, than it is to spend time and energy trying to persuade the cats not to bat pieces all over the kitchen floor, or across the table, or, indeed, to sit square in the area I'm trying to complete.  This way, Mollie simply sits on my knee and goes to sleep...

I've been mostly making up jigsaws of landscapes (there doesn't seem to be a verb to denote jigsaw?  to piece?  to assemble?), but this lady caught my eye.  Harmless piece of entertainment, I thought.  Wrongly, as it turned out.  This particular jigsaw was quite difficult to assemble; all the bits looked the same.  What I discovered, though, was that assembling it taught me a great deal about Van Gogh and how he used paint.  Yeah, okay, I knew that already, intellectually.  I've stood in front of several of his paintings, and thought about how he moved paint around, how he added marks to the canvas.  Somehow, though, piecing together disassembled brush marks really made me think about them, almost to experience them, though without the mess of actually painting (we're in a new house, of which more another time, and I have no painting studio as yet...hell, I have no studio set up at all so far).  It also allowed me to appreciate the tonal subtleties of the piece.  Tonal subtlety isn't really something I've associated with Van Gogh... I was wrong. 

There's also something about looking, and looking carefully.  There's nothing like a jigsaw to make you really look at what you have in front of you, and reach an understanding of it.  No, that bit doesn't fit there, but it does match the colours... not there, either...but  there, it fits.  No matter how good we think we are at observation, a jigsaw makes us better.

This exercise in proxy creativity also made me think about my own painting, and drawing.  I make marks similar to those black, semi abstract heart shapes at the bottom of the canvas, in paint, dye and stitch.  Mine tend to be rune-inspired, or Celtic in origin.  Maybe it's time I did more of that kind of loose work.  And those are important thoughts, at a time when I'm really not sure where I'm going, what I'm going to do next, at a time when I have to recognise, once and for all, that my energy is severely limited, as is my space, so even the huge cull I had before we moved here from Norfolk was not severe enough.  I feel I need to get this last cull right, even although I know that getting rid of things is not the end of the world, as things can be replaced at the right time, the time when you actually need them, instead of hoarding them against a future that probably won't ever arrive, certainly not in the form you expected.

So, there you are.  Creativity, learning and reflection encouraged by the simple act of making a jigsaw.  Which artist will I study next...?

by marion barnett ( at March 19, 2018 10:14 AM

Dijanne Cevaal

Traveller's Blanket On-Line Class

Goodness I have been chilled to the bone these last few days at Chartres and meanwhile fire warnings were out not so far from where my shed is in Australia and places where friends live, so a bit of overnight worrying  whether everyone and everything was safe. I am still at Chartres as the Croisements des Arts continues until 25 March when I go to Belgium and teach for three days at Adinkerke, de Panne, just over the French border.I am teaching the Traveller's Blanket/Plaid Nomad for two days and Tifaifai/machine applique one day ( there is still places in the Tifaifai workshop, which always delivers great results and students create their own designs.) If you are interested in joining  email me please. ( 26/27/28 March).

I have managed to do a lot of stitching on my blue and white piece which has now grown a name- True Blue ( it was called a walk on the wild side as this colour combination is a bit outside of my ken but things change...). As I worked on it I realised that the blue and white combination was very much in tune with my heritage as well as reflecting my love of blue and white ceramics and of course Delft's Blauw . So what to name this blanket was whirling around in my head  and I coined true blue which I mentioned somewhere and someone said- but oh yes it also reflects Australia- in that true blue means dinky di or the real thing especially relating to Australianess- so the name reflects both of my worlds, my dutch birth and my adopted country Australia and of course my love of blue and white ceramics. This piece did not begin with a story but it acquired one and as it did I grew to like it much better than I ever expected. I hope to finish it this week, so I can commence another piece to meet this  deadline I have made for myself .

I sometimes wonder why I do so much stitching. but the texture it creates is a bit mesmerising.

I am staying in the old part of Chartres in a little studio apartment called  Studio-Adulaire, which is a nice brisk walk to where the exhibition is at the Collegiale Saint Andre. It means I can cook my own food  and there is a good market for food in Chartres on Saturdays and everything is within walking distance.I highly recommend it if you intend to spend anytime in Chartres. The owner is very helpful  and the  studio is well equipped.

And then i discovered the Depot-vente in Camphol- a kind of flea market, brocante all rolled into much to see , so many good things, but what to choose? I could not decide and only came away with a book and a bunch of fish knives ( silver with marks for 2 euros) as they are great for mixing textile pigment with base extender- hmmm maybe these are too good for that!

An archway near the cathedral- with gnarled some kind of vine- I wonder how old that vine is?

One of the buildings I walk past everyday has these wonderful wooden pillars embedded in the wall. the motifs look medieval so again I wonder how old this is? The details has  been weathered but even so they are still  gorgeous.

Traveller's Blanket On-line Class- I  am still taking enrollments for the  on-line class which is  designed to help you record memories in textile and create a rich memory laden cloth that you will never want to part with! Just email me if you are interested. Course consists of the delivery of 4 pdf lessons, a private facebook group to discuss our developing stories/ blankets- and your very own memory cloth/blanket. It is amazing how these pieces acquire meaning as you work. There is a lot of time to invest in the process so a lot of time for contemplation , and it shows in every piece that has been made,

I taught a one day workshop for the Traveller's Blanket at Gallery Cardamome last Friday. Of course one day is not enough time to make anything big. So we made a sample piece with one motif to try out different stitches and then a start was made on  a larger piece which  was a square of about 40 cm.

by Dijanne Cevaal ( at March 19, 2018 07:17 AM

March 18, 2018

Margaret Cooter

Mark making (long gone)

Some close-ups of "old work" found recently. Mostly charcoal ... what fun it is to use charcoal ...

These had been stored, protected by tissue, for at least 12 years; hence, a certain amount of blur...


Tiny marks on blotting paper, perhaps seeped through from a top layer -

 From a large pastel abstract -

What pleasure it was to spend a couple of hours on filling an A1 sheet of cartridge paper with colour!

by Margaret Cooter ( at March 18, 2018 08:32 AM

March 17, 2018

Margaret Cooter

Society of Bookbinders Book Arts Day

 Book artists had set up their tables
 and chairs were out for Tracey Bush's talk, which took in her books on the Thames and also the making of her prize-winning book "Dusk", based on moths and resembling a moth trap used in doing counts for surveys -
"Dusk" is the centre of attraction
 Batool Showghi had a range of her luscious unique books, based on photographs -
What struck my eye was the one about picnicking in Iran, the photos held down not by glue but by the Iranian textiles and machine stitching -
 ... which looked so graphic on the back of the page -
 Good to see Camberwell Book Arts students represented -
Some artists - quite a few! - were new to me -
Louise Weir, with illustrations for Dickens' "Great Expectations"

Domitilla Biondi uses a scalpel to sculpt the surface of paper
... and many more...

In the afternoon, at the monthly meeting of Hooked in London, I tried out a new book structure that was being demonstrated by Anna Yevtukh, a single-page binding. I had to use the papers on hand ....
... and the result smelt of cherry liqueur ....

Subtle factors like smell and tactility were mentioned by Tracey in her talk. She had planned to do the cutouts in Dusk with a laser, but when it came to it she didn't like the effect ... because of the smell. [In library school, Prof Ettlinger pointed out this property of books to us neophytes - something we hadn't thought of before, but something he had relished for years!]

"Dusk" was enclosed in a japanese-style case, with velvet inside to increase the tactility - instructions for such a case are in this book -
which has been on my shelf for years. Shortly after buying it I used its instructions to make bookcloth backed with japanese paper -- and coincidentally this bookcloth turned up during the recent clearout of my papers (it wasn't thrown out; I still hope to use it for a book one day).

by Margaret Cooter ( at March 17, 2018 09:06 PM

March 16, 2018

Margaret Cooter

Another dustcloth day in the studio

The clearout project continues. Yesterday the bottom shelf of the paper storage got "the treatment" -
Not only has at least half the paper gone (via freecycle) but there is some clear floor - wrought out of this sort of chaos -
It's much the same for any studio clearout, isn't it?

Today's first task is the top shelf of the paper storage, which doesn't contain paper - it contains tools and ... surprises ... and rather a lot of dust, because it hasn't been disturbed for a few years!

I knew the stamps were lurking in the back, but had misremembered how many -
Various charities ask you to cut around the stamps and send them along (they get £20 a kilo for them). That little task would take me forever - I remember how long it took to tear the corners off the envelopes. They come from manuscript submissions at BMJ in the days before digital submission, when everything came double-spaced in several copies, in envelopes, hundreds of them every week. I'd seen Tom Phillips' use of stamps to frame some of his Curriculum Vitae series and realised that it was time to revive my stamp-collector activities...

Postage stamps are, after all, a craft material - some good ideas here - I'm sooooo tempted to put them back on the shelf and relegate them to the semifinals of the Studio Clearout game.

Another surprise on the top shelf was several boxes of postcards -
and there are bound to be more in another part of the room. Again, these hark back to the pre-internet days, and to the days when I was discovering all sorts of art and craft  and "needing" all sorts of "inspiration".

(Looking back on your younger self, there are things you wish you'd known - "focus on one thing at a time" is what I'd tell myself. But maybe the scattered-enthusiasm phase is something everyone goes through ... and some get to the focus-and-develop phase more quickly?)

The stamps, the postcards, and the tools had sat ignored on that deep shelf for at least 15 years. The tools did get used - I had a little trug from Ikea with the necessities, hammer, screwdriver, pliers, etc, and they all fit nicely ... but once Tom started using the room as a carpentry shop, it was a case of The Invasion of the Space-Snatchers. I shall empty that trug and put back what I need, and let Tom look through the rest -
The unwanted items can go out on the wall for someone to take home. (A very handy recycling method!)

Even with the stamps and postcards temporarily replaced, there's room for the ceramics materials, and a place to put more once they're found and sorted -
Isn't it wonderful to see empty space?

Now, a few of the "historical" finds along the way .... drawing (A1 size, charcoal).......

 ...... still life (charcoal)..........
............using pastels (thank you Veronica Slater for the demo at City Lit) .....

 .......reduction lino cut (Ormond Road Workshop; late 80s?)............
Senufo inspiration; also printed on fabric for cushions
 .......screen print...........
based on Braque's birds 
 ...........watercolour (A1 size)...........

..........botanical illustration.........

I did keep some of these, "for now".

by Margaret Cooter ( at March 16, 2018 03:44 PM

Trial run - chips and dip

Trying out a recipe for hummus made with butternut squash and harissa.
Butternut & harissa houmous
The photo that comes with the recipe shows some flatbread for dipping, and there's a recipe for that as well, but it includes yeast and seems to be quite time-consuming. Gone are the days when I'd effortlessly whip something like that up - or need to.

Instead of chaining myself to the stove I bought some seeded tortilla wraps and turned them into tortilla chips - very quick - but you DO have to keep an eye on them or they can overbake very quickly -
Cut into triangles and brush with oil, transfer to
heated baking tray andbake for a few minutes
As for getting hold of ingredients - the largish supermarket across the street had harissa, but not tahini ("what's that?") - whereas the smallish "organic" shop up the road had EIGHT kinds of tahini -
So lucky to have great local shops (and cafes)! And a farmers market every week! It was not always thus........

by Margaret Cooter ( at March 16, 2018 08:27 AM

March 15, 2018

Margaret Cooter

Poetry Thursday - Tiger Girl (Surprised!) by Pascale Petit

What joy to find, when flipping through an art magazine - RA spring 2018 issue - a poem inspired by, or related to, or springing from, a painting.* Instead of encountering history or conjecture or art-speak, we have something real to read - "news that stays news", was it TS Eliot who said that?

And look how composedly it sits on the page.

Tiger Girl (Surprised!)

When lightning flickers over my cot
and the air tingles

with the electric charge 
of the great cat's fur -

     I cross into the night
     where my jungle tent is pitched. 

wondering what is this angel
crouched above me,

     her coat of icicles,
     her eyes like meteors
     shooting into my face.

My hand is a brave monkey
reaching up to touch her fangs -

     while all the hairs of my body
     rise like wind in a storm

     as she brands me with her stripes.

Pascale Petit (b.1953) grew up in France and Wales. She trained as a sculptor at the Royal College of Art and was a visual artist for the first part of her life. She lives in London, where she tutors poetry in the galleries of Tate Modern and at the Poetry School, which she co-founded.

*If you closely at the top right of the page, you'll see the word FICTION - and on the previous page is a short story by William Boyd. But I'm not sure that poetry is "fiction" (nor is it "fact") - yes, like fiction (and all art) it's a work of the imagination, but why not just call it "poetry" - is that a scary word?

by Margaret Cooter ( at March 15, 2018 09:02 AM

March 14, 2018

Margaret Cooter

Lisa Milroy at Parasol Unit

Known years ago for her paintings of shoes*, Lisa Milroy is showing paintings of garments ("Here and There" at Parasol Unit till 18 March).
First glimpse - real shoes and painted backgrounds, taken from
the patterning of the shoes, are on the floor

Composites - does the 2D clothing on the wall take you back to playing with paper dolls?

3D painting - the painting is on the fabric, sculpted as a garment
3D, as the "garment" starts to peel away from the canvas

2D painting - deconstructed garment

Viewers are invited to rearrange the garments on the wall ...

... so I did ...

Half "natural" garment, half painted ... which is the more "real"?

Don't know what to make of this ... the title was something like "nine garments for one person"

Simple and resonant! this goes beyond words to our feelings about our clothes
Somehow I missed seeing the first floor gallery:

"On the first floor gallery, the exhibition focuses on ‘There’ and presents a selection of monochromatic paintings that explore presence and absence, loss, time and memory – all themes recurrent in Milroy’s practice. Included is the monumental twenty-metre wide painting Black and White, 2004–2005, based on the artist’s studio, and Shoes, 1985the only work from the 1980s in the exhibition, on loan from Tate and a touchstone painting for Milroy."

* "Shoes have been a recurrent motif in my practice since I began exploring ‘still life’ in the 1980s. Shoes, 2012 presents a single shoe repeated in rows against a grey background. This shoe is defined by two independent yet connected surfaces: the hard black shiny exterior and the soft blue-grey interior. The bright interior spaces of the shoe carve out hollows within the dark surface of the painting, turning the empty shoes into vessels full of light. This imagery keys the emotional dynamic of presence and absence and the physical dynamic of inside and outside, which reverberates throughout all my paintings in the exhibition, and chimes with aspects of Jayne [Parker]’s work. A number of my paintings feature a female personage suspended in a reciprocation between body and mind, while other works focus on the passing of time - both predominant themes in my practice.
Lisa Milroy" (via; the joint exhibition is at A.P.T. Gallery, Deptford, till 18 March)

by Margaret Cooter ( at March 14, 2018 11:04 PM

Olga Norris


I enjoy so many aspects of making my pieces, but some work I would prefer to leave to elves.
I've spent time in recent weeks cutting lino, and quilting a big piece, and designing more pieces, and being delightfully distracted, ....  But for a couple of days pain in my hands and wrists has driven me to pause with the lino, and forced me finally to get down to the much gentler - but to me rather boring - task of finishing off.  This is what I would wish the elves to do for me - because as you can see below, I have allowed a pile to accumulate.
But never mind; Nature's elves have been busy, and today the first of the species tulips is in flower, and the smallest euphorbia is looking sculpturally splendid.

by Olga Norris ( at March 14, 2018 01:40 PM

March 13, 2018

Terry Grant

Morocco: in the Medina

I learned a lot of new words in Morocco. Words like "souk" (marketplace), "kasbah" (fortress or fortified city) and "medina". Our itinerary mentioned visits to several medinas, which I learned referred to the old, walled city existing within the modern parts of a city. The Medina Of Fes, for example, was built in the 9th century, is the largest Medina in the world and also the largest urban area with no automobiles in the world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a totally amazing experience. You enter, through a large, arched gate into a different world of narrow, winding passages, claustrophobic and confusing as you make your way toward the center of the maze. In places the passage narrows to a width that accommodates only one person and if you meet someone coming from the other direction, one of you must step back into a doorway or alcove to let the other pass.

Just when you begin to worry about the walls closing in, the passage begins to open up to areas of small shops, gathering spots at fountains and wells and people bustling about, making deliveries, shopping, selling, socializing.

The streets, if you can call them that, are too narrow for trucks or cars, so everything that comes into, or goes out the Medina, including building materials, arrives on backs or heads, in small handcarts, on motorbikes or the occasional small donkey. The shops include all manner of goods for sale and many are workshops for craftsmen doing metalwork, leatherwork, sewing, dyeing, etc, etc, using mostly well-used traditional tools.

The food shops offer beautiful displays of candies, olives, vegetables, fish, sheep heads and pyramids of beautiful spices

Rugs, Ceramics, Jewelry, textiles, artwork in tiny shops line the inner streets of the medina. All prices are negotiable through a predictable, polite and usually friendly bargaining ritual. I'm very bad at it. At one shop I saw some beads I liked and asked the price. "What price will you pay?" was the response. "I only have $10," I said (which was true). "Oh, no—beautiful beads $40." I repeated, "I only have $10." "35" he said. I showed him my $10—"really, this is all I have..." he took a deep breath and patiently explained, "you are doing it wrong. I give my price, you give your price. I lower price, you raise price..." he waved his hand in a circular motion as if to say, "now, do you get it?" At this point I was embarrassed and handed the beads back to him apologetically and turned to leave. He thrust them back into my hand, sighed deeply, grimaced and said "OK, give me money." I felt a little bad about the whole deal despite getting my beads so cheaply. Usually these negotiations conclude with a smile and a handshake—win-win, everybody's happy. After that I made sure I had enough money in my purse to play the game correctly.

The medina is a world unto itself, sounds of metal hammering, jingling bells, children laughing and chattering in Arabic and stringed instruments and little hand drums; smells of spices and orange flower and grilled kabobs; men in striped jelabas and women in silk headscarves and long black dresses, brilliant colors of rugs and ceramics and Berber beads and carvings and brilliant textiles fluttering in the breeze. Has it changed in all the hundreds of years? It seems not. Though I suspect that the deep pockets of those traditional clothes might conceal cell phones, I don't remember seeing them. The medina is the essence of Morocco—timeless and wonderful in every way.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

by Terry Grant ( at March 13, 2018 02:47 PM

Margaret Cooter

Drawing Tuesday - Natural History Museum

From the gallery of the Mammals room in the Blue Zone of the Natural History Museum, you can clearly see the dust on the Right Whale skeleton.  I drew the front view twice: with grainy coloured pencil, and chunky graphite stick - both watersoluble, but I didn't try out the waterbrush ...
On to the side view - I was curious about those floating bones -
The heart-shaped bone is the breastbone (sternum), but the others? One day I'll find out ... it's fascinating that whales developed from a land mammal, some 50 million years ago, and still have vestigial leg bones. 

The "nose" - an extension of the skull - is called the rostrum, and the baleen plates go into the cavity above the lower jaw.
HB pencil; coffee wash added later
Apologies for the strange lighting effects on some of the next pix - cafe tables with dim light or spotlights are not ideal for photography.

Janet K captured birds -
 Carol zoomed in on architectural details -
 Judith found lovely feathers on the Victoria Crowned Pigeon -
 Joyce was among the colourful minerals -
 Janet B found an unlikely pairing in the Mammals room -
 Mags was looking for pleiosaurs -

 Extracurricularly ... Janet B had been drawing in a faraway museum last week -
 ... this led to "homework" - draw "a creature" - from life or from a museum or from a photograph.

Mags had been up north on a retreat, developing surreal collage and mark-making in piano-hinge books, among other activities ...

by Margaret Cooter ( at March 13, 2018 09:14 AM

Dijanne Cevaal

ChARTres- Croisement des Arts

I had meant to blog prior to leaving Australia last week, but as life was digitally challenged that did not happen, plus things were super busy. I agreed to a crazy deadline of 10 Traveller's Blankets  for the Sydney Craft and Quilt Fair late in June. I will use one very early piece to show how the work has developed but all other work will be new ( as the the  traveller's blankets I have sold  in the past belong to new owners ). So I feel my hands are whirling dervishes at the moment and as I don't wear thimbles they do sometimes succumb to needing a rest , which fortunately coincided with my flight to Europe, and I am determined to make that deadline!

I arrived in Barcelona last week, and took the train from there to Narbonne, to spend a night with Margo and Trevor Bimler, in order to pick up things I had left there ( more things than I had realised) and then headed up to my cousins near Chateroux. I do have a lot of family in Europe but as my parents emigrated when I was nine, I don't know that much of my family , but this cousin is a similar age and we enjoy each other's company so I always try and catch up when I am in Europe. Then onto Chartres the next morning to install my exhibition for ChARTres- Croisements des Arts that afternoon. It is always good to be part of this exhibition and it seems to be getting better all the time. The exhibition venue is a deconsecrated church called Collegiale Saint Andre dating from the twelfth century and it  was built right on the edge of the River Eure.So at the moment it is rather damp and cold but nonetheless a  beautiful venue

The weekend was busy with vernissage and an artists evening  at the house of the organisers Ethia- which is always a lot of fun. it would be so nice to sell a piece, but the traveller's blankets ar enot for sale at present!

And then I have been working on a white and blue piece. A bit uncharacteristic for me, but  as I was in a place two weeks ago without my usual supplies, and this was all that was at hand, it started to grow,  and I am beginning to like it. It is starting to remind me a little of Delft's blauw- which is suppose is appropriate seeing I was born not that far from Delft ( well in Australian terms)

I can't wait to see what the background stitching will add to this piece, and the temptation to already begin it is a great- but I am trying to be disciplined and finish all the circles first. I have tried to make each and everyone different.

A little bit of Chartres:

After Chartres I will be teaching in Belgium and at the Lapjesgaart in Amstelveen ( traveller's Blanket and tifaifai) and then onto the Textile Biennale ( formerly Quilts en Beaujolais which is what everyone still calls it) in Beaujolais with the Aussie Bush Project!, and then a quick catch up with my friends in Le Triadou and  Moux and then onto Austria for more teaching.

Traveller's Blanket On-line Class
I have had a lot of emails from people asking  if I will be running the Traveller's Blanket on-line class again. Initially I thought I would not , but I have spent a  lot of time rewriting and making the content reflect current work and am still writing an entirely new lesson 4. So I have decided to run another on-line course starting 7 April. I have been asked why I call these works blankets- and the reason is that someone once called my work blankets- so being a bit tongue in cheek that is what I have called these works. They are intensely stitched and grow as you stitch- they are such an investment of time and love and contemplation they really do take on a life of their own. They are a slow process  and it is an incredibly soothing process- I lose time in a good way and the work has built, and the story has increased in that lost time- it is like taking some moments away from our ever busy lives and just stitching, enjoying the rhythm and the story as it develops. If you are interested in joining the class please email me and I will send out an information sheet .

by Dijanne Cevaal ( at March 13, 2018 06:42 AM

March 12, 2018

Margaret Cooter

Productive laziness

It being Monday, I found myself with no reason, or motivation, to leave the house - and a backache brought on, surely, by walking in the mud yesterday. The temptation was to spend the entire day on the sofa with a diverting book, but certain things do need doing. That studio sort-out is top of the list...

So the plan was:  set the timer for 15 minutes and plunge into one or other of the bags in the studio, racing the clock to get it sorted before the timer's PING sounds the blessed release from the task. It starts when the Fitbit's reminder-buzz at 10 minutes to the hour (reminder to take 250 steps and "be active") is the signal to get up from the sofa, jog on the Invisible Treadmill till the Fitbit sends its "good stuff, you've done it" buzz. Then, set the timer and Just Do It. PING - and the rest of the hour can be spent on the sofa with the book.

The plan has been working well, given a head start with the departure of some old French paperbacks -
and also paper and pens gathered and posted on Freecycle, to be collected in the evening -
Adding to the collection of papers has provided an opportunity for a sort-out of the paper shelves - not the thing that's most urgent, but "every little helps". I discovered some lovely papers, including a big sheet of hand marbling ... makes me want to get back to making books -
The middle shelves now look quite spacious (whereas the recycling bin is almost full of the rejects) -
 This lovely print surfaced -
as did lots of "old work" - from the Art Foundation and then the MA course -
 and abandoned works like this double-sided excursion into drawing+stitching -
 Sonnets, stitched in syllables, then turned into rubbings - then abandoned -
 Experiments from the National Gallery's Friday lunchtime "talk and draw" sessions -
 Leftover painted papers that could so quickly be folded into concertina or "secret" books (large marks usually look good on small pages) -
Work from a short, intense course about stitching and monoprinting - I made various little books based on maps of Islington -
 Leftover fabrics from the course -
 ,,, they went into the big drawer of my own printed fabrics (ah the travel lines - screen printed at Camberwell!), can't get rid of those -
Serendipitous melted plastic found in a stack of papers -
 "What was I thinking" dept - concert and theatre tickets from 1989/90 glued onto thin japanese paper ....
The most important is the pink one, a community play in which my son, aged 10, had a part - "Full House" at The Old Bingo Hall, now Rowans bowling alley -
From 1994 or so, some marbling with inks, cut into the shape of an envelope (I'll use it soon) -
"Projects for 2006" is the title of this little "secret" book -
They included: learn how to use my serger; sew a shirt for Thomas; make "japanese" quilt for Thomas (done!!) and Fissures for CQ (done!); regular computer backups; organise photos. In the middle, more - decide whether to continue learning Chinese; fix up flat (bathroom); "leave fulltime work?" and "keep up & not be boring" - hah, aren't we all constantly working on that one!

Yet again this little booklet shows the magical powers of writing things down. Sometimes, writing down an anxiety helps to get it out of your mind; often, writing down a wish (however impossible it seems) makes it more real, or possible, as you start to consider how it might be achieved - and quite often, it is.

The next thing I found in that folder was a big, empty envelope with faint writing -
A message from Tony that I'm very grateful for, did he but know. 

It's a big help with the "redistributing my creative resources" project. 

Another help would be to take a few moments to write down what might be looked for, when looking forward.

by Margaret Cooter ( at March 12, 2018 10:28 PM

Country walk

The walk was 11 miles, out Stevenage way - we arrived by train, then took a local bus to Aston, all in sporadic sunshine and calm air. Conditions changed once we got going, walking over, around, and across fields, such is the joy of the countryside. 
Blue sky and catkins

Grey skies and mud
Until lunchtime - the larger part of the walk - it was All Mud - and sometimes the mud was thicker, gooeyer, stickier at the top of a hill than at the bottom.

Moments after taking this photo, before I could put the phone/camera in my jacket pocket and zip it up securely, I skidded and fell, and the phone landed in the mud. All those little holes in the bottom - speaker, mike, jack, port for charger - filled with mud. The tiniest hole - the most delicate and the hardest to clean - is the microphone ... I'd had it cleaned out two days ago  and will have to take the phone back for more attention.

By lunchtime I'd thoroughly used up all my tissues to keep the ever-dripping nose in check and, worse, developed a blister which brought on despairing thoughts of the four or five miles ahead. Fortunately someone gave me a plaster and it was definitely a lifesaver ... next time I'll carry copious plasters.

Also by lunchtime it was drizzling steadily, ie making fresh mud, and the wind was quite sharp. I had my picnic lunch outside at the pub [too muddy to go in] and waited around impatiently. Finally we set off - in the wrong direction, but not very far - and oh joy, most of the rest of the walk was along paved roads. We even took a few moments to visit the church in Datchworth (a village settled by 700AD by Saxons though there's evidence of Belgic settlement before that) - 
All Saints, Datchworth

(Identical) graves of the Pennyfeather family, 19th century
Mostly it was one foot in front of another to Knebworth station, where buses  replaced trains in both directions. Two hours on the southbound bus, calling at all stations ... I was glad to get home. 

If this had been the first walk I'd gone on, I would never have risked another. Even with proper walking gear, that sticky mud was a killer.

We did see horses, geese, snowdrops, and some dotty sheep that couldn't be bothered to get out of the way - very un-sheepish behaviour -

Baa baa black sheep...

Two distinct breeds in the flock

Many sightings of snowdrops under hedges
 ... and signposts, and lots of landscape -
Woods and rolling fields - an ancient landscape

Not a lot of signposts came our way

The walk is part of the Stevenage Outer Orbital Path (STOOP)

by Margaret Cooter ( at March 12, 2018 08:37 AM

March 10, 2018

Margaret Cooter

Another session of woodblock printing

During the week I'd cut another, reversed, set of "flying bits" and was eager to print them -
Uh-oh ... reversed didn't quite work - the idea was that they should mirror the diagonal direction, ie from top left to bottom right. Ok, this makes an "opportunity" to try something else. The orange ("vermillion") was disappointingly pale anyway...

A tiny bit of blue mixed into the orange, to tie it in with the other colours; some selective inking up; and a bit of careful registration -
Some unwanted areas of the cutaway background have appeared. Too much pressure with the baren? Sloppy application of the "ink" (watercolour, actually) is a more likely cause. Must try harder!

As for these ...
Definitely too much pressure, combined with uneven inking and hot, dry conditions in the room. Again, an opportunity to "take it farther" in unexpected ways - nothing to lose, is there?

But how to get a better result? Carol showed me how, with a big area to cover, to use the side of the brush to apply more ink at one time, and that the grain of the baren should be used along the grain of the wood. A much better result -
The "monsters" that I overprinted were too pale -
 Carol suggested "turn it over and print them again" -
Registration could be better, but the layering works.

by Margaret Cooter ( at March 10, 2018 08:27 AM

March 09, 2018

Margaret Cooter

Poetry Thursday - revisiting the younger self

Back in the mid-90s, my early days of taking textiles courses (at City Lit) - mainly in "creative embroidery", I filled many sketchbooks with notes on classes and my own ideas. Sometimes the notes spilled beyond the books - and sometimes the topics we dealt with were "uncomfortable"; eg, action drawing of the figure. One term we had a session with a life model and, new to this, I did what I could and was very aware of my limitations.

How to take it further? In the next session the course tutor (Julia Caprara) presented various strategies to the class, including "going round the room" and commenting on each others' work. Those comments are written as the green notes, and they include plangent phrases, which I used to make a "word picture" of what was going on with my figure. After that, I made some versions in cloth, which - such was my feeling that this was definitely a dead end - I had no problem throwing out.

However, it's often the troubling creative experiences that have stay in the mind and have the greatest impact on further work; so, because of the dissatisfaction with this, I've gone on to try hard with further life drawing, portrait classes, etc. Something surprising usually happens, and what more can you ask?

Now to the "poetry" aspect. At first I thought the figure was running, but through the feedback and the composition of the "word picture" I came to realise what might be going on -

walking through water
small cold stones pressing underfoot
but toes and heels are too numb to notice
knees cutting through air;
the body follows
fists punching forward from shoulders
momentum through thin air
pulling the body forward
forward through thick water
through water thick as blood
but colder
then out of water
and running
forward through the night

And from 1987, this bit of tomfoolery (a song lyric?) -
Your feet have fallen off
And you're yellow
Your spine is curved
You're a banana now

Also found in that notebook - notes on books used in writing my chapter in
"Reviewing the Reviews: A Woman's Place on the Book Page";
some costings for a trip to Vancouver via an EASE conference (and
visit to friend) in Ottawa; an unsent letter to a friend, with
reminders of everyday life in 1987/8

by Margaret Cooter ( at March 09, 2018 01:24 PM

Fun with flows

The first glimpse of pipes in the Hydrodynamics Laboratory at Imperial College had me reaching for the camera (and I would happily have spent hours with a sketchbook and the pipes). But more and better was to come.
The paddles are sequenced to set up various kinds of waves

Waves can travel quite some distance in this tank

Computers are a very important part of the equipment
- the calculations are extremely complex

Students were on hand to explain things I'd never even thought about

A nod to health&safety

Nice crisp combinations of colours - and the contrasting
subtlety of the water

The effect of water on coasts can be simulated and modelled

Tracers simulate the flows caused by adding pollutants
The Inaugural Lecture that we came to hear - Fun with Flows: the fluid science of healthy environments, given by Graham Hughes, was anything but dull: both the speaker and the graphics were great. And afterward: wine and canapes!

by Margaret Cooter ( at March 09, 2018 10:51 AM