Wednesday, 27 August 2014


Yesterday my Mum and I went for a walk through Epping Forest. It had been raining, fitfully and heavily, all day, and had just stopped when we went out.

The forest was still dripping, and I was struck by the very particular smell of the forest when it rains; mossy, and of ferns unfurling. Mum agreed, and said that the smell was verdant; imbued with green.

Inspired by this sensory experience, my old friend and fellow artist Kat and I wandered into Walthamstow Forest this morning equipped with a plethora of film cameras.

Here are the results which I can share with you straight away; Polaroids shot on my Spectra camera, with a variety of filters and costume changes.

The first three photographs are an extension of my self care rituals of rewarding oneself with stickers - this time I've covered Kat's face with merit stickers - badges of honour for surviving. This is a theme I'm planning on developing considerably in the near future... I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 25 August 2014

The Soft Corner Shop

This month, my Instagram has been awash with images of a brilliant, seemingly simple idea; Lucy Sparrow's soft sculpture corner shop.

Deceptively simple though Lucy's concept may be - to fill a disused corner shop with hand stitched produce - don't be fooled. That hand stitching took eight months of fourteen hour shifts; as I well know, hand sewing is a very labour intensive process, particularly when, as in this case, one is attempting to faithfully replicate, in fabric, items which existed first in an entirely different medium.

When we arrived at the Corner Shop, in spite of today's dreadful wet weather, the place was buzzing. The other visitors had clearly made the same pilgrimage through the rain we had, and there were squeals of delight as they recognised much loved family favourites.

This nostalgia is partially engendered by the era that the Corner Shop is set in. Lucy has chosen to create products from the mid 90s, when she had her first job in, you guessed it, a corner shop. I barely remember Funny Feet, for example, though they were more familiar to Pip, who is a couple of years older.

Therefore this is a true labour of love on Lucy's part, and an affectionate look back at her coming of age. Over four thousand hand stitched items is no mean feat, and I take my hat off to Lucy for her sheer perseverance and vision. I can't wait for my stitched Chipsticks (how's that for 90s nostalgia?!) to arrive in the post.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Pansy Sickness

Pansies are a flower close to my heart, as I've explained before. I'm even considering getting a tattoo featuring one. So I had to focus on the humble pansy for a page of Milk Thistle.

I chose the most gloriously lurid 60s cotton for the background of the page. This is  because I based the text of the page partially on The Yellow Wallpaper, a late nineteenth century short story about a woman's descent into madness when she is essentially forced into house arrest by her husband, holed up in a room with yellow wallpaper which takes on an increasingly sinister edge. 

My text reads

In the darkness thorny thoughts crowded my head

and I thrashed in my flower bed so ineffectually

a delicate flower choked by creepers

bound up by pansy sickness

The text was also influenced by the meaning of the pansy as given by Kensita's cigarettes; "Thoughts: Think of Me".

I scanned my first blooms to be dried in my flower press (pansies of course!) to become the pocket in which the Kensitas woven silk pansy would be kept. I rather like the vibrant purples and yellows against the yellow, orange and lime green cotton. A ghastly clash to reflect the "thorny thoughts" and "pansy sickness" (which is in actuality a fungus which attacks the pansy's stem and may cause it to collapse).

I have another page to share over the next few days which I completed during my stay in the Highlands; it was quite a productive trip! Two more pages to go after that; I'd better get stitching.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Lily livered

I'm not at all sure about the latest page of Milk Thistle (although I am halfway there now). A few things went wrong in its making, and I almost wished I'd used a brighter, more minimalist background fabric.

One thing I am happy with is the sprig of Honesty I scanned and used as the page's pocket; it is ethereal, almost ghostly; a fellow artist on Instagram described it as "fairy money". It's the perfect holding place for the red lily Kensita's woven silk flower card.

The text of this page reads

Laid up in bed with the curtains drawn, lily livered and lovely eyed

Stitching petals between pages - quick! 

Sew up the gaps! Don't let the light in

There is a separate text sewn on to white work fabric which reads

I thread my needle by the sun's light

I lose eyesight by candle light

This is based on a passage in The Subversive Stitch which describes how cottage industry embroiderers ruined their eyes through sewing by candle light.

This page is based around how invalidism, together with embroidery, became a part of the inculcation of the feminine in the nineteenth century.