This might be your cup of tea….

“In Ireland, you go to someone’s house, and she asks you if you want a cup of tea. You say no, thank you, you’re really just fine. She asks if you’re sure. You say of course you’re sure, really, you don’t need a thing. Except they pronounce it ting. You don’t need a ting. Well, she says then, I was going to get myself some anyway, so it would be no trouble. Ah, you say, well, if you were going to get yourself some, I wouldn’t mind a spot of tea, at that, so long as it’s no trouble and I can give you a hand in the kitchen. Then you go through the whole thing all over again until you both end up in the kitchen drinking tea and chatting. 

In America, someone asks you if you want a cup of tea, you say no, and then you don’t get any damned tea. I liked the Irish way better.” 
― C.E. Murphy, Urban Shaman

Tea is such an integral part of life – certainly British life, possibly more so for the older generation. When a visitor arrives at our houses we immediately offer them a cup of tea. Making tea is suggested as a suitable response to receiving bad news. It gives the recipient of the news something practical to do, somewhere to put their grief, or shock – for the moment anyway.

“If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; If you are depressed, it will cheer you; If you are excited, it will calm you.”
-William Ewart Gladstone

Tea has invaded our language too – we talk about someone or something being just “my cup of tea”, something we feel comfortable with and we enjoy. Jack Buchanan explains our love of tea so well in his song EVERYTHING STOPS FOR TEA, which was featured in Buchanan’s 1935 comedy film, “Come Out Of The Pantry” (Goodhart / Hoffman / Sigler) Jack Buchanan

I couldn’t give quotations about tea without a mention of Billy Connolly’s “Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cozy, doesn’t try it on. ”

Devonshire Way – My 7 to 11 year old home

This is my latest and largest tapestry so far, woven on a pin loom. It shows a floor plan of the house I lived it from the age of 7 to 11 years old. It emphasises areas that were important to me such as the porch where I played two-ball (endlessly), the gramophone in the front room and the Wendy house in the garden. They were happy places and were woven in yellow (the happy colour). The area outside the back door also has a lot of yellow showing all the activity with children and dogs constantly in and out.

Devonshire Way – early stages

This shows the early stages of the tapestry, including the bottom selvedge with my weaver’s mark in orange. The warp is coral coloured, not quite the deep red I had hoped for when I was dyeing the warp. I find the natural warp colour difficult to ‘lose’ sometimes when I am preparing the work for showing and this is why I decided to dye it.

Devonshire Way – nearing completion

Tapestry creates a meditative state and I have been surprised at how some very obscure memories of my childhood home have come to mind, such as the fact that there was a green step-stool in the corner in the kitchen. Other details, like the position of the furniture in the back room (lounge) were more difficult to bring to mind, although I do remember sitting on the sofa under the slope of the stairs. It would have been called a settee in those days.

The brass-bound, black coffee table and the round, wicker dog basket were important parts of the lounge to me – whereas I have had to guess at the positions of the chairs, which were for adults. On the whole we children sat or lay on the floor. The TV had a V shaped aerial on top of the set, which sat in the corner of the room.

The hall had a very strongly patterned, green carpet, which continued up the stairs (which I loved to crawl down on my tummy).

I included the Wendy house in the back garden as I fell in love with this when my family viewed the house before moving in. I was so disappointed when we arrived on learning that the previous residents took the Wendy house with them. Also included in the tapestry are the fruit trees in the garden and the igloo that we built one very cold winter.

Completing a tapestry is always a pleasure, even thought a lot of work remains in order to prepare it for use.

The back of the tapestry needs the ends and spent bobbins trimming off and then the work is pinned out ready to ‘block’ the piece.

The House that I was born in

There’s something about the house that I was born in that draws me. Happy times I guess. Learning about the world was always enjoyable and I was keen to know learn the next thing. Even then I was drawing out little maps of the roads that I knew – the roads to school, the way to the library and the shops and then later on, my route to the bigger school, which I wasn’t allowed to do on my own. It requiring crossing Brigstock Road with all its buses and vans. It seems amazing now, that I was allowed to walk to school on my own as an infant, crossing two minor roads. We lived in a Victorian semi, which originally had three bedrooms and then the back bedroom was converted to a bathroom and box room.

The House that I was Born in

As this tapestry progressed, I was interested in how my use of colours developed. I had an idea of a palette and had decided not to be driven by the aesthetic of the work, which would be my usual approach. Instead, colours took on a meaning and in particular, bright orange for no-go areas like the scullery, that we weren’t allowed into as children. The pale blue areas show where we lived routinely, and places like the front room were very vague to me, only used for visitors and for short periods of time and very cold, with Lino round the edge of the room.

The house I was born in

Another surprising thing for me was the realisation that, in my mind, I always see the plan of this first house with the back of the house at the bottom. Other houses I’ve lived in I see the other way around, the front of the house at the bottom. I guess that I didn’t have to enter this house – I was already in it. It’s where I was born.

The tapestry is small, but quite precious to me and is probably technically my best work so far. I am now starting work on a larger tapestry 33cm wide for my 7-11 house (we moved twice when I was a child). I am going to experiment with using sock wool (cheaper!) but I am wondering if it will be as resilient as the beautiful worsted yarns that I bought from Weaver’s Bazaar and my own dyed worsted yarns.

Tapestry Weaving Continues

Another Sampler

There is so much still for me to learn about tapestry weaving. Despite a lengthy history of working with knitted and embroidered textiles, tapestry weaving imposes its unforgiving linear structure, reminding me of the quotation for the Rubaiat of Omah Khyyam:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writMoves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit. Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

….and I have tried to jiggle the weft and tug at the warp to adjust a part of the tapestry that offends my eye. Patching in from behind or beating down harder doesn’t remove those unacceptable wefts which lie further down the tapestry than I am prepared to unpick. And I do unpick a lot. Even in my peaceful studio, devoid of most distractions, I lose concentration, forgetting which direction of travel I need for a new bobbin colour, so as to allow an easy transition or junction with its neighbour.

The most interesting thing for me has been learning how to blend several fine threads together to create a ‘weft bundle’ and how colour graduation is achieved thread by thread with each newly wound bobbin.

Tapestry Weaving

I have recently started the Foundation Diploma in Tapestry Weaving at West Dean College as I wanted to bring together my extensive research into colour, through painting and my many years of working with textiles, mostly through making and using yarn.

I have much to learn and am trying not to be too frustrated with this. Choosing the correct warp thickness and size of weft bundle (I didn’t even know that you could have a weft bundle!) has been quite challenging, but slowly I think I am getting there.

Sampler for borders

I am interested in how artists such as Kirsten Glasbrook use borders in their work and so I tried some ideas out here.

The image below also introduces the use of borders and a central motif with a variegated background to the motif. I was pleased with the colour scheme but I found that the ‘sett’ of the warp was too close for the thickness of the warp. This resulted in a rather congested tapestry that didn’t lie entirely flat. I’m still learning.

Border and bird tapestry
Icon image

This small tapestry is an interpretation of my drawing of a radiator cover in Stansted House. I wanted to try out icon colours, but also to practise graduating the colour of both background and image from dark at the bottom to light at the top.

This is the first of a series of tapestries where the source material is one of my paintings. I am taking fragments of the original (unfinished) painting and interpreting them into tapestry weavings. They are approximately 10cm wide. This first fragment is made on a moderately thick warp (15s) with 2.5 ends to the centimetre. The bottom part is a bit ‘clunky’ but as my hatching improved the imagery improved towards the top. The colours worked for me.

Elemental Exhibition with Artel

Getting ready for the Private View

Getting ready for the private view

These photos are the best I can offer, sadly as I was admitted to hospital following on from my back injury in July. I missed my arranged slots to steward the exhibition, when I had planned to take some better shots. I felt proud to be part of this exhibition and we had good footfall throughout. Some more sales would have been welcome, but some members certainly did see some work.

Elemental Exhibition, August 2018 – Artel Group

Elemental Lightbulb

Sixteen artists from the Artel Group will be exhibiting their work in the Oxmarket, Chichester from 14 August to 26 August excluding Mondays. The exhibition is promising to be both interesting and intriguing, each artist having a completely different approach to our subject, Elemental. Several disciplines of art will be displayed and I am looking forward to curating the show as part of a small team from Artel.
My own work will take the form of an installation of paintings and (space permitting) some 2 dimensional paintings on the same subject.

Cookers and Kettles 1

Light Bulb Moment 1

Rigid Element 1

Permanent Studio

Finally, I have a permanent studio space. I have had ‘the spare room’, a shared studio space at Unity Studios in Chichester, a fabulous (but rather expensive) studio in Lavant all to myself and the most grotty space on a smallholding in Almodington. Finally I have a dedicated studio space at home. It is wonderful.

Permanent Studio

Dry studio space

At one end I have my capacious plan chest, which has been with me for nearly thirty years and indeed was my studio for many years. This is the ‘dry studio’, where I do clean work like mount cutting or any of my spinning or textile work.

Studio Storage