I’ve only ever lived in a left handed house

Aware of a deadline for an open exhibition I wanted to enter, equally aware that I hadn’t even started thinking about what to make, I opened our blue front door to welcome a friend, and as I stepped back, realised that I’d only ever lived in left handed houses.

What I mean by that is that all the houses had the front door on the right hand side, so that when you enter the house, you turn left into the rooms – otherwise you’d go splat straight into the party wall, which would hurt, and might upset the neighbours.

I’ve never been much of a mover. I don’t travel light and have way too much stuff.  Books and fabric and records and pictures and ornaments and nicknacks and just stuff! I read, sew, draw and paint, garden. I didn’t always garden, I did when I was small, helping Mum, and even having my own little patch to grow tiny radish and carrots. But then music and dancing took over and it was some years before growing things became important again. That was after I bought my flat. Planting a tree makes it even harder to move. Eventually though, we (for it was ‘we’ by then) dug up the nectarine tree, and the peonies, and an artichoke or two, and moved on.

This house we moved to, is only the sixth house I remember living in. There was a house when I was tiny, and I’ve seen photos, but I do not remember it.  I know it in terms of stories: the kitchen-hatch my Dad made, the mice my brother loved to watch careering round his bedroom floor, the neighbours my crying drove demented. 

I can’t draw that first house. I know the road name, but not the number. There were trees in the road, but the trees in the road I grew up in had spring blossom. One had both delicate white blossom and green leaves, together with heavy blousy pink blossom and plum coloured leaves.  The trees have not fared well these past few years, and the gutters no longer fill with fallen blooms. We had a green front door, and a pyracantha tree in the corner, which my Dad kept trimmed to a lollypop shape.

simple stitched outline of a house, a 1930s terrace, with a green front door.  The house is one of a series illustrating the houses I have lived in, and how they are all similar

When I finally started going Out, I stayed at friends and boyfriends, in Camden, in Kings Cross, in Haringey and somewhere in West London that involved a complicated process of hiding under a van to gain access to the house; going home to my parents for a change of more or less identical artfully ripped black clothes. My friends (and boyfriends) meant visits to Sheffield and Glasgow and Manchester. But my ‘stuff’ all stayed at my parents. My room was always there, and after a hot dinner, a warm bed, and maybe a Dynasty with Mum on a Friday evening, I’d head back off again. Sometimes I turned up and someone else had eaten the dinner and nabbed the bed, as my parents always looked out for our less fortunate friends.

Simple machine stitched drawing of a 1900s house with a bay window, illustrating the similarity of all the houses I have lived in

After approximately 8,431 days, I moved across the River, into a room with my boyfriend.  It was a big house with no shared living space, 15 miles north from my parents.  My Dad drove me there in a car full of stuff, lit a cigar and laughed a lot.  He hadn’t smoked for years. The boyfriend and I stopped talking to each other around 182 days later, I found myself another room in a different shared house, less than a mile away, and wonderful new friends. It was an unmitigated shithole, but with a pint of red wine in one hand, a big old funny cigarette in the other, and helping hands all around, I moved in. It had a big rambling hedge, that was never trimmed, and I think had a gate – or at least a gatepost, when I arrived.  It was gone by the time I moved on, about 1,187 days later.

Two simple illustrated houses, machine stitched in black thread, one with a blue front door, one yellow, both with hedges to the front garden.  Illustrating the fact that I've always lived in similar houses

My next home was just around the corner, not even a quarter of a mile from the last, with, as usual, more people most of the time than actually lived there, plus four cats and two dogs. We had the offy on one side, which was very handy. I never saw the neighbours. Probably just as well. They must have suffered. The garden was crazy-paved all over, but had a tree. The huge ground floor bathroom had French doors. The offy had a German Shepherd dog that sat in their yard and howled, generally whenever things seemed quiet enough to chance a bath on a sunny day with the doors open.

Sleep began to seem a more attractive and necessary idea, and I began to think it might be nice to have somewhere of my own, maybe a garden.  912 days later, I found my flat, two and a half miles uphill.

A simplified embroidered drawing of a house, with a red front door and a tree to the left.  illustrating the similarity of all the houses I have lived in

My brother borrowed a van from work and arrived to help me move, as by then I had rather a lot of stuff, including a wardrobe and shelves to contain it.  He said “we’d better unload the van first”, as it was pre-loaded with all stuff from my parents’ house, plus some things they thought might be useful and a small white table and chair from Granny. My parents’ house breathed a brief sigh of relief, before my parents set about filling all the now available space with yet more books and ornaments and records and things of their own.

I met my partner, The Engineer. He lived in Nobby Van, had a motorbike, tools, a couple of cassettes, but no stuff. He built a workshop on the back of the flat, and we took over the garden next door as our allotment.

4,716 days later we were moving on, 163 miles East to the seaside. Everything went into storage as our new house wasn’t entirely habitable, some might say it still isn’t. The Engineer was astounded and horrified by the sheer stuff volume: it kept appearing: cupboards disgorging their contents like Tardis. Added to which by then was his Edwardian safe, my full size kiln, and other death-defying one ton objects of a whole new level of stuffness to move. And my greenhouse – a leaving present from my last ever proper job some years before. That didn’t want to move. It had taken root along with the white peach tree and the big pink rose that bloomed all year, the magnolia and the apple trees, and the um, Japanese Knotweed.

Simple illustration in black thread, drawn on a sewing machine, of a Victorian terrace house with a blue front door.  It shows the similarity, in my mind, of all the houses I have lived in

So here we are, 4,836 days and counting, in my sixth left handed house, with a Cat That Isn’t Ours, and lots and lots and lots of stuff. One day it will all be in the right place, neat, tidy, accessible. Ha ha ha, say the Fabric Friends.

Six little houses, all in a row. Stitched by hand and machine, onto fabric from the stash. I had so much stuff I wanted to squeeze into this piece – names, and latitudes and longitudes, and dates and times, and distances. I wanted to map my infrequent moves, my travels with my stuff.  The houses weren’t having it. They’ve formed themselves into a single terrace, stuff firmly behind closed doors.

Six little left-handed houses, with their post codes. I’ve only moved one degree East, less than a degree North or South. And I’ve never lived in a right-handed house. 

stitched art illustration of six similar houses, on a background of vintage 70s yellow and pink bedlinen.

I’ve only ever lived in left-handed houses. Machine and hand embroidery and crayon, on old bedlinen.

Avocado’s Fork and Bind-Weed’s Sting

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“Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Avocado’s fork and bind-weed’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble”
Shakespeare’s Song of the Witches bubbled unbidden into my brain whilst stirring this dark tale, albeit slightly altered.  This stitched story belongs to the Fairy GM, that Big Bad Fairy that still is not finished, and will form the binds that tie the poor little Lost Children of the F1 Hybrid That Never Grow True.
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As a gardener, you might be forgiven for thinking I spend quite enough time fighting Bindweed, without making more, but I am as ever, contrary.  This year has not been such a good one for Calystegia sepium. Its smothering progress has been slower than usual, as has just about everything that I actually did want to grow. The Fairy GM meanwhile has been drumming her fingers impatiently, waiting for attention.  I was going to say she had been tapping her toes impatiently, but she doesn’t have any yet.  To be honest, they don’t really feature in her overall design. Neither do feet. Or legs. Only Bindweed.
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The brew is made from avocado pits, and produces a wonderful pink dye. I foresee a week of mostly eating avocados, whilst I continue with the Fairy GM’s “charm of powerful trouble”.
East Kent Artists Open Houses continue 26th and 27th October, and 3rd and 4th November.
Come and visit, or the Lost Children of the F1 Hybrids will visit you.

A Stitch in Time #throwbackthursday

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This was the UFO, the UnFinished Object that turned up in yesterday’s tidy.  As it has been in this unfinished state for about fifteen years,  I’ve decided it is actually finished. I think it would be rather a shock to its system, and mine, to continue with it.

This piece of embroidery was very much of a time and place, but what interests me as I look at it today, is how it fits in with what I now do. At the time I created this, the Profanity Embroidery Group was a long way off in the future.  As were my large scale cloth dolls, my Fabric Friends, and embroidered stories.

When I stitched this piece, it was as part of a nostalgic installation I made for the second year of my arts degree, but instead of looking backwards, it turned out to be looking forward. I’m rather glad to see it again.

 

 

The Sad Doll

soft sculpture doll with sad face and blue hair, with self harm to her arms
Large soft sculpture doll representing the lyrics of Martha Wainwright’s lyrics from her song Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole

Funny as it may seem, I hadn’t thought of Martha as exactly sad, but that is how others see her.

To me she is defiantly, angrily, not happy; and that is something different. Curled up in the corner, demanding to be left alone but not to be ignored.  She will not say she is alright for you.  Whoever you are.

She is not alright, we know that: but she knows a Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole when she sees one.

Now hugging her knees in the corner of Whitstable’s Fishslab Gallery, taking her place at the Profanity Embroidery Group’s Third Annual Exhibition, she glowers out at visitors.  Come see her.

Profanity Embroidery Group exhibition open daily from 14th February to 20th February. 10am to 5pm daily; Sunday until 4pm, and closes Tuesday 20th at 2pm

Fishslab Gallery    11 Oxford Street, Whitstable CT5 1DB

 

 

Let me tell you a story….

Many people nowadays, with their text friendly shorthand, refer to the Fairy Godmother as the Fairy GM.

sketchbook drawings for the soft sculpture work in progress of the big bad Fairy GM

This is not at all a good idea. The Fairy GM is something altogether different, something other…

Consider the Fairy GM’s achievements: pumpkins as big as carriages? Mice as big as men? Lizards that walk on their hind legs? Kitchen girls dancing with princes? Such behaviour is not naturally occurring in these species.

Do not let her hear your secret sighs, your deepest wish, your heartfelt longing for she draws her power from your thwarted desires. She will strangle your dreams and smother your wishes as her briars grow strong, her toxins thrive and her tendrils bind you forever more.

The Well of the World’s End is the last free pure water source. The Fairy GM has hidden the Well, and is busy poisoning the rest of the Kingdom. She wears at her girdle the lost flower children of the F1-Hybrids, those that will never come true, and enjoys their painful efforts to grow.

She surrounds the Well with a thicket of beastly Bindweed which grown so fast that anyone trying to force their way through will be smothered by a many stranded stem and twisted high above the suffocated forest until their pale dead face smiles at the sun.

The Kingdom is dying.  A land smothered by Bindweed, asphyxiated and bled dry.  It needs the water from the Well of the World’s End.

There are ways past the Bindweed, past those double-headed pets of hers: the Guardian Dog with eyes bigger than an Olympic stadium full of drugged up athletes cheating to the death; and the Cat of Nine’s tails would make the Torquemada blanche. It is a long and twisted journey, and to drink from any but the Well of the World’s End will enslave you to the Fairy GM forever.

Far away a girl, a child of the ancient unmodified seed, untouched by fertiliser and glyphosate, is chosen to ask the Fairy GM for water. The Girl walked until she reached the edge of the Bindweed. There she chose a small fresh green tendril and bit hard with her sharp little teeth. As the weed started to wrap itself around her, she pulled free her bag of Nine Herbs Charm and flung the contents far and wide. The Bindweed recoiled, dropping her on the barren ground, surrounded high on all sides by a Convolvulus castle.

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The Fairy GM thus summoned, looked down on the child. ‘And people call my plants ‘weeds’, she though “I’ve never seen anything more weedy than this girl’. She knew the Girl was sent for the water. She could see her dreams of saving her people. The Fairy GM drew her power from these dreams. The longer the girl hoped and wished, the more powerful the Fairy GM would become. She would keep her in the Bindweed forest for now and wring her heart dry.

The Bindweed slips and slides over its own coils, rearranging itself into a maze. The Fairy GM let the Girl go, and told her that when she reached the Well of the World’s End, she would find a vessel in which to collect the water. She was to use nothing else, and take only that which the vessel would hold without spilling.

Having spoken, she left the Girl to find her way, and did not see her unwrap an apple branch. The branch bore one small apple, one flower, and one unopened bud. This was her key – it would guide her safely on the right path – and not the way of the wrong well.

Several weeks of walking later, the Girl wrinkled her nose and recognised a new smell. It was the pure water. A gentle smell, clean and clear, like nothing she had smelt before. She was reaching the Well. The maze twisted tighter, with more paths opening before her, closing and moving as she walked towards them, then becoming still as she held her apple branch aloft.

The Fairy GM watched her through the forest. She was not surprised the Girl had ancient wisdom to help her, it would have been exceedingly foolish had she not, and would make her disappointment ever more sweet.

With one last struggle of wills against the Bindweed maze, the Girl reached a light, quiet opening. A pool reflected the sky above, and around the edge was mud and low growing soft greenery. The Girl had never seen mud, nor the sky in a hole in the ground, and was afraid. The Fairy GM smiled and grew strong.

The Girl sat down heavily on a rock and looked around her. She knew the Fairy GM was watching her, she knew her progress had been permitted. She knew she was expected to fail.

For three days and three nights, she watched the Well. Watched the water gently rippling at the muddy mossy banks, and saw small strange creatures dart across the mud for a drink. There seemed to be one dryer pathway that the larger creatures used, and it began not far from her rock. She had also seen the vessel she was to use. It was small.

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Sighing, she slipped from the rock. The Fairy GM positively purred, and grew stronger.

Carefully the Girl followed the path of the creatures towards the edge of the Well. She did not sink in the mud. She did not slip. She tested the bank with her foot, and carefully reached for the vessel.

It was a sieve.

Realising the futility of her task, the Girl knelt down, weeping. Her pure tears added to the clear water below, the tears of those who have failed before. The mirrored clouds shimmered and distorted, and she rocked forward to throw herself into their depths. The Fairy GM whispered encouragement ‘let go…let go…..let go… ’

But she didn’t fall. Observing her progress was a two-headed Frog. A heavy two-headed Frog. So heavy that as it sat upon the Girl’s cloak, she was held fast to the bank.

She turned and looked the Frog in the eye, all four of them. The Frog, as is the way in Fairy Tales, told the Girl it would help. But of course, and also being the way of Fairy Tales, the Frog wanted help in return, and the Girl must promise this help when the time comes, no matter what.

The promise extracted, the Frog gave the Girl some leaves of mugwort. These she was to wrap in her hair to protect her wishes. The Fairy GM must not hear her hope. The Frog then took a mouthful of mud and hopped into the sieve. Using its cleft tongue, it unfolded the mud from its mouth and pressed it into the holes. It then repeated the action with a mouthful of moss. The Girl watched, and then moved swiftly to reach for the thick mud she had been careful not to walk in, and soon sieve was lined.

Dipping it into the Well, she lifted up the vessel filled with all the water it could hold. Not a drop fell from the sieve.

The Girl grinned, and her face shone like the sun coming out after an eclipse. The Fairy GM would see, she would know. Her dream of success glowed too bright for the mugwort to hide.

A Bindweed tsunami ripped around them. The Fairy GM’s yellow eyes bore deep into the Girl’s head, but it was too late. She had drunk from the Well, and her dreams and wishes were her own now. The Fairy GM had never been so angry. She was beside herself and losing control, she slapped the Girl as hard as she could.

The Girl, and the Two Headed Frog in her pocket, and the sieve with the water from the Well of the World’s End flew high, high above the convolvulus, and out across the Kingdom. And as they flew, the life giving clean water fell upon the parched and poisoned ground, and the old seed began to grow. Each drop of water was as much as a condensed storm and the cracked earth drank it in and spewed out fresh springs.

The lost children of the F1 Hybrids (that never come true) that the Fairy GM kept tied to her dress, began to cry, and their tears became pure rivers, and the Fairy GM’s toxins were washed away.

The Girl and the Frog watch the growth, and the rainclouds gather, listen to the sounds of life, free life, and smile. Then Frog reminds the girl of her promise, and asks her to chop off one of its heads.

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This story is a retelling of The Well of the World’s End which is an AngloScottish Border fairy tale, recorded in the Scottish Lowlands, collected by Joseph Jacobs in English Fairy Tales.

No Wise Fish Would Go Anywhere Without A Porpoise

 

This morning I do not know whether I am a very wise Fish, with too many a Porpoise, or a very unwise Fish, with no Porpoise.

Porpoise Number 1 is obviously to finish the current mermaid under production.  Although it might just be possible that this is top of the priority list because it is what I am working on, and I am quite happy in my work, throwing blue paint around, being creatively messy and unshackled by ‘ought to’.

Porpoise Number 1 really ought to be ‘make a list’.

So….

No.1: Tidy house.  Is this strictly necessary? East Kent Artists’ Open Houses starts next Saturday. The Cat (that doesn’t live here) doesn’t see the point. It will only get messy again as I move everything around.  True.  Tidy house is now off the list.

No.2: Rabbits.  Yesterday I was reminded of the need to make some more rabbits.  I have two scrappy rabbits that sit on top of the piano, and over the last few Open Houses, these rabbits have been admired and offered lovely new homes.  They didn’t want to go. I need to make them some friends that are more adventurous. This I do need to do. Do I do this before completing the mermaid?

Completing the mermaid actually hasn’t made it on to the list, even though it is supposedly Porpoise No.1.

 

No.1: Complete blue mermaid. There, that’s better. And the blue mermaid is cut from an old sheet, and the offcuts can be used for Rabbits. Which also satisfies a bit of tidying upness, as the fabric used for Rabbits will no longer be scraps left on the floor.

No.3: Alice’s Flamingo. Its not even pink. Apart from its beak – which my partner pointed out should in fact, be black (or half black). It doesn’t have legs.  This is definitely high priority. But after Rabbits.

No.4:  Finish Smaller Ugly Sisters. This so unlikely to happen this week, that it is unwelcome clutter on this list. Smaller Ugly Sisters, please put your fingers in your ears and just go ‘la la la’ and forget you were mentioned here.

Therefore: No.4.  Printing of cards and prints and sensible stuff. There, I’ve typed it. Its on the list.  This of course should be the main Porpoise of the day.

Do you know what though? I really feel the need to make a Fish and several Porpoise.

Come and see us at East Kent Artists’ Open Houses –  I may need your help.

 

scrappy cloth rabbits
Scrappy rabbits on the piano, in front of Fly Agaric oil painting by Bruce Williams

 

 

 

 

 

Mindful? forget it – there’s a deadline

This weekend we open the doors to the home of Whitstable Tails as part of the Made In Whitstable: Arts, Craft & Vintage Trail

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Current state of premises is not good, even by my standards.  Added to my own chaotic working methods, which spreads down from my loft studio across bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen, leaving trails of threads and stuffing in my wake; my partner has been generating a rather large pile of ‘things to do’ too.  He’s a very clever craftsman – can fix almost anything… only problem is, he has a bad back and so fixing happens when he himself is, well, relatively fixed.

Consequently the living room floor is home to a very poorly old man from Kenya.  He belongs to a dear friend, who is linked to him like ET and Elliott, and therefore they have both broken their ankles rather badly this year.  Carved from the most incredibly heavy wood on the planet, he cannot stand up, and he has to be honest, always scared me, so I don’t want him in our bedroom, which is the only other place there is any space. Oh, I know – the front bedroom – ‘cos all the fabric friends will be downstairs as soon as I’ve moved the other ‘stuff’. And the lovely Sara, who will be sharing the room with the Old Man, doesn’t know about him… I’ll smuggle him in a spare duvet and no-one will know. Sara, shut your eyes and forget you read that.

Also in the living room, there are 8 guitars snuggled up, on and around the sofa.  Its only a small sofa, just big enough really for the Ugly Sisters. The guitars seem to be getting along quite well though, considering they are a variety pack of old acoustics, butchered electrics, and a poor old thing that used to belong to my Dad.

Now, whats next.  The 5 or so inboard and outboard motors are still mostly well tucked away from last Open House.  We’ve given up for now, and just use the oars for the boat. Some of the boat engines are for restoration – we used to have a pair of Seagull engines either side of the bedroom fireplace, but we only seem to have one now.  Which reminds me, I always wanted to do a mermaid picture with the logo in.  Its rather a nice one. british seagull outboad motorHmmm – the rest of Nobby’s engine. Nobby is the van.  He’s been unwell more often than not for the last few years.  He has a bright shiny new engine now, but its not all plain sailing yet.  I wonder if Nobby would work with oars? peddles? an outboard motor? Definitely not an outboard motor – they are in my experience unreliable and very very noisy – especially the one that really is a lawnmower motor.  Well, I guess the rest of Nobby ought to either go in Nobby, or down to the man cave for the duration of Open House. Man cave will be open to visitors who prefer talking vehicle mechanicals to mermaid prevarications.

Strange to say, the one place that isn’t open, is actually my studio.  The aluminium ladder puts most people off, and in terms of health and safety, its a total no-go. So the good news is, I don’t have to even vaguely attempt to clear it up.

Recent sewing machine disasters have resulted in 3 not working machines on the table, instead of one working one, and one resting one in the cupboard, and one in someone else’s shed.  The somebody-else’s-shed one is the cavalry galloping to the rescue, but unfortunately it is missing a foot, and none of mine fit.  I bet the pesky mermaids pinched it – they have such a thing about absolutely anything foot related.  IMG_5275A visit to my parents resulted in Mum emptying the whole of one of her drawers of fabric and bits and bobs into a bag. A large bag, but not a strong bag.  Like a swollen river of fabric, the laces and the Liberty wools burst their banks and have joined the rest of my needlework supplies sprawling across the floor.

It is a veritable disaster zone.  I do not want to work like this.  I want to change.  I want to be someone who hangs my scissors back on their hooks, who can see the floor, who works in an organised fashion. I do. But not today, today I have do to ‘things’ and there is no time to impose order…

My lovely partner has just bought me up a cup of tea. He said ‘Blimey, that’s a lot of mermaid innards’ as he very carefully negotiated his way across the floor to a chair that was only partially buried. He looks slightly alarmed ‘This coming weekend?’ he asks.

Well, if this hasn’t put you off visiting, and you do brave our Open House, you will be sure of  a warm welcome.  Just don’t be surprised if there is a broken old man lying on the living room floor – it will be my partner.

 

 

 

 

A Woman’s Work is Never Done…

or rather, this woman’s work is never done.

Add to that the whole business of the best laid plans of mice and men going oft awry, and you may begin to realise that I haven’t been quite on top of things at the moment. No change there then.

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I began writing this blog whilst rethinking my current piece of work, and wondering how what appears to be about two month’s work is to be completed in less than a week…  the rethinking worked, and the blog was put on hold.

The slow hands remained slow.  The tiny chain stitch stitching is as it should be, but the stitches yet to be far outweighed the stitches stitched. So it was time for the paint to come back out, chose which text stayed unstitched, wind up those hands and move faster.

So now, with two days left before this piece needs to be on its way to Leeds, the pages of The Story of the Ugly Sisters are finally, I have decided, done.   It just needs to be sewn together…

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Part of the rethink was down to how much I enjoy looking at the back of the work.

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In my original plan, I was going to stitch the pages back to back.

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This was partly to enable me to include some stiffening, or some padding

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as I rather liked the idea of almost quilting some areas.  With the Profanity Embroidery Group, we’ve recently been working on a crazy quilt, and I loved how the volume of stitches changed the strength and depth of the fabric.

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However, these pages remained more delicate than I had initially envisioned – the gauze fabric I used in layers in the shoes and the carriage being much lighter than the rich velvets or satins I had imagined.

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The whole piece was coming together with a lovely worn feeling – unsurprising as this is often the aesthetic where I work –

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and I really did want the backs to be seen…

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so now, there will be no stitching back to back.  The pages will lay one on top of each other, sewn together on the left, and shall sit upon a small table to be read.

Increasingly I enjoy the fact that my work can be touched – and I think without the padding or stiffening, this will encourage a more delicate hand to turn its pages. And if there perhaps is a grubby paw or two that mark the edges, it will only add to the work, not detract.

Perhaps I shall start another, that has a different weight to it, a padded, layered form….

Meanwhile, when this is sewn together, it will be heading to Leeds, to take part in an exhibition as part of Women’s History Month at the Floating Gallery, alongside interesting, entertaining and thoughtful work from other artists on the subject of ‘She Will Need Her Sisterhood’.

My Ugly Sisters most definitely do…

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So… and sew..

 

And so I return to the Ugly Sisters once more, this time as a stitched book.

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In my mind’s eye I see stitched handmade papers and thick chunky fabrics and textures, layers of stitching building up across itself.  As usual, I have not allowed enough time to do the mixed media extravaganza of my imagination, but as I start to work the fictional image fades and the reality of materials I have to hand governs the making, and it is as though this is exactly how it was to be all along. It shall have more in common with those brightly coloured printed cloth books from childhood, like my old Mabel Lucie Attwell handkerchiefs, rather worn through time and use.

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The pages themselves are old napkins, given to me by a friend as she cleared out her Aunt’s heaving linen cupboard.  Stained and slightly off-colour, she knew I would find a use for them, and that it would not be at the dinner table. Some were almost still white, so they have all had a tea bath – I am not big on using white, being not only too messy in my work, but also because I am pursuing a softer, aged effect.

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The next stage was to work out the story into page size bites.  And to raid my mother’s folder of vintage embroidery pattern transfers.  Some won’t iron, too old, and possibly already used, but saved nonetheless.  I draw them out instead, with some slight alterations.

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A background block of colour to some of the bigger pictures, and then it is time to start sewing the words.

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I’ve been sewing a lot of words lately yet today my hands seem strangely slow.  I shall type this, and then pick up the needle again.  Perhaps it is the cold. I shall go downstairs and light the stove.