Busy Busy Busy

Facebook has just told me this photo was 5 years ago. Big Alice, as nature didn’t intend. Strangely my first thought was about how the Terminators arrive nude. Not that Big Alice is very Terminatorish, but Big Alice wasn’t terribly happy at this point, and having difficulty managing those legs and feet. She’s still the biggest doll I’ve made…. so far.

Anyway, when I was making her, if I wasn’t busy busy busy, I was thinking “what on Earth?”. Not a question I asked at all once she was finished. And once she’d cheered up too. Not to be like those people who walk around going “Cheer Up Love It Might Never Happen” (who do deserved whatever might not happen to promptly Happen to them), but having a glowering larger than life fabric friend sprawling all over your studio like a malevolent teenager was rather unnerving.

Last week I started being busy busy busy again. And then I stopped and came up for air and thought ‘What On Earth?”. I’ve been possessed by my new sewing machine, and she’s making me do things I wouldn’t normally do. This wasn’t the plan, not one bit. All I can hope is that with time, I’ll accept that I’ve made a sort of appliqued quilty thing, and enjoyed the process, and that I’m sure some good will come of it one day….

Come and see what you think. Save me from the evil/conforming influence of Nina the Bernina, and let me get back to my dolls. Its East Kent Artists Open Houses time again, and we open for the following three weekends, 12/13th, 19/20th and 26/27th October 2019.

Malacophonous Magnicaudate Mermaids

“What does this say?” enquired a lovely visitor, holding one of my articulated paper mermaid dolls. The room was packed, as it was during our very busy Open House for the Whitstable Oyster Festival, this last weekend.

First, find spectacles underneath a couple of goats. Next, focus. Goodness, I don’t think I would write anything quite so small any more. Not that I designed this an awful long time ago. Obviously pre these specs though.

“Malacophonous Magnicaudate” says I, with satisfaction. “Yes”, says lovely visitor, “but what does it mean?” I think, I think, as I dredge in my brain, that it means….. ah yes, gently voiced. And big tailed.

paper mermaid doll by whitstable tail


A room full of incredulous faces turn to me. “You made that up”. No, no, I didn’t. Honest. Look I’ll show you. Oh no you won’t, says internet. Internet says no such words exist. Butter wouldn’t melt in its technological mouth as it asks me if I mean all sorts of other things because it has never ever heard of those two words. Never. Lying little internet. It gave me the words in the first place.

“I think it means ‘Bad’ – you know ‘mal’, it means bad. Its all cod-Latin. You definitely made it up.” No, not Bad. I know my mermaids are quite often naughty, but I really don’t like to advertise the fact. And I can remember being delighted when I came across these words, because they were so perfect. And I do so like a perfect word.

Finally the pixies of technology decide to stop messing about, and throw up one lone dictionary definition to back me up, allowing the Malacophonous Magnicaudate Mermaid to swim off to her new home, laughing at all the fuss she had caused.

Not everyone was convinced, I could tell. One online dictionary doesn’t prove anything. And I do like to tell stories, so you cannot blame my visitors for their lack of trust. Of course, later, much later, the Big Old Dictionary finally wakes up, and I find “malaco- or malac- denoting softness: from the Greek malakos”. I missed it because it was hiding behind a snail, slightly above a bunch of herrings and salmon. And if you want to know what I’m on about, you’ll have to look in the dictionary. A proper one, with paper pages. None of that online pedanticness.

Malacophonous Magnicaudate Mermaids are downloadable from my Etsy shop.


Oysters, Festivals and Nonsense

IMG_8819 (1)

I like the Walrus best,” said Alice, “because you see he was a little sorry for the poor oysters.”  “He ate more than the Carpenter, though,” said Tweedledee.”

Even the Walrus and the Carpenter would be hard pressed to eat all of the Oysters that will be around Whitstable next weekend.  It is the annual Whitstable Oyster Festival from Saturday 27th to Monday 29th July, and the Oysters shall be gadding about all over town, with their shoes all clean and neat (and this is “odd because you know, they haven’t any feet”)

“The time has come,’ the Walrus said,

      To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
      And whether pigs have wings.'”
The sea, it must be said, is not boiling hot.
It is always the line that has least interested me in the whole of Lewis Carroll’s 1871 poem.
Unlike “whether pigs have wings”, which is of great interest, for I do so love to be able to say “they’ll be pork in the treetops come morning”.  This is of course a direct quote from Queen Eleanor.  Or rather, Katherine Hepburn  in “The Lion in Winter”.
Pigs and their wings have been mentioned since forever it appears, for no one seems to know when they became a symbol of the improbable, and general consensus would have them first appearing in Scotland. But it could be Germany.  Ob Schweine Flügel haben.
But I do, of course, digress.  This nonsense post was just to tell you that I am taking part in the Made In Whitstable; Arts, Craft & Vintage Trail on 27th and 28th July, and you are all invited to visit. And seeing as it is a Fringe Event for the Whitstable Oyster Festival, I thought I’d talk a little about Oysters. Instead it is about pigs and their wings.  Oh dear.
Well you see the Oysters shall definitely be ready for the Oyster Festival.  But my readiness involves Pigs and Wings and Improbability Drive (lets not even go there…)
There will definitely be mermaids though. Definitely.
Come visit.  I’m House No.4 out of 20, on the Made in Whitstable: Arts, Craft & Vintage Trail.  You can keep up to date with the Trail via Instagram, Twitter & Facebook,
Full details are all on our website. Don’t forget – leave the car out of Whitstable if you want to enjoy your Oyster Festival.

Avocado’s Fork and Bind-Weed’s Sting

“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.
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.
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.

Down the Rabbit Hole again!

Blinkers on! here we go….

down the rabbit hole


East Kent Artists’ Open Houses open in three weekends, and I need to shut myself away in the studio and draw and stitch and create.

I am House No.27 this year. A rather good sounding number, which has led me to the spectacularly time wasting pursuit of Googling; a terrific displacement activity for such a busy time.

It is indeed a satisfying number, and is a perfect cube. According to Wikipedia, “there are exactly 27 straight lines on a smooth cubic surface, which give a basis of the fundamental representation of the E6 Lie algebra, being 33 = 3 × 3 × 3. 27 is also 23 (see tetration). 27 is also a decagonal number. ”

I did look up decagonal number, but my brain caved in, and has gone off chasing dragons. 

Back to the loveliness of 27.  It is the first composite number not divisible by any of its digits, and is the only positive integer that is 3 times the sum of its digits.  27 contains the decimal digits 2 and 7, and is the result of adding together the integers from 2 to 7 (2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 = 27). See, how satisfying is that? and did you know that? Bet you didn’t.

The next chunk of Wikipedia’s bullet points are strangely attractive to look at, with all sorts of wonderful words, of which I have achieved no useful understanding.

“In a prime reciprocal magic square of the multiples of 1/7, the magic constant is 27. In the Collatz conjecture (aka the “3n + 1 conjecture”) a starting value of 27 requires 111 steps to reach 1, many more than any lower number. The unique simple formally real Jordan algebra, the exceptional Jordan algebra of self-adjoint 3 by 3 matrices of quaternions, is 27-dimensional.[2] In base 10, it is a Smith number[3] and a Harshad number.[4] It is the twenty-eighth (and twenty-ninth) digit in π. (3.141592653589793238462643383279…). If you start counting with 0 it is one of few known self-locating strings in pi. There are 27 sporadic groups, if the Tits group is included.”

I rather like the sound of the quaternions, which from a very swift superficial glance, appear to be quite naughty and not play by the rules. I wonder if the Fairy GM has an army of quaternions to do her bidding.

Alice, I like to think, would have very much enjoyed testing out all these words and numbers while tumbling down the rabbit hole.  I can hear her in my head repeating them aloud, and changing them as she falls, whilst Dina, (her cat, surely you knew that?) puts her paws over her ears in disbelief at such random disrespect for learning.

However, Alice may not have been quite so amused as I am by the existence of the Tits Group.  Being the co-founder of the Profanity Embroidery Group I am very happy to see tits in algebra, even if it is the name of a mathematician.

We must of course not ignore the Stupid Club. All those wonderful musicians who messily end their careers aged 27.  So my listening shall be made up mostly of Gram Parsons, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. There will be some Nirvana thrown in (it was after all Kurt Cobain’s mum who said ‘he’s gone and joined the stupid club’ on hearing of his fate). What else? well, Sex Pistols for Sid, the Stones for Brian Jones, even some Hole for Kristen Pfaff, topped off with Amy Winehouse.  I shall be watched whilst doing so with my collection of Stupid Club prints by  Sadie Hennessy.  Editions of 27, for £27, obvs.

A blue phase will colour my work these next few weeks – cobalt blue – which has the atomic number of, you guessed, 27.

Best fact of all: 27% of the Universe is thought to be made up of Dark Matter.

And now I have to go, because it turns out I do not have 27 days until Open House. And that is rather worrying. Wonder if the Dark Matter will help.


East Kent Open Houses takes place on 20th and 21st October, 27th and 28th October, and 3rd and 4th November 2018.  Houses open 11am to 5pm.

dolly was lost



A Tea-Making Fairy? Yes please!

Here I am, swathed in Bagpuss style dressing gown and slippers, sweeping and washing up, and making the house presentable to OPEN again, and all around me are sleeping bodies.

And as they awake, possibly gently nudged into consciousness by the banging of broom on skirting board,  they blink their eyes, painted, beady or real, and open their mouths, painted, stitched or real, and out comes the plaintive cry of ‘teeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeea’ like a marooned mermaid in the Sahara Desert.

fairy tale soft sculptures wait for East Kent artists Open House to begin again
Wake Up!

And so I think, I need a Tea Making Fairy.

And whilst I arrange a grumbling, yawning Mad Hatter on the stairs, I begin to imagine this Fairy.

Obviously it wears a large crinoline style skirt, possibly cream or a nice cheery blue, and it whistles, quite loudly. Although that could be annoying after a while. It will wear its now silvered hair in a large bun atop its head, but with stray curls wisping about like steam. One arm on hip, in a sort of ‘what do you think you’re doing’ pose, the other extended, palm up, open handed.

I can see this Fairy quite clearly, and she, for it is definitely a she now, is a small apple cheeked granny of a fairy, of the no-nonsense but always make you feel better type. She will have several shawls wrapped around her to keep the tea warm…

I’ll show you….

drawing of the tea making fairy
The Tea Making Fairy

Now, what was I doing? ah yes, putting the kettle on…

East Kent Artists’ Open Houses continues this weekend, open from 11am to 5pm.  Tea fairies welcome.