New Website

August 4, 2008

Readers may like to visit my new web-site. Click on to make the link.


Loch Lomond Postscript

May 12, 2008

Pressures of work forced me to rest the blog last autumn, and indeed I shall not be continuing it in future. However the Loch Lomond Quilt Show (May 14 – 17) is about to burst upon us and I shall be showing new work alongside some of Lilian  Hedley’s wholecloth quilts – so I thought I’d just write one last (brief) posting.

The stitched slate flakes have evolved into three works, named respectively Aggregate I (Shadow), Aggregate II (Fragments)  and Aggregate III (Sketch). 

Despite it’s numbering Aggregate III (Sketch) was the first to be completed. It is a sketchy shadow figure of slates on paper and could be thought of  as a kind of un-joined-up patchwork. It is about 2.60 meters high, the image being derived from someone drawing round my own shadow on the ground.

This is Aggregate II (Fragments) photographed while I was still working on it. It is bigger than the last piece and is now framed in four separate A1 box frames hung one above the other, emphasising the fragmented nature of the image.

Aggregate I (Shadow) was the last piece to be completed and comprises slate flakes stitched with metal threads and ironmongery. Here is a close up of a few flakes……..

The completed work will rest on a horizontal floor plinth 6 meters long. I’m giving it the sub-title ‘Shadow’ in reference to the source of the imagery and also to suggest ‘shadow’ in the (Jungian?) sense of a disowned or split-off part of ourselves. I see it as a piece denoting the absence of men in textile discourse, and its place in the gallery a plea for inclusiveness in textiles. 

The exhibition ‘AGGREGATE’ is at the Backdoor Gallery, Dalmuir, Dunbarton from May 14 till June 5 (open during library hours – check for details).  I shall be exhibiting other work besides the three ‘Aggregate’ figures and, as mentioned earlier, shall be sharing the gallery with Lilian Hedley whose traditional North Country quilts should be well worth seeing. 

During the four days of the Loch Lomond Quilt Show I shall be at the Backdoor Gallery for an hour or two each day to chat to visitors. (see LLQS’s publicity for times) – I hope to see you there!     



Under the Influence…

November 19, 2007


One of the bits of this blog that gets most visits is the page called ‘Looking at…..’ 

In it I cite the artists who I’m currently influenced by, or at least, artists who I’m keen to look at and learn from. 

I’m often asked who I’m influenced by and, despite the blog page, it’s a question I find difficult to answer.   I’m can’t say I’m conciously aware of being influenced by anyone, though of course this is utter nonsense as we’re all influenced by others and  inevitably ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’. The problem is it’s so hard to be aware of that influence.

However I am aware of finding certain artists ‘enabling’.  By ‘enabling’ I mean that I probably wouldn’t work as I do without their example.   For instance I owe a lot to Richard Long and his stone lines and circles…..

long-cr10.jpg Richard Long

However, I’m not following in his path (no pun on his work intended) but rather forging my own, since Long’s concerns, aims and intentions are completely different from mine.  But does this mean I’m influenced by Long?  Of course it does – though subtly and indirectly, and hence the difficulty.

Similarly Andy Goldsworthy often gives me the confidence to make certain types of work though any similarities are purely coincidental  (See previous posting ‘Shadows Past’)

In my newly proposed ‘Metamorphosis’ piece (see previous postings) where slate flakes will be spread on the floor in the form of a giant shadow I do feel that there is a danger some folk will see my work as a poor man’s version of a Tony Cragg ‘spread’……. 

 cragg-spread-r15.jpg Tony Cragg

I only know Cragg’s work from books and the web, but I like what I see.  Though I’ve never looked to him for ‘ideas’ or ‘inspiration’ I’d nevertheless say he’s another candidate for my personal collection of  artists I find ‘enabling’. 

There is nothing new under the sun – look hard enough and someone, somewhere will have made something similar to you. I often feel that at some point in his life Bruce Nauman has made work that pre-figures some aspect of just about everyone else working at present.  Perhaps it’s a ‘zeitgeist’ thing?


So am I influenced by Long, Goldsworthy and Cragg?  The answer is ‘yes’,  although I’ve always developed my own work independently, finding my own path via my own working processes.


Artists like Cragg often make social comment in their work, which I never do. For me the big question  (actually I think it’s the only question) is the one Gaugin asked: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we Going? 

Until I know the answer I’ll just get on with making what I can as best as I can.  What more can one hope to do?

Highland Fling

November 7, 2007

Hi!  Back from my travels and logging on again – admittedly a little bit later than planned.

I recently gave a talk to Guild members in Dundee which gave me the excuse, while North of the border, to have a look at some Scottish slate quarries. I’d hoped to come home laden with slate for new work but in the event I came home empty handed. Nonetheless it was a worthwhile trip…..

I began at Ballachulish, which produces a beautiful gray slate with a lovely sheen. The quarry is no longer in use exept as an attractive walking and picnic site.  I’d hoped to find plenty of industrial  spoil to take home with me but sadly it has all been tidied away (and is now presumably lying flattened under the visitors’ car park!)  Somewhat dissapointed I motored down the Argyle coast to Seil Island, arriving by evening at Ellenabeich….


Ellenabeich is a pretty spot at the southern end of Seil Island. Here again were signs of past quarrying, though as at Ballachulish all the interesting slate spoil has been tidied away. However there were some magnificently improbable walls built of large, vertically stacked slates:


I sketched this broken bit of wall while waiting on the pier for the ferry to take me on the three minute crossing to Easedale Island.

Easedale is a remote yet inhabited island that in the past was one large slate quarry. Tiny terraced cottages stand in rows and squares on the green grass – there are no roads or streets. 


Easedale slate is beautiful and has a lovely gray sheen similar to Ballachulish. There is plenty of spoil lying about on the ground just asking to be taken home and made into something, but since the whole island is a conservation area taking chunks of it away is definitely not on!

My drive home took me through Kilmartin Glen, an area rich in standing stones and stone circles, cup and ring carvings and early Christian gravestones. I stopped for coffee at the museum and found a worn but particularly lovely 15 century Crucifixion in the church, and made a quick sketch:


Beside this carving stood an information panel which described the work as ‘somewhat stiff and crude’  –  who writes this stuff?  Though the piece is a worn and broken fragment the ‘hang’ of Christ’s body is exquisite. My sketch might be stiff and crude (I really haven’t done the piece justice) but not the original 15 century sculptor’s work! 

Short Intermission

October 8, 2007

Regular visitors to this blog will see that there have been no new postings recently. This is owing to pressure of work which currently is taking me away from home and the computer. Reluctantly I have decided to give blogging a short break till I’m able to spend more time at home.

I do hope you’ll bear with me till I re-commence blogging, which I expect to be sometime around 26th October.

See you then!


September 22, 2007

Anna Huston recently asked about the process of stitching slate flakes  (See comments on ‘Shadows Past and Present’)

Rather than reply in the comments box I’ll describe the process here. It’s very simple……


Find a suitable flake – (this one is about 2 inches high) then look at the flake and ‘ask it what it wants’.

(When decorating his pots the Japanese ceramicist Shoji Hamada would look at the pot and ‘ask it what it wants’.  This is my own approach to designing the flakes) 

When the flake has ‘told me what it wants’  I respond with Chinese White watercolour crayon…..


 The dark shadow around the drawing is where I’ve brushed on a drop of water – it helps the watercolour crayon move smoothly over the slate surface.

 I’m often asked if my designs are runic marks or Ogham.  They are neither, they are just drawings. 

When I’m happy with the design I drill the holes…….


Next I wash the dust and the crayon marks off the slate and then the flake is ready for stitching…….


Et voila!  –  The finished flake.  I mostly use linen thread in white or natural, rubbed well with beeswax.

The whole process is extremely simple – the only problem is I’ve got to stitch a few hundred more…….

SO……..time to get back to work!

But before I do I must just mention Lynda and Maggie who are both bloggers – click on their names to take a look. 


Shadows Past and Present

September 12, 2007


This is the Long Man of Wilmington, a 69metre (227 feet) high ancient hill figure on the South Downs. I’ve known him since my childhood, and naturally he is part of the background ‘landscape of thinking’ that lies behind my proposed ‘Metamorphosis’ piece.

 You can  find out more about the Long Man on the web-site of the Sussex Archaeological Society.

The Long Man seems to change shape depending on the position you view him from, as is shown in these two sketches……


The image on the left is the Long Man as he appears from the foot of the South Downs and the one on the right the shape he actually is, as revealed by aerial photography.

Making ‘Metamorphosis’ requires drawing up a full-sized template and drawing a large image flat on the floor presents similar problems, since you can’t stand back to get a better look at the proportions of the work. Drawing a big image on the wall would also be impractical since I don’t have a high ceiling (nor a head for heights!)

With this in mind I’m hoping that tracing round different people’s elongated shadows on the ground will be a nice way of arriving at some interesting images. Furthemore, since the shadow templates will be drawn on the ground they should ‘look right’ on the gallery floor, whether seen from floor level or from above – eg. from a stair or balcony.  Having traced a fair sized shadow it is an easy matter to square it up like a tapestry cartoon.

Just to get started my partner drew round my shadow as it fell accross a large sheet of paper laid out on the grass…….


This was traced at mid-morning and is 250cm (8ft. 2inches) long.

(Although it was just intended as an initial ‘try-out’ to get a feel for the process I like the drawing and may scale it up larger to use at some future date.) 


Later I scattered the head and shoulders of the drawing with a few embroidered slate flakes just to get a rough idea of how the piece might eventually look…….


The final work will be on a much larger scale and with the flakes more densely placed. Also the flakes will be spread onto a plain white horizontal plinth and not on top of a drawing on paper.   However I’m quite pleased with the early indications.


Work will be interrupted for a few days as I’ve to be at the Knitting and Stitching Show at the NEC,  Birmingham.  I’m not exhibiting finished work this time but do intend having some ‘works in progress’  on the Embroiderers’ Guild stand, including the still unfinished ‘Studies’ piece (see earlier postings) and some shadow drawings. 

I’ll also be stitching more slate flakes……


I’m hoping visitors to the Knitting and Stitching Show will find this blog and post comments about the show (click on the ‘how to leave a comment’ page if your’e not sure how to do it).   

Looking forward to reading your comments…..