Susie Vickery workshop

August 18, 2018

Earlier this week I attended a workshop with Susie Vickery at Swansea Festival of Stitch. Susie is an international textile artist who specialises in stylised portraits, as well as creating all sorts of amazing art dolls complete with full costumes.

I was surprised to see such a well-renowned artist at what is currently a growing biannual textile event so I booked straight onto the workshop, and I wasn’t disappointed. Susie was a lovely tutor with a gentle, encouraging manner, which was great as I found it difficult to get the style of embroidery to ‘click’ until very close to the end of the day. It was a very different way of working – but that’s why I wanted to do the workshop, to learn something new.

Artists’ mother from an image provided by Susie Vickery

The samples here are unfinished but I am happy with how they’ve gone and, hopefully, you can see how they are going to look. I reckon I have about another hour or two of work to do on each piece.

Frida Khalo (work in progress)


Festival of Quilts 2018

August 12, 2018

As is tradition for me I have just spent a wonderful 2 days at the Festival of Quilts at the NEC, Birmingham. It is so nice to see all the amazing work by other artists, doing some lovely shopping, and spend time with ‘my tribe’ – other people who love textiles. I also helped out on the Quilters’ Guild tombola stand as my region was running it this year. I really enjoyed doing that, especially when people won a beautiful, handmade potholder made by another passionate sewist.

Here’s a brief rundown of some of my favourites quilts on display. It’s just a tiny taster as there were so many gorgeous pieces of work.

And The Sky Danced by Jean McLean

‘And The Sky Danced’ by Jean McLean. Winner of the Art Quilt category


‘Dreaming of yesterday’ by Fiona Rabson


‘Beginning True’ by Sue De Vanny


‘Claudia’ by Maria Eugenia Corbella


‘Call of the Wild’ by H. M. Stead


‘Morning Rain’ by Sarah Entsminger


‘Metropolis’ by Lesley Brankin

These are a few that really inspire me but there was such a range of styles and some amazing talent on show. I tend to zero in on the art quilts and contemporary work as that is more my own style. If you love traditional patchwork then there’s plenty of that. There’s also a category for incredible miniature quilts that look like full-size items that are 1/10th size.

If you haven’t been yet then go next year! And maybe I’ll see you there…

Exhibition time at the V&A

July 14, 2018

Yesterday I took a trip to the V&A in order to see 2 of their temporary exhibitions. The one that I was particularly interested in was Frida Khalo: Making Her Self Up. This was an extensive show and I spent nearly 2 hours exploring the rooms full of family photographs and personal items belonging to the artist, as well as some of her own art.

Image (c) V&A

It was a very intimate exhibition, rather like reading Khalo’s diary or being a fly on the wall in her studio, and I found it fascinating. I felt that she curated her style and her life in order to make up for the difficulties in her life caused by both childhood polio and a serious accident at the age of 18. I felt a slight connection to the artist as I have changed many elements of my life in order to better cope with the depression and anxiety that I have suffered from since my teenage years. Like Khalo I need to be surrounded by my garden and my animals as a way of calming my mind and getting through the day. I have also changed my name and my appearance as part of becoming who I am (Frida was one of her middle names).

The last room of the show contained a number of her outfits – the traditional tunics, gathered skirts, and scarves of her region of Mexico. This display was vibrant and beautiful and my favourite of all the rooms.

After a quick break for refreshments it was on to Fashioned From Nature. This show consisted of a downstairs gallery representing the historical use of nature in order to create fashion and it’s inspiration as a decorative element, as well as an upstairs gallery discussing more of the environmental issues behind the fashion industry. For me, this exhibition was less successful. Maybe it was trying to cover too much subject matter – decoration and inspiration, history and materials, issues and the future. There wasn’t the space to go into any aspect deeply so it felt like a rush through each element. There were some beautiful clothes, especially the 18th and 19th century gowns that were inspired by nature, and there were also some horrible sights, like the whole birds used on hats and as earrings, but in general I didn’t feel that this exhibition lived up to its potential.

Workshop week

June 24, 2018

This week has been one of learning as we had a mini workshop at our twentyeleven sewing group on Monday then I went to a workshop on back-to-front appliqué at Busy Bees Patchwork on Saturday.

The first was more of a time for experimentation as Ann showed us something that she’d learnt recently then we played with the technique ourselves. The sim was to create some interesting pieces of cloth with layers of texture on them.

I’m pretty happy with the samples that I made, although I wasn’t intending to have a kind of stormtrooper silhouette in the middle of one of them. I think that I created visual interest on each piece of cloth but no plans for use have formulated yet

The second workshop was by Carol Chambers and involved learning her method for creating interesting appliqués without lots of bondaweb and fiddly little pieces of fabric. I took quite simple designs with me so my work isn’t as complex as some of the other attendees but it did give me a good grounding in the technique and I can see it being something I’ll do in the future.

A cat and a dog may be rather predictable for me but at least I made them bright and cheerful. I hadn’t thought about what I was doing in advance and had just taken a random choice of fabrics that went together, so my appliqués had to be fun and funky instead of realistic. I do rather like them, though, especially the cat with cupcakes on his back 🙂


May 3, 2018

I’ve been playing with a few ideas recently, both for my own work and for teaching in creativity for wellbeing classes. One of the things that I’ve been wanting to do is marbling with shaving foam. I tried it 2 nights ago using marbling inks with not very impressive results, then tried again last night with drawing ink and much more success.

The top image is of the papers (and 1 colour catcher) printed with marbling ink. I think that I used too many colours and not enough of each ink. The ink was also very waxy and greasy, which was unpleasant to use and even more unpleasant to clean up.

The lower image is the papers printed with 2 colours of drawing ink. I only had black and red ink but I think the results are pretty good. On the left is the proper marbling but the shaving foam that I scraped off had so much ink still in it that I had fun smearing it onto the paper and just seeing what happened.

If you are going to try this make sure you use shaving foam, not gel, and have plenty of clean up cloths because you do get shaving foam everywhere!

Journal Quilts 2018

March 29, 2018

After only getting as far as March last year (and half of April , if I remember rightly) I’ve decided to try doing the Quilters’ Guild Contemporary Quilt group’s journal quilts again. The idea is that you make a small quilt every month to a specified size and post it online for others to see. You can also volunteer for your work to go into a touring exhibition that visits a number of sewing shows throughout the year.

This year the required size is 7″ x 9″ and there is no specified theme. As I always seem to be giving myself a lot of work to do I have decided to use my journal quilts as sketches for larger pieces of work. I started off by doing an appliqué and free machine embroidery portrait of one of my dogs. But…after many, many hours of work it still isn’t finished! So much for a sketch!

To make sure that I didn’t drop out at the very first hurdle I quickly started a new set of sketches for a landscape piece that I felt I could create in less time. Some of them still took longer than expected because I do enjoy layering the FME, but here is my series on Rhossili Bay in Gower.

Each design uses some element of appliqué and FME as well as some piecing in 2 of them. My aim is to use these to decide which techniques I prefer and take them forward onto a larger artwork.

Maybe I can now get back to the picture of Elvie and it might be my April journal quilt.

What a busy few months!

December 22, 2017

The Autumn is always a busy time for me – the run up to Christmas with it’s re-stocking and craft fairs, as well as the teaching duties and other forms of work. It gets a little overwhelming at times but I’m now in that quiet period where the work stops but Christmas hasn’t yet started. It gives me a chance to look back at what has gone well and what has been less positive.

First the good:

For the past few months I have been working in 2 educational roles, which I have found both enjoyable and rewarding. As a Project Assistant for the Criw Celf Project I have been assisting artists in taking their work into schools to show children the range of types of art and the opportunities for using that art to create a career. As well as earning guaranteed money for work within my industry, I have found it really interesting to see different artists at work, from film makers to life drawers to sculptors. It’s great to step outside of my own world for a while and to learn something new.

I’ve also been pleased to teach art and craft sessions at a local charity for people with experience of mental ill health. I love working with these people and making sure that each workshop is gentle and chatty as well as productive.

Also going well has been the re-stocking of galleries and keeping up with my stock levels. This is the first year that I’ve felt really on top of things and have managed to adequately get everything done in time 🙂

Now the bad:

What has happened to craft fairs this year? They are everywhere, and I think unfortunately poorer for it. The attendances were down and the spending was low. Some fairs were even tacked on to other events so that potential customers had already paid a hefty price to get in and didn’t feel like putting their hands in their pockets again.

I need to have a serious think about what fairs I do next year as I just didn’t feel that they really worked for me this year.

And the…pretty:

Last week was my sewing groups Christmas meal. We had a lovely few hours in a beautiful garden centre restaurant near Brecon. At the end Ann showed off some of her recent work including some quilting that she had done on a massive scale for the other Ann in the group, who pieced this beautiful quilt.

August 29, 2017

The last few weeks have been extremely busy, in part due to 2 deadlines on the Bank Holiday weekend that has just passed. On Saturday I was due to deliver some work for a group exhibition to the Workers’ Gallery in Ynyshir, Porth. I only entered 1 newly created hanging quilt into the show but I was asked if I had anything else available that would fit the requirements. I managed to whip up a second hanging along the same theme, plus I took along a few framed embroideries that were in a similar colour and felt appropriate.

Called “Cut and Sew” each piece of work had to include textiles and/or wood or be related along that theme. I managed to do all 3 with a piece of driftwood to hang my textile art which is based around trees! I can’t wait to visit when the whole exhibition has been put up to see how other people have interpreted the theme.

The 2nd deadline was for another group exhibition, this time of work by twentyeleven, a sewing group that I am a member of who meet monthly near Brecon. Every 2 years we have an exhibition in the gorgeous Brecon Cathedral and Bank Holiday Monday was our day to organise, hang, and generally work hard to make the exhibition beautiful. We have 2 challenges that most of us took part in then our own areas for our individual work. As long as the majority of what we were doing was made from textiles then we were free to put up anything we liked.

I included a few framed collages that I made from mixed media and that include hand-stitching as well as my first Journal Quilt this year and a small quilt with a hidden seahorse in the quilting. In the group sections there is an intensively hand-stitched piece on the theme of Agincourt and my Round Robin challenge quilt.

We started to get visitors as we were finishing the hanging and it was lovely to be able to chat to people about our work.

This is a beautiful and varied exhibition that I hope will get plenty of attention from other people who love textiles and quilting. It’s only on until 8th September, though, so you don’t have long if you’d like to visit. It’s free to enter and you can also see the beautiful interior of Brecon Cathedral.

Festival Favourites

August 20, 2017

So, I’ve already admitted that I didn’t see everything but, out of what I did see, what were my favourites?

I thought that this was a really skilled rendition of the Angel of the North and the quilting really added to the piece. I love the gusts of wind and the little houses that are only created by the stitched shapes. It’s a group quilt by Berkshire Modern Quilters.

I also thought that this group quilt was a fantastic idea – it’s a plan of one of their cells by HMP Bullingdon Boys.

Next is a quilt by Olena Pugachova that I find both detailed and restful. I’ve been working in similar colours recently so that might be part of why it attracts me.

I loved the detail and atmosphere of this rainforest by Helga Mayr in the EQA gallery.

Bex Raven’s ‘Long Walk in the Woods’ appealed to me and my mind is running away with long, skinny things that I could do.

This quilt, by Lia , was attracting a lot of attention – and not just for the subject matter. In the close up image you can see the fantastic texture in the letters.

There was so much more talent on display but I don’t like to make my blog posts too long so I’ll just leave you with these beautiful images.

Festival of Quilts 2017

August 16, 2017

I’m mid-recovery after a weekend of fabulous quilts, wonderful workshops, plenty of talking, and lots of walking at my yearly pilgrimage to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham. It’s such a good show to go to if you’re interested in textiles in anyway as there is inspiration by the bucket-load and things to buy around every corner! This year I stayed for 2 nights so that I could take 2 workshops as well as do plenty of shopping and admiring. I still don’t think I got around everything, though!


The workshops I took were with Gilli Theokritoff and Dawn Cameron-Dick. On Saturday morning Gilli T showed us how to use the ‘quilt-as-you-go’ technique to make a twisted humbug bag. This was a fast and fun class in order to get the bag completed in 3 hours but it was so enjoyable and we all loved coming away with something that was actually finished. We were provided with all the materials so there was no pondering over colours and fiddling with little scraps for hours – we just got on and sewed as fast as we could! The bag is the perfect size for carrying my sewing kit, including a few bulky reels of cotton as that humbug shape gives it a lot of capacity. The end result is colourful and useful as well as teaching me some new skills along the way.


Twisted Humbug Bag Quilt As You Go


Sunday morning was a very informative workshop with Dawn Cameron-Dick where we learnt all about types of needles and thread, and how they can affect our sewing. There was a lot to talk about but Dawn is a good teacher and dropped in plenty of anecdotes to keep us laughing. After taking in as much as we could we got to try out some of the theory on a little landscape project. Dawn showed us her way of appliquéing pieces onto a background in order to create different edge effects. I came away with a small picture that I think I will quilt at home and turn into a small panel. I also have pages of notes to read over that will help me to improve my sewing and quilting skills.


Dawn Cameron-Dick workshop appliqued landscape


I’ve been very lucky with all the workshops that I’ve attended at the Festival of Quilts over the years. It’s been great to be exposed to teachers that I might not meet otherwise and I keep adding to my repertoire of skills.