Jacqueline Hurley, artist – War Poppy Collection, National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire

Jacqueline Hurley is the artist whose work is being exhibited at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire from March to July this year (2017).  The work is a collection of mixed media paintings and has earned Ms Hurley the recognition of being the country’s foremost remembrance artist and rightly so having seen this exhibition in April.

Ms Hurley’s original painting as done as a tribute to a friend, Royal Marine Neil Dunstan who was killed in Afghanistan in 2008 and since then she has perfected her style which is a mix of Impressionism and Expressionism.  The acrylics that are used are applied using the impasto technique which creates texture and depth and when combined with the grey tones of the impressionist backgrounds also creates a highly charged but sensitive mood or emotion.  The works combine of the despair and horrors of war with the bright red poppies which have become the recognised symbol of peace and remembrance and the works create a powerful and emotional response – perhaps because I have seen them at the National Memorial Arboretum  which is a national centre of remembrance in the UK or perhaps because, like so many, I have grandfathers who served in both World Wars and my own father was a serving army office when I was born.

Seeing the works of art in the newly finished Visitor Centre is almost a privilege because the setting is so perfect – you see the pieces before you go out into the grounds with the wide variety of memorials including the Armed Forces Memorial  or perhaps after you have done so and they really bring home to the spectator the conflicts and the human cost just that bit further due to the scenes they depict

Ms Hurley states that the works are pieces that have many layers and what is hidden is just as important as what is seen and this is something I can relate to in my own work because each unseen layer of a textile or painting is just as vital to what is seen as it builds up to create the finished piece – an example is that a quilt is made up of a 3 layers and yet the wadding is not seen at all and yet it is very much a vital part of the quilt in the same way a watercolour is built up of layers of translucent or opaque washes.

It is very hard to choose favoured images from the collection but below are 7 that really resonate with me and I have noted my reasons why – all are mixed media on canvas are are dated 2016. My responses and accompanying notes are based on my personal interest in World War I and II history and my interest has always been very much on the stories and personal history of the people of the time and in particular the armed forces personnel. Please note that I have Ms Hurley’s permission to post my photographs of her works.

The first is entitled Raid of Remembrance and is almost an iconic image of what appears to be Lancaster Bombers dropping poppies over fields of remembrance.  I partly grew up near RAF Conningsby in Lincolnshire which is the home of the City of Lincoln Lancaster bomber and this is why this particular piece really resonates with me – the silhouette of the plane is one I know well having seen it fly several times and understand the dangers of being one of the crew due to having a keen interest in World War II history with the emphasis not on the conflicts but on the human side and in particular the stories of the forces personnel.  The red poppies are very much the focus and reminiscent of the poem In Flanders Fields which was written during World War I – this is the most striking image due to the dominance of the poppies against the simplicity of the planes as they drop yet more to scatter on the ground in memory of those lost and many who lie there still.

The second image Below the Brave the Poppies Grow harks back to World War I and I find almost the same theme as the first – the planes above the fields of poppies but this time with the planes being the ones in the earlier conflict.  The bi-planes are striking in their appearance and I can only think of the levels of bravery that it took to fly these incredible machines above peace time fields yet alone in a war time scenario – the dangers must have been immense and beyond comprehension to our modern eyes and yet these airmen took to the skies in order to defend and protect our countries.  The scene below the planes I wonder if it could be Dover or along the south coast – if it is Dover then I have a personal connection as that was where my grandmother was born and lived during World War I and possibly even met my grandfather during or after the war, (they married in 1920), and this image makes me wonder if she looked up and saw scenes such as this.  Beneath the battle in the skies the battles of the land raged on and the poppies are a very direct reminder of both aspects of the Great War – we tend to think of this war as being land and sea based but the aircraft were taking to the skies and become a part of modern warfare and hence at the end of the conflict the RAF was born.

For Heroes and Horses the Poppies Grow – the heroes of the Great War were not just the soldiers but the horses who died in their thousands and who should be honoured with equal respect for they carried not just the men but pulled the canons, the medical carts, supplies and countless other desperately needed jobs.

This is another piece that has personal resonance because it is believed that my maternal grandfather may have been cavalry but we do know that my fiance’s grandfather certainly was and was also greatly involved in the care of the horses – I have also a life long love of horses.  At the NMA there is a memorial that is the process of  being made that will commemorate the war horses of World War I and this image is a perfect reminder of their vital and equal role alongside the soldiers – the bright red poppies in the foreground serving to remember those who fell and fought with the simplicity of the silhouette of the horses and cavalry soldiers giving such a powerful impression.

For Mother and her Boys, the Poppies Grow – again an image depicting World War I with the silhouette of one of the tanks that first became part of war time operations and modern warfare.

The mere title of this piece says all that is needed …. for each boy and man (for there were both) killed there was a mother at home whose loss was unimaginable.  Works of art such as this have really started to grab at my heart more than ever just recently as I have two sons now aged 20 and 22 and yesterday found out that my maternal grandfather was 21 years and 4 months old when he enlisted in his regiment …. it kind of really brings it home to you to think of the mothers who saw their sons go off to war so young, and indeed there were too many who were yet younger still, and who never came home.  My family was lucky – my grandfather survived the 4 years, albeit with scars and a severe injury to one hand, but died at aged 56 and my single photo shows a man aged 54 but looking many years older due to a weak heart and severe bronchial issues which I now believe to be due to the effects of the gas used in the warfare … I have traced his regiment and know that he was in an area which was affected and like so so many who were lucky enough to survive were still to later become casualties of the Great War as a direct result of injury of health problems caused by the gas warfare.

The desolation of the landscape in this image is a powerful reminder of the horrors and destruction of the Great War – so little lived and yet so much was fought for and those fields still lie beneath the poppies.

Remember and Reflect – do I need to describe why this is chosen?  The simple framing of the silhouetted figures who could be soldiers of any conflict as they stand guard and in tribute to friends/colleagues lost with one by the grave with the simple cross and the other by the weapon topped with the helmet of the soldier.  The depiction of the land takes no prisoners in its depiction of the desolation and mud of war and this image is made all the more powerful by the poppies being above the heads of the soldiers and not at their feet – the poppies rise above the soldiers as they bend gently over as if bowing in remembrance and respect to those lost.

Brothers in Arms – chosen as a reminder of my Dad who was a serving army office when I was born as stated above.  My Dad’s role in the Royal Artillery was as a helicopter pilot so this image was immediately resonant very personally as I knew he was one of the last pilots out Aden during the conflict that ended shortly before I was born.   The helicopters are also a firm reminder of modern conflicts with the soldiers carrying the injured colleagues or the bodies of those who have died to the helicopters flying in to take them to safety or a place of medical treatment.  The poppies are simpler int his image and less prominent as they let the soldiers and helicopters talk to the viewer but at the same time their role is no less important – a firm reminder of those who only came back in wooden boxes.

Thankful for Little Ships – my final image is chosen because it also shows the little ships that were so vital to the rescue of the British and French soldiers.

The poppies in this image almost take a back seat to the use of the shells in the foreground and the depiction of the ships and lines of men in the middle and background.  The poppies are subtle and understated serving as the gentle act of remembrance – this subtle nature of their depiction however makes them no less important and each part of this image serves the purpose of telling the viewer of what happened during that time

I think my interest in the history of the conflicts is apparent as is the emotional impact these works of art have had on me personally – it is hard to chose even just 7 of the pieces because each is so beautifully rendered and composed with a sensitivity to the subject.  The simplicity in the colours used throughout the collection serves to emphasize the subject matter with a subtlety that I find incredibly moving but also at the same time with an emotional or almost physical strength that when combined with the poppies really strikes a chord with whoever views either a singular image or the collection as a whole.  I am fascinated by the use of the acrylics to create the textures which are built up in layers and add depth to such an effective degree as well as the textures of the landscapes depicted.   I am finding I am being ever more drawn to works of art that have an emotional impact on me and although I love the use of colour I am also being drawn to a limited colour palettes such as these which allow the subject to speak to the viewer more directly – the colour emphasizes the subject matter rather than becomes the subject.  I note the impressionist style of the landscapes – they have a realism in their starkness as they seek to tell of the horrors that have happened but at the same time they are not so realistic that you loose the message of remembrance of the piece by being overawed by what you see.

To summarize this exhibition I am in awe of this artist for her skill at creating a collection of works that so exquisitely and sensitively serves as images of peace and remembrance and it is right that she is held in such high regard particularly by The Royal British Legion and all who see her work.


POST Original Art Limited. (date unknown).  Jacqueline Hurley’s War Poppy Collection [online].  [Date accessed:  5 June 2017].  Available from: https://poshoriginalart.co.uk/about/

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Project development of a design from ACA

I have decided to document a project that was a development from my final design from ACA.  I had designed a bag based on photographs I had taken at Dovedale in Derbyshire in 2016 and although the process and design was felt somewhat safe I liked it enough to take it through to completion albeit the alterations that would make it work.

The actual bag was a combination of quilting, weaving and photographic applique with a centre panel being woven and the outer board ice-dyed fabrics.

During the period leading up to assessment but after sending the bag in I realised there was a fault – if I used photographic applique in the outer board it was going to make it too difficult to stitch the edges of the bag together both in terms of bulky seams and in terms of actual stitching.  Consequentially I decided to change the applique in this board to hand-dyed calico.  I also used a different toned but again hand dyed calico for the inner border as well as changing the overall colour scheme to that of turquoise, blues and greens.

The initial stage was to ice-dye some cotton and calico fabric for both the inside and outside of the bag.  Considering I was doing this in February and March it was a minor miracle I got a dry enough day to let the fabrics drip dry on the line for a few hours but at least it was cold enough that the ice melted slowly enough to enable me to get the effects I desired.

I also took some considerable time to decide on which photographs to use for the photographic applique.

The other major issue was re-drawing the actual design to allow for boxing in the corners – I extended the design out at the sides horizontally to allow for this and spent a considerable time getting the measurements and design exactly right.  Between posting ACA off for assessment and deciding to do this bag it really had made me think of how I could improve this bag so that it would work practically …. I did realise the faults and now know to look thoroughly at my designs with fresh eyes and perhaps even to make up a dummy version to check everything works.  Considering the sketchbooks for this bag were at OCA head office I also set up a new sketchbook which is now a working book for further developments of this bag if I so decided to do so.

A minor issue was due to my change in colour scheme as I needed to make up a new centre panel in different yarn and for this I initially tried a slubby type of yarn on a square loom – as can be seen this did not work as the effect was far too lacy.  However for other projects I love this lacy effect so it has been worth doing.

I eventually found a lovely variegated yarn which gave the gentle effect of water that I so desired – the photographs chosen were of a bridge over the river at Dovedale.

This woven panel was simple done on a cardboard loom – I was able to work both sides before cutting the warp threads.

From here I checked that all my fabrics and the woven panels worked well together and was delightfully surprised – I knew they would work but how well I was not sure but happily the dyes had  been a perfect match for the yarn.

Due to this bag not being course work I allowed myself to choose afresh the new hardware from the D rings to the bag fastener and wanted to reflect the silver thread I planned to use for the quilting which would be inspired by the sun glinting on the river – strangely this took the most time as I really wanted to get this right as by this stage I had decided to enter the bag into the Three Dimensional Category at Quilt and Stitch Village at Uttoxeter in April 2017 i.e. this year and it was now March! I also changed the wadding of my original design to a fusible foam stabilizer style wadding which is made specifically for bags or items that need some shape – it proved easy to use and a dream to quilt through.

I carefully traced the design onto tracing paper and from their made templates for all the applique sections and also the handle tabs before cutting everything out and the long process of incredibly careful making up began – I am not one for making marks for accuracy but anywhere that was needed was carefully done using tailors tacks and I swear I could hear my late Mum laughing as she noticed the care in which I was doing these (I normally skip tailors tacks but no longer)!! Unusually I also added labels to each section and carefully kept them in separate bags – unusually because again I am not normally that careful!

From here it was a matter of placing the woven centre panels on each of the outside pieces and slowly and carefully adding the photographic applique and also calico applique – this was all done prior to attaching the inner border as I wanted the outer border applique pieces to extend behind the inner panel in effect.   I attached the applique sections with zigzag stitching – on the photographic applique it was set slightly wider than the calico sections.  The photographic applique was done using photographs printed on good quality paper and backed with felt before being stitched randomly to secure and then cut into the necessary sections.

One thing of note was I added a small area of wadding directly behind the central panel in order to pad it out slightly and make it stand out and then also backed the back and front panels with cotton wadding before free motion quilting the whole of the outer border using a silver metallic thread – a small note is I have learnt to use metallic needles and change my tension to prevent breaking the thread.

The scary part was then stitching the panels together – would it work? happily yes!  I also had to add the pockets to the lining – one was a stitch pocket and the other has sections for several pens and my phone.

Once the lining had also been stitched it was time to attach it to the outer panels …. oh I also had to make the handle tabs and also add the silver lock which proved problematic as I had never used one of these before but lessons have now been learnt! During the stitching of the lining to the outer panel I stitched several times over the handle tabs for added strength. Once the bag was turned through and the lining closed using small stitches and everything had been checked for accuracy I very carefully top stitched in a pale blue thread to both neaten the top edge and also to add one extra row of stitching over the handle tabs.  I also made a bag bottom for the inside of the bag using cardboard, wadding and spare matching fabric which gave the base of the bag some solidity.

Finally it was time to make the handle and also a small additional kumihimo handbag accessory which was done in turquoise threads and silver beads.

The end result once the bag was finished was one I felt had developed from my original design in a satisfactory manner.  It is now I admit to having discovered just before sewing the lining shut that I had done the silver lock incorrectly … a somewhat frantic correction was needed particularly considering it was now 5 pm the day before I was due to drop it at Uttoxeter Racecourse for the show!  The actual bag was totally finished around 6.30 pm and duly dropped off the next morning by 10 am!

Now unbeknownst to me Wednesday 5th April was going to be quite a day … I dropped off the bag at 10 am and arrived home by 11 ish only to open an email with my results for ACA and art history – so for the first time that week I burst into tears of happiness and relief at having passed both (ok a little too close on ACA but a pass is a pass!)!  Please note the words ‘for the first time that week’ because judging at the quilt show was the next day …. I duly went back on the Friday and had a strange feeling on the way over that I had got second in my category but promptly dismissed this as wishful thinking!

However what awaited me was this sight … my first ever rosette or prize in any competition!!  Yes this clutz promptly burst into tears AGAIN …. I admit I looked a right twerp and yes I know that it is not an academic term but it summed up a very emotional and daft looking woman who had not stopped grinning since results morning as it was!!

The resulting photo seen here is pretty much how I remained all day …. a happy emotional twerp!! I admit I also kept going back to check that rosette was really near my bag …. one of the reasons I could not believe it  was due to the high standard of the other entries!  The rosette also made the name of the bag appropriate – Walking Back to Happiness because last year was the first time I had gone back to Dovedale after several tough years … it is a place of happy memories but ones that I had not faced and when I walked back last year I walked back to happiness and new memories.

Suffice to say that the rosette is still on my mantlepiece and will eventually have pride of place in my sewing room.

So what now with this bag?  there are things I will change …. the photographic applique has worked but it did need some areas gluing down carefully even the morning I delivered it due to the stitching effectively cutting the photographs – this gave me a few headaches.  Consequentially when I make this bag again but changing it to a vertical version I am going to use purely calico applique sections – I want this next version to be washable and if possible I would like to spray it with a water retardant spray so that it could possibly be used for winter. I think I would also add an additional recessed zip as well as the lock for additional security.  If I do this vertical version I am also considering just having the woven panel on the front so that the yarn does not catch on buttons etc on my coats or jackets.

Overall I am really happy that I have been able to develop a project from ACA into something that is a working design and has further possibilities and potential as well as being my first rosette winning bag!


No I have not stopped grinning and yes I do still look at that rosette daily and touch it regularly to make sure it is real!!

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Self-appraisal and critical reflection on Part 3

This assignment has not been an easy one in terms of at times it has felt like a hard slog but that is in part due to my medical diagnosis which caused me to loose focus and concentration for a few weeks and also in part due to loosing some confidence after assessment for my first textile course.  However this part of the course has also proved to be one of self discovery and creativity as I learn to work with my quirks rather than fighting against them – I am finding I am keeping referring back to the exercises on identity and although my chosen theme is on place the place I have chosen is very much a part of who I am too.

I have found the research element of the course really interesting and that is  starting to impact on my own work – I really started to notice an influence of other artists and designers creeping in in the last two exercises of weaving and constructing a cloth in particular as these are areas in which I am aware of designers and textile artists I already know and love and even want to emulate in some form what they are doing.  I think the one thing I will be changing however is researching artists or designers BEFORE I work on an exercise rather than remembering to do it after which I have been doing – it has been a fully admitted afterthought but also in one aspect that has proved useful because my ideas and creativity have not been influenced by their pieces of work and are purely my own.  My art history module has left me with a love of research which has really paid off because I do not find it difficult or a slog to do but now I need to think about how it can enhance my work from the outset and this is a weakness I need to rectify.

The critical reflection and regular self-appraisal is developing my understanding of the creative process and I am noting that I am starting to do this naturally throughout my blog rather than just where the course notes point me to do so.  I am finding I am beginning to be self-critical and note where I want to improve aspects of my work or where I am not happy with some samples either in my sketchbooks or in my blog or on the other hand I really like what I have done as I note ideas of where the ideas could go forward.  At times I am noting samples or sketches that I do not like or have even scrapped but I am still keeping them in my sketchbooks as reference points that may still generate ideas, not necessarily even for this course, but for future work and the critical reflection is enabling me to recognise this.

I am very much aware that my weak points in this part of the course have been the crochet and knitting and also the fabric manipulation – both were done during the time of my diagnosis and I feel my creativity just got up and left! I have also felt really unsatisfied and in truth a bit low mentally over some of my sketches of the samples which also felt like a hard slog at times – I feel I want to go back to basics and really work on my mark making skills and textural studies in order for me to more accurately depict my work.  However I have also been trying to develop a looser style of sketchbook work that enables me to get ideas down relatively quickly when and if I need to and this aspect has been working for me – I have been able to sketch some samples in diagrammatic form which makes sense to me. At times I have felt that I have wanted to be really detailed orientated previously and now lessons learnt in previous coursework have finally sunk in in regards to sketching or painting what I see or what I feel emotionally particularly in terms of when I am looking at an object or scene.

Finally regarding exploring the range of textile techniques – as mentioned above I felt I struggled with the knitting and crochet and also the fabric manipulation exercises and I am not particularly comfortable or happy with the majority of my samples.  There are more in the crochet range that I like and feel I can use than in the other areas but creatively and innovatively I am not at all happy and was glad to get to the next exercises.  The range of textile techniques has been really interesting and I won’t say fun all the time but it has shown me potential ideas – the fabric manipulation I think is one technique I need to continue to explore and work with and find my own way with and researching other textile artists and designers will help on this aspect.  The weaving and the fabric reconstruction is more up my street at this point – they both felt freer and made more sense to me for some reason although the crochet I can without question see being used in conjunction with these …. I have had an idea overnight about inserting a woven panel into a crochet piece of work in a fusion style that I want to explore over the next few days and see if it works.

As I now reflect  on this course  I can see how textile techniques can really help with ideas when working with a specific theme – exploring each through the courses is giving me a solid foundation from which to build and I am going to print off a list of techniques to pin on my notice board in order to generate ideas as it is easy to forget what you have at your fingertips. The explorations are not always successful but lessons do get learnt from the failures and some techniques I know I may use regularly whilst some I freely admit I am happy to leave behind! I think my biggest weakness of the whole course is my dislike of repetition but I have also come to understand how important it is with regards to samples and artistic sketches as  you try new ideas, fabrics or media to achieve a resolved piece of work that is either part of your final outcome or leads to it.

One thing I have really started to notice is my use of a wider range of media – the sketches have undoubtedly forced me to not to rely on just pen and pencil as I have sought to vary what I have been using to depict the samples.

My final note has to be on the fact that I am really wanting to develop my strength in using colour considerably further – I want this to be part of my personal voice and to be part of who I am as a textile artist as for me colour is a way of speaking to the viewer as I seek to express a narrative or range of emotions.  Colour is now becoming my voice which combined with textures can provide the words that I am not always able to say.

oh heck – the suggestion was 500 words for this self appraisal and as usual I have done far more but I think this self appraisal has been one of the most important for me as I have sought to understand in greater depth how I work and how to overcome my difficulties.  I am aware of my weaknesses and my growing strengths and can see a pathway forward in my personal voice in terms of self expression and techniques I feel I can develop much further.


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Exercise 3.5 Constructing a cloth

This exercise was all about constructing a cloth through firstly deconstructing fabrics – to be honest I looked forward to this as I was able to tear or cut to my hearts content and it almost felt childlike to do …. a really good stress reliever in truth!

I have made a conscious decision to only use fabrics that are in my collection for the majority of this course and am only allowing myself to replace or buy if I feel the project or exercise needs it.  For this exercise I realised I had thrown out several furnishing sample books after the end of ACA due to lack of storage space in my house and of course they would have been really useful for this exercise due to their heavier weight – a series of telephone calls resolved this issue for me and happily a local furniture shop was able to restock me!

For the first sample I took one of the furnishing fabrics and burnt holes in it with the use of a soldering iron and then added small areas of wool roving using the dry felting technique before poking voile through the holes from the back and top stitching to secure.  This felt like a very basic idea but at the same time I like the combination of textures and colours and thinking about how the fact that my theme is based on my garden for inspiration feel this sample works well – often my neighbour and I have each others flowers peeking through our boundary fence.

My sketches I felt much more confident about as I was able to portray the textures through the use of soft pastels on pastel paper and also the colours with the use of watercolour.

The second sample I have mixed feelings about how successful it is.  I decided to take some hessian and cut holes in it before really roughing the piece up with the help of a cheese grater … in some places the hessian has become slightly more coarse in texture but in other areas it is softer.  I backed the deconstructed hessian with a reddish maroon cotton fabric and secured both of the fabrics together with French knots.   The sketches I felt able to do with simple media to give the illusion of the hessian and backing fabric – these are not massively detailed but they capture the impression of the sample.

The third sample I found some woollen mix fabric that although it does not fit as well into my theme as I would like contrasts beautifully with some pale voile which is patterned with delicate flowers.  I wanted to create a stripey type of reconstructed fabric and rather than stitching the pieces together so all the edges are on one side I decided to alternate how I stitched each strip – this has created a double sided fabric in effect.  I also top stitched the seams on the outer edge of the seam allowance in order to catch the edges of the fabrics and create a flatter fabric.   As I look at the sketches I noted that I am starting to be able to capture the textures through more careful observation.

I decided to try mixing up a plaid fabric with some of my much favoured plastic bag strips – first the strips were stitched together before being woven together.  I top stitched the piece horizontally along  the ‘weft’ strips purely to hold the new ‘fabric’ together.  I do really love this new fabric due to the contrast between the plastic bag and plaid fabric – I am unsure as to why but I am finding strong contrasts are really appealing at the moment as are muted tones which softly blend and wonder if this is in part due to my exploration of my almost new identity with my recent diagnosis.

My sketches I wanted to use collage to depict the weaving but also mixed my media a little to do relatively simple sketches that give a reasonable impression of the sample.  I am preferring my sketches which are done in pen as I have no leeway for rubbing out or blending and so what I put down on the paper stays which means I have to think and place my marks carefully even if doing a relatively quick sketch.

The next sample is a technique I have explored previously in ACA – that of using small scraps of fabric placed between two pieces of iridescent voile with added top stitching to secure.  This technique can also be done with water soluable stabiliser although considerable more stitching is needed than I have done here in order to fully secure the fabric pieces before the stabiliser is rinsed away in water and dried.  This is another favoured sampled because the piece can be cut into shapes and used in a variety of way although I would add further stitching perhaps in a different coloured thread.  If I used the soluable stabiliser the piece would have a more lacy effect which again could be used in a variety of ways – I have made a note in my sketchbook to purchase some more as mine has run out and add a sample at a later date if I feel I need to.

The sketches I am not overly happy with due to their basic nature again and struggled to recreate the sample effectively in any media I chose but at least I have an impression that if I needed to use this technique in a future design I can give some kind of impression that I would understand!

The two samples I thought would be my final ones I have not even bothered to sketch because they just did not work at all! The red sample on the left of my photograph used furnishing fabric, felt and voile – I slashed the red fabric before using a Cathedral window style technique to pull the edges back and reveal the grey felt.  Before stitching the edges down I loosely wove a strip of voile through the cut edges.  This sample just does not do it for me …. it was an idea I was not sure where it was going and it failed miserably.  The second sample was an attempt at slashing through layers of fabric but due to the size of my slashes I had to top stitch to hold the layers together – why I did it like this I just do not know as I have done this technique before for a potential quilting block sample and know better!  In my sketchbook I have added this former sample – I do state that it was not for any course but for one of  own sample quilts and for the sample I simply stitched a simple grid through several layers of quilting cotton before slashing small crosses in some of the squares before washing it to fluff up the layers.  I guess for these two samples I just do not know what possessed me!

I decided to do one further sample having seen a piece of textile art by Sue McNair at Derbyshire Open Arts at the weekend.  I took strips of different textured and weight fabrics and stitched them to a piece of calico leaving all edges raw – I am aware that in the course notes there is a photograph of a fellow student’s work who did a similar sample but I wanted to use a mixed palette of colours that are reflective of my theme and that are reminiscent of the work of Sue McNair.

The final sketches were done simply but I feel effectively and reflect the sample. I feel I have taken note of the fact in Exercise 3.4 I was not happy with my sketches and have worked to improve them to capture the textures and colours of the fabrics more accurately.

Throughout this whole exercise I feel my influences have been my quilting background and in particular when I have played with different techniques.  I have done some research into artists/designers who use reconstructed fabrics and note the work of Shona Skinner and Cas Holmes – I really love the fact that Shona is heavily influenced by the environment in which she lives and bases her free-motion stitched landscapes on the area in which she is lucky enough to live (the Shetland islands).  I am also fascinated by the work of Cas Holmes as she works with a wide variety of found materials along to create her pieces that again are shaped and inspired by places that surround her – there is a real feeling of freedom in her work which really appeals to me at the moment.

I have really enjoyed this exercise and felt more confident in working my samples and sketches than I have previously – the weaving exercise and this exercises have definitely been my favoured but each has built on the other.  I still feel that I can play with deconstruction and reconstruction in more innovative ways and wonder if some of my samples have been a little on the safe side of creative but am conscious of the fact I can continue to play with ideas and am now keeping a notebook by my side so that I can note ‘light-bulb’ moments that I can work on or develop at more appropriate times.


Cas Holmes.  (date unknown).  Work [online].  [Date accessed:  May 2017].  Available from:  https://casholmes.wordpress.com/work-2/

TextileArtist.org. 2016.  Shona Skinner interview:  Embellishment of fabrics [online].  [Date accessed:  May 2017].  Available from:  http://www.textileartist.org/shona-skinner-interview-embellishment-of-fabrics/

TextileArtist.org.  Finding inspiration for textile art by Cas Holmes [online].  [Date accessed:  May 2017].  Available from:  http://www.textileartist.org/finding-inspiration-for-textile-art-by-cas-holmes/



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Exercise 3.4 Weaving

Right from the beginning I will happily admit I enjoyed this exercise considerably more than the previous one!  I discovered a love of weaving in A Creative Approach and spent some considerable time making a rough but effective A-frame tapestry style loom but then promptly discovered the easiest way of weaving for me is a simple cardboard loom – easy to make in different sizes and cheap as chips too!

For these samples the idea was to explore a range of experimental samples as before with an emphasis on experimentation, innovation and imagination.  Unlike in the crochet/knitting samples this time I paid close attention to the course notes and worked with yarns and materials that fitted in with my theme and colour palette – due to the weaving projects from ACA I have several yarns that fitted well within my theme happily and was able to purchase some additional paper yarn and plastic string in appropriate colours.

The first sample I tried was moving on from an idea in Exercise 3.2 when I crocheted a small sample using green garden wire – I took this one stage further and added strips of a floral plastic bag woven through the sample before securing opposite corners together.

What I do find appealing is the shapes the plastic bag strips make as they are randomly woven through the wire – they create new patterns and the indication of fencing or stronger branches with foliage sprouting in spring.  I have done 3 relatively simple sketches concentrating on the curling nature of the wire as it was crocheted combined with the individual shapes of the plastic strips.  At present I am not sure where this sample could go with regards to my theme or even if I will use it at a later date but knowing that this garden wire does work up in crochet is useful due to its flexibility – it may not be firm but it does give a base that could also be woven with yarns or other materials potentially.

The  next sample I tried using rug canvas as a base – I cut a rough 4 petal shape rather than using it as a flat square/oblong and then woven through strips of lilac voile and also yarn which had been twisted into the voile. After weaving I folded the petals over into the centre before securing with an iridescent voile strip.  I do like this sample when I put it into a setting within my garden …. on its own I find it less inspiring but when it is in the contest of the place which inspired it it works well I feel.

The only difficulty I found was with ensuring the voile did not catch on the roughly cut edges – I purposefully kept the edges unfinished to give more texture and because I feel that I have chosen my garden as my place of inspiration because it is a part of my identity and life does have a tendency of throwing rough times at a person but the beautiful of life is captured with the use of voile as its contrast.  The rough edges are also a throwback to 15 months ago when this garden was nothing more than a lawn and hedges – rough and spiky with little attraction.

The next sample is one I started and immediately scrapped!  I wanted to try using some garden netting but found it too fiddly and flimsy for any real use …. I am not sure whether it was due to the ‘yarns’ I started to weave through or whether it was just never going to work.  Some experiments work well and some you just give up on …. worth trying but maybe the netting will have a use elsewhere!

At this point I was not overly happy with what I had tried and wanted to start working on things that were going to be more successful so I had a good dig through my fabrics to find some hessian.

I decided to weave muted coloured yarns in purple, pink and pale blue hues through the hessian – ok this looked like running stitch but I guess that ultimately is a woven stitch in itself!  I also removed some of the horizontal threads in order for dried lavender heads to be woven between the rows of stitches before finally adding a rough stem stitch which was woven through the lavender stalks.

The sketches are basic in their execution but still give me a rough idea of what this looks like for the future if I decided to incorporate a similar woven piece into a design …. yes I now understand why I am doing these sketches to record the samples!

I find this sample again has echoes of the beginning of this garden – lavender was one of the first plants that I wanted due to its scent and ease of growing and it is very much woven into the very structure and framework of the garden design.

I decided to try a more conventional woven sample using a dark green yarn as the warp and a combination of fabric strips, plastic string and plastic bags as the weft.

I find this sample is reflective of the varying layers of the garden – it effectively started from scrap and does encompass a mixture of purchased ‘posh’ tubs and also plastic tubs used to hold fat balls as well as tyres and old boots so the plastic bag strips are a reminder of that recycled nature that forms the foundations.  The pinks and purples are our favoured colours regarding flowers but I now realise that what is missing from my theme palette is the golden oranges and yellows of some of the nasturtiums that form a vital part of the summer for us but I also do not want to extend my colour palette either …. I like the restrained palette I have chosen.

Looking at this sample it does all feel reflective of the differing layers of my personality – some of the layers are clear and straightforward whilst others are mixed up and intertwined so I question whether this was a part of my subconscious as I worked this piece.

With regards to the sketches to record this sample I instinctively decided on the soft pastels as I felt they would reflect the soft colours and the soft pliable nature in the way that I wanted to.  I also tried a simple crayon sketch with a watercolour wash and finally a simple diagrammatic sketch using Sharpie pens …. both of these sketches could be used in different ways in design work.

I decided to raid the garden for some twigs to see if I could use as the warp ‘threads’ when combined with a variety of fabric strips, yarn and those beloved plastic bags – this was one of the most difficult pieces to work up initially due to the fact I could only hold the twigs in my hand until the yarns secured them together.

Once I had got the weaving going the piece became considerably easier to work and the result was a piece that could be bent into a narrow tube … obviously more twigs would have created a wider tube or even a spiral but I am not sure how I would be able to hold them successfully -thinking about it now a simple solution would be to push the sticks into some thick polystyrene.

As before I kept my initial sketches relatively simple but I also felt this sample was an appropriate one with which to try strips of colour paper in a collage style – this worked really successfully and I feel that this would enable me to play with different combinations of colours in the future.  I also used Inktense sticks to create a diagrammatic sketch that although it does not show the textures or the knots and loose ends of the fabric strips and yarns it does enable me to see how I can work out possible designs and ideas clearly and simply.

During the course of developing my final project design for ACA for a quilt show I built a small wooden loom to attempt a different style of weaving and felt this would be a good time to experiment with different yarns and fabrics.

This style of weaving is done by working 4 layers – the first 3 lay on top of each other and the final is woven through them.  I used a combination of yarn, plastic string, paper yarn and fabric strips – the paper yarn was the final layer and woven through with the help of a large plastic needle.

I really like the effect of this type of weaving and it would be easy to make a larger loom to create larger pieces.  My original sample for my earlier work using just yarn had a lacy effect but this combination created a new fabric which I can see being used in some capacity or developed using different combinations of yarn and fabric.  I can also see how I could make up a number of these squares which could then be sewn together to create a larger piece or if I made a combination of different sizes of loom and squares how they could be combined.

The one thing I am really not happy about is my sketches – they are too basic and too loose and really not capturing the textures of the piece – I have added a small pencil sketch just to the right of this sample as an extra to try and rectify this but feel I need to work on my sketches of my samples generally.

As I reflect on my sketches for the whole of this assignment so far I feel I need to go back to basics and practice my textural marks with a concentration on fabric textures so that I can more accurately record samples.  However I am also finding that a diagrammatic format is also working for me in terms of how I can work with design ideas in the future – I am aware I have touched on this above but this style is something I can develop or play with in terms of working out colour combinations without the distraction of the textures or materials initially before moving on to the more detailed textural sketches.

The final sample was an extra and a play with an idea – not a terribly successful one but worth recording nonetheless. At some point I had cut out a cardboard circular weaving template and decided to see how it work up with a combination of yarns …. mmm do I like it? not really but do I see possibilities? yes if I worked outward in sections rather than in a spiral format.  I am unsure of my combination of yarns due to the fact it seemed to throw the circular nature of the piece into an oval and question whether a simpler material palette may have been more effective.

Overall I have found this exercise really interesting and enjoyable and am certainly happy with some of the resulting samples – in particular the one using sticks as the warp, the one done on the cardboard loom and also the one done on the square wooden loom and certainly feel I can these forward although they almost feel too conventional in their foundations.  I also love the hessian sample with the lavender woven through it and question whether this could be done with dried grasses once some are collected – is this an excuse to add a grass collection to my garden in time? or I just have a valid excuse to collect grasses I really love on trips!

The one aspect I am really not happy about and this also goes for the crochet/knitting samples is my sketching of the sample pieces – I feel they are too loose and not capturing the textures or colours of the pieces accurately enough.  I have experimented with a more loose style with less concentration on detail but merely trying to capture the idea and the essence in order to give me a the impression of the samples when doing future design work – a loose style could certainly work in the initial stages so this experimentation does have its place but I also feel I need to develop my more detailed sketches and as stated above go  back to basics and practice sketching textures and fabrics.  The more detailed sketches are needed in my sketchbook work in order to accurately record the samples and also to be able to accurately sketch possible ideas in the aforesaid design work – I am aware that over the coming weeks I can and without question will come back to some of these samples and do further sketches to try to improve this aspect which I consider a weak point.

As I think now about designers and artists – throughout this exercise I have been well aware of my love of the work of Martina Celerin who does wonderful dimensional woven pieces.  Martina’s work can be see at:  http://www.martinacelerin.com/index.php/gallery.html .  I love the way she incorporates a variety of objects into her work and how the woven pictures have a simplicity in design with a wonderful use of colour but also have that three dimensional aspect.  I realise now too with my use of wooden sticks how one of my favourite artists has also influenced me – the work of Laura Ellen Bacon I know personally through the large scale willow sculptures at Derby Royal Hospital and a former installation at our local museum.  Laura weaves organic sculptures using willow with the forms taken on the appearance of nests or cocoons – there is an immediate impression of safety or wanting to be enclosed within these forms.  At the hospital the works have become overgrown and part of the gardens in which they are placed and as I now think about this I feel this could become something I can develop further in my own work.  Finally I have discovered the work of Maryanne Moodie whose work can be seen at:  https://maryannemoodie.com/commissions.  I like the appearance of some of her more muted wall-hangings which are really full of texture – colour places a lesser palette and lets the light and shadow play together with the textures in much the same way as a piece I have seen by Mig Holder which can be seen in my blog:  https://janemurdockmytextilesjourney.wordpress.com/2017/05/28/derbyshire-open-arts-may-2017/ .

I am fully aware of my love of weaving but as I reflect I also love the crochet pieces of the previous exercises and do wonder how at this stage they might develop with regards to my final project for this course – there is no doubt I am favouring certain samples that have possibilities but at the same time I am not yet dismissing the samples that have not worked quite so well as ideas may yet arise from them.


Ideaform Inc. 2017.  Format magazine – 5 Textile Artists That Make Weaving Cool Again [online].  [Date accessed:  30 May 2017].  Available from:  https://www.format.com/magazine/galleries/art/contemporary-artists-weavers

Martina Cellerin. 2014.  Gallery [online].  [Date accessed:  30 May 2017].  Available from:  http://www.martinacelerin.com/index.php/gallery.html

Maryanne Moodie. (date unknown).  Commissions [online].  [Date accessed:  30 May 2017].  Available from: https://maryannemoodie.com/commissions

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Derbyshire Open Arts – May 2017

Interesting afternoon spent visiting Banks Mill Studios as it took part in the Derbyshire Open Arts festival.  The studios had 8 artisans/artists taking part and their work varied from the fine art of Lor Bird to the upcycled garments and textile art of Mig Holder to the glass art of Stevie Davis – the variety of techniques were of great interest and fascination.

The actual event I confess to wishing more of the studios had been opened as there looked to be a wide variety of artists based at Banks Mill although from both an art student point of view it was still more than worth going – also from a consumer point of view as I came away more than happy with couple of small gifts.    With regards to the artists I was able to take photos with their kind permission to upload in this blog and was also able to talk freely – they were all there to sell their work but all were happy to discuss it too and this was much appreciated.

Thinking about my current studies there were 3 artists whose work held particular fascination – that of Stevie Davis, Susan Bedford and Mig Holder.

Stevie Davies is a contemporary glass artist whose work is inspired by colour and light as she works with fusing glass and wire.  Unfortunately my photos have not come out well enough and so I have had to rely on the photos I can take of the small pieces I purchased from Stevie.  I was really entranced by the use of colour in all the pieces – the light reflected and bounced off the glass and was particularly beautiful in the pieces of dichroic glass which I now understand to be a composite of incredibly thin layers of metals or oxides combined with layers of non-translucent glass.  Dichroic glass first appeared it seems in Roman times around the 4th century and the appeal for me is the shifting colours as you view the pieces from different directions.  I have to purchase some of the dichroic glass jewelry from Stevie and instead chose a variety of small pieces that caught my eye – I particularly love the red and grey lozenge shape with the delicate glittery decoration and also the green oblong piece with small flower detail which is in keeping with my current theme.

I really loved the range of jewelry and other items such as coasters and bowls which Stevie makes which all reflect the beautiful and colours of her materials.  As I think about my own work I reflect on how one of my strengths is colour and I am realising that this is something I want to develop and I am also realising I love the play of light on colour particularly if there are iridescent touches or reflections – looking at Stevie’s work has made me think how much I want to develop this side of my studies and own work.

Susan Bedford is a mixed media artist/textile artist whose work can be seen at:  http://susanbedford.weebly.com/textile-art.html . In person I found her use of colour and textures with the fabrics she used inspiring – unfortunately I was unable to talk to her for long but loved her use of painted fabrics or dyed fabrics which she was able to combine in her pieces.  As I read her website I note that the pieces that Susan works on are a personal response to whatever captures her interest – this is something I am currently trying to do but now see how I can develop my responses in a more abstract manner.

Mig Holder – this is a lady who works with upcycled garments or accessories and this is no question that those pieces were exquisitely and beautifully made but what really captured my attention was her textile art with its use of texture.  This particular piece seemed to be rolled strips of fabric with the abstract arrangement reminding me of water and reflections in a lake or the sea and caught my attention for the deceptive simplicity of the design.

A second piece was this cream/ivory toned highly textural work – my photograph does not do it justice but it really reminded me of the crocheted coral reef although using very differing forms and fabric manipulation.

The simplicity of the monochrome palette demonstrates to me that sometimes colour is not needed and a single hue can make use of light and shadow to great effect particularly when combined with a variety of textures.

As we looked around we also met the other artists …

Sue McNair’s work is primarily in ceramics now using air dried clay which she moulds to create a range of small delicately coloured and textured items but on her studio wall is this textile piece which involved stripes of blue fabrics stitched together very much in the same vein as the exercise 3.4 – the reconstruction of fabrics into new fabrics and although this piece is a wall art work the colours draw your eye across it almost in gentle ripples or waves.

Sue’s use of colour caught my attention in part because on the whole it was more restrained and muted than other artists I currently like but that restraint is appealing – her bright red clay poppies really pop and shout out at the viewer but other pieces speak just as loudly through their use of texture or simple lines.  I purchased a beautifully simple hanging decoration in muted colours that would sit well in any location and maybe that is also something to think about i.e. a simple muted or even monochrome palette can speak to a viewer or speak of what the artist is trying to convey just as much as a highly coloured palette can if the design and materials are chosen carefully.

Lor Bird is a fine artist who has come back to art in recent years and much of her work is abstract  or semi-abstract and she appears to really play with colour and form as she experiments with different media.  My favourite piece of the ones she had in her studio was the only one not for sale – a detailed and delicately coloured watercolour of a sycamore tree leaf.  I suspect one of the reasons I loved this leaf is that I have a sycamore in my front garden and so I can relate fully to the colour palette chosen which so Lor has chosen clearly carefully to reflect the colours of the leaf.  From a budding artist point of view this simple composition of a singular leaf does demonstrate to me how I can pick individual elements out of my garden to work with and this is something I do and want to develop to become more abstract forms or designs whether as paintings or three-dimensional textile pieces.

Barbara Colbert’s work is incredibly striking as she works primarily with charcoal with gold highlights which really bring the large-scale pieces to life.  The work is highly detailed and appears to be full of strong forms which come from nature – either landscape or animal forms and each has a real sense of energy and movement which she captures with inspiring mark making.

At this point I am only just beginning to experiment with charcoal and find it wonderfully expressive but Barbara’s work shows how it can be used to create images that speak of power and life – the gold highlights act to increase the physicality of her subjects as they add a real sense of drama and almost theatre to each piece.

Overall as stated at the beginning this afternoon has been an incredibly interesting one as I was able to meet local artists and see their work – there are pieces that I wish I had had the finances to buy as I am sure they would have liked too but all the work that I saw was inspiring in differing ways.  As I look at my own work I am aware of the fact that I am being pulled to work with colour and texture as I seek to discover my responses to things that inspire me or seek to express myself through my art and today I saw artists who are doing just that – each artist is responding to whatever inspires them and intrigues them and each is individually expressing in their work.

This may have been a small event but it is one that could prove incredibly useful in my own work.


Susan Bedford.  (date unknown).  Susan Bedford Mixed Media Artist [online].  [Date accessed:  28 May 2017].  Available from:  www.susanbedford@yahoo.com

Barbara Colbert.  (date unknown).  Barbara Colbert [online].  [Date accessed:  28 May 2017].  Available from:  www.barbaracolbert-fineartist.moonfruit.com

Stevie Davies.  (2017).  Stevie Davies [online].  [Date accessed:  28 May 2017].  Available from:  www.stevie-davies.co.uk



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