Lizard Dance

Inspiration and personal work

I have been recording narratives in the landscape in Cloth Stories; a series of stitched concertina books, exploring the idea that there’s a story in everything and every location has its own history.

Recently I have been developing new work based on my collections of found objects of no intrinsic value but significant to me. I have found them on my travels; a bird’s skull, a feather, thorns or a luggage label. The first pieces were exhibited in London, Dublin & Harrogate at the Knitting & Stitching Shows in 2011.

In Safe Keeping is work in progress
In 2012 I was delighted to accept a commission to design and make an All Seasons Altar Frontal, burse and chalice veil, now in use at St Margaret’s Parish Church, Laceby near Grimsby.
Our first visit to India in 2006 whetted our appetite and we returned to India on another expedition in November 2010. We had bought in England a necklace from Nagaland which could easily have come from Africa. This gave us the impetus to venture into North East India including Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. A wide variety of silk is used particularly in Assam, while cotton is more commonly used by the Hill Tribes. Hand looms are seen in most villages with women weaving lengths of fabric for everyday use as well as festivals. It was encouraging to see these weaving skills and beadwork being practised and taught to the next generation. What really made the rather hazardous journeys worthwhile were the opportunities to venture off the beaten track and meet the craftspeople themselves and buy some textiles and beadwork directly from the makers.
A dream came true in 2006 with a long awaited visit to India. One reason for going was to revisit my birthplace and find places where my father worked and where we stayed as young children. It was an extensive trip that included many of the famous and historic sights as well as the textile regions of Lucknow, Rajasthan and Gujarat. I was able to indulge my interest in textiles and see at first hand, weavers, embroiderers and bead makers with the bonus of having my photographer with me! It was a wonderful experience to study some of the traditional techniques and talk to the makers themselves - an overwhelming abundance of colour, texture, pattern and sumptuous surfaces.
A Fine Line, selected for 'art of the STITCH', makes links between text and textiles. The book form acknowledges the passing on of needlework skills from one generation to another. The hand bound book includes printed images and text on linen, damask, organdy, and calico, with trimmings, buttons and hand stitching.
These skills are becoming absorbed into my way of working and were an important feature of A Fine Line and also in the presentation of Buttoned Up, which was awarded the Coats Craft Award for Surface Design.
I have always enjoyed the making and constructing process and have spent time working in a bookbinder's studio learning the craft of bookbinding.
During a visit to India I was amazed by the skills of the silk brocade weavers and glass bead makers and could not resist bringing some silk and beads back with me. I used these to make a series of hand bound books.
I feel very passionately that our craft skills should be valued and passed on to the next generation. An invitation to study pieces from the textile collection at the Bankfield Museum gave me an ideal opportunity to follow my interest in our own embroidery heritage. 19th and early 20th century needlework samples and practice pieces were the basis for my contribution to Not What it Seams an exhibition by the PSG inspired by the Bankfield collection.
The high degree of craft skills and investment of care and time are celebrated in Practice Makes Perfect, a contemporary sample book celebrating past and continuing textile traditions.
I accepted a commission to design and make a chasuble, two stoles and chalice veil for St Wulfram’s Parish Church in Grantham to be used with an existing frontal. They are in keeping with the Victorian frontal of 1890’s depicting some of the motifs in the original frontal in a contemporary way. The pieces combine something of the present with traditions of the past.
Small communities of Himba in Kaokoland, Namibia and Maasai in Tanzania have welcomed us into their villages and homes. Experiencing and sharing in the lives of these people has been fun, enlightening and a great privilege. Africa bombards the senses and of course, colour, texture, pattern and form have all had a great impact on my visual ideas. It is also the people; their way of life and culture that has had a great influence on my thinking and way of working. Exposure to cultures so different from my own has heightened my awareness of the quality and diversity of ‘materials'.
Regular visits to southern Africa have been a constant source of inspiration and focus for my own work in recent years. Journeys into more remote areas of Namibia and Tanzania provide a feast of wonderful experiences and visual images of vast spaces, colours, pattern and textures. I love combining hand stitching with hand dyed and coloured fabric, paper together with mixed media and sometimes found objects. These are developed into stitched textiles to record ideas about the people and places I visit.
The people of Southern Africa inspire me with their natural grace, elegance and dignity demonstrated in their strong family ties, pride in their traditions, practical skills and culture. I admire their resourceful and innovative use of materials and enjoy some of the unexpected combinations of simple everyday items.
For many years, the people, culture and landscape of Southern Africa have fired my imagination and inspired my work. Travel and journeys have always been an important part of my life. These together with memories and common bonds that connect people, however remote, often spark off ideas for my own work.