Monday, 14 April 2014

Visions of loveliness.

It has been a busy and spring like time with some open studio time and table top sale. I am clearing the last of the children's jackets that I have spent years making under the Blow-pipe label. I have 10 more cut out which I will sew and then that is the very last of them. You will be able to find them here on friday!

This month is always a special one, we are usually guaranteed some warmth on our bones and this year it feels a long time in coming. I haven't had a Dartmoor winter get to me so much since I was a teenager here. Although it is one of my favourite times for light and colour, at times the heaviness become cloying and I find it hard to breathe. I yearn for the lightness of the sea.
 The bees are tired and hungry and also need the sun to warm their bodies, nourish their hives and relax the little muscles worn with the task of keeping warm.

Sunshine comes in many forms and especially my birthday. I was showered with visions of loveliness and warm golden love. My friends and family…..they know me well and are a superbly talented bunch! let me share with you some of it.
Golden gifts

I think this candle may be just too nice to burn!

A beautiful egg cup from my son and earrings made by my niece!
 A beautiful bouquet cake from my mother……and a portion of marzipan french fries, unfortunately I had already eaten most of them before I had got to the camera. I LOVE marzipan!

This amazing and very special drawing was done for me by the wonderfully talent Virginia Lee
you can see more of her work here

soooooooo beeautiful. I shall treasure it forever. x

Closely followed by this beautiful glass stag and birthday slug art on the window. I often wonder what they were thinking/doing? I shall have to ask!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Goddess journeys Part 2. Oneself As Another.

Ok, so this is a little more personal and in-depth than my usual posts, but I am writing this because I work with bodies, models and imagery and also because I consider myself in the business of creating skins. But what is most important and easily forgotten is our very own skin. So I am sharing a story of mine.

During my Goddess journey's I am exploring the archetypes of the Crone, the Maiden and the Mother. My current phase is exploring 'Mother' aspects. The warrior, the nurturer and the lover.

As part of my journey I participated in a body of work by an artist friend Ione Rucquoi. 'Sanctae' presents the female form in it's unmasked state. It is an installation of 21 larger than life haloed female nudes exploring the realities of childbirth, ageing, illness and all the ravages life throws our way.
Little did I know that taking part would instigate such changes in my life.

I took part in this for several reasons. As an artist I am always getting people to model for me clothed or not and I felt that it was time I returned the favour, giving something back.
Secondly the artist wanted someone who was able to represent the conflicts of being a mother and an artist. Both of these are driving forces that shape your very soul and plague your conscience.

But most of all it was for my own selfish purposes. Part of a process of coming to terms with my own body. Trying to learn to accept or even love the changes that have happened over the last 10 years. Surgical procedures arising from fertility issues, dis-ease and childbirth (not to mention the weight gain!) resulted in a section of my body being carved, chopped and re-shaped for ever.
There has been discomfort, trauma and disconnection from my pelvic region throughout my whole life.
So when I first modelled for these pictures a year or two ago (I can't quite remember!) it was much easier than I thought. Somehow everythings alright in the name of art! It was comfortable, slightly liberating and surprisingly normal!

Finally the images were ready to take centre stage in a new exhibition called 'Oneself As Another' at the RWA in Bristol. I hadn't really given any thought to my own feelings on the matter apart from slight nerves at being 8ft high and naked in a room full of people…but hey it's ok because it will be full of artists.
But it turned out to be quite simply one of the most enlightening, and possibly life changing processes I have ever been through. (I haven't decided yet, I'll let you know when it's over!)

Being a bit of an analyser, I am fascinated with observing my behaviour and responses, but nothing could have prepared me for the surprise my own responses.  I was shocked at my own level of conditioning.
My reaction in the first second to the exhibit was "WOAH". There was a moment of shock when my senses didn't recognise what I was seeing and scrambled to make sense of it, combined with, dare I say it, a hint of discomfort/distate. An intake of breath. Followed quickly by the out breath which had already altered the perception to 'WOW".

In that split second it became apparent to me that even as an artist who is pretty happy with nudity, there is still a deep rooted level of conditioning within me and within us all. Regardless of who I am, where I live etc etc I am still subconsciously effected by societal standards and the blanket perception of acceptable beauty and how deeply it saturates our culture.
It was like a veil had been lifted. It was clear to see that even though we think we are beyond/too old/too alternative/ too open minded, too accepting etc etc  to be affected deeply by the misrepresentation of women, it simply wasn't true. I would challenge anyone to stand in front of this exhibit and say otherwise.
Whether we admit it or not, even to ourselves, none of us are out of reach of this phenomenon.
Artist or not.
this is a censored image!
What swiftly followed were nerves. Suddenly I felt my self protection mechanisms kick in as I slightly disassociated myself with my own image. It was hard to look, own up to that being me and feel the atmosphere as I came under scrutiny, judgement and evaluation under the critical eyes of others. Even my own mother as she stood beside me.

I was witnessing myself as my own critic, as the elephant in the room. In a moment of silence my psyche stood beside me and I judged the lumps, the bumps, the sag of my boobs, the stretch of my skin and that my first response was to start measuring my physical worth against others.
The second response was to let it all go and turn myself to others. They were beautiful and interesting. So very beautiful.
Despite some of the more shocking details, the overall effect was of calm, strength and beauty.

Every single one of those women looked so beautiful to me, yet it was fascinating to observe that I couldn't apply it to me. My own physicality on that enormous scale, I struggled to connect to. Even though I was one of the few women who are actually anonymous in the picture.
Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't hate my body and I am not even uncomfortable enough with it to change anything. But I don't love it the way I should, considering it has supported me all my life and provided me with a son and given me untold adventures.

I moved to watching other guest looking at the images, longing to hear what was in their heads and seeing how often a face would initially pucker slightly and then watch it soften. That in itself would make a wonderful installation.

It was busy and sociable and as the evening progressed I felt my spine lengthening and myself standing taller as I slowly settled more and more into myself. A hint of pride crept in and a chink of acceptance.
Hearing other women discuss how liberating it was for them to see these images felt really good.

As I left that evening the overwhelming feeling I had was of a deep seated longing to see more. I realised as a woman this is what I want to see. It's like craving normality and acceptance for all of us. It was so glaringly obvious that we are culturally starved of femininity, the beauty of womanhood and lets face it, nudity. Real nakedness.

Our damaged British attitude towards the naked form has left us starved of a sense of reality, lacking an earthly connectedness and our souls slightly shrivelled. But worst it has opened the door to a form of depravity.
The insatiable urge for human connection and creation in a society that bans nudity has formed the taboo. It drives a culture of pornography, sex industries, surgery, inequality etc etc hungry for connection, however misplaced.
I can't help but compare it to my time working in Berlin, where office workers sunned themselves next to their neatly folded suits, in open parks. To my time working in London……where you would have been commenting a criminal offence.

So I left this exhibition feeling sad, feeling liberated, feeling stronger, feeling awed and feeling a little bit angry. But certainly more keen to face the world head on.

This was offered to me on plate the following morning! Although photography was banned some pictures of the exhibition appeared on Facebook first thing. It was just a small snippet of me but there were other women in all their glory. I found myself furious, mortified and feeling totally violated, like a trust had been broken. Somehow having it 'out there' in a different context was a whole other ball game! Suddenly I was vulnerable, exposed and quite literally stripped bare!
I think much of this reaction was shock because it did pass quite quickly but I couldn't help but note how strongly I reacted.

Time to put my liberation to the test! This was definitely felt not ok and yet the small printed image of me available for sale in the foyer at the RWA was fine, in fact, I even liked it! hmmmmm.
I was also asked by the artist if I would permit my image to be used in publicity for the exhibition. This in itself is fine with but my reservation came from the fact that once the images where out in the public domain there is no control. Nothing to stop them ending up on Facebook or any other social media. Judging by how extreme my earlier reaction had been I wasn't sure I would handle it very well.

And so I find myself in a quandary.
I want to support the artist, for all the reasons mentioned earlier, but hesitate because of my reaction to Facebook.
I want to be able to say yes without hesitation, but I have a son and is potentially making yourself available to comment/abuse sensible?
I strongly believe in the desperate need to educate the world into what real women look like and strip away the taboos, especially because I have a son.
I admire the women that said yes, even to Facebook.
Given the opportunity I wouldn't change anything, no money or surgery or anything would actually make me change my body. Consequently not loving it makes no sense!
But most of all I want to say yes because I am so damn comfortable in my own skin that I just don't give a shit. I love me, every last inch of it.

But, are all of those feelings stronger than my current one of self consciousness? I'm not sure.
One day soon I hope to be able to say yes and I have a feeling I will. Very soon.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Goddess journeys Part 1.

I have occasionally mentioned my Goddess project on this blog. It is a long standing project that I have been working on for many, many years. It is my own journey exploring the essence of womanhood and the divine feminine through the triple aspect of the Goddess.

where it began, when I was a teenager!
It has been a slow journey. Starting creatively in my teens but only really fleshing out into a full body of work in more recent years. I haven't put much of it out in the public eye because I am waiting until the whole piece is finished.

exploring power and conflict as part of my A levels.
It is an intensely personal journey and is proving to be an amazing framework for personal development.
I have been working on the 'Mother' aspect for last few years and my ability to create the images is intimately bound up with where I am 'at'.

The majority of last year was spent focusing on a piece of embroidery that is central to the 'Mother' robes. For the first time in years I have been spending time slowly beading and stitching by hand and loving every minute of it.

It is exact and meticulous and meditative, a total therapy in itself. It has felt like slowly drawing together a solid identity, a crest that is a reflection of this point in my life, step by step.
Then suddenly I was stuck! I didn't want to do anymore and I couldn't work out how to finish it, so it was left languishing whilst life became intense, stressful and winter set in.

Then the New Year broke and as quickly as the process stopped, it started again……. As I walked into the room one day the piece cried out "now you can finish me". My fingers flew and it felt like a really momentous occasion, a breakthrough, finally it was finished. Oh how I celebrated!
And then I realised there was a leg missing! Oh no, a three legged unicorn! and oh how I laughed.

What a lesson! A parody of where I was 'at'!  A reminder that the journey is never over and that there is always yet another step to take.

Four legs!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Changes afoot…...

It's been a while since I managed to write here…for many reasons. Firstly,  life and parenting sometimes takes over and secondly, I have been wondering which direction to go with the blog, websites and general online 'stuff' whilst I have been focusing on working as an artist.
A couple of other wonderful projects have been keeping me busy. I am now running a 'bee club' for the children at our primary school. We have been building solitary bee hotels as well as getting our own beehive and are learning about all species of bees. It's Fab!I love teaching the kids and it feels like I just get to indulge my passions.
I have also been lucky enough to get a grant from Dartmoor Sustainability Fund to develop the project, build a bee garden and buy more equipment for the children.

the bee house
baby bee grubs and all their beautiful pollen colours

There has also been changes afoot in the Studio. I have been busy clearing out and making space for a new inhabitant.As of the 1st of feb Stitchwort Studio is home to Silver and Moor
Miriam has taken on the back studio and transformed it into a wonderful jewellery workshop. You can also find her work in Artisan, Chagford.

The Silver and Moor studio.
It's a change for me to share the space as I have been a long time on my own, but it's great. I am thoroughly enjoying it and when I have finally finished tidying up my rooms I will add some pictures of them!

As part of the 'downsizing' if you could call it that! I have been selling, clearing, giving away and auctioning some of the excess. 
I discovered that I still had some children's jackets cut out and ready to stitch, so I have been beavering away making up the last batches of colourful jackets and am having a clearance sale in the Courtyard Cafe,Chagford for the month of february, so get them while stocks last!

Monday, 17 June 2013


It is a very busy time of year for the Bees.......

I have after many years finally stopped working at Proper Job and with the Textiles recycling project I set up. I haven't completely abandoned it (as it is rather my baby!) but my sister, artist Danielle Barlow and another textiles creative, Iah, have stepped into the breach and will hold it all together.
What is wonderful about this is that my time is now all about Bee-ing. The aim is to spend all my time and energy focusing on my own studio and creativity and to spend a bit more time to teach the kids about bees.
So whilst the sun has been a welcome relief for the bees, both of the hive kind and the solitary, the rain has bought some enforced inside duty spent sat at the computer catching up with things and working on an Etsy shop (finally...I know!) and two new websites, still works in progress.

So here it is.......tadaah!
Stitchwort Studio Etsy Shop
I have also also added it to the tab bar at the top until I have worked out how to put it elsewhere!

The new time in my life has allowed for some exciting new projects,that have been bubbling away in the background, to finally start making it to the surface.
In preparation for an upcoming collaborative jewellery collection (going to have to wait a while for more on this one....still under wraps), I spent a morning with Miriam Boy of Silver and Moor turning a precious piece of heather wood I had into a pendant.
copper, bronze and heather
Dragon heather with hammered sun disc.
I think that this is still a work in progress, I am looking for the right chain and it may have one more piece added to it yet.
I have a theory as a designer that if you are ever going to design something you have to have some idea of how it is made. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my morning, I think I shall leave the metal working to the experts......such a lot of sanding, polishing and patience involved!

Finally whilst travelling through the labyrinth that is Etsy I came across these, it has totally made my day....i hope they don't mind but I had to post it on here and fb.

Unicorn fart lip balm !!! Hilarious :)

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Fancy frocks and chancy chicks

My life has become a strange juxtaposition of fancy frocks and chicken wrestling, one minute my arms are full of beautiful garments and in the next they are full of hens!
It has become a running joke amongst friends that in one telephone conversation I will be pinning a dress and scraping out poop from my coop! or dashing out of my studio to take collection of pallets for fencing whilst banging a saucepan in the street to retrieve my rather adventurous brown hen 'Bovril'.

I think perhaps I am turning into the crazy artist down the road, fortunately, this being Chagford I am in good company, not only in my street but the whole village!

I took these photo's the other day that summed up my life rather aptly I thought.......

There have been a number of reasons that I haven't posted for a while, life got very hectic with a Scottish wedding.......... so a couple of stints in the highlands creating wedding fancies,beautiful baubles and Maid of Honour duties for my lovely cousin Freya.......

A vintage fashion show.............

local models strutted their stuff......
tripped the light fantastic.... 
sashayed in swimwear.......

and swung 70's style!

photo's by Juliette Mills
and a splash of sunshine........
This meant a frenzy on garden jobs, finally a chance to enjoy the beautiful countryside and the opening of our local swimming pool.
frantic fence making from pallets and off cuts from a local skip.....all free and now my veg can grow!

the beautiful Bovril (no longer egg bound!)

and her slightly more scraggy companion Ash
And then the rains came.
Work resumes as normal.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Bee Coat

My love of creating skins means I just can't leave coats alone! I love the idea that one garment can create an entirely new identity in an instant covering all the layers beneath.
From statement to ceremony a coat can be used for almost anything. To become one of many or to stand alone, to hide inside or a declaration of stature. There are so many purposes that I plan to explore through my textile journey..........but to start, here is my own coat!
Me! Photography: Juliette Mills

Me! Photography: Juliette Mills
Me! Photography: Juliette Mills. I Love this picture, it has an old western flavour. These boots have been around in my family for nearly 40yrs, 20 of those with me. Eeek!
I like to think of this as a work in process, I intend to keep adding bees as the mood takes me. This one is not one that I have made from scratch but a 1950's coat that I have re-vamped.  I removed the lining to embroider it and then replaced, although I am now rather wishing I had kept the lining in and embroidered through it!
These pictures are courtesy of my good friend and amazing photographer Juliette Mills. Juliette has been working with me on the Goddess project, which i'm afraid to say is still under wraps until it is finished! For more of Juliettes' work check out her website here. Thanks to Amy's Flowers too.