Handle with Care

Handle with Care is a textile piece about my experience of caring for my terminally ill mother in 1979, the summer I turned 16.   I had never thought of myself as a ‘carer’ until earlier this year when I was involved as an Arts & Health Practitioner in a community arts project in Devon called The Craft of Caring.   The main project was engaging with carers in a series of workshops to make a piece of community artwork.

There was a call for art submissions from people about their experience of being a carer.  After hemming and hawing for a few weeks, I decided to make this piece.  Although I have done a lot of work on this loss over the years, I have carried vivid visual memories around with me for the past 40 years.  This piece of artwork gave me the opportunity to process my experience in a different way than I have done so in therapy.

Artist’s Statement:

“This self-portrait uses photographic and stitched images,
layers of memory and text to capture the artist’s experience
of being an adolescent carer;   an experience of a world unravelling
contrasted with the strength of will to hold herself together.”

Handle with Care, 2019

Continue reading

Clan House

I worked some more on Clan House.  This is the first drawing that I didn’t finish in class.  I want to have more control over the parts I erase so I bought a couple of fine edged rubbers to add to my batterie de atelier.

clan house22

A tricky new thing that I am finding out about drawing, in addition to How to Draw, is ‘how do I know when I’m finished’? I can figure that out pretty easily with an art quilt, a poem or haiku, a photograph, a video or clay sculpture.  With drawing, I am still finding my way to the end.

With Clan House, the finish came when the night woods couldn’t look any more like night woods and a chink of light shone through the doorway

clan house20a

Clan House, charcoal & conte chalk pastel, 42 x 59cm, 2013

and when I had refined the shapes of the totem animal ghosts, handprints & the spirit guide.

clan house21a

When the Muscogee meet a stranger, they ask, “Naginseemaleghee dadee?”  [This means “Who do you cling to?”]  While families include people who are directly related to each other, clans are composed of all people who are descendants of the same ancestral clan grouping. Like many Native American nations, the Muscogee Creek are matrilineal; each person belongs to the clan of his or her mother, who belongs to the clan of her mother.  Clan members do not claim “blood relation” but consider each other as family due to their membership in the same clan.

In my journey through the woods, along the river and back into the past, to my Muscogee roots, I ask myself and those I meet, “Who do I cling to?”

Perhaps this member of the Bird clan knows the answer.

clan house18

The Sleeve of Invisibility

Apparently, there truly is a Cloak of Invisibility, as fictionalised in the Harry Potter novels.   Scientists have developed a ‘metamaterial’ – a new flexible film able to manipulate light rays in a manner that renders solid objects invisible.  Sounds like fun fabric to make wearable art from!

I finished my ‘invisible’ hanging sleeve for Suncast Shadows.  I whipstitched an organdy sleeve to the back and hung it this morning for the acid test.  I have a perspex lath which I use for my other transparent quilt –  ‘Le Mariage du Fleuve et du Ciel’.

When we decorated our flat this spring, we put hanging rails in the hallway outside my studio to make a gallery.

Gallery Two at No. 5

Anyhow, the invisible sleeve is just that.

Suncast Shadows

Completely invisible.

Now, where did I put my fat quarter of metamaterial?

Super Duper Gesso

I’m finally getting back to my artwork now that we’ve finished decorating our flat. When I show ‘Enter the Forest of Dreams’ at the Festival of Quilts this August, and at other galleries, it will be in the round so I’ve decided to paint the back of the quilt which hangs from the headboard.

Enter the Forest of Dreams

When I made it, I used a hand-dyed yellowy-green fabric.

I took my fabric paints and pastels to it a few weeks ago,  but not being a painter-type artist I don’t know about things like underpainting.  So there was a yellowish glow that came through.

First Draft

I then got some white fabric paint and went over what I’d done, but again I had a learning curve to do with overpainting dark fabrics.  Once the paint dried it became semi-transparent.

So last week, I called the good folk at Art Van Go who carry all manner of supplies for dyeing, printing and surface designing fabric.   I told Kevin exactly what I was trying to achieve and he posted me a jar of Jacquard Super Opaque White Fabric Paint.  This isn’t the first time they’ve saved my neck.  You can’t really online shop from their website as their catalogue is a PDF, but they take telephone & mail orders.  Their most valuable resource is their knowledgeable  staff.

Finally, the right product!

Blank Canvas

By the way, anyone remember MAD  Magazine?  I grew up reading it in the 1960’s when I found a stash in our garage.  I remember my Mom sayiing I shouldn’t read them or I’d ‘grow up to be cynical’.  Well, I carried on and grew up only somewhat cynical.  I love the humour!  I still have many issues from the 60’s and several of the paperback versions.

Part of my MAD collection

“Superduperman” is a satirical story by Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood published in the fourth issue of Mad (April-May, 1953). Lampooning both Superman and Captain Marvel, it revolutionized their format, leading to greatly improved sales.  Until Mad #4, the magazine had been a relatively poor seller.

Superduperman!, Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood, 1953

Love lives

I asked Steve to compose some words for me to inscribe on my valance.  He emailed me a poem last night and I read it first thing this morning.  Then opened it a second time, read it and printed it off.  Both times it brought tears to my eyes.  It rings so true and each stanza relates to an element of the bed.  The words and language fit what would be inscribed around a monumental brass for a medieval couple.  It’s perfect.

I could go on to say that Steve is like Mozart* in that he conceives or is gifted an idea, slips it into his jacket pocket, close to his heart, fingers it from time to time, listens to it metaphorically rustle when he leans over, then Voila!   One day, he sits to write and out it comes.  Flowing from his fingers.  Perfect.  No editing.  And nine times out of ten,  it doesn’t need any.  (But I’ll be the first to let him know if it does.)

Anyhow, with no further ado –

Enter the Forest of Dreams

Sleep. Let the forest enfold thee.
Watch. Let thy eyes see light in shade.
Hear. Let thy ears be open to silence.
Dream. Let thy soul be still.
Love is imagined.

Walk. Let thy soul be thy compass.
Feel. Let thy heart be bold, and cautious.
Know. Let hope take root, deep anchor.
Touch. Feel the river flow, and its bounty.
Love is found.

Sleep. The world is done.
Sleep. Thy love is found.
Sleep. The dream is made.
Sleep. This earth is thine.
Love lives.

Steve Coxon
April 2012

In the Forest of Dreams

* I have it on good authority that Mozart used to compose music while he was playing billiards, then sit at his escritoire and write it down as if he was taking dictation from God.

Diamonds in the Forest

Here’s a close up of my diamond-pieced forest floor.   Each diamond measures 11″ lengthwise and 7″ from top to bottom.  I was amazed at how quickly it sewed together; it took me about 2 days to stitch the entire quilt top.


I spent a lot of time on the river today.  Nothing is sewn down yet, but I made a lot of important decisions and have everything in place to start to fuse and stitch.  I like to think about it for a while and walk into the room a few times and see it with fresh eyes before making the final commitment.  Oh, I got the footboard out of storage a couple of weeks ago.  It’s so beautiful and nice to have around.