May News, including new workshop dates.

Workshops for May and June – including a new date for my beginner’s workshop – and E17 Designers at the E17 Art Trail.



Sunday 7th June, 11.00 am – 3.30 pm
First Steps In Feltmaking
This workshop is for adult beginners. You will create your first felt picture or piece of table art, as you learn the ancient and fascinating art of feltmaking.

Sunday May 17th, 11.00 am – 3.30 pm; or
Saturday June 27th, 11.00 am – 3.30 pm

Surface Decoration In Felt
This workshop is for adults who have made some felt already. It is designed to extend your repertoire of decorative options – we will be incorporating yarns, threads and silks into felt to produce a unique felted notebook cover.

All workshops are held at Red Door Studios, Masterman Road, London, E6. I will provide materials and equipment as well as drinks and light refreshments. Participants will need to bring a large old towel and a packed lunch. Please bring an apron or wear old clothes!

For the Surface Decoration In Felt workshop please bring a hardback notebook for which you will make a cover. The maximum size (for reasons of workspace) should be A5. I will have some notebooks available to buy on the day.

To book your place on one of these workshops, either email me or send me a message at the Starjump Arts Facebook page.

E17 Designers at the Book-ish Market


The very popular E17 Art Trail will run from 30th May to 14th June 2015. It’s a huge event including open studios, gallery events, markets and exhibitions. The theme for this year is Storytelling, and the E17 Designers are getting into the spirit of the festival with their Book-ish Market on Saturday 13th June from 12.00 pm to 6.00 pm at Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre Pub, 53 Hoe Street, E17. All goods will have a book-ish theme. I will be there with felt covered notebooks and sketchbooks, bookmarks and felted pencils.

Look out for more art trails in the coming months – Forest Gate is soon to hold its first arts trail. More news in the next newsletter.

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Spring news

After a busy Christmas and my first winter workshops at Red Door Studios I am now beginning to plan for Spring and Summer. I have news of new workshop dates, markets for E17 Designers, and Spring cards at Number 8 Forest Gate.



Sunday April 12th, 11.00 am – 3.30 pm
First Steps In Feltmaking
This workshop is for adult beginners. After making your first felt sample you will move on to creating a picture or piece of table art in felt.

Sunday May 17th, 11.00 am – 3.30 pm; or
Saturday June 27th, 11.00 am – 3.30 pm

Surface Decoration In Felt
This workshop is for adults who have made some felt already. It is designed to extend your repertoire of decorative options – we will be incorporating yarns, threads and silks into felt to produce a unique felted notebook cover.

All workshops are held at Red Door Studios, Masterman Road, London, E6. I will provide materials and equipment as well as drinks and light refreshments. Participants will need to bring a large old towel and a packed lunch. Please bring an apron or wear old clothes!

For the Surface Decoration In Felt workshop please bring a hardback notebook for which you will make a cover. The maximum size (for reasons of workspace) should be A5. I will have some notebooks available to buy on the day.

To book your place on one of these workshops, either email me or send me a message at the Starjump Arts Facebook page.

E17 Designers Spring Market


E17 Designers will be holding their Spring market on Sunday May 10th at the Asian Centre, Orford Road, Walthamstow, London, E17 from 2.30 pm to 6.00 pm. The organisers are always careful to ensure that there is a wide variety of high quality handmade goods on sale. I very much hope to be trading there!

Cards for Spring


I have new cards for sale at Number 8 Forest Gate, which is at 8 Sebert Road, Forest Gate, London, E7. These are suitable for Mother’s Day, Easter and Spring birthdays. If you haven’t bought your Mother’s Day gifts yet Number 8 has a tempting selection including vintage, locally-produced honey and sauces, and of course felt!

I hope to be seeing you in the coming months at a workshop or market. Let us hope for a nice, early Spring!







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Feltmaking Classes in East London – beginning in February 2015

Feltmaking is an ancient art with exciting contemporary possibilities, and one that is growing in popularity.

I love to teach feltmaking, as the process of turning piles of soft fibres into beautiful tactile fabrics seems mysterious and almost magical! I’ve taught many people to make felt – primary school children, young adults with learning disabilities, teachers, seniors, artists, and experienced fibre practitioners like the Gloucestershire Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. We all had fun, and all produced beautiful and interesting results! If you love colour, love fibre and love to create, then feltmaking is for you!

If you’d like to come and learn to make felt with me in East London, I am running a programme of workshops for 2015.

My first two workshops are for beginners. First Steps in Feltmaking will run twice in February, on 7th February and 28th February, from 11 am – 3.30 pm at Red Door Studios in Masterman Road, E6 (easily accessible by tube and bus). We will be learning how to make fine felt with luxurious merino wool, progressing from a first sample to your first felt picture or piece of table art.

The cost will be £32-00, which includes all materials, coffee and tea, cakes and fruit.

To book, please send me an email at, or contact me via my Facebook page, Starjump Arts.

I look forward to seeing you!

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Breathing just a little

I am only just getting enthusiastic about Twitter. For a long time, I couldn’t understand how you could say anything worthwhile in 140 characters. But slowly, slowly, I’ve begun to appreciate that restriction. Amongst all the exclamations and the cat pictures and the politics and the links to etsy that make up my twitter feed, I occasionally come across something, some brief sentence, isolated, which sets off fireworks in my head.

The poet John Lavan (@sufiJohn) posts frequently on Twitter. John’s tweets often begin with a quotation, followed by a link to some of his own sensitive writing. Recently, he tweeted the quotation  “Listen. Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?” by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver. It stopped me in my tracks.

It was the single, memorable line that did it.  The quotation is part of a much longer poem which is full of wonderful language and rapturous praise of the natural world, but that line, standing on its own and beginning with a quiet instruction – “Listen.” is incredibly compelling for me.

That experience of being alive but not really living is something I have tried to explore through art and writing.  Some years ago, I came across some words by Sylvia Plath which made a lasting impression on me.  Plath wrote: “I am afraid. Of what? Life without having lived, chiefly….It is as if love, pleasure, opportunity surrounded me and I were blind.” She adds “I am in a fix. How to get out of it?” but sadly, she doesn’t seem to find an answer*.

Wanting to try to express and explore her dilemma somehow, I made a textile piece, Some Words by Sylvia Plath.  On a dark, rounded shape hemmed in by tight lines of stitiching, I stitched Plath’s words in a spiral of pink and red and orange threads, repeating over and over into the centre, trying to evoke that feeling of frustration, of being stuck, unhappily repeating.

2014-05-30 10.58.48

‘Some Words of Sylvia Plath’ YWE 2008

















Making something visual can be another way of thinking and, for me, the long hours of stitching this piece were very meditative.


Detail showing words made up of coloured stitches

We all know people who are eager and able to seize the day, but why do some of us struggle to do this?.  For some of us, contact with life is often tentative, uneasy, scant and scared – even though this isn’t what we want.

Later in her poem, Mary Oliver exhorts us to ‘Fall in! Fall in!’ to life. If only we could. Perhaps we can.


*Sylvia Plath, journal entry for Monday September 15th 1958, from The Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-62 (Faber and Faber)

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The traces of things….


On my way home from Walthamstow the other day, I took a brief detour to photograph this old sign.  It is a perfect example of a ‘ghost sign’, of the kind that can be seen all over London – a faded ‘ghost’ of a trade sign or advertisement, sometimes barely discernible. They have long fascinated me.

I particularly like this one because it was put there by the London Co-operative society, and probably marks the site of one of their stores.  Co-operative Society shops were different, because working people were not just consumers, but members; for a small outlay they could invest in a ‘share’ of the enterprise and received a regular dividend based on their spending.  I only know this because, in another life, I was a historian, and researched the lives of working-class women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Womens’ Co-operative Guild, an arm of the co-operative movement, conducted research into the lives of working women in order to fight for improvements in their lives  (for example, a Maternity allowance) but unusually, instead of asking doctors and other professionals for information, they asked for evidence from working women themselves, and women were invited to write in with their stories. I vividly remember reading some of those letters for the first time.  They give an intimate glimpse into the hardships and privations endured by these women, often described in an undramatic, matter of fact way. The woman who washed other peoples’ clothes in a freezing scullery until 4am because her husband was ill and could not work.  The woman seduced by her employer who became an unmarried mother at 18 but was determined to keep her baby.  The woman who only went out shopping after dark because she had no shoes and didn’t want anyone to know. Countless women who went hungry so that husbands and children could be fed.

But alongside these sad and difficult narratives emerged other stories – what the Women’s Co-operative Guild and the Co-operative movement meant to these women.  On a purely practical level, the dividend proved a small but invaluable addition to the family budget and was often relied upon for the purchase of bigger items like boots.  Women would walk miles to shop at the Co-op because of the favourable impact on their dividend. But the Guild and its meetings gave them so much more. Education – from how to cook economically to political theory – and access to reading material.  Friendship and a social life. The chance to challenge themselves – to help to run their branch of the Guild, to speak at meetings, to have a stake in public life. Quite literally, the Co-operative movement changed their lives.

LCS tiles

So when I see the faded and peeling Co-op sign and the lovely tiled motif which is all that remains of the store, I don’t think so much of the store itself but of what if meant to the lives of ordinary women.  It isn’t just what these women did – risking their tiny amounts of capital to buy a ‘share’ and loyally buying at the store – but what they thought and felt about what they were doing that seem important.  The physical trace of the past gives rise to an imaginative connection with real people and their real hopes, fears and experiences, a sense of  interconnected significance and possibility.

It was only after I had thought all that through that I realised that I am thinking of my current series of felt studies in a similar way to these old signs – they, too, are about the traces of things (see my previous post).  What I am attempting to convey is a glimpse of a life or an experience, a ghost of someone or something, seen and yet unseen. From the physical thing flows, perhaps, an imaginative connection with something less tangible but nonetheless, important – how existence might be experienced.

It is years now since I left academia, and I have always seen my life as a historian and my life as an artist and feltmaker as separate and distinct. I sometimes missed historical research and felt sad that I had left that part of myself behind. I now realise, however, that the particular ways of thinking about the past which I developed all those years ago, while delving into the hidden lives, experiences and feelings of ordinary women, are still with me. They are still alive in the way I make art. I am still concerned with the traces of things.

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Poem into textile – At The Edge Of Sight

Many years ago, I wrote this poem about the way in which some people (perhaps, for example, older women) seem to become invisible in our society.  People who do not have the appearance of beauty or celebrity, who do not seek to draw attention to themselves or thrust themselves forward, can easily be discounted as unimportant or uninteresting.  And yet, what unexpected sparks of intellect, of creativity, of kindness, of talent, of originality may be hidden beneath an unremarkable exterior?

At The Edge Of Sight

Not what the world calls womanly
This ordinary figure, neither old nor young
The body solid, straight-backed, neither fat nor thin
And if she does go out and in
As women ought
Her shape is hidden
Under some old coat

And she does not disturb the world as she goes by
There is no power in her, no delight
She is a ripple at the edge of sight
The world will waste no time
On one so colourless and grey
And yet
Her vivid mind makes fire pictures
Of the falling leaves
This Autumn day

For some reason, I keep coming back to this poem, and especially to the line ‘She is a ripple at the edge of sight’ – it seems suggestive of the glimpsed, the barely registered, the slight but discernible disruption, the movement perceived out of the corner of your eye, that tells that something or someone is there.  How to suggest this in a visual way?

This is my first piece in a series of works inspired by the poem.


And in this detail shot you can see more clearly the top layers of felt cut away in places to reveal tiny glimpses of colour underneath.



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Move over Jay Rayner…

I have just written my first guest blog – a cafe review – for a great blogsite Two Fat Vegetarians.  I very much enjoy the recipes shared on the site by Sharon and Anthea.  This is not complicated, expensive, difficult food.  This is good, simple food that can be eaten every day but which is put together with great care and appreciation. In the recent hot weather (where on earth did THAT come from?) I have been raiding their archive frequently for fresh and interesting salads. I particularly like the way in which Anthea and Sharon go beyond the mere listing of ingredients and recounting of method.  They also discuss their intentions for each dish and describe some of the decisions they made in choosing flavours, textures, seasonings.  This helps me to imagine the dish as I read, and also augments my own ‘vocabulary’ of possible combinations of foods. As you can see, I am a big fan of theirs. So it was an absolute delight to be asked to contribute a review of one of my favourite local cafes.  But a little nerve-racking – I’d never reviewed food before.

Well, what hard work  it was to have to stroll through the park to Coffee7 in Forest Gate on a lovely sunny day with a friend. What a hardship to be greeted by friendly staff and to choose a lovely old table near the back of the cafe, and feel the cool breeze blowing in from the garden. How I grimaced with the effort of choosing a gorgeous lunch of peppers stuffed with couscous, which I then had to photograph when it arrived on its pretty vintage plate.

cafe 2

Still more labour lay ahead – I had to eat the meal, slowly and savouring every lovely flavour, while chatting with my friend and looking at the exhibition of local art arranged on the walls around us.  These restaurant critics certainly earn their money.

You can read my review here  and you can find Coffee7 vegetarian cafe here.

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Feel the fear and do it anyway!

I have successfully completed some little bags with zips at the top! Accomplished seamstresses amongst you will no doubt wonder what all the fuss is about, but having had a traumatic encounter with the zip during school sewing lessons, I have never been able to get it right.

I was completely new to sewing and especially to sewing machines when we started to learn to sew at school. Our domestic science, as it was then called, consisted of half a year or cookery and half a year of sewing, and while I often cooked with mum at home and felt quite comfortable in a kitchen, the sewing room was absolutely unfamiliar. I didn’t know what all the paraphernalia was – what was a seam ripper? Bias binding? Interfacing, for heaven’s sake? But worse still were the machines. The electric machines terrified me. Even when set to the slowest speed they seemed to go incredibly fast, and as my brain did not seem to be able to tell my foot to lift from the pedal when my stitching went awry, I had the uncomfortable feeling that the machine was running away with me. I was quickly relegated to one of the two hand-sewing machines in the sewing room so that I could chug along at a snail’s pace, and even then I couldn’t achieve a straight line of stitches.

And then there was the formidable Miss Barratt, the sewing teacher. She was one of those ferociously competent women who had no understanding of what it might be like NOT to like sewing or be good at it. While overseeing our classes she effortlessly turned out garments of her own, including a kilt-like skirt with dozens of precise little pleats, each lying perfectly flat and even. Her exasperation at my own poor progress was palpable. Her criticism was withering and unsparing and I believed every word of it – I must, indeed, be clumsy, disorganised and forgetful. Sadly, as teachers everywhere know, making someone feel bad is rarely an aid to good learning, and after a while I stopped trying.

As I became more and more disengaged, I must have been a most infuriating pupil. I never had all the right kit, desperately cadging bits of thread and tailors chalk from my friend Gillian. I often neglected to listen because I was so bored (or rather, I affected boredom to conceal my anxiety about my many failures). And I had so tenuous a grasp on the use of a dress pattern that I once sewed the two outside edges of the back of a dress together, thinking that they were the centre seam! No wonder the zip didn’t fit!

I spent almost the whole of the last term of sewing trying to fit the horrid zip into the horrid school dress I was supposed to be making – hours and hours of pinning, tacking, stitching (very slowly), unpicking, starting again – and I never managed to get it right. It was never straight.  I never finished the dress. And when it was all over, I had a Scarlett O’Hara moment and vowed I would never be humiliated by a zip again. And I never was, because I never, ever went near one. Later, I learned to enjoy sewing, and have taught myself to make all sorts of things – as long as they don’t need a zip.

However, in a bid to conquer the zip demon, I recently enrolled in an evening course in sewing. It has been a revelation.  I’m still scared of the whizzy fast machines, but this time I have an incredibly patient tutor, Sheila, who will not let me give up even if I want to, and who gently but firmly guides me out of my comfort zone and encourages me to try new things.  Under her direction I’ve tried patchwork, applique, even reverse applique, and learned to design a bag.  And, I can now square up to a zip and show it who’s boss.  It’s a shame that its taken me over 35 years to get to this point, but now, I can do it.

So Miss Barratt, wherever you are – Ta-Dah!

zipped bags

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This week I have been mostly reading…Etcetera by Sibella Court


Books about interior design can be intimidating and depressing .I often feel as though I could never attain comparable results without a full-time stylist and a six-figure salary, and that anyway the whole ‘look’ will be out of fashion by next year.  But this book really cheers me up.  The interiors depicted here are atmospheric, eclectic, eccentric, even a little chaotic, but somehow they work.

Sibella Court works as a stylist and has an interiors shop in Australia, and her own paint range, but this is not a book pushing specific products. What she chiefly promotes is an approach to arranging a living space which starts from things you already own and love.  She wants you to ‘become the curator of your own style’, and the beautiful images in her book show examples of what she has done with her own treasured possessions and collections built on year by year.  Almost nothing is expensive, but everything is valuable to her.  Everything has a past, a story, a memory, sometimes made explicit by wear or repeated mending.  Furnishings are flexible – a chair becomes a side table, a curtain becomes a rug. Groups of objects become ‘mini-installations’, temporary collections to be arranged and rearranged at will.  The link between objects can be a colour, a theme, a texture or a material, or simply the fact that they are meaningful to you.

Reading this book again has made me look at some of my own possessions – particularly those I usually keep shut away in cupboards – and to think about giving them an airing in a ‘mini-installation’ of my own. I think I need more practice in order to develop confidence in my visual vocabulary, but here’s my first attempt, bringing together an old bakelite clock (1930s maybe?), some old sewing books with faded covers, old wooden cotton reels (that used to belong to my Auntie Elsie) and a spiny crab shell that I found on the beach in Wales.  As you can see, I like old things…



Notice the chipped paint on the mantelpiece, for that authentic ‘shabby chic’ look!

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Pop-up shops

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