Just a Thought: No 1

Ha! Ha! Ha!

Ha! Ha! Ha!

An odd thought sometimes drops into that maze of neurons between my ears, so I’m thinking it might be a good idea to write these oddities down in blog form, as a more dynamic – interactive – way of recording them than just scribbling them into a notebook, or as happens, failing to jot them down at all and losing them. Dynamic in that by putting these feathery thoughts out there, someone will come along and make them cohere in a comment.

Just a Thought No 1. is just this: sometimes, even a lot of the time, I find myself presented with two or more images that are linked, yet I don’t know how, can’t find out and so can take them no further. I am left with an uncomfortable blank feeling. It occurred to me that it might be enough to put the images out into the world as they are, unresolved.

I'm thinking about what you should do with all these blank sheets of paper

I’m thinking about what you should do with all these blank sheets of paper.

It might be just as valid, more honest, as hanging onto them until I can present a well-thought-out argument, neatly rounded-off; more honest, even. I mean, is Life neat, rounded-off, void of incoherence, of blank feelings? After all, no matter what you put out there it is processed, often into something that has nothing to do with your intent. Sometimes, this adds to your work, is inspirational, is something in the work you hadn’t yourself seen.



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Eco Print on Silk, Cranesbill Geraniums and their Metaphysics

Eco Print on Silk Habotai 8

Eco Print on Silk Habotai 8. The bright yellow leaf print is from a pink-flowered Cranesbill Geranium in my garden.


Some leaves of the pink-flowered Cranesbill Geranium

Some Leaves of the pink-flowered Cranesbill Geranium

Pink Flower, Cranesbill Geranium

Pink Flower, Cranesbill Geranium. Note the amazing pattern of growth ‘veins’ in the petals and the tiny deep pink ‘flower’ in the middle surrounded by its yellow-green exploding halo, which looks like a Jacobean collar, surrounding the head of the tiny deep pink flower in the middle. This is actually the flower’s ‘bill’, a ‘beak’ containing the flower’s one seed, which the bill spits, at its appropriate trigger, into the wide world. The five petals are therefore, protection for the flower’s seed pod. There’s a metaphysical level of meaning here, folks!

Eco Print on Silk Habotai 8

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Revisiting the Fan

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Taking a Red Cabbage (and an Apple) for a (Low Calorie) Walk


With apologies to Paul Klee for misquoting his famous definition of drawing (that it is … taking a line for a walk).

This is a red line that’s been taken for a walk. Well, … more like a spin. A meandering sort of walk, yet clearly in spiral form, a labyrinthine walk.

red-cabbage-sectioned-ii-24-october-2016These images are scans of slices of one of this year’s allotment crop of red cabbages.

Red cabbage is a Brassica. Its leaves vary from dark red to purple. The tone depends on the acidity of the soil in which it’s cultivated. I’m surprised my cabbages are so red – indicating a soil more acid that alkaline – as I added a generous quantity of lime to my Brassica bed to  reduce the acidity of the soil a couple of weeks before planting out the young cabbages.

red-cabbage-sectioned-iii-24-october-2016After I scanned the slices, I ate them. Waste not, want not. I washed them first, of course.  Forgot to wipe the scanner. I steamed the cabbage, together with an apple. red-cabbage-section-i-24-october-2016There is no vegetable more delicious than red cabbage slices steamed with apple, till the apple is stewed but the cabbage tender but still holding its shape.

And a 90g portion of red cabbage contains only about 20 calories, which is great news for weight watchers. red-cabbage-sectioned-iv-24-october-2016

The calorific content of an eating apple is roughly 45, so a mound of the delicious combo, which is filling because of the bulk of the cabbage, will come only to about 65 calories.

And more good news: red cabbage has 10 times more vitamin A and twice as much iron as green cabbage. And if you take the cabbage for a brisk walk you’ll burn those  calories off (yourself, not the cabbage) meaning  you can add a sprinkling of walnuts and that’s your protein sorted, too. Walnuts provide omega-3 fatty acids (an anti-inflammatory), are high in copper, manganese, molybdenum and biotin. If you want to know what these all are and why they’re good for you, google it.

red-cabbage-sectioned-v-24-october-2016Also, research indicated that walnuts lower the risk of prostate and breast cancers and they’re good for the heart and liver. Be stingy with the walnuts though, one walnut contains 26 calories.


Red cabbage offers up an infinite number artistic possibilities. You can use a slice as a stamp, of course (and I will); but did you know (I didn’t) that red cabbage water will turn vaious shades of pink when mixed with vinegar or lemon juice (acids) and you’ll get blue/blue-green from the same water mixed with detergent or baking soda (alkalines).

Don’t eat the stamps though, children, or drink red cabbage water to which you’ve added detergent. It won’t kill you but I don’t suppose it’ll taste nice diluted with baking soda, either.

I do love those spiral lines, my spiral walks.  I can’t help believing that any veggie that grows spiral fashion must be healthy, too, at the metaphysical level of being.

What do you think?





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Mark-Making with the Iron Blanket


I’ve just discovered the iron blanket


It’s a piece of cloth you simmer in a solution of water and ferrous sulphate for about an hour or so and you use it as the outermost layer of an eco print (or botanical pressure print, if you like). It helps transfer the colour from the plant matter you’re using, onto the fabric or paper you are printing onto. In the process, the print also prints like in these photos, onto the blanket. I found the technique on Facebook’s Eco-Dyeing, Creating Learning group, which I just joined.


I wrapped this iron blanket round several layers of silk habotai, organza and muslin into which I bundled plant matter from my garden and local woods and also, some leaves from three different types of Eucalyptus leaves. The euc is thanks to my two local florists. In this photo, the earthy red circle in the middle is a print from a green euc leaf.


The cloth was still wet and crinkled when I took these photos.


Here’s one with some of the plant matter still attached after steaming then undoing the bundles. It’s a piece of fern leaf, from the garden.


Here’s another.

And another

And another.

And yet another. The cloth is an offcut from an Ikea curtain that was too long. It's heavy-duty 100% cotton.

And yet another. The cloth is an offcut from an Ikea curtain that was too long. It’s heavy-duty 100% cotton.

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In Praise of Slow

eco-print-on-silk-with-sheppey-fossil-conglomerate-29-october-2016“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”  Henry David Thoreau

Here’s another from my latest batch of eco prints on silk. I took the batch outside to photograph. I thought how well this print looked placed next to the hemispherical conglomerate brought back from a fossil-hunting trip to the Isle of Sheppey last summer.

Sheppey is a noisy seaside resort of caravan sites and kiss-me-quick hats, but is also known for its fossils and we brought back a bucketful of rock crystals, like these in the second photo.

Next time I go I’m bringing back some of the mud from the flats that, mixed with sand, make up a lot of the beach. I will use the mud for dyeing, especially as a resist. I haven’t tried dyeing with mud yet.

I found walking the beach at Sheppey out towards the sea at low tide so scary I turned back, afraid of being sucked under, though there were heftier lads and lasses than I cavorting happily where I feared to tread. Well, that’s a neurosis exposed!

I’d forgotten about my stash of rock crystals and got a some out I’d cleaned a bit had stored in a tin box. It came to me in a flash that they were to be included into artworks; specifically, I have been looking for something to add to the second panel of my little triptych-in-progress encaustic/eco prints. I was calling it Found:Unbound, but am changing that to Spreads.
(The reasoning behind this is for another day, another blog).I’ve been playing around with little bits of pebble and sea-smoothed china to include but none convinced me of their right to inclusion.  I saw how the rock crystals will work on both physical and metaphysical levels.

found-unbound-i-1-13-october-2016Part-done works litter my working space, this can be for very long periods of time, in some cases, years. On my worktable I will place something next to a work, take that away, place something else there, rearrange everything to this side, or the other. To the casual eye, it can look like nothing at all ever happens. I should do some time-lapse photography. It would prove that there is motion and change, but that this is slow. I think my artistic mindset is in tune with that of the Slow Stitch movement, which came out of the Slow Movement, which came out of the Slow Food Movement, a revolt against fast food or more pertinently, the fast food lifestyle.

From the Slow Movement web site: “It is important to note that the Slow Movement is not about doing things slowly. It is about finding the right speed with which to do something in a way that values quality over quantity, long term benefits over short term gains, and well–being of the many over the few. In the long run, many Slow Movement proponents would argue that slow can ultimately be faster, and certainly better, as we make decisions and act in ways that are more thoughtful and considerate than purely efficiency driven processes.”

eco-print-on-silk-i-29-october-2016My Slow Art is slow; that’s because it’s about developing an artistic vocabulary, which is vital, no matter how long it takes. Without appropriate words, one cannot speak, but only babel. I’ve done a fair amount of babelling in my time and that’s a fact.

Out of the Slow Art movement has developed an annual Slow Art Day, with venues around the globe. The Slow Art Day in 2017 is on 8 April, my birthday, where you will find me, I hope, at The Ashmolean, in Oxford, looking slowly at five works of art. I’ll also get in a bit of real ale bevvying as Oxford is also real ale country with a vengeance.

Maybe I should book a hotel for the night.

Have a slow day!




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Prayer (or whatever) Request

Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Spectabilis)Dear WordPress friends

A friend is gravely ill

I am staying up all night to pray for her

I ask that you please offer up a prayer for her (or do whatever you do)

She’s called Steph

Thank you




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A Treasury of Leaves: Eco Print on Silk

eco-print-on-silk-close-up-of-corner-29-october-2016An eco print (botanical pressure print) on silk, from my recent batch. The red dye is from red Virginia Creeper leaves. I was lucky to get the leaves. Normally, Virginia Creeper is found decorating the walls of private houses and the riotous autumn leaves are inaccessible without trespassing.

I came by these leaves without being arrested. They’re from a Virginia Creeper which has escaped from captivity to cascade down a bank of bramble that frames one side of the path through local woods.


The brown on the side of this print is a mystery. Might it have something to do with the sea water I used in the boiling/steaming process?

The lines resulted from the rubber bands I used to tie up the bundle before steaming; they acted as a resist, stopping the dye getting into the silk underneath the tight band.

Without the contrast created by the brown and lines, the print would be wishy-washy (though it is less wishy-washy in reality than this photo). The lines remind me of musical notation. I’ll call it contrapuntal, then.


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Natural Dyeing and Eco Printing


Some recent natural dyeing and eco printing experiments on silk

I took this photo on a table outside the kitchen window. It’s November, but see the Fuschia blossom top right? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Fuschia in bloom outdoors in England in November. Times, they are a-changing.

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