Work in Progress

Sample of layered work on silk satin using a range of eco, botanical, contact printing methods from Kathy Hays Design courses, and using plant matter harvested from my garden.

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Natural Dyeing: Making Green

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Linen and Silk Samples Dyed with a Decoction of Dyer’s Chamomile Flowers

Chamomile appears in a number of chapters in The Rev Hilderic Friend’s Flowers & Flower Lore.

Under Flowers for Heroes, Saints, And Gods he writes that it is to St Anne – said to be the mother of the Virgin – that the Chamomile is dedicated. The botanical name of the Common or Dog’s Chamomile is Matricaria, and the flower seems to have been dedicated to St Anne from a fanciful derivation of this word from mater and cara, or “Beloved mother.”

Within Flowers And Showers: Trees and Electricity he notes: “Many are the plants which were … used to ward off the evil effects of the thunderstorm, … Some trees and plants, however, were peculiarly liable to the stroke of the electric current. … we find that in Eastern Prussia wreaths of Chamomile-flowers are hung up in the houses on St. John’s Day as a preservative against storms.”

In The Language of Flowers: “The peasantry in Switzerland make the Poppy reveal their future. … It has been remarked by some that the flowers chiefly employed for these purposes have a star-like form, as the Daisy and Chrysanthemum, and are employed because people believed them to be associated with those heavenly powers which were supposed to rule the destinies of men. … It is true that the Daisy used to be employed, and still is, in some country places in England and France; while in Germany the same flower is the favourite among the anxious maidens for prognosticating their love fortunes. In the same country the Chamomile is also employed for the same purpose. “When Goethe represents Margaret plucking the star-flower, and crying, as its last leaf falls, ‘He loves me!’ and Faust saying, ‘Let this flower-language be thy heavenly oracle!’ he traces all our drawing-room fortune-telling with flowers to its true source.”

In Flowers And the Dead: Fresh Flowers On Graves: “No flowers or evergreens are permitted to be planted on graves, but such as are sweet-scented: the Pink and Polyanthus, Sweet-williams, Gilliflowers and Carnations, Mignonette, Thyme, Hyssop, Chamomile, and Rosemary, … many other beautiful flowers are entirely left out, through want of fragrance.”

Under Wreaths and Chaplets: “We have spoken of the use of garlands among the Greeks and Romans. That many of their garlands were made of flowers and leaves whose sanctity was Eastern we know. Even in Rome such wreaths were called ‘Egyptian.’. Among the flowers chiefly used were … and yellow flowers generally, Chamomile, …”

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Eco Print on Silk

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Another Test Eco Print on Silk Satin

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Eco Print on Linen

Learning how to print on linen (not easy) and how to resist print. I like the leaves of the Turkish Sage. They remind me of the heads of dervishes, whirling.

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Eco Printing to the Accompaniment of Quanta Qualia

Made this print today while listening to composer Patrick Hawes‘ sublime Quanta Qualia, which I’m rehearsing for The Isolation Choir’s virtual Summer School.

I’ve made this little sample print as part of an online course on eco printing run and taught by Kathy Hays. I’m doing three of her courses simultaneously. Kathy has not only an immense and deep knowledge of printing with plants, but also the ability to teach clearly this complicated art form, a combination of skills not always met with.

The print’s not perfect, and doesn’t do Kathy’s teaching justice (I’m such a bungler) but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s not easy balancing The Elements, which is what eco printing is all about, essentially. I’m not a god, after all.

Here’s Hayley Westernra’s lovely interpretation of Quanta Qualia.

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Tannin and Tone and Chrome

I’ve just performed at the first virtual concert of the Self-Isolation Choir Summer School. It was a week learning and rehearsing – under the guidance of musical director Ben England – a selection of works from the repertoire of the great John Rutter and included the beautiful A Clare Benediction.

The next week of the summer school will include Patrick Hawes’ and Andrew Hawes’ (lyrics) sublime Quanta Qualia. And Patrick will be directing it personally. I’m a huge fan of Patrick Hawes and had the privilege of singing, a few years back, the UK premiere of his magnificent Te Deum.

It’s been a bit hectic as I’d thought the Summer School was in August and then discovered it was in June and I’m also doing three other hands-on courses, so juggling the art and the music has been difficult, but I like this very close proximity – and blending – of the two disciplines and they speak to each other.

It’s trite to say that music and art are interconnected – the terms Colour and Tone, for instance, are referenced in both visual art and musical contexts – but I’ll say it anyway.

Neither do I have to mention Kandinsky – the first artist to create artworks (often calling them Improvisation or Composition ) directly influenced by music – but I will.

Not trite is this Kandinsky app that enables you to draw shapes and colours which then can be played back as music. It’s been developed by Chrome Music Lab – an innovative web site for learning music through hands-on experiments. The app should have an  extremely addictive warning. The entire site. Whatever you do, don’t visit the Songmaker page.





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Oak Leaves, a Storm, the Pond

The pool
Glows at her feet, and all the gloomy rocks
Are brightened round her. 
(Wordsworth, The Excursion)

A little experiment with oak leaves on cotton fabric. The leaves arrived on the high wind, blown over the hedge, a little branch, to fall near the pond, on which I’m working, my pond project. 

I hope you are all working on your projects, weathering the storm.


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The Spirit Lizard and Covid- 19

Mapping uncertainty

About six years ago I rented an old stone cottage in a country town. Shortly after I moved in I swept the cobwebs off the verandah. In a dusty corner I found the carcass of a little skink – a kind of lizard. Its body had mummified and was perfectly preserved. It was a curious find and I put it away in a box with other odd things I’ve found. Recently I came across it again and placed it on my work table.

This weekend I incorporated the lizard into a talisman. In the process I had to think about what the lizard represented. The metaphysical properties and messages of animals are found through observing their behaviour and thinking about what that symbolizes, The more I thought about lizards the more I realized my little skink can be seen as a symbol for this stage of lockdown.

Lizards have the…

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