Starling – ‘Chorus Line’

Murmurations are one of nature’s wonders, as they pass overhead you have to stop, listen and watch.  Living near the Somerset levels they are part of our seasonal cycle.

Starlings are not a particularly popular bird, greedy on our feeders, intimidating smaller ‘prettier’ birds.  However, the beauty of their feathers can be seen in bright sunshine, iridescent, detailed and glossy.   As a large group they fascinate us, reconnecting us with the natural world on our doorstep.


To read more about Murmurations click here.

The beautiful photograph above taken by Carl Jones was the starting point for this piece.   Carl takes the most wonderful photographs and I would like to thank him for giving me permission to use this photograph for inspiration.  A quick watercolour allowed me to consider the colour and textures of the bird ready to start selecting suitable fabrics.


The startling feathers contain so many colours, the fabric choice produced quite a variety.  The outline sketch allowed me to colour block the image ready for fabric selection.


Fabrics selected and cut to size, the bird started to emerge.


We get thousands his starlings in this area and one of the ways I regularly see them is gathering in huge numbers on overhead wires – ready to take off at a moments notice.

Trying to capture this scene took a few attempts but this final version started with a backing fabric which contained waves of block colours and tiny dots – similar to a murmuration.  I then painted and stitched the tiny details of the birds on the wire.


The tiny details at the end of the starlings feathers required lots of hand stitching on top of the free motion embroidery.  My hand stitching skills are gradually improving with each piece and make a really enjoyable break form the machine work.


Below, he is almost complete, just the legs to add and final stitching details when applying him to the background.  I am awaiting the finished scanned and colour balanced image but will post as soon as I receive it.


He is hopefully the third of four pieces to be shown at some of the Contemporary Quilters West exhibitions this year, to read more about visiting these three venues click here.

Thanks for reading.


Unfolding Stories 3 – CQW Exhibitions

For the past 3 years I have been a member of the Contemporary Quilters West.

We are a group of contemporary and art quilters based in the South West and Wales.  The group is affiliated to the the British Quilters’ Guild and many of us are members of the internet based Contemporary Quilt Group.  We meet six times a year in Saltford, between Bath and Bristol, to discuss ways of increasing our professionalism and promoting our work.

Every two years we hold a major exhibition which presents work from our members under the ongoing title ‘Unfolding Stories’.

Each artist presents a small collection of new work, capturing a point in time in their own creative story.  The exhibition is the unfolding story of their work.

You can read more about the artists here.

Our next exhibition
 Harbour House Gallery, Kingsbridge, Devon.

Contemporary Quilters West Unfolding Stories 3 Exhibition Poster Harbour House, Kingsbridge TQ7 1JD

Click to enlarge
The exhibition can then seen at:
Festival of Quilts, 9th – 12th August 2018

West Country Quilt & Textile Show, UWE Bristol,
​30th Aug – 1st September 2018

We look forward to seeing you!



Osprey Continued & completed

I have been really busy the last 2-3 months producing work that I hope to have entered into a number of forthcoming exhibitions around the country.

The workshop, even with the fire and another heater has been incredibly cold but finally work for this first series of work is complete.  Blog posts and housework have been thoroughly neglected!!

The Osprey below is the first off four pieces I hope to have accepted on the Contemporary Quilters West ‘travelling exhibition’ this year.  You can read more about its inspiration on an earlier blog here.


Osprey- watercolour

The watercolour above was the starting point for this piece.  I used my technique of building up fabrics to create a similar image prior to stitching using both free-motion embroidery and hand stitching.


I start to choose possible threads as this process begins to take shape.


15 different fabrics were used to get to this point and I was now ready to move onto the next stage.


The imagine above shows the Osprey’s stitching, at this point about two-thirds of the stitch detail is complete.  The final important details are added when I apply this piece to the completed backing.


I always check I am absolutely happy with the final colour combinations of the bird with the backing prior to stitching.

Bird Island.jpg

I am still awaiting the final scanned and colour balanced image ready for printing so the image above is not absolutely correct but it gives a good impression of the final piece.

If accepted this piece will be at the first stage of the Contemporary Quilters West exhibition at Harbour House Gallery in Kingsbridge Devon between Friday the 27th of April – May the 3rd 10-5pm.

There is an opening view between 11am and 2pm on the 27th when you will be able to meet many of the makers in our group.  I will be at the exhibition on the Friday the 27th and Saturday the 28th.

It would be lovely to see you if you are in the area.


Where in the World MQ 2017 Challenge

I have spoken about Midsomer Quiltings 12×12 customer challenge in previous blogs but if you would like to read more about the challenge and what it was based on click here.


This years challenge is ‘Where in the World”…..

It will not come as any surprise to know that mine is based on a bird!  I recently watched the fabulous BBC series ‘Tribes, Predators & Me’ with nature photographer Gordon Buchanan.

All three parts were fabulous but I loved the story of the Eagle people of Mongolia.  These Kazakh nomads hunt on horseback with Golden eagles in the Altai mountains of Western Mongolia.

The aim was to set the bird into a backdrop that gave an idea of the tribesmen’s life.  This backing fabric helped to set the scene of a barren land of mountains and snow capped peaks, whilst also giving a subtle backdrop to the bird. A rose gold gilded sun added more interest to the backing.


I have painted a shadow outline of a distant horseman with his eagle on his arm, ready to hunt.

This is quite a different challenge for me as I love trying to capture the birds power and intensity through its eye and reflections.  On this occasion though I wanted to show the bird resting in the foreground with its hood on.

I chose a selection of fabrics to create the leather hand made hood.  I have started to hand stitch areas to help create the hand pieced effect.

I have started to stitch the bird and look forward to finishing the piece after half term.

As always the entries will be for sale via a secret auction to raise money for Dorothy House Hospice.  Its well worth a visit whilst the show is on.

All entries will be displayed at the shop every day from Friday, November 24th, until Monday, December 18th.

I look forward to posting images of the finished piece before delivering it to MQ for the exhibition.



Long Tailed Tit & SAW

Following on from a late May post, my Long-tailed Tit piece is now complete and at the framers ready for Somerset arts Week.

This piece was based on a stunning photograph by Carl Bovis.  Carl is a Somerset Photographer who has a great blog that you can link to here.


This piece will be one of 6-7 originals that I will have on view and for sale at venue 19 during Somerset Arts week (23rd September – 7th October).


As well as originals there will be a selection of giclee prints and greetings cards.  I am exhibiting as part of a group alongside Casey Jon, Scarlett Martin, Suzy Parker, Angie Rooke, Sarah Truscott and Hannah Willow.  The art includes, textiles, weaving, ceramics and paintings.

Venue 19 can be found at North Wootton Village Hall, 5 Pilton Rd, North Wootton, Shepton Mallet, BA4 4ET

We are open everyday between Saturday 23rd September until Saturday the 7th of October 11am – 6pm.  I hope to be there as much as possible but will not be there everyday.

Hope you can pop along and see us.


Slender billed Curlew

Version 2

The first of the pieces based on the Slender billed curlews plight is now complete.  This work was inspired by the wonderful book ‘Orison for a Curlew’ by Horatio Clare.

I have absolutely loved researching this piece and trying new techniques such as simple fabric dying, beading, fabric painting and metal leaf.


Version 2

I’ve really enjoyed experimenting  with the background and how it could tell the story of this fated birds migratory route, which has led to its almost certain extinction.

Version 2

The final piece, incorporates a rock made up of small maps of the key areas listed in Horatio’s book.  Initially I had planned to make each area an individual stone but this looked cluttered.  The balance of telling the story and still creating an attractive piece of art was an interesting test.

Version 2

I have started to use the information and research I have gathered on this bird into another couple of pieces, I look forward to writing about these another day.


I absolutely love what I do, learning about these birds, the threats they face and their possible/probable extinction.  I do however find it incredibly sad that I will never run out of birds in this category and wonder what the future holds for nature in a man-made world.

As Horatio Clare says ‘ A world in which only the robust survive is a dulled and blunted planet; all crows, and no colour’


Slender billed curlew Pre-stitching progress.


I’ve been really busy creating since the building work finished at Easter.  A few pieces are complete and ready for framing, others are pieced and ready for stitching.  The thing I have totally neglected is my blog!  Apologies in advance that I am going to be playing catch up and that you will receive a number in quick (ish) succession!  I hope, once up to date on work done that I will be blogging in the moment…..

The work that has consumed most of my time has been a series of work on the probable extinction of the Slender billed curlew.  These pieces as previously discussed are based on the book ‘Orison for a Curlew’ by the wonderful Horatio Clare.


Above, the initial sketch and fabrics chosen for piecing the first art quilt. You can see I have shown both the front and back of a couple of the fabrics as the back was the most suitable for the areas in question.  Never forget to look at the back of fabrics, it can double the options you have when piecing.


Above, the bird pieced and ready to start adding fine details with fabric paint below.


Encouraged by the members of the quilt group I’m a member of, I decided to have a go with new techniques to create backgrounds.  I can highly recommend this photo paper for transferring images with an ink jet printer onto fabric.  Because the bird had such a hazardous migratory route I wanted to show these areas in map form.  I used images from a very out of date atlas and started experimenting.


Above you can see samples of these prints, before and after dying the fabric in a weak tea solution.  The idea is to stand the bird on a stone, hence the more natural colouring from the tea solution.


Below, experimenting with ideas for pebbles and stones around the main rock.


Although the image below is an ‘old moon’ rather than a ‘new moon’ I wanted to incorporate this image using metal leaf.  The slender billed curlew’s Latin name is Numenius tenuirostris meaning the ‘slim beak of the new moon’.  The image direction of the new moon didn’t work with the first piece so I’ve used a little artist licence!


Unfortunately my favourite pen (a Frixion, iron removable pen), which I usually highly recommend for sketching details as a guide to follow with thread, removed the dye from the backing fabric (you can see a white line around the moon).  This would not normally be a problem as I would thread paint over the area, however for marking out a circle that was only partly used it was an issue!


Below, second take on a slimmer crescent moon.


Samples done, the time was right to start planning the final piece, You can read more about this in the next blog.