October 2006


September 30th - October 1st

I think yesterday's course went really well. There were 7 students in the end, as one was unable to come at the last minute - and she was greatly missed. The spiral tube technique went very well with some very bold and brilliant results. In some examples these were sharply-defined chevrons and in others subtly blended ones with an almost pointilliste effect. Sadly I was too busy to take photos, and as the chevron-technique scarves were steamed in the first half of the day, the students took them home so no images are available. But the diagram below is how the scarf is arranged before binding. The grey shading indicates a flat card or pole around which a concertina-folded scarf is wrapped. The image showing a green wrapped and bound scarf has been prepared so that only the ends are dyed, forming a chevron border and textured centre.

Very heavy overnight rain has at last delivered some much needed water to the area. The stream on the Moor is actually running again and is the colour of tea with too much milk. Recently it has an incredibly dark brown and lolling about in pools. Is this because of the tannin from all the oak trees? It is certainly a very good year for acorns.

Further up on the main road is the ditch we call the Dog Wash, for obvious reasons. Today it was more a case of Dog Dye Afternoon...


October 2nd - 3rd

I've just added a series of staged images showing how I make a Meadow scarf. They can be seen on the Wax pages. You need to scroll down. The interesting thing was when I tried to find the finished scarf shown in the images, it was a real puzzle. The look of the piece changed so much during its making that I didn't instantly recognise it from the heap of completed work. This piece was supposed to be a gentle pink and blue......

To elucidate, it started life as a commission. I only occasionally know where the piece is supposed to be going when I start (as with a commission), and even then I don't know I am going to get there. So, if it has to be pink and blue, I will often start three pieces intended to go in the one direction and if I lose the plot with one or two mid-way, I don't necessarily lose the work by pushing it where it doesn't want to go. The wax layer process only adds colour and none can be removed. If the colour balance tips, it isn't always recoverable in the original direction.

October 2nd - 18th

Two tributes. I don't like to go very personal in this blogspace, but occasionally events become larger than my desire to maintain privacy.

1. Many of us in our mid to late 50s still have ageing parents alive and kicking (however feebly), and their care and welfare is of ever-increasing concern. This week my nearly-92-year-old, all-marbles-still-rolling mother started a new phase of her life in a home for the elderly, which is the reason that I haven't been posting here for the last fortnight.

Emotional dignity and generosity are truly amazing things. While internally dealing with the loss of her independence, leaving her (and my late father's) home of 36 years, the fully-comprehended realisation of her treasured possessions soon scattering and her much-loved garden running to weeds, my mother got up slowly from her chair, walked to the car and went off to her new home as if she was being taken shopping. Only later did she admit to being emotional and bewildered. Those accompanying and helping her churned internally but realised that her steely resolve and determination were also for their benefit and support.

Her generation lived through a major war and in my mother's case nearly starved, together with the people of Malta, as they lived through the major bombings of 1941. Malta was one of the most intensively bombed areas during WW II. A total of 3,000 raids occurred during the two years of the siege. In the first six months of 1942, there was only one 24-hour period without air raids. During the greatest times of starvation it is said that foods were rationed to three boiled sweets, half a sardine and a spoonful of jam a day.

My mother gave birth to my Berrimilla brother in an air raid shelter in 1942, and she later travelled to the UK with him by convoy when torpedo attack was a constant possibilty. Maybe that's why he never minded dangerous sailing!

I don't have the slightest idea how one finds the strength for such determined courage and survival, but people did and still do.Which leads me to:


2. With very great sadness I learned this week of the death of Ripple Foster. I had met Ripple at Guild of Silk Painters' events in recent years and knew that she fought a constant battle against ill health. Last year she came to one of my workshops at St Albans and we have had many phone calls since discussing silks, techniques, shows and exhibitions. Recently she and her husband called in on her way back from holiday in France and we arranged that I would visit her in Wales to run a course there at the end of this month. She posted me a book to read, and I was due to return it to her on my visit.

Ripple was a one-off. I had only really just begun to know her personally and appreciate the incredible strength, humour, determination and faith she had which meant that she ploughed on through the difficulties in her life as if her illness was just a bit of a nuisance. I feel privileged to have known her and offer all my best wishes to her family and the friends who knew her better than I did.


Cliffs at Ta Cenc, Gozo

19th - 25th October

I have now made a list. This doesn't mean I have done anything on it, but it at least implies positive intention. I have felt distracted and tired and I am glad I took the trouble to tidy my studio before going away as everything is more likely to be in its right place than normal, and thus, I might be able to find it. If I remember I ever had it in the first place. Those who do not operate on conventionally ordered workspaces but instead rely on mental maps to locate a sought object will recognise what happens when one loses faith with one's memory. In mounting panic, one casts about everywhere but in the "right place" because one does not believe oneself capable of any feat of conventional organisation. Quite often the object is where it "should be". Surprise surprise.

When I was working in industry, a friend and colleague "tidied" my workspace when I was on holiday as she was fearing repercussions on my future employment from Arachnoid Superior (I wrote a bit about this here.) I was not noted for the neatness of my work station. I returned to find my job prospects intact but actual work impossible because everything had been moved from the position in which I had left it.

Back to the list. On it are reminders of:

two short articles I have to write;

photography that will need to go with them;

a pack of off-cuts and samples I need to put together for some book-binders who want to try to work with them;

work replacement for a gallery and

facing up to making a sample for a a fabric length.

This last is moseying well down the dusty ol' track deep into Procrastination Territory. I don't know how I am going to do it and I am putting it off. But yesterday I washed and stretched up the sample length. Honest.

Writing the word "mosey", which seemed the appropriate word for the circumstance, raised the question of how I should spell it. I don't suppose I have ever had to think about this before. And I also wondered what its origins are. I was delighted to find there are many other nuts out there who care about this sort of thing. Here's one. Scroll down to Slow Down Faster.

Since you have read this far, I might as well bore you about the weather as well. Walks are very wet as we have had a lot of rain. This means the stream is rushing again and there are autumn fungii doing their thing everywhere.

Midsummer stream bed


Toadstool - variety unknown


26th - 28th October

I turned the plodding mule and tracked back out of Procrastination Territory just before reaching The Great Deadend of Artistic Blockage regarding my fabric commission. (see last entry). I have now started working on the samples. The first one was quite dreadful, the second had one promising half. Third and fourth samples are getting nearer the mark. Instead of making more samples on expensive silk, which won't be useful for much, I am making scarf lengths while I work on with the design.

More fungii on the dog walk

Amanita Muscaria, or Fly Agaric. Click link for more information

The Fly Agaric seems to be cited in various descriptions of shamanic communing with the spirit world, especially in Siberia.

For some interesting theories on its connection to Christmas, click here. However I shall not be following the concluding advice on the page. The sixties are well and truly over for me in one way, and looming ahead in yet another..

Coprinus comatus(?) or Shaggy Ink Cap. Click link for more information

I especially like the texture of the Shaggy Ink Cap above. Might lend itself to trying out as a textured wax surface.

29th - 31st October

Something from the dark side, appropriately for the date. In researching what fungii I'd found, I discovered something about Shaggy Ink Caps. Were I to have been an illuminating monk I might have used ink made from them . So, being me, I just had to try the ink-making (not the monk bit) and was instantly pounding off down to the Moor to find more Ink Caps.

I owe the ink recipe (number 3) and the delightful word deliquesce to Regia Anglorum on their page here (recipe number 3). I do not have a cauldron and so a plastic pot emptied of E numbers has had to suffice. As you can see, the fungii are deliquescing well. They aren't particularly smelly do but look pretty spooky. Shaggy Ink Caps aren't poisonous, although I don't think I shall be ink-drinking.