Tuesday 30 November 2010

Chess Men

The chessmen are carved from soapstone and are from Africa. They were a present to John from his ex- flatmate Paul Farrelli, the Italian stallion. Paul is not Italian. His dad, Percy, was Australian and his mum, Ursula German. They lived in Neath and all seemed very Welsh and very close. When John and Paul shared a flat in north London Paul's parents would visit, sleeping in their caravan parked on the street outside. Ursula would arrive laden with Welsh cakes and proceed to clean the flat, scrubbing the teapot so thoroughly it hardly had chance to recover between sporadic visits.

John and I stayed with them in Neath and were always made to feel at home. Ursula fussed long and eloquently over trivia, such as a sour cream cake, but calmly got on with life's high dramas. It was a privilege to know her and I wish my girls could have done so.

Monday 20 September 2010


I love this pot. We bought it from John Kershaw's studio based shop in Windermere over ten years ago. He introduced us to Potfest and we have made annual pilgrimages ever since. He encouraged the girls by selling them the small pieces they admired at pocket money prices. This year John is retiring. There is a sale on at the shop, but it is hard to buy stuff as the opening times have already embraced retirement mode. He will continue to sell work through galleries, but his own small, white, elegant space attached to the dusty studio will close and he will no longer emerge from said studio to wrap his work in tissue and impart quiet nuggets of information. Good luck to him. We will miss him.

Wednesday 15 September 2010


We grew giant sunflowers in a clutch against the wall. Their size and armored structure fascinated me. it seemed unreal that such a thing could form in a season. The birds sowed a few of their own, smaller and more delicate, but with the same interlocking sepals, which in the sketches become indecipherable from the yellow petals. Here is a composite of some of the sketches.

Monday 12 July 2010

The Caravette - A Poem by Henry Gibson

Dad bought an aged VW caravette from a bloke at work. It was painted two tone green and looked dull and van like. It was the best car we ever had. Freedom from travel sickness and the ability to see over walls. Cups of tea made fresh wherever we pulled up in it. The world was our lobster!

We toured Scotland in it the first year. The first night we all slept in it, or to be accurate I slept. I had the prime berth over the engine at the back, with the dog at my feet. My Gran lay across the front on a partially inflated air bed and three pillows, she may as well have stayed sitting up. I have no idea where she stowed her teeth. Mum, Dad and Dave top and tailed it in the main bit. Dave sighed a lot. He was in the middle and couldn't breathe. Dad slept with his nose in the slot for the knife drawer. About half an hour in the three of them had to get up for Dave to use the bucket. I knew nothing of this in spite of Mum shining the torch on me to check I was alright. When the spotlight shone on Beaty she was looking straight at it with birdlike fixity startling to behold.

Early next morning Dad had to disengage from his dual with the carving knife to let the dog out. He sighed and announced "The Caravette - a poem by Henry Gibson" a quote from Rowen and Martins Laugh In , which was popular at the time. It made us all laugh and passed into family parlance.

Saturday 15 May 2010


The day Mum and Dad became engaged he went to the florist to buy roses. Spring was too early for roses in Darnal. He spent the saved 'rose' money on narcissi, he came away with both arms full. Walking up Vine Road people asked after 'our Joyce' thinking she was poorly. When he arrived she was not impressed, but I always found it a romantic story.

For the weekend of their Ruby Wedding anniversary we surprised them both by hiring a house in the Lake District, where the daffodil receives due homage every spring. We bought them a basket full. Dad finally came up with the goods, a single red rose and a ruby ring, which Emma now wears on her middle finger.

Friday 16 April 2010

American Rocker

Beaty bought the American rocker, it was her chair. Grandpa Davis would rock me in it as a baby and small child. When he died and Beaty lived with us it sat by the window in our front room. It became my Cinderella carriage and my sleigh at Christmas or, sat astride facing the back, I galloped wildly accompanied by the pranging sounds of the springs. Most often it was our stagecoach, Dave and I jammed in side by side rocking like crazy, me whipping the horses, him shooting over the back. Until we were caught.

When I bought my first flat Beaty gave it to me. I waxed the woodwork and had it re-upholstered. It reined supreme among the floor cushions. When I moved in with John it muscled into our rented flat in London. Dad sat and rocked Emma as a newborn baby in our first house. It was the comfy chair Belle curled up in the dining room of Grange Bank.

All my life it has been ready to comfort and soothe with its motion.

It now sits by the fire in the cottage. I must now be the age Beaty was when she bought it.

Birch Bark Study

Ronseal really!

Thursday 15 April 2010


The Amaryllis bulb was a Christmas present from Auntie Elaine. She has always had a knack with gifts. When I was small she sewed a long white dressing up dress that fitted me from a drawing I'd made. For my twenty first she bought a suitcase with, most satisfyingly, a matching vanity case, pink satin lining with elasticated pockets.

I'd fancied an Amaryllis in a fuzzy, corner of my wishing mind sort of way for a while. I planted the bulb, egg-like in its' pot. It grew almost perceptively in the way of wolf hound puppies and produced a multi-headed bud. The bud very gradually burst and the flower was red.

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Grange Bank

This was our home for twenty years and we all love it. This is how it looked when we first moved in, now the trees are a bit bigger. It is drawn over an old field plans of the area given to us by the previous owner.

Monday 29 March 2010

Fairy on the Tree

We had an artificial Christmas tree. Granddad Davis ordered it from a newspaper and it arrived in a surprisingly small cardboard box. Plastic coated branches slotted into a screwed together wooden post. The final effect seemed magical. Every year we would sort the branches by size slot it all together and decorate it with a mixture of lights, tinsel, fragile old foxed baubles and 'unbreakable' seventies kitsch. The fairy graced the top. She had gold paper wings and a net skirt in those days.

After Dave and I left home Dad put up the tree every year, chuntering about it. The Christmas after Mum left, the girls and I put it up in her new flat. She invited us all round to tea and we pulled crackers and played charades. It was a snug family evening. After Christmas she binned the tree, without warning, because it was "no use hanging on to things for the sake of it."

Sunday 28 March 2010

Chatsworth Walk

This is my attempt at a Richard Long inspired piece based on a walk Marie and I had in January.

His work is rather more elegant.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Twenty Drawings ; I'd love a Babycham

Babycham was a rare childhood treat, especially one in my Granny Beaty's proper glasses with a cherry - even if it was a glace one, floating in an oily slick. Once Beaty and I sat outside our local pub and she had a lemonade and I had a Babycham with a real, juicy cocktail cherry. We kept the two glasses ambiguously between us "in case the Bobby came ". I was about five at the time.

Years later when I was in the throws of some now forgotten teenage despair Dad took me to the pub, just me and him. He went to the bar without asking what I wanted and came back with a sparkling babycham complete with cherry for me. I'd forgotten all about them. It was sickly sweet and hugged me with childhood.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Twenty Drawings ; Whistling Boy

The Whistling boy belonged to my Dad's Grandma Clegg. It reminded her of him,"...our little Bobby", stood whistling with his hands in his pockets. She left it him. Mum watched him coming towards her down Vine Road with it under his arm when they were setting up house. At home it lived on the upstairs windowsill ignoring the Virgin Mary on O'Hara's windowsill opposite. Dad still whistles - Dixie on a constant loop. I think it masks the tinnitus he hears all the time.

Twenty Drawings ; Grape Ivy Cuttings

The original Grape ivy plant belonged to parents of my friend Val at University. I admired it and she gave me a cutting. My brother Dave took cuttings from this. My original plant eventually died, victim of feral stick insects that escaped when we looked after them for school one Easter.
Dave grew me a fresh cutting and then another and these are the first batch I have tried to strike.

Twenty Drawings ; Fish Tree

This drawing is from an old black and white photographic plate showing a fish catch. I am fascinated by the way the fish appear like unreal vegetation and by their flowing outlines. I think that outlines are maps of the unreal, a perceived edge bounding surfaces, that does not actually exist. The manner in which we draw outline gives work character and so is fundamental to the work being a form of expression and not just representation. I plan to do more outline drawings in ink.

Monday 1 March 2010

Twenty Drawings; Little Brown Suitcase

This was the suitcase Mum was dispatched to hospital with when she was expecting me. She was cross and reluctant to go, expecting to be sent back home, but was admitted and the rest is history. After that the case was used to hold sewing projects and gradually sagged and split under the pressure of intended creative energy. It now holds my would be scrap quilt and smiles down at me from the top of the wardrobe.

Monday 22 February 2010

Twenty Drawings ; Chilli Peppers

Dave grew these last summer. The plant is still fruiting in his kitchen. They are sealed in a jar with grains of rice and smell wonderful. They are drawn over pages scanned from the Manual of Practical Gardening, which belonged to Mum's Dad.

I have also scanned the peppers on top of the pages to vivid effect.

Twenty Drawings ; Juni

Juni was my second doll. She is of rubbery plastic, just the right size for a small fist and went everywhere with me. There I am aged two on the beach in a blue nylon smocked swimsuit clutching her and squinting at the camera. I do not remember her ever having clothes, just painted on shoes and socks, though I once knitted her an emerald green dress with no fastenings. Her expression is more angry than I have captured.

Twenty Drawings; Dad's Keys

I do not know what all the keys are for, though Dad has told me on our tours of the important hiding places for documents, valuables etc. I have been thinking about what makes a home, what we surrender it with the keys and also the redundancy of objects removed from their purpose - old keys, clock hands, old toys etc. Behind the keys is a census for 1962, the year we moved in to our first home.

Twenty Drawings ; Fruit Bowl

Here are the first drawings, back to basics, still life with fruit.

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Mystic Tree Prints

Finally here are prints from the first plate. The viscosity blending needs some work, but I am pleased with the plate. It was originally designed in the portrait format, but I think near monotone version works even better when the print is rotated by 90 degrees - fallen mystic tree? It is much too cold in the studio to carry on printing, so Jan and I have decided to draw - 20 drawings in 20 days!

Tuesday 2 February 2010

Torn Birch

The snowfall and stormy weather caused one of the old birch trees to tear some twenty feet above the ground. The top hung suspended clinging to the other trees. The exterior is cankered and fungal, but the exposed interior is vivid and splintered. I want to look at the fallen as well as the upright form of trees. This tree is probably very old for a birch. Possibly as old as the house.