Illustration blog: Some Flamboyant Royals.

I’m not much of a royalist to be honest…BUT I certainly appreciate a flamboyant costume ….so illustrating extravagant monarchs in flamboyant garb is very appealing!

So far I’ve imagined Louis XIV partnered up with a flamingo in matching tights.

I’ve also drawn an interpretation of Queen Elizabeth I astride her favourite Lion. I’m not sure if Louis had a flamingo….maybe. I’m pretty sure that Elizabeth didn’t have a lion to sit on. She was much too clever to toy with a kamikaze lounge pouffe. I’m always keen to include animal imagery in my work though and it certainly adds a touch of decadence and absurdity I think.

I’ll add one last illustration to this blog. Elizabeth I’s sister Mary. Mary Queen of Scots was a dog person. She was particularly fond of Maltese Terriers and when she returned to Scotland to claim her throne she brought a little gang of them with her from France. When Elizabeth imprisoned her she only had these little dogs for comfort. The story goes that her favourite dog even went with her to her execution, secreted beneath her skirts. After she’d been decapitated he sat between her severed head and body, refusing to leave the corpse. Mr Bull the executioner, took pity on the dog and washed it. There are various different stories about the dogs fate, from it dying of a broken heart to being taken to France to live with a French aristocrat. I prefer the version where it was taken to live with an English family but refused to eat until it was returned to Scotland to live out its days. (A friend tells me there is even a macabre mechanical toy of Mary’s execution at Sheffield Castle, where she was imprisoned, which has a small dog shooting out from her skirts as her head falls off!)

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New Year, new start and maybe a new direction…Pen and Ink Illustrations

I don’t really do New Years resolutions, but if I did…. one would be to update my blog more regularly (at all would be a move in the right direction at the moment!) and the other would be to do more illustration work.

Most people, if they know me, think of me as a textile artist or of the big build structures, lanterns and costumes that I make for parades and events. My first degree though was in Illustration and Painting and I do love that part of my practice very much. I spend a good proportion of my time in an old wooden house here in Norway. Often that’s in the depths of Winter when the snow is thick on the ground and the temperature is well in the minuses. Today it’s -16 up here on the mountain and the uninsulated sewing studio in the barn is much too cold to use. So I’ve turned to my sketchbooks and I’ve been working in pen and inks. I’d really like to earn more of my income from illustration. Not least because it’s something I can work on remotely.

My illustrations are connected to my textile practice thematically. This example I’ve posted here, a little group of Shaman creatures, to hail the Winter Solstice. I liked using bright colours instead of monochrome to represent the snowy season.

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Woodland animals, an illustration commission

I had a lovely commission a couple of weeks ago to illustrate some woodland creatures for a public art project in Yorkshire.  I used Brusho ink and pen, cleaning them up in photoshop afterwards.

batty island sketches fox smallbatty island sketches badger smallbatty island sketches squirrel smallbatty island sketches hare small

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Keepsake exhibition – new work for a good cause

I’ve returned to my sadly neglected WordPress blog today because I’ve  started working on a really special project. It’s new work for an exhibition organised by Caroline Hick. All the artists involved are creating work to be exhibited and sold in aid of the Justice for Grenfell campaign. I’m making a series of small ‘sweetheart’ cushions stitched from printed silk and stuffed with lambs wool. Each is printed with the image of a different tree, if you look very closely you can see that the image of Grenfell is layered subtly through the branches and leaves. In myth and folklore trees are imbued with symbolism and the power to heal. Each of these trees carries a word, printed onto a burnt fragment of silk and pinned to its heart. You can find out more about the Keepsake project here:


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SIRF Carnival 2017 costume designs

I’ve been busy designing costumes for this years Stockton International Riverside Festival.  This year is particularly special because it will be SIRFs 30th birthday.  The theme for this years carnival is FIZZ BANG POP.  My section within that is also FIZZ BANG POP – so that’s nice and easy!  Here are my illustrations:

Bang Blast RocketsPop MonstersPop go the WeaselsFizz MonstersPop ArtistsBig Bang Backpacks

My partner, Lucas, also put togather a little musical stop motion of me making one of the illustrations.  You can watch that here


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Saltaire Inspired, dogs and a Llama

I’ve done what I usually do and neglected this blog…. so I have a little backlog of posts to write about the different projects I’ve been busy working on.  They’ll appear in no particular order…  Anyway, this weekend Burnett and Catt were working at the Saltaire Inspired Art Trail in the beautiful World Heritage site on the edge of Bradford.  The event is well established now with lots of residents opening their houses as galleries to show visiting artists works, specially commissioned projections onto the houses in the evenings, a large makers fair and lots more to see and do all around the village.  This year the theme was “Inside Out” and we  were commissioned to devise and deliver some family activities outside Victoria Hall.


We came up with the Llama Parlour (a kind of interactive colouring area with David Hockney inspired face in hole portraits and a llama of course), we also made colourful tassled Saltaire lantern danglers based on Titus Salt or the Saltaire Lions and provided a ‘third plinth’ to pose on wearing cardboard beards and hats etc…


We invited some special guest artists including Catherine Mercer who made ugly ducklings and swans that were then sent from outside…down a slide …to fly off the end and end up floating serenely on a paddling pool in their very own ‘duck disco tent’ complete with flashing disco duckss and a bubble machine.  Carine Brosse came along on Sunday and made some absolutely brilliant hats of imagination, inviting you to turn the thoughts inside your head into a hat on top of your head.

We had a brilliant time in spite of some very exciting weather.  We had everything thrown at us, including marble sized hailstones, thunder and lightening but it didn’t dampen anyones enthusiasm.


My favourite part of the weekend were the doggie visitors who patiently posed in our doggie Hockney face in hole portrait.  They were just lovely.

Thanks to all our visitors and massive thanks to all the good people of Saltaire who volunteer their houses and their time to make this such a special arts festival.

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Touch and Flow workshops: Gawthorpe Textile collection

I’ve just completed a rather lovely project in Burnley called Touch and Flow.  I was asked to facilitate a series of hand stitch workshops with a group of carers and to give them the opportunity to explore the Gawthorpe Hall Textile handling collection.

If you’ve never visited Gawthorpe Hall in Padiham then you must!  They have a beautiful and fascinating collection of textile objects and costumes, collected over the decades by Miss Rachel Kay Shuttleworth.


Portrait of Rachel Beatrice Kay-Shuttleworth

You can find out more about her and Gawthorpe here

The weekly workshops took place at Burnley Mechanics.  I brought along tea china that belonged to my Great Aunt and we spent the sessions slow stitching with a steady supply of tea and biscuits.



The sessions were aimed at carers, giving them a chance to get out of the house, chat to other people and do something slow, relaxing and totally unpressured.  Over the weeks we built a core group of lovely people who shared stories, supported each other, made some very beautiful artworks and brought in precious objects from their own histories, including textile objects, photographs and old patterns, somebody even brought in fragments of wallpaper they’d saved from their first home.

I started the group off with  images printed onto calico stretched onto hoops.  I wanted to get away from the pressure of a blank ‘canvas’ and the local landscape photos seemed a good start point for people to explore stitch and find their own style.


Some people stuck with this and produced several beautiful pieces, taking them home to work on in between.  Other people hand stitched A Gawthorpe pin cushion bird, based on a beautiful little yellow bird in the handling collection or made little tea light jars.

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International Textile Biennial, Belgium

Its been a pretty hectic couple of weeks with a lot of travelling, in the UK, in Belgium and in Norway.  Some fab workshops with some lovely people (more about that another time) and some really interesting projects and exhibitions happening or in planning.

I was really lucky to be invited to participate in the International Textile Biennial in Haacht, Belgium.  There were 37 artists representing  14 countries and the standard was fantastic as well as being beautifully put together by Maurice and Danielle.



I took along my series of Phrenology Heads.  It’s the first time that all 8 have shown in the same exhibit.  There they are travelling to Belgium from the UK in their ‘special’ bag stitched together from extra large TKMaxx shoppers! (All very glamorous!). The next photo shows two of the heads (Eat the Rich and Little Girls) waiting at the exhibition hall to be set up.

Den Breugal in Haacht is a brilliant space.  The exhibition is spread across 3 floors.

We stayed at the Chateau de Namur overnight.  It’s a fantastic hotel overlooking the old city of Namur.  It looks quite swanky but it’s actually a training centre for the hospitality industry in Belgium.  I had one of the best vegetarian meals ever!

The Textile Biennial finishes tomorrow (12th March) For anyone in the area it’s open from 10am until 6pm.

Gemeenschapcentrum Den Breugal, Wespelaarsesteenweg 85, 3150 Haacht, Belgium





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Some Very Peculiar Props to Help Save Our Precious Waterways.

I’ve just delivered an unusual commission for Friends of Bradford Becks (F.O.B.B).  It’s a collapsible ‘soft’ sculpture of a washing machine / house, complete with guttering, pipework and frogs! All the sides zip together, the roof is detachable and the whole thing  folds into an artist portfolio so it can be easily transported.

Miss Connection, a rather glamorous plumber (AKA Irene Lofthouse, Actor), will be visiting local schools and using the sculpture to get across an important environmental message.  Connect Right is an initiative to encourage everybody to plumb in appliances properly so that dirty water doesn’t poison our clean waterways and wild habitats.  I’ve made her a glitzy apron to wear as she hosts an interactive game and hands out stickers.

I’ve included a few images of it in progress and delivered.  Hopefully we’ll get a few images of Miss Connection in action.

Here is a useful ten point plan produced by F.O.B.B to help you sort out what goes where!




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New Year Hares.

Here’s my first drawing of the New Year. I hope that 2017 will be mellow and kinder than 2016…  sending best wishes to  anyone that follows my ramblings and doodlings x


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