2015-04-27 16.21.00

Discover us on Facebook and Twitter…

You may remember, that back in November, I exhibited with the fabulous Discover group of artists.

I’m thrilled to say that Discover is about to exhibit again, this time we’ll be at the lovely Mardleybury Gallery, near Knebworth, Hertfordshire, throughout June.

If you’re in the area, come along and meet the various artists…

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We also have new Facebook and Twitter accounts, so I’d be enormously grateful if those of you who use these, would pop by and ‘like/follow’ us.

Thank you x

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Green – everywhere I look…

I just don’t seem to be able to get away from greens at the moment. I suppose that this year, even more than usual, I’ve been tuned-in to greens, having been working with a green palette for quite a few weeks.

Embroidery – well the way that I do it – is an extremely slow art form, and all those hours of stitching, inevitably lead you into a very close relationship with the different shades you’re using.

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2015-05-01 09.07.03And similarly, the various textures, coarse tweeds, strong wools, fluid silks, all play differently in your hand and in the canvas – all working together in sometimes unexpected ways.

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2015-04-30 08.30.28Trying to plan what goes where I find to be a fairly pointless exercise. Instead it seems to be better to simply let each thread decide, according to what else is happening around it.

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Impossible at this most verdant time of the year, to ignore the way that the countryside changes colour. So many delicate plants appearing in the lane every day now, but all held together by nature’s tapestry of green.

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All photographs taken in the lane on the daily dog walk, over the last couple days. Follow me on Instagram for other daily pictures…

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2015-05-04 11.44.20

Medieval faces…

I’ve been having a few churchy days lately, courtesy of the bell-ringers in the family.

On Monday, I spent an hour at our local church, All Saints, Soulbury. I’ve been there so many times, but I still love to wander around, it’s a fascinating place. But in all the hours I’ve spent in that church, I’d never previously realised there was a little medieval treasure waiting to be found…

Have a good look at this chancel window…

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Now, the chancel windows, on either side, each has that colourful glass border. I’d never paid it any attention on other visits. But while I was there on Monday, I took a closer look.

And it appears that each of those coloured sections is a fragment of medieval stained glass – presumably from the pre-Reformation days. Most of the fragments are difficult to identify, although I spotted a few architectural features, and some fabric drapes, but suddenly, I noticed a face…

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and then another…

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And then more…

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Each one is really tiny, but has incredible, fine detail. It never fails to take my breath away when we get these little connections to people from the past. I would so love to know who painted those faces.

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2015-04-03 14.33.18

Indulging the window fetish…

It’s become a bit of a family joke that I have a ‘thing’ for taking pictures through windows – my daughters now refer to any such shot as ‘one of mum’s’ pictures and have started taking them for me. Even my brother spotted my funny little habit and is now taking them too.

After the recent Yosemite upgrade, (Thank you Apple, I will get over it one day, but possibly not before I have to resort to counselling), I decided it was time to do some serious organising of my photos and while I’ve been doing that, I’ve come across lots of ‘mum’s pictures’ I’d forgotten about.

So, I thought that from time to time, I’d post them here – indulge me…

Today’s picture is perhaps my favourite bathroom window…

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It’s a room in Packwood House – one of my favourite National Trust properties.

I love the sense of humour of the person who dressed this room, take a good look in the bath, under the splendid lion-head tap…

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Fabulous!

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I wrote a post about Packwood House about a year ago, on my other blog The Mists of Time – do pop over and have a look if you like quirky old houses.

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2015-04-30 08.35.18

Happy May Day….

Some people regard May Day as the first day of summer – well, in some ways I agree, there’s definitely a lot happening in the hedgerow now, foliage is growing so fast, you feel as if you could practically watch it unfurling in front of you. But having spent the hour of our walk with my eyes streaming from the cold wind this morning, I can tell you, it doesn’t feel like summer just yet!

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After the last post here and my admission that greens give me problems, I realised just how many greens I see every day on the trip along the lane and through the wood. I’ve been observing them with more attention than I’d normally give it, and what I’ve learned, is that there are more shades of green that I can imagine, and Mother Nature doesn’t seem to mind how she puts them all together – and yet, it works…

I’ll keep trying…

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Happy stitching…

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2015-04-20 13.21.07

Meanwhile…

Well, that was a considerably longer blogging pause than I’d expected…

Something to do with a very busy Easter holiday, followed by a brutal three-day migraine – arrrgh!

Anyway, with a bit of luck, the flashing lights and sledgehammer in the brain, have now gone away and something akin to normal service is being restored.

So, since I was last here, I’ve worked on this…

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Sometime around Easter I put the final stitches into this piece. I took this photo in the garden, and it’s made it look considerably brighter than it does in real life. I started this piece in the middle of winter and so it feels wrong to see it in strong light. It was born during the shortest days of the year, as I sat wrapped in blankets to keep warm. As I was making it, I kept thinking that actually it’s home should be a dining room, with flickering candle-light, because it truly glimmers and changes as light catches the metallic threads.

I deliberately avoided straight edges for a change. My intention is to play around a little with fraying the canvas before I mount it. I’m not at all sure how that will turn out, but we’ll see.

Once the purply tree (I’ll come up with a better title for it one of these days) was finished, I thought I’d have another go with my Nemesis – greens…

Am I the only person who has problems with getting greens right?

Anyway, this is where I’m at on that one…

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Umm. Well, we’ll see.

In other news…

I have had a mad spree, picking up a wonderful selection of Shakespeare authorship books – I’ve found that Oxfam book-shops are excellent places to ferret around in for these more obscure titles. We had a trip to Oxford one day, which was very useful – I wonder if it’s where the dons donate their surplus-to-requirement texts…

Then there was the afternoon in Berkhamsted Oxfam – not only a delight to find more Shakespeare related books, but also something I’ve wanted for a long time – a collection of the works of Thomas Traherne.

And finally, a marvellous day out in Hay-on-Wye (my favourite town in the world, oh yes, I’m not exaggerating!) – where I found yet more Shakespeare stuff.

I’m working my way through, so expect another Shakespearean post before too long.

And at last, we made it out on a few of history trips; a very cold and wet afternoon at Packwood House (which included a lot of chocolate), a return to Goodrich Castle, a fabulous afternoon at Skenfrith Castle and church, and a visit to Grosmont Castle. I’ll put the pictures up on The Mists of Time as soon as I can.

Skenfrith church was an extra special experience for me, as I hadn’t known about their fabulous Skenfrith Cope – a simply breath-taking piece of medieval ecclesiastical embroidery. Walking into a small local church and discovering that treasure was something I’ll never forget.

Having said that, the amazing light in the church did test my photography skills way beyond their limits, so nil point there, but in case you’re interested this is what I took…

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I just wish it was possible to know whose fingers made those stitches, and what their daily life was like…

Right, good to be back, lots of catching up to do.

Happy stitching!

We’re on the Map!

Anny:

As a Worcestershire girl, mad about tapestry and history, I just had to reblog this post from the remarkable people at the National Trust’s Textile Conservation Studio – do have a look at what they’ve done – and if you’re near Oxford, pay the finished piece a visit…

Originally posted on Textile Conservation Studio:

Over the last year and a half the Studio has had the privilege of conserving a wonderful tapestry map owned by the Oxford University Bodleian Library. We can now report that it was finally installed last week, and now hangs in pride of place at the Blackwell Hall in the newly opened Weston Building where it can be viewed by the visiting public.

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Depicting the county of Worcestershire, the tapestry is in three fragments. It was woven in England c1590, for Ralph Sheldon to hang in his house in Long Compton, Warwickshire, as part of a set of four tapestries depicting different counties. It is one of a set of three map tapestries, (Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, also in fragments) owned by University of Oxford and a fourth tapestry (Warwickshire) in the set owned by Warwickshire Museum Service.

The designs for the maps are from the Christopher Saxton county surveys, published…

View original 972 more words

2015-03-19 12.39.57

Which canvas are you?

Do you enjoy personality tests?

We’ve all experienced them at one time or another, whether serious ones when applying for jobs (INFJ* if you’re interested), or the marginally less serious ones in personal-development books, online-dating, dieting, and of course the entirely spurious ones in countless magazine features – they crop up all over the place.

For some reason, when I was fishing through my stash of canvas the other day, I couldn’t help thinking that our preferred choice of canvas might well be an indicator of our personality.

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– straight-forward, upright, focussed, likes sticking rigidly to the rules…

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– needs a bit of structure, but bends the rules a little from time to time – prefers having some flexible of space to work in…

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– pretends to conform, but actually quite a rebel, frequently moving off in different directions…

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– entirely unpredictable, potential anarchist…

Yep, use them all – what does that tell you?

Happy stitching!

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*Myers-Briggs test.

2015-03-19 12.23.26

The ones that got away…

I’m always telling people how meditative stitching can be, and how wonderful it feels to ‘let go’ and simply enjoy the process – which is all true, for me stitching is where I’m most myself. But perhaps it’s worth mentioning, that it isn’t always plain sailing. Sometimes, the idea in your head refuses to be captured in stitch. Sometimes, despite everything you do, the piece you’re working on, just doesn’t click. 2015-03-19 12.21.49 Anyone making faster art will also have this experience, I’m certain – let’s be honest, more of what we create goes in the bin than on the wall. But making slow art has the particular downside, that you can invest considerable time – we’re talking days, perhaps weeks – into a piece, only to find at some point, you don’t like it, it doesn’t feel right. Which is the time when you have to decide whether to press on regardless and hope it comes together later, or put it down to experience and consign it to the ‘no’ pile. It isn’t always easy to accept that the time poured into a piece isn’t going to result in the work you’d set your heart on. So just in case anyone else is going through a rough patch on the creative front at the moment and thinks they’re the only one, I thought today I’d show you my collection of might have beens from the last few months, the ones I’m calling my experiments, the ones that got away…

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Keep calm and carry on stitching.

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2015-03-11 08.46.27

Searching for Shakespeare: And she’s off…

2015-02-10 11.59.13Just a few weeks into this quest to understand who wrote the plays of Shakespeare, and I have to say, if you’re trying to keep your brain active, forget Sudoku’s or cryptic crosswords, there’s more than enough here to keep the synapses busy.

Anyway, as I mentioned, I started off with a book by Diana Price – Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography, because it was obvious very quickly, that I didn’t know very much at all for sure about the writer, and I wanted a source that would look at the actual evidence, and discuss its context and interpretation in a less emotional way than those authors who are closely bound up with theories for particular candidates for the Shakespeare authorship.

It’s not a particularly difficult read, but you’re not far into it before you start to understand just how complicated this quest is – what we have, it seems to me, is a giant Elizabethan jigsaw puzzle, with most of the pieces missing, and to make matters worse, we don’t know if the pieces we do have, fit together in one puzzle, or whether some pieces are part of an entirely different puzzle.

But before I get carried away, the first question I wanted to answer was this – why is there any debate at all about who wrote the plays of Shakespeare, after all, we’re familiar with his name, his plays and his connection to Stratford-upon-Avon – where is the area of doubt?

Right…

The answer – it seems – is that whilst we can be pretty certain a man called something like William Shakespeare (even the question of alternative spellings could keep you busy for months…), went to London and was involved in theatrical companies there, no contemporary evidence survives which confirms him as a writer.

So, going back to the jigsaw analogy, we have about 70 pieces that could fit into a picture of a Stratford actor, financier, play-broker, wheeler-dealer, but none that fit into the picture of a playwright.

That means, either he did write the plays/poetry, we just don’t have any evidence, or, someone else wrote them.

And that’s the debate. Into that gulf of un-knowing, flows a massive river of conjecture, theory and conspiracy – brilliant isn’t it!

So, the result appears to be, that people who think the man from Stratford did write the plays, look at the pieces of the jigsaw and try to fit them all into a picture of a playwright, trimming off the edges, bashing pieces that don’t fit too well, hiding the really difficult bits under the carpet, until they accommodate the pieces into something resembling a playwright.

Whilst people who think someone else wrote the plays, look at the pieces and say, no, these pieces don’t belong to the picture of a playwright at all –  William Shakespeare must have been the pen-name of an aristocratic person, unwilling to publish under their own name, we must look for clues about his/her identity somewhere else.

Now, the bit that really confuses me, is this – if you’re an aristocratic would-be playwright, turning out sublime poetry and prose, but unable for reasons of political sensibility or social mores to use your own name, why choose instead, that of a Warwickshire actor with a debatable reputation? Coincidence?really?

So, without – as far as I know yet – a shred of evidence to confirm it – the assumption is, that the man from Stratford put his name to plays which he took/bought/acquired from a shady aristocratic writer, presumably in a relationship that benefited both parties – otherwise how would it have continued?

The plot thickens…

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My plan, now that I’m beginning to see the big picture and understand the groundwork, is to re-read Price’s book, listing out my questions to follow-up on next.

I’ve become aware of a lot of the anti-Stratfordian positions so far, but in the interests of balance, I’m going to try out an orthodox biography soon to see which questions that raises.

Do join the debate if you’re interested – you won’t be bored!

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In other news…

There was a big surprise in the lane this morning – a huge tree had come down across the road.

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Fortunately not my old oak, and hopefully nobody hurt.

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And breathe…

Just about recovered now from the final episode of Wolf Hall – phew – even though you knew what was coming, it was still heart-ripping.

And so apparently it’s nearly the end of February – a busy month around here, family birthdays, car MOTs, half-term – I’m always surprised how very ‘full’ this shortest month can feel.

This month, despite remaining cold and grey for much of the time, spring has actually arrived on the lane. Buds on trees and a tiny clump of snowdrops give me visual confirmation, but the daily chorus of birdsong (plus the drilling of the woodpecker), leaves me in no doubt, the mornings are getting lighter and spring is here.

I’ve had a sticky few weeks on the stitching front. Several pieces started, with enthusiasm, but somehow unwilling to go the distance. In an attempt to rid myself of whatever was blocking me, I had a good old thrash around with the metallic paints and then on Friday 13th, I went off for the day to Ely cathedral – an artist’s date – to top-up the creative juices. I’ve posted about the cathedral over at Mists of Time – do pop over there if you’d like to see pictures. 

Ely has a superb stained glass museum – and of course the cathedral itself has a vast amount of stained glass windows – the whole jewel colour extravaganza always carries me off to some other place – and I think it shows in the stitching…

I’ve finally managed to settle into a piece that I’m confident now I’ll stay with until it’s finished – another tree would you believe.

And February has set me a challenge which I’m sure may well keep me occupied for some considerable time – the whole question of whether William Shakespeare of Stratford, was actually also the playwright...or not.

Since writing the previous post, I’ve been carefully reading Shakespeare: An Unorthodox Biography by Diana Price – a good place to begin as it attempts to establish the knowns and unknowns, without getting hung up on possible alternatives. I’ll post more, once I feel I’ve digested it enough to make my initial thoughts clear, but I’m already hooked, it really is a fabulous mystery, and perfect for early night bedtime reading.

I hope February hasn’t been too harsh where you are – happy stitching!

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You can find almost daily pictures on my Instagram page.

 

2015-02-06 13.46.44

A Quest For Identity…

You’ll have to forgive me, this is probably going to be a rambler – feel free to wander off now, no hard feelings.

Ah so, gluttons for a wordy post – don’t say you weren’t warned…

The thing is this, people have been coming up with words to focus on for the year, declutter seems popular, simplify I’ve seen a few times, you may have your own. I haven’t had a word for 2015, well not until now, but perhaps I might just have stumbled across one – and I’ll tell you straight away, it’s IDENTITY.

This isn’t the result of any ego-centric bid to define myself – it just happens to be a theme that’s cropped up a lot lately. Bear with…

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The first outing was the TV series with Grayson Perry – Who Are You? It’s no secret that he’s a hero figure for me, but even still, watching the programmes where he spent time with various people, delving into their identities and self-perceptions, then producing artworks to reflect his take on each, was a masterpiece – of art certainly, but also in my opinion, of his ability to penetrate through the outer layers and reach inside the character of each sitter.

I knew he was a brilliant artist, but here was also someone able to listen, observe and understand, if not dispassionately, then at least non-judgementally, a disparate group of individuals. It was humane and beautiful.

Just before Christmas I went along to the National Portrait Gallery and saw his artworks for myself. Simply stunning, although the piece I would most like to have brought home, was A Map Of Days – his own vastly engrossing and unconventional self-portrait.

So, I suppose the thread of identity started with Grayson Perry and then lay dormant for a few weeks, waiting for me to pick it up again when the BBC started all the Wolf Hall business.

Although in between was a little strand from Last Tango In Halifax, with Derek Jacobi – let’s just hold that one for a moment and come back to it.

I wasn’t going to watch Wolf Hall. I’d loved reading it so much, I didn’t believe the TV production would live up to what the words had created in my imagination – how wrong I was. I ‘happened‘ to watch the first five minutes of the first episode and that was that – hooked, 100% mesmerised. But watching it brought back thoughts from the time when I read it – how can Hilary Mantel convince us so well that Thomas Cromwell was a sympathetic character, when history, and more importantly Hans Holbein shows us such a different face.

This was precisely the theme taken up in the Culture Show Special: Holbein: eye of the Tudors, with Waldemar Januszczak. In the famous portrait by Holbein of Thomas Cromwell, what do you see? I spent over forty years looking at that image and seeing a hard man, a ruthless man – which you’d have to say, considering what he did, must have been true? And yet, Mantel has convinced my heart that this is not the character of the man, so captivatingly portrayed by Mark Rylance in the TV series. Who is right – what is the truth – where does identity lie? Is there an inner and an outer identity?

Thinking about Cromwell and that portrait made me think about another question of identity. Have you read The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey? It’s the fictional story of Alan Grant, a policeman laid up in hospital, who for the want of something to occupy his mind, investigates the life of Richard III. It starts with him seeing a portrait of the man and being unable to reconcile the moderate, benign features with those of a child murderer.

He proceeds to conduct an investigation from his hospital bed into the crimes of Richard – looking at who else might have murdered the Princes in the Tower – who stood to win and lose. If you haven’t read it – do!

Incidentally, the title of Tey’s book is from a quote by Sir Francis Bacon –

“Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority.”

That’s another thread by the way – we’ll come back to it too.

Where were we – oh yes, Wolf Hall. So, we’re extremely lucky to have a neighbour who brings us the weekend newspaper supplements every week and in the lead up to the airing of Wolf Hall, you’d be hard pressed not to have read something about it, the story, the locations and the actors taking part.

One of the pieces I read, was about Mark Rylance. In the article, it mentioned that Rylance was one of the founding members of The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition – a body set up to formalise the acceptance of reasonable doubt as to the identity of William Shakespeare.

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Now, I am a huge Shakespeare fan (my tag line is a tiny snippet from the Bard). I ‘did‘ him for ‘A’ Level (my undying gratitude Mr Holden) and loved every moment, and I’ve lapped up anything Shakespeare ever since. I’m a member of the RSC, who probably finds live theatre more exciting than almost anything else – so let’s just agree, I love Shakespeare. And therefore, hearing that the man hailed as the greatest stage actor of his generation and the Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre from 1995 to 2006, has doubts about the authorship of the plays, had me intrigued and a little unsettled. At almost exactly the same time, I happened to read in another article, that Derek Jacobi – also a great Shakespearean actor – was involved in The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition too (see I told you we’d come back to him)…

So, my interest was well and truly piqued, thus, I’ve spent a little time this week delving further into the murky world of Shakespearean intrigue. It seems there are people who fervently believe that Shakespeare – the man from Stratford, was absolutely the author. There are others who doubt that he was the author, but don’t know who the real author was, and there are those who believe he wasn’t the author and do know who the real author was.

Terrific!

I love a good whodunnit – or in this case ‘who wrote it’. I feel a quest coming on.

Now I have the chance to be my own Alan Grant and investigate the whole Shakespeare issue from a position of total impartiality, because the truth for me, is that I don’t really mind who wrote the plays and poems, I’m just grateful to live in a world where they exist. In a way, the qualities, the values and the character of the author are his/her identity – a rose by any other name…

I wonder if Grayson Perry, in a reverse of the process he used for Who Are You, could take all those qualities found in the works of Shakespeare, the humanity, the love, the emotions and work back up through the layers, to build us a picture of the outer layer of the author…

Anyway, I’m now looking forward to reading as much as I can about the evidence on all sides.

Today I’ve ordered a couple of books to get me started on my quest, but if I’m lucky this could keep me busy for the foreseeable future! I think the prospect of insanity has been mooted for those getting caught up in this debate, well, I’ll risk it.

Oh yes, and the quote from Francis Bacon? – well, you know don’t you, some people believe Bacon wrote Shakespeare…

I’m well practised in untangling mingled yarns – I’m not sure that this one is ever likely to be unraveled, but nevertheless, it looks like an excellent mess to be mixed up in.

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I’m hoping to post about how this quest progresses over the year – anyone interested, do leave a comment – and if you’ve already completed your own Shakespeare quest, I’d love to know what you’ve discovered.