garden project

shadows on the verandah

Last year I was commissioned to make a special record of a garden. This record was for the occupants of the garden (and its house) for over 20 years to take with them when they move on to pastures new. There is more information about the project here and there are some images of how things developed in an album here. The final set of prints were chosen over Christmas and are now with the framer. I’m looking forward to seeing how they look as a finished series. Meanwhile, I will be bringing the experiments and developments together in a special book to go with the framed prints.

Alice Fox garden project studio table

art week

website header Tide Marks Book #39

Today I’m setting up my work at the very lovely Fairtrader in Holmfirth.  I was thrilled to be invited to be one of their two featured artists for the Holmfirth Artweek Fringe.  We are venue number 19.  There is a preview this evening from 6.30pm – all are welcome.  The exhibition is on all week from Saturday through to 13th July and I’ll be there in that day to talk to people about my work (see the website for opening times during the week).  Hope to see some of you this evening in Holmfirth…

frugal acts

Alice Fox Notes on the back of an envelope page detail

I’ve been playing about with old envelopes and have made a series of small note books using them.  I’ve always loved the patterns you get on the inside of many envelopes and often keep them ‘just in case’ they might be of use.  Now I’ve found a way of using them and giving them another life.  I’ve enjoyed playing with some of the printed marks on them, deliberately including bits of text, stamps and those little windows that allow you to see the address on the letter inside.

Alice Fox Notes on the back of an envelope inside found text

I’m reading Roger Deakin’s Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees at the moment.  Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know I’m a fan of nature writing and there is a pile of such books permanently on my bed-side table, either waiting to be read or ready for me to dip back into a favourite section.  There is a chapter where Deakin describes visiting the artist Margaret Mellis, which I read the other day.  Because he is focusing on trees and wood he is particularly interested in Margaret’s use of driftwood for her sculptures or assemblages. He also describes her drawings made on opened out envelopes and he makes an observation that really struck a chord with me:

Letters, like driftwood and ideas, arrive out of the blue.  They are gifts.  The envelopes, like the driftwood, had a former life, and would generally be discarded.  Mellis gives them new status and a function.  Ingeniously reusing an envelope, or driftwood, to make a picture is, in the context of environmental politics, a deliberately frugal act. Both were once trees, and what would otherwise have been wasted is turned to good use. (p 188).

The phrase ‘a deliberately frugal act‘ has stayed with me since I read it as I know that many of the decisions I make both in my life in general and in my artistic practice are just that.  I am excited by the possibilities of the found or discarded object and see it as a challenge to make use of them.  If by doing so I can reduce the consumption of new materials that is another challenge met.  This doesn’t mean I won’t use new materials but I am always considering carefully how and when I do.

I’m currently preparing for a series of workshops over the next month introducing people to printing and dyeing with rust.  I am gathering collected rusty things as well as a range of materials on which to make our rusty marks.  Fittingly, the first of these workshops next weekend will be held in a salvage yard.  I’ll let you know what we find and how we get on.  If you fancy making some notes on the back of an envelope then the little books are available here.

>second skin

>When I wrote about India Flint‘s first book Eco Colour here I was asked if I’d like to review the follow up. Great, I thought, then forgot all about it. So when a rather exciting package arrived on my doorstep with this inside I got very excited.


India Flint’s new book Second Skin is a beautiful follow up to her first. It has the same luscious feel, packed with gorgeous photographs and illustrations and has a pleasing mix of practical information, snippets from different cultural traditions and more general anecdotal writing that gives an insight in to India’s colourful life.


Despite its visual appeal some of the content doesn’t make for comfortable reading. India reminds the reader of how poorly informed most of us are about where our clothing is derived from: the fibres and the processes that have gone into the garments that we wrap around our bodies for the majority of our lives. Of course, even if we care about such things it can often be very difficult to find out the history of what we buy and this book highlights the real facts about the systems that our clothes pass through.


There are no straightforward answers and an element of guilt is inevitable in reading parts of chapters 1 to 4. For example, even the fairly well informed may feel they are doing a good thing by buying an organic cotton t-shirt, unaware of the parts of production of that garment that are far from sustainable. Chapter 2, Provenance, is full of cautionary tales and the complicated nature of trying to live in a sustainable way is set out well.


It strikes me that the difficulty of breaking out of the system, stepping off the treadmill, going against the tide means that, even for the well intentioned, practicality means we can’t all do as much as we might hope to. But small changes make a big difference and if this book changes one aspect of behavior in the way each reader sources their clothing those small changes will add up to much more. The all important “have less stuff” is something we all know of as a positive move in living mindfully but how many of us really have the discipline and commitment to live that way? It is always good to be reminded of issues you are already vaguely aware of and have your resolve strengthened periodically.


Chapter 7 gives a short run down of various artists and makers whose work shares principles of sustainability and re-use of materials. This is useful but is almost a starting point for a book in itself.


Chapters 5, 6, 8 and 9 are full of tips and suggestions that I would imagine will give the eco-conscious fashion student much mileage. Chapter 8 on re-purposing is where things got pretty mouth watering for me. All sorts of ideas are given for creating new garments from old and there is scope within these to be really playful. Just like in Eco Colour, there is an undercurrent of useful information that is intended to be used with individuality and in the exploration of personal style. India’s generosity with her experience and skill is huge but she is not prescriptive and it really makes you want to try it all out yourself.


Chapter 10, on dyeing, re-visits the ground covered in Eco Colour but expands on it and, as ever, is a wonderful mix of practical instruction and encouragement to be experimental. The myriad of tips and ideas are ever-useful.


Like the natural dyes that India’s life and work are so wrapped up in, the effect of this book will grow stronger with time: repeated dipping, short periods of immersion, time for absorption are all part of imbuing your life with the sentiments and skills within its pages. It’s certainly re-ignited some slow-burning flames of mine: I’m off to get a few bundles steaming now…

Second Skin, published by Murdoch Books, is available from 1st August.

>wooly dilemma

>A couple of weeks ago I visited the British Wool Marketing Board, the home of the Campaign for Wool, who are conveniently based just on the other side of Bradford from me. I wanted some advice on wool felt made from British wool and I was hoping to come away with some contacts for suppliers. The European Business Manager, Richard Poole was really helpful and we had a useful couple of hours discussing various aspects of sourcing products sustainably. I also came away with a lovely bunch of literature about British wool.


However, I found that my intention to use industrial felt made from British wool is just not realistic. I want to use a natural product, ideally one sourced as locally as possible. Industrial felt has the solidity I’m looking for in both my 3 dimensional experiments and for the basis of the wall based pieces that I’m intending to make as part of my final collection. It became clear within the first few minutes of talking to Richard that what I was after just doesn’t exist.


British wool is coarser than wool produced in warmer and sparser climates, even if it is from the same species of sheep. We produce wool with fibres that are generally over 26 microns and often over 30 microns. Industrial felt, which is dense and gives a fairly smooth surface, is made from wool that is finer than this, usually merino, and this comes from Australia or New Zealand.


British wool, being generally fairly coarse, is ideal for carpets and for some fashion fabrics. It can be felted by hand and there are plenty of artists in the UK using British wool in this way. I don’t have the time or the inclination to start felting my own wool for this project. I want a ready made product that is solid and firm and thus relates to the solidity of the buildings I’m using as part of my inspiration. British wool is used in various insulation products, some of which I was able to see at the BWMB, but these are very coarse structures which often have recycled plastics included and certainly don’t have the structure, look or feel that I’m after.

So I came away faced with a dilemma:

Do I stick to my principles and acept that I can’t use the type of product I had in mind?
source another fibre from the UK?
think again?
change the whole look and feel of what I want to produce in terms of finished pieces in order to use British wool?
compromise my vision?

Or do I accept that I can’t use British wool for what I want to do and compromise on the sourcing locally idea – a 100% wool material is still a relatively sustainable product even if it has travelled round the globe?