book marks

Alice Fox Tide Marks woven tide line

After a long and busy summer things have finally returned to the normal routine of term time.  Autumn is in the air and I have a lot to do!  I have work to finish for a number of exhibitions this autumn (there is an updated list on my exhibitions page now), the biggest of which is Tide Marks, which gets its first showing at Gate Gallery in Grimsby towards the end of October.

As with Textures of Spurn and Gifts from the Pavement I am publishing a book to accompany this body of work and I am busy pulling that together to meet the print deadline.  It’s a satisfying process to bring something like this together, to see the images sitting alongside each other and look back at how the work has developed.  I like this documentation of a project, recording the process and bringing that together with elements of inspiration and finished work.  It isn’t a catalogue and it isn’t a description of how I have done what I’ve done.  It is more a commentary on the project and a way to take the viewer deeper into where the work has come from.

This time round I’m doing everything myself: becoming publisher and graphic designer as well as artist.  It’s a steep learning curve but I like a challenge!

looking and links

In the last few weeks I’ve seen some wonderful and inspiring exhibitions.  A trip north took me to Perth where I saw the moving work of Angus McPhee, a man who spent most of his life in a psychiatric hospital choosing not to speak and devoting his energies to weaving structures with grass and other material gathered from the hospital grounds.  There is a touring stage show that tells his story, which sadly I didn’t see (although it is still touring). Through this exhibition I discovered the beautiful work of Joanne B Kaar, who created  replicas of some of Angus’s ‘garments’ for use in the stage show.

Angus McPhee peat creel

In Edinburgh I visited the Dovecot Studios and saw the lovely Fleece to Fibre with its wonderful links to the people who were involved in producing the wool used to weave a tapestry version of Victoria Crowe‘s Large Tree Group.  My favourite bit was actually the back of the large tapestry (still on its frame) where you could see all the hand written labels showing the breed of sheep the wool was from and the person who had spun it.  The whole tapestry was made using natural tones of wool from different breeds of sheep.

Ilana Halperlin We make geology

Also in Edinburgh I visited the National Museum of Scotland to see this intriguing exhibition by Ilana Halperin. Ilana’s use of geological processes to collaborate in making her work was really interesting and there is a lovely guide to the exhibition that you can download from the page I’ve linked to above.

Back home I had my first visit to see Cloth and Memory {2} at Salts Mill.  My friend Hannah is exhibiting in this and used my spinning wheel to spin fibre that she found at the Mill into balls of yarn that are included in the exhibition, so I have had a sneaky insight into a bit of the work before it all went up. There is a lovely film here that shows her spinning the wool in the amazing space where the exhibition is.  Because I live just up the road and the exhibition is one for a couple of months I can take my time with this one and visit as many times as I like: there is a lot to see.  On my initial walk round a coupe of things really caught my eye, including some little interventions on the crumbling walls by Jeanette Appleton. They reminded me of this project by my friend Ruth.


Alice Fox tapestry weave with nail detail

The last few days having given me some significant studio time for the first time in weeks.  I’ve only scratched the surface of what I wanted to do before the kids break up for the summer but it has been good all the same.  I’ve woven, stitched, dyed, rolled, torn, embossed,  arranged, undone…


My little tapestry weave samples are progressing slowly. The next stage for these is to be left outside for the winter weather to play its part and see how the rust marks the cotton.

I’m hoping that the rust will seep its way into the thread and stain the cotton in a similar way to my rust prints on paper.  I haven’t yet added any agent to help the process as I’d like to see what the elements will do on their own.

plain weave

I’ve been asked about the frame I’m using for my weave samples.  Here is the full frame. The late-autumn light is not good for photographing things successfully at the moment and we’ve had some particularly grey days.  My samples haven’t progressed as I’d have liked due to many other things happening but my frame and its narrow warps are slowly being populated by little investigations.

I’ve been using some of the string that bound previous rust bundles.  These are variously dyed themselves so when they are woven they produce random stripes and mottles.

I am enjoying the discipline of weaving again.  I have also put a first warp on the four shaft table loom I rescued earlier in the year so I’m switching between loom and frame.  In both I feel that plain weave offers so much potential.  I love the simplicity of it and the focus on the action, the repetitiveness, the discipline of achieving evenness and a straight edge.  There is so much scope for exploring subtle texture and colour that I’m not sure I will ever tire of it.  I admire complex weave patterns in others’ work but for now plain weave has enough to hold my attention.


Some time away is a mixed blessing: much needed and precious time with people I love and a chance to step back from the busy home/work life, have some breathing space; always entered into with the knowledge that there is so much to do back in the studio/office.

However, once I can relax into it of course there is so much rich experience to be had.  Time in Somerset and Cumbria this Easter have given me all of these things.  A visit to ‘Damson Country‘ and the Arts and Crafts House at Blackwell are particular highlights.

I’ve known about Blackwell House for years but hadn’t visited.  It was the exhibition ‘Woven from Nature‘ that prompted this visit and, although I knew this was a special example of an Arts and Crafts House, I wasn’t quite prepared for how breathtaking it would be.  You can’t photograph inside the house but you are encouraged to sit on the many cosy window seats and take your time.  This was an absolutely necessary part of drinking the place and it’s stunning location in. 

The exhibition is beautifully curated (on until 29th April so still over a week to see it).  I’ve seen Jilly’s work before a number of times and seeing her colourful pieces in a new location felt like re-visiting old friends.  

I was fascinated by the detail of Mary Butcher’s willow pieces; how a strip of willow can be so ribbon-like in the way it is wound and binds and catches the light as it does so:

What was really clear was the deep understanding of material in all four artists work.  As Maggie Smith says: 

“the themes of my work arise from the ebb and flow of natural cycles, the relationship between maker and materials and by a deep exploration of the materials themselves.” 

Maggie‘s use of found objects, particularly beach-derived ones, had a special resonance for me and her use of seaweed as a basis for cording, twining, knitting, vessel-making was fascinating.

Once outside the house you discover Laura Ellen Bacon’s wierd installation, which emerges out of and oozes down the building and out into the landscape.  If you stand in a particular place on the lawn the two pieces come together, appearing to flow from the roof, right over the wall to the lower terrace.  
Whilst I was enjoying these forms in the spring sunshine (a gap between heavy April showers) I was quite shocked by some of the comments of other visitors; people who were so closed off to the possibilities, the craftsmanship and relevance of such art.  It seems so right for work such as this to be installed at a building whose history is all about craftsmanship and design.  You wonder why some people visit these places if they are going to dismiss something so quickly.  It really made me think about how people might view my work, not that it is in any way approaching the league of what I saw here.  How can you engage people in work that is not immediately ‘pretty’?  Some people will ‘get’ it and some won’t, so is it worth trying?  Even with sensitive and informative interpretation so many people seem to dismiss things without any thought.  I’m afraid it gave me the blues!  

>time flies

Where did the last week go to? Time is just flying past – I must be having fun! I’ve really started to try to concentrate on materials this week (a pile of collected materials sitting on my studio desk above – desk looked like a bomb had hit it this week) and move on from the sketchbook work that I’ve so enjoyed. I need to focus things down.

I spent Monday reading for my dissertation – bits and pieces on creativity and trying to get my head round ‘chapter 1’. Tuesday disappeared in a flurry of straining fruit that I’d left soaking and infusing for natural dye experiments… more on this another time. Wednesday I got stuck into more of the sketchbook stuff that I really need to tear myself away from in order to move into textile processes. On Thursday I got a bit lost, had a bit of a crisis of confidence in what I’m doing, couldn’t quite see where things were going, had a challenging talk with Hannah (my tutor) – challenging because she was asking me questions I found difficult to answer but were absolutely necessary and I needed them to be asked. Once I’d got my head straight again I realised that I really do need to focus on textile sampling now and put the sketchbooks aside, even if I haven’t worked through all the ideas I wanted to. There will always be thing to come back to…

Friday was a really quiet day in the studio. I did some fairly unsuccessful embossing in the printmaking department, but I think I know what the problem was! I then spent all afternoon sitting at my desk weaving. I have a few frames on the go at the moment. One has things that I started in Edinburgh in Fiona Hutchinson’s workshop. I had started experimenting with mono-filament (fishing line) and have some ideas for trapping things within weave that need some more work. It was really useful to talk these ideas through with Fiona and get some technical pointers. The only trouble is that the mono-filament I was using is so fine and fiddly and it is hard to see what is going on, so I’m going to source some thicker stuff before I take those ideas any further.

I made three warps with bits from my beach-combing box. The first was from a piece of light green synthetic rope that I unravelled into the bunches of fibres that had been twisted together to make the rope. The bunches of fibre were used as they were to make a sturdy warp:

One bunch was divided up into the individual fibres and these made the next warp, less sturdy, a bit more delicate. Both of these tied on to the frame OK but kept some of their kinks from being tightly wrapped as a rope – they have personality! Not quite as much as the thick translucent plastic I used a couple of weeks ago, though. This stuff is more malleable. It’s only in this detailed analysis through using and experimenting with each type of fibre or collected item that I can really get to know them. It feels quite scientific. Of course it isn’t really but there is a methodical nature to the approach I’m taking with these gathered materials.

The third warp I made was with the plastic tapes that had been woven into a wider tape for some sort of use in securing packaging I guess.



to this.

These flat strips sit nicely together and weave together well but their flatness makes them knot un-evenly and they don’t pack down to hide the warp like the previous fibre.

The first two warps were filled with weft of varying width and fibre, all from the box, by the end of the afternoon.

Studio listening: Britten string quartets, Kate Rusby, Julie Feeney.

>weaving in edinburgh

>I’m just back from a really good weekend in Edinburgh, spent largely in the studio of Fiona Hutchinson, Tapestry Weaver.

I was on one of Fiona’s two day workshops, and I was there really to get a bit of technical help with ideas that I might use in my college work. I’ve done various experiments in tapestry weave and have spent quite a time in Sue Lawty’s studio last year, seeing her working and helping with various things, but haven’t actually done that much of it and certainly haven’t had much instruction in technique. Tapestry isn’t really included in the weave that is generally done at Bradford College. Although I’ve loved the floor loom weaving I have done at college and played with a little on my loom at home, it is the experimental possibilities of tapestry that really appeal to me. Although there is still a fair amount of preparation and thought that can go into tapestry weaving it does feel a bit more immediate than setting up a floor loom, which can take a whole day to prepare. I guess I’m just impatient! Of course if you’re weaving on a big scale it can be a very slow process but there are so many possibilities using just a simple wooden frame.

Getting hold of a copy of Shiela Hicks‘ book Weaving as Metaphor (this book is unbelievably beautiful!) kind of sealed it for me. She weaves these small pieces on a simple frame with whatever materials are available to her – she has travelled extensively with this simple bit of kit and produced some really stunning, playful and subtle pieces. I turn the pages of this book and each image becomes a new favourite.

So, under Fiona’s ever-attentive and patient tutelage I spent the first day of the workshop weaving a technical sample. It looks pretty straight forward stuff but there is a lot of detail involved in warping up properly, keeping your edges straight, starting and ending threads, blending colours and fibres, creating splits… I only just brushed the surface in a few hours but it did confirm some technical basics for me that were really useful.

On the second day I started to work with some of the ideas I’d had for my beach-combing project. I wanted to investigate ways of trapping items in the weave and also get the benefit of Fiona’s experience over using different materials. We talked through my ideas and she had some really useful suggestions as well as a wonderful pile of books pulled from the shelf with examples of other people’s work to look at.

Being surrounded by Fiona’s beautiful work and her many samples was very inspiring and to be able to ask questions about their construction was so useful.

And apart from the learning there was a little time to see a bit of the city, which I love, and (despite the dismal rain for part of the time) never fails to be a vibrant and beautiful place to be. No romantic shots of the castle for me this time though as my mind was firmly on architectural detail that relates to my project.

Edinburgh listening: some rather unusual sound scapes