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 in the gardens

Alice Fox Pavement Piece #17 detail

This weekend I will be showing work alongside my fellow Society of Designer Craftsmen members from the Hallam region.  We will be at Art in the Gardens in Sheffield’s botanic garden.  The weather forecast is horrid but I’m assured the event is a lovely one and there will be lots of great art to see and buy.  The show is open on Saturday and Sunday between 10.30 and 5.30.


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!  

garden dreams

 A trip to my parents last weekend allowed for some garden pottering, finding interesting shapes in the winter sunshine,

and winter sweet, which doesn’t look like much (although is better seen from below like this rather than from above the drooping flowers) but smells amazing.

Since then I’ve spent most of the week at my desk doing paper work or jobs around the house.  Meanwhile I dream of what my garden might become.  I currently have a patch of scruffy lawn and a small patio.  It isn’t much yet, but it has lots of potential…

>next installment


The bundles I made on the beach sat for a few days on the wooden veranda of the place I was staying.

Meanwhile, I wove a little and fiddled about with some of the things I’d collected.

I read, in Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places, about why he collects things from the various places he visits.

My habit of gathering stones and other talismans was a family one. My parents were collectors. Shelves and window-sills in my house were covered in shells, pebbles, twists of driftwood from rivers and sea. For as long as I could remember, we had picked things up as we walked. Humdrum, everyday rites, practised by millions of people…. Now, though, collecting offered a way both to remember and to join up my wild places…. The objects seemed to hold my landscapes together, without binding them too tightly.

Of course, many people collect things when they walk, but perhaps we do this for different reasons? Do we do it to take a tangible thing from a place to aid our memory? Does it makes us feel we own something of that place? This must satisfy something within, to take a little piece of a place away. I wonder at these little items: a pebble, a shell, a feather. On this trip there seemed to be a theme of colour and form that developed in the things I chose to pick up.

I find satisfaction in laying the items out, arranging them in a way that shows them off in their simple beauty and allows me to see them, watch them, get to know them.

Then the mist came down and the distant hills disappeared. Sea and sky merged. Every so often a boat slipped passed and then a submarine emerged out of the gloom and drifted around ominously.

A wet day seemed right for a garden visit, dripping and steaming. At least the midges weren’t too bad! As well as its celebrated walled kitchen garden, Inverewe has some lovely trees, including various eucalyptus and one had kindly dropped some multi-coloured leaves. These later got bundled up in paper and silk, were steamed and then added to the collection of curing bundles on the veranda.

>strange marks

There are some glorious clashes of colour going on at the end of my garden; lots of reds (poppies, crocosmia, runner bean flowers) and lilacs (opium poppies and chard stems) and much of it completely random with self sewn things growing where the hell they like. I love that accidental aspect of gardening, that mix of the controlled and uncontrolled. I was reminded today of visiting Great Dixter at this time last year – they really know how to make the most of the accidental there.

I found these strange marks on the glass of my Mum’s greenhouse. They’ve been made by some sort of animal scraping off the algae. They are very curious and beautiful and look just like the kind of mark I might have made stitching something.

>may gardens

An afternoon out on Sunday took me to York Gate Garden, near Leeds. It’s an intimate place, full of little corners and subtly framed views.

The central section has these imposing clipped yew pyramids and dramatic planting…

but the corners and hidden places are where you really want to linger.

Back at home my garden yielded this bunch.


I spent last weekend at Stroud International Textiles Festival. It was a weekend so full of inspiring and exciting things that I can’t even begin to describe it, I just haven’t the time, so a quick round up will have to do.

On Saturday I went on the ‘textile trail’, visiting the studios of:

weaver, Tim Parry-Williams
textile artist, Matthew Harris (whose wife Cleo Mussi I interviewed for my dissertation about her gardening and her practice – the garden was looking as lovely as I remember)
weaver, Nick Ozanne
textile and collaborative group, Studio Seven
dressmaker and ethical sourcer, Dorothy Reglar
weaver, Sarah Beadsmoore

Each was as interesting as the next, but all in different ways and all so much richer an experience from actually being able to talk to the artist in their own space. As is often the case with these events you feel you have to cram as much as possible in when actually it might be better to just visit one or two places and really savor them. This would avoid reaching saturation point!

On Sunday I attended the ‘Off the Loom’ symposium, coordinated by Laura Thomas. Another day full of inspiration from a number of talented and successful makers/designers/artists, all pushing the boundaries of weave in different and interesting ways.

>Harlow Carr


Yesterday at Harlow Carr Gardens it seemed that everything was waiting for something to happen, poised, ready. The whole place was neat and tidy, cleared of all the winter debris; fresh soil in bare and empty beds; bare stems with bobbles of buds just waiting to burst open. The flowers that were out were all small and low, but shouting loud with bright colours.

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