away

Alice Fox Eastbourne beachcombing

Time flies: I realise I post much less frequently here than I used to and than I would like to. I have been away for much of the last three weeks and seem to have spanned a great deal of the country in the process. I had a wonderful few days teaching in Eastbourne (on the South coast) before Easter. As a group we explored the beach, collecting in different ways and then used what we had collected in a variety of techniques – great fun and a chance to explore an area I didn’t know.

Alice Fox River Axe North Somerset

Easter saw me in North Somerset (in the South West) with my family in the beautiful Mendip Hills. I snatched an opportunity for a bit of mud lurking – more on that another time.

Alice Fox boats in mud sketch

Then we had a few days in the depths of Snowdonia, off grid and off everything else apart from a tent and whatever we could carry. We were blessed with the most amazing weather and managed to get the whole party (youngest 6) up to the top of Snowdon (the highest mountain in England and Wales) in glorious spring sunshine with a dramatic helicopter rescue (not one of us!) to add a bit of drama.

Alice Fox Lliwedd from Snowdon

After a night at home I headed north to give a talk just over the Scottish border. I spent the morning on a windy walk overlooking Lindisfarne and its causeway in Northumberland. Serenaded by skylarks and calling waders the colours and creeks of the salt marsh were brought to life in the clear air.

Alice Fox causeway sketch

Meanwhile, an article by Wendy Feldberg on artists using rust in their work has been published in Fibre Art Now and is available here.

blackwell

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!  


>growth and death

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There is daily change at the moment as everything seems to be growing and filling out at great speed


inside and out.


I found this beautiful nuthatch in my front garden a week or so ago. I can only guess that it succumbed to one of the cats. I’ve never seen a nuthatch round here before … perhaps there aren’t any round here any more!?


It is absolutely beautiful and I’ve had it sitting around waiting to be drawn. I now realise I’m not going to manage to find the time to draw it (before it gets a bit smelly) so I photographed it and I’m going to put it in the compost heap to rot down and hopefully I can collect the skull. I have done this in the past with all sorts of found birds. As a child I was really quite fascinated by collecting dead insects, skulls and other things macabre, purely in the interests of natural history study I hasten to add! I still have this collection.


Today I happened to come across Susan Silas‘ stunning work recording found birds.

>Harlow Carr

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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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>spring in the east

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Yesterday I went east a for a couple of hours on the train and, despite the gloom and mist all the way, found that spring on the east coast is definitely a week or so ahead of here. This effect is usually evident going south but I don’t remember noticing it as markedly going east before. I guess it has more to do with the milder coast rather than the direction I travelled in … anyway, in my parent’s garden there was some lovely cherry blossom; the daffodils were opening, unlike the tight buds I have in my garden; and I found some nettles pushing confidently through. I gathered a carrier bag full to bring home for dyeing, something I’ve been waiting to do for a while, eager to find a nice green.


However, I must be doing something wrong. Instead of a green I got a rather boring pale brown. What am I doing wrong? Am I heating them too much? I poured on boiling water from the kettle and then simmered/steeped very gently for an hour before removing the wilted leaves and adding my fabric. Perhaps it is because I left bits of stalk in there – should it really be just the leaves? Do I need to tear the leaves up more? Advice please!