Thursday, 28 February 2013


 the sun came out today, it was almost like a weight being lifted , you could walk upright once more and breathe in the fresh  air, filling body and mind with a new energy; I've been walking, talking, cycling and then walking some more today; listening to the birds, watching them fly and swim and flutter about. Right now there's a great spotted woodpecker in the garden eating peanuts!
illustration by Peter Shepheard from 'WOODLAND BIRDS' no.74 The King Penguin Books

 'hazemannetje' has changed; I've cut out some of the bottom bits and removed lots of stitches in the top parts, trying to calm things down, I felt there was too much going on; having said that I am adding cross-stitches and starry ones in places, just as an experiment

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

a question of light

 The same small light cloth top and bottom. I had a sudden urge to make something Light in winter's grey drab days. The sky today is like a grey blanket without the warmth. It's not even freezing, but it feels very cold, water-cold (waterkoud) we call it in Dutch, it chills you to your bones. 
I have discovered I very much like photographing the pieces in front of the window, so the light shines through, adding an extra dimension. What a difference the lighting brings though, above is with flash at the same time of day, appr.5 pm and underneath without. Above the actual colours are more accurate, but the bottom pic does better express the airy feel of the piece, as the fabrics are sheer and light, apart from the shiny bit which is solid like a mountain or it could be a dike, we have more of those here in Holland. I'm not sure where it's heading, as per usual.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

excitable tree trunks

The tale of the demanding queen

Once upon a time there were two trees that were too shadowy for the queen's liking and she decided they had to come down. She had also made up her mind to let the king take care of all the practicalities of chopping down trees, too messy and noisy for her.
The king of course had other plans; in his spare time he had no intention of chopping down trees, he'ld rather be driving here and there and maybe watch football on the telly, with a pint of beer in one hand and a bag of crisps in the other. Even better, when he thought nobody was looking, he could doze off for a bit on the couch, mmmm....bliss.

By now the queen had become quite disgruntled by the lack of activity and she started nagging the king: when are you going to chop down the trees? Soon, he promised. Yes, but when? she shreeked, startling passers by. Any day now, he replied.
After many such a conversation, the king, who by now was well and royally fed up, called in the help of his troops. They set about with saws and ladders and earplugs and goggles and a lot of pacing back and forth and measuring the height and the width of the shady trees, but at long last and much to the queens's relief, down they came. The branches were chopped off, their trunks sawn into slices, all stacked and ready to dry. All waiting for winter.
The queen was immensly satisfied and looked forward to long winter evenings sitting by the roaring fire, with a cup of tea, or maybe even a glass of red wine. Reading and enjoying the heat of the trees  in the midst of snowy winter nights. However, she had not reckoned with the elation and sense of freedom the tree trunks felt after the sudden release from their roots: now they could move about and roam all over the gardens as they pleased. During their wanderings they came upon a creature so unlike anything they had ever seen before: a beautiful mermaid half-hidden in the ivy, with a golden skin and a shiny blue-green tail. Ohh, they were captivated and became very excited: instead of laying quietly in their stacks, drying for the fires, they headed off in search of love!
So the king and his troops had done their duty, the queen had lost her logs and had to start knitting before winter arrived. What became of the excitable tree trunks and the mermaid, that my friends is another story altogether.
the end


at times I do strange things: like give away books, which I later regret and other times I use books that don't interest me to light the fire (sorry). One such book was on Fauvist painters, a booklet really; I kept a few reproductions plus text about the artists because they caught my eye.
Here 'Le Renard Bleu' by Franz Marc (1880-1916)

I like this fox, I don't know why I like it so much, I just do and hence my surprise and gratitude when reading this quote (in said booklet) from Franz Marc, in a letter to Robert Delauney, dated 1913:
'Mon art est le seul pour lequel je ne trouve nit mots ni raisons. Au commencement, j'ai beaucoup raisonné  sur ce que je faisais et cela dura tant que je me sentais en relation avec l'art d'autrui. Depuis, je suis libéré. Je ne raisonne ni devant mon oevre ni devant celle des autres. Je peins comme je vis: par instinct.' 

roughly translates as: 'My art is the only thing for which I find neither words nor reasons. To begin with, I thought a lot about what I was doing and this lasted until I felt a connection with the art of others. Since then, I am free. I no longer think about my work , nor about that of others. I paint as I see: by instinct. "

same instinct tells me this one is done, no more stitches : 
'winterstar with 7 moons and 2 birds' 28x40cm (ca 11x16in) part of the journey herehere and here

Saturday, 23 February 2013

walking back and forth in time

I must have been in a particularly pensive mood this morning on our first walk of the day, memories kept flooding my vision. 
the hollow took me back over 40 years to my childhood in the garden in England where I had a special tree: it must have been an apple tree with a hollow, situated in the middle of the orchard; I would spend many hours in the garden, where I had set up both a tent and a wigwam, concocting brews with mud, leaves and water. 

men have been busy in the woods these past weeks: the willows have been pollarded, turning the landscape into hobbit-land

this one is big, there are four main branches growing from the original stump, each almost a separate tree; I love this about the willow, the ability to open up and survive. These trees feel very much at home here with all the water and offer food and shelter to many different kinds of animals, from insects to birds, hares,  roedeer and foxes

 I collected a few willow twigs and held them in my mouth so I could tie my hat on even tighter as the icy cold wind blew into my ears! and as the twigs had been lying in the mud, I tasted this mud and thought to myself: when was the last time I had mud in my mouth? used to have that a lot when I was grandfather used to say(or so my mother tells me) one needs a pound of mud a year to stay healthy; so following his advice I started with my first intake of the year.

back home the two willow-pussy twigs in a tiny vase by Gutte Eriksen, a Danish ceramist; in return for the vase I gave her a small tree-of-life painting. She liked it so much, she took it with her to the hospital whilst convalescing from a broken hip; she said it served as a talisman. She did recover, but passed away a year later in 2008.

there's even more on the willow front: one of my favourite books! I keep rereading it and have read the Dutch version to the boys, who of course loved it as well, though not as much as I do.....
I think my fondness for moles, rats and toads must have originated here and I am fortunate enough to live in the countryside where they live in close proximity.

Friday, 22 February 2013

teabag office doodles

the other day I made some doodles that started life as a teabag stain; the condensation on the studio window reminded me of these spider-mothwomen

Wednesday, 20 February 2013


the nine patch piece has changed quite a bit; after cutting out the heart and replacing that with a circle/moon and basting the square onto a long piece of beige fabric, I added a new section underneath the original bit, with a kind of landscape and a 'dragon-cloud'. 
And having more doubts about the 'formal composition' I decided to cut away bits and add very thin fabrics, puffed up like clouds, to add another dimension to the whole; more might appear.  Piece started here, continued here


The piece will be two-sided, so really there is no front or back, both equally interesting. I also have an idea in my head now to make a whole new piece with the 'puffy clouds' as the starting point, also a two-sided piece.

For the time being I'm calling this piece The cloth of Change

Sunday, 17 February 2013


more birds



I cut out the heart of and in this piece a few days ago, because it just wasn't working for me; it has been replaced with a hole/moon.  (the old piece can be seen here)
I've basted the nine-patch and the top moon onto a larger piece of light, white cotton and underneath that is a large rectangle of beige curtain cut-off from Mia. I want it to be a very long cloth, the beige measures 40x130 cm = 16x51 ins, the original nine-patch is 22x22cm or 9x9ins almost. I'm not really sure where I want to go with this one, will see as it grows.

it's a lovely day... springlike no wind calm

Saturday, 16 February 2013


becoming more aware

reading other blogs encourages me to think about how I work; why I make what I make.
On the one hand I try to work intuitively, for want of a better description and at the same time, I am researching, inspecting my work; looking at it on different levels: 

composition: looking at it from an aesthetic viewpoint; the end result does matter to me, although some things never get finished 

content: what could/does it mean, what does it mean to me? what am I trying to say, if anything?
The recurring themes, symbols must mean 'something' to me, why else would they keep coming back?! It's not just about shape, f.e. tree or house, it's also about what the tree could symbolize and what a house might represent. 
Animals, in particular those living close by, f.e. rats, enter a painting because they are so close and I get used to them and become intrigued by their behaviour and apparent intelligence, then I will read about them and learn they mean different things in different cultures and this then adds to the work. 
Why certain colours? There are colours I avoid, because they offend me or make me feel uncomfortable, and yet sometimes a piece of fabric I find hideous at first can really make a piece come together, so there's no 'definite' here; I remember reading somewhere over in Dee's blog about deliberately buying/storing fabrics that don't appeal.

What about the materials I've chosen, they're essential, they lead the way. I'm mixing more than I used to, painting, textiles, wood, metal, paper and bones; mixed media, the work is becoming more three-dimensional, or at least more tactile.
where does the need to make come from, I'm not sure I can answer this other than: it's simply the way I am.
whilst making, I'm usually not thinking - I might have an idea to start me off - but that's easily forgotten in the making-process (sometimes lost forever) and I deliberately try not to overthink, if possible, trying not to jinx the flow...... 
I'm not sure I have definite answers here, maybe asking is enough; the creative process is not easily put into words.

I end this rambling with a quote I found in Scrambled Eggs&Whiskey*, page 57:
"Yes, art is palliative; but the substance of art is real. Can you make something from nothing?" - Ivan Tolkachenko+

this collage perfectly illustrates my method, whilst 'researching' this Ivan Tolkachenko, I got fed up with theory and analysing and felt the desire to make a collage (perhaps'cos I mentioned Dee earlier on and she makes collages...), using an old detective (ha) and magazine for colour, back to bird-beings and words. and dreams

...and then looking for something else, I stumble upon the title for the collage 
(another quote, this time from Fernando Pessoa, the Tobacconist's)

'I am nothing, I shall always be nothing, I can only want to be nothing
Apart from this, I have in me all the dreams of the world' 26x30cm/10x12in

*Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey, poems 1991-1995, Hayden Carruth; Copper Canyon Press 1996.

(+I don't know who he is, but will google him; couple of hours later: so far all I've managed to find about him, is that he's a character in Dostoyevsky's Demons)

Friday, 15 February 2013


this morning the air was hazy due to all the fallen snow and the rise in temperature, it felt like a blanket of soft light


I was dreading the task of basting the What If cloth, but once I had found the right piece for the backing, a beige linen that happened to be exactly the correct size from Mia's stash, I just started; from the middle up and down from right to left, and voila. I no longer have to worry about losing the coincidental composition. Once I got started, thinking it was going to be boring (strange how one can overthink) I became more and more excited by this whole piece, I started seeing animals where patterens were cut off

like the bird here, with a smaller one on it's back

and here, a hare-being perhaps

and different textures coming together
so I learnt something today: basting a piece like this with so many different kinds of fabric is a way of getting to know the story that is there, getting a feel for the different textures; I chose the backing linen, not just for the size and colour, but also because it's easy sewing as it's a 'loose weave' and at the same time it's fairly heavy, so able to carry the weight of all the other bits. It's early days, but I'm falling in love with it.....

more birds, I went in for a cup of tea and noticed this delightful book I bought in a second hand bookstore in France a couple of years ago

Thursday, 14 February 2013

What could the birds and dogs mean?

The bird could be viewed as a symbol for transcendence; the soul, a spirit, spirit of the air, of the dead even. They are able to communicate with gods or even enter into a higher state of consciousness, thought or imagination. Birds are also a feature of tree symbolism: the divine power descends into the tree. Birds often appear in the Tree of Life with the serpent, this combination is a union of air and fire, but also represents conflict*

They can fly, some can even swim under water, thus forming a link between heaven and earth, conscious and unconscious. The bird is almost universally seen as a symbol for the soul or anima, as the breath of the world, or the world soul hidden in matter. Their flight is also viewed as a symbol for escape, a way to rid oneself of earthly restraints….

The dog has been woman’s companion for eons leaving the wilderness in exchange for food, fire and shelter. He has assumed a central place in countless mythologies as a guide between the worlds of life and death, known and unknown, between the conscious mind and the wilderness of the unconscious psyche. He represents fidelity, watchfulness, even nobility. He is seen as a positive symbol, in Celtic tradition he’s associated with healing.

For me there is only this world and I strive to ask questions in the here and now and if I’m lucky stumble upon the answers. However, if it turns out there is an underworld after death, it so happens that a dog who has been your companion in life, can also guide you in your afterlife and act as your personal interpretor, now that is a very comforting thought.

It would seem both animals help me get to grips with my unconscious urges, desires, innermost unspoken unknowables and express myself through various media. They help me come to terms with (my) Life…..I know for a fact walking with Tungsten keeps me whole, healthy and sane, his figuring in my work along with the many, many birds has probably also kept me Together. My studio is named the BirdHut, our house the Birdhouse….hmmm there’s a theme of finding answers, answers to questions I hadn’t even asked myself, well well.

* A few years ago my parents commissioned a painting; I made a painting with a tree of life and a snake and birds, the snake wasn’t and still isn’t an animal I often use; however I now learn about this symbolism: union and conflict in our child-parent relationship…..well who knew?

Sources: The Book of Symbols, Taschen 2012; An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of traditional Symbols, J.C.Cooper, T&H London 1993; De verborgen taal van het symbool, D.Fontana, Fibula/Houten 1994;  De Mens en zijn Symbolen, C.J.Jung, Amsterdam 1974

yes, it is cold!

we found these breasts  this morning on our walk,
an icy remnant from frozen puddles;
we also noticed a flock of great tits flying about and kind of following us through the woods;
it has started snowing again, after the last batch had almost melted away,
the green is becoming white once more;
we've been experiencing an unusual winter,
or so it seems

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


as soon as we came along, the geese and ducks got nervous, one of them started quacking (?) and off they went, half flying, half running over the water
birds in flight


Sunday, 10 February 2013

birds and dogs

looking up

looking up close

adding details to the borders on 'hazemannetje', adding interest to the frame.....

what iffing on how borders become part of the main image, how margins become just as important - perhaps more so - than the centrepiece; this reminded me of the illuminated margins in medieval books and that led me to look again into 'the Illuminated Page'by Janet Backhouse* and I thought to myself this is very useful in reading the bible, which I mentioned we were doing in a biblestudygroup in earlier post (not because I believe,  but really because I don't) And yet again, I find answers to unposed questions, ha.

and here, in what I've decided to call Winter Star-with 7 moons, I've added two birds, one to be seen immediately, I might add more colours to the inner bird; 

and a hidden bird, a real sweetie, more like a chick,

and in hazemannetje, a swan, that was already in the fabric, but I've accentuated it with dark red thread
Both dogs and birds feature in many of my pieces, I'm guessing they're also symbols for something in my subconscious, will do some more research and get back to you.

*University of Toronto Press, Toronto Buffalo, 1998