Archives for category: workshops

Asthall lr Asthall2 lr Asthall3 lr Asthall4 lrAsthall9 lrAsthall6 lrWe rushed in at 12:00 on the dot for my daughter to attend the children’s carving workshop and I was overwhelmed by the sculptures, the flowers and the manor house. Once Isabel was sorted out, I could slow down and celebrate the On Form exhibition. On Form is a top priority to visit in June and is a fabulous biennial exhibition of sculpture purely in stone. The glorious setting of the seventeenth century Asthall Manor and beautiful gardens surrounded by the Cotswolds set off the sculptures to perfection.

My favourite sculptor this year was Tom Stogdon who uses roughly cut stone pieces to create organic shapes. They remind me of stone walls where there is much thought and skill in using individual pieces to create a satisfying whole. I love the way his sculptures interact with their surroundings and especially Stone Overlap which frames the countryside, is reflected in the pool and draws people towards it. Tom Stogdon has also created abstracted cityscapes inspired by London and Oxford where we were able to identify landmarks from the simplest shapes. The repetition of forms and texture in his work create a sense of calmness. Another sculptor I appreciated was Aly Brown and her piece Parvati, a slender torso, whose sinuous curves continue as they reflect into a natural pool dotted with lily pads. Aly said that a recent comment she had overheard was, “How does she make stone bend?” When you look at her work it is hard to believe it is stone as it flows like liquid. Then there is Adrian Gray, a stone balancer, and David Worthington’s Experiment in Colour VII who dared to add colour to marble – perfect against the red poppies.

Not only is there sculpture, but ponds, wild flowers, a dramatic swing, a tree house to die for and the connection the manor holds with the Mitford Sisters who lived there between 1919 and 1926. There are many events to enjoy too: Aly Brown gave free carving workshops to children which Isabel loved and on the 18th June you can watch Adrian Gray balance rocks.

I can’t recommend On Form highly enough as a day out whether you are passionate about sculpture or see it as a backdrop for a social occasion – our friend Jon’s words not mine!Asthall7 lrAsthall5 lrAsthall10 lr

Asthall12 lrOn form is at Asthall Manor from June 8th to July 6th, 2014.
Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 12 noon to 6pm

About this post: My 2014 resolution is to visit a creative place every month.
January – The Ashmolean: Malcolm Morley
February – Oxford School of Photography
March – The Ashmolean: Cézanne and the modern

April – The Jam Factory
May – Art in Ardington



bags bags3Forget the turkey stuffing, the Christmas cake kit (still in its box), the gifts unwrapped because it is time to meet friends. We meet up every few weeks obstensively to sew, knit and learn skills from each other but more importantly it is about supporting each other, laughing, sometimes shedding a tear or two and living life together. (And its cheaper that a psychologist!) I have used this quote before but it still stands true:  ‘I lived outside community, I lived without a tribe. I needed women to listen to my pain and honour my tears. Then I needed women to tell me it was time to dry my tears… and do something. I needed women to grab my hands and say, “Let’s pray about this”. I needed women to tell me to rent a silly film and laugh hysterically. I needed women to say “Celebrate! Go shopping!” The best thing I ever did was tiptoe out of isolation and join the circle of women.’

Normally we work on our own projects but for fun we had a Christmas project again – remember the button wreaths last year? This year it was clasp bags – they looked so professional but with a little tuition from Ali we were delighted to each make our own so they’ll be the ‘must-have school-gate accessory’. Thanks Ali for opening your home and sharing your talents.

Visit this site to buy the clasp and pattern.

Sew the 'pouch' and glue in the clasp - it really isn't too difficult!

Sew the ‘pouch’ and glue in the clasp – it really isn’t too difficult!

monoprint2 monoprint4A few years ago, I did a monoprint workshop with Lin Kerr. I loved it and longed to do it again. Fortunately Nathalie (above), managed to persuade Lin to run another workshop and I was able to attend and spend the day monoprinting in her conservatory. Not only was it wonderful to be creative in a way that is totally different from my designing job but I was also able to create some lovely textures for layering and creating artworks. Using special oil-based inks, you roll the ink on a sheet of glass. Then using a variety of techniques, create textures and imprints from found objects. I was printing feathers, sticks, coins, letters, string, stars having a ball but also at the back of my mind hoping to create textures I could use to create an artwork about The lost of village of Snap and this year’s Christmas card.


One of the techniques was as follows:
1) Roll the roller over the palette to collect a thin layer of ink.
2) Lay a texture on top of a piece of clean glass. – -e.g. the dried sticks.
3) Lay a piece of fine Chinese rice paper over this and gently but firmly roll over it.
4) The roller makes a dark impression, but the pattern gets indented onto the roller, so the next roll produces white marks. Here are some of my results using this method.

11-09-13-Tessa's monoprint72monoprint1

The image above is interesting. I was deeply affected by my recent trip to Flanders Fields and had planned to take a print of a poppy to use in some manner. The actual print was a flop as the poppy was so thin, it left no impression. However, this photograph of the poppy on the ink creates a very powerful image.

Below are the items need to do monoprinting. Visit Lin Kerr’s blog for further tips and ideas:

  • Ink: Oil-based inks which can be washed off the palette and roller with water. Available Intaglio or Lawrences.
  • Paper: Chinese Rice paper – available Guanghwa (a shop in Soho)
  • Roller: The largest diameter you can afford. It should be a medium soft roller and a minimum size is preferably 4cm X 12cm. However the ordinary Speedball soft brayer works well, but it is a little limiting because its small. Available Intaglio or Lawrences


This year it was a birthday treat… so off I went on a foraging course with Hedgerow Harvest. James, our expert, took a group of 12 through the countryside hunting out delicious free spring greens and we discovered about 30 edible plants. James explained what we could eat, how they can be used and what to be wary of. There is so much out there and I can’t wait to try nettle pesto, nettle beer, dandelion fritters and a foraged salad. I was delighted to rediscover a childhood favourite christened ‘yum-yums’ which is in fact wood sorrel as well as finding tasty crow’s garlic and wild garlic. After about four hours of walking and learning in the woods, we went to a village hall to cook our foraged meal. We made nettle soup with garlic bread, nettle risotto with spring greens and Japanese knotweed crumble. It was delicious and so satisfying and as Hedgerow Harvest also offer courses on ‘Fruit and Nuts’ and ‘Fungus Foraging’, I will certainly return.


Colin Moore


In the textile marquee

A potter at work

Feltmaking - A Dalmatian by Isabel (age 5)

Art in Action was inspiring and uplifting, it is a four-day festival in the beautiful grounds of Waterperry with artists and craftsmen of all disciplines demonstrating their skills and discussing their work. We arrived early and spent a day immersed in ceramics, prints, woodwork, illustrations, textiles and story tellers enjoying a sensory overload. I especially liked Colin Moore’s linoprints and am trying to decide if we should buy one. Watching pots being thrown was magical as a ball of porcelain was ‘pinched’ upwards transforming itself into a jug. Roanna Wells’ delicate thread work in subtle greys created shallow layers of depth like a misty haze. Jackie Morris, a children’s illustrator, was there with beautiful books to buy which she would sign. Art in Action is exactly that – and it is such a pleasure to see the artists at work, meet them and be part of their enthusiasm. The children loved watching the glass blowing and even had a go in the craft courses making pottery vase faces, and Isabel made a delightful dog out of felt who certainly deserves to be framed.


detail of 'walking home' (work in progress)

At one stage it looked like it was going pear-shaped, but the canvas was rescued and as so often happens, the problem areas added texture and depth. This small canvas (25cm square) is a new artwork I am currently working on using a poem I have written and layered textures. I have yet to attach the found objects to complete the piece. I learnt new techniques such as how to use Dutch gold and metal lettering stamping. The letters of the poem (in the light area) have become a little too subtle so that is the next challenge.

It was a very satisfying red letter day working in Lin’s studio. Lin Kerr opens her studio once a month where you can work on your own projects, using her art tools and her expertise. I can highly recommend it – an ‘Art Day’ is better than a tonic. Click on this link to find out more about red letter days.


Sticking the shapes onto the canvas was hard as they curled and twisted but I decided the odd wrinkle just was part of the deal and I’ve painted a clear varnish over my ‘Matisse’ so that it can have a happy life on our bathroom wall. I am letting the children discuss and tell me all about it without giving them clues. The shapes which I thought were suggestive of handprints or digging in the sand have been called seaweed and seagulls so it will make for some interesting conversations.


As we were analysing Matisse’s work, someone said it looked like a holiday. That was it – a springboard for my idea and I decided to express something of the joy of seaside, sun, sand and the fun children have using Matisse’s expressive shapes. I was particularly inspired by his picture of ‘The Parakeet and the Mermaid’. We mixed colours and rollered gouache on to large sheets of paper and then were challenged to cut colour without drawing and planning in detail. Normally I am fussing about millimeters and now I had to just cut letters without pencil outlines but looking at Matisse’s ugly cut letters gave me confidence. My work is in progress and when it is finished I will post the completed result. What a great Saturday workshop – I left feeling revived and invigorated.


I decided this year to ensure I take time out for creativity and fun. On Saturday I’m off on a one-day workshop called ‘The Words of Matisse‘. We are working big – A1 with tissue cutouts, bright acrylics and rollers. Towards the end of his life, Matisse used letters in his fabulous cut-paper art and this will be our inspiration to create our own exburant artwork. I’m collecting my kit together as well as a few books but still need to decide on my ‘colour quote’

Kandinsky – ‘Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul’ or Manet – ‘There are no lines in nature, only areas of colour, one against another’ or half dozen others I have.