For details about my work have a look at my website,

I am currently working on large prints combining water based woodblock techniques with oil based linocut: nothing if not a challenge! I'm also doing some teaching and go back to school myself in the spring to qualify as an adult education tutor

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Collateral Damage

I'm pleased to report dramatic progress on the studio: as I type my husband and my long suffering brother-in-law, Simon, are up ladders nailing on roofing felt. I missed the studio 'raising' as I was out at work, leaving the two of them to lift and connect the walls alone without any help from Amish farmers or even a young Harrison Ford. I'm frankly glad I missed it: we built a big shed along similar lines a few years ago and I have never come quite so close to being squashed flat. It was also the only time I have ever enjoyed whiskey and it was too high a price to pay for the pleasure. Quite why Simon is willing to give up comfortable weekends in town to come out to the country for the sort of activities forced on intellectuals by Chairman Mao is beyond me, but I'm dead grateful that he does it.

One casualty I am sad to report has been my padded lumberjack shirt. After seeing me through many dawns at the enamel factory (the place has no heating and it takes a while for the furnaces and drying sheds to warm things up) I'm afraid I have ruined it. Concrete, unlike my lovely enamel, doesn't wash off and I've sort of pebble dashed the front. I realised I'd gone too far when I wore it to the builders merchants to buy roofing felt and a kilo of flat head nails and the other builders looked like they thought I could have made more of an effort.

Later this week we are having a launch for the enamels. They are looking just great now that Shouty Derek has finished installation. I hope he will forgive me for the nickname. He is a lovely guy and has overseen the building end of the project with great skill and care, but obviously spends his days competing vocally with pneumatic drills and heavy plant machinery. When it comes to volume and force of opinion, my money's on him. You can see the fruits of his labours on my website and if you look at the last picture up you can also see me wearing my lumberjack shirt for the final time complete with concrete.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

The Long Good Friday

We’ve started to build me a new studio, though at the moment Ben is insisting on referring to it as a shed. The purpose of this is to house my new and bigger printing press and also to give me a warmer, drier place for my papers and inks.

Easter is our traditional time for large and difficult outdoor projects and it is also traditional that the weather should be as vile as possible. Appropriately we spent yesterday and this morning in miserable drizzle enlivened by bouts of heavy downpour. The studio will be at the bottom of our garden and on a patch of ground that slopes away fairly steeply. This means that the base frame is on the ground at one corner and the rest of it, like the fairground rides of my youth, is balanced level on bits of plank and shims. To my eye it looks totally off kilter, though the spirit levels tell it differently. Either way it’s a done deal as we have just finished filling the shuttering with concrete where the press will stand.

The experts told us that we needed a pad about 10cm deep for stability. Thanks to our sloping garden and the fact that the press has to go at the low corner, we have a pad 50cm deep by 1.2m wide by 2.2m long. That’s an awful lot of stuff to shovel, mix and pour. By mid afternoon yesterday I was beginning to have a grudging admiration for anyone prepared to hide a body in concrete. By late afternoon I was thinking of calling the police and confessing anyway in the hopes of a nice sit down in a warm incident room. Now it is done and I suggested to Ben that we add our initials ‘Better not’ he said ‘I don’t want anyone to know it was us…’

Wednesday, 1 April 2009


These blogs have always been intended as a sort of journal to keep you readers informed and entertained about my enamel project. This bit is different: it's a thank you letter and I make no apology for the fact that it may only make sense to those thanked. If you want to jolly it up a bit, think of it as a sort of speech from the Oscars - all arc lamps and red carpet. I'll have clean hair and a long gown (as opposed to a mere dress) to replace the jeans and enamel dust combo while you're at it...

There are lots of official thank yous to say now that I have painted my last panel and everything is being installed. That I will do at the proper launch party on 23rd April. This is the personal thanks to the men on the shop floor at Wells who made it all fun rather than work and made me feel an insider rather than a visitor.

Thank you to Ian, Michael and the team of printers who mixed my inks and handed out the many, many miles of masking tape, who kept me in propane gas for my drying shed and never seemed to mind that I couldn't get my head around how to change cylinders (a quick thanks here too for maintenance who checked the workings of the shed, and possibly me, out regularly and fixed my slack electrodes). Thanks to Paul and Andy for thinking of using clamps to hold up curved panels for me -pity we only came up with that idea at the eleventh hour eh?

Thank you to Guy and Darren who worked out schedules for firing and fitted me in among the many demands for furnace time. Darren especially for smiling at me and accommodating my needs when I am sure he'd rather have given me a smack!

Thank you to Greg, Dave, Julian and the team in metal work who cut and folded the mild steel into panels and pulled several stops out along the way to get me panels at short notice. Also for doing such a fabulous job on the ventilation panels, turning my artwork into cut screens which look wonderful. These guys were my climate control and opened or closed their delivery bay doors to keep me cool/warm as required - a kind thought that was much needed and appreciated.

Thank you to Dave, Colin, Kiran and Edward in dispatch who were responsible for making sense of my panel numbers, backing them with heavy concrete based board and packing them onto pallets for delivery in the right order. Given that they had to work with my numbers and two changing sets of factory panel numbers, which I in turn had to remember to scratch onto the side of my enamels daily, they did a fantastic job. Though I could have done without Andrew telling me I'd got section D's doors the wrong way around an hour before I was leaving for the final time (I hadn't). I should also thank Kiran for referring to my husband of over twenty years as my boyfriend which made us both feel all young again!

Thank you to Richard and Dangerous Dave who are two of life's real gentlemen. I'm not sure why Dave has that nickname though I did put him in considerable danger once by cutting the wrong set of cable ties holding two panels upright and nearly squashing him. Dave also kitted me out in Well's capsule collection of fashion for the discerning enameller which made me feel like one of the guys (literally).

Thank you to all the guys who sprayed the panels for me. This is a scarily demanding process involving spraying on ground coat and then top coat in smooth and accurate layers to provide me with a pure 'canvas' for my work. I hadn't realised how demanding until I watched the furnace man checking for consistent thickness with a digital device. Interestingly different sprayers prefer different consistencies of enamel for their work and so have it mixed individually - to me it all looks like pancake batter.

Thank you to George and Dave Staff who were generally around and good mates. George mixes colour to match a client's requirements. If you want a bespoke Aga in the same blue as your great aunt's Staffordshire tea service, George is the guy who'll write the pigment recipe for you and by eye alone. Dave has been an all round star, endlessly helpful and kind even though he works terrifying shifts and never seems to sleep. I have just about forgiven him for producing pictures of himself and his family whooping it up in Cuba to taunt me in the pre-dawn of a freezing, raining January day...

Lastly my thanks to Colin and Kevin. I think in one of my first blogs I referred to them as my new best friends. I hadn't realised it at the time, but that is exactly what they turned out to be. Between them both they made me feel that anything was pretty much possible. They made me laugh when things were bad, assumed I would triumph on mornings when I couldn't think how to manage, picked me up, dusted me off and set me going again more times than I care to remember. Colin is an absolute expert in enamel and always took the time to take my questions seriously, getting me out of several technical holes and saving us all the bother of making new panels by fixing various glitches as we went along. Kev was my furnace man, firing all of my work with meticulous care, seeing to it that no panel went into the furnace until it was cleared of my numerous and grubby finger prints, splashes and splots, building improvised jigs for the successful firing of tricky curved panels and generally working miracles.

I hope I haven't forgotten anyone or messed the names up - I was tempted just to refer to everyone as 'Dave' as that seems universal. Either way I am very grateful. It was a privilege and pleasure to work with everyone and I'd do it all again like a shot.