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Happy 29th February everyone! Are you doing anything special today?

It is said to be the day when a woman can propose marriage to a man. When I was ten years old I had a crush on the bread delivery boy, so taking the opportunity afforded to me on that special day I summoned up all my courage and asked him to marry me. He replied, "Ask me again in ten years time and I might say yes"! Needless to say he was replaced by another in my affections. I think that tradition is Irish, do you know any more?

(The leaping frog is from my book " The Acorn's Story").


Cross stitch designs

I was very excited to receive a copy of a Turkish magazine called Kanavice. The company behind this publication is Tuva who publish books and magazines for embroidery and cross stitch enthusiasts. Tuva have licensed my designs and have translated them into cross stitch charts.

The robin design has been made into the cushion in the picture above, the garden design has been worked into a garden picture. I was amazed to see how much love and devotion has gone into the stitching of each piece.

If you are interested in cross stitch you might like to visit Tuva here.
Looking at the photographs in this publication has made me long for the spring. How nice would it be to sit in that garden chair and stitch!


Tea with Elizabeth

Will you join us for tea? I thought it might cheer us all up on this grey winter's day to invite my designer friend Elizabeth Golz Rush around for a cuppa. I first met Elizabeth when I had a stand at Surtex. I was impressed by her beautifully crafted designs and I am sure you will love her too, so settle back and enjoy a tea break with us.

How do you take your tea and in what kind of cup do you like it served?

I’d like a strong English Breakfast with milk, thank you!
I haven’t always been a tea drinker. Several years ago I created a design collection with a tea theme. (see above) While researching tea and related images, I also tried out many different types of teas. Since that time my day starts with a large mug of tea made the old fashioned way, with loose leaves in a teapot.

If you could choose anyone, past , present or future, who would be joining us for tea?

I’ve been inspired so many artists – choosing one would be a real challenge. Perhaps the first artist whose work really had an impact on me was M.C. Escher. I had the opportunity to attend two exhibits of his work and was totally mesmerized. It was my first introduction to pattern design.

I can’t leave this subject without also including wonderful illustrators like Edmund Dulac and Ivan Bilibin, cartoonists like Winsor McCay or contemporary crafting innovators like Kaffe Fassett …..you’re going to need a very big teapot!

Can you tell us a little about your background in art and design?

I’ve always loved making things and knew from a young age that I wanted to be an artist. What type of artist took me a long time to figure out and I’ve gone in a number of directions inside the art field.

I have fine arts degrees and majored in printmaking. After college I started a line of silk screened greeting cards that sold mainly in galleries and museum shops.
This introduced me to some product design but got me stuck in a lot of production with not much time for creating art. When my son was born, I made a leap into illustration – I had a lot to learn!

Once I had brushed up on my drawing and watercolor skills, I began to get jobs in editorial illustration. Then I found clients who needed illustrations for products like scarves and linens. I began to feel I had really found my niche. Eventually, for products like ceramic ware, I began to design the forms as well. Understanding production has always been important to me and I like to participate as much as possible.

Where are you based and does it influence your work?

My husband and I have moved around a lot but we’ve spent most of our time in Massachusetts. Right now we live in a beautiful seaport town near the New Hampshire border. It’s a classic New England town with lovely shops, parks and nature reserves. Birds and flowers have always been a major design theme for me and this area is full of inspiration.

What have you been doing/working on today?

I’m preparing to exhibit in May at a major trade show for textile and licensing designers called Surtex. It’s been several years since I’ve exhibited and I’m sharing a booth with two other artists under the name of Artists Direct. I have a lot of designing to do to come up with new work! I’m working on my “classic” watercolor bird and floral themes but also trying to develop some coordinating geometric patterns for a little more contemporary flair.

I’ve also developed a “Cut & Assemble Fairy” design collection that I have been offering locally in workshops and classes. I hope to have the opportunity to push this new direction into more products. It’s a real flight of fantasy for me!

Thanks Elizabeth that was fun, we all wish you the very best of luck with Surtex. Meanwhile I am going to visit your blog once more to see of your fairy creations.


Spider Silk

The little watercolour study above of an orb spider weaving its web is taken from “Animals at Home”, a children’s book I worked on many years ago. Whilst admiring the delicacy and intricacy of a spider’s web, it is hard not to find them more than a little creepy. I am not the sort of person who runs screaming from the bathroom when confronted with a spider in the shower but they do hold a weird sort of fascination don’t you think? So when I heard that someone had actually managed to capture this thread and weave it into a cloth, I was intrigued to say the least.

On a recent trip to the V and A in London we decided to see for ourselves and visited the Golden Spider Silk display. The two garments, a cape and shawl, are the work of Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley and are truly mesmerizing. The silk has been gathered from Golden Orb spiders found in Madagascar. It has taken over four years and the silk from countless threads; each thread being made from 96 twisted spider strands, to make the brocaded shawl. The resulting garment shimmers like sunlight on gold.

The exquisite cape has been inspired by the myths and stories, poetry and nightmares surrounding the spider. The original design is also displayed; this working drawing is a work of art in itself.

The cape has been lavishly embroidered with threads and stitches so fine that it is hard to believe that human hands are capable of such a feat.
It is said that over a million spiders and thousands of hours have gone into its creation. It is quite simply out of this world, I cannot imagine how it would feel to have it next to my skin but I am told that the fabric made from spider silk is extremely light. It put me in mind of the song from the Emperor’s new clothes, “The king is in the altogether!” If you get a chance this is a must see exhibition, you can see more here.