Saturday, May 7, 2011

Hooked Rug Storytelling

A slightly different blog post today as The Book has arrived at last. I haven’t mentioned it before on the blog because I was waiting to actually see it in the flesh so to speak.

This is the wonderful book written by my brother’s partner Lesley Mary Close about extremely talented rug maker Heather Ritchie. I have mentioned Heather in a previous post but this is the first time that this book has seen the light of day. It is a beautifully crafted wonder about the life of a Yorkshire rag rug maker and the fascinating history behind her story rugs. It is crammed full of fabulous photos taken by Lesley, and details of her rugs and exactly how she made them and why. It is the story of the life of a Daleswoman illustrated in textiles. It is published by American publishers Schiffer and is quite a solid book. Lesley has slept, ate, dreamed and lived this book for many a long month with countless re-readings and editing and e-transfer backwards and forwards across the pond. We are all immensely proud of her achievement. You will have to excuse my poor photography of the book but it was too large to scan.

Heather has a well deserved international reputation as a teacher and creator of rag rugs. She has travelled the world and taken her rugs and hooks with her. She is busy enough doing that but also has found time to found and run a charity in the Gambia called Rug Aid which teaches blind Gambians to make rag rugs for sale. An almost impossible task is what we all thought when we heard about it, but Heather was determined to try to help these terribly deprived people who have to beg on the streets to survive. You can read all about it on the website here. You can also browse Heather’s own website here.

I was asked last year to draw some simple line artwork for the chapter headings and I produced 17 in total and you can see some of them at the end of the blog post. They might look simple but some of them required blood, sweat and tears from me, especially the architectural ones. If you see any mistakes in them please don’t tell me..haha.


and here is the original photo of Heather holding the lambs.


The rug below is one of my favourites because of the gorgeous colours she has chosen. Purples and greens are great combinations and Heather dyes most of the wool she uses herself to get a huge range of shades.


Here is the photo that inspired the Jackdaw Jeans rug below. I think the jeans are especially good. Heather has the knack of removing extraneous detail to simplify the image.



The rug below is Victory Garden and was created after Heather found a photo of her grandfather on his allotment. I bet quite a few people can remember the old call of “digging for victory” so that extra food could be produced to feed the population during the second world war. My favourite part of this rug are the pigeons and the sense of distance and perspective. You really feel that you have a pigeons’ eye view here. If you enlarge the photo you can see my little drawing at the top.


This is the so-called Reeth Parliament which were a group of elderly men who used to congregate in the village bus shelter to put the world to rights. Heather’s rug shows amazing attention to detail. The chaps are all gone now but this rug remains as a lovely memory.


This rug shows “Percival’s Bus” which was one of the companies serving the dales town of Reeth where Heather lives. When I was drawing my little bus for the front of the chapter I had plenty of references as there are lots of photos on the Internet of vintage buses of this type.


This gorgeous rug is called Guiding Light and shows Heather as a young girl guiding her father through the streets when his eyesight failed.


Heather in The Gambia workshop helping one of the blind rag rug makers. She is a wonderful teacher. You can imagine the patience needed to teach blind people to make rugs.


I love her depiction of Hall Farm where she and her husband lived. The pinky-purple heathery colours are stunning.


Fleet is Heather’s gorgeous border collie. He is full of life and fun and heather has depicted him beautifully in this rug. I love the detail shot of the swirly different shades of green to suggest grass. She has put in so much accurate detail about Fleet that you could recognise him just by the rug.


This page details how Heather finishes off her rugs and sorts out the hanging details.


Back Cover Of Book


Paradise Gardens drawing. I loved doing all the flowers for this one but it took ages to outline the black lines on the computer in order to make them clearer.

Reeth Village Green drawing. This wasn’t too hard as it was basically straight lines – well buildings are aren’t they?
Reeth Parliament drawing. I used an old pair of my dad’s boots, his flat cap and his stick for the reference for this drawing.

Percival’s Bus drawing. Quite a tricky little one with bits borrowed from various bus photos to make a composite.
This is the drawing for Victory Gardens. I loved drawing that cabbage.


The Evacuees drawing. Loved drawing the teddy but the suitcase and the gas mask were tricky.

This is an image I have been working on recently. I found some beautiful tree paintings in a book about the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy and tried to produce my own but I don’t think they are comparable. Still, I quite like them. This is my elongated hand again. Coming in quite useful really.

This is the finished version of Blessing The Garden. I have altered quite a few things and made the bird white in order to make it stand out more. I may do a black and white version of this image too as I really like it.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Wedding Fever Over – Back To Drawing

This is an ink and watercolour painting which I have called Blessing The Garden. I have fiddled a bit with it and I am not entirely happy with it but I will see how it goes. It isn’t finished yet anyway. I do like the combination of yellows and turquoises though.


Pen and Ink Drawing entitled Red Birds In Trees
We have had the most wonderful two weeks filled with Bank Holidays and the Royal Wedding and gorgeous sunny weather. What more could anyone want? Kate looked divine in her dress and William looked very happy. I am sure she will make a perfect princess and later Queen. I, along with the rest of the country’s women I am sure, had a good laugh at some of the outfits displayed at Westminster Abbey. It just goes to show that being rich is not necessarily an arbiter of good taste in clothing. Someone needs to have a discreet whisper in the ears of the very pretty York girls – what was that Beatrice had on her head???

We have had some wonderful geocaching walks around the shires and below are a few of the photos. I fell in love with pretty and ancient Linslade Old Church on the hill in the middle of nowhere. Nearly a thousand years old and thankfully very minimal restoration inside. The countryside is very green at the moment but the lack of rain is a bit worrying. Not a hint of an April shower but I am sure nature will put that right in the coming weeks.

Tree lined country lane at Linslade


River at Old Linslade


Old Linslade Church built in mid-1100’s.




and the Beast (Cockchafer Beetle)


I love Manja Scott’s graphic and quirky work. Her blue cat below is such a character and her happy landscape makes you happy just to see those colours. Manja was Croatian born and now lives and works in England. She has worked as a textile designer and you can see that influence in her drawings and paintings. She has a wonderful style, both graphic and illustrative. You can see much more on her website here.

Blue Cat

Manja Scott - Blue Cat

Happy Landscape

Manja Scott - Happy Landscape

I really like the work of English artist/craftswoman Flo Snook. I first saw her work during a Brighton Open Studios event years ago. Much of her work shows the influence of the sea and the coast and landscapes around Southern England where she lives. Below are her accessories but she also has textile wall art and paintings on show on her website here.

Pin Cushions

Flo Snook - Pin Cushions


Flo Snook - Needlecases

Below are some more of the gorgeous spring scenes we found whilst out walking in the countryside. The bluebells are still thriving in these shots.

Spring Scenes 1



Kate Lynch’s paintings are beautifully colourful with a deliciously naive narrative quality to them. She works in oil, pastels and willow charcoal. A lot of her work is connected with farming, and the people who work the land. Kate lives on the Somerset Levels and is married to the very talented painter James Lynch whose work I have mentioned previously. Kate has a very informative website here with lots to see.

Pilgrimage With Cockerel

Kate Lynch - Pilgrimage With Cockerel
Leaving Home With Doll And Cockerel

Kate Lynch - Leaving Home With Doll And Cockerel
Rushing Woman With Cockerel

Kate Lynch - Rushing Woman With Cockerel

The artwork below was created by the late great contemporary Maori artist John Bevan Ford. His paintings and sculptures are in museum collections all over the world. He was also a great speaker of Maori culture and heritage. You can find examples of his work all over the Internet but this site here has a nice slideshow of some of his paintings.

The Connection With London

John Bevan Ford-TheConnectionWithLondon


John Bevan Ford-Flight

Ruru In The Pacific Bush

John Bevan Ford-Ruru In The Pacific Bush

Some Birds To Guide Us

John Bevan Ford-Some Birds To Guide Us

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lambs And Bluebells

We have had a lovely series of Bank Holidays in the UK with still two more to come. The weather has been gorgeous and spring has been well and truly sprung. The countryside is bursting with colour and fragrance and life. My favourite season and with good reason. We also have had all the hype of the royal wedding with interesting screenings on the TV of the previous royal weddings. Diana’s dress looks so fussy and outdated now that fashions have veered away from frills and flounces. We are all agog to see what the new princess to be will wear on Friday.The-Berry-Thief
The pen and ink drawing above I have called The Berry Thief.

Some of the cutest lambs we came across over the weekend. They are so sweet, snuggling up to mum and running frantically from the nasty humans with cameras. I love the middle shot of the one gazing back to see if mum is coming.




I really like these two images by the late painter/printmaker John O’Connor. He was born in England in 1913 and attended the Royal College of Art where his teachers were Eric Ravilious and John Nash. In later years he illustrated for the Golden Cockerel Press. I think his cockerel is amazing and the Suffolk church wood engraving is beautifully detailed. You can find more work by him here at the Chappel Galleries.

Striding Cockerel Wood Engraving

John O'Connor - Striding Cockerel

Suffolk Church Wood Engraving

John O'Connor - Suffolk Church

We have had beautiful weather recently and spring has gone wonderfully mad providing us with gorgeous nature scenes like the bluebells below. The first two I photographed today and the bottom one a short while ago. The woods and lanes are full of blue and the fragrance is intoxicating. We are so lucky in England to have 80% of the world’s bluebell population.



Bluebells Three

These great cushions below are by textile artist Maxine Pharoah.
You can more by Maxine on her website here.

Bluebird Cushion

Maxine Pharoah - Bluebird Cushion

Dancing Chick Cushion

Maxine Pharoah - Dancing Chick Cushion

The lovely blossom of the past few weeks are past their best now. Sadly they don’t last long. I took these shots a little while ago when things were at their peak. A gorgeous blue sky behind helps.



The artworks below are a continuation of my Kantha embroidery theme of my last post. They are all by Asian artists and the first three remind me of the illustrative style of Kantha. I particularly like the way they have rendered the trees. The final two show the lovely graphic and colourful quality of Indian art. You can find these and other examples of detailed Indian art on the Indigo Arts Gallery site here.

Punam Kaln – Holy Cow And Mango Tree

Punam Kaln-Holy Cow and Mango Tree

Sudha Kumari – Deer In The Forest

Sudha Kumari-DeerInTheForest

Sudha Kumar – Holy Cow

Sudha Kumar-Holy Cow

Montu Chitrakar – Kalighat With Fish

Montu Chitrakar - Kalighat Cat With Fish

Baua Devi – Two Girlfriends

Baua Devi - Two Girlfriends

I was very pleased to come across a very talented scraperboard artist the other day. His name is Tom Boulton and he specialises in scraperboard, linocut and mixed media landscapes. I absolutely love his hare scraperboards particularly. They have a wonderful dark and mysterious quality to them although his other work is just as good as you can see for yourself if you visit his website here. He shares the site with his equally talented photographer wife Julia. Just click on an image to start and then go to “next” in the bar at the top to see all the work.

Hare And The Moon

Tom Boulton - Hare And The Moon
Orchard Moon

Tom Boulton - Orchard Moon Scraperboard
Hare On The Run

Tom Boulton - Hare On The Run

Hare In The Meadow

Tom Boulton - Hares In The Meadow