what’s cooking?

washing a bowl

I like washing up – I’ve said it before – dirty plates, grubby clothes, muddy skin – they all come good with soap and water. Even if stains persist they become clean stains, part of history. But I was thinking the other day of a lesson my dad taught me via a very burnt pan. I can’t remember what it was that I’d overcooked, but the little aluminium saucepan seemed to be utterly ruined. Harry immediately had an idea – we’d do an experiment to get it clean – carbonise it. Brilliant! Cautiously we heated the pan and slowly the dense black sticky residue evaporated and disappeared – the pan was restored. It was a great lesson in more than chemistry.


However things didn’t always work out so well: in school I learnt about the insulating properties of newspaper especially when surrounded by an extra layer of fabric – how to keep hot things hot or cold things cold. Eager to test this theory at home I wrapped the cardboard box of frozen Walls vanilla ice-cream in The Daily Herald and tucked it cosily in my granny’s bed! I didn’t think so much of science after that.

grannys bed

Chemistry has not been my strong point, but the principle of plucking the flower has remained with me. And I had a most exciting opportunity handed to me a couple of weeks ago. Alongside the wonderful new exhibition Artist Textiles at the FTM, which I wrote about a few months ago, I was invited to put up a display of my own current work.

glass case

Time was very short and not quite everything was to hand; but with Molly’s good humoured vigilance and Stafford’s eagle-eyed editing together with the museum’s help and skillful handiness we got it ready and up just in time for the opening evening. The theme is a look at my working practice from commissions through first sketches to finished product – a subject I’ll be talking about at their Teacher’s Evening this thursday the 6th.


The main exhibition is full of breath-taking treats, some of my favourites being Saul Steinberg‘s funny   illustrative prints – like this wedding scene, so cleverly printed with a pink blotch. It’s rather comforting that a length of John Piper ‘Foliate Heads’ is hung opposite the door to ‘my’ room – it’s the fabric we had at home for our sitting-room curtains. Looking at it again I see that it must have had a great influence on me – not just the colour and the style, but the idea that an artist could paint for textiles and that we the ordinary public could be the happy beneficiaries.


At the risk of being a complete show-off, one of the ten boards we put together shows a very recent commission – a range of 6 greeting cards for Roger la Borde – here they are:

roger la borde

booksSusan and I had a good little library at our old studio comprising mainly design and art books collected over decades. Necessity has kept them in store for a couple of years but recently I’ve had the chance to bring them closer to home. They aren’t out on the shelves yet – those haven’t even been built – but peeking in the boxes is like meeting old friends. I’ve really missed them; it’s delightful to begin to get re-acquainted.

fabric boxesAnd at last some of the fabric boxes have been tackled too, opened and turned on their sides to make cubby-holes in the studio cupboard. I do like to be able to see the variety of pattern colour and cloth. The tiny scraps are put aside for our special hand-made archive cards; there’s been quite a run on them lately so a new spring batch is on the way – in time for our new website coming later this month.


archive card

archive cards tinies

.. .. ….

These last hectic days have rather kept me away from my desk, and from my kitchen. Mixing new colours, making good stock – they have a lot in common: the tiny moderations of ingredients, the constant evaluating, tasting and ongoing comparisons, the push to get to just the right taste, tone, consistency. Nice to get back to it this weekend, though at some point in January I did find time to bake these really delicious cheese scones from a dear old Cranks recipe.

cheese sconesLastly – farewell Pete Seeger, one of my lifelong heroes. Let’s remember him, enjoy his music and honour his work. Songs unite worldwide – listen to this classic.

freedom love peace

Thanks to Alan, Molly, Stafford Cliff and Dennis, Celia, Beth and all the staff at the FTM

Chedworth board

23 thoughts on “what’s cooking?

  1. Pingback: the borrowers | Sarah Campbell Designs

  2. I just loved your exhibition at Artist Textiles at FTM – congratulations. Your bed linen at West Elm’s new shop in Tottenham Court Rd is stunning! And ‘thank you’ for that Pete Seeger clip – what a gem.

  3. uplifting as ever, Sarah. I echo all the wonderful comments about Pete Seeger too – another great humanitarian……. so sorry I can’t be with you tonight. Bet it’s going to be wonderful!! xxx Norma

  4. What a lovely song, thank you for sharing this Sarah. Beautiful art as well, as usual.

    I hope you are well.

    Best, Lucy

  5. I’m so glad you’re having a reunion with your old studio books. How precious they must be.

    Happily, I too will be at the FTM on Thursday – another smiling face in the crowd, Sarah. Really looking forward to it! Thank you for giving us this little preview of the exhibition.

      • You did an excellent job, Sarah. Such an insightful talk about your working method. I particularly enjoy hearing about your thrifty habits (reusing your discarded paint chips for birthday cards, and painting roughs on lining wallpaper). And so much original artwork to feast one’s eyes on. Thank you for a wonderful evening.

  6. A great post, full of beautiful things. The tribute to Pete trumps the rest, for me–he is my biggest hero. I keep wanting to write about him but no words seem big enough, pure enough . . .

  7. The new Roger la Borde cards look stunning, Sarah, as does your ceramic work! So glad to know your creativity is unceasing . . . a blessing to all of us. And thank you for your tribute to Pete Seeger, who was one of the most transforming influences of my young life, growing ever deeper as time has gone by. He was “America’s conscience,” as one news report here said last week, and that’s probably true of the UK as well. I loved watching the video you posted. Yesterday at my New Thought spiritual center the entire service was dedicated to Mr. Seeger. We had a regular old singalong, and our voices were thunderous and glad! We shall certainly continue to overcome . . . much love to you.

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