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.
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.
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:
Susan 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.
And 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.
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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.