flights of fancy


I’ve been considering my creative life and thinking that my own particular mix is a daily swoop between soaring flights of fancy and the down-to-earth practicalities of doing. These last days have been a case in point. In return for work so generously given, the value of which I could never repay in money, I gladly agreed to paint my friend three lengths of fabric for his new window blinds. 93 inches is a lot of cloth – never mind times three!

bird initial sketchThe subject was to be birds; the bay windows for which they’re destined look onto, and even invite in, a garden rich in leafy branches. It’s taken almost a year to gird up my loins and get started, but the painting took no more than a few days in all. The cloth was measured, cut and ironed and pinned taut on my table, the fabric paints assembled and mixed, the fun began.

birds initial paintingPainting directly onto the calico is a lovely exciting spontaneous experience, though a little nerve-wracking as any mistakes cannot easily be rectified – pencils, rubbers and overpainting not being possible – and as I started I had no real idea exactly how these birds would turn out. I’d made a tiny sketch for the layout, and thank goodness for my auto-fade fabric pen!

HeronThe birds rather took me by surprise, each one emerging amongst the leaves and flowers took on a character of its own. Some I like more than others of course – the heron, the green woodpecker, the pure fantasies – and I’m particularly fond of this little fellow, partly because he was so very nice to paint – the brush just did its job so agreeably.

warbler 2The finished lengths are joyful – as yet to be fully seen by and delivered to the recipient.   I hope he’s pleased….he’s promised to take a picture of them in situ…

bird nest

Being rather short I was in the perfect position to see that the pavement was scattered with tiny golden treasures: amongst the crowds of little creamy individual flower heads were some minute downy feathers, white with the softest yellow and turquoise tips, anchored to fallen sticky buds. In contrast the smallest leaves from the very growing ends of the chestnut branches were a bright sharp green, and all were laced about with yellow willow catkins and their fluff.feathers

teenagerFurther up the hill some broken bits of a circuit board made a fascinating deeper green and silver contrast on the grey asphalt. I held the fragile hoard in my palm: ‘Take a peek’ I offered a whistling teenager as he passed. ‘Very pretty’ he commented giving me a surprised though tolerant look.

Over the last months I’ve got to know the walk from London Bridge station to the FTM quite well. It’s always a little different, changing with the season, and this last week the pre-rain light gave the tower of Southwark cathedral a pale gold glow beyond the avenue of grey glass and concrete – a decorative butterscotch lace rising over the unyielding structure of the railway bridge. From that level a steep escalator flanks the gargantuan glinting chandeliers in the Shard’s foyer, where as I descend I spy tiny dark cakes laid out one by one in glass cases.cathederal

I pass the rank of clipped conical bushes standing to attention in pots, the cloud trees guarding huge portals, and on to the rather seedy pathway, made narrow by all the construction works.

shard 1

Round the corner is a sociable little public flower garden neatly bordered by an amber-leaved beech hedge and planted with cherries whose deep red bark shines in the sun. A quick sit amongst the underplanting here, and a peer into the adjacent well-organised vegetable plot full of mint and thyme and newly planted onions growing strongly regardless of their neighbours, the overbearing office buildings.vegetable plot

Around another corner I pass Andrew Logan‘s buzzing blue facade and see opposite a fulsome group of euphorbias that have really come into their own – their huge heads of lime-green flowers nodding amongst soft blue ceanothus.andrew logan


Down the street I go – and here is my favourite window – the fabric on the blinds is of London landmarks and I love it – I have a real penchant for designs of landscapes. I pass the school garden leafy behind railings, reminding me rather of those guerilla gardens in Manhatten, and on into the charms of the flowery Leathermarket parklet.

london curtains

I stop for a while and watch the pigeons: the gents are getting frisky, purring and strutting, puffing up their chests, splaying their tail feathers. They dip and dance around the females hoping to hop on for a quick one, but on the whole they get no encouragement and subside back into the usual pecking order, having to forgo their flights of fancy.


The little hillocks are absolutely covered in buttercups and daises; the white stars in the grass sparkle beneath the peeling paperwhite bark of slender birch trees and the creamy blossom of a weeping pear. I want to take one of those curls of bark and draw on it in black ink.

no. 5

Leaving the garden, this grand number 5 winks at me. At the end of the street beckons the orange cube, the museum, the only building that the Mexican architect Ricardo Legoreta made in Europe.

ftm building

And pausing briefly at its front door I see another favourite view – this ancient building complete with a wooden weaver’s shed at the top – stands in company with the gleaming Shard, the old and the new. Lovely London.

lovely london

At the museum there are just a few more weeks to see the current exhibitions, till May18th. And then at the start of June it’ll be the Mexican rebozo, a wonderful cultural feast – including a contribution from me! Our new scarves – designed with the exhibition in mind – will be available from our online shop soon….and new cards even sooner.


Although the actual items designed remain secret until later in the year I can say that the Habitat 50th celebrations are gathering speed; you can get a feel for them here at ‘Friends Reunited!’. Last friday we met to have our photos taken – so very friendly to be in the company of these design supremos – we all had quite a laugh which made the ordeal by camera and interview as pleasant as it could be. Styling required us to wear only black and/or white, though we were given some leniance regarding idiosyncratic colour detail; my trusty Vans and rosey dip-dyed socks came into their own!


What will the results show? It’s already quite un-nerving to be faced with a large picture of myself in a local Traid shop, dressed to party!

At the London Print Fair one evening (when a percentage of the profits was being given to the Artroom charity) we were treated to a printing demonstration by master etcher Jason Hicklin at the City and Guilds School stand. And at Dulwich Art Gallery there’s still time to enjoy David Hockney Printmaker. It’s useful to have the different print techniques explained – etching and lithography – and to see again Hockney’s pleasure in drawing. From his early tender and humorous etchings to the huge many-hued Mexican lithos he constantly experiments with colour and method. I particularly like the large print of Celia: by using a soft tusche line it gives off the direct energy and emotion of that spontaneous moment of doing.


In Westminster I glimpsed a huddle of maroon-wrapped monks beneath the naked catalpa trees. Coming up this weekend, May 3rd – Slow Textile Group’s symposium about sustainable fashion….


Thanks to Molly and Steve robin

27 thoughts on “flights of fancy

  1. Thank you so much for putting me right on the current company set up via my blog Marguerite Designs. I was so pleased to hear from you and I’ve written a blog post containing all the new information directly following my first post. As I explain, I was so engrossed in the Pattern Cutting course and so enthralled by the colourful displays that I had run out of memory card before getting all the information panels documented. I’m at the FTM again this weekend for more Pattern Cutting and hope to take a raft more photos! Apologies once again for the error and I look forward to following your blog.

    • Diane – thank you for your swift reply and action. I do have some photos available of the FTM displays without reflections if they’d be of any use to you…

      • That would be wonderful! You can reach me at I’ve also just filled in your contact form on your website and ordered myself a hankie and calendar – look forward to receiving those. Thank you so much!

  2. Oh Sarah, such kind, sympathetic, joyful depictions of the wonderful world around us. Thanks


  3. I was at ftm today with a friend enjoying the current exhibition. Thanks for the info on the weaving attic. I never knew that. Love your euphorbias. April

  4. Sarah, such a charming and evocative post, thank you! I can really imagine your walk, especially around Bermondsey street and area, which is so close to my home. I just love the bird blinds.
    Nikki xx

  5. Pure poetry but with the addition of real colour and shape and space and the indefinable essence of an artist’s eye -lovely

  6. Whenever I see a blog from you has popped in, a smile spreads over my face in anticipation.
    Today you have surpassed even yourself, Sarah — glorious ! The bird blinds are joyful – fabulous – inspired and inspiring. And showing us what you see on your walk to the Museum wakes us up to looking more, wherever we are. Thank you so very much – my day is now filled with ever brightening colours.

  7. Lovely to read your comments on recent exhibitions ( I loved the Hockney, and the Artists’ Textiles Shows). Your room at the F and T Museum is a real inspiration. Will tell all the students on Surface Design at London College of Communication. Thank you Sarah.

  8. Dear Sarah What an inspired, and inspiring, post to read just now on my morning commute, ahead of my own tube-strike opportunity to walk and savour the sights of London. Your words seem especially fluent today and evocative of that fertile time you spent in the region of the Shard, and your bird blinds are simply beautiful. Thank you for giving a lift to my morning! Penny

    Sent from my iPad

  9. Love your picture of Euphorbias – you’ve really captured that acid green. Also love your view of the Shard – my son’s favourite building (at 6, he is already a budding architect!)

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