different strokes

brushA shared aim between all the students was a wish to make marks in a different way – that is, other than those they’d been doing hitherto.

Everyone, I think, said they wanted to ‘free up’, to change old habits. That was fortunate as the first thing on the agenda was to try doing just that. I’d been thinking on the way to Morley College of the notion of our own internal parallel worlds – the running of experience and know-how alongside the necessity of forgetting it all in order to make fresh discoveries each day; of shutting one’s eyes in order to see anew.

And on the way I’d had a most diverting conversation with the cab driver – laden as I was – about our human society galumphing about on the surface of the planet while below our feet communities of ants are busying themselves running equally important and complicated regimes. We got quite carried away elaborating on the theme of ant cities! (I loved that film A Bug’s Life.)


zodiac spotsAs well as enjoying the spontaneity of painting many of the students also wanted to learn about putting designs in repeat by hand – which in fact necessitates reining in the painted marks so they fit within an unarguable system. Quite a feat of pattern making.


Judging by the results they were by and large successful in their aims, and I had a very enjoyable two days’ teaching. The course, Drawing and Painting for Textiles, will repeat later in the year; the dates for that and several other courses are on my news page – I’m told they fill up quickly…

still life


And I had fun myself learning a bit about natural dyes at the RHS London Secret Garden show; Kate Poland from The Cordwainers Garden had set up a table-sized silk dying studio with her jars of flower-heads, seeds and onion-skins along with a bubbling steam bath. I love the deep indigo hollyhock stains, and the rudbeckia yellow – and the (for me) happy-accident-ness of the process. Unable to resist the invitation, I lay the chosen vegetation on a silk hankie and rolled the whole lot up around a little stick, securing it as tightly as poss with rubber bands. Forty minutes later I’d had my lunch and the dyes had been steamed. Unwrapping it I found the colours had migrated slightly, but the essential plan of a deep indigo band bordered with reds and yellows remained, rather like a magical landscape.

dye pics

DSC00382Zoe Burt and Kate Poland have worked for months together with communities of schoolchildren, gardeners and students to sow, grow, and sew a linen garment, which was on show – the final result having been made by students at the LCF. They hatched the plan last year after the Slow Textiles group symposium – a reminder of real time and the natural order alongside the fast world of fashion and flashing trends. Zoe’s also running a natural dyeing course here.


You may wonder what this loom is doing here.  Well, the white warp is waiting. At The London Cloth Co’s new premises in Epping we’ll be approaching it with colour, dye and brushes in the very near future…isn’t it exciting when these notions really begin to take shape?

DSC05834 - Version 2

And along with the ArtRoom/Selfridges chair project in late April I’ve also been invited to contribute to an exhibition which will be considering the nature of the cup…more of this later…and of another little exhibition to be held at Soho Radio‘s London HQ in the summer.


img76oAll these endeavours run alongside my regular mainstream design work with WestElm and others – there’ll be more to show very soDSC00410on.

I’m fortunate and happy to have these generous opportunities to work on such differing enterprises and collaborations. And I’m proud to say our two new silk crepe-de-chine scarves are now printed and available in our shop: Summer Celebration is a joyful feast of colour and luxury at 135cm square, Frida Stripe, 60 x 160cm, glows with Mexican mystery and drama.

DSC00330I’m really enjoying wearing them both and giving them their turns in the spring sunshine. Just in time to perk up Mother’s Day or turn into an Easter bonnet! Fresh cards have arrived too; I’m often asked for prints of the paintings I do for this blog, and the new cards all emanate from here. I’m particularly fond of the boiled eggs.


At the other end of the hand-made one-off scale are the huge domes of the Eden Project’s biomes. On the train the other day I got talking to a young man whose work involves designing the ‘bubbles’ that go to make up similar roof constructions. The material ETFE is a brilliant invention, much lighter than glass, easily mendable with special tape, and able to be used as a beautiful complement to the natural geometry of structure. We spoke about needing to control the sunlight in certain environments – sports stadia for example – and of course I was off and running with the idea of printing patterns with light-reactive inks in the desert and water-reactive dyes to make the most of a downpour! Anyone interested?


Thanks to Molly, Steve, Marian and Leah


15 thoughts on “different strokes

  1. Just found your site.Love it,love your paintings colours everything..Am so keen to learn to paint on fabric as well. What fabric paint should I buy..the make as there are 100s?

  2. So lovely to hear your gurgling giggle on opening your eyes after painting! Sarah, I can barely think straight, let alone paint with my eyes closed . . . ! You are a wonder. Lots of love.

  3. Hello Sarah
    Your enthusiasm and creativity explode fabulously out of your blog – I love your openness and receptivity (is that a word?) to everything, and it was so inspiring to work with you on the Texprint collaboration!
    Joanna xx

  4. Hi Sarah, fascinating and wonderfully entertaining, which also makes me wonder how you manage to cope with so many facets to your life. We must meet up soon so I can learn the secret.
    Cheers and love Dave

Post a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s