flowersThe allotment is at its midsummer best, prolifically producing berries, leaves and fat pods. The sweet peas fill the air with scent and colour, nonpareil.

We can hardly keep up.

beans and pods

I’d been waiting a long time to see Peggy Seeger again: the last gig had been cancelled due to her ill health and the tickets for this one had been bought ages ago. An hour or so before the performance I was rung and told that due to an unforeseen-ly over-large audio desk my carefully chosen seats would have restricted view – did I still want to come? Yes, I did. In the event we were offered alternative seats and could watch the whole family-and-friends affair unimpeded – banter, exchange, stories and a lifetime of music.


peggy seegerAt the very end she sang, in her high reedy voice, the lovesong that Ewan MacColl had first sung to her down a transatlantic ‘phone line in 1957 and which brought her back to England. It seems, deceptively, a simple song, set to a melody that climbs and falls with the emotion of the words. I think its compelling secret is in the poetry of the story – building the intimate progress of a love affair from the eyes, to the lips, to the heart. In the past I’ve heard her thank Roberta Flack for making ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ so famous, earning them such sumptuous royalties. Peggy turns 80 this summer.



sonia delaunayI was given the book ‘Sonia Delaunay, Rhythms and Colours’, by Jacques Damase, in 1977 and it has been a close friend ever since. Seeing the exhibition at Tate Modern was thrilling, as is the fact of her being celebrated: her energy, the bold quality, extent and variety of her work, her consistent output over her long life are a joy. Fashion, design, textiles, painting, graphics, interiors, theatre – she explored and invented for them all.sonia delaunay



I found this curtain-poem, embroidered in wool on silk in1922, one of the most moving pieces. The words are by Philippe Soupault. Like the song, it’s a case of taking direct action – think it, make it, show it – which speaks so strongly to me. I am very proud to see that our book is now alongside and on sale in the bookshop there too.

sonia delaunay

The paintings of Richard Diebenkorn at the RA were a gift too – “Here, have this huge spread of colours and space” they seem to say – though one of the pieces I enjoyed the most was this little watercolour sketch, c1952, both spontaneous and controlled. Late evening opening hours are a real bonus.

richard diebenkorn

Mention textile design and the name William Morris is bound to come up – he’s the one English designer that everyone’s heard of. I admit to knowing rather little about him, though of course his designs and his socialist principles are very familiar to me.
His organisation of pattern is second to none – a brilliant way to learn about repeats – though for me I find it somewhat claustrophobic.

William MorrisMary Schoeser’s talk ‘From Ruskin to Morris’, at the Warner Textile Archive last Saturday, was a most lively and revealing account of the 19th century’s giant cultural battle between the idealogical enemies Ruskin (for Christian Gothic purism) and Owen Jones (for a world view); from this Morris emerged as, in Mary’s words, the ‘peace-maker’.

owen jones

From my own particular point of view I saw his work as the triumph of the intuitive over the intellectual – and I was pleased to see Morris in this light. It was a real pleasure to be shown some of the treasures in their vast collection – original drawings and paintings, shimmering woven silks – as perfect on the back as the front – and the particular charm of the early block-printed fabrics.

william morris

I’ve been feeling rather hemmed in lately – a painful knee and a broken car having somewhat curtailed my habitual nipping-out-ery. And then I lost my Freedom pass (miraculously returned by a good-natured and enterprising taxi driver) which really drove it home. At some point I found myself in the queue at Sainsbury’s chatting with a fellow shopper, a young woman with whom I’d exchanged a few words in our road one day. She kindly offered me a lift back, I offered her a cup of coffee; she wore a striking striped jacket which had once belonged to her grandmother. After a while I asked if she cycled – yes – and did she wear that jacket when she did – yes. I wondered whether she was the person I’d by chance caught sight of a few weeks previously and painted hereit turns out she was. Isn’t that a coincidence?

tea and coffee

A whole 30 metres of ancient woodland is concertina’d into the window of The Bookart Bookshop; it’s the Henningham Family Press art edition of Sophie’s The Listening Forest, and very beautiful and brilliant it is too. She’s also part of the Southbank’s Poetry International programme and will be creating more inky tales there on Saturday 25th July.

sophie herxheimer

Wonderful work was done over the two days of the silk-painting course I ran at Morley College. As is often the case, the students were new or newish to the practice, so there was a lot to take in in a short time; and learning to enjoy the happy accidents that can occur when ink meets silk is just one of the skills needed.

morley collegeThe plan was that everyone would be able to go home wearing a silk scarf that they’d designed, painted and finished during the course – and they pretty well did! This course will repeat in December, and the Drawing for Painting for Textiles course runs again in September – they’re open now for booking online. Bradness Gallery, are putting on a second ‘Hand-painting on Calico’ course on October 13th and 14th; I’ll be teaching teenagers at the V&A on Saturday 17th October, and at WestDean on January 11th-14th 2016.

morley college

And our two new doll families, the Jewels and the Tropics, are now available to see and order from the shop here.

doll family

I’m just starting on a lovely new commission for some calico curtains – last week I got the chance to have a first go at the layout…

painted calico

Round the corner, Lucy’s opera pink rose is at its brief but bountiful best at present – lovely to have an invitation to see it in the soft evening light, just before the flowers closed up for the night.

pink roses

Thanks to Molly, Steve, Lola, and Mark

mmf envelope bag

11 thoughts on “lifetimes

  1. Pingback: page turning | Sarah Campbell Designs

  2. How exciting to see the dolls on sale! I will blog about it shortly!
    Love that calico curtain design and the painting of the pink roses – both so beautiful.

  3. What an inspiring post – I was drawn in by you beautiful painting of Sweetpeas and discovered a treasure trove of things! (I’m going to return when I have a little more time to read it agin and follow the links). You brought back memories of seeing Peggy Seeger at a tiny folk club in Harlow in 1990 and hearing her sing that same song.
    How fortunate you lost your pass and met the kind girl in the stripy coat, sometimes things are meant to be.

  4. Thanks for this uplifting and colourful post! I visited the Sonia Delaunay show at Tate last week fabulous works…what an output and what a remarkable woman!
    Really liked the sweet peas at the top of your post…mine are just beginning to flower!

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