across a crowded room

dahliasNo use pretending otherwise – I’ve fallen in love three times in as many weeks.

Sitting at some friends’ country kitchen table I became transfixed to the point of rudeness: I lost my heart. The scarlet splashes adorning the creamy white curls of fluted petals filled my eye and for a long moment those dahlias zinging out from the jug of garden flowers overtook and silenced the amicable coffee chatter of the morning. How lucky for me to have a bunch to take home at the end of the day, along with this shiny new pot.

david garland jug

Next thing I know I’m losing my heart again – this time to a piece of paper! Across a crowded room, at a gallery opening, I see this poem written large and pinned on the wall. The subject, Many a Slip, is the title of the current exhibition at the Marsden Woo gallery. The handwriting and drawing, by Bryan Illesley with Christopher Reid, is as bold and direct as the pattern on those dahlias and I can’t help falling for it. It’s so thoroughly itself.

Incidentally, the cups sitting on the wall adjacent to the poem are by Stephenie Bergman; we were talking together one morning and mulling over past work and inventions – these are two early dyed and stitched textile pieces of hers. Time for a retrospective I think…

stephenie bergman

At the gallery, amongst the many cup thoughts of the seventy-seven different invited artists, are two little works of mine, painted on linen.

And the third of Cupid’s darts landed in my ears on another enchanted evening: as dusk fell in SE19 we were treated to Lucy’s neighbour playing the flute especially for us – Debussy’s Syrinx I think – a sweetly lyrical river of sound being blown into the evening air and drifting away with the fading daylight. What a magical experience. So I’ve been pretty lucky in love, thanks to my friends – in these instances at least!

flute player

I’ve been enjoying listening to the Proms when I can – more music on the air waves, mainly those of BBCRadio3. The other evening as I drove into Norwich I heard the start of Fiddler on the Roof. I’d never seen the entire film despite the fact that my mum plays the ghost of Grandmother Tzeitel, and my hosts offered to play it.

I found it fiddler on the roofdeeply affecting – particularly the enforced expulsion of the jewish families from their villages, especially in the light of the desperation of the world’s current refugee crisis. That US millionaire’s suggested solution – to put all the dispossessed onto an uninhabited island for them to  invent a new country – is a crazy and fantastical idea, but at least he’s talking about it. On a happier note I did enjoy seeing Patience again though, risen from her ghostly grave!


I like the Sainsbury Centre at UEA very much – the space, the light, the collection are generosity itself. It was the last day of the Francis Bacon and the Masters exhibition. Interesting as it was to see his work set in the context of his influences – some marvellous pieces selected from the Hermitage – for me the Masters won the day hands down. I favour their uncompromising clarity over his wilful obliteration.


At the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Michael Craig-Martin’s bold new pink walls seemed to make the huge gallery, room II, even more spacious, giving the works a grand but playful  landscape. I enjoyed the new arrangements – the architectural models more accessible, the tinies less crowded – though it’s impossible for me not to get art overload at such a huge exhibition. On first arrival in the courtyard outside, a young man invited us to divert and visit the Magna Carta exhibition – “It only takes ten minutes” said he. I thought that was a poor selling point for such an important subject. When we left I was too full up for even those few minutes – so I’ll need to return.

ra pink room

I had a brief and lovely visit to the Bradness gallery and garden to scope out the lay of the land for the workshops I’ll be doing in the autumn; I’m really looking forward to being there. The October mid-week course is almost full now – a couple of places still left I think.


The West Dean syllabus is now online and bookable – it’s January and pattern with me! And yes, I’ve been painting away daily on new work too – exciting things with WestElm, fresh designs for Michael Miller Fabrics and a project for some ethical made-in-London clothing…

Craft Beautiful SEPT MMF News feature

And I’m rather looking forward to a visit to The Festival of Quilts: the MMF work’s taken me into the new world of craft and home sewing. DSC01883

The Fashion at Liberty exhibition opens at the Fashion Textile Museum on October 9th this year; I’m busy gathering work together for our part of the show – in the fashion studio upstairs. Over our 16 year relationship with Liberty of London Prints (as was) Susan, I and our studio produced a large, inventive and varied body of work from the tiniest tana lawns to bold ceramic tiles… See you there!  

Thanks to Molly, Steve, David and Sarah Garland, Vanessa and Sam, and photograoher Philip Sayer


11 thoughts on “across a crowded room

  1. What a wonderful, happy post this is, Sarah! I love the film clip of your mother – truly a classic.
    She was such a good actress . . . and now I’m inspired to rent “Fiddler” because – like you – I’ve never seen the entire film. Wish I could join you at the Fashion at Liberty exhibition. It will be a wonderful tribute to you and Susan.
    Much love,

  2. Lovely to read your experiences Sarah – and you are just so busy doing such joyous things!! Love Sue xx

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