Thursday 31 August 2017


Today we did two organs. The first one was in a tiny church and the organ was too loud. So difficult to hear. What was clear was that the noise woke the bats up. As each piece faded into silence what replaced it was the agitated twittering of bats.
The second organ was in the city church in Naumburg and it was wonderful. Bach wrote the specification for it, someone else built and Bach was asked to inspect it  or sign it off and the report he wrote as inspector still exists. We were given a copy. Firstly , it is very beautiful and secondly it sounds wonderful. One third of it is still the original  material but every new bit meets Bach's spec.  The city is gorgeous with a big area of merchants houses of the 16 and 17th centuries.

Naumbur. A merchant's house

A Naumbur street

The organ is at the other end of the church

And just o show that I can be modern too a refinery on the way home.


I made my way here yesterday, getting up at 0500 and arriving at 1645. Then we immediately set out to view the cathedral since, although we are here for three days, we are on an organ trip and have a busy schedule of visits. We had a lecture on organs last night before dinner. I have to say I slept very well last night. The journey was by way of Tegel airport, Berlin and more than three  hours in a bus.

However the architecture here is worth seeing

The cathedral

The palace

The bishop's palace. He does himself proud. And the gardens are not bad either

An unusual rose. Comes out bright orange and fades as it ages to pink and cream.  No labels!

An all this has taken my mind off photography. I am too busy!

Saturday 26 August 2017


i have a feeling that my son-in-law would describe this blog as an existential crisis. Well, if Elizabeth Barton can write lots of blogs about the problem of abstract art when she is a renown quilter, I do not see why I cannot do the same for photography. My problem . what is photography supposed to be about?
But how did I get into photography in the first place? By deciding to enter yardage into the Conference competition. They require photos for the juried exhibition and I found this difficult. I consulted with Stacey Harvey-Brown and she said, outside under an overcast sky. But there are all sorts of other problems. You need to get the focus good over the whole length of fabric/yardage. And will a straight hanging be better than an artistic arrangement? You are only allowed to send in two photos which they expect to be the full thing and a detail. So I was driven to trying harder and ended up joining the local camera club which like all camera club goes in for competitions.

Now I can (mostly) get the technical bit right. What I am unsure of is the composition. And I have spent time and money trying to sort this out. The current crisis which makes me think of throwing it all up comes from several things happening together. I went round to have coffee with some members of the camera club and came away feeling defeated? Certainly dismayed. They do a lot of processing in Photoshop. And the results are NOT what the eye saw but what will make a good competition entry. The most I ever do is to crop the photo. In other words, I rely on getting it right through the camera. I asked whether this post processing was allowed and they said yes. It seems to me that I could stitch together several photos and enter that.

The next thing to happen was that I was in Waterstones on Thursday and bought a copy of Susan Dontag's book on photography. Now agreed the book is written in her usual elegant and well crafted prose, but she does not like photos. And the whole book is about that. We are not talking about post processing here (that is not mentioned) but the whole gamut of photography and she is very scathing about family photographs. Did you know that when a couple have children, one of the first things they do is buy a camera to record family events. But I fail to see why people should not record events. On the whole, they will use point and click and I do not see any problem with that. After all, I took a very good photo of Michael in his wheelchair in front of his favourite maple in its full autumn livery. And I still look at it from time to time.

So what is bothering me? Well what is a good photo? I except photos taken to record events, like the childrens' parties and the first flowering of a new shrub.  It needs to tell the viewer something. But what? What I have taken to doing when I see a photo I like, is ask the question Why do I like it? And often I do not know. Maybe I can appreciate a good photo without the artistic ability to identify why. 

Thursday 24 August 2017

Burghfield Allotments

I walked round to the allotments this morning and took loads of photos. Came home and processed them all. But also slightly miffed. I loved having an allotment but feel I am too old to handle it. However I got into conversation with an allotmenteer who had a find display of zinnias and discussed his plants and successes. Many and various - actually he was not boasting I could see for myself. What did surprise me was that he had two allotments and the one I saw was tiny. I could manage that. Hmmm! I can just hear what Dorothy will say to that. However the allotmenteer suggested I should get a mini Rotatiller which would avoid digging. The soil looked sandy to me and not clay as in our garden. Now I wonder.

 The allotment zinnias with dahlias raised from seed beside them. But mostly it was veg - and sunflowers. Everyone had sunflowers.

Sunday 20 August 2017

Oxford Today

Today has been eventful. It started at 7 am and by 8 we were on our way to Heathrow, Terminal 2. Dorothy is off to Brittany for a week's quilting with her favourite  person, Rayna Gilman. Actually I think highly of herself.  Anyway Dorothy was collecting Rayna from a US flight, and escorting her to City airport in London where they successfully left for Brittany. I was quite jealous when I left her because it sounds like a nice place. But I, on the other hand, Zigzagged round London and drove to Oxford. The objective was to view the Designer Bookbinders international exhibition which is very high indeed. Every entry of about 70 is immaculately crafted and some of the techniques used are awe-inspiring. A very international set of competitors. Only the UK has a society of this sort and I have seen their exhibitions where 50% were from the USA.

This is one of my favorites. I splurged on a copy of the catalogue which has high class colour photos of every entry. I took some photos but they are bedevilled by reflections and shadows as you can see in the above photo.

There was an extra. The Bodleian is having an exhibition entitled 'Bodleian Treasures'. I'll say! Handel's conducting/working score of The Messiah in his handwriting. One of Yates poems handwritten and amended by Yates. Huge books with panting of tropical birds. Illustrated mediaeval manuscripts  and - -  a First Folio of Shakespeare's plays. All in one small room. It was very subdued lighting and there was a guard prowling about all the time.

I took a load of photos of Oxford which is swamped with tourists who all seemed to be 16 and noisy.

Friday 18 August 2017


I spent yesterday in London. First I visited the Balenciaga exhibition at the Victoria and Albert. Really good and most of the exhibits were from the V and A's own collection! What they are doing with 30  or 40 Balenciaga outfits I cannot work out but there it is. Very tailored and very attractive. I was surprised to recognise what must be the original of a hat I loved when I was 20. A skull cap fitting close to the head and made of maroon feathers. The original was of emerald green feathers. There was also a frock of which I had an 'inspired by' street version. And I remember buying a Vogue pattern and making what was definitely a constructed dress with a very odd ballooning skirt held up by tapes to the waist.

I also visited Watersons and investigated the books on photography. I was very good, I did not buy a single book. Then it was off to dinner with an old (working) friend - at The Athenaeum. Magnificent inside. They have a double staircase and upstairs where one takes coffee, there is an enormous room with a carpet woven to fit. And the food was first rate. Well any place that serves potted shrimps gets an A* from me. I was a bit worried that this was a men only place and women were on sufferance but No. They allowed women members in more than 20 years ago. And I saw a few. The ones I saw looked like they could rule the world and still have time over for some knitting and gossip.     

Tuesday 15 August 2017

Duke Bluebeard's Castle

It takes me a long time to design a book. Actually making it only takes a week over two. It can take me between one and two years to complete a design. This time I have excelled myself. It is three years since I bought an unbound text of the libretto of Duke Bluebeard's Castle complete with illustrations (rather fine). I have been down several dead ends and eventually put it aside. At the conference last week I was struck by several thoughts and have come home, measured everything up, worked out how to make it and completed the artwork in Photoshop.

The black border has been added just for this blog to show up the cover. The book itself is a very odd size, at 27.5 cm wide by 37.5 cm high. I will print this out on A3 canvas in three sections, front, back and spine. Then it will be bound in a double cover - -  and when it is all done, I will paint on  the canvas - blood red! from one of the doors on the back so that the blood runs over the spine and on to the front. I also need to paint on in grey for tears (You see I know the libretto well!!) I jib at trying to add four queens but I might try. I intend to make coloured paper cut outs

Sunday 13 August 2017

Afternoon Tea

Burghfield WI is 100 this year and they have been planning celebrations for 3 years. This culminated in a do for only WI members (and their hangers-on). This was a very grand occasion held in the Long Gallery of Englefield Castle. Lots of hats and everyone dressed proper. We had an opportunity to walk round the gardens which are magnificent. We have been here for 2 years and this is our first visit. It will not be our last. I am still looking for a tree to photograph and am thinking of going back in the next week or so.

The garden is flourishing, beams and sweet peas doing well still. The courgettes are doing rather too well. Anyone want an 8 inch diameter courgette?

And here is the picture which you have all been waiting for - well I have. This year's zinnias

And a fine pot of French marigolds

I ought to be doing some warp installation. Maybe tomorrow.

Monday 7 August 2017


I have tidied up, wound a warp and dealt with my mail today and that is about it except - - Iceland. I have always wanted to go to Iceland - for 30 or more years since a friend went and described it very enthusiastically. On Sunday my daughter, Ruth, was round for lunch and we were discussing photography. She has recently bought an online course and is getting on well with it. I happened to say that in a photographic magazine I had seen ads for a photography course in Iceland and was startled by the response I got from Ruth. I got swept up in this and ended up today booking two places in a photography course in North Iceland in January. It is going to be cold and there will not be much light but I think that the trip will be great.  I am already reviewing my  cold weather clothes. I still have all the stuff from the Silk Route trip. I even have a spectacular pair of fur-lined waterproof boots. This is going to be the trip of a lifetime.

Oh and I have given up on the TC2. I had too much fun at the Bookbinders conference and I did buy two skins, one teal, one royal blue. The thing about buying a skin is that they are natural and therefore flawed. I had eight skins out to compare before buying.

I leave you with a couple of photos from the International Bookbinding exhibition for 2017.

 The trouble with putting books in glass cases is that any photos of the contents have reflections included. I know of no solution to this problem. But the two photos show the range of books included.

Friday 4 August 2017

Bookbinding conference

I am attending the biennial Bookbinders conference in Keele University and having a great time. I am almost tempted to leave now, rush home and start out making hinged boxes, covering books with parchment, applying the lovely endpapers I have just bought and generally having a good time. I have also solved a bookbinding problem. I bought a text block from a private press two years ago. I have had a go at designing the covers for it but failed because the book is a very odd size, sort of portrait A3 but taller and narrower. This means I do not have any material to cover it with. I have plenty of bookcloth but I do not want that. I want a natural linen which I have over printed. But my printer will not do bigger than A3. And sitting in the lecture hall today, I saw the solution!!

The lecturers here have 75 minutes each. Some of them just lecture, some do demos. If you go into the hall and equipment is laid out on tables, the lecturer wears an apron and a man with a video camera is present, you know you are into ' now measure the inside dimensions! ' and the lecturer will be waving a steel ruler. It has all been great fun.

And the suppliers exhibition has been great fun too. I intend to buy some leather but I have not got round to that yet. I have bought three lots of endpapers and a length of linen for reinforcing spines. I will probably buy some special glue as well.

I know quite a few people and was talking to a bookbinding friend from Malvern.  Now she grows alpine plants including auriculas and wins prizes at national shows. She bookbinds of course but she also is an enthusiastic silver smith. So I asked her how she managed all this and she spends from September to December bookbinding, from January to April silversmithing and the rest of the year looking after her plants. I was rendered a bit speechless by this. But have been wondering if I could do the same. How would it go? I have booked into a linocut course for autumn --- so august to December bookbinding and Lino cuts. December to march weaving, April to July gardening. No, I do not think that would work for me! But it is true that on occasions when I have done two or three weeks steady bookbinding, I have got a lot done and got quite good at the end,

Talking of quite good, the Bookbinders international competition is on exhibition here. Some of the stuff is fabulous. Some is mediocre and not well done. My trouble is that I do not think of starting till too late. I think I will try to have a couple completed by the end of 2018.

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Scarves for the Guild Exhibition

The Guild is having an exhibition in Newbury Museum for the whole of September and the organisers have issued instructions. Three instructions affect me
1) At the major UK  exhibition in 2016, the Guild put in a collection of bookmarks. Somehow I ended up in charge of these and have to mount them on foam board, to which end I sallied into Reading on Sunday and bought a big enough sheet of foamboard. I have yet to do the mounting. and type a list.
2) A handbag made from 4CDW in cotton. Rather nice I think. But it is all made up so nothing to do there
3) A rainbow wall of scarves. I have woven a rainbow one (shown here) and finished a blue one yesterday.
The warp is a very pale lavender. the weft is a cotton and linen boucle which has been space dyed in pale shades of blue. I overdyed it darker and have used the two shades of blue to weave Fibonacci stripes.

All I need to do now is attached labels.


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About Me

I am weaver and - -. I dye my yarns with acid dyes, I paint my warps, put fabric collages and stencils on my weaving. I have three looms, a 12 inch wide, 12 shaft Meyer for demos and courses, a 30 inch Louet Kombo which is nominally portable but has a stand, two extra beams and a home-made device containing a fan reed. And last a 32 shaft Louet Megado which is computer controlled, has a sectional warp and a second warp beam and I am the proud owner of an AVL warping wheel which I love to bits and started by drilling holes in. I inserted a device for putting a cross in. I have just acquired an inkle loom and had a lesson from an expert so I can watch TV and weave at the same time. I am interested in weaving with silk mostly 60/2 although I do quite a bit with 90/2 silk. I also count myself as a bookbinder with a special interest in Coptic binding.