Seasons Greetings


Another year almost over and what a year it has been.  A trip down a step (no alcohol was involved)  back in July has seen me incapacitated for the past 5 months and while walking is now possible, if only for short periods, I am sure that 2017 will bring a steady recovery.

Being largely confined to the house for such a long time has meant that I have spent  much more time than usual browsing the Web and using various social media sites.  I have always tried to avoid spending too much time on the internet as it’s not good for you, is it?  Actually, I now have a completely different view as the ability to connect with people and events without leaving the house has been heaven-sent.  Instead of an actual holiday, I have visited and in many cases taken part in activities (on-line of course) at galleries, museums and other heritage attractions all over the world, this is something I would never have considered doing before.  I have even joined a couple of on-line communities that share my interests in the arts and heritage.

One of these groups is called Makelight ( run by husband and wife team Emily Quinton and Stef Lewandowski.  Makelight is a photography studio who teach all aspects of the medium but with a special focus on social media and small businesses, particularly Instagram.  The Facebook group Makelight Community (it is a closed group, so membership  by application request only) is full of friendly and supportive people sharing their interest in photography and learning from each other along the way.  I am still a fairly passive group member but seeing the different posts, pictures and requests for advice and subsequent answers really makes a difference to the day and promotes a sense of belonging.

As a result of my membership of this group I have decided to join in with is a 365 photo project and will be trying to take one interesting photo everyday during 2017.  I will post my picture on Instagram ( daily and try to do a weekly round up of images on this blog.

A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all, here’s to a brighter and better 2017!

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All good things

It’s been a long time since I last posted here, mainly because I have been otherwise occupied.  This year has been very busy for me professionally.  Since January I have taken part in 6 exhibitions including 2 solo shows and 2 ‘Invited’ exhibitions, I’ve sold work through two craft outlets and other work has sold from the exhibitions and also from commissions as a direct result from the exhibitions. If that wasn’t enough, I have curated a showcase exhibition in partnership with the RHS and managed to secure 2 part time contracts as a freelance in the Arts and Heritage sector for 2 very different institutions, something I am delighted about as the work for both is so varied.  The icing on the cake is that I have also been accepted to start a Masters Degree (part time)  on October.  All of this won’t leave me too much free time over the coming couple of years I think.

In between all this work I have managed to fit in some interesting exhibitions, the best of which is the current retrospective at Tate Modern of work by Georgia O’Keeffe.  Most people will know her for her sensuous flower paintings, and while this is OK, there is so much more to O’Keeffe than flowers.She has long been an idol of mine, it would have been amazing to sit and talk to her about painting and the landscape she clearly adored.  A real pioneer, woman and Artist.  The exhibition closes at the end of October, so if you get the chance, do go and see it.  I am definitely going to see it again before it closes – there’ll never be another opportunity to see so much of her work together in one place outside of the USA again I think.  The exhibition did inspire me to paint a small still life composition using a badger skull (found by and) belonging to Daughter 1 with some garden flowers.

after georgia

“After Georgia – still life with badger skull, cosmos and coneflower”

To stop getting too stressed out by all these different pressures I have recently taken up hand weaving.  It is challenging and there is certainly a lot of ‘jargon’ to learn, but I have managed to warp up my loom and have even made some progress with a small piece of cloth.  Throwing the shuttle across the shed and then beating down the yarn is very relaxing.  My cloth isn’t very even yet, but I am beginning to get a sort of rhythm going and with that the weave seems to be improving.  It’s early days yet and definitely a skill which needs lots of practice.  Still it is a great way to slow things down and be less ‘connected’ to the assortment of electronic gadgetry that dominates most of our lives.

number one sample

Number One Sample – cotton yarn on cotton warp thread

So what is in store next? I have a couple of small exhibitions in the planning stages for 2017 and 2018 which will keep my artistic practice going; while my 2 jobs and my forthcoming studies will see me challenged intellectually.  All in all I suspect I have a very busy couple of years ahead.

Think I’m going to need the weaving….

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All steamed up

Last night Mr PP and I celebrated our silver Wedding Anniversary (OK, it is a year late, but it’s a long story) with an evening dinner aboard the world famous Flying Scotsman steam train.


Locomotive 60103 The Flying Scotsman (displaying the Cathedrals Express charter plate)

OK, so the Flying Scotsman is actually a locomotive and the carriages are a train, but let’s not get too picky here.

We set off from London Victoria at about 7pm and toured around south west London and on through the Surrey Hills before returning to Victoria at almost midnight.  The queues at Victoria were huge and a “Photo Opp” system was put in place so that only passengers could snap the locomotive before boarding, and it was strictly a snap then move on.


Queues waiting to board The Flying Scotsman

Once on board we settled in to Coach A (at the very front) Pullman Premier Dining carriage where throughout the journey we were served a 5 course meal.  Departure was marked with a glass of champagne.  Our fellow diners were a pleasant group and conversation was relaxed between enjoying the views.

Pullman Premier Dining Table setting and the dessert course

Almost every station we passed through had groups of members of the public filming or photographing the Scotsman as she passed through.  What I found particularly amusing were the number of people standing on platforms waiting for normal commuter trains who didn’t even look up from their phones while this snorting and steaming icon of British railway engineering reborn rumbled through.  Unbelievable!  Others however grabbed the opportunity to snap or film quickly before the moment was lost and at one point near Acton a man was spotted driving along the road holding his mobile phone out of the window filming the train while he drove alongside.  Once free of London the locomotive was allowed to ‘stretch it’s legs’ and we were hurtling through the countryside  on board the first steam locomotive to reach 100mph.

Flying Scotsman at Victoria Station

Flying Scotsman standing at platform 2 at Victoria Station

The whole evening was amazing and a fantastic way to celebrate our anniversary – definitely worth waiting a year for!

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A Big Impression

I am so glad I spotted a small article in the current issue of the Crafts Council “Crafts” magazine about the Big Steam Print, and even more pleased that an event was taking place on my doorstep today.

The Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft came up with the inspired idea of using an old steam powered road roller to create huge relief prints.  Printmaking is a particular interest of mine and as a student I did train in the ‘dark arts’ of printmaking, my own particular interest being in relief prints – lino or woodcuts.  Big Steam print brings all of this out into the open air and gives the general public an opportunity to get creative and join in at a number of events around the south east and London. Find out more at on the website at  The event today took place on a piece of public open space in Brighton called The Levels and was well attended, probably more people there by accident as they were enjoying an afternoon out in the park than by deliberate intention of visiting.  Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves with some ‘have-a-go’ tables set up for both adults and children.

The artists were busily inking up their plates ready to be printed by the huge iron beast which was breathing heavily beside the marquee.

big steam

The Big Steam Print roller waits patiently

inking up

Artists inside the marquee ink their massive lino ‘plate’ up ready to print

big press

Printing underway

big reveal

The end result

triple print

A set of 3 ‘plates’ are laid out to print


Paper is laid over the inked plates


Rolling the Road Roller over the plates


The printed triple print


The Road Rollers Back End!


Crowds enjoy activities at the Big Steam Print in Brighton

Unfortunately although I do have a video (filmed by Mr PP) this blog doesn’t accept video images. 😦

Big Steam Print closes on 18 June 2016 at the Ditchling Fair, and all the prints made during the event tours can be seen in an exhibition at the Phoenix Gallery in Brighton  6-21 August 2016.

Now I need to seek out our old garden roller and get some more large pieces of lino, feeling inspired, so watch this space!

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One Mans Vision

Taking advantage of the recent nice weather, Mr PP and I visited Painshill Park landscape garden near  Cobham in Surrey.  The gardens are owned by Elmbridge Borough Council and managed by the Painshill Trust and have had quite a chequered history since the original gardens of 200 acres were owned and laid out by it’s creator Charles Hamilton in the 1800’s. Painshill was created in the naturalistic style between 1738 and 1773 by the Hon, Charles Hamilton (9th son and 14th child of the 6th Earl of Abercorn).  Brilliantly imaginative, Hamilton used contrasts in architectural styling and landforms to create a stunning romantic landscape to stimulate the senses and emotions of the visitor.  These were not private gardens, but were created with the intention that people should be able to visit and marvel at their beauty.  Today the gardens are comprised of 158 acres of the original gardens and have been steadily restored by the Trust to how they would most likely have looked when they were first created.

The visitor is able to walk freely around the gardens with suggested routes including 2 accessible routes, available on a leaflet.  The garden follows the route of the River Mole, with it’s own large lake, small vineyard, alpine valley, woodland areas and assorted exotic features.  It has been awarded full collection status for the John Bartram Heritage Collection of North American trees and shrubs, is Grade 1 Listed and has been awarded theEuropa Nostra medal for it’s exemplary restoration.  We spent about 4 hours walking round and taking in the stunning views of not only the garden, but also across the Surrey Hills and beyond.


Entry to the gardens is over this footbridge across the River Mole.


The bluebells were a bit past their best but still quite stunning


Looking back (from the Turkish Tent) towards the Gothic Temple.  The narrow opening of the pillared arches frame a sort of living painting of some stunning views.  The actual building reminds me of Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House at nearby  Twickenham.


The lake stretches away from the Gothic temple , the restored Five Arch bridge visible in the distance.

water wheel

The Waterwheel was restored in 1987 and is one of the largest working waterwheels in the UK today.  It was originally built to feed the Cascade and Lake and to also provide enough water for all of the plants.


A magical fairy tale tower hidden deep in woodland.  The Gothic Tower had 99 steps to the roof where on a clear day Windsor Castle and the City of London are visible.  Sadly it was a bit too hazy when we visited but the views were still quite far reaching.  There is a small cafe on the first floor, and we were the second customers ever to make use of it as it had only opened on the morning we visited.  “Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your golden hair…”


Looking like a set design from Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, this is the view from the lake of the Grotto.  The Grotto is a special feature built from Oolitic Limestone which gives it that somewhat crumbling appearance and has been covered inside with 100’s of 1000’s of crystals of calcite, gypsum, quartz and flourite.  It was built over several years by  professional Grotto builder, Joseph Lane and dates back to about 1760.

inside grotto

Looking out from the inside of the Grotto

Posted in Country Houses, education, Expeditions and adventures, Fairy tale Houses, gardens, gothic revival, gothic style, Horace Walpole, memorabilia, Museums and Galleries, national trust, ostentation, Quirky things, Twickenham, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Gathering of Flowers

For the past few months I have been working on putting together an art exhibition in partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society Wisley Garden herbarium (  The idea for this first came to me almost 2 years ago when purely by accident I stumbled across something called the Chelsea Floral Fringe ( which is an annual event of flower based art and activity that happens in the UK, Europe and now across the globe at the same time as the Chelsea Flower show.  Reading about the things people were doing gave me the idea that something could be done at Cranleigh Arts Centre at the same time as the annual village “In Bloom” event.  After several months of plotting and planning I finally installed (with the assistance of the delightful Marilyn) “Florilegium – a gathering of flowers” at Cranleigh Arts Centre in Surrey.

The ‘theme’ of the exhibition is the preservation of flowers and the centre piece is a 9-string set of images of specimens from the Herbarium at RHS Wisley who have generously loaned a beautiful set of scanned images.


RHS Herbarium images at Cranleigh Arts Centre

To complement these scientific specimen images I was particularly fortunate that the renowned botanical artist Gaynor Dickeson ( agreed to loan some of her incredibly detailed botanical illustrations; while photographer Celia Henderson ( has also contributed a set of her stunning, dreamlike macro flower portraits.  As if this was not enough, I couldn’t believe my good fortune when Guildford-based textile artist Gill Denyer  ( also agreed to exhibit a set of her life-like textile plant sculptures.


The incredibly detailed botanical illustrations of Gaynor Dickeson


Dreamlike flower portraits by Celia Henderson


Quirky, life-like textile flower sculptures by Gill Denyer

I now have 3 artists and the RHS images which by themselves would have made for an interesting exhibition, but I felt that I needed a little bit extra and couldn’t quite believe my luck when it turned out that a fellow volunteer at the Arts Centre was a horticulturist and had an herbarium of her own which she was happy to lend.  I selected a few specimens, framed them up and they complimented perfectly the RHS specimen images.  To finish off I added in a small static display of vintage gardening equipment and a ball gown which I have made a few years ago which is covered in dried pressed flowers.


Dress with dried pressed flower detailing and Weed Herbarium specimen

As a fan of what is known as ‘Yarn Bombing’ it seemed like a good idea to ask the ladies of the Arts Centre Knit n’Natter group to knit and crochet flowers which could decorate the entrance to the  Centre.  They and some of the other volunteers at the Arts Centre rose to the challenge by creating over 200 flowers, leaves and creatures which I then stitched on to a banner over the recent Easter weekend.


Floral display by members of the Knit n’Natter group at Cranleigh Arts Centre

The opening evening was a triumph!  I am so proud of this exhibition and grateful to everyone who has loaned work or objects.  Thank you to everyone who has helped to make this exhibition such a success.


Nibbles and tipples await guests at the Private View Opening


Cranleigh Arts Centre Manager, Ms K Backhouse stands beside the Herbarium specimen Galanthus (Snowdrop) Mrs Backhouse No. 12

Florilegium – a gathering of Flowers is at Cranleigh Arts Centre, 1 High Street, Cranleigh, Surrey, GU6 8AS until 11 June 2016.  Open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 4.30pm, entry is free.



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“The name’s Botticelli, Sandro Botticelli”

The title for this piece comes from the V&A magazine’s article about their new blockbuster show “Botticelli Reimagined”.  It is referencing James Bond and the scene in Dr No where Ursuala Andress emerges from the sea like a modern day Venus clutching her conch shells.

tunnel adPoster in the underground tunnel from Kensington South tube station to the V&A

This new show opened a couple of weeks ago and I have read a couple of reviews about it, mostly positive.  As a closet Renaissance Art fan I felt that it would be an interesting show to see, especially as there are Actual Botticelli’s on view.  I say ‘actual Botticelli’s’ because as I discovered today, many paintings which were thought to be by the Master are in fact now generally agreed to have been painted by followers or a combination of the two.  It seems hard to believe that mistakes like that could be made, but Botticelli fell from favour in his latter years after critical attacks about his work by the puritanical religious zealot Girolamo Savonarola.

I think one of the reasons I like Botticelli so much is his style of painting, which is quite stylized and very flat, it has I think, quite a modern aesthetic particularly when you remember that he died in 1510.  His subject matter of Madonnas and beautiful women as allegorical figures are pleasing to the eye while at the same time, his work tells important stories such as in my favourite painting – Primavera.  This is a tale from the 5th book of Ovid’s ‘Fasti’ in which the naked wood nymph Chloris attarcts the attention of the March wind, Zephyrus who kidnaps her.  As he ravishes her flowers spring from her mouth and she becomes transformed in to Flora, Goddess of Flowers and Spring, the eternal bearer of life.


Greetings card showing Botticelli’s “Primavera”

The painting reads from right to left with the Zephyr and Floris/Chloris activity seen to the right.  The central figure is Venus representing humanity and distinguishing material values on the right, from spiritual values on the left.  Above her is a small winged and blindfolded Cherub or ‘Putto’, most likely Cupid, his arrow ready to fire toward the 3 Graces.  Moving left are the 3 Graces (depicting charm, beauty and creativity) and at the far left stands Mercury his hand held aloft to dissipate (storm) clouds thus keeping the garden safe.  There are many interpretations of this painting and it’s origins, but whatever the real truth may be, it remains one of the most remarkable paintings ever. (Primavera is housed permanently in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.)

The V&A exhibition shows how Botticelli has influenced artists through the centuries and unusually starts with the modern day.  On entering the visitor is greeted by a large screen showing the scene from Dr No with Ursuala Andress (see above) followed by a scene from the film by Terry Gilliam “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” where a naked Uma Thurman appears from a shell as Venus.  A direct reference to Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus.  In fact, it is the painting (not at the exhibition) The Birth of Venus which forms the main inspiration for most artists through the years.  There are (seemingly) endless reworkings by artists such as Andy Warhol (see the advertising poster image above), Jeff Koons and a very odd reconstruction of the painting with Venus as a hermaphrodite that make this exhibitions title a little misleading.  It is more of an appropriation and reworking of Botticelli rather than a reimagining.  I must confess to being somewhat disappointed at the lack of originality from some very high profile artists when referencing Botticelli.  However, I did smile at the piece by Japanese artist Tomoko Nagao and his recreation of the Birth of Venus (with Baci, Esselungo, Barilla, PSP and Easy Jet) bringing it very much into the 21st century with it’s obvious references to popular culture and consumerism.

tomoko nagaoThe Birth of Venus with Baci, Esselungo, Barilla, PAP and Easy Jet by Tomoko Nagao (from V&A magazine – reproduced without permission, but hopefully OK as it is a great picture)

The middle of the show is dedicated mainly to the Pre Rapaelites and their associates and I don’t need to explain how Botticelli influenced them as it is obvious in almost every one of their paintings.

Finally the last rooms are the works of the Master himself, or at least some are by him, others are now thought to be by the School of…  There is nothing quite like getting up close and personal with an actual Botticelli, to see how the paint has retained much of it’s original vibrancy, the almost invisible brushstrokes and to study first hand the strange, stylized figures which seem so modern for paintings which are over 500 years old.


Souvenir mirror depicting Venus by Sandro Botticelli and workshop about 1445 -1510

I am not sure that this exhibition will appeal to a huge audience despite the inclusion of and Andy Warhol print.  I enjoyed it because of Botticelli and also the Pre Raphaelite connection. There are a couple of more imaginative interpretations of Botticelli, one by Bill Viola where a film of people walking through a forest loops endlessly and some stills of the very peculiar French artist Orlan undergoing one of her plastic surgery performance pieces, but both these pieces were marred somewhat by the wailing of a Bob Dylan soundtrack that accompanies another piece, I forget who it was by because Bob was annoying me so much!

Botticelli Reimagined is on at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Kensington until 3rd July 2016.

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