Finger painting 2


The first exercise in the finger painting course that I have been following was just to make finger prints.  I was really inspired to do this by the exhibition of Richard Long’s work at the Arnolfini in Bristol.  There was one small room full of his finger print drawings.  Here are some examples:




There are lots of really good illustrations of these pieces on his official website.  They really reminded me of the print of the slave ship carrying bodies crammed into the hold for the Atlantic passage:


I found the paintings hypnotic, probably because of the repetition of the same shape: the human finger tip.

The instructions in the course were to use no colour straight from the tube.  Everything had to have a little bit of some other colour in it.  This resulted into some lovely marbled effects:


It’s not a technique for people who like to control their work.

It also reminded me of my fascination with the flints in the National Museum in Copenhagen.  I have blogged before about how you can see all Scandinavian design in these flint axe heads, which have a pure, functional form and a respect for materials which you see in Scandi-style from furniture to textiles.  I can stand and try to sketch them for hours.  This is a page from a different notebook, pages made at the National Museum in Edinburgh, but the principle holds:



And I have long wanted to do something with these forms as an applique piece.  The fingerprints pretty much capture the subtlety of the colours and forms.  Possibly the next stage is to try them out on fabric.




They are really compelling to make, and I have done sheets and sheets of them.

Finger painting 1


I have signed up for an on-line lunchtime course on finger painting.  This is largely because I was so taken by the Richard Long finger print pieces in the exhibition on here in Bristol on his work.


I have enjoyed it so far, although I am way behind, because it has made me do things I don’t normally do like painting flowers.  The point is to do it with your fingers and only your fingers, and to paint them from life.  I suppose it was a bit presumptuous of me to start with sunflowers.  Van Gogh has rather cornered the market.  I bought a small bunch and had a go.  I used very heavy watercolour paper as I knew the substrate was going to get a lot of punishment.  This combined with a light touch trying to get all the wispy bits round the edge of petals led to some frankly uninteresting stuff:



The only interest in these is that they have a faintly fifties textile print charm to them.  As I became my usual heavy-handed self and used a lot more paint, the results got a bit better:


Finally, I painted the whole background first and this allowed the paint to go on more easily and made it a bit more controllable:


I quite like the result here, but it looks like a sunflower rather than this sunflower, the one in front of me.

I don’t think that these are particularly great, but they do show some experiments, and I think it’s good to share your mistakes and false starts as well as your successes and final polished pieces.

Marybeth Stalp’s Visit to the University of Bristol – booking now open


I am very pleased to announce the details of Marybeth Stalp’s visit to my department, and to include details of the events. If you would like to attend any of them, apart from the PhD workshop – which as the title suggests – is for PhD candidates, please contact:


About Marybeth

Marybeth teaches at Northern Iowa University in the US. Her special interest is in women and their leisure activities and the role of making in all our lives. She is the author of Quilting: The Fabric of Everyday Life (2007), as well as a number of articles on quilters and their stash and women and the Red Hat Society. She is a dynamic and engaging speaker and all round good thing.

The dates and venues for the sessions are as follows


30 September

Quilting, making and intimacy

This session will look at the impact of what Stebbins calls ‘serious leisure’ on our intimate, domestic lives. It will begin with four speakers talking about what interests them around this theme and we will then talk about it, while making. You are invited to bring anything you can do by hand with you, or there will be materials available for making on the day.

Topics we are likely to discuss include:

  • What happens at home when quilting ‘intrudes’
  • What happens to our relationships with work when we want to sell it?
  • How do textiles impact on ideas of home or safety or wellness?

Speakers will include: Marybeth Stalp, Mwenza Blell (University of Bristol), Debbie Bird (Bristol Artist), and me.

Venue room 2E2. This is part of the Social Sciences complex on Priory Road, Bristol. The easiest way in is through the double doors on the right hand side of the building on the corner of Priory Road and Woodland Road. You need a swipe card for the main door, but to the right is an automatic door. Go through that, turn left, through a fire door and the room is in front of you. There is a porter’s lodge in the foyer if you get lost.

Warning: Parking is horrible.

Time: 2.00-5.00

Capacity: 25

Please note that we would like to use the discussions as part of an academic project, so please be prepared to consider what we do as data, and be prepared to give what we call ‘informed consent’ to our using it in our research.


03 October

Bristol Quilters Event: Stashes, scraps and patches

This day is designed to be informative but also to be fun and inspirational. We will be looking at quilters’ love affairs with their fabric. Anyone who has ever lovingly stroked and folded cloth with be among kindred spirits at this event.

In the morning, Marybeth will talk about women and their stashes, based on her research. Janet Haigh from Heartspace Studios in Bristol will talk about crazy patchwork, one of her life-long passions and a time-honoured way to use exquisite and often tiny fabric scraps. Janet will bring along copies of her new book project with Kaffe Fassett.

In the afternoon we will have an extended show and tell. You are invited to bring along anything you would like to show Marybeth, possibly with the emphasis on scrap quilts, stashbusters (!), crazy quilts.

We will also have a sewing bee making small items for June Hall’s Christmas bazaar for Saint Peter’s Hospice in Bristol. You are also welcome to bring anything you are working on (no sewing machines please!) or something for another charity entirely.

Last year, magnificent volunteers provided home-made cakes and biscuits for the session. If anyone were minded to make a traybake, or similar, they would be warmly received.

Please note that we would like to use the discussions as part of an academic project, so please be prepared to consider what we do as data, and be prepared to give what we call ‘informed consent’ to our using it in our research.

Venue: Friends Meeting House, Main Hall, Hampton Road, Bristol.

Time: 10.00-4.00.

Please bring packed lunch. Tea and coffee provided.

Capacity: 100

Non-Bristol Quilters also welcome.


07 October

Quilting Cradle to Grave Session

This session will be about the way that quilting marks our paths through life from baby quilts to lap quilts in old age. We will consider this in its historical context, and will look at how current technological processes are using textiles to help us at all stages of our lives.

Speakers will include:

  • Tom Keating (Geography, University of Bristol) on textiles and infant anxiety
  • Val Dixon (Bristol Quilter) on the Bristol Quilters support for the premature babies unit at Southmead Hospital, Bristol
  • Marybeth Stalp on quilts as life markers
  • Helen Manchester, University of Bristol, on textiles and end of life/dementia.

I will give a brief historical overview.

Venue: Verdon Smith Room, Royal Fort, Bristol. This is one of the University’s finest buildings. To reach it you need to be at the crossroads of Woodland Road and Elton Road with Senate House and the Hawthorns behind

you. Go past the security office on your right and follow the path. The Royal Fort is up a short path and has some rather nice gardens around it. The Verdon Smith room is on the first floor and is not wheel chair accessible. It is worth a look at the ornamental plaster work in the building…

Warning: Parking is still horrible.

Time: 2.00-5.00

Capacity: 25




15 October PhD session: Researching Making: Co-production and its implications

This session is aimed at PhD students who are interesting in making and in the material object in their work.

The afternoon will begin with a masterclass on interviewing makers lead by Marybeth Stalp, in which people will be invited to bring along objects to form the basis of a interview with a maker.

The second element will be a discussion about what co-production of research with groups entails, what are the ethical issues of negotiating research themes and outputs with co-researchers? What does the impact agenda actually involve?   Anyone doing action research, or working with community or other stakeholder groups is likely to be interested in this workshop.

Venue: G15, University of Bristol.

Time: 1.00-5.00

Sandwich lunch


To register for any or all of these events, please contact: