I learned to quilt with my mother in the 1970s and made glorious but sadly lost things in huge seventies and Laura Ashley prints. I have loved sewing ever since.
My work tends to be about pattern and surface decoration. I really love fabric and prints, but I also never met a bead I didn’t like. If you got into patchwork and quilting and other forms of textiles because you love cloth and you love patterns, print and texture, I think you will enjoy working with me.
I am also a woman of a certain age and I have a lot of experience of working with people as older learners. I have worked with older students throughout my teaching career at the University of Bristol as well as in the consultancy work that I have done for some large and small firms (Body Shop International, AXA Assurance, Cambridge and Counties Bank, Galileo Systems, London Life). So I have a lot of teaching experience.
Equally, I have plenty of experience of workshops on which I have been a student and I know what works and what doesn’t. I know how I like to be treated in a class, and I think I probably know how you do too. I want to learn something, have something to take home, meet interesting people and be inspired. I also want to be treated like an adult and to encouraged and supported sometimes, and left to work on my own at others. I also want nice surroundings, plenty of refreshments and plenty of resources. I promise to treat you as a grown-up.
As I have been quilting for so many years, I have picked up quite a bit of know-how and tips and tricks. As an academic I researched both the sewing and the sewers. I combine both of these in my talks and workshops. An example of this is my work on Laura Ashley plc. I love the fabric and collect and use it, but I also researched the company and its effects on women from the 1970s onwards. I gathered lots of stories about Laura Ashley dresses and soft furnishings from the women who dressed themselves and their homes in them.
Finally, I love living in Bristol. I have lived here for thirty years. It is a beautiful city with lots going on for stitchers and non-stitchers alike. And it is home to the remarkable Bristol Quilters, a group of 120 women, of which I had the honour of being the Chair.
I am a professional historian at the University of the West of England, and I will be supplying the history in the sessions. I have been a historian of Bristol for thirty years and regularly take walking tours around the medieval town which you can still see if you know where to look. Although a lot of my work is with history students, I am also involved in a wide variety of what is known as public history. This is the way that we commemorate historical events and understand our own histories. In Bristol we have the controversy surrounding Edward Colston and the Slave Trade and the renaming of the Colton Hall. I am also interested in how history is presented on television and the cinema. Compare The Tudors with Wolf Hall to see what I mean.
I first became interested in my special field of early modern history, which is roughly the period of the Wars of the Roses, when I was a boy growing up in Lewisham. I would go to the local library and read all sorts of stories about Arthur and Guinevere and other figures from the past as a way of escaping the greyness and sameness of the world around me. In time I wanted to know what was real and what was made up. This is a pretty impossible task, and it has kept me occupied for thirty years. I think the lives of people in the past are fascinating and I am much more interested in what we might call ‘ordinary’ people than kings and clerics. But yes, I do think Richard III was a villain and yes, he almost certainly did kill the Princes in the Tower.
These are the two studio dogs: Hedy on the left and Affie on the right. They are both calm, friendly small dogs. Affie is unlikely to turn up in the studio, but if you don’t like dogs or are allergic to them, let me know and I will keep them well away from us.
The Guardian of the Studio
This glorious fellow is the work of Helly Powell and is part of her collection Beasts of the Mabinogion (https://fauxidermy.co.uk/collections/beasts-of-the-mabinogion/fox-mabinogion/). He will be looking after us throughout the workshops.