Blog archive

Friday, 19 February 2021

Golden Samphire - beautiful, yellow and summery.

Golden Samphire (Limbarda crithmoides)

On our many trips to the Thames Estuary, this is a plant I have taken many photos of.   It's bright yellow with yellow green succulent leaves and grows in large tufted clumps all over the area.  

Wikipedia says that it only grows on the Isle of Sheppey in the UK.  This isn't right, as when you google it, you find it grows in Wales and Dorset at least.  However, that said, it is prolific on Sheppey but also on the other side of the Thames Estuary around All Hallows and on the Isle of Grain.  

It's beautifully yellow and summery.  Apparently it can fertilise itself, but bees love it and help pollinate it too.  Great for when it's feeling lazy I suppose.  (OK that's not scientific).   

Like marsh samphire, which you can now buy in supermarkets and posh fishmongers, it can be eaten.  Obviously it's salty.  I have tried picking the leaves and eating them, and as you would imagine, it is like marsh samphire.  Next time I go to the Thames Estuary, which I hope won't be too long, I am going to pick some.  I might have to wait for summer, I suppose.  I will also ask permission and say thank you. (See previous post).  

I have been drawing this plant too.  And I am going to draw it some more.  It loves the muddy estuary and grows in marvellous large clumps - it has a tufted habitat!  It can grow up to 1 metre tall. 

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

When you pick blackberries, ask for permission and say thank you.

The top work is one I have written on.  I want to make into a book, as I have probably mentioned before.  I completed it the year before last.  The other pieces are waiting to be put together to make a whole.  Older works that I will use to create a bigger piece.  

The studio will be warming up now.  It's been warmer for about 3 days now!!  It was fridge temperature last week.  

So I've been thinking about our relationship with nature and have been reading this afternoon.  This blog doesn't make much sense, probably, it's a train of thought, and I have now found I need more                                               books and to do more reading.  Of course.  

I read this somewhere the other day.  I think somebody posted it on instagram.  Thought it was lovely.  It is by Nicolette Sowder.

May we raise children 

who love the unloved

things – the dandelion, the

worms and spiderlings.
Children who sense
the rose needs the thorn

& run into rainswept days
the same way they
turn towards sun…

And when they’re grown &
someone has to speak for those
who have no voice

may they draw upon that
wilder bond, those days of
tending tender things

and be the ones.

Have been listening to Robert McFarlane talking about language and the importance of how we speak about things, how words can under-value and disregard because of the language we use.  

I have mentioned this linguistic imperialism before after reading Robin Wall Kimmerer in Braiding Sweetgrass: "In English you are either a human or a thing. .... Where are our words for the simple existence of another living being?"   

Whilst reading about ecology and nature and the Anthropocene (an era in which humans have begun leaving a permanent imprint on the geologic record),  I have come across the word reciprocity again and again.  At first I couldn't even say it.  Even though I know what it means by looking at it, and as a human being, I like to think that I go through life with a reciprocal attitude, I hadn't thought of it in relation to the natural world. Always say thanks and give back in return for what you have taken.  To quote Robin Wall Kimmerer again: 

"Though the Earth provides us with all that we need, we have created a consumption-driven economy that asks, “What more can we take from the Earth?” and almost never “What does the Earth ask of us in return?”

 The premise of Earth asking something of me—of me!—makes my heart swell. I celebrate the implicit recognition of the Earth’s animacy, that the living planet has the capacity to ask something of us and that we have the capacity to respond. We are not passive recipients of her gifts, but active participants in her well-being. We are honored by the request. It lets us know that we belong."

This blog is me trying to get my head around where my work is going, I need some words for my prints.    We should be grateful to the world that gives to us daily.  

Climate chaos shows that we are not grateful, that we haven't given back but that we have taken and taken and taken.  Our lives depend on the gifts that the earth gives us. We need to clean up after ourselves and look after the world.  To restore what we have ruined.  The recent pandemic is a direct result of human beings eating stuff that shouldn't be eaten, thinking we are cleverer than nature and because our relationship to the land is broken.  We think we are exceptional as humans and are more deserving than other species and so we consume too much.  

Robin Wall Kimmerer suggests we make a linguistic switch and that we refer to other beings by name and by not using 'it'.  Might we adopt a grammar where we say he or she or kin? Kin is the plural word for our relatives. Kinship with every being.   Do not use 'it' unless it's for bulldozers!  

I have found some interesting stuff about language and nature.

Emergence Magazine is on line and worth a look at.  Lots of great stuff to read to listen to whilst you are doing your thing.

Other links I need to remember:

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Cutting out and re-arranging. Sharing work and making connections.


Back in the studio.  I always struggle with January, but of course this year, it's been even worse.  I have been reticent to go out into the continuous rain and sit in a dark cold studio.  However! Today the sun came out.  What a difference it makes.  I know I'm stating the bleeding obvious here. I was really happy to be there and was excited looking at work and realising that it was worth carrying on with.

Anyway, the whole world is in the same state, so I won't bang on about the terrible situation.  I'll just pour another glass of wine!!

I have mostly been sitting at home drawing hyacinths this month.  Today I went and tidied the studio and looked at what I have been doing and moved a few things about a bit.  Before Christmas I started another collage.  I enjoy using up prints that I don't think have worked, as I have said before, and have spent a couple of lovely hours cutting out wild geraniums (Meadow cranesbill) to use again in another way.  I love cutting out, using a scalpel and I have bought a new cutting mat too.  

Meadow cranesbill is one of my favourite early summer wildflowers.  The violet-blue flowers waving in the summer sun and wind are one of the best sights, as I am sure I have mentioned many times on this intermittent blog.  The bees love them and each year they come out in the wildlife garden at work and are covered in solitary bees that have come out of the little holes provided for them.  I always like to make a pilgrimage to Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery to find the clumps that grow there.  Talking about them now helps me realise that Spring is coming and we will get through this and out the other side.  

As with most wild flowers, Meadow Cranesbill has a medicinal use. It has antiseptic properties and was used to staunch bleeding wounds.  It was also used to relieve diarrhoea and dysentery.  I am disappointed that it doesn't seem to help with snake bites at all.  The Geranium oil that I love to use in the bath actually comes from the Pelargonium, I find. 

So now I am re-arranging prints and cut outs and I'd like some words to fit in there somehow.  

I have also re-arranged the work on the walls of my studio.  I have framed a piece (Golden Samphire, although this might not be the title ultimately) because we are going to have an in-house show at the arthouse, as the gallery is empty.  We were going to have a group show open to the public, but you know the score.   

We will put work on the walls and show other people what we are working on and see what others are up to.  We will try to make connections with each other and start conversations, visually or otherwise. 


Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Marmalade and my treasures from the Thames.

 Just been to Southwark Cathedral to see Treasures from the Thames.  Lots of lovely mudlarking finds on display, going back to medieval times.  It's amazing what the River Thames washes up.  You can see some of the treasures at this exhibition.

Enjoyed my morning out with Ruth and Rosey and how nice to visit an exhibition and we were very excited to eat delicious cake and drink tea in the cafe. Recommended!

 As I am drawing and researching estuaries and things, I was inspired to find out why I have found James Kieller Dundee Marmalade jar bits in the Thames Estuary.  Of course, googling provided the answer.  After starting in Dundee, the firm started a factory in Guernsey to avoid the sugar tax and when that was abolished they moved to Silvertown on the River Thames.  I found my bits right up near Grain so they had travelled a while.  Mind you they have had since 1888 to make their way there.  I also have a whole jar. This wasn't found by me, but was a Christmas present from Rosey Prince.  Lovely!

Below is a picture of Golden Samphire growing out of the mudflats of the Thames Estuary, up by All Hallows.  Might put this into the Arthouse group show.  Just off to arthouse to photograph and think on!

Monday, 5 October 2020

About my work. Pictures, packed and ready for Supernature


Most of the flowers I have drawn have been seen on various visits to lovely places around Britain. The lupins at the RSPB Minsmere were a sight to behold, the sanfoin from a little meadow (Hutchinson's Bank) I discovered near Croydon, of all places.  The blue geraniums are from the wildflower garden at work, the mallow, well from everywhere.  During August there wasn’t a place I visited that didn’t have mallow.  The Sweet William is a cheat.  I do have it in my garden, but I’ve also had it in a vase.  I’ve never seen White rosebay in the wild, but my friend Juliet has a marvellous display of it in her rather beautiful garden in Hampshire.  The crocuses come up every year in my garden.  The first bit of colour after the dark days.  They come up haphazardly all over the garden, I think the squirrels have replanted them and they are always a welcome sight. The promise of spring. 

 Each flower has a use and a story. They are food to us, the bees, butterflies and insects, or have healing properties that have been used for centuries.

 I cannot draw the plants without thinking about their survival.  They need pollinators. The solitary bee homes are there to remind us of this. 

 My work is a celebration of the relationship of the bees and the plants and of the sanctuary that gardens and meadows have provided to help these pollinators survive.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

This time I have included the useful website with phone number to book! 

Click on the above link to book tickets for this events.  Because of the boring apocalypse, you need a time slot.  No more the 'shall we just'..... or 'maybe we'll?'

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Supernature information. With a couple of pics of getting ready.

Click on the above link to find out about booking.  You know, the virus thing, everyone has to book a slot. 

Should be quite interesting.  I have only been able to invite 10 people to the private view. I have given them email addresses and it's first come first served.  If you do not get a complimentary ticket, then it's a tenner.  The good news is that if you wait and come on the Friday, Saturday or Sunday - it's a fiver.  I've only just realised it was on on Friday, so I won't be there.  They'll be cross, but it's been confusing since it was cancelled and re-scheduled because of the old boring apocalypse. 

Private View. This will be a ticketed event charged at £10 per person or £15 per person including a drink. Online booking is essential. The timings for this will be 6:30pm to 9pm. 

'From Friday 9th October, Super Nature will be live! Tickets are charged at £5 and must be bought online ahead of time. This ensures we are adhering to social distancing. All exhibitors, staff, volunteers and visitors must wear a face covering whilst inside the museum.'

So please come on Saturday or Sunday....... it will be lovely to see friendly faces at the Museum.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Common mallow - Joyfully and prettily pink!


One of the plants I have been drawing this summer is the Common Mallow Malva sylvestris.  I love this plant because it comes out in its pink best and adorns the road sides, verges, coastline, salt marshes, well any wild space, for the whole summer and keeps going into September.  I always notice it coming to the fore in late July and well into late August. 

This summer I have been noticing it all over the coastline of Kent and Essex, especially.  I suppose that is where we were going when it was at its best, when we were allowed to travel further than five miles, that is. It is also prolific in Burgess Park and that, along with the chicory, has made my morning walk to work very joyful!

 It is a pretty pink, stripy flower that provides food for insects  through the summer. It has big round leaves with five lobes and hairy stalks.  A little bit of interest here:  the french word for mallow is 'mauve' which is where we get that colour word from.

I knew this plant has long been used for food or medicinal purposes.  Some think it was introduced by the Romans because of it's usefulness for both food and medicine.  

My go to website on finding out these things is Robin Harford's  Full of fascinating information and some interesting podcasts.  In fact I think I will listen to a couple in my studio today!  Here is a quote from his website with the nutritional profile: 

"Common mallow is a highly nutritious green, containing (per 100 g of fresh weight) 4.6 g protein, 1.4 g fat, 24 mg vitamin C, as well as vitamin A and carotenoids.5,6 The fats contain important omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which could help to reduce the incidence of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.The leaves also contain health-giving antioxidants.8 Common mallow is also a good source of dietary fibre.9"

 I hope he doesn't mind me quoting him, I might email and ask. 

Meanwhile on the lovely website  there is a list of usefulness the common mallow has recently been to people with various problems (mainly with the eyes) and how you can eat the seeds, which are called 'cheeses' because they are shaped like a round cheese.  Might go out looking for some this weekend.

This will be available to look at or purchase at Supernature 9/10 October Garden Museum.  Publicity to follow.

Friday, 28 August 2020

Update : Art Fair coming up in October 8 - 11th Garden Museum Super Nature

Work in progress from my studio wall!  I have taken my interest in plants to the coastline and will write more about this I am sure.  Meanwhile some news about forthcoming events:

The postponed Art Fair - Super Nature - that should have happened in March, is now due to take place from October 8th - 11th.  I can only invite 10 to the private view and emails will be sent from the Garden Museum inviting you.  If you want to come to the art fair then it is £5.00 to get in, which is great value, as it is usually 10 quid to get into the Garden Museum.  It's a great little museum in my opinion.  

Please don't ask about boring Covid measures.  It is a professional place and of course, these things will be taken into consideration.


Monday, 29 June 2020

Female cuckoos and hares and a change of direction.

As soon as we could, I wanted to leave Lewisham and go and see some big sky and some water.  So we went to Tollesbury, which is in Essex,  at the mouth of the River Blackwater.  So much space and a very hot day.  There are lots of channels and creeks where samphire was growing.  There was a lot of marsh lavender there and many, many different grasses.   Being by the briny estuary means there were different sorts of plants than the ones I had been seeing in Ladywell Fields for instance. We walked along the little paths at the edge of the muddy creeks and ended up at the RSPB site.   I heard cuckoos (something I rarely hear these days) and heard and saw a female cuckoo flying over.  The female has a very different call, which I hadn't heard before.  (Here is David Attenborough on Tweet of the Day on Radio 4  introducing a female cuckoo).  

We stood at a gate, watching a hare in the field.  It came so close and made the day. 


Back in the studio I started thinking about these marshy areas.  I have made work about this before, but I am always fascinated by the edges, where the river shapes the land. 

I have been experimenting with making watery backgrounds, which I have also done before, but it was a long time ago and I've forgotten how I did it almost.  I have been having fun playing with gelli plates, printing ink and watercolours to some success, I think.  Early days though, but I feel that I am working towards something and with a bit more pushing and researching, I will make some new work that I am pleased with. 

Over the period when I couldn't get into my studio, I couldn't work properly or think about which direction I wanted to go, but I knew I had to move on to something new. 

Here are some of the things I have been making. I started printing on some long strips of paper that I picked up last time I was at Purcells.  They have a meandering quality to them and so this of course, made me think about rivers.  They have a 'sinuosity' which is a lovely new word for me! 

Always in my work, I hope to demonstrate a relationship with the natural world and the importance of realising we have a responsibility to look after it.  It's a dispiriting time we live in, I'm afraid. 

I leave with words from Joy Harjo: 'Be respectful of the small insects, birds and animal people who accompany you.  Ask their forgiveness for the harm we humans have brought down upon them'. 

(This is from her lovely poem - For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in its Human Feet). 


Who you calling common?

Who you calling common?

starling sketches

starling sketches
Ongoing work...waiting for a breakthrough!

The Waters of March

The Waters of March

It's the joy in my heart.

It's the joy in my heart.

Collected Items

Collected Items
the broken, the wrinkled and the uneven