Monday, May 28, 2012


So, you saw the studio all nice and sort of as tidy as it is between working projects. And it seems to have caused angst amongst some people with less tidy studios. So. Time to fess up. I started a new quilt yesterday and this is exacty how I left the studio when I walked out of it last night. Feel better?!
PS The three pairs of scissors and the rotary cutter and ruler are under there somewhere!


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Carmelite wall

Everyday I drive past a wall behind which a sequestered order of nuns live. I always wonder what their life must be like.

I am equally fascinated by the wall which changes as it goes around. It has many different shadings and striations. I could not resist getting the camera out much to the bemusement of the local dog walkers.

 It is begging out to be used as quilt inspiration. But I am not feeling ready to do it just yet so if anyone else wants to use these photos feel free. There are more where they came from and if you want a full set let me know and I will put them in a variable Dropbox folder.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Studio tour

Hey there! Remember me? I used to come here and blog all the time? I know. I have been remiss. But I am back now and I thought you might like to see where I have been hanging out. I had lunch with Curry in a Hurry Queen Nisha Katona today ( check out her videos especially this one touring the Indian food shop where she encouraged me to drop some money today). I tried to show her my studio on the ipad and realised that I never did post finished photos.

I was going to tidy up and give you arty detailed shots like these wonderful african baskets from The African Fabric Shop
But I didn't. So this is what it all looked like today. We have blazing sunshine today so excuse the odd line of light on the pictures. I try to keep it sort of vaguely tidy. When I am mid creating it gets lots worse than this. Sometimes it gets a bit better. Mostly this is about it.  The whole area as you see below is 26 1/2 feet by 24 1/2 feet.

The studio is a loft conversion so you enter by these stairs, at the top of which is a silver magnetic dry wipe board for  inspirational photos and scribbled reminders. although on the photos the wall in the studio look white in fact only the ceiling ( including the eaves) are, the rest are Farrow and Ball Pavillion Grey and Crown Mojito.

You turn right at the top to enter my reading nook. I am pleased that I have room on the bookshelves to grow into! The stair bannisters makes a handy storeage/ display area for some of my older semi-traditional quilts. I still need to find a good rug for this area. Chocolate is kept in the drawers under the kettle along with silk, abacca tissue and hand sewing threads.
Walking with the bannisters on your right you enter the main part of the studio.So as you walk from the reading nook you are walking towards the gap between the desk and the cutting surface you see here.
The design wall is not as high as this quilt so I have the desk temporarily pulled out a little. The only real compromise in ths studio is the size of the design wall as being a loft there are only two walls on which it could go. This one is the one you can walk back further from so I chose to put the design wall here and the bookcases on the other as seen in the next photo. The design wall is insulation board wrapped in white wadding and screwed to the wall. ( Thanks Dad!!)  It is 80 x 48 inches.

The black drawers you see everywhere are incredibly cheap and versatile. You can build any combination of depth drawers and stacks you like ( they are all the same width and come in a variety of colours) and they are from Really Useful Products. You can also put lidded boxes in the same stacks should you prefer that. I like them because they all match and you can take the whole drawer out and put it on your work surface. The drawers behind the desk are full of fabric and threads. My A3 Epson printer sits on the drawers to the left.  The light over the sewing machine is a Triple Bright Light from the Daylight Company and I highly recommend it. I am thinking abut getting a blind for this velxu window now it is getting summer. The light comes from this side in the the morning and the dormer window in the evening (where this photo was taken from)  so I get light all day long.

This is looking from the desk towards the dormer window. Under the window seat is lots of storage - spare machines, rolls of PDF fabric,wadding etc. The little face on the bookcases was a gift from art quilter Pat Dicker  and it reminds me of the great time I when I was at retreat in California. The sewing desk above and these bookcases where the furniture I had in my room in Chambers when I was still practising as a barrister before my current day job. The cutting surface you see is made of black high gloss kitchen cabinets on castors with a platinum lamiate top. ( Howdens, if anyone in the UK cares). The black drawers on the right hold papers, some backing fabrics and some commercial fabrics.

So is my pressing station on which I have a piece of MDF covered with two layers of wadding and a cotton top.  I store my rulers on the island to the left of the pressing surface.The two freestanding islands (which are each 35 x 64 inches) can be pushed together to make a bigger surface if I so desire. Inside are lots of Really Useful boxes and, well, stuff! Putting the iron on the wall was, if I say so myself, a stroke of genuis design. I also bought an iron which turns itself off after a certain time ( you can reactiviate it quickly with just a shake) so no worries anymore about leaving it on all night which I was known to do! The african basket on the floor is my waste basket. The lime quilt on the wall was a gift from Diane Perin Hock and reminds me of our wonderful friendship everyday. The cross stitch is of three African Women and was a kit I bought and did about a square inch of and my Mum finished for me! Hidden behind the bar stool are more black drawers with art equipment in. You can see the flourescent tubes which have daylight bulbs in.  there are also inset lights in the low beams over the reading nook and the sewing desk/ office desk.

From the reading nook and the dormer I look out over fields. Beyond the fields is a Safari Park and I can hear elephants and tigers roar from time to time as well as the bleating of sheep and twittering of birds nearer by.

Over by the sewing desk is my office desk.The photo is one Diane Perin Hock took from the Bishops Ranch where the retreat I mentioned was held and, again reminds me of good times and gives me hope for a return trip. I still need to buy a new desk chair. I bought a glass desk so that with a lamp under it the whole thing becomes a light box. The floor in the studio is laminate. The phone on the glass shelf has an intercom and my husband frequently uses it to ring me and tell me that my meals are ready! You can see some of my filofax collection on the desk.

Behind the green wall you see there is 'my' bathroom. I am lucky. My husband insists that the main family bathroom downstairs, in which we have a huge shower cubicle but no bath, is 'ours' but this one is 'mine'.

(Ooops. I left my acrylic paint sheet propped up by the sink! ) It is not the pink Dennis says makes it a girl bathroom, or even the airbath,  but the position of the toilet, which is absolutely fine if you sit down.... :)
If I push the door back more I can see the design board from the bath which is great for thinking through a design issue!

The bathroom gives me a water source so I can dye/ paint up here but as you can see the sink is designed for beauty not functionality and whilst its fine for teeth brushing it is not good for washing our paint laden brayers. Opposite the sink but not shown on these photos is a large storage area built into the eves in which I keep screens dyeing equippment etc at the moment. I use Really Useful Boxes put into the sink to wash things up in and pour the water down the loo. I keep a printing surface (MDF covered with acrylic felt and broadcloth) under the pressing station island and have drop cloths to cover the islands. So messy work is doable. I've packed up much of my tools in this photo - I was scraping and stamping fabric with screen inks.

But its not ideal. This is not a design flaw as the plan always was to convert the garage downstairs to a 'wet' studio/ utility room combined and we are just saving up now to do 'Phase Two'.

So this is where I am if you want me.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Vilakazi Street

Today is the reveal for the Twelveby Twelve 20/12 Map theme quilts and you can see my quilt and another that followed on from it over on the blog. It is based on Vliakazi Street in Orlando West in Soweto and I have written the story that inspired the quilt all over it using a Pitt Artists pen. This photo marks the text sections which are reproduced below for anyone who wants to know the story. Sorry about the dodgy ipad photo with added  glare! The official blog photo is better!

The Sowetan uprisng on n16th June 1976 began when, as part of the apartheid policy of giving black and coloured children poor education the Apartheid givernment issued a decree that certain school subjects should be taught in Afrikaans, a language with which the children were unfamiliar and which was associated with the opressive regime. the response to the decree was initially that some teachers resigned their posts and children began to boycott classes. The South African Student Movement (SASM) organised a march to the Orlando Stadium on 16th June 1976 as a peaceful protest. One of the gathering points was the Phfani Junior SecondarySchool in Vilakazi Street. the route from others schools to the stadium was baraccaided by Police and the leaders asked the crowd not to provoke the Police and took an alternative route ending up near the school in Orlando West. Here the Police shot at the children. Eyewitness accounts vary as to whether some children threw stones at the Police first. Over the next two days up to 600 were killed and 1000 injured.


the iconic photograhic account of the 16th June 1976 uprising was takenby Sam Nzima of The World newspaper. He said, " I saw a child fall down. Under a shower of bullets I rushed forward and went fo rthe picture. It had been a peaceful march. The children were singing Nkosi Sikelele. The Police were ordered to shoot." His picture showed Hector Pieterson,who had been shot, being carried by Mbuyisa Makhuto, an eighteen year old student with Hector's sister Antoinette running along side. Sophie Tema, a journalist stopped her car and took them to the Phomalong clinic but he was pronounced dead on arrival. The photo was seen around the world and helped to fuel the subsequent international outrage and political pressure about apartheid. Hector Pieterson was shot on the corner of Vilakazi and Moema Street. However, he was in fact not the first student shot. That was Hastings Ndlovu who was shot on a bridge on the corner of Klipspruit Valley and Khumalo Road. He was taken to Baragwanath Hospital where he dies after being in a coma. Hector therefore probably died first.


The Soweto uprising was but on event in the long struggles against apartheid but it was a significant one. Prior to June 1976 the black resistence had been stilled when, in June 1964 the top echelons of the SNC had been sent to Robben Island.

The uprising energised the black youth. Many left the country to join the military wing of the African National Congress or the Pan African Congress. The incident drew strong international condemnation including UN Resolution 392.

The protests of the school children were successful.A short time later the requirement to teach in Afrikaans was dropped and teachers training improved.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah retain their home in Vilakazi Street.


Vilakazi Street is now a tourist destination, the redevelopment having beenoverseenby the Johannesburg Development Agency. Mandela House is the main attraction.Now a museum it has been restored to how it looked in 1946. The site of Hector Pieterson's shooting is marked with a memorial wall and a short walkaway on Kumalo Street is the Hector Pieterson museum where his sister Antionette works as a guide. There are several public works of art on Vilakazi Street as well as restaurants serving traditional food.


Nelson Mandela lived at number 8115 Vilakazi Street from 1946 to 1961 when he went underground.nHe moved in with his first wife Evelyn Ntoko Mase. Winne Madizekele Mandela moved in in 1958.


Nelson Mandela spent eleven days at Vilikazi Street after his release in 1990.


The Soweto Uprising is depicted in Richard Attenborough's 1987 film Cry Freedom and inspired Andre Brinks novel A Dry White Season.