Flowers for Our Times:

Over the past few years I have been intending to start selling giclee printed versions of my personal stitched work. The latest pigment prints available are unbelievably faithful in reproducing my finely stitched work…but where to start? Flowers – where else? I determined to develop some new flower embroideries for this venture.

Following on from revisiting my old research books and past work, I decided incorporate the flower embroideries with the Kantha stitched skies as in After Winifred. I took a beautiful bunch of dahlias and held them against a large scale Kantha Stitched sky in progress on my studio wall. I had been brought the flowers by Helen Reed, who owns Court House Farm and runs a seasonal cutting garden amongst other ventures. And where I hold drawing sessions in the summer months.

I also eventually started to work on an idea taken from a rare photograph of my garden Hellebores in a vase and in front of my scarf design of Hellebore flower heads. What is odd is that while Hellebores are one of my most favourite flowers, am not keen on Dahlias and did find myself reluctantly stitching them onto a small version of the Kantha sky. Below are the first 2 prints in the series Flowers For Our Times, on the left is Dahlias, on right, Hellebores

Reflecting on the Dahlias and Hellebore pieces (made between winter 2021 to early 2022) I felt as if I had made a definite link between my old and new work in order to make the really vivid giclee prints, available soon at Heart Space Editions. But although technically demanding, using the new Inktense dyes from Derwent, I decided that this was not the way forward that I had imagined it would be.

I returned again to my early flower work and re-read the catalogue of my exhibition of Flora’s Legacy, held in Bath in 2000 ( yes – so many years ago!!!!!) and realised exactly what was missing – symbolism – or the half hidden messages often contained within these earlier works.The centre-piece from the exhibition, Flora – the Roman goddess of flowers, had what was missing from my new works…the hidden meanings and humour – here some blackish, bawdy humour.

Turning to the many and various dictionaries of symbols I keep in the studio library I thought I would invent a bunch of flowers instead. The meanings of plants and flowers are universal and every culture has its own beliefs, sometimes conflicting – sometimes they are entirely in agreement: a poisonous plant is a poisonous plant. Out of curiosity I checked what the 2 bunches meant adding, the meanings to my original studies…..

I must admit that I was shocked, relieved, delighted and then excited to find that I had embroidered War, Scandal, Uncertainty, Instability and Sickness within 2 pretty bunches of flowers. But everyone else around me was spooked. So – they asked – where did I get this information from? Well in my books of symbolism, the most curious and confusing is The Language of Flowers – but oh the possibilities that it offers for mixed messages and hidden warnings amuse me enough to keep going with this theme.

Using just my old folders and Victorian books of flower meanings lead me to a brand new fully comprehensive dictionary by S. Theresa Dietz – published by Wellfleet Press, and the here I discovered far more arcane information than I had gleaned from my all my original sources.

So now what to do next – can you guess?

returning to my sketchbooks

first page of my reborn Flora research/sketchbook – Flowers Again!

Recently, the “After Winifred” embroidery has inspired me to develop work to use as Giclee prints in order to add a fresh way of getting my work ‘out there’. I turned to my old Flora workbook, some 20+years old – but still alive for me as a source of inspiration.

I found some empty pages at the end of the old book and started to collate recent samples and drawings of bunches of flowers grown and made up at Court House Farm, where I conduct drawing workshops, using the cutting garden as inspiration.

looking back at my Flora work, which is 3 dimensional and very heavily embroidery, I now want a freer drawn imagery to stitch into. So I bought some Derwent Inktense pencils that basically act as dyes when wetted and left to dry – I did many samples but found my drawings had too much information in them – I needed to loosen up further. Ha ha – the story of my working life!

To enable me to play easily with the new ink crayons I chose an old set of drawing research and photographs to work with. The colours of the crayons are very brilliant and I needed to find ways of making more subtle colours, so stippling, cross hatching and dotting colours one over another made for rich but softer ground colours – these techniques are still a work in progress. Below are 2 studies of the under drawings using pencil dyes ready to be stitched

Meanwhile I have been looking at all my old flowery finished works and their drawings to use as reference and then reframing/remounting stitched pieces ready for the printers.

the little Hellebore image above is my first Giclee print and the smallest at 30cms/12inches square.

Quilt for Kaffe

My final stitches on the back of quilt appropriately backed with fabric designed by Brandon Mably

This major project started life in 2017 through sheer frustration. For Kaffe Fassett’s 2018 quilt book, based on traditional quilts housed in the American Museum in Britain he had asked that, as a hand embroiderer, I make his revised version of an ‘Broderie Perse’ in their collection. I was delighted.


I immediately started to sample some simple ways to make such a large hand stitched quilt nowadays, plus information notes for others to follow the instructions. However, due to lack of time due to publishing deadlines this quilt was dropped….Rats!

behind the scenes of the American Museum

Later in the year I organised with the museum’s curator, Kate Hebert, to visit the archives with the UK making and publishing team. I asked to see ‘the one that got away’ and on hearing the story, Kate said that if I ever re-considered making the quilt she would show it in the quilt gallery alongside the original. Well of course I jumped at the chance to show work at this museum, and I did want to make the quilt.

I decided that I would make it as a present for Kaffe, it was his 80th birthday in December and I had enjoyed the last 3 years working with him on his books and my contract was at an end. I reasoned I would soon have plenty of time on my hands to complete the project in time for his birthday.

Kaffe Fassett studies new work on the quilt wall in my studio

As I now had ‘carte blanche’ to interpret the design as I liked I decided to make his portrait as one of the panels. Using a recent photograph from his last visit to the studios I set about drawing and scaling the head.

the original drawings scaled up from the photograph

I made carefully measured sketches, and then 2 masks – one to the size of the hexagonal block and the other of the head. My initial idea was to garland the head with flowers – well why not?

first attempt to design the head using some of my favourite fabrics

This looked miserable, and the garland didn’t fit into the hexagon very well – and then I would have to embroider the features; I remembered my ‘Flora’ embroideries influenced by Archimboldo – the artist who made faces from flowers. I tried various flowery fabrics from the Kaffe Fassett Collective.

This selection took several days and I was still not convinced I could make it work well enough, then into my studio stepped an old university colleague from my teaching and researching days, Dr Dawn Mason, with the perfect bunch of flowers to match the work  – I believe that chance happenings are not always random


serendipitous flowers – I am on the right track

I  persevered. Eventually I chose the fabric placement, cut it out with a tiny seam allowance and hand slip stitched it to a spotty fabric, adjusting the chin to become a tad larger proved successful. Very carefully I placed a blue bud for the eye. Suddenly Kaffe appeared in front to me.

Now for the hair: I found the white petals of Japanese Chrysanthemum by Phillip Jacobs perfect for my purpose, and so it appears does everyone else; the hair is the thing that gets the attention. In fact most of the fabrics that I used Summer  Bouquet and Shell Bouquet and Tulip Extravaganza are designed Phillip Jacobs, his fabrics are so elegantly drawn and painted and the perfect replacement of the original chintzes.

The next stage was to decide the rest of the portrait. For the shirt I had a smidgeon of an old version of Kaffe’s Roman Glass in blue, I had bought years ago – and after many trials chose the fresh Spot fabric in the colour ‘Pond’ for the background.

Archimboldo Kaffe
the finished head

Now for the rest of the patchwork, So far this  has taken me about 3 weeks of drawing and stitching – but it is still only June.

the original samples for the American Museum book

I dug out the abandoned samples I had made for the book – I needed to make more other panels to add to the portrait.

To make the bouquets, the fabric has to be backed with a bonding paper, carefully cut out, placed into position by re-arranging the various elements to fit harmoniously, pressed,  then hand stitched around each raw edge, the stitching is quicker than the arranging and my idea of blissful work.

The quilt slowly started to grow; but trying to control the overall colour was the most difficult thing – colours that work on their own or in a sketch suddenly look drab or take on another shade when placed next to one another – obviously. But the colours of the flowers changed the balance every time I added a new panel. It was my major ongoing and fascinating struggle to get these balances to work.

september studio
my textile studio September 2017

By September I had eventually made my fabric decisions, I had to make multiple versions of some of the panels – all in different colour-ways, but this gave cohesion to the  busy design. I also added 4 shell corners, this was possibly the easiest panel to apply as the size was perfect and the shape fitted – just a few additions to balance colour.

Above shows the development of the Brassica panels, they needed to be made larger by adding extra rows of leaves before hand sewing them onto the grounds.

The next stage was to add the diamond shaped patches at the intersections of the squares.

squares add
the added diamonds start to assert themselves

And this is when the panic started – suddenly this massive work, that had grown over months took off in another direction, these diamonds dominated the entire design – already busy, this was manic

The only thing was to keep going – too late to stop now – the samples below looked fine

I started to applique the tiny cut squares from Kaffe’s fabrics, Sunburst onto Shot Cotton dozens of them, all hand stitched in 2 colours and I slowly added them to the quilt on the wall ….and the result below doesn’t have all the dividing ribbon strips yet!

half cooked
without the addition of all the ribbons – hells’teeth!

This was beginning to look overloaded,  so I called in my 2 trusted quilt makers, Julie Harvey and Ilaria Padovani – they have very sound taste in all things quilt, and I knew they would tell me the truth. They just laughed and said “well it is for Kaffe and ‘more is more’ with him – why are you worried’?

It was the addition of the ribbons, kindly donated to me by both Edith Minne, owner of Renaissance Ribbons and Brandon Mably (who was in on the secret) that tipped the balance of the work  and I suddenly understood that the work had ceased to be mine  – it was now Kaffe’s. This happens when you are commissioned to design and make stuff for people – you need to work with their ideas/tastes/preferences – otherwise they don’t pay you! But this wasn’t a commission this was a present, and it was  all my own work – I realised now just how much I have been influenced by working alongside him.

the quilt starts to look like it belongs to Kaffe

So I machined in place all the ribbons – a mammoth task for a hand embroider! they were very tricky to manipulate especially as I had to split  many yards of a wider ribbon to get the correct proportion, both Edith and Brandon were out of stock of the narrow version. Hey ho! Thankfully  Julie machine stitched it all into position first and then I started to hand quilt  all around  my stitched applique – another mammoth task, but so rewarding, the quilt looks suitable wonky – in a good way – it looks very hand made

finished not
March 2018,  finally finished – I thought!

It was completed in March 2018 but I had not time to deliver it; then Kaffe was awarded an MBE and I know I have to include this – so back again to the finished quilt

I made a sample first and then the real thing and appliqued it to the ‘finished’ portrait

portrait complete with medal

In Bath, where Kaffe and Candace Behouth, have an exhibition together based on Flowers , I delivered another set of 5 quilts for the next book and my “surprise”

And Kaffe’s reaction when he was shown it?

Worth every moment..  I made the sample into a badge for Brandon – this says it all!

brooch for brandon

Embroidering a Pansy in 3 dimensions

stitched pansy in silk thread- Libby Butler

Stitching  3 dimensional flowers is a strange mix of observational drawing, refined stitching and alchemy; the transition of the flat stitched petals freed from their background and applied to form a flower is slightly surreal. I developed this particular skill while making the Flora Embroideries, using the pansy to metamorphose into different forms to develop faces.

winter flowering pansies

I had been asked by a regular Heart Space Studio student and volunteer, Libby Butler, to teach her to stitch a 3 dimensional pansy – her favourite flower, and knowing that she was a skilled embroiderer I agreed. What I did not know was if she could draw the flowers from life; this is the first essential stage as learning to select the colours and study the growth lines of the petals is most important to develop natural petal patterns – and looking really carefully to draw each petal really concentrates the mind for the stitching that follows.

selected pansy and the drawing equipment

Libby looked a little nervous when I handed her the jars of crayons after selecting her pansy – however after a nervous start she achieved a simple working drawing from which we could establish petal shapes and colourings, now to move to the fabrics….

simple drawing of the Pansy face

Now to the fabrics – first a thin silk fabric was selected and the individual petals from the drawing were traced onto it in pencil,  a light dye was then applied with a paintbrush to give a background colour.

dyeing the background fabric for the petals

When the dye was dry, a heat transfer fabric adhesive was ironed onto the back of the fabric and each petal was cut out and ironed onto a very fine silk gauze and placed in a small embroidery hoops ready for embroidery – the edge of the silk petal means that the stitches have very strong definition which will be needed later for cuttung out. The silks were matched to the drawing colours and using one strand only, the embroidery was started…

embroidering the individual painted silk petals

Libby worked one  whole petal (see above) by the end of the first day of the 2 day workshop, she then had 1 week to complete the rest of the petals…..she took the drawing home to work from – the drawing is what she is following not the real flower – this is why the drawing needs to be really carefully observed

stitched work brought in to the second session

On her return I found that she needed to work a fine blending thread over the transition between the dark purple and light yellow of the pansy to make it look natural but this was quickly achieved – attention needs to be given for the direction of  all the stitches so that they follow the lines of growth of the petal – but it is easy to see in bi-coloured pansies.

the embroidered petals are cut out

Once the embroidery was complete, the back of the fabrics was once again bonded with heat transfer adhesive and each petal cut out leaving a small area of surrounding silk. Each  petal was then pressed from the back while being stretched around the its edge, this sets the stitches and gives a very life – like undulation to the petal edge – but the stitching needs to be very dense to allow this to happen…..then taking courage in both hands the extra fabric is VERY carefully cut away – the bonding keeps the threads in place.

holding the back petal snipped and waiting to be pressed.

Now the flower formation can begin. On a fresh and final background fabric the original drawing was traced using a water-soluble pen, then each petal is embroidered into position starting from the back, only the middle area needs to be attached – the petals must be left free from the ground

attaching the petals to form the flower

The actual assembly does not take very long but it must be carefully structured so that each petal overlaps the one below it, the original drawing is again of vital importance to this process.

work in progress with an old embroidered sample we used as a stitching guide

Eventually each petal is placed and the inside edges of the of the petals are  is built up and over-sewn and a single central stitch finishes it – Da Da!

the final flower seen against the original drawing

Auricula Theatre

Flora Exhibition catalogue cover – Holburne Museum. Bath 2000

In an effort to be topical with the spring here at last, I am posting another of my Flora Embroideries, the Auricula Theatre. A strange idea to display flowers in such an artificial setting, I just had to embroider it – but needed quite a bit of help. In fact after the initial sampling I left the embroidery of all the dozens of tiny petals to my then assistant, Debbie Cripps, and a beautiful job she made of them. All I had to do was design and assemble the whole edifice.

Auricula Theatre illustration by John Farleigh

The theatres actually did exist and originally for a purpose other than display, the curious colours of some of the flowers is due to a farina or flour like substance that coats the leaves and petals giving  them a white or silvery appearance and it can be washed away by rain – so the earliest flowers were often placed under protective coverings. I became intrigued by the auriculas having seen them at spring flower shows – not in theatres but in simple plant pots; even in local church halls they really attract attention – they just don’t look real, they look like someone has painted them in strange colours with stripes and edgings of greens and white and yellows, they look like a child’s drawing of a flower.

black and white auricula at a local flower show

And when they are displayed in modern theatres their various markings can be truly appreciated

modern Auricula theatre

So I set about making one for myself, to become a permanent display. I arranged several of my photographs form the various shows I attended into a staged setting, then set about trying to embroider them.


show photographs arranged as theatre display

first I needed to draw them before I could start to stitch them.

first pastel drawings of flower heads

at first I tried to paint in the backgrounds, really to make things easier and quicker….

painted dye on linen ground with embroidered edgings

They looked OK but didn’t really have the intensity that the real things had, show auriculas look like imploded flowers so intense is their colouring  and perfectly symmetrical their form. I realised that I had to make similar intense embroideries. I started by embroidering individual petals..

my hand stitched samples of individual petals

I decided to try coloured grounds to make life a little easier.

different ground fabric samples

I used gauzes and fine silk grounds so that the made up flowers would not be too heavy but it was a bit of an awesome task even with help with the stitching.

after giving the fabrics and my working samples to my assistant I set to work to develop the theatre.

initial drawing for the embroidered theatre

I know that this drawing is really simple and childlike but it was enough to get me started – I soon realised I had to make a 3D embroidery, so the curtains were  lined and draped and the canopy was held above and projected out beyond the flowers, it was ribbon worked exactly as 17th century embroidered bed hangings.  The earliest auricuals were grown by Flemish silk weavers and eventually shown in special competitions were prizes were awarded, usually a silver cup or spoon. The Flemish silk weavers introduced them into England as early as the 17th century  – so I decided to have curtains made from woven silk brocade that features auriculas ( you can’t say I am not thorough in my research)!

pure silk brocade featuring auricula flowers

The finished embroidery is very 3 dimensional and is densely stitched and draped, it is the one piece of work that everyone wants to buy, probably because it featured on the poster for the exhibition at the Holburne museum in Bath where the whole set of Flora embroideries were first shown in this country. This was in 2000 so this is really old work now – but making this piece made me decide that I needed to start to develop new types of work using different media or techniques or both, this heavy stitched surface is too time-consuming and therefore too costly to sell except to a committed collector or dare I say it – museum? and I have decided not to separate the pieces because they tell a story of how, through trying to perfect nature we can go horribly wrong. I had stitched myself into a corner but I still had quite a few more pieces to complete The Flora set of work.

completed Auricula Theatre

Live Pairings Project – Metamorphosis


Yet another first for me – I have been invited to make a piece of work for an exhibition in the Select programme for  Stroud International Textiles . I have often visited the Stroud textile festivals and even posted my observations last year and the year before. For about a month the whole of the town of Stroud in Somerset, England, is taken over by textiles to be viewed in exhibitions, talks, workshops or bought at specialist markets, generally a must-go-to see show every spring.

I have been invited to make a piece of work for an exhibition called Pairings, where several partnerships of makers have been put together to develop work. This is a result of the Stitch and Think project that was the major part of my research post at UWE. Bristol,  Alice Kettle, a Senior Researcher Fellow and applied artist using machine embroidery has been conducting a similar project at MMU ( Manchester metropolitan University) and she invited several members of the research group to join in this fascinating project. Over the past several months I have been preparing work to make a combined textile based on the idea of Metamorphosis. My partner, chosen by Alice, is Rachel Kelly, a textile designer specialising in Wallpaper and an associate lecturer at MMU. Rachel has been asked to incorporate new technology within her making processes – this should very interesting for a hand embroiderer.

Rachel interacting with wallpaper

When we first discussed the work I explained about my ideas around metamorphosis; we would have to change our ways of working to develop this work and as her work incorporates lots of motifs to make your own interchangeable wallpaper designs the idea seemed a perfect fit – Rachel agreed – luckily. We decided also to make a joint piece of work – not easy when we live and have our own studios more than 200 miles apart. We discussed what we had in common, she read the blog and I read her website. she thought we should concentrate on drawing and I recognised that she was an avid colourist – so we set to work. After some initial difficulty getting started, I suggested that we make work by the game of “consequences” one person draws something folds the paper down and the next person draws the next bit… can follow this interaction on our joint blog that starts this weekend.

So to begin – I sent Rachel 2 images of a tree I had seen in the local wood, it looks like an animal stretching upwards with a rump for a tail from one side and from the other, a side view of a voluptuous woman. I have been observing the tree for about 20 odd years now and I call it the Daphne tree, I take visitors to see it and I never pass it without an acknowledgement. I kept thinking I must do some work with this. I really feel that the Greek myths of metamorphosis, mainly observed by the poet Ovid,  are true parables of the human condition; how often do we wish to change ourselves in some way or another – it is the hardest thing to do – and as the saying goes, “be careful what you wish for

I started by drawing the tree from either side, quick pencil sketches just to make a start by recording what I could see and the camera couldn’t quite capture. The dogs got bored quite quickly and it was very damp, my paper was really limp and my drawings extremely scribbly, I sent them to Rachel via email.

They were enough to get me started though, I next asked Sophie, my administrator at Heart Space Studios to pose for me from the tree images that I showed her.

then I drew from the photographs as the pose was really difficult to hold for her.

I really did not like this drawing, too beautiful, too glamorous; she looks like a glamour model …yes Daphne was a nymph but this needed attention so I drew over a photocopy and got rid of the breasts…

but she is still too lovely, too refined, this won’t help the feeling I want to establish and what is that? –  Below is a Ted Hughes poem, from his  book ‘ Tales from Ovid’ published in 1997 this is another woman turns to tree story – Myrrha, from the poem ‘Venus and Adonis’ –  Myrrha calls to the gods to help her and her prayer was answered…

The earth gripped her ankles as she prayed.

Roots forced from beneath her toenails, they burrowed

Amongst deep stones to the bedrock. She swayed,

Living statuary on a tree’s foundations.

In that moment, her bones became grained wood,

Their marrow pith,

Her blood sap, her arms boughs, her fingers twigs,

Her skin rough bark……

I have never forgotten that passage of sheer terror when I first read the poem, and some of this somehow needs to be conveyed…so back to the drawing board. So if you wish to follow this developing project go to the joint blog that Rachel and I have set up, where we are posting our ongoing work and immediate reactions to one another..

Flower Face

This face of flowers has haunted me for years, I am fascinated by the loveliness which is coupled with the unease I feel every time I see it – delighting in the delicious idea of a face made of flowers but this looks more like a tattoo, it’s scary. Arcimboldo, court painter in 16th century Vienna, is widely acknowledged to be the father of surrealism; he made ‘likenesses’ of people from all manner of objects, a librarian’s face made of his books, a cook’s portrait in a dish of food, today modern advertising still use the same clever devices to spectacular visual effects.

So I decided to make a face of embroidered flowers picked from my own garden ( as you do). I started with a collage to see what I would need to find to make it convincing, the man’s face in the bottom left corner is also by Arcimboldo, a portrait of his patron Rudolph ll as Vertumnus,the god of the harvest 1590.(You can also see my version of a Vegetable Man). I had to resort to all sorts of flowers to make the face – but the expression of vague alarm on this first face of flowers should have warned me what was coming……….I started to draw the flowers from my garden, searching out  roses for cheeks, pansy eyes, rosebud mouth…how innocent it all was; by the end of this embroidery I had more many ideas due to my research both visiting flower shows and studying the history of Florists – the growers, showers and  developers of our modern day flowers. Slowly the work became a whole series of embroideries about man’s manipulation of nature with beautiful and terrible results……….however to start at the very beginning.

This is the vase of flowers that I used for the drawing above, the pansy eyes, the foxglove nose and eyebrow, the carnation mouth are faithfully recorded, not exactly in the same spaces – but if you squint the face can just be seen in the bunch below left. But I had a problem – I didn’t have the right flowers to use in my garden to develop this further so some more would have to be bought.

I had put them in a lovely old (and mended) hand blown glass decanter and this made me think of the beautiful Dutch paintings of vases of flowers – it was studying these closely that made me realise that none of these actual painted bouquets ever existed, they were portraits of individual flowers painted when they were in season and assembled by the artists  – how else do you get tulips with fully blown roses with ears of corn with anemones all in one vase – in the 17th century.

Now I knew how to get what I needed, I designed the face and searched for flowers to fill in the features. I drew each flower as I found it, embroidered it on dark silk organza ready to be cut out and assembled when I had enough  – this took several months. I started with a drawing of Iris from my garden – I knew she (by now she had become Flora, the Roman goddess of spring) had to have my colour hair, this iris was perfect a sort of reddish blonde. In the drawing I have recorded the striations of colour so that I can develop my stitches in the same directions.

I picked, drew and sampled all the flowers I could find, it was a lovely summer of work. Friends and neighbours started to bring me flowers they thought I would like to include, the search was on for  all sorts of auburn and orange flowers for the hair,

flesh coloured roses and poppies for the skin, rosebuds for the mouth.

Slowly, by  travelling around to see specialist flower shows and drawing from all kinds of resources I pieced together the face; the pastel drawing I worked from and the ongoing recorded collage can also be seen below.

So now this face had to have a body, the old glass decanter was perfect, with a swelling rounded shape and elegant proportions, easy enough to draw, but how do I embroider it?

Placing tracing paper over the drawing to get a pattern for the vase I suddenly realised this was how to achieve the effect of seeing stalks though water and glass, I painted the stalks on silk with dye then bonded embroidered silk organza onto the surface –

I lost most of the painting in the process but the effect is both subtle and sinks into the black ground and so does not distract from Flora’s stupendous poppy breasts.

So here she is in all her splendour. But she is short lived; surrounded by things that will harm and ultimately destroy her, the rose-cutter bee will eat her cheeks, the butterfly will lay eggs and the larvae will feed from her, the beautiful beetle feeds off rose leaves and the snail will first slime then devour her. Only her beauty spot, the lady bird, will protect her – from greenfly.

Pansy Faces

Winter flowering pansies are in the shops now, but I have a set of embroidered pansies in flower all year round…the Pansy Faces from the Flora Embroideries.

So just how did the rust and gold pansy on the left turn into the tiger below? I will try and show you.

Visiting the many different flower shows whilst researching The Flora, I was struck by the way the pansies were displayed – they are arranged separately in trays, not as the usual bunch of flowers in a vase, but just the heads placed poking out of a board on a tray – why? I like to think that it really makes you look carefully at the difference in each wonderful flower head; but I suspect it may be because one of the criteria for a show pansy is to try to grow the petals to form a perfect circle. Then “heads” and “pansy faces” came together in my mind, so I started to photograph the trays at all the shows I visited, as you can see below the standard of presentation is often patchy and there seems to be no attempt at colour co-ordination!

I fantasised that if I could breed flowers I would develop the pansies further by changing the shapes of the petals and regulating their colours. I tried also to keep the changes to a minimum to show the stages  of metamorphoses from flower to face. You can see that in the drawing below I started with a butterfly. which was fairly easy, and then moved onto the owl..he was a bit trickier and the problem of making this metamorphosis became apparent – whilst drawing and inventing from the research everything was clear,  but whilst stitching the flowers/birds/ animals my mind became confused between whether I was stitching an ear or a petal…..and this got more confusing as I developed the series.

I then developed the cat or tiger;  the stripes were fascinating to depict as they could follow through the growth patterns of the petals  and it was a delight to invent and stitch, as was the monkey – the dog was not made – if I could have drawn a wire fox terrier as  pansy I would have included him that but I could only manage a shitzu – I have  always thought of them as pansy faced dogs.

I then decided that this was all too innocent, while I was happily playing and exercising total control over  inert materials – the plant breeders and agricultural scientists were not. What would happen if it all went horribly horribly wrong? The ultimate goal for mankind seems to be to become like god and make make everything for our own benefits and in our own likeness. This was  hard decision to make  and I knew from the start that I would have to eventually develop a human face; I at first thought it could be a nice face – another beauty like Flora and the Edible Woman.

But really all along I had known it had to be a self portrait to make sense of my idea. I first appear drawn in grey pencil amongst my lovely colourful animals and fairy faces – and yes I do recognise that it is a sign of vanity – but I have never ever liked to see pictures of  myself. Friends have learned not to show me any photographs they have taken of me – I rip the heads off them – I want only to be known by the images in my work – so a control freak as well…I know I know.

But back to the plot – below is a page of  drawings for the final pansy face, a horrid version of me …

The Aubergine Love Child

I am imagining that the aubergine I bought yesterday in a wrapped pack of two, from Sainsbury’s supermarket in Whorle, is the love child of my Giant Vegetable Man and Edible Woman ( see my previous post and Flower Show). I think he has his mother’s nose and his father’s chin; the two of them have been shut away for several months in a studio cupboard so who knows what goes on in the dark seclusion of storage?

Viewed face – on he has a sort of boyish charm and his hair is really rather cute – it looks as if he may make a good rugby player when he grows up, he already has the broken nose.

Several people have mentioned his resemblance to an Easter Island figure so here is my favourite photograph of him –  on top of the garden wall gazing out over the estuary towards the Welsh hills – I haven’t the heart to cook and eat him just yet. Ratatouille will have to wait.