Making Meaning Membership

I’ve been a part of Ruth Singer’s ‘Making Meaning’ membership for a few months. I didn’t really know her work well, I’d seen some bits. But after reading up on it, I realised my work lacked this ‘deeper’ meaning. Where every mark and material choice and size and shape is there for a reason.

Ruth Singer ‘pierced’

After beginning to go through the course materials, starting a sketchbook, reading up on a topic – I’ve hit a block.

It’s one I recognise from university. And one that leaves me confused and stops me from playing with textiles – my favourite thing to do.

Here is my question within the membership group, explaining where I’m at. (Responding to a post about going deeper in your research instead of broader).

Hi Ruth, I’ve been thinking about this for a while… I don’t have a very defined question but writing the thoughts below seems to be helping.

There is something about this way of working – bringing in meaning and deeper research – that I do really enjoy (when it flows and sparks) but it also brings up a sort of overthinking block where I start going around in circles and not thinking straight or getting anything done (thinking ‘too hard’, I think!).

I’m flicking through my sketchbook, which is loosely about marks of time/memories and the physical act of recording time/memories. V. broad and there are about 20 ideas there which I could go deeper into. Every time I try and focus in to one thing I seem to get pulled back out into another. 

In general I enjoy systematic approaches, my dyslexic brain appreciates order and a certain way of doing things. So I get lost in the abstract and overly ‘big’ but then am really interested in very ‘big’ topics: space/time/connection/memories.

I think I need a hook which draws me in to one area/question to explore which then allows me to go deeper into it. I guess my question is, do you have any quick-fire approaches to narrow the thinking?

Writing this ramble, I keep going back to a personal memory linked to my research which was the reason I started on this topic. But I can’t imagine how to begin deeper research on this memory, without going back to the overflowing sketchbook…

So… just leaving this here for now really. I miss the simpler days where I could embroider a river and be happy with it. For now, I’ll continue to overthink. (I hope the membership gods answer my call, too.)

Amazing Arachnophilia by Tomás Saraceno

When you come across something that is so incredibly interesting it stops you from doing anything except going back and reading and scrolling and reading. Not sure how I found it but the Arachnophilia project by Tomás Saraceno and his studio and collaborators is incredible.

It seems to be a series of projects, spanning years and covering many different things relating to Spider/Web – written like that because the link between a spider and its web seems to be more ingrained and integral than most people think.

“The spider’s world is one of vibration. Essentially blind, the web-building spider creates an image of the world through the vibrations it sends and receives through the web, which also functions as an organic and specialised instrument for transmitting these seismic signals. The spider/web is thus considered a material extension of the spider’s own senses, and—some argue—of its mind.”

It’s quite hard to explain all the facets of the Arachnophilia project. (there are bloody loads!) But what I was most drawn to is the 3D mapping of the webs. It is, understandably, a very hard thing to do, and something that I think no one had done before. From figuring out how to do it they learnt about how different species live side by side and build these networks of shared information.

From these maps they created large 3D structures for people to interact with.

I like the analogies they make on the site between webs / networks / society / the cosmic web. It’s hard to explain but it’s super interesting.

(Also, kinda relevant – not relevant I just found an amazing spider silk thing which I’ll write up about here very shortly!)

My work in the theatre

It was a path I had no idea I would go down, but during 2021 I worked on the costumes for three plays in the Porto theatre.


The most recent was an adaptation of Shelagh Delaney’s play ‘A Taste of Honey’. Directed by Emanuel Rodrigues with a great cast of actors, it was really fun to pull these costumes together and to develop the characters through their clothes.

As Espingardas da Senhora Carrar

By Bertolt Brecht

A play about the Spanish Civil War by Brecht. Involving a priest, revolutionary, fisherman and widow.

Para não morrer assim, à vista de um sol assim

An emotional play about loneliness. Featuring a single actress ‘unravelling’ on stage.

Beautiful Kantha Embroidery

This will be a visual feast of kantha embroidery research and found imagery from around the web and the world.

I was doing a little kantha embroidery – to clarify, kantha can just mean running stitch, but I think of it when it is dense and continuous – forming patterns from the negative space.

Before I went to India to work on my old project Teller Clothing, with the wonderful Saheli Women, I got struck by a kantha piece in the V&A… I think it was one of these but I can’t find my original imagery now.

Anyway, long story short – it is a technique I want to explore more – I like how it slightly puckers and distorts the fabric (that is probably my bad tension). I like how it is a build up, you can’t see it until it is finished… I don’t know, something cool about Kantha embroidery that I definitely want to explore more.

Just look at that elephant (above)!! All of these images above and below are from the Google arts museum search, actually an amazing resource.

Modern kantha embroidery

So I love the above for the history and reference, but found some beautiful modern examples too.

Areumin Azu

A textile artist who I know nothing about but I follow on instagram and she/he does beautiful experimental kantha embroidery work. I really love how they build up the stitches and patterns to make very ‘alive’ work.

Here are two more examples, less ‘heavy’ kantha but both beautiful.

Top left by another artist I follow on insta who I know nothing about (no website so can’t stalk much) and the other images are by Sayan Chanda.

My Kantha Embroidery

All quite weird and wonderful, a start – long way to go. It is quite a slow technique though!!

The enigmatic Kati Horna

The photographer Kati Horna took beautiful and surreal images.

When she was just 25 years old, she was commissioned to capture photographs of the Spanish Civil War (1937). Her view and depiction of what was happening within communities at the time of the war are thought to have drawn a lot of attention to the human cost that happens away from the trenches and action.

By focusing on the struggles, poverty and battles that were happening on the streets at the same time as in the trenches, ‘a female lens’, she provided a human viewpoint and contributed to global attention being drawn to Spain at the time.

I’ve been working on the costumes for a play set during this time so was looking at her work without even knowing it. It was actually after seeing her more surrealist work that I really took note.

She had a tumultuous life (it seemed! Obviously I can’t know!) But she was born in the Republic of Hungary during war time there and was always political and used her camera as her tool and her weapon.

After living in Spain and Paris, she fled to Mexico, which became her adopted country, and worked in a more surreal style. She seemed to work prolifically across photography, magazines and architecture.

I don’t really know why the photos grab me so much. There is the story telling and the symbolism and the style.

I just think they are great and there isn’t much about her online that I can find- just one giant book that I will add to my list to ‘one day’ buy. I found the newer images here.

Just a nice visual treat! Enjoy.

Re-imagining Madge Gill

Experiencing first hand this morning the power of stitching to bring people together. A lovely zoom with East London Textile Arts and – a project re-imaginging the work of Madge Gill. An open brief to stitch or explore her work in some way. 

Madge worked in such a way that it connects people. She used her drawing and her embroidery as a tool through a difficult life…and using her work as inspiration or a ‘food for thought’ jumping off point, stories were shared from the group of how stitching and drawing has helped people through illness, was used by family members through mental health traumas and how stitching was used as an escape from life during difficult times. 

Today, I really experienced the joy and power of sitting with an open, supportive, friendly group stitching and chatting together – it was lovely. 

The exhibition is in conjunction with Newham Heritage Month (who have a great website btw) is called Re-imagining Madge Gill and is in Little Ilford Baptist Church on Saturday 22 May (11-4pm).

The book about Madge Gill can be found here – I don’t know whether to order one to Portugal or pick it up when I’m in the UK. I think I will order it.

I was working on an embroidery that I had started a while ago, but it never got anywhere so I re-worked into it looking at it through the lens of Madge’s work. I always felt connected to her work and I always loved it. 

When I first saw the work of Madge Gill, probably around 10 years ago in the Welcome Collection, I think it actually validated the doodles and faces and pages that I always felt compelled to draw and do but didn’t think were ‘art’.  It also made me feel seen; not such a weird-o that I used drawing to process emotion, when it was more difficult for me to talk about things.

I think now I am opening up to my emotional side, maybe I don’t use drawing in such a way any more but I can still access the power of filling up a page and the need to fill it before you can let your mind go to anywhere else.

Here is the piece I was working on. It’s not finished but I will keep pottering along.

I wish I could go to the exhibition in person and meet the ladies. 

The most touching story that was shared, was by a woman named Rachelle Francis who’s late mother Diana was a prolific artist – who sadly shared similar struggles as Madge and also a similar style of work.

It was really moving to hear a child’s experience of a mother who couldn’t connect though words but used art as her vehicle, and her work was absolutely incredible! It can be found here.

I hope an art institution helps Rachelle show her mother’s work to the world – as it deserves to be seen.

Another artist that was brought up this morning that I hadn’t come across was Agnes Richter (pic above), who was admitted into a psychiatric institution when she was in her 50’s and embroidered heavily and autobiographically onto her jacket. This reminds me of a work by Katerina Jebb that I can across recently in AnOther Magazine that I wanted to talk about so I think I will link that together somehow and BRB.

For now here are some amazing images of Madge Gil’s drawing and embroidery works.

Just incredible, incredible work – free form large scale embroidery. Loose threads, canvasses spanning meters and meters. Just amazing – I would love to see more of the work in real life!

My artwork musings #3 – ART DESIGN or CRAFT or

Sooo… this is something I have trouble with but am really interested in. I know I could get into really in-depth research about the difference between art design or craft… but I need to dissect it myself by just writing some notes and hoping it forms something coherent.

The difference

The first very blanket statements that come to mind:

ART – Value driven piece of work that doesn’t need a use

DESIGN – A piece of work which is created for a purpose

CRAFT – A piece of work created using process as a main value, created for a specific use

Ok, I call myself an artist (just) why? Because I don’t want to be pegged down by having to make something that fits a purpose or a use and although I use craft – for me a craft-person holds different values and integrity for the work.

The Value

This is where it gets interesting for me.

In terms of traditional ‘value’ they follow that order: ART > DESIGN > CRAFT, at least in the West. My impression, although it is only from an outsider view is that the Eastern cultures, Japan in particular, they value craft and the skill of a craftsperson more than we do, or traditionally did.

Someone who can use their hands to create a beautiful & useful object, who takes the tradition of making and material and pushes it into the contemporary – is an incredible skill which should be valued very highly (and rewarded fairly ££)


Andy Mangold: “Design is much more than my job.”

I just took a little reading break and this article said:

“With rare exceptions, art makes little money. Craft makes some money. Design makes a lot of money.”

Huh. I guess they are right. Designers for sure make lots of money – graphic / interior / fashion etc. Craft people can have a steady income stream by selling their wares but most artists are doomed. Fuck.

But I still stick to the value system of ART>DESIGN>CRAFT. Not consciously or maybe not intentionally I should say, but it is my unquestioned belief.

Ok so if I’m going to question my held beliefs it might as well be publicly – I’ve never really gone into it, I don’t know why, but here goes.

My personal beliefs and first encounters:

ART: My father was an artist with a capital A back in the day, he used to run the ICA in London and used art and poetry to question society at the time.

John Sharkey and Yoko Ono at the Destruction In The Art Sy… | Flickr
Here he is (John Sharkey) with Yoko Ono in the
Destruction in Art Symposium that they were a part of in 1966

I worshipped my dad. He took me to exhibitions, museums, events and strange concerts – once a concert which imagined neanderthal music (mostly howling and tapping) – but more than that he showed me that an ever curious mind isn’t stopped by external appreciation or validation, it just is and needs to be ever curious. Actually, maybe I’m just starting to realise now much he didn’t care about who was watching just went on and pursued his own agenda, kept making until the end.

Ok that’s for sure why I value art more highly. I see it as a need. a person’s need to see the world through their own lens.

DESIGN: This is someone else’s brief, mostly, or a brief to better the life of someone else – obvs a good thing. I think for me it has two sides.

I really, really appreciate how designers are able to pull together different references and refine it to create something new to create truly good design. Also, the amazing, innovative designs for sustainable solutions that we will need to adopt and implement. Design for good and social change. Great.

I guess my bugbear with this (is that the word?), comes from my background in textile and fashion design. I just saw so much regurgitated crap in the name of design. But I guess you get that in every field. Maybe when you see something too closely you see the really good but the middle-ground gets bigger.

CRAFT: I first got really immersed in craft in university, specialising in knitwear, I also went on a month exchange to Slovakia learning their traditional handcrafts. I really enjoy working with my hands. I get lost in it and like the repetitive process. I tried to combine the crafts with design, to some (very minor) success, then I worked with designer Phoebe English who did it beautifully and showed me how to really develop craft textiles with design.

Phoebe English: Through the Archives | AnOther
Phoebe English archive from AnOther Magazine

But my desire to combine craft with design has waned. Or is at least has shifted. But it’s later and I think that is something for another day.

Networks in art, data patterns & unknown Inca mysteries

I’ve set myself a difficult task. To write about something that I don’t really understand. Networks in art, data patterns & unknown Inca mysteries… quite a mysterious title, ey? I don’t even really know where to start.

Oh yeah, this YouTube video introduced me to the mind boggling fact that seemingly random and completely desperate phenomena in the world can be calculated using the same fraction.

Drips from a tap & fluctuations in population….the exact same fraction. (Watch it as I definitely can’t explain it well)

Image from Veritasium’s YouTube video

As well as enjoying listening to very smart people talking about very smart things, I also really like the beautiful data graphics that come from it – like the obscure side-ways mountain above.

A very tuned-in University lecturer introduced me to the Information Is Beautiful books, and thus picked this up about me before I realised it about myself (and my way of thinking), that I like systems and patterns and how data can be translated into 2D & 3D art.

But a few failed attempts at mapping patterns and translating them to knit and I didn’t follow its potential.

The next ‘mind-boggling – way too clever for me – interesting but I don’t really get it’ thing that it almost related is the natural order of life and space and micro bacteria = fractals.

This book blew my mind. The iChing & The Genetic Code.

Everything is fucking connected.

So I have started playing with fractals – using textiles, a yarn splitting basket technique and bits of plastic bags. It looks as Blue Peter as it sounds and nothing to write home about …(so the blog post is here why…) but within the chaos I see a glimmer of possibility so I will carry on.

But the networks created through the textile technique reminded me of two things.

  1. The amazing ancient found knotted necklaces from the Inca period which hold secrets we will never understand, but prove that they were advanced in their civilisation and had reason to keep and count large amounts of data.

Inca Knots

2. Digital data imagery

I just listened to a really interesting online panel discussion held by the Serpentine, Hidden Patterns, and it reminded me of how much the visuals draw me in.

Images from slides by Albert-László Barabási & Burak Arikan

They talk about the content behind the aesthetics, the science, the actual data that the information is showing…. and I love the parallel between this and the Inca knots, these beautiful complex structures as a useful, 3D visualisation of the data they needed to keep a record of.

So after thinking about and looking at data visualisation, using the patterns of fractals and thinking about the shared visuals of all the parts that make up the world – human cells, bacteria, tree trunks, finger prints, weather patterns, maps of space – I feel a kind of awe, and I feel…difficult to explain, will come back to it.

But it brings forth the following questions –

  1. What would I want to record, in my life?
  2. What data is interesting and complex enough to produce rich results?
  3. Does it need to be collected data, can I just make it up or use already collected and organised data?
  4. Is this too big and complicated to even go in to?
  5. How can I simplify it to make it beautiful, like the Inca knots?

My art work musings #2 – The difficulty in being excited by too many textiles techniques

(A long title, but there we go.)

I have the affliction of a textiles addict. Excited by every new shiny technique that I come across.

I know I’m not the only one, I’ve read about others.

Others who see something and long to learn how it is made… others who see a technique and instantly see the possibilities of how it could be altered and explored… others who collect techniques like houseplants, unable to stop themselves.

Dramatic as it sounds, it is actually bloody annoying. God I wish I was someone who did one thing well, grew in their craft and was known for one technique.

I really wish I didn’t flit and float around with different ways of working and textile techniques. I can’t even decide between 2D or 3D. The difficulty in this way of working is that you never build up a strong style or identity.

By never settling on one style of work you never grow into a style, and you stop others from being able to discover and settle on your work, knowing what to expect. You build less of a name for yourself online, where your style works when it is instantly recognisable and categorisable within the 9 little squares.

I feel like I am stuck in stage one of a project, the research and exploration stage.

I could go on about the trouble I face in this area but I’ll get depressed.

A hot mess of textiles samples on the floor as I’m going crazy working out what I do / who I am / why am I doing this etc.

OK, The Positives

  1. Endless curiosity, playfulness and appreciation at the possibilities.

2. You don’t approach work from a prescriptive place, each time you work it is at the thing you want to work on, not what you should be working on as you have built up a style.

3. Your work is fresh and exciting (even if just for you). AAAND maybe like me, you have no choice so although there aren’t loads of positives, it is better to find them and cheer yourself up about the affliction you have.

Steps I’ve done to help with this ‘difficulty’

  1. Limit my colour palate, even if things don’t instantly sit next to each other in terms of style at least the colours aren’t jarring against one another.
  2. Finish samples and try and make good work – as above, things that look good at least are never offensive
  3. Try and do at least 2-3 finished samples in one technique so things can sit together and there are little ‘stories’
  4. Connect with the why. I find this quite difficult and I know I need to look a bit more into it and really get my purpose concreted in my mind, but if you have a strong why, a strong mission / value / purpose then it should translate past the technique that you are using.
  5. Curate social media – a strong filter game and making sure the mess is edited.
  6. Not care so much. It can be a blessing as well as a curse, enjoy making work, don’t compare too much, chill, stitch, smile.

Any more tips you have, please answers on a postcard.

My art work musings #1 – Getting back into it

I find it very difficult talking about my art work. So here is a start…Awkward though it may be.

I started making art again; away from university, away form any structured group and probably 10 years since I had allowed myself to regularly practice and nurture my creativity.

After working pretty solidly for people and companies within the creative industry and flexing some creative muscles, I wasn’t deprived… but I had a yearning to let myself create for me.

Fuck it’s hard to get back into it.

Mind my language.

Because we are constantly consuming imagery and looking at beautiful visual references, I think my brain had skipped a few steps to making my own thing, making something that I would also be happy with and making things that don’t have too much of an obvious reference or tie. A thing that I can call my own and look at and share and not cringe.

At the beginning, I hadn’t realised or remembered maybe how much time things took. Also, what I have just realised while writing this, that the last time I was ‘creating’ (sorry for the wanky term) was in university where it is your life and you don’t need to also earn money and navigate adulting.

To cut a long (and pretty uneventful) story short.

Like many, many other people it seems, I think Julia Cameron saved me. Going through The Artist Way gave me the structure, insight and bravery to make.

Moving to a new country away from all London-based distractions also helped.

In a strange way so did Covid-19… life was forced into 4 walls, with it came the need to play.

This simple little embroidery was the first moment where there was something I was happy with. A lovely feeling.

Since then confusion, turmoil, helplessness, anger, swearing, ecstatic joy.

A start is always good. Actually that was about a year ago. Wow.