Tuesday, 3 July 2012


Way back when I was a Young Mother my Aunt-in-Law gave me a catalogue from an exhibition she'd seen in the 1960s. It greatly interested me, partly because I enjoyed working with fabrics and thread myself, and partly because  the background to the exhibition involved artists I had met as a student and their discovery, unknown to me at the time, of our own English Grandma Moses, a naive or outsider artist working in the wilds of Kent. It inspired me to make my own textile pictures.

Here is M with his favourite Teddy perched on one shoulder. On the other I have embroidered a butterfly to symbolise the fragility and beauty of youth. The watchful eye was mine of course - ha ha!
The artists who had found this elderly lady, Elizabeth Allen or "Queen" as she preferred to be called, living in an isolated, primitive hut in a wood near Biggin Hill, included Trevor Bell, an abstract artist associated with the St. Ives group, and Michael Kidner, a pioneering op artist.
Here is one of her pictures...

Home Sweet Home

...and another one of mine.

A Cat Dreaming

Norbert Lynton, then Professor of the History of Art at Sussex University, reviewed the exhibition for the Guardian newspaper in an enthusiastic though slightly patronising tone which, perhaps, showed his ignorance of the use of needlecraft as a form of expression dating back thousands of years, so unused was he to regarding mere sewing as Art.
Queen's embroideries were described as rag mosaics which brings to my mind the inlaid patchworks of the 19th century and earlier, large and highly detailed coverlets, often made by tailors who supplemented their incomes by charging the public to view their wonderful creations.

But perhaps Queen's appliques, and mine too, are more closely related to the primitive textile pictures made by George Smart, a Kentish tailor, in the 1830s.

Now, of course, everybody's at it, though I do hear tell that a certain famous Maid of Kent employed a team of six stitchers to create her colourful quilts.




  1. Those old coverlets make me crazy they are so amazingly gorgeous.!!!!!!! And yours are pretty cool as well.............LOVE the eye idea. Just today I told my grandson I have eyes in the back of my head.......hhhmmmmmm, I think I feel an art project coming on........

    1. Trouble is - there comes a point when you realise you just THOUGHT you had eyes in the back of your head!

  2. Hello, Don't they tell such a story, as there is so much to see in these works!
    I really was impressed with yours as you captured time here!
    Just lovely!
    Thank you for such kind comments over on mine always!
    Maria x

    1. Thank you Maria - I find the world of vintage, antiques and textiles so interesting & inspiring.

  3. I love your own patchwork picture of M with his teddy, and the symbolism you have included of the butterfly and your watchful eye - a little family treasure.

    1. Yes - somehow I found time to do lots of sewing in those happy days (with 3 boys!). Now I seem so busy that I only make the occasional little needlework as a birthday greeting.

  4. This is a wonderful post, Nilly! I love your patchwork pictures they are fantastic and stand up more than well to the delightful Maid of Kent's piece and also to the real masters of the art you show here. Stunning stuff. Axxx

    1. Oh dear - you're making me blush!

  5. thank you for this post. your pieces are fantastic. the cat dreaming is really lovely. i am knee-deep in quilt production right now, 12 hours a day, and switching my internal eye to the possibilities of what you presented is really a breath of fresh air!

    1. I'm glad to be of help! Textiles are a wonderful area to work in - so much variation & beauty!

  6. I have just dashed downstairs, made a coffee and had the most wonderful time looking at this and your two previous posts. Such variety! Breathtaking stitchwork on this post in particular. Isn't this just the joy of blogging, being able to share what it out there....? (Including wonderful tattoos!)

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