Thoughts about Making

Chris Offili once said ‘always remember that the studio is a laboratory and not a factory’ 

I am always inspired by curiosity; by a need to investigate things and how they work. To learn how materials work with tools and the hand.

My work is process focussed and it responds to the consciousness of my making. The intentionally slow work grows as it connects with the materials and the hands, responding to the heritage of these simple yet complex crafts . Head, heart and hand.

These diary pieces that I am making for our exhibition ‘time: make in Stroud next week record the progress and process as it moves iteratively from one experiment to the next; sometimes in order or more often a seemingly random approach with a tenuous link to the previous one. 

Exhibition dates: 14 – 18 September Lansdown Hall and Gallery Stroud

Susi Bancroft, Jean Kirk and Kay Swancutt


(So as to float without being moored or steered)

I feel adrift, trying out things to work on but not being able to concentrate or carry on with them. Flitting from one thing to another – not settling on anything.

Not really wanting to do any work – worse still not knowing what I want to do. Not seeing a way out.  This is most unusual for me and I need to accept this situation – stepping back for a time of reflection and stillness – allowing things to happen to be accepting.

I am not anxious about this – I feel calm in the knowledge that for me giving myself time will engender something positive without knowing what this is.

Step one is to tidy up my workroom and put away many of the different things I have been doing acknowledging that this is important and selecting one thing to work on for the moment – being with my materials and tools may well help. 

I seem to be drifting towards colour – can colour heal? I think we know the answer to that one. I think we know it does if we give it a chance.

Quinary are having a ‘working’ together virtual three days soon so that time is useful to me – I don’t know what will happen but that’s fine and almost required and it certainly doesn’t matter what physical work comes from it. – be open minded and open to all opportunities.


kay swancutt indigo dyed fleece hand spinning

kay swancutt plant dyed and hand spun

This is a title that I probably thought I would never use. Yesterday in our regular stitch group meetings we were set a challenge to think about ‘Aesthetic’. After a discussion the subject of colour came up within that context. One person commented that she identified a person with a colour and mine was blue which I found interesting as I have worked in whites for so long but do love blue. Another colleague commented on how she works in black but after moving to work in other colours she was ‘relieved’.

This got me thinking, I always work in ‘whites’ but why?I knew why whilst I was doing my research but by now is this a safe place I know? Oddly I began to think that I create all these amazing colours with plant dyes but they rarely appear in any finished pieces either small or large why? These two processes seem to exist in isolation why?

There are many opportunities to work with my plant dyed materials as mostly I either grow or forage them and at many points they can be blended into other colours i.e. the dye process, carding, spinning, stitch and weaving. A great deal to think about.


‘Culture and nature are intimately tied in the making of textiles. When sun-dried fibers are spun by hand, the spinsters’ fingers and the spinning wheels follow a trend set by the way plants have already curled and died.
When weavers interlace their threads, they do more than mimic the techniques witnessed in nature among tangled lianas, interwoven leaves, twisted stems, bacterial mats, birds’ nests, and spiders’ webs.’ (The Object of Labour Art,Cloth and Cultural Production)

Hand dyed with plant materials and hand spun

This quote resonates with me as I have noted in previous posts, my intention is to try and work from earth to finished piece and all the steps along the way to consider this connection. This makes for a very slow process and even sometimes not finished pieces at all. This is fine by me as I believe that for me the process and a somewhat aimless approach produces more creative ideas than if I had to focus on a finished piece.

New Year

I woke up early this morning whilst it was still dark and for some reason began thinking about the nature table at my primary school. (It was a long time ago)

How excited I was every day to see what was new on the table – bits of bark, bundles of moss,the odd dead thing, leaves, twigs all to be identified by our very clever teacher who at the end of term gave us all a beautiful blue hyacinth in a pot. I loved all the individual pieces and also loved how they came together as a collective display.  I have always loved small things that make up a whole.

It made me think of an exhibition that might work like this.  For a long time now my friend Susi and I have discussed the possibility of an exhibition that might focus on process; viewers coming to an exhibition often only see the end product of a long research and experimentation programme to bring that piece to the wall. I think viewers miss out if the selecting, reviewing, experimenting and decision making isn’t seen at all. Sometimes this is seen in an artists sketchbook but I don’t use a sketchbook in that way.

This exhibition is in the planning and Susi, together with my sister Jean are planning an exhibition for 2022.

I have begun some new stitched work using my already plant dyed materials both cloth and thread and have given myself permission to make small pieces and allow them to be themselves and see what happens if or when ………

Spinning / Walking

When I was out on a walk today I likened my steps to spinning as I watched the beautiful red and yellow leaves spiralling from the trees

Step, step, step, twirl, twirl, twirl. The thread builds on the spindle as the steps of the walk build into the homecoming. I want to try spinning whilst I am walking; my fingers seem to know how to work the spindle without me looking too much. I wonder whether the pace of the walk will influence the spindle or the other way around.

Spinning is both a meditation and a fascination to me that its possible to ‘make yarn’ from a bundle of fluff and I am always drawn to the spindle. The connection for me with earlier peoples using similar equipment to me to make similar yarns fills me with community, connection and continuence.

Indigo dyed fleece being spun on my Turkish spindle

Weaving: Time

This work is about time; time taken, time being, time valued, time spent and time validated.

The time taken to choose the materials, slowly selecting the warp, warping up and winding the shuttles. Importantly being present when the weaving is taking place.

Weaving is a meditative time and the relationship between the materials, process and me is a closely guarded time.

The piece is a visual record of the experience and the quiet simple work is the reality of the experience that talks about the flow that occurs when in the present moment.

This beautiful image was taken by the young talented photographer Dylan Roles. Many thanks Dylan


I love this image, thread warped up and waiting; the possibilities are now endless to what happens next. Its a quiet time reflecting on what these warps will hold, and how they will respond to my hands and to each other as I begin to challenge them but allow them a voice of their own. The outcome is almost completely unknown to me; as a new weaver I am experimenting with the materials that I am using and its always a surprise to see what happens, that’s what is so exciting about textiles; the materials have a voice as individuals but also as a collective.


I have decided to use my blog as a point of reflection in these times. I have started to weave this year; not an unusual move as my interest in the fundamentals of cloth itself has been a profound factor in my research for many years and continues to be so. The making of cloth has focused me on the process itself and teaching myself to spin both on a drop spindle and a wheel has informed my ideas around my love of earth to object more fully. Hand stitching is still an important part of my practice and I feel that the hand stitching informs my weaving and my weaving informs my stitch. Growing, processing and using my own dye plants is also included and important to me.