This year for my birthday my lovely mother-in-law gave me a great gift which helped supplement my sewing kit quite well: a pair of heavy-duty fabric shears, a bunch of thread, muslin and interfacing.  This meant, of course that I had to organizse my sewing basket to make room for my new goodies - and given that organizing is one of my very favorite things to do, it made for a great late morning activity.  Once I got it all sorted out, I was feeling very inspired to get some sewing done.  So I spent the greater part of the afternoon and early evening knocking together some pillows for our dining room chairs.  For the interior pillows, I cut up some old pillow cases and sewed to size; I filled them with a bit of left-over polyfibre fill I had laying around from a previous project.  I didn't have enough for four pillows, so I tore apart an old couch cushion, robbed it of its insides and stuffed it into my new pillows.  For the outer cover, I used gray felt fabric I picked up from a recent charity shop for a great price.  The designs came from an old bit of IKEA fabric which used to make up the shell of the recently dessimated couch cusion.   This was probably my first big sewing project in several years and I have to say I'm quite happy with the result.  I think I could really get into this whole sewing thing you know!
My friend, Adelaide (a textile artist), and I are currently working on a collaborative "pairing" project.  It works like this: we send each other found objects from our studio - we're not meant to think about it too much, just quickly pick something based on gut instinct; then we respond to what the other has sent to us, by altering it in some fashion or placing it a new environment.  Then, we send our "responses" back to each other, we each respond again, and repeat the process until we finally achieve a finished piece of work.  We're in stage 1.  And this is what I've come up with so far - it's early days and just the start, so be kind in your judgements.  I'm really excited to see where this journey takes us! 
Graham Sutherland
Several weeks ago I visited Modern Art Oxford and perused their exhibition Graham Sutherland, An Unfinished World.  This collection features works on paper that Sutherland - a British artist - created during his time as a WWII war artist in response to his return to Pembrokeshire.  This was my first introduction to Sutherland and my first response was a bit lacklaster.   I appreciated his loose, abstract style and the energy he was able to capture in the seemingly static subject of landscapes, but I found his application be confusing and muddied at times; there was so much darkness and a lack of contrast that I found it easy to dismiss the work as unresolved sketchbook studies. 

This past weekend I took a trip which offered fresh perspective on Sutherland's work.  My husband and I embarked on a two-day backpacking excursion with a group of friends in Carneddau, Snowdonia in Northern Wales.  The shape of the landscape immediately brought the artist's renderings of the Welsh landscape to the forefront of my mind.  I suddenly understood his jagged - almost violent - linework; his use of strong, dark colours.  There is at once something very serene and yet foreboding about that landscape; the way the views of the soft, rolling plains of green hills landscaped by the lazy grazing sheep are quickly interrupted by steep rock formations, some of which are overwhelming in their size and shape.  This is a pattern repeated as you hike over these mountain formations; one moment you're walking over spongy grasslands, the next scrambling over weathered rocks.  The hike gave me a whole new perspective on the works by this artist and his used of energetic lines and dark, swirling colours.

I re-visited Sutherland's exhibition not long before going on this trip and found his work to be less angry and more colourful than I had remembered it.  Which in a way, is not unlike climbing a mountain.  There are times when it's easy to dismiss the beauty surrounding you as you focus on  the physical challenge involved in reaching a summit; but once you're on top and you have a moment to catch your breath you are able to drink in the stunning landscape and realize part of the beauty is in the effort because without it, you never would be rewarded with such a fanstastic view.   And without taking the time to appreciate the artist and the story behind their work, you might walk away lacking the perspective required t