1966 - 1986
The Early Years
I was just fourteen, when one day my art teacher brought a library book about Batik in to school and, fascinated by the medium, we decided to have a go.
We bought fabric dyes from a local dye works and started experimenting. It turned out that we’d bought screen-printing fabric dyes by mistake. The use of these ‘wrong dyes’ has given my work its very distinctive look and I still use the same type of dyes to this day.
However, my Batik work at school was suddenly curtailed one dramatic day, when spilt wax I was working with caught fire and set light to the art room floor! The fire was quickly put out but our Batik lessons at school were banned. Luckily, I was able to persuade my long-suffering parents to let me set up a studio at home …
My first ever piece of Batik done in 1966, was made by dripping a lit candle held in a bent sellotape tin, gripped with pliers! These curtains were hung and re-hung in every house my parents lived in till my mum died in 2010.
This was the first piece to be back-lit. When I was debating whether to do Batik or pottery for my O Level Art, this would have been my Batik exam piece. In the end I chose pottery!
At this time, I was living on an old Thames barge houseboat, where I set up a very basic Batik studio in the unconverted stern, in which to do my work.
I love old junk shops. In one, I found a very damaged stained glass panel from an old Victorian door and decided to copy it in Batik. With light shining through the waxy fabric, the colours look really vibrant, just like stained glass.
Many pieces made in my barge studio were shown in my first big exhibition in Isleworth in 1972, the proceeds of which paid for a honeymoon in America.
The cold winter temperatures on the barge often meant working in many layers of clothes, gloves and moon boots!
I made this umbrella after someone unguardedly suggested to me that it would be an impossible task! The wax in the fabric makes it beautifully waterproof and I used it daily when I lived in Lancashire (yes, it does rain every day!) until it became too fragile.
A copy of an old Chinese plate I bought in a junk shop. The plate was so crazed and cracked, it reminded me of Batik. The old plate still hangs on my kitchen wall today – rivets and all!
These last two rather sad pictures were done when I was first struggling as a single parent, depressed and scared, trying to make enough to support two young children, as an artist without a ‘proper job’.
It was at this low point that I gave myself a good talking to. I soon realised I’d better stop feeling sorry for myself and start making a living doing what I was best at.
When look back I see that this was when my career as a commercial Batik artist really began ….
🔴 These pieces sold in the ’50 Years of Batik’ exhibition