Exhibitions, looking back at 2017


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Preparing for, and selecting pieces for exhibitions is a time consuming task, and although I’ve done this many times it doesn’t necessarily get any easier! In 2017 I made work for, or sent work, to venues that were very different. Walford Mill in Wimborne Minster, Dorset, is a fabulous venue that always has an amazingly eclectic selection of artworks from small and delightful, to the thought provoking and dramatic. I was asked to send 3 pieces to Textile Textures from April to June, and was lucky enough to have this piece, “Poppies Beneath The Downs” featured on all the publicity. It didn’t come home!

Carol Naylor, Poppies beneath the Downs UK copy

I also made work for an exhibition with a local group of contemporary artists called ARTel, on the theme of Transience. I worked on the idea of sky, and the fleeting moments of colour that we see at different times of thEPSON MFP imagee year. I exhibited a series of six pieces, only 5 inches square, but mounted an framed to 12 inch squares, intimate, densely stitched, with rich overlapping lines of embroidery. Showing with artists who worked in paint, print, clay and photography was a very worthwhile and challenging experience.

Carol Naylor, Skyscape-sunset

Recently I held a joint exhibition with my painter husband Albert at the local  Oxmarket arts centre, Paintings, drawings and textiles that combined to give what we hoped was a rich and diverse experience. Some images follow.

2017-09-25 14.42.312017-09-25 14.42.572017-09-25 14.42.24

Art and Textiles from Spain to Scotland


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As always a busy summer schedule included work and play! Our usual month away in Spanish hideaways, wonderful landscapes for inspiration, staying with friends who are like family, was swiftly followed by a flight to Glasgow to teach for the Scottish Region of the Embroiderers Guild on the stunning campus at Stirling University. You can see some of my drawings here, plus examples from the summer school, an amazingly responsive group of students who played and worked hard in equal measure! The first images are from Spain, followed by a selection of work from Stirling summer school.

Sunflowers near Sepulveda, sketch book drawing. I hope to use this and the second drawing as starting points for embroideries this autumn.


2017-07-30 10.25.32Carol Naylor drawing

This is the wonderful Posada de San Millan in Sepulveda where we stay with our delightful friend Pilar.

2017-07-29 16.17.17


Lavender and sunflowers growing in fields side by side on the tiny road between Santo Domingo de Silos, and Lerma inspired this memory drawing as there was nowhere to stop the car safely!

Lavender an Sunflower001Carol Naylor drawing


And now for Scotland. The wonderful campus at Stirling University


Here are some if the wonderful pieces made by my students. The theme was The Land we Know so nearly all had images from the wonderful landscapes of Scotland. Many of them had only done basic machine embroidery before. It shows what you can achieve in under 4 days. Maybe the late evening wine helped! There were 15 students so I can’t really show all the work here, but I felt so proud of their achievements.

,20170827_172106 By Ruth Blakey, taught by Carol Naylor

20170827_171035by Isobel Shaw, taught by Carol Naylor

20170827_171838by Maureen Griffiths, taught by Carol Naylor

20170827_195234 (1)by Susan Gray, taught by Carol Naylor

I think these give an idea of what is possible if you are brave enough to fly on your sewing machine!

Skyscapes, preparing new ideas


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Working towards a new exhibition is always challenging. I recently joined a group of  contemporary artists called Artel, all of us based in, or near the city of Chichester in the UK. The theme is Transience. This started a train of thought that began with my passion for the natural world. One of the most transient aspects for me is the sky. Skies change as you look at them, colours and cloud formations drift, move, merge, disappear. The light changes constantly, and the winds create rhythmic patterns that dance and swirl, offering endless possibilities that are perfect for abstracting and experimenting.

Capturing moments in time like this with a sewing machine is not easy. Over a period of months I made notes or quick sketches that were no more than a series of hasty lines. I took photos to help me remember colours, although these were soon ignored as ideas began to form. I NEVER work directly from a photo but use them as aides-memoire. Here are some pieces. They are small compared to my usual works, between 4-6 inches square, (10-16 cms) but who knows, maybe they will lead onto larger pieces later this year.

The first image is from a sunset, and the second a late afternoon sky

Carol Naylor, Skyscape-sunset

Little Skyscape Carol Naylor

This is a drawing/collage from my sketchbook. It has helped me make decisions, although it’s not been used as a direct starting point as I had intended to make a much larger piece, but a broken wrist got in the way!

Transiense drawing001 copy

and finally an explosion of gold and blues influenced by the collage above- I think I like it best so far! Your comments would be interesting and helpful.

Carol Naylor, skyscape, early evening

Spanish and Italian Reds


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I’m not talking wine here for those who know me well (!) but this is a follow up to my last post, where I looked at using the colour red in my work. Below you will see a number of contrasting pieces where different red tones and threads have been used either as one of the main colours or as highlights within the compositions. I always use first hand experience, even if its just a fleeting glimpse of something that can inspire a series of works. The first embroidery is called “Sol y Sombra” which translates as sun and shade. The image comes from the landscape of central Spain near Santo Domingo de Silos. The light  was pouring through the valley, with golden wheatfields, terracotta earth, and blue shadows reflecting the mountains, catching my eye. After drawing on  site, when back home, I stripped out the vegetation so that I could concentrate on the land’s surface, and the act of stitching took over.

I am always interested in hearing what readers think so your comments are welcomed.

Sol y Sombra cropped

This next piece is called “Winter’s Song”, memories of cool light and chillier weather and the changes wrought by these conditions on the landscape.

C Naylor Winters Song

I showed this next piece in my post entitled ” From Drawings to a Stitched Landscape” where you can see how I developed the piece, but its so very red it needs to be seen again here! The cascading fields were seen against a backdrop of wheatfields and distant blue hills, Spain at its hottest and best, rich with colour and the sounds of insects.


From the fiery reds of Spain now to the rolling Tuscan hills peppered with poppies. I use a crimson rather than a scarlet thread in this series as I feel it echoes the landscape more softly. I called this “Tuscan Serenade”. I never tire of playing with ideas that take me back in my mind to Italy, with its cypresses, hills and late springtime poppies that permeate the fields.

Tuscan Serenade

Finally the following embroidery was a small commission for a French family who requested a red landscape. I took the reds from Spain and mountain ranges from France, and really enjoyed the challenge of adding richer scarlet colours combied with metallic copper and gold threads. Its about 20cm square.

Bouton 1_edited-1

The Colour Red-poppies and memories 1


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I find red one of the most difficult colours to work with, and tend to add it into a piece of work to provide richness, splashes of colours, and to represent flowers such as poppies without trying to “copy” a flower. In this post you will see some of the landscape that has inspired me, and I explain some more stitch techniques. Sizes given are always for the actual embroidery and dont include mounts, or framing.

This poppy field in France was the start of what became a gentle obsession, looking for glimpses of scarlet amongst the corn, grasses and wheat in France, England and Italy. This post looks at French and English imagery


I made a series of works where I used photos to jog my memory, and then drew directly onto my base canvas having put the photos away. The following piece is one that I felt worked well. I used cable stitch from the reverse side for much of the work (explained in my last post, From Drawings to a Stitched Landscape) and then put a heavy red woollen Burmilana/lana no 12 in the bobbin, loosened the bobbin case screw horribly(!) tightened my top thread, a normal no 30, and stitching on  the correct side of the canvas the top thread whipped the red thread through. If you try this be prepared to scream and shout a lot as threads do sometimes break! Its called “Glimpses of Scarlet and Gold” 21 x 28cm approx and was based on fields on France.


In the first smaller piece the red contrasts with the softer colours of cornfields as this is from my local landscape, The South Downs 14cm x 18cm approx embroidery size. The second one is smaller still, 10cm x 13cm, and is called “Poppies Ablaze”. Here I went back to cable stitch couching the heavy red from the back, then turning to the front and wandering across the red freely with greens and golds to get a feel of intensity broken by line



In my next post I’ll look at reds used in other landscapes from Italy and Spain and a private commission where “red” was requested!


From drawings to a stitched landscape


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I have recorded here some of the stages of my most recent embroidery, completed this week, and would welcome your comments. The drawing was done in central Spain near Covarrubias last summer. I have shown some of the stitching as it develops, explaining the processes that resulted in this final piece, a Spanish landscape that contrasts strongly with my gentler South Downs pieces.

Here is the drawing, A4, pencil, pastels, watercolour pencils, and pen.


The planning stage with mainly Madeira threads, Natesh and Wonderfil added later


I draw a few main lines directly onto the painters canvas, stitch them in and then turn to the back as most of the work is done with cable stitch. This technique means putting threads that are too heavy to go through the eye of the needle on the bobbin. I stitch on the reverse side of the canvas, couching down the heavy threads to give long, uninterrupted lines of threads- the next image shows me workimg from the back. The top thread colour is important as it affects the bobbin thread adding new  colours to the piece eg the bright red is couching down a heavy metallic copper underneath.


I have to keep turning to the front, shown next, to make sure I’m happy with what I’m doing, but as the bobbin runs out every 3 minutes I get plenty of opportunity to correct any errors and add any fine details. You can see below that the fabric starts to move and undulate. I “go with the flow” in the hope I can control the final results!


-and here it is, 24cm x 35cm approx. The drawing is  only ever a guide, as once I start stitching, the thought processes and techniques take over. I never try to copy my sketches, but aim to translate and interpret. Hope you found this useful and interesting!



Sketchbooks, the 90s


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My first entry for 2017 and it’s a look at my sketchbooks in the 90s. All the drawings here are from 1991-92 and there’s quite a change of direction. I started looking at architecture and architectural features, so here are drawings from France and Spain. I also show two embroideries that evolved from the drawings.

Carol Naylor Beach Umbrellas 1993

Beach Umbrellas, Costa Brava.( machine embroidery onto muslin) The embroidery came after making about six drawings. The first, which is the delicate pencil drawing below, was made in situ on the beach. Then I made several others, extracting shapes and lines until I felt I was ready to stitch. The final piece in no way copies my drawings but I hope shows the developing ideas


beach Umbrella sketch 3

I visited France on a field trip with students, Chartres and the Matisse chapel at Vence were just two venues. Here are some designs I did after looking at Matisse’s amazing windows.( the on site sketches are difficult to show here) I eventually did a series of embroideries based on stained glass but with my own take! So you see. I didnt always makw landscapes! Art evolves all the time– The embroidery below was onto calico that I painted and then stitched.







Sketchbooks revisited, the 80s part 2


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Some more drawings from my 1980s sketchbooks to look at, from a garden in France to a student field trip to Munich via Garmisch Partenkirchen. I  did not always draw with end products in mind, but to record where I was, what I was thinking and so on. Many pages are too messy or sketchy to put here, but I’ve found a few that show my journey They are shown in chronological order . Next post-the 90s! The first drawing was made in a garden in Cesson, France 1982. One of my followers might recognise the venue!

All drawings approx 20cm x 18cm French garden 1982 Detail followed by full page .



The alps at Garmisch in 1986 and yes it was cold drawing outside so it was done very quickly!


Fruit bowl 1985, pencil and coloured pencils, drawing what’s in front of whilst the TV was on


This is a pastel drawing from 1989. I was looking at landscapes and playing with potential ideas for embroidery. I did work  up a series, but only have a couple on old fashioned slides!


In 1989 we seemed to keep coming across standing stones, dolmens, rocky formations on our travels, so lots of drawings did lead to a series of works in handmade pulp with additional stitch and fibres. Here’s a drawing and one of the final pieces which I made for an exhibition in 1990. The drawing uses pastel and a tippex pen



see you in the 90s next time!

Sketchbooks revisited, the80s


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With over 35 years of sketchbooks in my studio I decided to look back to see what I was doing at various times during my career. It has been somewhat revelatory! I drew differently, often more boldly, without holding back, used a wider variety of media, and  frequently explored ideas that I thought I could use with my students. Back in the 80s with a fulltime lecturing post and a young family, I did make my own work, and had several exhibitions in the south of England, but I have no real record of those in visual terms. Do take a look at my drawings and ideas from the 1980s. You might be as surprised as I was!

This is from 1986. I photocopied some images, including pieces by Henry Moore, cut fragments up, pasted them down, then drew freely from them, inventing a surreal landscape. It was an exercise I did quite often, I found several in different books during this decade. I did quite a lot of mono printing and also batik at this time.


Here’s a more formal drawing from 1983 and its one of the few drawings I remember doing. On a field trip with students to Florence and Venice, on a cold, rainy March day, I sat in the Duomo in St Marks Square, and drew what was in front of me. You can see the date in the bottom lefthand corner. Its bolder and more direct compared to my current architectural studies and stays in the memory far longer than a photo!


The following mixed media piece shows me playing with pastels and pencils, thinking about land and sea in an abstract way. Its dated 1986. I did a lot of papermaking at this time, and this would have been part of my thought processes. I rather like it!


We spent several years as a family on a gite in France in Brittany. Here’s a drawing I’d totally forgotten, of the lake at Le Lendu. 1987 Pencil, pen and pastel


and finally, from my 1989 sketchbook, an abstracted drawing from a friend’s garden using pastels. Now I’m thinking I need to look at these again and start stitching from them! More to follow in my next post–