Blossom and Thorn Research

Over the last month I’ve invited people local to the National Forest Way to look at hedges and share their findings for my Blossom & Thorn project. This is part of the research for an artwork I am making for Timber Festival in July which tells stories about the hedges alongside the National Forest Way. The data collection ends today so if you have hedge stories to share, please do so right now! You can find the form here. My recent series of hedge posts for National Hedgerow Week are all linked below too.

I’ve been working away on the creative side as well as lots of hedge-spotting walks in my sketchbook and out in local hedges, testing ideas. These sample pieces are in my favourite field maple hedge in early May before it was fully in leaf and in a neighbouring hawthorn just coming into flower. I’ve still got lots of development to do and I’m excited to get onto the making process, bringing together all the stories collected and all my creative ideas.


Previous blog posts about hedges

Hedge walks

Like the hedges, my Blossom & Thorn project is in bloom now! Last weekend I led a guided walk along a section of the National Forest Way in Leicestershire. 14 of us (and one dog) explored several stretches of…

Keep reading

Timber Festival and Hedges

My Blossom & Thorn project exploring hedges in the National Forest comes to fruition with a showcase of the artwork at Timber Festival this July. This week is National Hedgerow Week, the perfect time to get out and explore…

Keep reading

National Hedgerow Week

Why I love hedges In winter and early spring they can be the most amazing sculptural forms which never cease to fascinate me. In Spring they are bursting into leaf and blossom. Here in Leicestershire the Hawthorn or May…

Keep reading

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Worn Stories

Yesterday was the first of six sessions for a community project I’m running with Mandeep Dhadialla. We have been commissioned by ArtReach to create a project with refugees from around the world and now living in Leicester exploring stories of textiles & recycling. It was such an inspiring and enjoyable session with really fantastic conversations and creative work.

For this first session I shared a collection of world textiles which we will use throughout the project as our inspiration. We talked about embroidery and decoration in the clothing from the participants’ countries and cultures and we started the process of a creating a group artwork using these textiles as our source.

We made rubbings, tracings and drawings of the embellished and decorated cloth and we shared conversations about who made these stitches and the similarities and differences of cloth and culture around the world. The project continues weekly for a few weeks with the addition of printmaking and textile techniques and the collecting of stories of textile re-use and preservation which will all be shared at ArtReach’s Re/action festival in Leicester in August.

Working with this group and hearing their stories is also being very fruitful for my thinking about my own work on migration, refugees and displacement which I’ll be sharing more about in the coming months.

You can find out more about my work with communities and previous projects here. I’ve got some exciting collaborations and co-creation projects in development for the next couple of years including ones where anyone can get involved in sharing stories and contributing to my creative projects. Keep in touch to find out more via my email newsletter.

Following Paths and Hedges

One of the starting points of my Blossom & Thorn project about hedges along the National Forest Way has been my work on paths. This piece, on a wall boundary, represents a path, a walk, an escape route, a boundary. My work crosses over lots of elements of personal and landscape history at the moment and the stories intermingle, grow together like hedge branches and twining honeysuckle and rose.

During the development of the Blossom & Thorn project concept I chose to bring together my interest in paths and walking routes with this project about hedges. At one point I was thinking about hedges across the whole National Forest area which is 200 square miles and was far too big for a 6 month project! I realised the National Forest Way, a 75 mile long distance footpath winding across the National Forest, starting a couple of miles from my house, was the perfect container for this idea.

During this month volunteer hedge spotters are walking parts of the National Forest Way and using my hedge spotters guide to look closely and think about the hedges they find on their walks. The process of looking at hedges on a walk makes you slow down and consider your surroundings. I hope it is helping people learn new things and see their familiar landscape in new ways. By slow looking and thinking we can engage in depth with something new. By walking along footpaths we take our time and we also walk in the footsteps of thousands before us who would have known these hedges too.

This week is National Hedgerows Week and I encourage you to go out and look at rural and urban hedges while they are at their best, full of greenery and blossom, before the thorns become more obvious again in the winter. If you are near enough the National Forest Way in Leicestershire, South Derbyshire or Staffordshire, please share you findings about the hedges you see along the National Forest Way and be part of my project mapping and recording the fascinating linear forests our landscape is crisscrossed by. Find out more about taking part here. Volunteers can win tickets to Timber Festival and join me on a walk exploring the old hedgerows of the festival site as well as much more!

Behind the Hedgerow

During National Hedgerow Week I am sharing more about my Blossom & Thorn project creating artwork about hedges along the National Forest Way. Today I’m sharing a bit of behind the scenes about my developing ideas for the artwork I will be creating over the next couple of months to share at Timber Festival.

This project concept really started a year or so ago while walking locally across fields and past hedges. I’ve got a longer-term project about local landscape and history within walking distance of my house and hedges have formed part of this ongoing research. So when I saw the National Forest Arts Grants opportunity it made sense to come up with a project proposal involving landscape history and trees.

My proposal was to work with volunteers to walk in areas of the National Forest and identify historic landscape features like boundaries, abandoned farms and old woodlands, as well as old hedges, and from this create an artwork for Timber Festival.

In January I visited the Timber Festival site to consider how I might present some work within the trees and an old hedgerow caught my eye and suddenly clarified the project. I would make work about hedges in the National Forest and present it, if possible, in this old hedgerow.

My working drawing of the piece in situ is below, centre. The other images are pages from my project book as I work through various ideas of what I could make and what I would ask volunteer hedge spotters to investigate.

So now there are hedge spotters around the National Forest area walking parts of the National Forest Way and sending me their findings and hedge stories which I will incorporate into the artwork. There’s still time to take part, you can find out all the information here. And if you are already doing this, please don’t forget to send in your hedge discoveries by 31st May.


I’m sharing much more of my development of this project with my Maker Membership group. My Maker Membership is an online group for makers who want to build more meaning and research into their practice and want to learn from me and share with others. I also set a theme and creative brief for any members who want to explore new research and ideas along with. At the moment the theme is Woodlands to tie in with my Blossom & Thorn project. I’ve shared some recent experiments with quilts in woodlands and the background and development of this project around hedges. Membership is open for anyone who makes and wants to think about their practice, reflect and learn. There’s more information below.

If you are looking for a creative community with ongoing support and resources to challenge your thinking and take your creative practice further, have a look at my Maker Membership. It’s a monthly rolling membership that you can join any time. I create workbooks, blog posts and videos about all kinds of things including research, creative development and reflection. There’s also a lively community who share their work and their thoughts via the members chat and we meet monthly on Zoom for a group mentoring session which is always really inspiring and encouraging. It’s £25 per month to join with no minimum term. Find out more here.

Timber Festival and Hedges

My Blossom & Thorn project exploring hedges in the National Forest comes to fruition with a showcase of the artwork at Timber Festival this July.

This week is National Hedgerow Week, the perfect time to get out and explore some hedges near you. This project focuses on hedges alongside or near the National Forest Way long distance footpath but I encourage you to explore even if you are farther afield. If you are able to walk part of the National Forest Way, let me know about the hedges you find. There’s a hedge spotters guide here to download and I can post copies too. I’m collecting hedge stories until the end of May, then I’ll be focussing on making the artwork with the information I’ve gathered from volunteer hedge spotters.

The artwork will be made to fit a very old bit of hawthorn hedge I found on the Timber festival site when I visited in January to plan the project. It’s within woodland now so it’s hard to see that it was once a hedge. These lost hedges are fascinating to me, like traces of the landscape that has gone.

Left: Hedge as found in January. Middle: hedge in April Right: my rough drawing of how I will create the work and display it in the old hedge.

Timber is such a lovely festival, I’ve been a couple of times and really enjoyed it. This year will be completely different for me as I’ll be part of the festival not just a visitor, although I’ll be attending as much as I can as well as hanging out with my artwork and talking to people about it.

I was pleased to get a mention in this article about the Festival and can’t wait to be part of it. Anyone who volunteers to share their stories of hedgerows they have found along the National Forest Way can apply for free tickets to the festival which is a fantastic incentive I think! I’ll also be leading a free walk during the festival to look at ancient hedges around the festival site.

There’s still plenty of time to volunteer, walk and share your hedge stories by 31st May. Find out more here.

This project is funded by a National Forest Arts Grant

National Hedgerow Week

Why I love hedges

In winter and early spring they can be the most amazing sculptural forms which never cease to fascinate me.

In Spring they are bursting into leaf and blossom. Here in Leicestershire the Hawthorn or May blossom is just starting but there’s still some blackthorn left. I’ve also found some apple blossom recently too, as well as the verge plants like bluebells and hedge garlic coming through.

Different species of hedge trees come into leaf / flower at different times so in recent walks there have still been plenty of bare branches to enjoy as well as the fresh new leaves. Hedges will be completely different in a few weeks’ time so it can be really interesting to take a close look now and go back later and see what’s happening.

Look out for more posts about what I love about hedges, the inspiration I am exploring for this project and initial plans for the artwork I am creating.


For National Hedgerow Week (8-14 May), you might like to explore some of the National Forest Way in Leicestershire, Derbyshire & Staffordshire and share your hedge stories with me for my Blossom & Thorn project. I am collecting your findings about the hedges you find alongside the long-distance path to incorporate into an artwork which I will be sharing at Timber Festival in July.

With my hedge spotters guide you can walk and explore as little or as much as you like. Take your time to look at the trees and shrubs, search for signs of old hedge laying and see if you can spot hedges gone wild or hedges closely clipped and managed. Take the guide along with you and make notes to send to me. You can walk half a mile or 50 and send me one hedge report or lots using the online form here.

This project is supported by a National Forest Arts Grant.


Previous blog posts about Blossom & Thorn

Hedge walks

Like the hedges, my Blossom & Thorn project is in bloom now! Last weekend I led a guided walk along a section of the National Forest Way in Leicestershire. 14 of us (and one dog) explored several stretches of hedges in really varied condition. Some were closely clipped and others gone semi-wild, while others were entirely feral. Most of them had signs of old laying within them and we found a good variety of species including some unexpected like gooseberry!

The participants told me they had a lovely time, chatting with each other about their own nature enthusiasms and learning about hedges, fields, landscape history, trees and plants. It was a really fun experience for me to take others on my hedge walks as I do most of my hedge-spotting research walks by myself.

I’ve been exploring different parts of the National Forest Way for this project and have been to both places I know well and completely new routes. Last week I visited the Rosliston Forestry Centre, in the middle of the National Forest. The National Forest Way, the focus of this project, snakes around the site and into local fields and villages. I managed to visit on a beautiful sunny day and enjoyed a 3 mile walk with only a little bit of deep mud. I found my first old hedge immediately upon leaving the visitor centre (top left image below) and followed a line out into the village of Rosliston. This turned into a flourishing young hawthorn hedge around the churchyard with the remnant of a hedge opposite, one forming a green lane but now a stray hedge on an access road (top centre image).

I found some amazing old hedge trees turning into full sized ash trees (above left) and some fragments of hawthorn (centre) as well as some beautiful sheep and lovely spring hedge bottom plants like hedge mustard / garlic and bluebells.

I’ll be sharing more of my hedge discoveries, my sketchbook and plans for the artwork in the coming week for National Hedgerow Week.

In the meantime, please volunteer to share your hedge stories if you are near to the National Forest Way and can visit in the next few weeks before the end of May. Find out more here about taking part in this project. My project is supported by a National Forest Arts Grant.

Supporting Artist Projects

I’m always looking for new ways to share what I’ve learned the last 20 years or so and to support other artists to do brilliant work. I’ve recently had the privilege to work with Mandeep Dhadialla on a major commission for Leicester Museums. In the hope that this will be useful to others working on similar projects, or commissioning similar projects, I am sharing some of the experience here.

Running or working on a big commission or project can be really daunting. There are unfamiliar complexities in the planning, delivery and even in the negotiation and contracting stage with partners, museums, galleries, funders or all kinds of other people / organisations involved. Then there’s the challenge of planning and delivering participatory work, building relationships and making this all fit into the time available. The creative work often gets squeezed out in all of this development stuff and many artists find it really hard to work solo on a creative project and need someone to bounce ideas off. There are a lot of decisions in this kind of work and whether it’s your first project or your fiftieth, someone to share it with is incredibly valuable. Working alone is tough, especially on a pressured project. I know this from experience – and something I’ve learned and tried to implement in my own work is collaborating with someone or bringing in advice and support to every project, even if I have to pay for it myself.

There are constant decisions and negotiations with big projects and most of us don’t have experience of everything, the expertise to make decisions or the time to fit in all the elements of a major creative project, nor the brain space to deal with all of this whilst also conceiving and producing an original artwork or commission. It’s too much for one person. So here’s where I come in as the extra person. Over the 25+ years I’ve been in this creative sector, I’ve run projects that other people invented and I’ve also created them from scratch and seen them through from vague idea to major exhibition and pretty much everything in between. One of my greatest work joys is mentoring artists and supporting them to work in new ways, find their creative voice and do the kind of work that brings them alive.

To go back to Mandeep’s project, this one, Steam and Seeds, was a commission from Leicester Museums & Galleries to create a new piece of work inspired by Abbey Pumping Station and the associated environmental issues around water usage and treatment (aka sewage!). The finished work, three lino cuts showing the cyclical processes of water management, have been digitally-reproduced large scale and are on display at Highcross Shopping Centre now until 4th June.

I’ve been working with Mandeep for a couple of years on projects and as mentor and she asked me to help her work out what she wanted to say in the application, and in the end we decided that I would also be part of the application as project support / mentor / advisor. It’s hard to find the right job description for this kind of work and it would be different for each person and project. As I’m already mentoring Mandeep, this seemed like the right route, but I also did research into the subject matter (eg consulting my dad about sewage) and gave lots of advice and suggestions about the museum and how they work, as this is my background and specialism. Throughout the (very quick) commission process I was a second pair of eyes and ears, to share thoughts about design, complexity of construction, colours, details and other parts of the creative process. And I was there to support, advise, reign in when needed and encourage creative ambition where that was needed and overall help in whatever way was required to make this a successful project.

Ruth and I have been working together on projects and more closely, as my mentor in my artist practice for over a year. As working on an artist commission was a first experience for me, it was incredibly helpful to have the insight and expertise of someone who understands my approach and method of working. I invited Ruth to support, mentor and advice me as I navigated my way through the Abbey Pumping Station artist commission. Alongside tapping into her specialism of museums and research, her practical and logistical input into the creative side was a very welcomed balance of support helping to reign in my ideas to the very tight deadline – offering visual thoughts and encouragement when needed (during the very long days and nights). What was extra special about working with Ruth throughout all this was the “project after-care” I received. She gently reminded me that it was ok to take guilt free time off to process, absorb and recalibrate after a whirlwind three weeks; her regular, yet not overwhelming, check-ins made that easier to accept. As artists’ we often underestimate how much energy and every aspect of ourselves goes into each project and how that at the end of one feels like we come crashing down, so having Ruth on hand to kindly remind me to look after myself was equally as important as the support I received before and during the project – something I wish project funders would include in their budgets. Ruth’s holistic-like offering was spot on in every way, very little needs to be explained as an overall because she just gets it and that’s where the magic of working with her lies.

Mandeep Dhadialla

As an artist mentor my key role is to help the artist do their best work, with self-belief and focus. I try to provide a support structure to allow creative growth rather than a plan of how I think they should be doing it. For this project I was also able to have my museum hat on and thought a lot about what the museum would want out of it and what was important for them. There wasn’t chance for a lot of object-based research in this short project but that’s definitely something I would like to bring in more next time I work alongside an artist on a museum project – which I hope will be soon!

So what next?

I want to do more of this please! I have loved this way of working and I think it could work for others. I’ve already been talking to artists about me being part of their funding applications to be artist support / curator / advisor / project producer or any combination of those things. In this project I worked directly for the artist but I think this would be really beneficial for organisations to offer this kind of support to artists they are commissioning too. Organisations have a lot to do and aren’t usually able to provide 1:1 support and may not have access to specialist artist mentoring either, which is where I could come in.

My 1:1 artist mentoring is currently on pause while I catch up with other projects after being ill earlier this year but I will have new slots available from June. For the moment, my Maker Membership is a great way to get some light touch support from me and be part of a supportive creative community.

If you are looking for a creative community with ongoing support and resources to challenge your thinking and take your creative practice further, have a look at my Maker Membership. It’s a monthly rolling membership that you can join any time. I create workbooks, blog posts and videos about all kinds of things including research, creative development and reflection. There’s also a lively community who share their work and their thoughts via the members chat and we meet monthly on Zoom for a group mentoring session which is always really inspiring and encouraging. It’s £25 per month to join with no minimum term. Find out more here.

Blossom & Thorn – get involved

Blossom & Thorn is a creative project looking at hedgerows in the National Forest in the English Midlands. You can take part in the project by joining a guided walk and / or walking parts of the National Forest Way with my hedge guide and sharing what you find.

You can find all the information on the main page for the project here.

Guided Walk

Join the artist for a research walk on Saturday 29th April 10am-12pm at Newtown Linford, Leicestershire. This is approx 2 hours gentle walking mostly on footpaths with a couple of stiles and one road to cross. It will probably be muddy so please wear suitable footwear and waterproofs in case of rain. You can still volunteer if you can’t join this walk. Free! Book here

Share your own walks

Walk in your own time on sections of the National Forest Way that are near you and send me your observations about the hedges you see. This is open until the end of May as I will need the data to make the artwork in June. You can walk as little or as much as you wish and send me one hedge report or 20. There’s a digital or printed booklet to help you explore hedges and you can send me your hedge stories online. Full details here. Volunteers can also get free tickets to Timber Festival where the artwork will be displayed, 7-9 July 2023.

Creative Growth online exhibition

My Maker Membership is all about creative growth – learning new things, looking at your own work in new ways, connecting and sharing with others and taking your creative practice forward. I have invited current Membership to share their work in a new online exhibition focussing on how they have grown creatively through the membership and the community of other makers. I wanted to offer members an opportunity to show their work (some have not exhibited or shared their work at all before), to have a deadline to finish a new piece and to see what the others in the group have been working on. I am so pleased and proud to present a very eclectic but highly creative and thoughtful group of works. Have a look at the exhibition here.

The online exhibition of 13 members work, plus a group project and one of my new pieces of work, is available now until the end of April 2023.

If you would like to boost your creative growth through this group and the support I offer, membership is open to all makers. You can find out more about Membership here.