Sharing Indigo

An Impromptu Indigo Session

On Saturday I ran an Indigo session, in fact it was the first one since having my son over a year ago now, and it was immensely enjoyable. The emphasis of it was about sharing the indigo vat in order to reduce waste liquid after dyeing. The session was different to a workshop because I offered no teaching, little explanation about the dye and people had to bring their own fabric and other materials they wanted to use.

My accomplice, artist Michael Storrs, had already gained experience of indigo first hand from his own travels far and wide about Japan. He brought with him the most exquisite vintage fabrics I had ever seen, of thick cottons and hemps and an antique indigo jacket made up of hand sewn indigo patches, likely to have once been worn and handed down through a Japanese family of farmers.


On the day we set the vat going and, like all vats the results are never quite as you expect. This vat was not as dark as we would have wanted it to be but still, we came away with pleasing results.

Michael Indigo

I attempted to dye paper as well as fabric which had a wax resist I had previously applied using antique Indonesian Thjamps. These have been loaned to me by my very dear friend and excellent artist, Sue Bamford. I am enjoying experimenting with them. My fabrics will be transformed into scarves and Michael’s will become artistic book covers to house drawings and paintings on rice paper.

Indigo samples

I plan to hold several Indigo session throughout the coming year at my workshop eARTh, please let me know if you would be interested or would like to join or start a session, Ive had lots of positive expressions of interest, so maybe next month…


Flax, beeswax and egg yolks

Flax, beeswax and egg yolks


Flax, beeswax and egg yolks with Clare Thomas started out with a curious prompt for ours and particularly Pete Ward’s use of PVA in paint making with earth pigments. Clare Thomas disapproved of our use of plastics and was determined to show us how simple it is to use other binders including making egg tempera, gum arabic with glycerin, rabbit skin glue and gesso. A few more other personal experiments were conducted including seaweed ink and coffee ink. The pungent smells erupting from our studio were very memorable!


I was skeptical at first, I had dabbled with various binders including egg tempera, gum arabic and corn flour when I first started using earth pigments. Out of ease and as a cheaper option I chose to use PVA. However, I was never pleased with the matt finish and always wanted a more glossy lustre to my paintings. It is so easy to achieve this lustre without PVA and it doesn’t cost very much at all.


The mix of gum arabic and glycerin can last for more than one painting session if it is topped up with water next time. It is also more satisfying as you don’t have to pour ‘gloopy’ PVA into pots but instead luscious liquids are made from crystals and powders which feel like alchemy and magic to make!

Artist Workshop Details


As well as her previous research back in Canada, Clare spent 2 weeks using the studio at eARTh to build up a body of work on paper and canvas, making brushes and exploring the local area of Ilfracombe and the wider area of North Devon. Her research culminated in a one day workshop and an evenings talk. Participants loved it and although they had been aware of the techniques they had never before had a chance to try them out.

Artist evening talk


So, Thanks very much Clare, your residency certainly was a grand venture for you and a grand departure for us and my art making. I look forward to more experimentation as I keep painting and will be working towards giving demonstrations and more workshops on this in the future.

(I) Flax, beeswax and egg yolks, advert for Clare Thomas, designed by P Ward, 2015

(II) Clare Thomas research at Fremington Quay, photos by F Owen, 2015

(III) Clare’s personal research at eARTh, photos by F Owen, 2015

(IV) Clare’s workshop at eARTh, photos by F Owen, 2015

(V) Clare’s evening talk at eARTh, photos by F Owen, 2015


The beginning of making an eARTh garment

The collaboration I am currently involved in has recently been expanded with the event of our first artist in residence programme, 2015, at eARTh.

Measuring for the garment

Measuring for the garment, Clare Thomas, Sue Bamford and Pete Ward at eARTh, North Devon © F Owen, 2015.

After 2 weeks of research into natural binders and paint making with earth pigments kindly led by artist Clare Thomas, we were joined by artist and seamstress Sue Bamford. Sue is an incredible seamstress/artist, she needed no encouragement to model the dressing!

Posing in the under garment!

Posing in the under garment (Sue Bamford)  © F Owen, 2015.

It was a day of expressive painting and sewing onto fabric. The result will feature in the summer exhibition, Painting Together, at the White Moose Gallery in Barnstaple, North Devon.


Expressive Painting! © F Owen, 2015.

The fabric became so painted on to that the plastic ‘smock’ which was worn underneath was not enough to keep the paint from going onto her tights and her knickers! Like the true strong spirited artist that she is, she kept on working and we all had a lot of fun, as you can see!

I kept returning to the same question I had asked before, “What does the act of painting onto fabric mean and how is it different to painting onto canvas?” Fabric is somehow more freeing because it is not tied to the parameters of a canvas, it moves freely, reacts differently but can sometimes be equally troublesome as it demands a different treatment.

The cloth before its sewn

The painted garment drying in the studio © F Owen, 2015.

The act of transforming the fabric into a garment seemed inevitable, employing the high class skills of Sue and then what naturally follows, is the act of wearing the garment which I feel may become somewhat ritualistic and hope to steer away from but we will see as the project unfolds. Below is the painting which was made during the performance..

The painting underneath

The painting made on the floor during the performance by all four of us © F Owen, 2015.

costume dance, earth pigments and rabbit skin glue on canvas with clare thomas, sue bamford, pete ward and francesca owen 2015

The painting made during the performance by all four of us © F Owen, 2015.

For The Love of Art

Exercises in Collaborative Painting, Experiencing the Collective Con-science

The totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average members of a society forms a determinate system with a life of its own. It can be termed the collective or creative consciousness.

-Emile Durkheim (I)

For the love of art, working together(II)

 eARTh’s first workshop of the year on Saturday successfully completed a group painting with 4 great workshop participants and two leaders. The large-scale participatory painting was 1.5 x 2m and was made on primed cotton canvas using a selection of earth pigments, walnut ink, turmeric, sumac, gold powder and some acrylic embellishment.

Working together, for the love of art(III)

Participants were invited to bring their favourite artists materials to share in the joy of making work together. So much time is spent as an artist alone in the studio making work, using materials and gathering concepts,  I am aware that a vast amount of what an artist does remains unseen. This workshop was about revealing the invisible work of an artist and celebrating in the joy and love of making.

Preliminary sketches


During the workshop, ideas were born and fears were shared about the nature of collaborative works: another person painting over another’s patch, the act of letting go and being out of control, the element of surprise as work turns out rather differently to how one makes their own piece of art, along with notions of ownership within the collaboration, ideas of copyright, sales, moving and storage were also questioned.

For the love of art final piece


A great day was had by all and the seed was sown for many more collaborative paintings to be made with various artists and shown at an exhibition in North Devon in June and July this year, so keep watching for updates and more details.

(I) Kenneth Allan; Kenneth D. Allan (2 November 2005). Explorations in Classical Sociological Theory: Seeing the Social World.

(II) Working together, offering spices to the canvas!

(III) Working together, workshop participants and one leader

(IV) Working together, preliminary sketches and thoughts.

(V) For the Love of Art, Workshop Group Painting (earth pigments, pastels, turmeric powder, sumac on canvas, 1.5x2m) 

Sea Glass, See Glass

Heleseaglass2014-12-22 15.58.49

I browse the shore looking for glittering shiny objects,

Scanning the surface of the beach,

Searching for what the sea chucks up,

Carried forth on the waves and buried among the sand,

Look closely, catch a glimmer,

Look away and you might lose it,

Shades of blue, clear, brown, turquoise and emerald green,

I reach down to pick one up,

I see another, and another,

The search for sea glass is captivating,

I remind myself to look up and to scan the wide horizon,

My search for sea glass overrides and I look down again

But now my pocket is full, wet and heavy from the collection

And Noah’s jar at home is already half-way full!

Hele Bay, North Devon

Photos taken at Hele Bay, Hele, North Devon ©F Owen 2015

For The Love of Art, Latest Workshop Details

For the Love of Art flyer

You are warmly invited to, “For The Love of Art”

our next workshop at eARTh…
We are presently compiling workshops, talks and other events for 2015 and here is the first one!
For The Love of Art is a day workshop to share in the joy of making. The day will be structured around making, eating and talking.
  • The day will start at 11am for introductions to each other and your own favourite artist materials.
  • We will then start making a large communal painting together on canvas.
  • Enjoy a special celebratory lunch made by us.(Please tell us about any special dietary requirements on booking)
  • Then continue to work on the canvas, on paper and share the materials we have all bought interspersed with further conversation and discussion.
  • 5pm close
So, materials, studio space and lunch will be provided but please bring your own ‘favourite’ materials to use and share. Things might get messy so please wear your work clothes. If you have any questions please get in touch.
We hope you can join us for our first workshop of the year, For The Love of Art!
Please share this post with anyone else who might be interested.
Best Wishes
Pete & Francesca