Sowing at other partner gardens

As well as using the plot at Tuppenny Barn (previous blog) I am using other spaces to grow my plants.

My base garden is The Garden @ Art Space, an area of tarmac next to Art Space Portsmouth that I have helped to turn into a little green oasis in the middle of Portsmouth. Because there is no soil to plant into we created beds from the bags sand, gravel, etc. gets delivered to builders, to hold the soil, surrounded by decking panels. The garden has won 13 local and regional awards over the last 6 years. This year some of these beds have been cleared of their plants and prepared to host my plants. I don’t know what the judges will think of my crops!

Richard, who assists in the garden most Tuesday mornings, helped me sow the flax in one of the beds. I made the drills and then we very carefully put the slippery seeds in the rows. Then a criss-cross of sticks and string was created, to try and stop the local cats from digging it all up! They have come up well and the string worked!

I have also helped at the Aspex Gallery / Greenspace garden behind Milton Library in Portsmouth. While others where giving the site a general tidy up, I was planting some of the veg beds. As well as putting in some tomatoes and strawberries, I also planted some red onion sets that I donated. The outer skins of these will be used for my project to either make into paper or to dye other plant material with a nice warm glow.

An unexpected extra garden I am now using belongs to Sharon, a good friend from Bedhampton, just outside Portsmouth. She is not able to use her veg patch this year and she offered it to me to grow my plants on. Ian, her husband, cleared the space of the annual weeds and it was ready for me to sow my flax seeds. I will go back soon with more of that ‘funky corn’ and other plants. I can also use other plant material from around her garden. This will be a great help to my project and give me new plants to play with.

The Garden @ Art Spacewww.artspace.co.uk/garden
Aspex / Greenspace gardenwww.aspex.org.uk/events/spring-painting-planting-a…


Flax sowing at Tuppenny Barn

Since hearing that I didn’t get my Arts Council funding I’ve not been sitting around moping. I’ve been very busy working on my project, especially starting to get my plots ready and sowing my crops.

My main partner garden at Tuppenny Barn, Southbourne, West Sussex, (www.tuppennybarn.co.uk) have been very helpful and given me a plot of land to grow my specific plants on, as well as using other plants from around their site, and there is a wide variety to chose from. The main crop I am growing there is flax. Not the type grown by farmers for linseed, which is shorter, but a variety called ‘Marilyn’ which is grown for the long fibres and once processed, a technique called retting, used to produce linen. If all goes well this will be used to make one of the main papers I will use for book making.

I actually went to sow my first crop the afternoon that I heard from ACE, and was the perfect antidote to the bad news. A lovely sunny afternoon, and with help from my mum and Becca Theed from Tuppenny Barn, the plot was lightly dug over and prepared ready to sow the flax. I’m well known for my straight lines and precision in my other work and so this was ideal for me, sowing the seeds in nice straight lines. It was just a pity that I left the instructions on how to do it properly on the kitchen table! However, it all seemed to work well.

2 weeks later I got a message and photo from Becca showing that the seeds had come up. I went back later that week to sow a second batch. I’m not too sure what happened to the first lot, but they came up quite white and weedy, not a nice, healthy green. Now, a few weeks later, both sections are looking healthy, although the first batch are a bit patchy. I’m going back tomorrow to try and sow some more in the gaps. I will also be planting other crops including what I’m calling ‘funky corn’. More news on that soon.

To find out more about Tuppenny Barn here is a great video showing the site and a glimpse of the inside of their new Education Centre, which will host one of my exhibitions in 2015.

The flax seed was kindly donated by www.wildfibres.co.uk. They have a great site with lots of information on how to grow and process the flax, and lots more.


I’ve been busy organising and hanging a members’ group exhibition at Art Space Portsmouth, hence no blog for a while.

The exhibition, About Time, was part of The Lost Hour, city wide cultural events celebrating the change to British Summer Time. Over half our members took part and showed a wide variety of works, some not quite understanding the term ‘small’!

I was not sure what to produce for the exhibition, but after chatting to Tanya, who is helping me with this project, we came up with Grow An Exhibition as the subject. Or rather my ACE application. I have been taking note of all the meetings, emails, etc. that I have had to enable me to submit my funding application. I created blank calendar sheets and then wrote in my notes, some of them comical or out of desperation!

The exhibition was very well received and we kept it up longer than normal to enable a visit from another studio group to see the work of our artists.

That was the good part of the last few weeks. Last week was not a good one. On Tuesday, while working in The Garden @ Art Space, I cut my finger with secateurs. A trip to the local treatment centre followed, with a dressing, tetanus jab and antibiotics. Then to finish off the week, last Friday THE letter arrived in the post. The Arts Council turned down my application for funding, which is a big disappointment as I thought it was a really good, inclusive project. However, the project is still going ahead as planned. I’m having a few days to think things over before starting the application process again and re-applying… or re-sowing as I like to think!


I submitted my Arts Council Grants for the Arts application 2 weeks ago. I had planned to write weekly posts on this blog, but there was so much writing (and re-writing!) involved that I’m only just ready to get back to composing again.

While I wait for the lovely people in Manchester to make their decision, I’m starting to get my base garden at Art Space Portsmouth ready. I need to take out some of the plants that have grown for years and get the raised beds ready so that I can sow my crops, including flax seeds that have been donated by www.wildfibres.co.uk. I’m also doing research into other unusual plants and I think I’m going to have a go at growing loofah plants in the greenhouse. Yes, that’s right, the rough bath sponge which grows like a cucumber. I’m not sure how I’ll use them yet, whether to make them into paper or to use them in some sculptural way, or maybe both.

As I’m clearing the garden and pruning plants, I would normally just cut up the plant material and put it on the compost heap. However, now I’m looking at everything in a different way, wondering if I can use it to make paper, or in other ways. The greenhouse is slowly filling up with bags of bamboo, ornamental grasses and phormium leaves, waiting to be processed. That will be the next stage of the project, to practise with these leaves, learning how to process them and turn them into fibres, ready to make paper.


Another week has passed and I’m still working on my Arts Council application, which I have set the deadline of Monday, March 3rd to submit. One of my planned meetings last week to finalise details had to be postponed until this coming week. I’m busy writing, and re-writing, finding information and doing a bit of virtual shopping. And now, if I didn’t have enough to do already, checking emails, Facebook, blog, etc. I have now signed up for Twitter! Trying to work out the difference between # and @, re-tweeting and all the other Twitter etiquette. Find me at https://twitter.com/plants2paper

With just over a week to go it’s slowly coming together, but then as artists we are used to working right up to a deadline. The new member of my support team has been a big help, keeping me sane. I must remember to add my Morale Manager to the ‘In Kind’ section!

Not only content with finalising my project, in my role as chairman of GASP, our studio gallery committee, we have been busy organising a very important exhibition for Art Space Portsmouth. John Mynott, one of the first members of ASP, over 30 years ago, will be leaving his studio soon. He has no space to store his life long body of work and so we were asked by his family to organise a show to sell his amazingly intricate creations. This has been very hard for us as John’s work is of such high quality it really should be in national collections.

So if you would like to own one of John’s amazing works you have until the end of this week to view the exhibition and make your sealed bid. Full detail at www.artspace.co.uk/?page_id=75

I have to thank my committee for doing most of the work while I’ve been busy on this, especially Julie Graves who has taken the lead. I’m pleased she has done such a good job as she will be Project Manager for Grow An Exhibition, keeping me on track during the next 18 months.

Oh well, back to my budget.