William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow 2 April – 11 September 2022

Phoenix member Rosaline Darby recently visited this exhibition, and this is what she says about it:

The William Morris Gallery is always a rewarding place to visit, with its permanent displays about the company Morris & Co and the life and philosophy of William Morris himself, and the temporary exhibitions are often of great interest. The current one, featuring a retrospective of the career of revolutionary Trinidadian designer Althea McNish (1924 – 2020) is truly inspirational.

McNish’s impactful and visually stunning works burst onto the post-war British design scene with an explosion of Caribbean colour, combined with imagery drawn from the British countryside. It is no surprise that they were snapped up by the likes of Liberty and Hull Traders. Exciting then, they still feel relevant today, and indeed Liberty have re-issued a limited range of fabrics to tie in with the exhibition.

Golden Harvest was one of McNish’s most popular and enduring designs.

Her designs were used in fashion as well as soft furnishings.

As well as commercial fabric lengths, some of McNish’s original paintings, drawings and acetate sheets are displayed, offering an insight into the process that she used to produce her multi-layered, complex designs. Experimenting with different techniques, she often used monoprinting and lightboxes to replicate her drawings, overlaying them with paint, crayon and acetate to achieve a variety of textures and colour combinations.

I highly recommend a visit to this exhibition. The café is pretty good too!



Sketchbooks by Joan Bingley, Lynne Butt, Jo Coombes and Linda Walsh

For many textile artists, sketchbooks are an integral part of their creative practice.  For others, it is an unrewarding and difficult challenge.

Concertina sketchbooks, however, are a fantastic way to explore themes by extending the ideas and images in a variety of art techniques and mediums, without the pressure of creating the perfect picture on the page.

Working without a clear end goal can be unnerving, but also liberating; it can throw up unexpected results and new perspectives.

Lynne, Linda and Jo found the guidance of talented artist Karen Stamper in her online workshop “Free Up Your Sketchbook and Grow” both fun and addictive.  They explored the potential of mark making, compositional stye, collage techniques and colour.

A variety of drawing and writing implements:  charcoal, pens, crayons and sticks were used along with gesso, ink, masking tape, tissue and collage paper in structured exercises designed to free up the process, resulting in interesting backgrounds to work back into with more collage, acrylic paint and mediums, also adding extra colour and marks with  stubby crayons and Posca pens.

Joan Bingley started her own book to experiment with adding colour to her theme of endangered birds.

Above Joan Glasgow offers a peak at her tentative beginning at Karen Stamper’s workshop in crayons and ink over gesso and masking tape.

Collaged brown paper, tissue and magazine papers.

Coloured wash with paint and collaged papers

Added layers of fabricant and crayon

Below are details from sketchbooks by Jo Coombes, Joan Bingley, Lynne Butt, Linda Walsh and Joan Glasgow



Have you ever struggled to get your creativity going again after Christmas? Do you suffer from post-exhibition malaise?

In January our members were feeling a bit lacking in inspiration. As a group we had been extremely busy in October and November staging two exhibitions in quick succession and were now feeling listless after Christmas.

Luckily for us our social media guru, Rosaline Darby, came up with a great solution to kickstart our new year creativity and create content for our social media posts at the same time.

Her idea of setting a seven-week challenge during January and February certainly did the job for us. Each week a new ‘Prompt’ was posted on the Phoenix Instagram account, and we had a week to share our creative responses to it using the hashtag “sketchuary”.

The idea was to produce intuitive, spontaneous responses to the prompts without over-thinking them. Although it was called #sketchuary, these did not have to be conventional drawings and could be in any medium, or even an existing piece of work that suited the week’s theme if we didn’t have time to create something new.  We could stitch, print, create mixed media art, or share a photograph of something we felt fitted the title.

We also invited other people to join in with us on Instagram and this was well-received, prompting several interesting and stimulating conversations.

Here are some images of our responses to the weekly prompts.


Kate Davis

Rosaline Darby

Joan Glasgow


Kate Davis

Rosaline Darby

Joan Glasgow


Maria Walker

Robertta McPherson


Linda Walsh

Maria Walker


Kate Davis

Rosaline Darby


Jo Coombes


Robertta McPherson

Jo Coombes

We all found the challenge was a great way to kickstart our creativity as well as a good device to explore a theme as a group; it is something we will certainly do again.


The Broderers Exhibition: The Art of Embroidery
Bankside Gallery, 22 -27 February 2022

The Worshipful Company of Broderers is one of the City of London livery companies. It is over 450 years old and historically was responsible for maintaining the standard of embroidery in London.

Although none of us in Phoenix submitted work for this open call exhibition, we were nevertheless excited at the prospect of a celebration of stitched art in all its forms, from the traditional to the most contemporary, at a prestigious central London venue.

The exhibition was free to visit, and it was wonderful to see such very large audiences studying and appreciating the work.

Phoenix members Jo Coombes, Lynne Butt and Rosaline Darby visited together. Reflections on glass and difficult lighting made photography a bit tricky but here are some of the pieces that caught their eye:

Alison Aye – Mam’s Christmas Tablecloth

Anja von Kalinowski – The Unseen II

Anna Black – Movement

Carol Naylor – All That Glitters

Ellie Hipkin – Calm Chill 1 and 2

Emily Tull – The Beard Crawls Around on Your Face

Helen Banshaf – A Construction of Old Friends II

Jan Beaney – Leftkada Wetlands 1 and 2

Kate Barlow – Love

Liz Ashurst – Lockdown

Maria Wigley – Somewhere Else

Masako Newton – Social Distancing

Rachel Doyle – the Diver

Sara Rickards – The Awakening

Sarah de Rousset-Hall – Hive Mind

Susannah Weiland – Greenwich Rabbit and Mouse

Tanya Betham/Opusanglicanum – The Three Living and the Three Dead

Vicky O’Leary – Creating Calm

The full online catalogue is available here:

Further information about the Broderers, including membership, can be found here:


Here at Phoenix, we know Debbie Lyddon well because she used to be a member of our group, and so it was a delight to welcome her back as a tutor for this fun, stimulating and intellectually challenging workshop using collage to focus on design and composition.

Debbie’s engaging personality, well-planned structure for the day and encouragement of lots of group interaction made for an extremely enjoyable day.

Debbie Lyddon

Examples of Debbie’s own collage work

Debbie maintains that collage is perfect for exploring the principles of design because the paper or fabric pieces can be repositioned easily until, to quote artist Sandra Blow, a “startling rightness” is achieved, partly by intuition and partly by following the sound design principles of Space (balance), Shape, Texture, Edge, and Layering.

We began by working in pairs, taking it in turns to add drawn shapes in different sizes and weights to achieve a balanced composition, looking at space, shape and pattern or texture, which affects the weight of any given shape.

Compositions focussing on balance

We had each been asked to bring a selection of five objects, varying in size and form, for inspiration. Our next task was to choose one of these objects and first look at it closely, feeling its texture and describing it in words before drawing it from different angles, finding as many interesting shapes as possible.

Rosaline Darby’s fossil sea urchin

Lynne Butt’s vinegar bottle

Jo Combes’s salad server

Linda Walsh’s rice carrier

Next, we explored texture through the use of pre-painted papers, and the effects of different edges. We chose one of our shapes, cut it out from painted paper, and made a composition using both positive and negative shapes, still of course thinking about balance. Then we repeated this but with torn shapes, and then cut or tore out our shapes creating edges in response to the concepts feathered, scalloped, and jagged.

Positive and negative shapes and the nature of edges

After lunch, Debbie demonstrated her collage-making technique and sent us off to make our own, still using the shapes from our chosen objects, but using layering to create depth, and adding accents with stitch, as well as keeping in mind the principles of balance, shape, texture, and edge. The importance of stepping back and taking time to look and evaluate became increasingly clear.

Debbie also gave us a useful tip: photographing various arrangements before committing to glueing them down, and flipping between them, is an excellent way to judge which works best as the photograph flattens everything out, as well as letting you see several options side by side.

Debbie demonstrating

Our collages pinned up for a critique

Lynne Butt

Kate Davis

Marie-Ghislaine Beaucé

Jo Coombes

Rosaline Darby

Joan Bingley

Finally, we explored the way that these same principles of design can be applied to a 3D arrangement.

Collaborative group effort

Below are some examples of individual efforts, each using three randomly chosen objects, not necessarily those that we had brought ourselves.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, and we have gained tools and insights that will give us more confidence in assessing and planning both our individual work and our group exhibitions – very worthwhile indeed!



Phoenix Member, Marie-Ghislaine Beaucé, is passionate about fabrics, and she uses them to great effect to create her contemporary hangings, panels and sculptures, which she makes by weaving together soft furnishing fabrics and incorporating layers of abstract shapes in knitting or crochet-work. Her interest in architecture is evident in the design and structure of her work.

In fact, she has been fascinated by textiles from a very early age. At twelve years old, it was her ambition to become a fashion designer, so she asked her mother to teach her the first steps of sewing. She started studying design at a technical college in France, where her artistic talent was noticed and she was advised to enter an art school.  During her time at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts of Nantes she experimented with weaving, using a variety of materials such as hemp, lengths of 8mm film, ribbon cut from fabric, and painted cardboard tubes.

For our recent exhibition, SeenUnseen, Marie-Ghislaine created a body of work, comprising three large-scale abstract pieces, which explored the concept of “the Space Between”.

Lock Down (fabric and zips)

Tissage 5 (linen, cotton and silk)

Monochrome Weaving (mixed fabrics and polypropylene twine)

However, as well as being a talented artist, Marie-Ghislaine also runs a successful business making curtains and soft furnishings and has written a blog for Phoenix describing how fashion in soft furnishing haS changed from the 1980s to current times, using images of her own work from her portfolio for illustration.

Marie-Ghislaine Beaucé

Fashion is a domineering despot, and its capricious fancy is not accidental. Originally it was the preserve of the upper classes, as a way of demonstrating their wealth, and often captured the mood of the times. But from the early 19th century, the inventiveness and designs of upholsterers were widely available all over Europe, through magazines and journals. In England, Rudolph Ackermann began to produce one called The Repository of Arts in 1809.  Later, the opening of the Liberty’s stores in London in 1875 and Paris in 1889, brought fashion in textile designs to the notice of the middle classes.  Several decorative styles were popular at this time, most notably the vogue for Japanese design but also the romanticized Gothic, and quaint Arts & Crafts styles.

Having been involved in soft furnishings for a large part of my working life, I have witnessed several changes of fashion in the world of interior design, window-dressing and bedcovering, all of which have affected the choice of fabrics, prints and colours.

The 1980s and Country Freshness

During the 1980s old chintzes were painstakingly reproduced and a generous repertoire of new designs for chintzes emerged from designers all over the world. Chintz is a good quality cotton fabric with a resin finish often printed with designs inspired by traditional Indian woodblocks. Both reproduction and modern flower fabrics were available in soft colours with pretty designs that were redolent of the country garden.

This window has been dressed with curtains that have been inspired by a traditional shape. The curtains themselves are simple but have been adorned with frills applied to their opening edges.

A shaped pelmet or a deep, soft pleated valance, sometimes with piping of a contrasting colour, might also have been added, illustrated by this Austrian blind in a black and white pattern adorned with black bows to make a strong statement for a dull modern kitchen window.

If the design of the fabric is particularly exuberant, the pattern of the print is best revealed by a simpler curtain and narrow shaped pelmet design as in this example:

The design of the window dressing can also hide imperfections in the architecture, as in this case where gentle festoons form a valance in floral chintz to detract from a misshapen window in a Victorian house:

From the 1990s onwards

Towards the end of the 1980s, an inevitable reaction against the frills and fuss took place. The fashion dictum of this period was to dress windows to look as appealing as possible, whatever the size of the windows, which should never be hidden beneath a torrent of fabric. The proportions of both window and curtain should be optically correct. The misshapen window could be disguised by a soft pelmet, a larger blind, or a more generous pair of curtains.

The window of this Georgian house bedroom is built very low in the wall. The deep portion of wall on top is hidden by a Roman blind; the blind and curtains hung just under the cornice make the window appear taller than it really is:

In Georgian houses, the tallest windows are usually on the first floor. Such rooms and windows offer opportunities for both traditional formal treatment and simpler design.

Current trends see blinds playing an important role in window design, excluding light and draughts when used under dress curtains, as well as highlighting and completing a window treatment. Used alone, roller, Roman and Venetian blinds suggest a streamlined modernity and come into their own in rooms such as the bathroom and kitchen, where the amount of fabric for curtains would be dangerous or impractical. Blinds can also be used for other practical purposes around the house: as an alternative to a cupboard or wardrobe door, or as a room divider.

In this Victorian House, separate Roman blinds are used for each section of a bay window; the clean lines of the window frame give a strong, contemporary look to the treatment:

Improvements in glass-making technology over the past few centuries have made it possible to have a huge variety of window styles. Sometimes known as “picture” windows, well-designed wide windows reduce the impact of large areas of exterior and interior wall.

Advances in technology with the development of new products have resulted in new styles of curtains. Eyelets, for instance, are a simple but effective device that can turn the most ordinary curtains into something special. Simple chrome eyelets allow the designer to minimize bulk so the curtains can be flat panels hung from a pole.

A show flat in Pimlico

The design and composition of bed coverings have also changed. The traditional bed cover is made of a flat top panel with gathered or pleated sides. The invention of polyester fibre wadding has made a great change to the way of dressing a bed. A thin wadding could be used to line the top part of the bed cover, adding warmth and comfort without great weight. Modern designs use a thicker wadding for a large rectangle-shaped covering falling to the ground.

As a lover of fabrics, I consider it sad that the latest trend by architects is to dispense with curtain dressing altogether. Window glass panels can now be manufactured to be completely insulated and even to include sunshades and blackouts at the push of a button.

By Marie-Ghislaine (ed. Maria Walker)

Summer 2021 Show at the RA: A Textile Perspective

Phoenix member Maria Walker was excited that the 2021 Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy had been curated by Yinka Shonibare, with the theme of “Reclaiming Magic”. She was looking forward to seeing more textile art in this exhibition, as we all know that Shonibare appreciates the value of textiles in his art. Last month she found time to visit the exhibition to see how textile work had been represented in this year’s show.

I have always been interested in the career of Yinka Shonibare: he recognizes the cultural significance of fabric and uses it in a fine art way in his own practice, so I was excited when I saw this on arrival at the Royal Academy.

Inside the exhibition the rooms were not quite as densely hung as previous exhibitions I had visited, and I was struck bythe overwhelming sense of colour and texture within the exhibits. Artworks of a myriad of different media jostled on the wall to gain the attention of the visitors.

As the Royal Academy says on its website ‘Textiles are a part of our everyday lives – and this year they are a major part of the exhibition’. I haven’t counted what percentage of the work on show is represented by textile art, but some of the textiles certainly caught my attention for their visual impact, textural qualities, fine art context and meaning.

Here is a selection of the textile artworks that caught my eye during my visit:

Artist : Marie Rose Lortet

Artist: Victor Ehikhamende

Artist: Sally Mae Pettaway Mixon

Artist : Liz Mason

Artist: Chrissie Freeth

Artist: Madeline Famurewa

Artist: Basil Kincaid


Whilst we have each interpreted the theme of SeenUnseen in our own personal ways, we have also carried the theme over into the layout of the exhibition as a whole.

Observant visitors who look up to the beams or down to the floor will be rewarded with hidden gems. Can you spot Rosaline Darby’s blackbirds and Maria Walker’s altered train tickets?

And pieces hanging from the ceiling work in interesting juxtaposition to those on the wall or on plinths.

Linda Walsh’s gauzy, graffiti-inspired piece, “We Are Phoenix” masks but does not obscure other pieces in the exhibition and frames a view of Alison Hird-Beecroft’s sculptural structures.

Looking through the Möbius strips made by Rosaline Darby and Joan Glasgow offers intriguing glimpses of other pieces.

The loops of Maria Walker’s paper sculpture act as viewfinders, highlighting other pieces.

Marie-Ghislaine Beauce’s large, abstract, sculptural pieces frame other people’s work and pick up colours, leading the eye around the gallery.

You can see more details and highlights of each of our artist’s work by following us on Instagram, @phoenixtextiles.


With a delay due to Covid lockdown, this exhibition has been three years in the making and it was so exciting to be in the gallery putting it up at last! It is always satisfying to see all the ideas and planning come to fruition, if a bit nerve wracking because we can never be certain that what seems like a good idea on paper will look right in the gallery space. We think that we have pulled it off though and we would love you to come and tell us what you think.

We had to turn our hands to putting up shelves

And be confident on ladders.

Fortunately, we have some very helpful husbands.

And the able assistance of some hard-working gallery volunteers.

After shifting many plinths,

A lot of careful deliberation and rearranging,

And a few finishing touches,

We were almost ready to welcome visitors.


Here at Phoenix we have all been very busy getting our  work ready for our postponed exhibition, SeenUnseen, which opens on 13 th October at the Robert Phillips Gallery, Walton-on-Thames. Here is our lovely poster, designed by Lynne Butt.

We do hope that you will be able to visit our exhibition in person, and come and say hello. We will be posting images of our work on our social media channels too so please do take a look. You can see what we have been posting on our Instagram Account just by visiting our website.

Further details, including a map to the Gallery can be found by visiting the  Exhibition Dates  page of the Phoenix Contemporary Textiles website.