Craft : Cathy Cullis – textiles & mixed media


Cathy Cullis is a painter, a poet, a maker. Chameleon-like, she shifts mediums with astonishing ease and rapidity. But what doesn’t change about her is her sense of the nostalgic, of gentle melancholy and mystery.

Having studied both English and Art at university, she says “I’m aware of how both language and image can tantalize. I like how the two can play together.” Words do indeed feature in much of her work – phrases are embroidered; fragments of text sit like unfinished conversations.


cathy cullis - simply

cathy cullis – simply

‘simply’ – machine embroidery on linen

cathy cullis - friendship

cathy cullis – friendship

‘friendship’ arm cuff. machine stitching on hand-dyed linen

cathy cullis - until you have found somewhere

‘until you have found somewhere’ – mixed media collage -on mountboard total 9 x 7″ 

She describes the making of this piece – “using my sewing machine as a drawing tool, starting point for this piece was the text – a snippet from an old novel… I wondered about the meaning, how there are many ways of reading this phrase”

As her university studies mostly revolved around theory, her stitching and dyeing, painting and sculpture skills are for the most part self taught. “As a younger person I hated sewing! So when I finally got interested in it, I needed to teach myself. I’ve taught myself how to use a sewing machine as a drawing tool, I’ve taught myself how to paint in different ways, and I continue to allow my skills to evolve.”


cathy cullis - uncertain times

cathy cullis – uncertain times

‘in these uncertain times’, gouache on paper

cathy cullis - rain or shine

cathy cullis – rain or shine

‘rain or shine’ – gouache on watercolour paper


She describes her influences – “I love to make things with my own two hands, using simple materials: thread, fabric, paper….I have a love of history, art history, folklore, memory, folk art, nostalgia, design and fashion.”  She also loves Eastern European animation from the 1970s, outsider art, Medieval churches, shapes in nature, and children’s art.

Of special mention is her particular interest in the work of outsider artist Madge Gill. Present in Cullis’ work is the same collection of ethereal people, subtle colouring, and complex of textures. But what separates them is Cullis’ figures seem less concerned with their appearance and more with relationships, and they appear much more hopeful.

What I respond to in her work is its tactility and its quietness. Its subtle colouring brings focus to small details.


cathy cullis - 'miracle'

cathy cullis – ‘miracle’

‘miracle’ – doll, in papier mache, fabric, and other mixed media

cathy cullis - Story

‘story’ – doll in papier mache & mixed media

cathy cullis - striped figure - clay amulet sculpture - folk art ornament

‘striped figure’ – air dry clay amulet

cathy cullis - neighbourhood (cover)

cathy cullis – neighbourhood (cover)

cathy cullis - neighbourhood - book pages

cathy cullis – neighbourhood – book pages

‘neighbourhood’ – self-published zine,
features a series of sketches and paintings exploring my own imaginative neighbourhood, places of town and twilight, trees and sky, dream-like

Each day brings something new. When asked recently, she said “Write a Poem Every Day would be my memoir. This is a phrase I have used in my work over the past several years. I have scratched it into collages, stitched the words on fabric, and continue to use it as my little saying or mantra. The phrase is completely open to interpretation, really, and that is why I like it —it can mean literally to write verse on a daily basis, or more deeply to live within the moment and make each day a little extraordinary.”

Cathy Cullis is also a published poet, and received an Eric Gregory award for poetry in 1996 from the Society of Authors.

You can find more about Cathy Cullis and her work on her blog here; buy her work here, or check out her photostream on Flickr here.


Food : Kyle Powderly – cumquats

Kyle Powderly is a practitioner of Traditional East Asian Medicine with a passion for photography and food. 

Once, when faced with an abundance of cumquats, this is what she did.


Using my mum’s recipe for Lemon Butter, I juiced and zested my cumquats, reserving the skins to make into a pickle and here is the result:

Cumquat Curd Recipe:
4 eggs
140g sugar
70g unsalted butter
2 tsp grated cumquat zest
120ml cumquat juice

Whisk egg yolks and sugar until well combined but not frothy.

Tip into a heavy-based non-reactive saucepan and add butter, zest and juice.

Stirring constantly, bring to simmering point over a medium-high heat (about five minutes).

As soon as bubbles appear, remove from heat, still stirring. Allow to cool. Transfer to sterilised jars and seal.

Makes 2 cups.

The verdict? Yum-oh!


I wanted a recipe that would make use of the skins of the cumquats after I had juiced them for making the cumquat curd.

Cumquats are unlike other citrus fruits, as the peel is less bitter than the flesh. They produce an excellent sweet-and-sour pickle, combined with palm-sugar, vinegar and spices.

Cumquat Pickle:
250 g cumquat rinds
100 ml white wine vinegar
2 cardamom pods, crushed
1 cinnamon stick
1 cm piece of ginger, shredded
1 tsp sea salt
60g soft palm sugar
2 cloves

Cut the cumquat skins in half and put them in a saucepan with the salt and water to cover. Bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the cumquats, discarding any pips.

Place the vinegar, palm sugar, cardamom pods, clove and the shredded ginger into a pan and heat gently, stirring, until all the palm sugar is dissolved. Raise the heat and bring to the boil, then add the pre-boiled, drained cumquat rinds. Simmer for one minute, then allow to cool slightly.

While the mixture is still medium-hot (about 75 degrees), ladle the cumquats and the liquid into warm, clean, pre-sterilized jars. Cover with non metal (ie vinegar-proof) lids and seal.

Store in a cool, dark, dry place for 1 month before using.

Cumquat Pickle is wonderful with Malaysian and Indian Curries.


Kyle has kindly allowed me to reproduce these recipes and images, originally published on her blog Yum-oh! You can also check her photography blog Photo-Ventura, here, which includes a stunning set of images from her recent trip to Nepal.



Books : The Rain Tree


The Rain Tree by Mirabel Osler is a dense and poetic memoir, weaving backwards and forwards through the lives of the author and those surrounding her – her husband and three children, and her mother Phyllis and her mother’s best friend Stella Bowen, the famed Australian painter.

The text also encompasses Mirabel’s love and life with her late husband Michael, the sprawling garden they built and learnt about together, their three children, and living in exotic locations like Corfu and Thailand in the late 50s and 60s. Moreover, it is a story of ageing, of friendships, and of facing up to the conundrums of dying.

Phyllis met Stella when she moved to a hostel in London during the First World War, and it was there they also met the writer Ford Madox Ford, grandson of painter Ford Madox Brown. Ford subsequently introduced them to Ezra Pound, and this was their introduction to the world of literature and arts. Names such as Wyndham Lewis and T.S. Eliot float through their lives. Pieced together through Mirabel’s memories and her mother’s letters, the sometimes disconcerting jumps through time and space parallel the author’s patchwork life.

But it is the travelogue that captured me. The years spent in Thailand is rich and heavy with humidity and the fragrance of curries and jasmine; of life with bamboo and verandahs, encounters with floods and cholera, and the loss of her sister.

They moved to Corfu just prior to the military coup in 1967. This shaky start together with the island’s isolation was for Mirabel mingled with enjoyment of the food, friends, and boating excursions. Life is filled with embroidered white cotton, olives, retsina and mandarin trees. Constant streams of ‘friends of friends’ visit from the continent. Most poignant is the story of the suicide of a dear friend, who leaped into the sea –
As a petal turning in water, moved by the current, with waterlogging lungs, she floats through luminous blue darkening to ultramarine, her limbs trailing ribbons of phosphorescence until she lies rocking to the pulse of the ocean.’

The Oslers return to England. Life goes on until Michael is diagnosed with terminal illness. Mirabel’s subsequent ponderings on the transience of life as explained through the loss of her husband and their garden is both profound and thought provoking.

Intriguing and beautiful, The Rain Tree is a wonderful journey, and reveals a life well-lived.


Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, London. ISBN 978 1 4088 1548 9