A Bigger Splash at Worthing's New Swimming Pool

Splashpoint, Worthing
With just one day to go until the opening of Worthing's brand new swimming pool emotions in my house have reached a state of fervour. 
   Twenty long years in the planning (we do things slowly on the Sussex coast) and a reputed £19.7 million later, the pool is about to open on the evening before West Sussex County Council elections – what better feel good publicity for our camera-ready councillors?
    Wilkinson Eyre architects won a RIBA competition to design the new pool but their execution of the project met with much local muttering. The final building is different to the initial publicly exhibited design (see it here) and the entrance and cafĂ© aren't on the seafront as originally planned. However, the new building does look splendid from the outside – a streamlined homage to modernism, all boxy outlines and gleaming copper walls reflecting Worthing's plentiful sunlight.

View of Splashpoint swimming pool from Worthing beach
Worthing's new swimming pool viewed from the beach
Splashpoint pool from the outside
Superb exterior of Splashpoint pool

We went down to take a look at the finished building on Sunday and peered enviously in through the tall glass windows as lucky fitness club members enjoyed a private swim before the rest of us are allowed in tomorrow. It was lovely to see familiar faces from the old Aquarena manning the front desk and my daughter squealed with excitement when she saw the big yellow slide and fountain in the children's fun pool.

Inside Splashpoint
Sneak preview - inside Splashpoint

With an abundance of bicycle racks outside, Splashpoint swimming pool is another great thing for Worthing and I can't wait for my first swim! 

Splashpoint pool has many bike racks
Count those cycle racks! It's a cyclist-friendly pool.

Screen and Screen Again at Ink Spot Press

Green tree print by Ivy Arch

On the second day of printmaker Jane Sampson's Thursday morning course at Ink Spot Press I experienced the absolute magic of printing an image onto a piece of paper. The six session course at Brighton's open-access printmaking workshop takes us through screenprinting step-by-step. Last week we looked at some of the inspiring work of printers and artists who'd previously passed through Ink Spot including Jane's own beautiful artwork; learnt how to prepare a screen with photo emulsion; made up a sample stencil; and exposed an image onto a screen.
Ink Spot Press, Brighton
Outside and inside Ink Spot Press HQ

A simple paper-cut tree seemed a good starting point for my first print, with the idea of exploring mark making and printing texture on top of the leaves. I roughly drew and cut out a stencil from stiff black paper then laid a piece of acetate on top and experimented drawing cross hatches, swirls, dots, patterns and making grainy marks. 

Initial test design for screenprint

The two pieces – black cut out stencil and scribbled-on acetate were then laid side by side onto a prepared screen and put in the screenprint exposure unit. It was a thrill to press the start button and wait for my images to appear on the screen.

My first exposed screen
A big moment as my first screen emerges from the exposure unit!

This week Jane showed us how to set up, secure and register the screen in preparation for printing onto paper. It's a much more exacting process than I remembered from my previous improvised attempts at printing onto fabric more than 20 years ago! I began using the tree stencil shape part of the screen, and will try printing with the textured/patterned leaf part next week.

Printing a tree at Ink Spot Press

Screenprinting is physically demanding but also hugely rewarding – my dormant biceps were put to work in attempting to apply the correct pressure to the squeegee to evenly distribute ink across the screen. I could've happily carried on mixing colours and printing trees all day. 

Many trees in shades of green
Trees on top of pink test print paper

Seeing my simple first image reproduced in different tones on variously coloured backgrounds was so exciting and the euphoria hasn't faded yet. I can't wait for next week's class...

Ivy Arch tree on yellow rectangle
Ivy Arch tree on pink rectangle with missing white area
Colourful tree print

Spring sewing: Easy-sew girls' skirts

My daughter has a lot of home-made elasticated waist skirts in her wardrobe. They're probably the easiest garment to sew, are comfortable to wear, and can be run up in one evening. For these I used a Simplicity sewing pattern bought years ago as a starting point (adding a couple of centimetres to this well-used age 2-6 pattern to fit my growing 8 year old) then cut a contrasting border panel for the hem.

One is made from Put A Stamp On It fabric designed by Suzy Ultman for Robert Kaufmann and trimmed in pink spotted cotton to go with her kimono, the other is cut from Tape Measure print fabric trimmed with Cotton Reels patchwork/quilting material by Makower UK. 

She loves them both and doubtless they'll soon be seen worn with leggings for climbing trees in Homefield park...

A Kind of Blue

The Blue Route

Until the 16th century woad was the only source of blue dye available to cloth dyers in Europe. The woad plant has antiseptic properties, was used by ancient Britons to heal wounds and is said to have been painted on warriors before going into battle. The monks who illuminated Lindisfarne Gospels applied it as a blue ink and throughout the ages woad has been used as a shape-shifter (no less!) in shamanic rituals. Now a new Anglo-French project Woad – Out of The Blue looks at the importance of the plant in the economic development of Amiens (France) and Southern England since the 12th century and explores its cultural and social heritage.

The Blue Route a breathtakingly beautiful installation by Finnish sculptor Kaarina Kaikkonen, is the first exhibition in this series and takes place at Brighton's Fabrica art gallery. 

Kaarina Kaikkonen's The Blue Route at Fabrica, Brighton

The Blue Route comprises hundreds of second-hand shirts hanging from ropes tied to the upstairs balconies of this former Regency church. The shirts were donated by residents of Brighton & Hove and the piece resonates with the memories of these worn garments. It's a composition in tones of blue with one singular yellow shirt at the centre. Standing behind the installation I saw dozens of pale balloons and one solitary yellow balloon lifting into the air. In front of the work with my back to the wall I saw the sun setting over a deep blue sea.

Shirts of Brighton and Hove
Hundreds of shirts make The Blue Route

The Blue Route is a co-commission with Brighton Festival and will be on show until 27th May 2013. If you're in Brighton you'd be balmy not to visit.

Spring sewing: Stylish Dress Book – Dress Y

Stylish Dress Book: Dress Y

Call me an optimist but after the coldest British winter for 50 years (allegedly) I do believe that spring is finally on its way. The budding plants in my garden seem to think so too and young seagulls are cawing outside my bedroom window at dawn.

Turning once again to Japanese dressmaking manual Stylish Dress Book, I continue my mission to sew myself a new spring wardrobe. Dress Y is an elegant smock with contrast neck trim and hem. I used Naito Shoji's Lille Skip Forest Blue printed cotton (having made this dress for my daughter in Forest Green earlier). For the contrast I used a yellow cotton fabric with a bold stem/flower design, rescued from a tunic I made last year that didn't quite work – the material looks much better as a trim.

Detail of Dress Y (Stylish Dress Book 1)

As with previous Stylish Dress Book efforts this garment has turned out beautifully and feels light and airy to wear. Until spring properly arrives I'll be wearing it with a long sleeved top underneath because I love the dress too much to wait for warmer weather.

Leaping for joy in Dress Y

Absolutely Fabulous Flora

Yellow burst of colour at Fabulous Flora

Fabulous Flora is a visual and fragrant delight. Tucked away in Warwick Lane (just off Worthing's Warwick Street), here you'll find artfully arranged flowers displayed in vintage pots and mid-century vases; fine ceramics, ornaments and retro treasures for sale – including a range of Ivy Arch toys and lavender bags.

Folk art wares at Fabulous Flora

Fabulous Flora was dreamt up by the unstoppable Donna Hogarth, known for her exquisite vintage themed wedding flower arrangements and MAKE Fabulous Events. This blossoming boutique also offers floristry workshops (with cake!) starting in May. Fabulous Flora is a breath of fresh air and simply the best new thing in town. I hope it encourages more creative and independent shops to start up in Worthing too.

Fabulous Flora, Worthing
Blooming lovely at Fabulous Flora
Donna Hogarth's flowers
Fabulous Flora - now open!

Fabulous Flora can be found at 9 Warwick Lane (off Warwick Street) Worthing, and is open Wednesday to Saturday.

Arctic Egg Roll at Devil's Dyke

Ready to roll at Devil's Dyke

Devil's Dyke valley is the longest, deepest and widest dry valley in the land, which makes it the perfect spot for National Trust's annual Easter Egg Rolling contest. 

The high hills of the Dyke give splendid panoramic views of the South Downs and twinkling seaside city of Brighton beyond – on a fine day this event draws several hundred people. This year however had to be the coldest egg rolling I've ever been to and only the hardiest families turned out. We huddled together attempting to shelter from a bitter wind on the top of the Dyke while waiting for the ceremony to begin. It was more of an endurance test than anything else (especially for the children present) and the three tier contest was eventually cut short as it was just too chilly to sit still any longer. When the adults' turn came to hurl our decorated eggs into the valley the entire crowd rushed down after them in relief, not waiting for the final 8-13 year old's contest! Alas, my child didn't get a chance to roll her lovely decorated egg (above) after all, though I think she too was consoled by the thought that it was all over.

With numb faces and frozen fingers we stumbled back up the hill and crammed into the pub at the top to defrost by an open fire and drink cups of sweet tea. Once thoroughly warmed we caught the 77 bus back down to Brighton and pledged to return to picnic in the great outdoors on a milder day.

Devil's Dyke valley, Easter Monday 2013
Devil's Dyke Easter Egg Rolling
 Painted Easter Eggs

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

We had a beautiful Easter Sunday in Worthing with an early morning egg hunt, Easter crafts, walk to the seafront and back home for a family Sunday lunch. Even the sun came out to mark the start of British Summer Time.

Easter in Worthing