Wednesday, 19 February 2014


This is likely to be my last blog post here. I originally began blogging to get over the fear of writing on returning to academic life. It gradually grew to become a means of sharing my thoughts and interacting with tapestry enthusiasts around the world.

I am currently working on thesis corrections after my viva in November - having a viva four days before your wedding is not something I would recommend! The experience was really positive but because some re-writing was required for my introduction and conclusion I will have to resubmit the thesis to the internal examiner before being awarded my PhD. It's a good opportunity to reflect on the challenges of completing a PhD within a three year funded period. My AHRC funding finished in October 2013 so I had to find a job and was keen to submit beforehand. The consensus of my examiners was, had I continued writing into a fourth year, I probably would have passed the viva with minor corrections, having had time to reflect more on the thesis. But that's just life and the practicalities of paying bills tend to take priority. Though a bit disappointed, I actually found the viva experience really interesting and it was a great opportunity to meet two academics from my field of interest and discuss my research in such detail.

One request from the examiners was to add my blog as an appendix. This had not occurred to me before but we discussed how it would benefit readers to learn about my whole research process, including the use of social media.

Since October I have been working as Arts Development Officer for North Aberdeenshire - this local authority is home to Alford Heritage Museum, explored in this blog post. I have really enjoyed exploring this part of Scotland, and have grown particularly fond of their extraordinary sunsets. I finish my post here soon for an exciting new position in Edinburgh in March.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

'an apt and symbolic mural'

Chapter 6 of my thesis is concerned with the increasing number of large-scale, architectural tapestries at Dovecot in the 1960s. I may have written 12,000 words on the subject, but an old issue of Punch magazine sums it up in one image:

'This is the wall, Foster. We'd like you to knock up some sort of apt and symbolic mural - you know the sort of thing - The Chairman and Board presiding over the Twin Spirits of Art and Industry as the rise from the Waters of Diligence to reap the rich harvest of Prosperity while the Three Muses, Faith, Hope and Charity flanked by Enterprise and Initiative, bless the Corporation and encourage the shareholders.'

I'm afraid I don't know what year this is from - my proof reader sent it to me after reading chapter 6!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Final Countdown

The blog has been pretty neglected recently because of this:

I am on the final leg of my thesis. The picture above is of my printed draft - terrifying but also hugely satisfying. I plan to submit by the end of August.

But watch this space... News of forthcoming articles, conference papers and new reflections tapestry coming soon. Thanks for your patience!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Finding the Unicorn: Tapestries Mythical and Modern

If you are in London before 1 June 2013 I would strongly recommend a visit to The Fleming Collection on Berkeley Street. The gallery is currently holding an exhibition, organised with West Dean Tapestry Studio and Historic Scotland, about the Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries that have been reinterpreted and rewoven for Historic Scotland's James V Royal Palace at Stirling. The original tapestries hang in The Cloisters, part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The Unicorn is Found, 330x340 cm, woven by Caron Penney, Katharine Swailes and Jo Howard
© Crown Copyright. Reproduced courtesy of Historic Scotland
The Unicorn is Found, 1495-1505, 370 x 380 cm, Metropolitan Museum

If you do not expect to visit Stirling Castle any time soon, this is your only chance to see The Unicorn is Found outside of Stirling. The exhibition also includes contemporary tapestries (including loans and new works for sale) woven by West Dean. Further information on the exhibition and works for sale can be found here.

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