Thelma R.

History :

The history I’ve written is scribbly stream-of-consciousness, so I won’t repeat it all here;  thinking about it though, I was very struck by one theme which I have never considered before : ‘difference’, a state of being an outsider. 

Consider : I have been fully vegetarian since I was about 12; no-one else in my family is, and I only knew one other until I was well into my twenties.  I haven’t any recollection of either eating or refusing meat, so how I came to this decision in the face of what I’m sure must have been considerable opposition is unclear.  It was certainly a very peculiar and awkward thing to be in the 1960s.

I had 2 sisters, no brothers.  My father was the youngest of his family, and my paternal cousins were much older than me.  My mother came from the other end of the country (wartime marriage) and was the youngest of 7, so my cousins on her side were also older and geographically distant. My father was working class self-employed but I was fortunate enough to go to a grammar school (11-16) – girls only.  From the age of 11, therefore, I simply didn’t know any boys, and the only close male adult was my father, who was quite a difficult man. 

The school was very academic – needlework and art were definitely looked down on.  It was a good distance from home, so staying to after-school activities wasn’t an option, nor was visiting the other girls who lived near school. (It seems crazy nowadays that a mere 3 miles was such a barrier).   When I was 16, my father decided I should leave school and get a job; everyone else I knew stayed on to sixth form and (mostly) university. 

So I started work as a junior at ICI.   I was very lucky to have gone there – I met many interesting, intelligent, cultured people and thus became interested in the arts but of course, I was only 16, and most of them were much older.  Fortunately I discovered amateur theatre, which is the best possible thing to do if you (a) haven’t got great social skills and (b) are willing and reasonably practical !   (My mother sewed and knitted, and my father was a mechanic, so I have good practical genes).  I made a few friends, but I was never good at relationships – didn’t know how to talk to those pesky men.  After a few years, most of my friends were married and started having children;  I’ve never lived with anyone, and have no children.  I do have a few single, childless friends, but most of the people I spend time with have children.

So, I feel a bit different, though not so much as I used to.  Weird diet, often a fish out of water, never like the things other people like, no children.   (I am, however, very happy !)  

What I can’t quite fathom, is how this relates to what I make.  Hm.  I’ve done everything from macrame jewelery to soft furnishings, via knitting, crochet, needlepoint, dressmaking, earrings, bags, silk painting etc etc.  .

Process :

For the last 10 years (a long time for me) it’s been feltmaking.  I like to make functional things with a good finish, mostly using cut and sew methods.  I love my sewing machine, and I like making braids and cords, and incorporating printing.

What do I care about :

Lots of things, but chiefly :


nature – plants, trees, landscape;

environmental issues – sustainability, ethical production, fair trade, pollution;


history, in particular costume