Malka Dubrawsky’s vivid geometrics

Windows cr Malka DubrawskyNot all artists work with paint and canvas, and yet when we consider ‘art’ those are the materials the majority of us think of. I love art in the broader, more inclusive sense, one that involves expression in all kinds of materials, from ink to fabric.

I encountered Malka Dubrawsky through a snippet on the news pages of a patchwork magazine I wrote for recently. Her use of colour and bold shapes immediately caught my attention.

Malka has been working with and making textiles for the past 20 or so years, but she started out with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art with a focus on printmaking.

“I’m not so sure I wanted to be an artist as much as I wanted to be a maker,” she says. “I have always loved making things, drawings, collages, knitted and sewn items, and photographs.”

These passions led her towards textiles after she finished her formal art education. “I felt like a lot of my drawings reminded me of quilts – I didn’t really know what that meant, but I was drawn to re-imagine them in fabric,” Malka explains. “From there I wanted to create the kind of fabric I felt inspired to work with and so I learned how to pattern and dye fabric, specifically cotton, in various ways.”

Fresh Quilting coverThis artistic vision combined with a practical nature has led to Malka having her work included in prestitious shows, as well as finding her way towards making more functional fabrics, designing for Moda Fabrics, teaching and lecturing, and, writing the books Color Your Cloth: A Quilter’s Guide to Dyeing and Patterning Fabric and Fresh Quilting: Fearless Color, Design, and Inspiration.

When I ask Malka if she can remember the first piece of art she made that she was proud of, she gives a fervent yes. “Not only can I remember it, I still own it!” she exclaims. “I was in middle school, about 13 years old, and taking the first art class in my life. I actually only signed up for the class to get out of taking Physical Education, but I got lucky and had an amazing teacher, Kay Stapleton. What does that say about a teacher and a class that 30 years later I still remember her name?

“Anyway, we were learning how to work with tempera paints and making nature-inspired paintings. I still have that painting. It is framed and hanging in my house. It may be my most treasured possession.”

Typically pragmatic about her work, Malka says she rarely waits for inspiraton. “If I only worked or thought about working when I’m inspired, I wouldn’t be getting very much done,” she points out. “If I’m feeling sluggish I start doing something mundane in my studio, ironing a piece of fabric or pattern dye cloth in a familiar way, and I find that the inspiration or desire to create and explore often follows.”

Strips and stripes cr Malka Dubrawsky

Looking at Malka’s creations, it’s no surprise that colours have an impact on her work. “I love seeing two intense colours sitting side-by-side in a garden or in a city street and thinking, ‘wow those would look great pieced together in a quilt.’”

Malka is also influenced by textiles from other cultures, including “African Kente and Kuba cloths, East Indian embroideries, and Kilim rugs. I definitely have a soft spot for the textiles of the Bauhaus movement, works by German-American textile artist Anni Albers and Jewish-French artist Sonia Delauney. But I can be deeply moved by patterning in nature or architecture as well.”

Malka has been design and creating hand dyed and patterned fabrics for her Etsy store, stitchindye, for several years, and now designs commercial lines for Moda Fabrics in a similar way.

Variety of fabrics cr Malka Dubrawsky

“My initial interest in designing fabrics came with a sense, 20 years ago, that I couldn’t find the kind of intensely coloured but graphic fabrics I was looking to work with,” she says.

Malka recently filmed a video class that she’ll be offering as part of The Sewing Party, on 8 November, while gearing up for the release of her newest line for Moda Fabrics, Poems from Pebbles (great name – I can’t wait to see it!). “That will premier at the International Quilt Market in Houston, Texas, in late October. I’m also prepping to teach an online Improvisational Piecing class for CreativeLive in early October and steadily working through designing yet another line of fabrics, L.O.V.E., to premier in the Spring of 2015.” Busy, creative times ahead, then!

Twinkle King cr Malka Dubrawsky

“I think that every time you explore a process or an idea it helps you grow as an artist, even if, and maybe especially if, that idea doesn’t succeed,” Malka says. “Making art is a process, an ongoing search. If you’re learning, you’re growing.”

Find Malka at

Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on Give me a shout at judy(at)

Midweek writing prompt – shopping trolleys

TrolleysAt Bristol Harbour Festival last month I saw a performance that prompted smiles from everyone watching. Created by C-12 Dance Theatre, Trolleys blends ballet, street dance, storytelling and humour using shopping trolleys less as props than as extensions of the dancers themselves.

Trolleys2The dancers shared stories of rivalry, ostracism and love – all packed with energy, grace and excitement.

For this week’s writing prompt I invite you to consider the humble shopping trolley as, if not a character in your story, then a crucial part – a home, a mode of transport, even a friend for your protagonist, and see where it takes you.

If you write something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket With your permission, I’d love to share it on


Book review – Carry Me Home by Terri Wiltshire

carry me home By Terri WiltshireBeginning rather shockingly with a case of mistaken identity that leads to a 1904 Alabama lynching, Carry Me Home crosses generations to bring us the story of Canaan and her great-uncle Luke.

Canaan is returning home to Lander, Alabama, nursing a body full of bruises and a heart full of disappointment and mistrust. After spending her childhood plotting  escape from the small country town, she’s been forced retreat to her grandmother, Lou Venie, and try to reclaim some semblance of a life among the gossipers and gripers she’d been so glad to leave behind.

Luke’s story is far more brutal, having spent his own childhood being ignored, beaten and left tied to trees for days on end as punishment for ruining his mother’s life simply by being the product of a union she claimed was forced by a black man, resulting in the violence of the first chapter.

As grim as this all sounds, there’s a warmth to Terri Wiltshire’s writing that brings her characters to life and prevents this becoming a fictionalised misery memoir. Even during his worst experiences, Luke shines through – humble but hopeful and wonderfully stubborn when it comes to living life in his own unconventional way. His early years present a vivid look at the sub-culture of 1920s hobos in the American Deep South – as exotic and curious as a hidden tribe leaving messages for each other “carved into wooden trestles, on fences , and along the tracks; a secret code that ordinary people, bound by the restraints of what hobos referred to disdainfully as a ‘settled life’, passed by without noticing.”

Continue reading

Poems about trees

Common Yew - berries cr Judy DarleyIn a leafy echo of this week’s #writingprompt, Tony D’Arpino offers up a few poems inspired by trees. Thanks Tony!

Yew Tree Cottage

it’s not really there anymore
like a name lost in the war

like a blackboard with old chalk
showing through the eraser’s path

but if I called you ash or oak
would you come with me now

past a round spider’s web
as bright as an archer’s target

to the bole of a treehouse
once in the world

Spider web cr Judy Darley


spring has sprung
and wet the rungs
of the bad ladder
to the tree house
in the rain when
the sun is shining

The Coppice

Rare pussy willow
On the border of the allotments
Salix of all middle worlds
A beauty spreading in her rose
A tree of spring in silver light
The branches like cupped hands her fingers
A perfect forest in one tree

The cutter has not coppiced here
For a generation or three
Perhaps he died before passing on his craft
Or the skill was not transferable
At the particular wild place
The young moved on
As the world moved on
Into a digital forest

In dark daylight
The cutter returns with sharp tools
In fitted wood
He shows the sky
His shining tools
And turns to work the borders
Where seasons dream

Old Friends in print

My short story Old Friends appears in the August issue of The Simple Things magazine, now on sale across the UK.

sim26coverThe story taps in to a lot of nostalgia, and I’ll confess to raiding my own childhood for one of the memories. It’s a sweet, sad but hopefully heart-mourning tale. Two people have already been in touch to tell me Old Friends made them cry, but hopefully in a good way!

The tale is accompanied by artwork from talented designer and illustrator Christine Rosch. I think it’s gorgeous!

Get your copy of the mag online or find it on sale in stores such as WHSmith.

Midweek writing prompt – trees

Trees cr Judy DarleyThis week’s writing prompt was inspired by Tony D’Arpino, author of Trees of Bristol, who asks the question: What’s your favourite tree?

It’s a question he’s faced frequently since the book came out, and he agrees it’s almost impossible to answer. Is it one from childhood, the first you ever climbed, or the one you pass every day on your way to work?

Whatever your favourite tree is at this present moment in time, write an homage to it – the leafiness, the sound the wind creates in its branches, the thought of all the people (or one particular person) it’s sheltered from the rain or sun.

If you write something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket With your permission, I’d love to publish it on

Breathing space

Arnos Vale Cemetery cr Judy DarleyMy feature about Bristol’s green spaces is in issue 180 of Clifton Life magazine, currently scattered through coffee shops, art galleries, independent shops and other desirable spots throughout the city.

I pitched it to the editor, Deri, back in April. I write a lot of journalism anyway – it forms the bulk of my income – but I wanted to re-brand myself a bit as an author, in the wake of the launch of my short story collection Remember Me To The Bees.

So this is the pitch I sent:

I’m a Bristol-based freelance journalist and fiction writer. My debut short story collection, Remember Me To The Bees, is just out. I wondered if you would be interested in a piece about my favourite green spaces in Bristol, and how they benefit my writing.

Then I powered on into the pitch itself, part of which also formed the opening paragraph of the feature:

I didn’t realise until I moved into Bristol quite how much I need green spaces. I grew up in relatively rural surroundings, and in my first few months in the city I found myself seeking out the parks, without quite knowing why. 

Being amid greenery clears my head, allowing space for the next paragraph, piece of dialogue or, just occasionally, entire plotlines, to flood in. Away from the clamour of my laptop screen, peace descends, and with it words. If I’m walking, I may carry a notebook, but if I’m running the only thing for it is to allow my thoughts to coalesce, then speed up my pace to reach home before they have a chance to slip away.

The pitch caught Deri’s attention, resulting in a commission for a piece I really enjoyed writing. It gave me the chance to share the places I love, talk about writing, and let the world know I’m a creative as well as journalistic writer.

Job done!

Breathing Space feature Clifton Life

Opportunities for writers to help young people

Millennium Bridge, NewcastleDo you live in the north east of England? Would you like to use your writing skills to benefit young people?

New Writing North is developing a number of writing projects involving young people. “We will be working with a range of groups including those who are already interested in writing, young people who have never been involved in creative projects before, and ‘harder to reach’ young people, or specific communities of interest.”

It’s a great opportunity to get out from behind your laptop and encourage new generations to play with words!

If you’re interested, send an email to and let her know you’re keen to work on projects with young people. If you have a specific area of interest, or have limited availability, make that clear too.

You’ll need to include your CV, detailing your writing history, publication or production history, and any other relevant work.

Ideally, for practicalities sake, your should be based within easy travelling distance of the North East  – ie Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Teeside and Durham.

Good luck! If you pursue this venture please let them know you found out about it on Thank you!

How to write a dictionary

DICTIONARY FOR DYLAN - DOOZIEToday’s guest post comes from award-winning poet Emily Hinshelwood, and offers details of her Dictionary for Dylan project, shares her passion for words, and invites you to get involved.

Two years before his death, Dylan Thomas said: “words are the most important things to me ever.” He commented that as a young child he had fallen in love at once. “There they were, seemingly lifeless, made only of black and white, but out of them, out of their own being, came love and terror and pity and pain. Out of them came the gusts and grunts and hiccups and heehaws of the common fun of the earth.”

Relish a literary legacy

When I was invited to be the writer in residence in one of this year’s centenary projects, The Dylan Thomas’ Pop-up Writing Shed, I knew I wanted to do something that enjoyed words and involved people in playing with them. Dylan Thomas crafted his works with such skill and dedication that this seemed to me to be a fitting tribute to a man who had lived for and loved those black and white shapes.

I also wanted to encourage people to explore their own use of language, and not to feel restricted to using words as they appear in our dictionaries. So I decided to invite people to invent entirely new words and their associated meanings. It’s something that anyone of almost any age can do – and at the end of the year I’ll be compiling the words into a Dictionary: The Dictionary for Dylan.

teacher in Dylan's writing shed

The pop-up writing shed is a replica of Dylan’s iconic shed in Laugharne where he worked for the last four years of his life. It has been faithfully re-created down to the curled pictures on the walls, the cigarette butts, the beer bottles on the desk, and his jacket on the back of the chair. And it’s on wheels!

Gorslas school with shed

Tap into the hwyl

So since February I have had my head in the shed, visiting schools and festivals, talking with people about Dylan Thomas and being witness to the birth of literally thousands of new words.

People’s eyes light up when they hear that their word will go into a dictionary. Often it is a family word that they’ve used for generations, or a word one of their children coined when they were learning to speak. Some people make an anagram their name or splice two words together, or do what Dylan did and write them backwards. There are those that give me the detailed etymology of the word, those that produce onomatopoeic words, those that give multiple definitions. And so far I have not had the same word twice!

people invent words at hay

I’m delighted with the response, the imagination and the hwyl with which people are embracing the project. (in case you were wondering, hwyl means ‘stirring feeling of emotional motivation and energy’) And it’s not restricted to people who come into the shed. We have an online form and a postcard for people to send me their words.

hay words

Marvel at what rolls in!

I find it fascinating the different kinds of words people invent. In primary schools they are often about superpowers and magical creatures, the world with infinite possibilities; in secondary schools there seems to be a lot of words that reflect teenage anxieties, the loss of friends, or being hurt by gossip; then there are all the situational words, eg in Hay Festival (pictured above) there were plenty of words about mud and waiting around too long for friends!

I have many, many favourites and I tweet a word of the day @dylandictionary; but just to give you an idea here’s a few:

MECHANAISSANCE the period 1860-1980 when machinery & typewriters were used. (Euan Sinclair)
BOOZEFUMBLE to botch any activity while under the influence or drink (Alan)
WELLIBRATION a happy event where everyone wears wellies (Rebecca McGrattan)
TWACKERED To be exhausted from looking after twins (Daniel McCallum)
KETTELAK When there’s not quite enough water in the kettle for all the cups of tea (Annette Edwards)
KLANGSKRUNT hatred of piped ‘music’ in cafe’s, shops and other places (Kathryn Stone)
EXPAEDIATE to win time away from your children (Randal Turner)
NOGARD someone who doubts the existence of dragons (Nuala Reid)
HONKY-PONKY the sexual activity of geese (Mike Maguire)
FRAMBOIDLED sunburnt (Peter C. Frost)
BAGSEA to secure a place by the sea (Sarah Jenkins)
GOBULUS talking endless jibberish (Sarah E Fenton)
SNOZEFELDE a favourite blanket or piece of material which aids sleep (Claire Neville)
MEMDIMION A moment when you forget a long-standing acquaintance’s name (Delyth Eirwyn)
NOXILATE to perplex someone with endless facts (Lara Gardner)
LILLENPOP a person who refuses to take life seriously (Olivia Field)
POSICULT A collective noun for optimists (Leigh Keen)

If you would like to contribute a word to the dictionary, please do send it to us via the online form at, and keep your eyes peeled for the shed. It really is popping up all over the place!

Emily Hinshelwood at writing shed

Author bio

Emily Hinshelwood (pictured above) is a freelance writer, performer, animator and community arts facilitator. Winner of the John Tripp Award for Spoken Poetry, Emily performs her poetry in a variety of settings, from outdoor poetry walks, to the sitting rooms in IKEA, to sustainability conferences as well as traditional arts venues. Her recent poetry collection, On Becoming a Fish was inspired by a series of walks around the 186-mile Pembrokeshire coastal path and took seven years to complete. She has won many literary awards for her poems and is especially interested in engaging audiences with poetry. Emily also runs a programme of Arts and Climate change projects for the charity Awel Aman Tawe, which engages people in the issues of climate change through a variety of arts genres.