Sunday, 27 September 2020



Its been a while since my last blog because life has been nonstop. As soon as I was allowed out again after shielding, I spent time catching up with friends and family. I am glad I did as it looks like we are in for another tough few months.
Since I last caught up I’ve managed to get myself headed in new directions we all have to work differently in these times and artists are finding it quite the challenge as many of the usual routes to market are shut down.

After finally finishing my MA I have secured an internship with Bright Ideas in Nottingham creating schools learning resources with an art twist relating to the cotton trade and working conditions for children in the Derwent Valley. Bright Ideas have worked on some fabulous projects take a look here.

Over the summer I had the honour of working on creating offline activity packs with Derbyshire County Council, for those that do not have access to the internet due to their circumstances be that refugee status or living in care homes. They were sent out with all the materials needed to complete each activity and I have heard they were most welcome. The packs focused on telling the story of the Derwent Valley and you can see the project here as well as have a go at them yourselves. My favourite to do was the artist book made from a cornflake packet!

That project then led to another collaboration between, me the council, and Cromford Mill. Last year I worked on a feasibility study for art workshops at Cromford Mill which was all planned and organised for this year but as we know Covid19 has changed everything so holding  30 art lovers captive in a classroom is now not possible! Cromford Mill still wanted to do something and Derbyshire County Council wanted to promote the Derwent Valley for Discovery days so what has transpired is very exciting. Last Wednesday I went up to the top of Scarthin Rock and was filmed painting Willersey Castle with Adrian Farmer filling in on the history. We were all excited to be outside and away from the computer screen actually doing something hands-on and not talking via zoom! After an hour it absolutely poured down with rain so the finishing touches to the painting will have to be done at home! The film will come out soon and I will share it with you. It will promote my Plein Air painting experience held at the Mill on October 25th there are only a few spaces left so if you want to book do so quickly here.

Another thing I am proud to be working on is the Being Human Festival, ‘Being Human is the UK’s national festival of the humanities, led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London in partnership with the Arts & Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. Look again at Derbyshire’s rich heritage as a global industrial powerhouse via a series of online events celebrating the history of one of the UK’s most overlooked areas. The University of Derby‘s hub programme is rooted in partnerships with museums, archives and schools, and will include digital illustrated talks, ‘draw-a long’s, public performances and ‘citizen curating’ of some of Derby Museum’s most sensitive collections.’
My contribution is to create a craft video as part of a discussion around historical maps where I hope to encourage others to create their own maps which will form a future part of the Derbyshire Record offices collection. More details to come!

Next weekend I am back with Medley again at Cromford Mill (I love it there!) We will be in the schoolroom next to the big marquee and we will have a great mixture of wood, glass, textiles, photography, and art for you to socially distance around! Id really like to sell a few things so it would be nice to see you as I have not been able to get out and sell much since March!

Image may contain: one or more people, text that says "Autumn Medley A Group ofLocal Crafts People Medley Autumn Oct 2-4 Cromford Mill Ground Floor Mill Yard Building next to the marquee"

I am exhausted writing all this down I have many other things going on, but I think I have written enough wordage for now! 
I really hope to see you next week! 
Take care
Ruth x

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Take a little pause.

As I sit here and begin this the radio is telling me that the music people are seeking out this year is more upbeat than in previous years. In my teens, I had a brief flirtation with the gothic indie style of music, I think it suited my wish to portray myself as the dark and moody teenager not the frightened unsure one I really was. But it was miserable sitting alone in my black bedroom so I soon switched back to my usual upbeat I can do anything hairy rock genre and have never looked back since. Yes I know its not high brow to admit to dancing around to ACDC but it makes me happy, my main point is music has the ability to lift the spirits and I think we could all do with a little bit of that right now.

The last few weeks have been a blur of trying and failing and not trying and succeeding I have had to have a long hard look at what I do well and what I try and do and fail at. In these uncertain times, I think panic can set in, the news cycle is a whirl of doom which if one is not careful can blow you off track. In my life, I have already graduated twice into a recession once in 1992 and then again in 2010 just as austerity kicked in. If I had paid attention to the news, then I would have thought there was no way that in 1992 I could start a career in fashion design and in 2010 launch an art business in the UK. I am about to graduate in a pandemic … I see a pattern here best-laid plans out the window!

I think we can only work with the circumstances we are given and must find ways of adapting our expectations without losing our dreams. There are new ways of working but first, we must accept that the old ways are on pause right now. I am very lucky I have been supported by my customers throughout lockdown and I have enjoyed creating some lovely work for them. I am not sure that I will be able to sell face to face for a while which is sad but new technology is making things easier.  

All walks of life are changing and some adaptations are going to make life better for some, here I am thinking of those that hate the daily commute and those whose physicality holds them back yet now can work remotely equal to others. Many are frustrated and just want life to fall back as it was but that will take some time. Overall I have been carrying on as normal getting up early working in my studio till around 4pm and not much has really changed but on the other hand, everything has changed I do miss the human interaction I  miss setting up art groups and workshops and meeting people and sharing my art. But patience is required, and this time will pass.

But I have not been listening to miserable music no I seek out the upbeat, now is not the time for self-imposed melancholy now is time to try and find something that brings a smile to your day even if that’s hard right now. Take time to reflect on what you can do within the confines of all these restrictions and it doesn’t have to be a big project, it can be silly like finally fixing that thing that drives you mad or watching trash TV, who cares. I am not here advocating that you start book writing and reading war and peace! I feel things are speeding up out there and before we know it, we will soon fill our days with other people's demands so take a little pause before that happens, if it hasn’t already!

These little works I painted to help me feel upbeat not my usual style but they did the trick at the time :)

Friday, 15 May 2020

A little fun for a Friday!

Inspired by the Belper Moo, that happens at 630 every evening in Belper. Some fun sketches.
Stay safe

Saturday, 25 April 2020

The chip shop obsession continues

Well, I'm working on being able to touch my toes, and I'm nearly getting there! Who would have thought that me the queen of sitting would be jumping about in the living room trying to do keep fit! I will spare you the actual image of this it's a strictly curtains drawn event! But progress has been made I can sit down on the floor and get up unaided! Silver linings eh!
Apart from my contortions in front of the TV, I have been contemplating what it takes for something to become a national icon and no I don't mean myself I mean the chip shop of course!
Last year I embarked on this mammoth project for my MA studies and I'm finally getting round to writing it all up. From my research it seems to boil down to a lot of us having the same emotions and memories, Chip shops have a continuity that goes back 160 years run by individuals, family businesses that serve us something that is unique to this country. Each area of the country have their different takes on it but essentially you can go anywhere in the UK and get a bag of chips to cheer you up. I know my Australian friends will insist that they have chippies but I can honestly say after I landed back in Blighty the taste of a soggy chip was the best day ever followed by standing barefoot on grass knowing there was no deadly spider underfoot!
Is this serious research I hear you ask? What is she going to do with a dissertation about chip shops? Well, I take heritage very seriously and I can tell you there's nothing more central to the British than the fact we are an island nation surrounded by the sea and full of green fields. In these apocalyptic times be comforted to know that potatoes will grow and fish will be caught and they will be battered and fried and eaten :) My research has uncovered the secret to us all surviving! Hey, it's not as far fetched as a dose of bleach followed by a quick sun bed session!!!!

So is she painting at all?
Yes, I'm painting I've just finished a lovely commission and started a new work a theme seems to be emerging again little back street businesses the sort you walk past they've always been there until they aren't.

Maycock's Butchers Overlane 40 x 40 cm

Clayton Engineering Belper in progress. 
So there you go a little update on all things in my world, yes I'm going slightly insane but in a good way! Keep occupied and carry on! Thank you for the replies to my chippy questions if you have any more observations or thoughts about what they mean to you please reply Australian fans if you have found a local chip shop that can make soggy chips I apologise and send my congratulations to the owner ... how hard can it be?
Anyway bye, for now, stay safe

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Why we run away to the seaside and Matlock Bath

Ruth Gray Matlock Bath. 2020.

Let me state here first I have not been running anywhere! I'm a #stayathomecreative! But this last weekend there have been so many images of folks going in their droves to the coast and Matlock Bath among many other places. These are scary times and my recent research into chip shops has revealed that chip shops, childhood, and seaside all mean a lot to us as cherished memories.
The queuing that has been witnessed outside of chippies have been epic but not good for the health of the nation! Maybe it is our need for something familiar, and happy that has seen this flight.

I'm longing for the day I can nip out to the chip shop safe in the knowledge that I'm not going to die in the process but for now, I'm content with collecting more of your chip shop memories via my surveys.

If you have any time on your hands could you fill out this SURVEY for me it is really helpful towards my dissertation!

The painting above is a finished demonstration that I started at my workshop a couple of weeks ago when we were allowed out! I have painted this before a long time ago but I love the image so much I gave it another go!

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Not the time for self pity.

Last week I wrote a blog post called the ABC of doom I have since deleted it because quite frankly it was a self-pity fest!  I was scared and panicked about the onset of this changing situation that has since last week completely engulfed all of us equally and for me to be only thinking of my situation as I was then is terrible because we are definitely all in this together.

My situation is that as a sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis I have to stay home and keep a distance this for me is not so difficult as by nature I'm a homebody and love nothing better than being inside writing or painting etc both activities that require vast amounts of silence and time. I'm also lucky that I have two beautiful boys that occupy themselves and apply themselves to homework without the need for nagging.

So far so good but although I'm a character that tries to find the positive side I do find that the prolonged amount of time ahead of us is quite overwhelming and if allowed to contemplate this prospect I can become quite sad. So I am actively practicing mindfulness and being in the now and knowing I can only control my own actions.

It's easy to become consumed by social media posts and I have found myself plunged back into Facebook/ Twitter as a way to keep in touch but it is with caution as others fears and sorrows can be catching as can other peoples ways of homeschooling and filling time all of a sudden there are experts on everything telling us we should use this or that resource or our kids will fall behind. I find myself wondering if I measure up to them.  But if our children do what their own school is recommending that's all that is needed my main concern is their mental well being as they adjust to all of this I'm not going to push them until they are ready.

I believe we should take a step back and assess how we alone truly feel about this situation and decide what is the best way we are going to cope before rushing into anything. This is so we can do the best thing by our own family and by extension the rest of society.

Art groups have each taken their own time to cancel their events we must have patience while we wait for the realities to dawn on individuals. This time last week it was unthinkable that we would be closing down pubs and cafes etc but the way I see it there is more to come and adjust we must and fast.

The hardest part is that the weather is improving and folk want to be out and about, if only it was pouring with rain we'd all stay home but like I say I can only control my own actions. People's personalities are going to be magnified at this time the selfish will be seen for what they are the kind will shine.

This blog post is really an outpouring of thoughts that are mine alone we each have our ways of coping and as usual art will be my crutch through this time. As an artist, it is my disposition to observe and contemplate the effects all this will have on us, so far I have seen some really positive actions taking place in the country for the collective and not the self this is encouraging. If you are feeling sad you won't be celebrating an anniversary, birthday or some such event remember it is not forever and ever but it is for now.  Patience and kindness is required with each other and for each other.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Workshops and Art Groups 2020

First, let me wish you all a happy and prosperous new year. I hope you have all had a great holiday, while it is still the very beginning lets make some space to create before everything else takes over. So if you have been planning to schedule in some painting time I have some dates below just for you. I have also some dates for inspirational learning using the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site for inspiration.  

Belper Sunday Painters 
Session Dates 2020 Sundays 10.30 am – 12.30 pm £5 on the door.

Block 1
• January 12th
• February 9th
• March 8th

Block 2
• May 10th
• June 14th
• July 12th

Block 3
• Sept 13th
• October 11th
• November 8th

DE56 0HS

No need to book just turn up £5 on the door or free to members of Purple and Grey join here:

Painting Class:
Learn to express emotion in your artwork with texture and colour. March 11, 10-2 pm £35.08.

Using a variety of media you will paint a piece of art, taking inspiration from the spa town of Matlock Bath.
Naturally mindful painting is a good way to relax and unwind from everyday stress.
This workshop will inspire you to express emotion in your work with texture and colour.
Materials are included but please bring your own canvas or paper, and wear old clothes.
All abilities are welcome, refreshments included but bring a packed lunch. Pay and display parking is available onsite.

The Grand Pavilion Matlock Bath

South Parade

Matlock Dale


Spaces are limited please book here:



Details coming soon:

June 6: Cromford Mills Painting Workshop, be inspired by the World Heritage Site and paint Cromford Millls details coming soon. 

 One to One Workshops

You can book me for a one to one workshop too prices are more because of the bespoke attention you will receive, please email me at to arrange.

Hope to see you soon
Kind regards
Ruth Gray