Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Wiltshire Floods - Cricklade North Meadow

This afternoon, I drove to Cricklade North Meadow in Wiltshire - a favourite place for me in recent times to see wildlife and landscape. Since discovering this lovely place when our textile group took the meadow as a focus for work, I've visited many times, especially in spring for the fritillaries, in autumn and once in winter when the meadow was under a foot of snow. It's always a delight.

This time following the recent torrential rain, the flooding was spectacular.  The River Thames had burst its banks covering the fields in the flood plain and threatening farms and low-lying houses.

I took lots of photos in the late afternoon light. The colour palette was subtle and almost monochrome.

I love this one, with its contrasting areas of reflection and wind-ruffled surface and the willow trees silhouetted against the light sky, 


and especially this one with the stripe of thousands of brown dock seed heads in the distance and bare branches and rose hips in the foreground. 

This reserve is a Special Area of Conservation, administered by Natural England.  It's one of the finest examples of a lowland hay meadow in Europe - there used to be so many more. These sites are now so precious.

The meadow supports Britain's largest population of snake's head fritillary. Fortunately, this lovely flower thrives in meadows with winter flooding. Around half a million of the dark pink flowers can be found here each year in April and I am sure that next spring will be all the better for this flood. I can't wait....

Details of Cricklade North Meadow can be found at http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/conservation/designations/nnr/1006112.aspx.



Sunday, 25 November 2012

COLOUR INSPIRATION 

I draw on all sorts of things when I'm planning textile work but one of the main things is colour. For me, it often works in an oblique way. My eye may be taken by a colour combination in a garden, in the landscape around my home or perhaps in the wild places I visit in Scotland. Then later I use this colour image in a piece whose subject matter has nothing to do with the landscape where I first saw it - but may be that's how it works for everyone.

Silver Birch and heather in Glen Quoich, Aberdeenshire
Recently, I've been collecting together photos to use in work on the geology and rocks of the Cotswolds.

I love the acid yellow and brown in this photo taken in the Highlands of Scotland. I haven't manipulated the colour in Photoshop - this is just as I saw it.

And the rich brick red, browns and ochre yellows in this wall.


And the purple, yellow and green in this photo taken in a garden - though perhaps I use this combination too much. 


The last two were taken last summer in the walled Garden at Lydiard House, near Swindon in Wiltshire. The colours were wonderful and the weather was warm and sunny and very good for photography and I have a very clear image of the colours in my mind. 

I know there is no relationship between the subject matter in these photos and my geology pieces but their colours crept into my memory and I know I will use them as I finally make my colour choices - I can feel it coming ...... 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Making Textile Christmas Cards


I've been making my own Christmas cards for several years now and people seem to enjoy receiving them. An example of last year's is shown left.

It was made using transfer dyes on polycotton. I ironed on background colours lightly and masked out snow flake shapes when I added the final colour. Then I over-printed the shapes again. On some - I get bored doing the same thing 100 times - I added some stitch but they weren't so successful, I don't think. This was one time stitch seemed unnecessary.

Not sure what to do this year. That's the problem - thinking up a new idea each year .... As you can see in the photo of my workroom (in creative? chaos), I've been playing around with discharging star shapes into blue Quink ink on silk dupion or cotton (cheaper but not so nice) and then using an Art Van Go printing stamp onto which I brushed thickened bleach with a bit of old car sponge. Hope my husband doesn't notice its disappearance!


I'm always tempted to turn everything into a landscape so I've added a strip of white sari silk to represent snow. I've then over-printed with Lumiere Halo Gold  paints and a star-shaped Indian wood block. I quite like the effect - just not sure if it's all that Christmasy.

Will try out the idea on my resident critic when I've added some stitch. I'm sure there will be new developments as I go along. He'll certainly have comments to make! Just hope they're positive as I seem to be rather lacking in new - and practical - ideas this year.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Framing and presenting work


Margaret Thatcher
Weaving in a box-type frame
I'm organising a 'show and share' session next week for our WCE group, Great Western Embroiderers, about framing and presenting work  - cheaply. That, of course, is the catch. We all know of framers who will charge over £100 to stretch and frame an A4 sized piece of work (and they do a good job) but for our group that is just not worth while if they are to offer work for sale at a sensible price.

Trips to Hobycraft or IKEA are much more likely to yield realistic results so I'm searching out suitable examples and hoping to glean some more ideas from the group.

I'm going to show them how I do my shallow box-type frames for my woven pieces as my contribution. These are  improvised from a suitably sized mount, spaced from the work and reinforced by strips of foam core board which also edge the box part of the frame. I then attach the work to more foam core board covered with a light muslin and put the whole thing into a deepish Hobycraft frame. It is then backed all over with hard-board to give more depth for the work - quite easy to do and not requiring many carpentry skills but seeming to look quite convincing - and really cheap.

Sea Sampler - in a commercial frame
I'll also show them a photo of my Sea Sampler - commercially framed and behind glass as a gift for a friend - so we can discuss choice of the frame colour to harmonise with the work.

I know also that it will provoke much debate about using glass. Buyers so often seem to prefer things behind glass but I don't normally do that for my own work and won't be for our upcoming exhibition - I almost never do, in fact. To me, glass seems to put a physical barrier between work and the viewer. There is almost always too much reflection and it stops people being able to see the details easily. I like people to be able to touch my work, and to experience the tactile character of the textile.

I know that there is concern about work getting dusty but I don't really find that a problem. A gentle blow and shake seems to be all that is needed. A friend recently gave me what sounds like a great tip for cleaning unglazed textiles when they've been on the wall a while. She gets out her hoover, covers the metal end of the wand with a pop sock, tightly attached with a rubber band, turns on the hoover and moves the end gently over the textile, about 1 cm from the surface. Dust is removed and textile undamaged. She assures me it does work. Do I dare to try?


Friday, 9 November 2012

Workshop with Angie Hughes

I had a great day on Tuesday on a workshop with Angie Hughes in Lockeridge, Wiltshire, organised by the Marlborough branch of the Embroiderers' Guild. Angie travels all around the country giving workshops of one kind or another. I have previously spent two lovely weekends on courses with her at Farncombe Estate in Worcestershire. This day was as good as I remember the others being.

Exploring Velvet piece - so far .....
The workshop this time was called Exploring Velvet and we spent the day spraying with Dye-na-flow paints, discharging and printing white cotton velvet to prepare a surface for transfer foils and later for stitching. It was great fun and  I learnt a lot and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It's always fun to spend a day doing something you really enjoy with like-minded people.

The new thing for me this time was discharging the Quink ink we sprayed over the fabric paints with household bleach. I'd read about it but had never tried it. The results were spectacular and quick. I get impatient if I have to wait for ages for things to dry or for processes to happen when I'm trying something new so I found the speed very beguiling.

Exploring Velvet piece - detail
There were some interesting effects, especially where the Quink ink was sprayed on darker and the under-sprayed colours were stronger. The increased colour contrasts some other members of the group achieved were particularly striking.

After that, Angie showed us how to foil small areas of our work onto Bondaweb or Mistyfuse and various other fabric glues. As I think you can see above, for me, this was the least pleasurable part of the day as I found it quite hard to achieve a satisfactory effect. I found the very strong shiny surface made by the foils rather bold in comparison with my coloured surface which had turned out quite gentle in colour. However, for some of the group, it was the best part of the day. I guess it's all just a matter of taste and it was good to revisit the technique.

Applying painted Bondaweb or strips of silk instead of the foils was suggested as an alternative way of finishing off my work. I think I will try this when I finish my piece ready for a 'show and tell' display at the Marlborough EG meeting in the New Year.

Angie often offers this as a two day course with machine embroidery of the piece on the second day. As we had only one day, we now have to complete our pieces at home by layering with organza and machine stitching over the top. I'll look forward to it and to seeing how my piece turns out in the end.

Angie Hughes in her workshop
- taken from her website
Angie is a most entertaining and lively tutor with loads of experience and she shared all her knowledge with us most generously. Lots more details of her courses and her work can be found on her websites:

http://www.angiehughes.com/ and http://www.angiehughesonline.com/

... and there is even a photo on her home page of her with a piece just like the one she demonstrated for us yesterday.


Monday, 5 November 2012

NOT A BOOKWRAP - AND EXHIBITING IN MALMESBURY

As I've mentioned before, I exhibit regularly with Great Western Embroiderers, a group of stitchers who meet regularly in Cricklade, Wiltshire. We're a really friendly and happy bunch and our exhibitions are full of varied work for which we have built up quite a following in the area.

Working with the group gives me a context for my work and the impetus to complete work. Most things I'm happy with end up, usually in a frame, on a wall - so there are many fewer UFOs (unfinished objects) floating around in my work space... and I manage to sell some of them into the bargain.

Under Our Feet I - Strata
Being with the group also makes me extend the scope of my work and try out new techniques. Right now, I am focusing on a series of pieces, inspired by the mellow, sand-coloured Cotswold stone which is all around us here in houses, buildings and stone walls.

That test geology piece I intended to turn into a bookwrap has metamorphosed into the wall piece left, following hand stitching and friendly advice! I had always planned that it would go into the next GWE Exhibition in Malmesbury in February 2013 but it will be good to see it on the wall rather than wrapping itself around a book.

Under Our Feet 1 - Strata (detail)
It was amazing how the running stitch and French knots unified the piece, giving points of interest across it. I'm really glad I decided to handstitch before I edged it all and backed it to turn it into that book wrap.

Now to work out how to show it - in a frame, off the wall, or as a hanging, from a narrow perspex rod. In order to persuade someone to buy it, I know that a frame would be the best. People almost always seem to prefer frames. The only problem is that the work is of a non-standard size so a frame will have to be made - cheaply ... I will have to talk nicely to my resident handy-man about the house!

Sheep and Shepherd
Shirley Watson
I know it is ridiculously early to be thinking about exhibitions in February 2013, but if you plan to be in the North Wiltshire area at that time, we would be delighted to see you.  The title of our next exhibition is The Cotswolds –A Stitching Experience and it will run from Tuesday 19 February to Friday 8 March 2013. Full details of the venue can be found at http://www.malmesbury.gov.uk/townhall.html and a poster will follow.

Above is the image which will be used for our poster. It's a piece stitched by our member, Shirley Watson, using her Bernina computerised sewing machine with added handstitch. Shirley's work is always lovely and this piece captures the spirit of our exhibition beautifully.