Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Floods in black and white

Although the floods are retreating now, there were still whole fields underwater when I went out with my camera at the weekend.

I found a row of hazel edging the fields and silhouetted against a gentle sunset which was reflected in the flood water.

Because of the silhouette, it seemed right to turn the photos into black and white. This I did in Adobe Photoshop and it revealed a tracery of branches with the history of the hedge to be seen in the trunks gnarled from previous cutting.

The conversion to black and white then suggested possibilities of rotating and tiling small cropped sections of the photos.

Following advice from Connie after my last post, I'm going to attempt to tile these below ...

YES!! It worked! I'm not sure I got the order of the photos quite right in the grid ... but that will have to wait till another day now.

So - I've learnt two things - the power of cropping and gridding black and white photos in Photoshop - and how to insert the HTML code for tables and photos into my blog ... very, very many thanks for the code and for your encouragement, Connie.

And that's the power of blogging across 6,000 miles - not bad for an afternoon's work!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Playing with cards and thinking small




Recently, a friend introduced me to Moo Cards and I was enchanted by the tiny pieces of mostly abstract art, so tactile and satisfying and usefully printed on the reverse with her contact details. I had of course seen and received artists' trading cards and printed business cards but these little cards had somehow passed me by.



Having seen them, I set out the other day to have some printed. I spent a pleasurable afternoon, sorting through photographs, enhancing where necessary and cropping in Photoshop and here are some of the results.




I found choosing a selection of small images to represent myself fascinating. It forced me to think about my work and how to represent it in a series of cards measuring 7 by 2.8 cm - tricky - and a very useful exercise as I've never worked this small before.



I often crop and cut pieces and form them into a grid but this was different as I wanted to select only one image of a particular kind and was not putting the small pieces together to make a whole. I really had to think out the essence of things.




As it turned out, some of the cards were much more successful than others, so perhaps I learnt a useful lesson about working small. The most successful were those that were simple, with strong contrast or brightly coloured.

In this post, I must apologise for the strange layout but Blogger just would not let me tile the images as I wanted. It was this or a long string of images one under the other with no possibility of seeing more than one at a time. If anyone can tell me how to achieve tiling in simple layout, I'd be delighted to know ...



Thursday, 20 February 2014

Searching out orange

My offerings for Roy this month are a very mixed bunch. After all the rain this winter,  there is almost nothing outdoors but brown trees, green fields, mud ... and water. I've been forced to think wide and the results hail from all over the place.

First, there were shadows and sunlight in the café at The Burrell Collection in Glasgow,


then photographed in Essex, a section of an old Virgin hot air balloon, long since abandoned, 


an orange acrylic chair that took my eye on a visit to the zoo with my grandchildren in Warwickshire,


in my stash, some wonderful orange and yellow leather off-cuts gleaned in Somerset on a visit with a friend,


and back near home, spray containers of cleaning fluid stacked in my local supermarket.


Orange really does get everywhere, vibrant and self-advertising, cheerful and strong.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Stitch and Slash

I spent today at a workshop revisiting a technique I'd not used for some time - faux chenille or stitch and slash work. I'd forgotten what a pleasure it could be - though one basic thing about it hit me fair and square as I was working.

While colour choices are always central to the kind of textile work I do, in this case it seemed absolutely vital to work with a good colour palette since, in a way, that is what the whole thing is about - the juxtaposition of glimpses of colour against a textured top surface. Plenty of contrast was needed, both of colour hue and intensity.

The idea was to work some samples, playing with the process - placing layers one on the other, mixing colours, varying fabric texture and pattern, and top-stitching the surface.



I began dutifully, stitching a small cream on cream piece which had alternating layers of calico and cotton scrim using waving wandering lines (now there's a surprise). This was not exciting to do nor was the result worth a photo but I felt it was a warm up to the process. As I progressed, it proved useful to practice the technique again and later to experiment with top stitching.

The thing I found most fiddly (I remember this from before) was cutting through the layers accurately and without cutting right through the whole thing. Our tutor, Sue Fereday, came up with a  hint worth a million - a slim knitting needle to slide down the channels to separate them as I cut - what a great idea!

The sample I include here was my most successful. By this time, I'd stopped following the rules, varying the width of the channels stitched, putting on some top stitching which spread over from one row to another ... and deliberately cutting right through all the layers to make lozenge-shaped holes.

The detail left shows the stitching completed using some of the automatic patterns in my machine. It needs further work if it's to turn into anything but I was quite pleased with the colours and patterns I'd chosen to combine.

If nothing else, I will need to give the whole piece a 'haircut' to remove all the untidy, shaggy ends - not so that it's too neat but just so that the eye is not distracted.

Then of course, there is always the problem of what to do with the edge and how to mount it or use it ... or maybe it will just go into either my UFO or my sample box or into my current sketchbook. Time will tell.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Weaving update 2

Around this time in a larger piece - about half way in - I seem to hit self-doubt and have to get my head down and keep working without questioning or thinking too much.

It helps to keep reminding myself of the original thought I had and of the various elements being included ... and also to remember that this always happens.

... Right ... head down and back to the loom!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Textile community

....A real sense of community, with skills being handed on from one practitioner to another ... a strong sense of pride in the exercise of needle skills ... Edward Lucie-Smith on the art and craft community

I reread recently some of Diana Springall's fascinating book, Inspired to Stitch. I hadn't opened it for some time so I began at the beginning with the Foreword by Edward Lucie-Smith.

There is so much to relish in this book but, this morning, I was struck in the first few paragraphs by Lucie-Smith's comments on the power of the arts and crafts community and especially the commitment of the women practitioners to their craft and to those they stitch with even when the craft has low status.

For me, at the moment of reading, the thing that struck me most was his mention of the generosity of stitchers across the world in sharing and handing on their skills. This has particular resonance for me because I belong to a great group of embroiderers and stitched textile enthusiasts who meet regularly in Cricklade, Wiltshire, here in the UK.

The prime driver of this group is the willingness of members to share their knowledge and expertise. This they do month after month with obvious pleasure and to the great benefit of everyone. As a result, attendance at group meetings is astonishing and the enthusiasm is infectious.

We are currently preparing for an exhibition under the title Customs and Crafts - An exploration in stitch. This is to run in Lydiard House near Swindon throughout April and May. Further details will be available soon - but for now, we are finishing off and debating how to display our work. To whet your appetite, I'm including two small snippets of work from the group - neither of them mine this time.

Detail from a quilt
Caroline Goss
A 3 D vessel in construction
Ruth Hayman

We are beyond doubt a community and one whose support and encouragement is of great value to me and whose meetings I relish.

Without their support, and the encouragement I receive here through blogging, it would be a lonely and frustrating road.


Monday, 10 February 2014

Weaving and a friend

My very good friend who lives in Somerset took me to a lovely leather factory shop in Street. She knows my love of colour and texture and knew just where to take me for a bit of browsing.

There was a wonderful range of brightly coloured leather off-cuts left over from making handbags, gloves and coats. The range of colour and finish was fantastic and I was able to rummage in a large bin to find a good variety of types of leather finishes and suppleness. I now have a bag lurking in my stash. I'm not sure when and how I will use it - though I do have one or two thoughts, perhaps to be followed up once my exhibition deadline for the end of March is past.

It was also possible to buy fine strips of leather by the meter in a range of colours. This I knew I could find an immediate use for and bought a good length of it. Here, I've added two strips to my woven piece along with the next bands of colour to give a change of texture. I'm also hoping that the greater rigidity of the leather will help to give some support when I finish the piece off and twist it into 3D.

This photo also shows something of how I work. For this kind of weaving, I break the rules. I don't always weave steadily up the warp but go back and add in extra passes of weft when I feel the need. I may also unpick and then fill in. I also use a wide range of different threads and yarns and change the colours often. I think of it as painting in yarn.

With all this going on, I find I usually need to use the hooked upholstery needle with a large eye shown in the photo rather than a bobbin. This allows me greater flexibility and also lets me add in those extra passes of weft if I feel the need.

When I start, I weave a wooden batten through the warps in one direction to give a shed which I can pass through easily. On the return, I have to pick each warp thread individually and it is then that the upholstery needle comes into its own.

I'm sure the purists would not approve at all - but I like the flexibility of this sort of approach and it allows me to work intuitively and freely - vital for me.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Not all Somerset is flooded

We've just spent a weekend with friends in Somerset - and to our relief they are spared the flooding that is so filling the news bulletins here, though it was a strong topic of conversation.

As this lovely view looking across to Glastonbury Tor from their farm shows, not all the county of Somerset is flooded. Much is extraordinarily green (but waterlogged nonetheless) after all the rain and mild weather.


But I don't want at all to diminish the awful plight of so many people living and working on the Somerset levels. There is so much flooding. This is only a tiny snapshot of what so many are experiencing. 


I don't know what decisions will or should be made about the protection of this area for the future and I certainly wouldn't want to have to make them.


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Weaving update

I've been weaving hard these last few days. The pressure is on with an exhibition at the end of March and much other work to complete.

This update shows the next section of my piece - progress with some stronger colours now included.


A decision I will have to make as I finish will be what to do with all those gorgeous ends. There are far too many to leave all dangling. That would definitely be overkill ... but some and along some of the length might be a great way to suggest the growth and profusion of summer. 

Such thoughts always crop up as I work and can change perception of a piece ...



Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Rewarding books

In the last few years, I've read a large number of books on textiles and art and the right book at the right moment can be worth every penny. I've been directed towards new ideas and solutions and reading has made me think about what I am trying to do and why. Sometimes, I see interesting ideas and techniques that may not be appropriate at the time of reading but which set up thoughts that store themselves away for the future.

I experienced all of these as I read the new book, Approaches to Stitch: Six Artists edited by Maggie Grey and published by D4daisy books. More details can be found on this link.

Although several of the artists featured were familiar, three of them particularly interested me with what they had to say and show.

The first was Olga Norris whose blog, www.threadingthoughts.blogspot.com, I follow avidly. Her comments were fascinating, especially her initial description of how and why she came to textiles and her feelings about this. So much she said seemed to resonate with me.

There was one piece of work shown that I particularly enjoyed - thankfully the first one shown on the D4daisy link as I can't remember its name and have leant my copy of the book to a friend. (Can you help me Olga? - She could and did - see her comment below ...) Olga's blog and website are full of interesting observations about art and textiles as well as glimpses of her work and process and I can't recommend them too highly.

I also follow Ro Brunh's blog and love her rich use of colour and texture so it was a delight to see her represented in the book. For me, her most interesting pieces are her journals - 3 D riots of fabric, stitching and colour. She shows the making of one of her journals and there are fascinating insights into how she layers and constructs her work.

I had previously come across the work of Elizabeth Brimelow but not made a significant connection with her. This book changed all that and I was fascinated by the glorious landscape work shown, especially the lovely piece Round Meadow with its tantalising glimpses of colour and text-like marks and it's wonderful 'unfinished' edging.

The blurb for the book says it is the traces and marks that man has made on the land that inform Elizabeth's work. This seemed to clarify for me very vividly what I may be up to in my own work - those wandering lines of stitch fully explained, maybe! More examples of her work can be found by googling her and selecting images.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Drawing because I felt like it

I've been drawing in my sketchbook this morning - just because I felt like it and also perhaps because I needed a break from all those wandering hillside lines I've been so preoccupied with lately.

My subject was a favourite old Windsor chair that sits in the corner of my kitchen. Members of my family have sat in it for around 100 years so it's very precious to me.

Still, I wanted to take a fresh view of it so I drew using the blind drawing with 'sneaky peaks' technique because if I hadn't peaked to reposition myself, my drawing would not have been recognisable as a chair and, this time, I wanted it to be.

The sketchbook I chose is square and I usually draw in it in pencil or perhaps pen. It holds all my drawings that 'just happen' rather than being a particular part of my practice when I'm working out a new piece of work. It has a quiet and unthreatening feeling to it so it is where I go when I need a break and I treasure the book as a result.




While drawing in this way, I find my mind goes to work on things I'm trying to resolve quietly and unconsciously.

Then there was the photographing of the drawing ... and then of course Adobe Photoshop and the crop feature ... so this little bit of undemanding fun may yet yield something useful.
























Why does that fourth thumbnail on the right there remind me of a woman hanging out wind-blown washing? Funny tricks the mind plays ...