Friday, 30 December 2016

Making useful things

I often say that I never make anything useful and, in the main, that is true. However, before Christmas, I added a fourth stocking to the family collection for the youngest member of the family. He is in fact almost three but for various reasons I'd failed to complete his stocking in time for last Christmas and, as is the way of things, once Christmas was over, I hadn't given stocking-making a thought. Fortunately, my conscience nagged at me this time and I got down to making his version of the family pattern quite early this year.


They are easy to make and for obvious reasons, all slightly different. Each has the child's initial sewn on in felt to ease identification in the ceremonial hanging up ready for Father Christmas' arrival on Christmas Eve and in the frantic rush of excitement on Christmas morning. 


It is a lovely time which is photographed each year to record the children's growing up. This year, the occasion was not in the slightest bit diminished by the fact that the oldest grandchild had (no surprise) worked out the prosaic truth. She, fortunately, did not spill the beans and the younger ones were able to enjoy the myth in all its glory!


Wednesday, 28 December 2016

A print and good wishes!


This print (completed during the last session of the course I've followed last term at theYard: Artspace) comes to thank you all for visiting my blog in such amazing numbers over the past year. I feel enormous surprise each time I realise how far away so many of you are as you read what I've written. Your comments, encouragement and, especially, your hints and advice are always valued and they enrich and bring context to what I do.

Thank you and good wishes and a Happy New Year to you all. May 2017 be peaceful and gentle wherever you are and may you find your lives deepened by your making and your art.



Monday, 5 December 2016

Printing Cards together

We've been hand making our Christmas cards in one way or another for almost twenty years and it's a task I really enjoy. Generally I've made them mostly without my husband's help because I was using textiles and he doesn't stitch. However, from time to time printing on paper has been the medium of choice and we've worked together. One year early on, we screen printed which was very successful and on a couple of other occasions we hand printed from a simple wood cut which also worked well. I've been wondering this year why we hadn't repeated the fun as it's a lovely thing to do together. This year seemed a good moment.

However, because of still on-going moth treatment, access to my workroom (and indeed much of the rest of the house) has been limited so we had to think of a simple printing method that could be done at the kitchen table without many resources. We decided on relief prints to be printed in only one colour for ease and speed of production.


I drew up a couple of designs, dug in the resources I could reach for appropriate printing medium and card stock (A5 folded) and cut up the paper to take the print. Meanwhile, my husband made up two print blocks to give a choice. For this, he used Fab Foam (which cuts with scissors and prints really easily) and MDF which he cut to size, and a register plate jig the same size as the paper. This was well worth doing even though we were only using one colour as it ensured that the images were always correctly placed on the paper and margins were the right size. To keep mess to a minimum, we avoided oil based printing ink and printed using silver or gold acrylic paint which is water-based and washes off easily.

The acrylic paint seemed to work surprisingly well despite its rapid drying qualities which meant that we had to get organised before we began printing, work quickly with short print runs and clean off all equipment straight after each print run. We found that the Galeria range by Windsor and Newton worked best, even though it was slightly transparent especially in the silver. This suited the images we were printing. It may well be that their Extender Medium would have improved this if it had troubled us as it claims to increase the volume of the paint and to maintain opacity.

Some useful tips on all types of print making can be found here and here-  and on a wealth of other websites!



Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Weaving buildings, stitching circles

I've posted before (here and here) about the series of stitched weavings I been doing recently based on a starkly graphic modern office block I saw last year in Darling Harbour in Sydney. This building along with many others has triggered thoughts and inspired me for more than a year now.

Since our visit to Australia, I've become fascinated by the contrasting impact on the environment of modern life with its buildings, roads, factories and cities and the minimal trace of others such as the aboriginal peoples who have lived in Australia for over 50,000 years. This piece is part of my exploration of ways to represent this in my work. The strips echo the structure of the modern building and the circle, a significant symbol in aboriginal work, represents a water hole or meeting place. The hand stitched lines are intended to suggest their wandering 'songlines'.


The above is the latest piece in this series. I have been working to improve the simplicity and impact of the work, so that the the imagery and contrasting yarns I use are the focus. It's awaiting mounting and framing and a final decision on what to do (if anything) with the warp threads. While I think, it's sitting where I can see it in my work room so it nags at my consciousness.

Two earlier pieces in the series were exhibited in the John Bowen Gallery, Malmesbury until the end of last week.



I wove all these pieces on a simple table loom in strips which I can hold on my knee as I work. I then stitched them together as I wanted to replicate the sharp edges I'd noticed in the building. It was a fairly intuitive almost painterly process in which I reacted to the textiles as they evolved and sometimes unpicked strips that seemed 'wrong'. I then stitched the fine lines and especially the circle onto the woven surface since I wanted them to be finer and more delicate than was possible by weaving in order to suggest the aboriginal 'light touch'.



Sunday, 27 November 2016

Cropping black and white

Here I have more 6 cm square croppings of rejected intaglio prints to produce something hopefully useful, this time in brown/black and white.



They are very different these from the ones I posted on Thursday obviously because of their lack of colour but particularly since they don't suggest landscapes to me - unusual for me when I attempt this exercise.

Perhaps surprisingly, I also found it more difficult to find satisfying croppings in these abstract prints than in those I cropped for the last post.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Cropping to advantage

On Tuesday, I spent the morning turning unhappy prints into much happier cards through use of a window and selective cropping to produce small images which I then mounted on hammer finish card stock.




This process brings double advantage and is one I often use on left over photos and small pieces of stitch. It makes something useful out of a piece that might otherwise have ended up in the wastepaper basket and it makes me look at those parts of the print (or other work) that worked well, thus giving food for thought for the next time.


Thursday, 17 November 2016

Unease banished!

Following a most helpful comment from Olga Norris, I have rotated the last post's drawing right.


What a transformation ... and a relief! Now I can look at the image objectively. The monster is reduced to just a trace and there is an optimistic suggestion of growth.

This change led me to ponder on how extraordinary it is that a difference in orientation can create such a change in emotional response ... and a further thought about the link between what we see and our imagination.

Also, it brings a tip to remember!



Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Sketching and unease

The other day, I spent an hour sketching with a friend on a quiet country lane near where we live. It was a lovely, sunny autumn afternoon and the colours of the trees were beautiful.

For some reason I now can't explain, I chose to draw a rock that was topped by a large tree and in part overgrown with ivy. Its roots were intertwined and exposed. It was the pattern they made that enticed me, I think. I drew for a quarter of an hour, absorbed in creating the shapes of the roots and the deep shadows underneath. Then I stopped and looked at what I'd done.


The shapes on the page resembled something most unexpected and rather disturbing. A grotesque face was looking left out of the drawing. Monstrous and Hobbit-like, it felt like a haunting. I found I couldn't ignore what I'd seen. The peace was gone and I didn't continue.

Strange what the eye and brain register. I still feel the same unease when I look at the drawing now - not one for saving, except perhaps as a reminder of the strange ways of the mind.


Sunday, 13 November 2016

GWE 2 - Eyecatchers

Here I'm showing individually and in detail several pieces from the exhibition by Great Western Embroiderers that particularly caught my eye as we were hanging. They chose themselves because of the differences in underpinning idea, technique and presentation that were used and the emotional impact they made on me.

The overall theme within which we were working was landscape in all its forms - panoramic and close up, mapped, abstracted and pictorial, of sea, town and city, and rural. It was fascinating to see how differently each member interpreted the brief.

First of all, there is A Journey in East Sussex, a most thoughtful mapped hand stitched piece by Anne Carter. I have included it here because of the glimpses of rich meaning for her which underpin it. She said of this work, 'This piece began when I walked a labyrinth on a retreat and then began to connect that with a map from Forest Row where I used to live. The result combines ideas, not just of a physical journey, but of a spiritual journey too'. I found discussing this piece with her most affecting. 


Next, I enjoyed a hanging book form by Ruth Hayman entitled An Alternative Landscape. I've shown her work before and as so often, I was taken by her 3 D interpretation of the theme. In this gallery, we are pretty much restricted to flat pieces which hang on the wall but Ruth managed to find an ingenious way round this problem. This piece features a brightly coloured painted and folded canvas surface onto which Ruth has transposed a language of landscape marks in print, hand stitch and drawing.



Then there is an instantly recognisable and delicious seascape, And the Sea Rolls In by Margaret Sadler. For this, she used recycled fabric with machine and hand embroidery. I particularly enjoyed the perspective achieved with colour and texture and was immediately taken in my mind to a favourite place on the north coast of Devon where I've stood many times and seen these richly changing colours. I could almost smell the sea and hear the breaking surf ...


And then follows a series of three pieces: Marlborough Downs by Maggie Harris. These are beautifully delicate landscapes with machine embroidery and acrylic paint on cotton. I think these need to be seen to be enjoyed fully but I found them very gentle and calming and greatly enjoyed the colour palette. 

Last of all come two pieces by Pat Roberts. Pat's current work often features idealised landscapes using appliqué with richly textured colour and embellishment. The first of these, Far Horizons, we chose to feature on our exhibition poster as it seemed to sum up what the group is about, featuring as it does both machine and hand embroidery. 


And the last, Jurassic Coast, Pat describes as 'a landscape as seen from the sea'. It was completed following a workshop delivered to the group earlier this year. I particularly enjoyed the use of stitch to create texture.


This selection represents a very personal view of the exhibition. It remains open until Thursday 24 November. 


Friday, 11 November 2016

Clothes Moths and a warning

If, like us, you thought that these innocent-looking little moths only attack small areas in old clothes and are something that can be lived with, I hope this post may be a useful warning to you ...



Over the summer, we had seen many flying around the house but, in fact, although the moths themselves are the most noticeable warning signs of infestation, it is actually the larvae who cause the damage. What is seen around the chewed areas is piles of loose carpet fibres, dust and, under a lens, the small larvae and the eggs.

In our case, my husband discovered two quite sizable patches of eaten carpet and loose pile around the edges of chair legs in the middle of our dining room about three weeks ago. We scratched our heads briefly as to cause, checked on the internet and then did a survey of the house. We found patches in many corners and chiefly around the skirting boards. (I've been told since that these animals like dark corners).


We then called in the experts. A pest control survey was done, our initial diagnosis of clothes moths was confirmed and a quote for removal was prepared. We had live moths, larvae, eggs and holes (mostly small) in every carpeted room - so I won't bore you with the details but removing them won't be cheap and we are ruing all the times we saw moths and did nothing because we had almost no clothing damage at all and didn't realise the damage the larvae were doing elsewhere.

We are now in the middle of the removal process. five spraying treatments 7 to 10 days apart, most rooms out of action or in limited use and my much valued workroom especially under attack with all the shelving pushed to the middle of the room.

The extraordinary thing about this is just how many people to whom I've mentioned our predicament reply that they know people who have the same problem ... I only wish they'd mentioned it to me before! There must be a lot of money to be made in pest control!

The only plus side to this is that we have to be out of the house for up to 6 hours on the days the treatments are done and we have in mind some enjoyable days out to use the time positively and raise our spirits.


Saturday, 5 November 2016

Great Western Embroiderers 1

After a long working day yesterday, our exhibition is up and running. Here follows a photo record of the work of the group, wall by wall.

The first features a quilt which was made by six members of Great Western Embroiderers when they took part in The Game of Quilts at this year's Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham in August. The challenge was to make a quilt in a day to be donated on completion to the Birmingham Children's Hospital. The quilt, which measures 48" by 60" (120 by 150 cm), was designed by Kathy Atkins and Sam Townsend. Other members taking part were Maggie Harris, Shirley Watson, Debbie Turner and Janet Casselden.









The other works are too numerous to name and attribute individually, though I will post again with some individual pieces later perhaps, and I can be contacted via email.

Details of the exhibition can be found in the side-bar of this blog and the work will be on show until 24 November.


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Points of View Update

I've been getting ready for Great Western Embroiderers' Points of View exhibition in The John Bowen Gallery, Malmesbury which opens this Saturday, 5 November.


The photo above shows a small selection of work by members other than myself and gives a flavour of what will be on show. I met yesterday with friend, Ruth Hayman, to do a mock up of the hanging. We are an extremely disparate group and we complete work in a wide range of styles. 

This time, members have entered around 50 pieces so quite a lot of thought is needed to ensure that each piece is shown to best advantage. I wonder how many pieces will actually hang in the places we've planned!

Further details of Points of View can be found in What's On on the Town Hall site and in the poster in the side bar here on my blog. The exhibition runs from Saturday 5 to Thursday 24 November and details of how to find the Town Hall are given on the official website. 

Friday, 28 October 2016

Stourhead and flame red trees

We had a lovely day yesterday at Stourhead in Wiltshire. At this time of year, this National Trust property is wonderful and we had been wanting to visit for a long time.

The sun shone and it was mild and still. The autumn colours round the ornamental lake were stunning. Circling the lake, there was a scattering of sparingly placed red ornamental maples planted with such careful planning that wherever you looked just a single tree could be seen - so clever and  understated. Opportunities for photos were too many to record in full here. I include only a sample of my favourite views.

Along the lake with a rich red maple tree, drawing the eye ...
       
       

                                    

A small lake with orange trees ...
        

A ventilation shaft in a grotto ... I couldn't resist a hint of architecture ...
       
  
Trees and their shadows and a red maple ...
      

A view back up the lake and another flame red tree ...
        

 This was indeed a day to treasure with stunning views and time spent in the company of very dear friends.


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Wednesday Printmaking

Today was printmaking day again at the yard: ART space with Sue Brown. More entertainment was had with viscosity inking over the intaglio plates made in the previous three weeks. I had found this great fun when I tried it before (here) and was looking forward to using it again. (For further explanation of what this is all about, see the end of this post).

As I was well aware that my plates had problems (chiefly too little contrast), viscosity inking offered the chance of some relief in the shape of unexpected splashes of bright colour to brighten up the rather muted and uninteresting plates. I was not disappointed.




The viscosity inking and the cutting in half of one of the plates (image 3 above) have certainly lifted things and I feel I've achieved something.

I feel also that I'm just beginning to get a tiny glimmer of understanding about what makes an effective plate and how to achieve it and, thanks to Sue's reminders, how to keep my prints clean. We have a week off now for half-term. Then there is the opportunity to design a fresh plate or two using whichever combination of techniques takes our fancy from those we've been shown this term.

I'm looking forward to that. We've been given card for the new plate and have the chance to work on plans for a design or two before the next class. I've even made myself a list of dos and don'ts when making the plate ... so here's hoping for better results at each stage ...

PS For those who, like I was before I did this course, have no idea about viscosity inking, I've added two links that explain things here and here. The first includes a YouTube video and was not quite what we did but it explains the whole process better than the others I found. Our inking process gave much more intense colour differences and was somehow simpler.

The process allows three different colours to be added to a print with a single pass through the press. The first colour is applied (but not printed) in the normal way. The second and third colours use inks of different viscosities (thicknesses). The second is thin and runny, the consistency of cream, and the third is thick. They are applied one after the other over the first layer of ink with rollers and with no cleaning off in between. The plate is then printed.  If you're interested in printing, it's a technique that's definitely worth following up.