Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Shape of Challenges



 With  the long awaited arrival of the latest CQ newsletter ( great job by Margaret)  the challenges for  2015 Journal Quilts and Foq were revealed. This will be my 13th  year of making JQ's - I had already been making them for a few years before  Contemporary Quilt started doing it.
The  rules this year are that they be 6" x 12"  and you choose portrait or landscape format and stick to it.  That will be the hard part for me!
When this size was last set in 2009, I didn't like it very much , especially after I'd so enjoyed the 12" square challenge  the year before. While  I did produce some nice pieces ( the  best  I've shown here) some were quite dreadful ( I'll spare you those!)

Now having made several 40 x 80cm portrait quilts  for International Threads, I've learnt to enjoy this format  and the new  CQ challenge 'Elements'  is  nearly the same at  45 x 80cm. So there is some advantage to using   portrait format JQ's as trial pieces and experiments( and probably more doors!)   
However,  making little books using the Fabriano Mediavalis cards  as the basis ,  I like the idea of a landscape  series ( even bought a panoramic sketchbook to take up to Rydal Hall retreat, in 5 weeks time ,inspired by the purchase of  Norman Ackroyd's  Shetland Notebook). Seascapes would probably feature again too.

So which format to go for? 


  

Thursday, 22 January 2015

International Threads Quilts - There, Almost There and Getting There


Thanks for all your useful input both  as comments and personal emails  when I posed the question  a few weeks ago of whether  I should include the scaffolding pole in my Anavriti Door  quilt for 'International Threads'.  The consensus was to include it but there were some  questions about whether it was too dark and also  its position. So in the end I moved it over to the left so the spacing wasn't so even and chose a lighter  blue/green colour. It now  quilted  and bound with its sleeve on and I've moved on to working on a couple of others . 




I haven't decided yet whether this will be my 'lines' or 'blue' contribution. It's made up of 2  pieces of  indigo arashi shibori - the bottom layer (below detail)  is silk noile machine quilted with heavy quilting thread so it has a fairly marked relief. This layer has now been bound down the sides to the correct width  of 40cm (for once!) 




The top layer  is  silk chiffon  - I just have to hand roll the hems like I did for my 'dislocation' piece  and then decide whether I attach it at top or bottom or just at the top. I rather liked the additional ripples and waves you get when it's hanging free  but how well it will travel is another matter.
It might be a case of catching it down in strategic places but wouldn't want to lose the almost 3d effect ( so much better in person than in a photo)







And I finally think I'm getting somewhere with my red  daub fingerprinted and dribbled (?) red quilt - I strengthened some areas . I think I'll probably bind  it this weekend and then decide if its needs anything else.  If I'm satisfied then this will be my 'repetition' quilt.   Meanwhile I've just started resuming stitching on the '  shore marks' quilt  - both Ian and I had rather nasty bugs   at the beginning of the new year ( colds turning into bronchitis) and only just getting over them.


Only 3  more weeks left at Kew -eek! 


Monday, 19 January 2015

Emily Carr and Kurt Jackson

An adventure to South London  to see 2 exhibitions : Emily Carr at Dulwich Picture Gallery and Kurt Jackson at the Horniman Museum   with a delicious  lunch at Rocca in Dulwich Village and a short  bus ride between them.  Lots of food for the spirit and soul.

I first came across the paintings  of Emily Carr  in Vancouver Art Gallery when I  visited Vancouver for   the 16th World Orchid Conference in 1999 ( I also  went to a quilt show on the outskirts  and discovered the delights of the Maiwa Handprint Studio, buying a  couple of linen jackets I still wear ).
I was bowled over then with the  strength of feeling and engagement with  her surroundings, particularly the  greens of the forest. They have not lost their power transplanted to another continent and the layout of the exhibition and the interpretation, emphasising themes  as well as leaps in development worked very well. Having a selection of artifacts there was also intriguing. Having reread  my battered copy of ' The Forest Lover' by Susan Vreeland,  with  the basket maker Sophie playing an important role,  seeing the finely woven baskets  made of things like spruce root added another dimension.
A lot of the paintings had quotes from Emily alongside them - these were a couple of my favourites about the process of looking ( please forgive me if they're not quite correct, I always have difficulty reading my own handwriting !)

" Sketching in the big woods is wonderful. Everything is  green. Everything is waiting and still. Slowly things begin to move , to slip into their piles, groups and masses and lines tie themselves together . Colours that you had not noticed come out timidly or boldly"  
 
 

"The first thing is to seize upon the direction of your main movement, the sweep of the whole thing as a unit. One must be careful about the transition of one curve of direction with the next - keep it going, a pathway for the eye and mind to travel through and into the thoughts".

A short bus ride way to  see the paintings ( and sketchbooks) of Kurt Jackson at the Horniman Museum ( above)  an inspirational exhibition  based around the theme of rivers . I have a couple of books of his works but there's nothing to beat seeing them in the flesh , the combination  of semi-abstraction and repertoire of marks including unusual sparks of colour. Most of all a sense of place - it got me thinking  of the theme for the new Cwilt Cmyru exhibition in 2016 'Cynefin'.





There was a couple of videos (1 from  'Thames Revisited' exhibition at the Redfern Gallery) showing Kurt in action, reminding me of Katherine Holmes demonstrating techniques outside and also of my attempts on 'Painting  Promentary' in Weymouth. Lots of ideas about  how he got some of his marks: dripping ink/liquid paint onto surface and moving it around with painting knife ( with a strip of fabric at the side to wipe excess paint off , interesting in its own right!). Dipping into that paint with a pencil and then using the pencil to make marks. Using the plastic mixing palette to scrape paint. Using a square format sketchbook.   

One of the aspects  of his work that resonates with me is  that it reflects his commitment to the environment and the natural world . Also got me thinking of paths not travelled. He's the same age as me and studied  zoology at University, painting while he was there and then  becoming an artist.  At 18  I very nearly went to art college but studied  botany instead  and have made my career in that field while painting/ stitching in my spare time.    Now I  have the opportunity to thinks about  taking up art again seriously  . 



Thursday, 15 January 2015

Maggi Hambling Walls of Water and Society of Designer Craftsmen.

After a  couple of weeks stuck in the house with bronchitis  it was with great excitement that I headed up to town last Friday with Sue. I had an invitation from Alice Fox to the preview of the Society of Designer Craftsmen at the Mall Galleries ( she had a piece in the 25 x 25 x 25 project as did fellow Rydal Hall  retreater Julie Bunter) ).
As it didn't start until 6,  we fitted in the 2 linked exhibitions by Maggi Hambling 'Walls of Water'.I'd already seen the paintings at the National Gallery and was a bit underwhelmed so I was interested to see the monotypes  at the Malborough Fine Arts Gallery . As I'd suspected, far more interesting! The range of marks was  amazing - very aware of the fingerprints etc.  (read the interview about the  processes here) Also the compositions, especially those with a diagonal ,  were far more satisfying.   




Malborough Fine Arts was also the venue for the John Virtue paintings I saw last year. These  black and white seascapes on very different scales , draw you i to the picture , you can  feel the splash of those waves 






Slightly less  interesting to me were the monotypes done with silver ink - partly I think due to the black  paper they were printed on but mainly because the range of tones wasn't so marked and that horizontal line more obvious.




 It was interesting to compare similar compositions in monotype ( above  with an accidental touch of blue)  and  paint (below).   Besides the difference in size and colour, I think the processes used  also contribute. The print making is one-off  and  deductive, taking ink off the printing plate ( hence those dense velvety blacks) . When I did a printing course a few years ago at City Lit that was a revelation
Whereas the painting is additive  and  I know how easy it is to go too far.




 More food for thought at the Society of Designer Craftsmen show. For all the colour and diversity   my favourite  was a large quiet  piece by Beverly Ayling-Smith composed of a multitude of tiny mended pieces of cloth ( she had a similar piece in the Prism exhibition which also caught my attention.) A lot of her work is  based on ideas around shrouds and burial traditions. Interestingly she also has a background in science, trained as a microbiologist:  
"   I feel that the scientific way of working (making small changes in experimental processes and the documentation of these experiments) has spilled over into my artistic life"



Sunday, 28 December 2014

International Threads Sketch - Anavriti Blue

One of the  recent 'International Threads' group challenges  was set by Gillian Travis - to base the 40 x 80 cm quilt on a sketch. Having enjoyed putting together the change of scale door piece, I thought I'd base  it on one of my   many watercolours of  crumbly Greek doors. This particular one was done in 1998 in a village at the top of the Anavriti Gorge near Sparta.   I've long wanted to use this particular drawing as inspiration  - it was one I  also worked on during an Elizabeth Barton masterclass - simplifying the shapes and looking at it tonally was a very useful exercise.  
 

 So I've spent the  last few days trawling through my stash, sewing together strips.


 I've just finished the piecing and am very pleased  with how it's turned out.
Question- should I include the blue grey scaffolding pole on the left or not? It wasn't in the original sketch but when I saw  the same doorway again a few years ago on a return visit in 2006 , there were poles in position that I thought enhanced the composition.  Interested to hear what you think.


Red Daub Fingerprinting

 Earlier this year, one of my journal quilts  was a trial trying out different marks with pen and paint  on a gessoed section  of one of my older quilts 'Which Way Now'.  It's been on my mind for a while to  see how it would work scaled up so the first day of my Xmas creative break I sewed together some  gessoed offcuts and scraps and braced the chill of the conservatory.

 I had a fine time mixing together  acrylic paints with my fingers and applying to the fabric!



The overall effect was a bit blobby so I laid it flat and applied trickles of red acrylic ink horizontally  in an attempt to unify the surface.
With  daylight fading I stopped. I'm not sure this piece is going anywhere  although probably  I'll strengthen the marks to emphasise the horizontal arrow at the bottom but I had a wonderful therapeutic time doing it!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Shore Marks


 A difficult week coming to terms with the fact that  one month of my notice has gone already, increasingly anxious  about finishing off everything I need to in the remaining few weeks.  The annual Kew Carol Service  was a joy, especially singing  O Radiant Dawn, but underscored  with sadness, especially thinking about Nigel Veitch, our choir conductor to whom the service was dedicated .  I won't be part of it next year and it's proving  increasingly hard to  have to tell people that I'm leaving Kew and cope with their reactions and questions.
So I spent some time over the weekend absorbed in the solace of stitching, piecing together  one of my quilts for 'International Threads'  exhibition in Prague in April 2015.  
This  quilt is for the theme on 'Creating visual texture with repetition'.   I started out with a  kola shibori dyed  piece of  damask cloth bought from African Fabric Shop  and a piece of the same fabric that I'd put in the indigo vat. The repetition is from the lines, the  underlying patterns on the damask and from the accidental marks of indigo left on the original cloth  which I will emphasise  with  indigo stitch marks. I feel the need for some hand stitching at the moment to keep me anchored.