Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Travel Project

Apologies in advance to those who have seen me wear this a few times and heard the story ! In Helen's blog, she was asking about holiday/travel projects other than half square triangles so I thought I'd share mine - hand quilting a pieced black silk stole. I started it several years ago inspired by the wonderful hand stitched textiles of Austrialian artist Jane Whiteley that I coverted in Perth and some very expensive kantha stitched scarves in Libertys
It was pieced by machine from a wide variety of black silks of different weights and textures interspersed with some strips and stars of purples and pinks. Many of the silks came from old shirts - some of my own, some from charity shops, a lot of the black from a skirt and pair of trousers that no longer fitted! I backed it with a wool 'pashmina' (again a charity shop find ) which dictated its final size - 45 x 200cm. How to join the 2 together was a pit of a puzzle until a friend suggested sewing them face together along the long edges and turning them the right way round , Doh ! so obvious ( anyone else have these 'Homer moments'?) As you can see the stitching is still in progress as it only gets done while travelling! The stole is useful as a lap warmer, to smarten up an outfit very quickly and only requires needle and thread. It packs up quite small as it's only 2 layers of silk and wool and as the stitching is intentionally large the odd jolt is not a problem and doesn't require too much concentration while talking (it generates a lot of interest!) Only problem sometimes is the black fabric in poor light but as I'm mainly using contrasting thread it's not too bad. I love deciding whether I will sew stars or spirals.

It's been stitched on in several countries - a lot done in a snowbound hotel in the Troodos Mountains in Cyprus. It's most recent trip was to Iran but only a few stitches were added. Who knows , when its finally smothered in stitches perhaps the fringe will get some attention!
PS Just have to watch that the needle is removed before wearing! (found out the hard way)

Monday, 23 June 2008

June TIF - Persian Archer

I started off at the beginning of June with ideas around botanical labels and what they say about plants in response to the brief for TIF of 'stories that are, stories that are possible' . But the discovery of some of my mother's embroidery from 30 years ago that had resonance for me now felt far more compelling , an emotional rather than intellectual response.
I've written about this piece based on Susian guards in my previous post which sparked off a number of interesting comments. Where had she got the idea from ? - probably from books in the library (although I've got a lot of her books, this isn't in it). The colour choice is interesting - I'd forgotten until Ian mentioned it that the small museum at Persepolis was painted in colours based on fragments they'd found - everything that we think of being stone coloured would have been brightly painted For my modern interpretation I used a photo of the relica roof of the palace in terracota colours and used a detail of the stone relief of a Susian guard ( an archer) as a displacement map using Photoshop ( good to try a new technique out)

After several trials I was pleased with the result and printed it out on commercially treated fabric and used a linen as a border ( closest match I could find to the original fabric of the hanging)
For the back ( as I seem to be going down the double-sided approach to most of my TIF challenges!) I used a photo of a detail of the hanging using my own bubble-jet set treated fabric. Interestingly not such an intense colour - but then self coloured pieces are difficult to photograph and increase saturation for printing.

I used fairly simple quilting ( loved doing the spirals in the beard) and it had an interesting effect on the back. The edge is some cotton perle over stitched with zig-zag. As many of the hand embroidery threads I have come from my mothers stash, I'm fairly certain it was some of the original thread she used on her hanging.
What would she have thought of the methods and materials we have available today? A lot of her C& G work was quite innovative for the time so I like to think she'd have had a go at most things( she was always far more of an embroiderer than me - I only really like plain stitching ).
Despite using Persepolis as a design source , I don't think she would have actually wanted to visit Iran as I did - she died before I started most of my travelling but when I expressed an interest in going to Turkey she was rather alarmed so she probably would have worried for me. Having said that she was quite adventurous herself, traveling to Normandy, Belgium and Austria very shortly after the 2nd world war on her own or with friends.
Thinking about her piece and how little I knew about its inspiration and construction despite having lived with it for years made me realise the importance of keeping records and sketchbooks

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Links to the Past

My interest in and love of textiles was stimulated from a very early age by being surrounded by the fabrics and embroidery projects of my mother , Jennie. In the 1970's she did C&G embroidery parts 1 and 2 and toymaking at Warrington Art College and I remember her staying up all night to finish assignments ( I can see where my attitude to deadlines originates!) She sadly died over 20 years ago but I've kept a lot of her course work, samples and finished pieces. I recently sorted through some of these and came across this wonderfully stitched pulled thread work banner which I'd forgotten about but instantly recognised as having hung in our dining room at home.
What made me take a sharp intake of breath and a sense of connection was that the subject matter of the design was the stone relief Susian Guards (or 'Immortals') from Persepolis in Ancient Persia which we visited over Christmas !

I showed the banner to Ian without saying where it had come from - he instantly recognised the figures and was bowled over that my mother has stitched it over 30 years ago.
After a careful press, it now has pride of place in our hallway.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Tideline Journal

Been making some progress on the piece I'm making for Festival of Quilts inspired by the seaweed patterns left on a beach after a storm. After some watercolour sketches, I was ready to choose the fabric - some African dyed cotton damask ( for this sample I used the sleeves of a shirt - there should be enough left in the body for the final piece).
I inset some thin strips of seaweed like colour ( quite a job trying to find a brown madder despite my extensive stash)

I stitched it by machine with twin needle and by hand - seed stitching with cotton perle. In my excitement to start painting I forgot to take a photo of what it looked like. This photo is of the back - wherever possible I use the same fabric front and back so that people can see 'before' and after' - also gives me a second chance if it all goes horribly wrong!

After painting.
Detail of painting
I'm fairly pleased with the results. As it was a sample piece and with time marching on I don't want to do another, I crammed too many ideas and techniques in for the piece to work entirely successfully in itself . But its achieved its purpose, I've got a better idea now how to proceed - leaving more of the background fabric unstitched and unpainted for a start. The twin needle worked really well - I'm less sure about the fabric strip inserts , about how much they add?

Monday, 9 June 2008

Thin Blue Line - Gythion Glow

As the exhibition has now opened, time to reveal my contribution ' Gythion Glow'. The challenge was to produce a quilt 30 x 120cm , either horizontal or vertical format with a 'thin blue line' running horizontally across it

This is what its looked like to start with - kimono fabric with curved strip inserts, heavily stitched by machine and hand quilted.
Then I painted over it with acrylics! (detail below)

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Giant revisited

Continuing the 'field' theme. In a post last year I wrote about working with this piece of a few years ago, based on sketches of Devon fields( red soil and the glow of a cereal field against a stormy sky) , to add a Henry Moore figure inspired by the poem 'Giant' by Katrina Payne
" ...... stride like a Giant....solid like a Henry Moore Madonna as I stride over trees, field, hills....."

To test out the idea ( and for June's CQ Journal Quilt) I printed out the sketch on the computer, and stitched it in a similar way to the larger piece ( from the back with silk buttonhole thread in the bobbin)
For the back, I'd used the same sketch when I went on a silk painting course a few years ago using steam fixed dyes. I'd started stitching it by hand with buttonhole thread but abandoned it long ago so used the whole thing, synthetic batting and all! ( bit of a mistake as the machine quilting puckered and wrinkled more than I'm used to with cotton wadding) The back has turned out quite interesting as there's a mismatch of stitching and painting.
I printed out a photo of the Henry Moore bronze 'Large standing figure:knife edge' on silk organza and applied it to the quilted sketch (only stitching enough to anchor it to retain the volume and floating quality)
I then painted over the background with acrylics with mixed results - in some areas its a bit heavy handed but I like the grasses in the foreground
This has given me the basis to go ahead (or should that be plough ahead-groan) with altering the orginal field piece- the foreground was what particularly bothered me and overpainting will resolve this, I'll just have to be careful not to overdo it elsewhere. I'll have to print out the figure on more than one sheet of organza and join it (probably try to do that along one sculpture edges and make a feature of it.) But I like a challenge!
Had a stimulating time at the QGBI Region 1 'Quilting in Action' day yesterday. People seemed very interested in my work and the methods I'd developed and when I was discussing these afterwards in the 'Demonstration' session, I learnt a lot too from other quilters about their what they'd tried. Jenny Hollingdale and Grit Traum ran a 'quilt forum' offering critique and advice to several brave souls who shared quilts and projects they were having problems with. This was so valuable - not having ever done any textile courses like C&G I've missed out on this and had to develop my own critical faculties, it was thought provoking to see their approach.
Ian treated me to a fishy meal out yesterday evening at 'Oporto'. As we're not followers of football ( Ian famously asked why Brazil weren't playing in Euro 2004) we'd neglected to realise that the opening match of Euro 2008 was Portugal v. Turkey and the restaurant was packed! Despite not having booked, they found us a table and we had a very enjoyable evening people watching. We couldn't quite see the tv screen but could follow the action from the cheers and groans( Portugal won 2-0) Very entertaining , like eating out in a foreign country.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Take it Further May and June

Saturday was spent in the garden trying to establish some order - it's overstuffed with a large variety of plants and while it's quite exciting watching what pops up and flowers, I'm frustrated in trying to identify some gaps to put out some of my favourite plants brought from the last property! Sunday was devoted to gathering together quilts and samples for presentation and demonstration at next Saturday's area day 'Quilting in Action' So once again although I'd planned and prepared my May Take it Further Challenge piece, it needs stitching - I can see me accumulating pieces to sew on holidays. But then for me the challenges so far have been about testing ideas rather than necessarily finished works. Anyway recapping the progress on May's 'What do you call yourself?' concept - the short answer is 'botanist'! Interpreting this in art/textiles, I did some sunprinting using weeds from my garden. As one of the areas I'm interested in is printing on fabrics using the computer, I took photos of my results, and printed it out on silk organza. What I like about the layering is that you get a ghostly almost 3d effect.
What I haven't completly settled on is how I'm going to stitch it and whether I combine it with this image of Echiums ( the view from my lab ) manipulated in Photoshop (''find edges' filter) , printed out on indigo-dyed fabrics. This is crying out for beading
Maybe I can catch up again with the challenge for June - the concept is ' stories that are, stories that are possible' with the colour scheme from a stash of sinks.
I'd co-incidentally found this photo a couple of days ago when searching for something else and think it has lots of possibilities - it's a load of discarded metal plant labels in a skip at work. Each label has species name , accession number (which links to database with all the information on that plant - where it comes from, propagation notes) . Apart from that story there's the mystery behind why they were discarded. And what's the significance of the paper butterfly? I guess I couldn't resist continuing the theme of botanical labels !