Just back from a few days in York for my birthday based around giving a gallery talk at the Quilt Museum . The train journey of only 2 hours passed quickly. I've discovered the perfect travel sewing - preparing shibori for dyeing with very large needle and stitches. Even better on the return journey thanks to Sue and present of Empress Mills 'Teddy Bear Thread' which was a bit thicker. I was consulting Anne Maile's 1963 Tie and Dye book - for all the plethora of books around, this oldie has great diagrams and instructions and is a handy travel size ( my second-hand copy also has dye stains in various places -truly a manual to consult rather than a coffee-table book) Ian was also reading... a military history book(what a surprise) On our arrival , the first thing we saw was the daffodils and cherry trees in full bloom around the city walls - spectacular. I had a very warm welcome at the Quilt Museum, such a wonderful setting for both traditional and contemporary quilts. During our stay we spent most of our time looking around York Minster (more about that in another post) and exploring the 'snickelways' between some memorable meals at Rustique(twice!), Ate O clock, Meltons Too, and Cafe No 8 with Alistair and Maggie joining us for dinner- lovely to see them. The Rhubarb and custard pavlova with rhubarb and custard ice cream was to die for - having seen it on the menu , I knew I had to budget my appetite with no starter and it was worth it!
I also had to honour my part of the birthday bargain in visiting a military museum ( as Ian had gone to QuiltFest for his birthday) Wasn't too bad ( I made some quite intelligent comments apparently) and as a reward Ian bought me this millifiori necklace spotted through the window of 'Monkey Puzzle' on our evening perambulations. What a sweetie (and Ian's not bad either!)
No, not Blackpool or other exotic places but the Great West Road in Brentford. Apparently. While there has been a huge investment and development of the 'Great West Quarter'(below) the poor ex Alfa Laval building at the end of our road is swathed in green printed fabric depicting a jewel of Art Deco architecture pending acceptance of numerous proposals for its use. In the mean time the building is a huge poster site beside the M4. On my journey home a few weeks ago I was struck by the juxtaposition of the peeling posters on the fence around the site perimeter with its flashy modern counterpart (particularly as it depicted Japan- "Fly Emirates to Tokyo")
There must have been layer upon layer of posters which someone had decided needed all to come off , leaving amazing textures and remnants of colour. A week later a lot of it was gone but there still quite a few large flappy bits that didn't take too much tugging to peel off.... I now have a stash pending scanning, manipulation, incorporation into something, replicating in fabric. Who knows?!
The diseased trees in front of the building where I work have been cut down so now there is nothing between us and the cars in the Ferry Lane car park but a shallow fenced moat!Makes us feel a bit exposed - was startled by friends waving at me from the car park while unlocking my bike to go home! However it does have its compensations - apart from much more light , we can now see to the other side of the river. While consulting scientific journals in the upstairs office, I've watched fascinated as the boats appear and disappear with the tides and the patterns in the mudbanks change.
I particularly like the rusting metal and shapes in this old hulk, a different view from the one observed from the other bank at the Watermans
I can see me sneaking out at lunchtimes with a sketchbook and a pair of binoculars (this was the highest magnification I could get with my camera ) , looking shifty on the towpath!
After an impromptu ' Ashes' dinner on Friday to commiserate with Sue, Peter, Brenda and Hazel who should have been travelling but weren't going anywhere (!) , I was feeling a bit dehydrated on Saturday going to AGM of Contemporary Quilt in Bloomsbury. It was great tho' to catch up with so many people I know ( some just virtually!). In the afternoon there was a talk by quilt maker Anne Smith who's attitude and philosophy was breath of fresh air. She wasn't a 'name' known to some of us as she doesn't do workshops, enter quilts at FoQ, very little in fact of self promotion apart from this blog/website. She concentrates instead on making large quilts for entry into Biennial Quilt National (THE premier juried art quilt show) and in this she has been very successful, with 5 quilts accepted, her 2009 entry winning best in show.
She works in a very small room in her house( her first slide was of her venerable ironing board!) using recycled clothes in a very painterly way ,treasuring the worn and washed, stitching on tiny pieces to bring immense movement to her quilts ( none of this 'textile' or fibre' definition for her! ) She gave a fascinating insight into how she makes her quilts- the inspiration, the sketches and samples, the constant decision-making process of adjusting as she incorporates different elements. Besides bring along the prize winning quilts and samples (that we were free to handle!) she showed some pieces on slides that 'didn't work'. When I asked why they didn't work for her it was always to do with the composition not being up to scatch - her art background in ceramics and MA in Textiles and Ceramics showing through. It was a bonus to hear from a Northern lass, coming from very near where I was brought up and knowing my old school which is being demolished this year (I'm returning 'home' for the first time in 15 years for the special 'end of era' reunion associated with it ) A lot of food for thought, the emphasis on process and strength of composition in particular After a bit of retail therapy in The Bead Shop and London Graphic Centre (essential supplies of course!) I returned to working on my current project with renewed vigour I'm making a quilt based on Tunisan Doors using African fabrics. Many of these doors have a smaller door cut into them and I'd been struggling with how to interpret this in fabric. After refering to Ruth McDowells book on 'Piecing' (an essential patchwork 'manual' ) I worked out in the sample above (with a few mistakes ripped out and sown again) how to cut out the door and reinsert it Deep breath and then I tackled the main section itself- and it worked!! Very satisfying. Still quite a way to go on this piece but I can relate to Anne in enjoying the problem-solving aspects and knowing I need to give more consideration to the development of composition.
So here you see them: the Quilt; the Toile; the Sample;stretched on drawing boards with masking tape reading for painting, my 'Storyboard' of reference material:journal quilts , sketches and Photoshop experiments prepared. Now to take and deep breath and plunge in! I took less photos than usual along the way in my haste to finish. A pity, as they often prove useful to identify the point at which things go Horribly Wrong.
I started with the 'Toile' (about 12 inches square). Besides the Liquitex Heavy Body acrylic I normally use , I was also experimenting with Golden fluid acrylics, especially their interference colours, mixing them with acrylic medium to achieve a more watercolour-like effect. I also used micaceous iron oxide in the foreground for the glint of the gravel.
The Toile The Sample
The Quilt - in progress
More than anything I've done so far , apart from the inserts of fabric as the 'breakwaters' this was about painting, with the gessoed stitched old durham quilts as my canvas. The 'toile' worked really well ( Ian 'baggsed' it for his study) , probably because of the speed with which it was done, but I struggled with the full size quilt (even though it's only 60 x60 cm). I tried hard not to overwork it but the problem was in balancing the different areas, having to go back over and adjust. It ended up more photographic and representational than I'd wished but as Ian said, " People will like it for the reasons you don't".
I enjoyed the challenge though and I love the texture that stitched textiles bring to the painting process - this area of foam was particularly successful. Paper and canvas seem very tame by comparison now!
One of my aspirations with the 'Breakthrough' theme besides the imagery of the breakwaters was to 'repurpose' old textiles . Having put a coat of gesso on a section of old Durham quilt (sacrilege!) I auditioned my stash of kasuri (ikat) pieces acquired in Japan. Their texture summoned up for me a lot of the qualities of the worn , textured wood of the breakwaters. From a scale drawing of my Photoshop sketches, in fear and trepidation, I cut slits in the quilt and inserted roughly assembled structures of kasuri- I wanted to maintain that 3D rustic quality. From the left overs, I made the sample piece required.
Then the fun part (tho' I'm not sure my machine thought so - a lot of dust was generated by the gesso) , stitching wave and ripple patterns in variegated thread and using white perle cotton in the bobbin and stitching from the back (now that was a challenge!) Having complete stitching the sample, I realised that I needed a further test piece for practising painting on so I hastily constructed a 'toile' , drawing in the breakwater shapes with marker pen. Next step painting - the subject of my next post!
I've been having a purge of quilt books (Ian is selling them on his Amazon Marketplace site'Snapupbooks') . One that I wouldn't get rid of and that is still fresh despite being published in 1996 is 'The Fabric Makes The Quilt' by Roberta Horton. I was thinking of it when for my March Journal Quilt 'Indigo Sea' I put together 2 Indigo shibori fabrics bought from Changs at recent Region 1 area day with some African damask from Magie Relph and they spoke 'waves' to me. There's been a bit of a discussion on BQL Yahoo group about the 'skinny insert' techniques of Alison Schwabe and I was also thinking of the curved techniques that Charlotte Yde taught at QGBI AGM in Cambridge. I'm really excited with the results and possibilities in cutting curves into these irregularly striped fabrics. The foreground reminded both Ian and I of sky reflected in wet sand ripples. I'm also planning to use these stripey African shibori/tie dye fabrics in a quilt based on Tunisian doors and the use of 'skinny inserts' of a blue/black Japanese fabric proved just the job to suggest the cracks in between the wood panels . In April's Journal Quilt 'Berber Door' I've experimented with iron on transfer sheets to 'decorate' the door with the studded nail patterns and 'Hand of Fatima' patterns I saw on so many examples in Tunisia. I'm not sure what the pattern on the lower left means but we saw it everywhere in Le Kef . The transfer gives rather a plasticy feel but that seems quite appropriate for a crumbly door!
Next steps - design process. Having attempted some rather unsatisfactory sketches trying to combine elements I liked from both Southend and Bexhill photos, I resorted to combining images in Photoshop. I'd had a go at this earlier with one of my Honesty pieces but I got on better once Ian showed me how to resize images before doing cut and paste.
I still needed to sort out what happened where they merge. Although the shapes of the breakwater were not whatI wanted, the combination of sample and photo started to give a feel of how it might look. Although Photoshop is definately a useful tool and one I'd use again to do this kind of compositional planning, it led in the end to quite a 'photographic' piece which was not my original intention. I probably need to introduce some kind of filter at this stage to simplify the output.
As promised, some of the background and process steps involved with my 'Breakthrough' quilt 'Bexhill Breakwaters'. It's interesting to compare my original 'intent' with the results! The first decision was whether to work to the specified 60cm or 90cm square. I really prefer to work on a larger scale but acrylics don't like being folded so 60cm it was. My inspiration are the groynes photographed at Bexhill (but probably 'breakwater' sounds more polite!)
In 2005 I made this Journal quilt of the groynes at Southend - fabric doubled over with bondaweb between then sections and slits cut out and the whole stucture inserted in a slit in fabric to give 3d effect I'd used the same technique in this 6" x 12 " journal quilt, inserting folded Japanese kasuri into a slit made in piece of old Durham Quilt , a lot of machine stitching ( including from the back with thicker thread in the bobbin ). I went too far in painting with acrylics (that's the problem on a small scale, it's actually easier to hold back when working larger)
I gessoed a large piece of Durham quilt in preparation and started working out a square composition. I wanted to capture the vigour I achieved in this watercolour/acrylic ink sketch and the variety of stitching in this Journal quilt (below).
All this while trying to maintain the simplicity of these works by Paul Nash.A tall order!
We visited Kew Gardens with Ians parents today. It was heaving with visitors, mainly with small fry following clues on the Easter Egg Trail (hope there's some eggs left over on Tuesday, I love Green and Blacks! ) The daffodils over, the new highlight was all the Magnolias, a range of pinks in different shapes and tones.
Rather liked the more intense colours in this bedding scheme - who said red and pink Don't Go? !
A Conservation Biotechnologist by profession, in my 'playtime' I create art textiles inspired by the natural world. I am currently exploring ways of interpreting sketches directly onto fabric. Besides printing paintings and photos onto fabric using the computer, I am constructing densely quilted pieces overpainted with acrylic paint.