Sunday 30 August 2009

Pojagi -Chunghie Lee Masterclass

I have for many years been interested in Korean patchwork where the seams in transparent cloth are an integral part of abstract designs. I made this door curtain for my previous flat, printing images of gum leaves onto silk organza using the computer and trapping silk leaves between 2 layers. I used French seams on the machine to join the pieces (not knowing how it was done 'properly' - it turns out this is one of the methods used) When I was in Japan with Susan Briscoe in 2006, I bought Pojagi books (in Japanese but very clear diagrams) , a couple of kits and old kimonos in lightweight gauzy fabric which looked like they'd be a suitable substitute for the hemps that are used.

I'd heard from Australian quilters who'd been involved in workshops and collaborative projects with Chunghie Lee what an inspiration she was and certainly the pieces I'd seen in the V&A
sparked my interest further. I joined the Surface Design Association as I knew she'd taught at their conferences and hoped to get to one someday. So I was delighted to see that she was coming with an exhibition to the Festival of Quilts - and that she would be teaching a masterclass. I signed up as soon as booking opened - it involved a long day trip by train but worth it.

For the class, Chunghie had brought along a selection of old and new pojagi (po-jah-ki) wrapping cloths and our first task was to learn how to wrap items and tie them properly -ingenious and so practical as well as beautiful. I coveted the older ones of handwoven hemp in cream and indigo.

She had samples of all the different seam techniques ( including the equivalent of fell seams). The most interesting and what gave the thinnest, stiffest 'line'were the triple stitched 'kekki' seams.
The different methods were systematically taught and we settled down to the quiet rhythm of stitching - a silent hour resulting in a real connection with cloth.

Years ago I used to to be able to stitch finely but with concentrating on large dramatic stitches in my quilts, I've lost the knack. My stitching did improve over the day , especially after I'd shown Chunghie my best efforts and asked whether it was small enough-'Not really' she replied.

At workshops I'm always the one that spreads out and invades other peoples space no matter how much I aim to control it.
Chunghie was realistic is saying that although it was a masterclass, she didn't expect masterpieces . It will take some time to practice and perfect the techniques but I have several ideas of what I'd like to produce - I'm particularly interested in a variations in blacks and dark colours, maybe in degrees of opacity. Having bought a copy of the 'Pojagi and Beyond' I'm starting to think of how I could achieve 3d sculptural pieces.
I also went to her lecture - besides a brief history, the main emphasis was on students work( a taster can be seen on this video clip from Rhode Island School of Design). Most of the students did not have textile backgrounds and they brought an invigorating approach to the pieces produced .The collaborative project with the Silk Road Ensemble looked particularly interesting - I'll think of the huge indigo banners when I next listen to the CD. Also in the talk Chunghie showed some of her own work in varied exhibitions and installations. It was fascinating to see the same pieces that were in her gallery at FoQ hung in different locations and formats.
The combination of homage to traditional techniques and the 'unknown women' who made them , with a rigorous art school aesthetic makes a very powerful statement. More please!!

Festival of Quilts 2009

A week has now gone by since Festival of Quilts - time to assess what stuck in my mind. First of all - Little Gems . What a triumph, earning just short of £10K for the Guild. You could hardly get to see the miniatures for the queues. I contributed 4 quilts - spare journal quilts from when I got carried away and did 2 or 3 per month. I was thrilled to receive a card from the lady who won the one above ( assembled from leftovers for 'silver threads among the gold' -for Guild 25th anniversary). She saw Klimt's influence in it and now she's said it, I can see it too!

I had a new camera and I haven't yet got used to its autofocus so pictures of quilts aren't that great ( plus always a bit concerned about copyright). I did ask permission from Liesbeth Williams who had a display of her coursework and sketchbooks in the 'Further Education' section. I love her sense of place, concentrating on the Anglesey landscape around her and I enjoyed our discussions.
Looking through my photos ,my favourites among the competition quilts were not the blockbuster winners or even those by 'names' but those I'd wished I'd made myself: 'Windows' by Janine Ayres, 'Roadwork 1 ' by Sue Dawson, 'The sentinels' by Jane Allen,'Container Port' by Mike Wallace.

The work I admired most in the galleries were those of Chunghie Lee (more about that in another post); Janice Gunner(wonderful indigo); Christina Ellcock and Sarah Wesby ( I would have been tempted to buy one piece if it hadn't already sold - bought the catalogue instead). Minding the SAQA stand last thing on Saturday was a real treat, surrounded by some great works, my eye continually drawn to the simplicity of 'Squam Lake-Early Autumn' by Denise Linet.

I set myself a shopping budget and nearly stuck to it: art materials from Art Van Go , an irresistible sea green silk from Susan Briscoe, equally irresistible hand dyed fabrics from The African Fabric Shop and silk organzas and threads from Mulberry Silks. Not quite sure what I'm going to do with the 'silk spaghetti' from Thredfairy but it came in such lovely colours.....

Inspiration can come from such unlikely sources. My room in the Hilton overlooked a flat roof colonised by moss - it could be a landscape or river delta from 'Earth from the air' .
It seems appropriate as I will be focusing more on bryophytes as part of my job, with a couple of weekends in September devoted to scientific meeting and field courses to refresh my identification skills.

And the contrails in the sky seen from the motorway on the way home were fantastic.

Monday 24 August 2009

Lunaria (Pearlessence)

Now I've collected my quilt from the Festival of Quilts, I'll describe part of the process of making it. The theme was Pearl Essence and I based it on honesty seed pods collected from the garden. I'd already explored possibilities of using pearlescent paint for this subject in journal quilts last year and for this piece I used Photoshop to try out different scenarios of layers and level of opacity. My rather ambitious idea was to have very large floating seed cases as a top layer with 2 layers beneath to give detailed texture -it didn't quite work out like that and in the end this quilt is a compromise but I enjoyed the huge amount of problem solving along the way and reasonably pleased with the results.
'Lunaria' Finished quilt

Stage 1
The basal layer of the quilt is composed of a large pieced section of greys I made several years ago while demonstrating 'chop and swap' block construction.The section above this is an image of honesty printed on on 4 sheets of treated cotton in 2x 2 'poster' printing mode, then sown together. The wonderfully appropriate batiks are commercial ones . The main vase is a Japanese textured fabric applied then the fabric behind cut out. The quilt was then layered with wadding and backing and quilted with Madeira FS metallic thread ('tigerseye') including extending the branches and stems into the vase area. Then using liquitex iridescent medium and cream acrylic paint I painted all the individual honesty seed heads. I decided 2 more vases were needed -these were painted with Golden micaceous iron oxide to give the effect of pewter. Lots of hand seeding with 'mystique' cotton perle thread (from Out of Africa) was added.
People always want to know 'how long did it take'. Well I got to this stage in May having started in January. Then I was stuck. I could have entered it as it was but it was too safe and conventional - I wanted to push it further but how?

Layer 2 Trial
I'd printed out an image of honesty on 16 sheets of treated organza using 4 x 4 poster printing mode. At this scale the image is a bit pixelly but as ink bleeds on organza anyway this did not worry me too much. I tried it out by pinning some of the sheets and also using various Photoshop manipulations and came to the conclusion that I could use either this second organza layer or a third paint layer but not both. As the theme was pearlessence (and I'd already sent it the quilt description!) I went for the 3rd layer .
The idea of launching directly into a painted top layer with no chance of alteration was too scary even for me so compromised on cutting out seed pod shapes in organza and moving them around. I tried a variety of sizes and Photoshop image manipulations but they looked too blobby!
Back to the drawing board
In the end I went back to the old fashioned method with tracing paper- printing out a photo
of stage 1 and with the vase of honesty in front of me drawing the shapes mainly using the existing stems on the quilts to connect them. There's nothing like direct observation especially as it had been several months since I'd first sketched them. Using this as the basis I cut out seed head shapes in organza and stitched these on by machine( 3 rows then cutting back the excess)
I then painted most of these with pearlescent and Golden interference (fine) paints. And with deadlines looming, squared it up and put the facing binding on.
By the time I was packing it up to post (and making a bag to put it in ) I was feeling pretty ropey - the start of Swine Flu

Proud Creator

It's always an interesting process scaling up. It ended up being more pictorial and less abstract than I'd originally intended , the biggest compromise being the size of those top seed cases - I would really have preferred them much larger but without a mid layer there would have been no connection to what was beneath. I intend to use that abandoned mid layer (it was a lot of work! ) as the basis of another piece - and paint those large ovals on top.

Despite neglecting to put a flap over the label it was judged. Mostly a mixture of good and satisfactory with excellent for surface design and originality from 2 out of 3 of the judges.
and mainly positive comments. What hacked me off a bit was that it was marked as only satisfactory in fulfilling the theme.What did they want - obvious pearls?? Given the winner that is exactly what they were looking for ..... For a variety of reasons I'm not sure I'll be entering the Quilters Guild Challenge again.

Saturday 8 August 2009

RA Summer Exhibition 2009

After over 2 weeks off on sick leave with 'Presumed Swine Flu' it was relief to get back to work on Thursday and talk to someone else apart from Ian! I felt I deserved a bit of culture and personal space so went this morning to the Royal Academy for the Summer Exhibition. As it's in it's last week the Bryan Kneale sculpture in the courtyard had already been taken away but there was plenty to see. I bought the illustrated catalogue this year as (unusually) it had quite a few images of artwork I'd liked. And as my scanner is now working ( having gone back to Windows XP instead of Vista) I can show you a few pictures of things that caught my eye. I've had an interesting afternoon looking up websites of artists that I'd made notes on - hope you find something worth following up too. 210 'Stack' Joby Williamson
As in previous years, I think some of the most interesting selection of work were the prints in the Large Weston Room. Old favourites Barbara Rae, Chris Orr and Norman Ackroyd had varied prints on display - the book by Norman Ackroyd and Douglas Dunn 'A Line in the Water' is definately on my wishlist. Idris Khan was a new discovery - his 'Blossfeldt...After Blossfeldt-Art forms' was dream-like with a very subtle build-up of multiple layers, a quality shared by 'Avatar 1 and 2' by Rhys Himsworth. I loved the transparent overlays of coloured buckets in 'Stack' by Joby Williamson (above). It gave me ideas of what I might do in Chunghi Lee masterclass in a couple of weeks with layers of organza!
971'Japanese landscape' Morgan Doyle
Prints were't confined to the 'Large Weston' - this woundrous woodcut by Morgan Doyle was hung among a varied selection of paintings in room VII. I like what is on his website too.
647 'Joints Joining' Richard Wilson
Among the academicians, I was struck by this piece by Richard Wilson with a wire 'drawing' superimposed over a print - I could see this working in stitch. Besides admiring new work by Jennifer Durrant and Gillian Ayres, I really liked the heavily textured paintings by Sonia Lawson with their quality of cave paintings or weathered frescoes.

616'Downstrean Thaw' Anthony Whishaw

My favourite piece of the exhibition however was this painting by Anthony Whishaw- I love the patterns in this. I thought his work was new to me but when I checked out his website realised I'd made notes on his work in previous years - they just hadn't grabbed me in quite the same way as this piece does.

When I was in the shop buying the catalogue, I couldn't resist buying this sculptural silk scarf ( which I'm now analysing to see how it was done!)
There were a few pieces involving textiles (other than canvas!)'Nomad' by Nurdan Iskender was a vigorous drawing of a tribal figure swathed in flowery textiles - with pieces of these fabrics incorporated, while 'Wedding Dress' by Julia Hamilton was a collograph -of a wedding dress( and had picked up the varying textures of lace and silk really well).
In the Large Weston rooms there was a sampler stitched in silks on linen 'I can change' by Miranda Argyle. Investigations on the web led to further interesting stitched pictures and some fascinating links to the sampler by Elizabeth Parker in the V&A which as I'm not an embroiderer, I knew nothing about.
That's what I love about the Summer Exhibition and why I was keen not to miss it - the variety of work and the unexpected directions it can take you.

Monday 3 August 2009

Colour Catchers, Raspberry Ripple and Swine Flu

What I thought was just a virus when I was battling to finish my FOQ entry was diagnosed as 'Presumed Swine Flu' (as it says on the Doctors note) and both me and my husband are off work with it! We didn't get medication as we'd had it for several days before we felt bad enough to ring the doctor - we didn't have coughing and sneezing but most of the the other symptoms. We're much improved but still get very tired - I had to lie down for a couple of hours after mopping the bathroom. Serves me right for attempting housework! Looking forward to going back to work as we're getting a bit fed up of each others company especially as the hard drive on Ians computer has packed up and he's using mine. Thank goodness for internet shopping - Ocado has kept us well supplied. There will be a lot of catching up to do - our supposedly busy social schedule for July took a nose dive , missing Proms concerts, exhibitions and a visit to in-laws not to mention the work we had planned for the garden being put on hold. Being off work may seem the ideal opportunity to do some quilting but with low energy levels that hasn't happened, I've been wallowing in trashy fiction instead. I've progressed onto travel books so must be feeling better and I've started catching up with my sketchbook 'scrapbook' -I'm up to date on Journal Quilts now just need to document the stages of my FoQ entry.
So the BQL Challenge for August (half square triangles) is the perfect introduction back into stitching and I've completed it in record time! I decided to go back to using Colour Catchers as they were easily to hand. The boring greys are from our washing machine, the brighter colours a donation after I used/blogged about colour catchers in January (thanks Anne).
After I'd laid them out and sown them altogether in this diagonal pattern, I thought the back with the seams was more interesting so taking advantage of the non-fray qualities of Colour Catchers , this became the front.

To catch down the seam allowances I used a fancy stitch on my machine ( no 12 on Bernina Artista 125) with Maderia metallic and fluorescent polyneon thread.
I've named it 'Raspberry Ripple' as in the ice cream - it's years since I've had it, I'd probably find it too sweet now being a convert to Rookbeare Raspberry Sorbet (their passionfruit sorbet is pretty good too). No affiliation.