Tuesday 30 March 2010

Bexhill Breakwaters at Quilt Museum

As the 'Breakthrough' Exhibition by Contemporary Quilt has now opened at the Quilt Museum,
I can finally reveal my entry displayed there "Bexhill Breakwaters"

It is 60cm square, based on photos and sketches of Bexhill-on Sea last year , constructed from an old Durham quilt, stitched and painted, with inserts of old Japanese Kasuri fabric.
I made lots of preparatory materials including the handling sample required and a 'toile' to solve problems along the way. I'll share more about the process in next few posts- good practice for the Gallery Talk I'm giving at the Quilt Museum on the 28th April!

Friday 26 March 2010

The Yellow Time

An unexpected benefit of coming into work earlier and by a different route than usual (thanks to a very early appointment with the dental hygienist) was seeing all the daffodils in full swing down the Broadwalk . And as it wasn't yet open to the public, it was all mine!! On the whole though, I prefer the more natural planting and colour around the Temple of Aeolus

My favourite of all the spring bulb displays at Kew however is that of the 'Glory of the Snow' Chionodoxa siehei. Apart from the glorious colour, they shimmer in the breeze . Magic!

In our own garden, the Forysthia is flowering fit to bust (it must know it's days are numbered as it's taking over -all that 2 metres of sparse flowering vertical growth is just from last year!)
We won't be lacking in yellow though as we're keeping the 'Jews Mallow' Kerria japonica in front of it which is far less of a bully and a more elegant plant altogether. It's just beginning to 'spurt' into flower.

Sea Struggle

My last drawing lesson was again concentrating on our own projects - I revisited painting a sea scene in acrylics, trying to analyse pattern and make it more abstracted. It was a piece of old Durham quilt that I'd gessoed - it was a coaser weave cotton than I'd used before and after 10 minutes I was wishing I was working on canvases like everyone else! While the effect that the quilting has on the paint application is intriguing, don't have much control over the paint but have to work with it. A bit of a battle.
I perservered however and had some useful comments(as ever) from Sandra on how to improve it - she suggested using pen and ink to add detail in places, something I will continue with once its fully dry. She'd also suggested using oil pastel as a resist - unfortunately it didn't work on this surface but got me thinking how I could use this method. Hot wax, like batik?Oil based paintsticks('Shiva')?
At the end of the session we had a longer review than usual looking at everyones work. It's been a great course, building up confidence and expertise in use of materials and techniques regardless of starting level , and always been interesting to how varied peoples work is and what can be achieved in just a 2 hour lesson. Lots of fun too.
Sandra will not be teaching next term, concentrating on her own work( hope to get an invite to her show) As I would only have been able to make half of the classes due to training courses, work conference and a painting holiday, I'll leave it registering again until September. I'll miss it!

Country Living Fair was, as I feared, a juxtaposition of the excellent with the Naff and Cutesy not to mention Tawdry. I bought a scarf from Tammy Child and dichroic earrings from Sara Withers, both makers I've bought from at better craft fairs in Richmond and Chiswick. Sara had been demonstrating , not only miked up but with camera attached to her hands!
What didn't disapoint was Margaret's exhibition, her structure looked fantastic and was getting a lot of well deserved interest.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Down the Microscope

Today I was playing with a potential new toy at work - a compound microscope ( for slides and sections). Isn't this moss leaf cool when magnified 400 times?! Even better when I've 'adjusted' it in Photoshop! Hope we have the money for it in the next financial year
I was thinking how well cells work as inspiration for textiles. I've done a few small quilts before based on bits of plant and lab equipment, mainly as leaving presents for staff/students.

Off tomorrow to 'Country Living Fair' (not sure it's quite my thing but I received a complimentary ticket) and for preview of Margaret's Foundation Course Exhibition. Having followed her work with baited breath I'm looking forward to seeing the results.
I'm also wondering whether I can squeeze in a visit to London Graphic Centre - not content with stocking up at Cass Arts sufficiently to acquire a free magenta bag.

Friday 19 March 2010

Painting Pebbles

This week and next in my drawing class is devoted to our own projects. After a lot of dithering, I decided on a return to seascapes with an attempt to simplify and find patterns rather then the 'photographic' results I often seem to end up with (probably as a result of working from photos in the first place). I'm quite pleased with what I achieved with acrylics on canvas board although I'm going to set myself some homework before next week as I struggled a bit with the pebbles.
I've been rereading 'The elements of drawing' by John Ruskin and one of the exercises is building up the shapes and contours of stones with consecutive washes of watercolour. Sounds like it might be useful observational practice - I'm going to be working larger next week, on a piece of gesso primed Durham Quilt.

Inspiring Indigo

Earlier this week, Sue handed over the spoils from the indigo workshop she did with Janice Gunner at Cowslip Workshops. Considering I prepared them hurriedly in a morning (despite plenty of notice I'm always a last minute girl) there were some interesting results.
I'd used cream or fawn fabrics rather than white to co-ordinate with these old Ndop indigo fabrics from Cameroon - I'm still interested in integrating old and new cloth as I'd done here

These 2 were my favourites- the background is a mocha coloured silk noile and takes the dye beautifully. (and I've got lots more yardage)
This Japanese yellowy fabric also took the dye well
And I threw this commercial patterned fabric in too, thinking ahead to CQ Summer School and sea and sand ripples
I also did a trial with my smocking pleater machine - have to use thin strips of fabric and brute force but some interesting effectsSue had some wonderful samples she'd done using my bits of drainpipe - still the best shibori technique I think. Her stitched sample was interesting too - worth investing some time in stitching for next opportunity when have access to an indigo vat.
Looking forward to Regional Day tomorrow in Kensington where Janice is speaking . I don't suppose I'll be able to resist stocking up on bargain art materials at Cass arts....

Tuesday 16 March 2010

Of Mice, Moore and Journal Quilts

This weekend mainly ignored the sun tempting me into the garden and concentrated on finishing off a few Journal Quilts that had been on my conscience.

January's 'Indigo Knife Edge' is a photo of a Henry Moore sculpture printed on some Indigo fabric and then stitched using the ideas from my drawing class of rhythmic lines very close together. I'd forgotten how tricky indigo can be to photograph- the above image was scanned, the one below photographed, the reality somewhere in between! The Henry Moore was from when there was an installation at Kew, I'm looking forward to seeing the large exhibition of his work at Tate Britain. February's 'Llangollen Snow' is inspired by the snowy landscape when we went up to 'QuiltFest'. It is recycled from offcuts from 'Thin Blue Line' and 'Breakthrough' quilts, already partially stitched and painted, just a bit of stitching required to join the offcuts and suggest the trees.

I'm rather taken with the back of this piece. Although it doesn't show my machine quilting skills in a good light(was having terrible problems with the tension- the needle didn't like going through gesso!) I rather like the loopy effects. I'm sure if I was trying to obtain this particular 'stitch' I'd fail dismally!
For several months I've been struggling with a barely functioning computer. I'd decided that this would be the weekend to back-up everything and grit my teeth and do a total re-install. Ian remembered that the cause of similar problems had been an incompatability between an optical mouse and XP , why didn't I try using a wired USB mouse instead. With nothing to lose ,I plugged in the teeny USB mouse from my laptop. Magic, problem solved, it was worth marrying him!! I've ordered an 'intellimouse' from ebay but while I was round the back of the computer plugging in my printer again (I'd been forced to print from my laptop for the last few months ) I found that although I had separate remote devices for keyboard and mouse, that the keyboard device worked for both. With 2 sets of signals,no wonder the poor mouse was confused and refused to respond to either!

Friday 12 March 2010

Self Portraits and Chiaroscura

Imagine a school classroom with 10 women trying to draw themselves in a mirror by candlelight - my drawing class yesterday. It started out with the light on but not looking at the paper while we drew a continuous line . I'll spare you the full picture, just a fragment will suffice. What struck me ( apart from how like my mother I looked) was how lively the drawings were.
Then (with due consideration to the Gods of Health and Safety) with candle stuck in some self hardening clay, we drew with chalk on black paper (above) and then charcoal on buff (much easier, apart from anything else could see a bit better). A very vivid exploration of 'chiaroscura' '

The shadows cast by my glasses frames were pretty scary ( as were the students artwork of ghouls behind me reflected in the mirror!) . But once again my tutor has found an interesting exercise from (for me anyway) art materials and subject matter I'm not very keen on.
The next 2 weeks are dedicated to our own project work - I missed these sessions last term as I was either interviewing or unwell. Deciding what I want to work on is actually very difficult - something where the tutors input could help is probably the most useful.

Sunday 7 March 2010

Auditioning Chaos or Glorious Mess

This morning the Garden Gods were finally with us and we got out and did the leaf clearance, vine pruning and putting stuff through the 'chunker' that we'd been intending to do since before Xmas. After our first lunch outside this year, I got back to my studio and was struck how chaotic it looked( you can't see all the stuff on the floor in the picture above) . Obviously I was still in 'tidy' mode but still , surely I hadn't left it in such state after yesterdays' auditioning of fabrics for my Tunisia Door project? Had I? I'm sure many of you are used to the scenario of heaps of fabric everywhere and misplacing the piece you'd rejected a minute ago but now realise is just the the thing. My last few quilts have been near enough wholecloths so there hasn't been the same auditioning frenzy but even so , when did I get so untidy ? Ian says I should be proud of such a glorious mess as it shows creativity!

My last fabric gathering exercise was early last year when I was compiling fabrics for my 'Weir' piece ( still to be quilted) That was a relatively controlled process on a table with rejects going back in a box. Perhaps the new approach is the fault of my design wall!!

Motion Pictures

In most recent drawing class we were looking at the figure in motion. First of all trying to very quickly draw someone in multiple sketches (but without taking pencil off paper) as they walked towards you; then taking it turns to pose for each other - again all sketches on the same piece of paper; finally drawing the tutor in 3 different positions, all on top of each other in charcoal on a large piece of paper. It's a long time since I did any life drawing so it's just as well the objective wasn't accuracy! I lost where I was doing the 3rd sketch , realising I'd made the very svelte tutor ginormous , so I'm not going to share that with you!!
However one the ideas behind the 3 overlapping sketches was to crop it and find pleasing abstractions - definately more up my street

Next week it's portraits in charcoal and pastels - not my favourite subject or materials but I'm sure there will be an interesting twist. Then it's 'own project' for 2 weeks. What to choose?

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Bulla Regia

The sproutings of Spring bulbs reminds me of the irises scattered around the site at Bulla Regia Most of the site is below ground, useful given the squally rains showers we had while we were there. Ian went on the extensive tour including the fantastic mosaics I've already posted.

I concentrated on trying find a sheltered spot to sketch from - the rain obliterated the ones I did of the bathhouse
There were compensations in watching the changing skyscapes and spectacular rainbows.

After giving up the painting as a bad job and going for a coffee, the skies cleared (or so I thought) and I did a quick painting from the car park. The rain reappeared before I could stuff my sketchbook in the pocket of my kagoule but I rather like the speckled effect. Of all the paintings I did in Tunisia it's the one that instantly conjures up the spirit of time and place.


Sorting through my Tunisian Door photos and sketches for inspiration for my next quilt, I realised I'd fallen behind in posting images about some of the sites we went to in Tunisia ( I wasn't totally obsessed with doors - just a bit) .
Dougga, the last Roman site we visited on our tour was probably the most impressive. Apart from the size of the site and the number of relatively intact buildings which gave a real sense of a city ( and the fact it was sunny!), the real star was the setting, in a wonderful landscape of distant mountains and olive groves. While Ian went on the guided tour of the site, on the tour leaders recommendation, I headed for the Temple of Saturn which had panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and did a bit of 'colouring in' , trying to capture the ever-moving shadows.