Tuesday 27 December 2011

Xmas Traditions

 We've established our own traditions associated with Christmas Hibernation : a selection of pickles to have with the cold ham on Boxing day (perhaps 7 was a  bit excessive ....) These are eaten with jacket potatoes after a walk along the canal to the Fox in Hanwell for  a couple of pints of real ale ('Polar Express' and 'Roasted Nuts' ).Ian tries very hard not to say 'What about the weir?'  ( the piece I started 2 years ago but gave up on) but he can't resist.

 We put together stocking presents for each other - I always have to include a wind up toy, this year a speedy snail, and I always receive a couple of Baileys Miniatures. Books feature heavily in both as does Green and Blacks Chocolate.
These are opened while munching crumpets with brandy butter and bacon wrapped dates, washed down with bucks fizz and coffee.
We're now into our creative days - Ian on the computer setting up his own blog and me painting in the mornings, sewing in the afternoon. 3 more days of this - bliss!!Then  a gradual acclimatization to the world outside with tickets booked for Saturday for Grayson Perry exhibition at the British Museum with lunch at Savoir  Faire.
Hope you're all enjoying your own festivities

Thursday 22 December 2011

Orchid Swansong

Today I picked up my 6 copies of 'Growing Hardy Orchids' . It's a nice-looking colourful book but I'm not the  best  judge of its qualities, given its chequered history. I started editing it over 6 years ago following the success of Growing Orchids from Seed but the challenge of  multiple authors  combined with a period of deep unhappiness at work  led to it being called 'blasted book ' in this household for the angst it caused me.
Handing over reponsibility for the book resulting in a major rejig of its contents means I no longer  have a sense of ownership but that's not a  bad thing- I've moved onto far more interesting and fulfilling roles in my job. I'm just glad to see it out at last, my orchid swansong. Now I can move on.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Stewarding, Stitching and Spirit Stains

 I spent Saturday stewarding the TVCT group exhibition 'Whatever Floats Your Boat' at Gallery@49  in Bracknell. Perishing cold - just as well Sandy had warned me  and I came armed with thermals and layers of fleeces.  It's a nice space if a bit tricky to take photos although I rather like how the art pieces interacted with the environment.
 I spent most of my time stitching on my latest indigo piece ( usefully long enough to cover my legs!) and people watching out of the window, fascinated by what purchases people brought out of the emporium opposite. Black tinsel was popular, the display outside had to be replenished, quite tricky in the stiff breeze.
 Some interesting conversations with Tonia who came down from her studio periodically to thaw out and with the few people who ventured into the Gallery. Several artists who popped in to admire the textiles talked about their own work, including a man who worked in leather. A couple of weeks ago Ian's mum had given me an old box of leather 'spirit stains' that had been her fathers so this was the opportunity to find out a bit more about them.   When I described them, he said that they were probably aniline dyes which you can't get anymore (for H&S reasons of course!) but apparently they're the best - transparent but intense. This led to futher discussions about tanning methods and whether he had a stash of leathers equivalent to my fabric. A little hesitantly he admitted this was the case!!

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Neolithic Mark-Making

 It's difficult to describe the  almost visceral pleasure of looking round the prehistoric galleries at the Museum of London which we visited before a performance of Belshazzars Feast at the Barbican. The concert itself was amazing - over 100 members of choir and  a large orchestra with 2 brass sections in the gallery behind  giving  full on surround sound.
 What I love about all these flint and stone axes is that you can see the marks that made them (there was a video of flint knapping although I'm not sure they had beer towels in the Neolithic.... ) . A first glance they  look very similar then you see each one is individual - a bit like Judy's reverse applique dots which I'm itching to have a go at , I like the irregularity of Deb's version.
Many of the items, including this pot  were from the Thomas Layton Collection , collected  from in and around the Thames at Brentford - the local connection making these objects feel  personal.
The archeologists can tell a lot about the maker by the marks - apparently this pot shard was decorated by a women with long fingernails!
I wonder what these stitch marks say about me? 

Thursday 8 December 2011

Textile Sushi - Thoughts on Bite-Size

There was an  impressive turn out for Lesley Millar's talk on  Tuesday at the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation - over 50 people including several of the artists, I felt very priviliged to be among them. 'Bite-Size' is an apt title for this exquisite exhibition, it struck me rather irreverently that it could be likened to a bento box of  sushi! So many items deceptively simple yet incredibly complex and thoughtful  in the choice and use of materials.Lesley showed slides for each maker which incorporated larger works from previous exhibitions as well as the current miniatures ,setting them in context of the partnerships that had evolved through the various projects.  I had about an hour to look round beforehand  but looked on objects with a informed  perspective after the talk  as the catalogue mainly  contained thoughts by the participants on these partnerships rather than descriptions of the pieces exhibited or artists statements.  A few days later, it is different pieces again that have stuck in my mind.

 Kyoko Kumai 'Whisper of Wind'
 Sue Lawty 'Lead XV'

Many pieces pushed the boundaries of what might be considered textiles - 2 of my favourite pieces were  woven  from metal! Apart from the skills demonstrated and their subtle beauty, I like how they play with the idea of softness and comfort of cloth.
Diana Harrison 'Damaged (work in progress)'  

Metal also featured in the form of pins in Diana Harrisons work.  I've admired her quilts since the early 1990's (or was it even earlier)  when I saw her work in an exhibition at the Crafts Council. She gave an absorbing talk at CQ AGM  about her work  a couple of years ago . What was so special about this piece was that it wasn't a scaled down quilt  but an intricate lace-like work in it's own right while still referencing her larger work.
 Masae Bamba 'Black Water'

I know textiles are tactile but why do some people always feel the need to handle work, look at the back , often thinking that 'do not touch' signs do not refer to them. Not that there were any such signs, it was probably thought that  the work would be respected. So I was rather shocked when someone started flicking through the layers of fabric of  'Black Water' treating it like a fabric sample book , not even returning the layers to their original position. I couldn't see a steward to alert - I didn't like to touch it myself. Lesley  herself referred to this incident in her talk asking  why couldn't people leave it alone and let it maintain it's mystery.
It had been restored after the talk so was able to appreciate it's powerful  depiction of a Tsunami wave ( many of the Japanese artists had been affected in some way) with the black swallowing  all the colour around it.  Knowing what it represented, it felt even more of a desecration.

It also made me think again of the challenges in making and displaying 3D work -  see Olga's posts for how  this exhibition has inspired her ( and for how 'Black Water' should look like). I wasn't happy about how my 'Taplow Vase' was displayed  in the Slough Museum show but I now see that part of the reason it was in that position was to prevent it being handled. The surroundings can make such a difference - I loved how the piece below was suspended in the window , interacting with the view behind .

Yoshiko Tanabe 'Fuwafwa Moyamoya'

After a couple of days digesting what I saw, I've realised how few stitched pieces there were. Many works were very skilled, elegant and precise but  for me rather clinical , lacking the obvious  imprint of the hand of the maker. One of the  exceptions was Celia Pym's 'Darned Sock' which  is the piece that has most stuck in my mind despite not taking a photo of it at the time, perhaps because I related to her recycling and giving new life to old textiles.
That choice probably says a lot about my taste  for earthy food rather than fine dining!

Monday 5 December 2011


My 'Taplow Vase Reconstruction' made in response to a Roman vase in Slough Museum is having another outing - currently at Gallery @49 in Bracknell as part of 'Whatever Floats Your Boat' exhibition. Hope to get there on 17 December to sit and stitch and chat to anyone who might pop in.

On Thursday , went to a presentation to staff by David Nash about the  exhibition of his work next year at Kew Gardens.  The lecture theatre was packed and due to technical difficulties with slide projector (everyone uses Powerpoint these days) there was the opportunity to catch up with colleagues . Talk was mainly about how the strike had gone  but also found that the Hardy Orchid book I've been working on for 6 years will be published on 16 December!

He was such an engaging speaker, particularly recounting the construction of the Ash Dome and travels of the Wooden Boulder . Existing outdoor works will be situated throughout the gardens and these will be supplemented with new works created on-site at  a  'wood quarry'. There will indoor works in the temperate house, Shirley Sherwood Gallery and Nash Conservatory. It sounds fantastic!!

On a different scale , tomorrow afternoon I'm going to the gallery talk by Lesley Millar at Japan House on current textile exhibition 'Bite Size' which so many people have raved about. I'll be reporting back in my next blog post.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Creative Striking

 I'm  on strike today over pension reform - the first time ever and not a decision I made lightly but having said 'yes' in the Prospect ballot I felt I should.  Although not strictly 'Public Sector' as we're  one of those 'Arms Length Bodies' , we are part of the Civil  Service Pension scheme. As I  was in my 30's when I joined the scheme ( up until that point I had been contributing to a private pension)  I am buying 'additional years' to make sure I am paying enough in to the tune of 14% of my salary. With  a 2 year pay freeze ( and then a 1% cap!) it's going to be difficult  to pay an additional 3% on top.  Our pension  benefits are part of the package to make up for the lower pay that scientists and other specialists  receive in comparison to the private sector - we're deeply committed to our work (conservation is long-term)   but there are limits to how much they take that for granted
Anyway I've been making the most of my days unpaid leave, testing paints on  my red and cream ebay purchase , taking photos of the red stick against it.

 After cleaning the kitchen,then baking rolls and ginger biscuits, I've been sorting through my fabrics , making a gradient of blue/green tones with a larger 'Anavriti' door piece in mind.
So it was quite opportune to read  '29 Ways to stay creative' posted on Linda's blog. Not doing too badly on several fronts (apart from 4- get away from the computer!)  No. 25 resonated' 'Stop trying to be someone else's perfect'

Friday 25 November 2011

Shinkansen (International Quilt Challenge)

 Ever since  my first digital camera , I've been taking photos from trains at speed - I love the blurring. I've made a few journal quilts and one experimental piece  but have always wanted to scale up . The current theme 'Through the Window' of the International Quilt Challenge  gave me an opportunity to start  down that road (or should that be rail?!!!!)
 In 2006 I travelled with Susan Briscoe to Yuza-machi  in Japan   and took lots of photos from the Shinkansen train from Tokyo to Yamagata. The  green of rice paddies, the purplish grey roofs , the mountains and the coast were so different from the train photos I'd taken in the UK
 Techniques and materials used? Photos  were printed on colour catchers treated with 'Ink Aid' . I used Photoshop to increase saturation slightly but that's all -the blurring is as captured by camera. These were applied to a section of lightweight fabric from a secondhand kimono bought for Pojagi in Tokyo.
A silk organza scarf with woven lines was laid over the top and attached with twin needle stitching. Interesting difference  between the raised ridges produced  when stitched through 1 layer of kimono and the flatter ones where stitching through both kimono and colour catcher. I really should have stabilised the kimono fabric first but I actually like the effect!
I'd like to produce an even bigger piece next perhaps  inspired by the paintings of Atsuhide Ito although quite how I'd photograph it and display it....

Monday 21 November 2011

Fusing and Reusing

 A most enjoyable meeting of Thames Valley Contemporary Textile Group in Bracknell on Saturday.
I haven't been since January so it was great to catch up with people. We had a  talk from Ali Mesley (CQ co-ordinator) in the morning and then spent the afternoon fusing papers with Sandy.  I'd had a good dig through stuff I had finished with for the popular 'Been there, done that' stall run by Delia but couldn't resist a bundle of her hand dyed fabric.
When I got home, I realised  the colours  were  the same as the buggy cultures I found in the broken cold store at work! Inspiration in all kinds of places. I couldn't resist taking a photo to put in my talks to MSc students to demonstrate the need for sterile technique!!
 Rather than fusing small pieces of paper together and applying to fabric, I  made tissue/handmade paper 'sandwiches' with new sketchbook project 'surfaces and stitch' in mind.
 Our BT Homehub has given up so we had an internet free weekend. Time to catch up with house hold chores, 'inkaid' some more colourcatchers, stitch into my indigo sea piece and contemplate chopping up this old red and white quilt I bought on ebay ( detail on right) . It's actually only 2 layers , the backing an interesting heavyweight homespun  twill but it's beautifully handstitched with chevrons.
 I bid for it thinking it would make a suitably distressed background for the 'stick' inspired fabrics  produced on Jo Budd workshop. I did like stitching into canvas for 'Violet Seas' but that's her technique  - rescuing and giving new life to old textiles makes it more mine.

Friday 18 November 2011

Enlightenment and El Anatsui

I left work early on Wednesday to go the private view of latest exhibition  of ColourFX , hoping to go to the Grayson Perry exhibition at the British Museum on the way. I was initially diappointed that unfortunately  all the tickets were sold out but decided to have my own tour in search of the 'unknown craftman' via Sutton Hoo, flint knives and the Hans Soane collection of  artifacts in the bookcases that used to be the Kings Library now the 'Enlightenment Gallery'. After a quick trip through Mexico and North America (!)  I ended up in the African Galleries (Room 25)
The first thing you see on entering is a huge metal ' Man's Cloth' by  El Anatsui  made from discarded foil bottle-neck wrappers based on   the traditional narrow-strip woven silk cloth made in Ghana, a source of national pride.
 There was another piece by El Anatsui in wood which I don't remember seeing before. This was fantastic (although difficult to photograph). With grooves carved into wood, from different angles it appeared to ripple, like cloth in a breeze.
 On the way out via Montague Place , I popped into the Islamic galleries  - drawn in by the re-interpretation of an Iranian felt cloak covered in amulets by Bita Ghezelayagh  ( sorry to miss her exhibition at the Quilt Museum )

It was great to see so many people at the Framers Gallery and to  talk  with not only the artists themselves but to catch up with other 'viewers' . It was a lovely space and interesting work from everyone - hope it does well.  Ian came too - he particularly liked Alicia's maps and  has all kinds of ideas about how I might make something for him based on his military war game scenarios ! He'll be waiting a while....

Friday 4 November 2011

Violet Seas

I've so enjoyed stitching this piece , I'm sorry to have finished it! 'Violet Seas' was composed from fabrics produced in CQ Summer School with Jo Budd and I wanted to have a go at stitching on canvas as she does. It's certainly easy to stitch and produced wonderful textures where the stitching alters the surface of the cloth. The downsides  include the terrible fraying of the canvas - had to tack the edge down. The main problem is  I don't know how to mount it for hanging. I wished I'd allowed more canvas so I had more to play with. I'd like to maintain the soft ragged edges of the top fabric. Any ideas? It's about 17x 17 inches.

Friday 28 October 2011

Shibori Seas

 Remember I said I was piecing together an indigo seascape? Well I didn't get it finished to take to Weymouth , in fact it took another month but it's now ready to layer for quilting. Machine in the distance, hand stiching in the foreground I think.  I'd forgotten how difficult it is to photo indigo and it doesn't help it's currently about 125 h x 45cm w. I'm particularly pleased with these 2 sections and I'm itching to start another watery piece to incorporate the effects I achieved here before I forget!

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Sand Ghosts and Threads

Print 1: Dirty yellow ink applied with brayer to mylar sheet ( same one  as used for 'Green Sea' prints - halved  trips to the press!) Rayon standed thread applied to plate. On the print the white areas left are embossed (or should that be debossed?) 
Print 2: 'Ghost' print with threads removed - you get a dark outline around where the threads were.
Print 3: Another 'ghost print , this time with the threads added back after being on a green sea print - I love the subtle colours it adds in this detail (below)

Print 4 : Additional ink added then lines scored with end of paintbrush. If you look very carefully, there's still the very faint outlines of the threads beneath .

I got a lot out of this workshop - not least seeing what everyone else got up to. There's no way I'm going to use oil-based inks at home so I'll be interested to see how these techniques will work with acrylics or selectasine screenprinting inks  on fabric ( succumbed after all - George Weil is such a temptation!). Any idea where I can buy mylar sheets?It was a joy using the press - doing it by hand gave mixed results.  Might have to sign up for the class again in February...