Tuesday 29 March 2011

Plain Sewing

 Mum was an embroidery teacher and produced many accomplished pieces like this  canvaswork photoframe for her City and Guilds. She was always being asked 'Does your Margaret Sew?' to which the answer was
" No, but she  loves fabric and is good with colour" ( I made batik as well as adding to Mum's stash by scouring jumble sales )
 When I did eventually start sewing it was patchwork (that love of fabrics) and Mum taught me to hand quilt. I loved that - a simple stitch which altered the texture of the cloth and the gentle rhythm so  soothing.
Which is why I've gone back to working on my 'travel project', to lose myself in some hand stitching while I brood on compositions and solutions to other projects on the go.
Kathy Loomis has a thought-provoking post on the continual chase after new techniques to the detriment of sustained work  which chimes with me.  I would also add  needless embellishment to that list-  the quote
“No technique before need.” is one to treasure. Back to some plain sewing!

Sunday 27 March 2011

Inspired by ceramics ( and travelling crowns)

All this week the mystified postie has been delivering metal rings of varying sizes (lampshade rings and wreath bases) which I put to good  use yesterday , hanging 'secret books' in cotton organza, my interpretation of the 'Taplow Vase' from Slough Museum. Still needs some work - I can see the 'rim' needs lowering and the strips of organza selvedge replaced with something more metallic( not to mention working out how I'm going to attach the 'books' ) but it's taking shape now. 
 I think I was partly inspired by the idea of nomadic crowns, made in sections and  taken apart for travelling as seen on Friday  in the Afghanistan exhibition at the British Museum. This star piece really is spectacular - it shimmers and trembles as you stand next to it  but the remainder of exhibition is equally jaw dropping.
Before the timed entry, we visited the Minoan gallery - it's become a ritual  to see what the BM has in the way of artifacts as a taster before going on holiday (in this case Crete over Easter).
I've always enjoyed  ceramics- making sketches of broken bits of crockery is nothing new - I found some notes tucked into the guide book to Knossos and Heraklion Museum from 20 years ago. I was doing pottery evening classes at the time so was interested in  shapes and incised markings that I could use in my own work. I'm as likely now to 'draw' in Photoshop ( ie Taplow Vase using 'find edges' filter) but there's nothing quite like observing with a pencil.

Monday 21 March 2011

Progress:ever decreasing circles

This weekend; a haircut (3-monthly mow); purchase of 2 pairs of sandals; a nice meal with friends (seeing that huge moon from the train) and some quality studio time (Ian was cooking for the 'hump' ie freezer) . The extra challenge for the first 4 months of this years journal quilts is to include circles.  My intention was to take the ideas from the first one and both carry over and change them over the subsequent quilts.
After weeks of having 'March' in bits on my table and design wall I got stuck in and  pieced 'April' and 'May' too - they still need quilting
'March '
I took the manipulated images I used for February's 'Anagramma In Vitro' and manipulated them further using 'cutout 'filter. I've been using 'Photoshop' for years (and that particular filter ) but have only just discovered that there are 3 different levels within it that you can adjust!!! Went through all my green stash (which is not small) and selected some Kaffe Fasset print; the reverse of a lurid pink and lime green graduated spot; and a touch of green shibori from Chang's.

The green shibori was the start of the next one with the addition of  2 African damask shibori fabrics.  I wanted to remind myself how to piece them together using a wavy line - a technique used in my African door quilts and 'Indigo Sea' - as I'm keen to explore this further. I included an offcut from Februarys' printing and then cutting Petri dishes from another piece I hadn't used, decided I liked the holes!

Then really on a roll, I pieced one of the African Damask fabrics with a print of sections of leaf cells from a scientific publication on Medusagne (Jellyfish Tree from Seychelles). A different scale of circle but still endangered plant related
I'd put the Slough Museum project on hold as there was some uncertainty  whether the exhibition would go ahead as the Museum is sadly closing later in the year. But the dates  having been confirmed, (  18 May to 11 June)  I fished out my samples of organzi books based on the Taplow Vase and pondered how to display them. I got a couple of brass rings from the sales table at last TVCQ meeting and I experimented with wrapping them around the hoops and  suspending them.  Ian suggested the spare airer 'tripod' which is banished to the cellar as it collapses with even 1 coat hanger on. Just the job but not for including in the final display.

Monday 14 March 2011

Textile Food for Thought

'Summer Rain'  Jo Budd  2007
'Shadow I' Gill Banks

Inspired by a weekend of textile events , I rushed back to my sewing room and rather than setting to work I cleared my design wall , table and hopefully my thoughts.

On Saturday, the talk by Jo Budd at CQ AGM was as good as I anticipated, covering over 30 years of  her work from painting to painting with fabric to  painting on fabric. Ruminations on why she uses fabric; the ripples that are produced by stitch; her love of backs-the 'unconscious side'; the importance of edges; the 'unprecious' scraps that become the most treasured. I look at the small piece of hers I own and see in miniature the concepts she was describing - the layering of transparent and opaque, the use of rust, the frayed edges, the anchoring hand stitches. She talked about her sketches in fabric of which this is an example and the difficulties scaling up ( her large pieces are huge!) - hopefully a chance to explore this further in 'microcosm to macroscosm' summer school. Those of us lucky enough to have places talk in whispers  and also in a small voice I confess I didn't go to the Quilt Show at the V&A  and therefore was probably  the one person in the room who hadn't seen Jo's work there.

At the Contemporary Textile Fair at Landmark Centre on Sunday (going early to avoid the Rugby at Twickenham) I succumbed to an atmospheric  piece by exhibitor Gill Banks which now I look at it again shares some of the same qualities as Jo's. This will be my birthday present from Ian once we find a frame.
Interesting to compare the mounting techniques (both effective ).Unlike Jo's piece which is secured  behind a mount frame, Gill sewed the fabric onto a piece of foamboard which was then glued to mountboard. This means it stands proud and the frayed edges cast shadows .

Equally valuable over these 2 days were the opportunities for discussions about  working practices and preferences. Sandra Grusd (who's work I greatly admire) asked whether I only worked for exhibitions/ competitions or for myself. That got me thinking ! I do find deadlines motivating but on exploring this subject further with Sue over coffee and carrot cake realise that this sometime means making compromises that result in work I'm not so happy with. For instance I love a lot of things about Tunisian Door - particularly use of fabric and colour ,but the composition isn't what I originally intended or hoped for as it grew too big!
I'm worrying a bit about not having done any large pieces since then and even Journal Quilts are proving a bit more of a challenge than usual with the extra 'rule' besides size and shape - can't just make my sample pieces up to the correct size. Mainly tho' it's having too many ideas and not knowing where to start.
So I've decided to concentrate on doors and boats ( both incorporate peeling paint on wood and metal!), going back to using  fabric as paint which means that the Weir  is off the  design wall (sorry Ian!) as it was holding me back. Lets see where it takes me.

Friday 11 March 2011

Boat Friday

Inspired by my own  blogpost last week, on Friday I  left work early armed with sketching gear and walked very slowly home along the river, stopping every few metres to draw or take a photograph. I enjoyed it so much  I was determined to do more work on them over the weekend but gardening  intervened!!
At work I'm overwhelmed with urgent deadlines as we near the end of financial year and it's Friday again with nothing much creative done this week.
Boats are still on my mind having taken photographs of old watercolours from Pinmill, Mistley and Porlock Weir and especially as I'm going to Contemporary Quilt AGM  tomorrow with talk by Jo Budd - love her work and own a tiny piece. I'm also lucky enough to have a place on her workshop at CQ Summer school later in the year.

I have been working on some of the photos I took last Friday in Photoshop (exploring 'cutout' filter). Perhaps I'll leave work early and doing some playing in watercolour....

Thursday 3 March 2011

Old Boats

Taking photos of my older work (both quilts and paintings) I borrowed back this piece from Sue based on boats at Pinmill . It dates from 1999, the watercolour it was based on from 1997 (painted on a course with John Tookey at Flatford Mill - I also bought one of his paintings! ) . Still looks good to me - like Elizabeth Barton I sometimes question how much I've improved since!
This print of a boat,based on a sketch  at Topsham (Devon), is even earlier from 1985 when I went on a stone lithography printing course near Ulverston . I loved the process and the results but not something you can do at home!!!
Reviewing these and other older works I  have a renewed appreciation of my drawing skills which seem to have lapsed - I used to go on several painting courses a year and the benefit of continued practice shows.
I've also renewed my interest in old boats with my daily walk into work along the river Thames near Kew Bridge - I take  lots of photos of these houseboats and barges  with  water at different heights according to the tides. I really must take my sketchbook out.
Yesterday I found treasure along the towpath - this piece of wood with flaking paint which I've placed with  other 'finds' in the conservatory.  Just asking to be incorporated into an art work or at least a source of inspiration. My work colleagues were singularly unimpressed when I walked into the lab brandishing my trophy but were too polite to say so.