Saturday 30 July 2011

Out of Australia and thoughts on mark-making

 Took the afternoon off work yesterday to see the exhibitions of prints and baskets associated with the Australian season at the British Museum. Besides being very interesting in themselves, it got me thinking about the nature of making marks and how to make them personal and relevant.
The artists that particularly struck a chord  were Fred Williams composing aerial views of landscapes with calligraphic  marks (especially liked the use of tiny multicoloured blobs of paint) and many of the contemporary Aboriginal printmakers. These abstract representations of their  lives , beliefs, customs and ceremonies are full of meaning and the marks that make them up individual, unique to the maker( even  the tools, like the Tiwi 'pwoja' comb of Pedro Wonaeamirri ) . Untitled No 1 by Kitty Kantilla , is a vivid represenation of Cyclone Thelma aproaching the shore. It reminded me of the stitch patterns I've used to create waves or ripples but without that depth of meaning!!
So how do you go about developing a language  of meaningful marks, personal to you?
In this small quilt (accepted for 'Liberte Freiheit Freedom' exhibition to be premiered at Festival of Quilts ) the marks are the lines on my hand. The linoprint was inspired by an earlier print exhibition at British Museum!
Less literal, this example from 'Take it Further' Challenge theme of 'lists' where I'd manipulated an old shopping list in Photoshop and printed it on colour catchers has a lot of potential. Mind you I said that at the time 3 years ago - sometimes things take a little while to sink in....
Much as I enjoyed Jo Budd's class at CQ summer school, I wonder whether I would have benefited more from Helen Parrott's class - Margaret's account of this covers a lot of the same ground as these current ponderings (which have taken 2 hours for a relatively short post!)  

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Patchwork Professional 03/11

Waiting in for the scaffolders to arrive (roof is now finished) has it's bonuses. Look what the postie handed over - my copies of  German art quilt magazine "Patchwork Professional". Not only is there an article showing my work and a workshop on 'painted doors' but I'm on the front cover. I'm  in very distinguished company:  Kathy Loomis, Mirjam Pet Jacobs and Uta Lenk among others. I'm overwhelmed!!

Thursday 21 July 2011

Composing Peeling Posters

I think I'm beginning to get the feel for abstract compositions, so moving on from refining the pieces from Jo Budd's workshop, I've made a start on my CQ 'text' Journal Quilts. I've been observing and recording the changes in the peeling posters on the Great West Road for quite a while now (and helping it along by ripping some bits off too which I've squirreled away!) I realised though that in concentrating on the textures I'm omitted capturing any  words so had to rectify that. It's used mainly for  fly-posting adverts for party venues so that's what I'm working with.  
I've been printing photos onto cotton inkjet sheets and also colour catchers coated with Ink Aid. These tear very satisfyingly - I'm enjoying the effects of  those curling edges and your eye trying to work out whether it's a photo or for real! Now  I need to work out how to mount and stitch them. On canvas? distressed old quilt? (just bought another 'cutter' on ebay) Hand or machine quilt?
What really caught my eye when I was taking photos were the areas of posters bulging out through gaps in the fence. A journal quilt is just too small to do this justice -this calls for a huge piece!!
Interestingly the current issue of Surface Design is on paper - I dipped into it while delivering my quilt to Greenwich for FoQ reading about Mary Hark.

Monday 18 July 2011


Writing this  trying not to pay attention to the crashes and bangs as scaffolding is being brought through the house ! Having has indoor rain every time there is a downpour( particularly bad yesterday)  we're having the back roof done. Apart from dodging showers to cut down the overhanging tree where the scaffolding  is going and clearing out the conservatory, been spending the weekend gathering my art materials for acrylic  painting course at Slapton in a couple of weeks time and revisiting the pieces I started to put together at CQ Summer School.
On Friday Ian and I were in the RNIB Box for the First Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall  Fantastic atmosphere and music ( hear it here on iplayer)  The  Brahms Festival Overture made me nostalgic for my University days in the college choir when I sang the same piece  on the same stage for the graduation ceremonies. The Liszt Piano Concerto No 2 was pretty special but what blew me away was the Janacek Glagolitic Mass - even the organ solo was fantastic (I'm not usually a fan) ! Both the Liszt and Janacek had many  passages of just a few notes or scales taken up by different instruments and voices , continually repeating but changing. The Glagolitic Mass also had close harmonies contrasted with  sounds veering on discordant.  I was thinking all though this of  how that also  works in textiles- repetition with subtle changes, sections pleasing and harmonious but needing the odd juxtaposition of something surprising.
Another Prom on Thursday - Sibelius, Bartok  and Janacek again, looking forward to it.

Anyone going to Ecovision?

One of the reasons I joined Surface Design Association (SDA) , apart from their wonderful magazine, was the hope that someday I might get to one of their conferences in the US, their most recent being 'Confluence'. So I was interested to receive an invitation to a European SDA conference entitled 'Ecovision ' in Tilburg, Netherlands in October 2011. I'm very tempted,  but wondering whether anyone else was thinking of going?

Wednesday 13 July 2011

The Grey Side of Life

It started with turning 50 and the increasing numbers of silver hairs - as I only get my hair cut  short 3 times a year, the 'Mallen Streaks' ( remember that? ) are more becoming  prominent. Then 12 x 12 chose grey as their current colourplay theme. I've gone through grey quilt phases myself - for the series of honesty pieces but also 'winter trees' , an enlarged version of my first ever journal quilt in January 2003

In Elizabeth Barton's masterclass at FoQ and more recently Quilt University class'working in series' the importance of tonal studies was emphasised - something I'm really bad at sticking to as my love of colour means I  jump right in.
The final straw was  mixing greys from tiny dollops of primaries in Jo Budd's workshop at CQ summer school - a surprisingly absorbing occupation
 For those that asked about the pigment dyes used - they're selectasine screenprinting inks available from George Weil.  I thought at first that the acrylics I have already would do the job but  I doubt I could achieve such wonderful monoprinted marks as these without the acrylic drying too fast. (See how easily I get distracted by colour!)

So it was  with a sense of inevitability then that  I signed up for Sketchbook Project 2012  with theme ' The Grey Side of Life'.  A marked contrast to my 2010 Sketchbook ( which has just been digitised)  where I swapped the horrid Moleskine paper for colourful Khadi!!

Sometimes things come together in a surprising way and the elements from workshops and classes that stick are not necessarily the most obvious. I'm off to fish my greys out of my stash ,which is not small!

PS I can now hear properly again having had the remains of an earplug hoovered out at ENT outpatients. A bit sore and sensitive to noise, it's foam earplugs from now on!   

Monday 11 July 2011

Lunch break

 It's a while since I paid a visit to my favourite bench - less than 10 minutes from the lab and despite being close to 'climbers and creepers' it's very peaceful (apart from the parakeets) and always empty even on the busiest summer day. Today though I shared it with a rather doeful creature obviously missing its owner!

Needed a bit of peace and quiet as partially deaf at the moment due to a mouldable ear plug disintegrating and its amazing what a difference it makes to toleration of sound! Also a change of focus from peering down the microscope all morning. With a new A6 landscape sketchbook to start , I  drew what was in front of me but using the negative shapes. Tricky! Perhaps I'll come back tomorrow and see if my new friend is still around .

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Microcosm to Macrocosm

 A stimulating if exhausting weekend with Jo Budd at Contemporary Quilt Summer School at Belstead House.  We were working with a new medium to me- intensely coloured pigment dyes.
 After a scrummy dinner and a couple of glasses of wine we started applying binders ( 2 opaques and transparent SF20 ) in varying dilutions to our fabric- white on white in the fading light !
 In the morning we started with colour - choosing 3 primaries and attempting to mix some nice greys. I can do it with watercolours when I'm used to the pigments but  it took a while to achieve it with these dyes as they were so intense . Sludgy greens and purples ( well there's  a surprise) were the nearest  until I got Jo to bring out a bluer red .
 Then we 'coloured - in ' our white- on -white from the night before with the neutrals produced - the binders in their more concentrated form acting as a resist with some interesting effects on the back (these dyes bind to the outside of the fibres ) Watercolour effects and different types of monoprint were demonstrated and we spent the afternoon using these and our object of inspiration to produce lots of fabric samples ( which I was rather  regretting when it came to ironing them all to fix the pigment) I concentrated in monprinting with my wood-graining stamp and the zen of simple brush strokes - the advantage over acrylics being that they dried out slower and retained marks better.
 A change of pace and venue after another scrummy evening meal and a couple of glasses of wine - a show and tell of work we'd brought with us pegged to  a yew hedge. Coming by train like several others I'd just brought some journal quilts with me. An art critic cat strolled backwards and forwards - hope he was impressed!
Sunday was spent composing with our fabric - in my case outdoors propped against another yew hedge to get the most light and a bit of peace and quiet. While it's nice to chat while painting or over meals , it's a bit distracting when concentration is needed. The disadvantage was that we were the last to have Jo's valuable input but it did mean we had got quite a long way and she helped with some final suggestions that made all the difference
 The 'hand of the maker' is very evident in the marks I made on the fabric and I'll try to retain that quality. While I was waiting for Jo's advice on the red 'stick' piece I put together some of my favourite pieces in purple - mainly some hideous bits rescued with some last minute slapdash monoprinting to use up the dyes. Aren't those pieces often the best!!!
 I think I was partly inspired by the view of the roof line from my bedroom window.
Now I just need to write it up for the CQ newsletter!