Sunday 23 November 2014

Mended Door- Change of Scale

Quilt number 3 for International Threads challenge is   finally completed after several months marinating on the design wall. The theme was change of scale or large/small scale.  I returned to ideas I worked on a while ago on incorporating a photo of door within a large scale detail  as in these JQ's
The smaller scale area  is a photo of part of a patched, mended door with newer wood inserts among the old on Queen Charlottes Cottage in the grounds of Kew Gardens. The larger scale  shapes and colours are based on some of the sections of the photo, a mixture of African batik, hand dyed fabric and monoprints with acrylic paint from Jae Maries course.  I  used different weight threads ( 40 and 12) in these areas to further emphasise the change of scale.

I took this  quilt along to the Thames Valley Contemporary Textiles group meeting yesterday in Bracknell - which apart from our AGM featured an interesting  talk   by Jane O'Brien  on the history of Damask ( co-incidentally I've reading through the silk route section of the 'History of the World in 100 objects). She highlighted the damask on various Renaissance paintings, many in the National Gallery which reminded me of my drawing courses there - remembering how I struggled with the patterns on cloth  in the  Bellini painting of the Doge!  
In the afternoon, it was good to be reminded of design principles, particularly the golden section  and I couldn't resist assembling a small flock from the delightful knitted sheep the Kate Crossley had brought for sale.
Ian meanwhile  had been picking the last of the figs from our tree  but even he admitted this time they were seriously underwhelming in taste - we need that Mediterranean sun! 

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Leaving Kew

On Friday I received official confirmation that my application for Voluntary Redundancy from  the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew  had been approved.  So with 3 months notice, I will be leaving on Friday 13 February 2015 after nearly 25 years  working there.
There have been difficult times and changes  but none so much as now. I've worked on some incredible projects , particularly on orchids , bryophytes and ferns  and with some  amazing people. I'm proud of my science publications, my books  and my involvement in teaching and training.
I'm not sure what lies ahead apart from downsizing  and moving to Faversham  although I'm looking at reviving my rather rusty botanical survey skills through MMU/FSC courses and fitting in some more time for stitching and painting. Then I need to find another job.

Rusty Journal Quilts -real and faux

Rust Shoreline 
Rust Shoreline detail
Rust Ripples 
Rust Ripples detail 
Greenhouse Door Rust
 Rusted silk habotai  couched on digital print of peeling paint of Alston Hall greenhouse door

African Scrap Door 
( no rusted fabrics: Ndobe indigo, African Kola and Indigo, Potassium permanganate, commercial )

The question of what you do with the bits you produce on workshops: use them in Journal Quilts.
 I enjoyed  trying out   rusting on fabrics and papers  using teas with Alice Fox  and produced some lovely marks on  small pieces ( thanks Olga for  highlighting  my  efforts on the Ragged Cloth Café blog) . I made up a small book and  applied the stitched pieces  to pre-machine quilted backgrounds. I love the resulting textures of these  but I don't think I will be pursuing this technique further as  after the initial excitement , I'm struggling  to work out how I incorporate them in my main series.

It's partly a scale issue: I prefer   yardage  such as my indigo shibori to small  pieces, however exquisite, and I'm a quilter not an embroiderer. It's a process issue:Alice does not wash or iron the  the resulting fabrics liking the folds and creases and applies these to felt or other fabrics. That   fits her aims and ethos but not mine.  It's a fabric issue: the  nicest marks were on thin silk habotai  which I can't easily mix  with the cottons I usually use.  Mainly though it's a colour issue: as a painter the marks, colours and especially tones  achieved are just too subtle and unpredictable .

I overheard  several times people stating authoratively that my 'Fleet Mudflats' quilt contained rust marked fabrics. It doesn't - it's a mixture of commercial printed fabrics and African kola and indigo with some digital prints of sand ripples. My African Scrap Door JQ above also contains no rusted fabrics.  
Fleet Mudflats
When you learn a technique or process, however much you admire the work and ethos of the tutor, you have to decide whether it fits with your own work. On this occasion I have  no immediate use for it - I'm  happier with faux rust effects.  But having learnt it , it's in my arsenal  for  the future  if appropriate.  

Tuesday 4 November 2014

A creative weekend and strange plant memories

At last, some creative time squeezed in this weekend!  Sue  and I had scheduled a 'play date' for Sunday afternoon to look at the results of  our rust dyeing  workshop with Alice Fox and to  do some sewing. So  Saturday was spent assembling bits to work on including some Journal Quilts ( more on that in another post)   and finally getting round to trimming down and facing the first challenge  for 'International Threads' group. I'm embarrassed to say that we're now   on our  fifth ( although I've completed others in between)
It has been almost finished for a long time.  A wholecloth piece of Japanese silk shibori  layered over an African damask ,  it's been a labour of love, hand stitched  using a variety  of loops and other stitches  trying out techniques from Helen Parrott's book. It's accompanied  me on several train journeys, the format of 40 x 80 cm being a good travel piece to work on.
It looks quite sinister and plant-like  reminding me of the carrion flower so I'm calling it 'Red Stapelia' .

At one time in the  small glasshouse at work  where we  had plants that had originally been grown in the lab, there was an enormous Stapelia that took up most of a bench, very  ' Little Shop Of Horrors' .  The smell was something else.... It even had a proper engraved  label which besides  the accession number and  family, genus, species details also bore the  plants name :' Cedric the Poo Plant'. Alas Cedric is no more, removed when the  glasshouse changed use many years ago