Monday 27 July 2015

Last Week: Tallis, Pangaea II and Alchemy

Ephrem Solomon
 Sunday lunchtime , listening  on  Radio 3  to the recording of the Thomas Tallis lunchtime concert  we went to last Monday at the Cadogan Hall.  While lovely to hear again, the live performance, especially of Spem in Alium,  was  spine tingling.
After the concert  and  a late lunch, while we were in Chelsea, we went to the Saatchi Gallery - some  interesting work in exhibition 'Pangaea II', my favourites the  woodcuts of Ephrem Solomon referencing Ethiopian society  and the isolation of the human figure
Eddy Ilinga Kamuanga
African fabrics: in Kamuanga's paintings  ( above) of the contemporary cultural diversity of Kinshasa  and traded old clothes from market sellers  stitched  by Mahama onto  old cocoa bean jute sacks (below) used to bag farm produce and charcoal. The catalogue refers to the importance of the personalised exchange and the meanings acquired by material over time - reminding me of  Boro  

Ibriham Mahama

Armound Boua
Powerful paintings  of forgotten children painted in acrylic and tar on cardboard boxes  then torn scratched, erased.
Alejandra Ospina
Paintings of calligraphic marks constructed  from layers of images found on internet, reconstructed into abstract associations, exploring ideas on how the internet has transformed our relationship to images, space, a networked world of information and consumption.  

Diega Mendoza  Imbachi
 Very large scale drawings in pencil and graphite, recording changes to the landscape in Columbia  with the impact of industrialisation 

 Upstairs  in a separate exhibition on death, the 'stars' of  Pangaea I, the ant forms of Rafael G√≥mezbarros, have been rehoused  in a small room. Very creepy (not referring to Ian)

 On Tuesday, I finally got round to another museum  sketching session in the company of Margaret Cooter and co , back at the Wellcome Collection. We were based in the reading Room, home of the amulets.  Many of the displays  were quite high up  in cases but  I found a good position at a table in the section on alchemy,  attempting to capture in graphite the differences in surface between the glass flasks  ( above) and wooden pestle and mortars ( below)   without getting a crick in my neck!
 Since then it's been dental appointments, a funeral, house hunting in Faversham  and keeping the house tidy for viewings.

Friday 24 July 2015

Interviewed for Through Our Hands

 I don't know where the time goes - it's nearly time for the  next issue  of 'Through Our Hands' online magazine and I neglected to flag up that I'd been interviewed by Linda Seward for the current one ! She  did  a brilliant job  and  at a time when I haven't stitched for months, it's reassuring to  be reminded of  my work in print.  Looking forward to FoQ in just over a weeks time.

Friday 17 July 2015

Reconnecting with Plants: inspiration for Cynefin

It's taken me a few days to recover from my  field course in Shropshire on 'Using A Flora' - enjoyable though it was, it was very intensive and  the bunk bed was not conducive to a good nights sleep. 

 I travelled up a day  early , staying overnight at the Premier Inn to avoid having to travel across London during the tube strike  so  I had a free day in Shrewsbury to  wander around and take a very leisurely boat cruise  on the River Severn( even the joggers went faster!)
 As I'd been in a bit of a rush leaving, I'd  had no time to  pick up my current stitching project - perfect excuse to visit Watson and Thornton, an absolute gem of a fabric shop.  Besides some muslin for my  'eco dyeing' course at FoQ in a few weeks, I got some lovely cream boiled wool fabric perfect for hand stitching a journal quilt  inspired by CQ Summer School - they even cut  a piece to size  off  the metre I'd bought.   Although I didn't get a chance to do any sewing until the train journey home.
 The course  was a mixture of classroom  tuition and exercises , putting it all into practice in 3 trips out to various   nature reserves in the area. Some of it was revision but a lot of it was new to me   ( like the differences in structures  between daisies, dandelions and thistles, below) and I feel far more confident using  the 'Stace' I  received as a leaving present, thanks to tutor Mark.
 The first site  at Colemere, I was very hot and bothered despite retreating to the woods  but it was pleasanter at Snailbeach  ( below) before  it started to drizzle and we headed back for cake.
This photo I have in mind  as the basis for my first Cwilt Cymru  ' Cynefin' piece  on being back in my habitat among grasslands - it was awash with the white of  ox-eye daisies and the purple of knapweed ( the photo at the top of  this post  with burnet moth was taken there)
But  my favourite by far was the final site on Sunday at Llanymynech. Half in Shropshire, half in Montgomeryshire, Wales, apart from the spectacular cliff faces, the variety of limestone plants  was just magic.

 I wonder about incorporating the shapes of these metal figures of miners  into my Cynefin piece?

There were large stands of Pyramidal, Common spotted and Fragrant orchids as well as the odd bee orchid in the longer grass and then spent a couple of  hours on the bench overlooking the panoramic view , keying out milkwort (a favourite from my survey days and one I spotted on Portland) ) and rockrose. 

 However  when it  came to the 2 hour test , part of the assessment  to gain credits for  University Certificate, I had a panic attack, not allowing enough time to  complete it properly. I also realised when I got home that I would be very hard pushed to  complete the 2nd assignment  in time ( collecting and identifying 10 plants and constructing dichotomous  key).
The combination of selling  our house, coming to terms with redundancy from Kew and  flare-up of arthritis  is taking its toll  in terms of stress levels  and being unable to give the time  and commitment  needed to complete assignments, I made the difficult decision to withdraw from the UCert  course.  Everyone concerned was very understanding.
Next year  once we've moved  I still intend to do some more field courses to add to my botanical knowledge/experience but without the  stress of exams and assignments.

Thursday 9 July 2015

Develop your drawing 9,Printmaking 10

I missed my art classes last week, so rather than attempting to complete a drawing project from my South Bank sketches in 3hours instead of 6, I decided to continue the still life and graphite theme, taking in a pewter pot and drawing it from several viewpoints. There was some terrific varied work from the other students, I'm sad to be finishing.
Meanwhile,in the printmaking class, I attempted to reduce the accidental marks on my etching/aquatint with some hard work with a burnisher. After the first proof, there was no difference, at least I made Anne-Marie laugh by saying it had done 'diddly squat', so I gave it up as a bad job.
My drypoint was rather more successful and I enjoyed experimenting with 'chine colle'.
Unlikely to be attempting these techniques again but gained such a lot from understanding the processes involved.

Tuesday 7 July 2015

7/7 Remembered

I've  been making Journal Quilts since 2003  and so  in talks to quilt groups on this subject , I can speak from experience  about all the ways they can be used, from  samples for larger quilts, trying out techniques, to more personal records of events important in my life.
This  small quilt from July 2005 falls in that category. It has at its centre a copy of my train ticket from  7/7 - I was travelling to a meeting in Peterborough and this was the last train out of Kings Cross  just  as the bombs went off. Our meeting was cut short as the horrific  news broke and we were all frantically trying to contact family and friends. The next problem was how to get home - all the trains were  terminating at Peterborough. In the end a  colleague travelling back to Newbury took several of us in his car and then got a train  to Ealing, arriving home very late. Ian also  had a long journey, walking right across London to get a train from Paddington. But we were  both home, safe. 
I'd been taking a lot of photos from trains  at speed using my  new digital camera  and  happened to be  travel the same train route just a week later so took photos of my journey, remembering the week before  and my lucky escape - others were less fortunate.
We had tickets for the first night of the proms that year - a more sombre occasion than usual. Willard White singing in Tippet's 'A Child of Our Time' was particularly poignant, referring to man's inhumanity to man,  and it still leaves a lump in my throat when I hear it.
In memory of  the victims and survivors of 7/7.  

Thursday 2 July 2015

Handkerchief Memories

On the requirements list for the  CQ Summer School workshop with Isabel Dibden-Wright, besides paper, drawing and sewing materials and black and white fabrics   was a handkerchief ' for artwork' .
I thought it might be used to mount a piece of textile work but its purpose was far more intriguing.
On the Friday evening, Isabel showed us a selection of handkerchiefs ( plain, embroidered, vintage, new)  and we had a brief discussion about what they're used for and  memories  associated with them.  Our challenge  was to decorate/ alter  the handkerchief we'd brought with us in any way we chose with a 'grand reveal' on Sunday afternoon 

 The  handkerchief I brought was one of those liberated  when I converted Ian to tissues  from revolting  ' Manky Hankies' ( of course the downside is tissue lint  in the washing machine... ).   Apart from  a  dainty small hankie I use with Olbas oil,  my main use of these large mens hankies is for  wiping eyes when I cycle; removing smears and fingerprints  from my glasses;  around my hand when using a trekking pole to absorb sweat and as an impromptu paint rag. So my decoration, continuing the mark-making theme of the class and inspired by my 'Human Marks' workshop with Dorothy Caldwell  involved fingerprints of  ink using a piece of felt and a  photo  printed on fabric  of my inky finger, tacked on with quilting thread.  This photo was a trial run for my  'Inky Digit' quilt - I'd brought it with other black and white fabrics. Ruth had suggested I should do nostril prints but lets not go there....   
The  'grand reveal'  was very moving as apart from the ingenuity displayed in  working with the handkerchiefs (3d origami structures, bags, hats, text , stitch), how handkerchiefs are used and who they belonged to had triggered   hidden and powerful  memories and honest sharing  of the difficulties in caring.
 At the time, my main memory was as a child   buying  boxes of them for my Dad  as presents  and finding them all  intact  as they were 'too good' to use.  He persisted in continuing to wear  a very tatty jumper and hat in the garden despite new replacements for the same reason.
Then when I got home I remembered  the stories about  Dandy the Delinquent  Dalmation, the dog we had when I was a toddler , who besides chewing up  anything in sight including heirloom silver napkin rings, used to jump up and snatch the hankies from mens jacket pockets and eat them!  
Who knew that a small hemmed piece of fabric  could unleash all this - thanks to Isabel for the suggestion, more than just a creative exercise.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Circles, Spirals and Lines at CQ Summer School

Another very enjoyable CQ Summer School  at Alston Hall - I worked out it was my 6th visit!
This time I was   in class with Isabel Dibden-Wright, looking at  circles, spirals and  lines through a variety of interesting exercises using different drawing media.  Quite a change of scale compared  to the A1 sheets of paper at City Lit   but that had led me to be more adventurous with materials. My favourite from my drawings was the  circle of tiny pencil marks ( above), most unlike my usual style. Don't know quite how I'd interpret that in fabric and stitch!
Isobel was excellent tutor, calm and organised,  with just the right pace. Every so often she's bring  together a selection of different peoples work so we could see the diversity even doing the same exercise.  This was even more marked when we moved to  fabric , (mine's the JQ sized piece below)


 But it's not just about the tuition ( I've done retreats at Alston too ) but the companionship, the wonderful food ( that cheesecake!!)  and the  lovely setting. I can feel my blood pressure and anxiety drop instantly I see this view. Sue and I just caught the glorious sunset on Friday evening ( with the liquid sound of a curlew - just magic ). I was going to say tranquil but for the noise of the sheep and very loud birds ( even Ian could hear them when I rang  him on my mobile)   including  very plaintive baby owls .
I was up very early on Saturday morning as hadn't slept that well  so went and drew and painted by my favourite gatepost!  We also had an hours  sketching later in the day -looking for those circles, spirals and lines.


 My other favourite drawing  with a large graphite stick which leaves a lovely sheen- that would be difficult to interpret in fabric too!
Didn't go to my drawing and printmaking class this week- too  weary after my weekend  with sensory overload but I'll be back for the final sessions next week.