Tuesday, 30 April 2013

High Flown Company

As I have been on several Bobby Britnell drawing courses over the past few years, I got an invite to her book launch party  on Monday evening at Artvango in Knebworth. The 'great and the really good' turned out in numbers for her and I was quite giddy with all the 'faces' I recognised. I won't list them because I will probably miss somebody important out, but it was good to see Gina who was on a very tight schedule, Julie of Mixed Media fame arrived just as I was leaving and I caught up with several  other people who I hadn't seen for some years. This is definitely not my thing  - far too social for me but I felt that such a special Lady as Bobby warranted me overcoming my hermit like tendencies. The book was great as well!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

This and That

I'm thinking of the turquoise waters of one of my favourite beaches in the Highlands, prompted by finding this tiny sea urchin in my anorak pocket. I remember picking it up on Melon Udrigle beach on a freezing cold day last December. It's less than one inch across but the complexity in the surface pattern is immense.

The same beach is inspiring my challenge piece for the Trident group I belong to. The bag is to be the canvas for the artwork, and I intend to extend the grassy dunes onto the canvas with paint and stitch. There is a lot of work to go into this by the time we meet in just over a week's time.

The other side needs melding in some way to the blue linen (this would have been so much easier if I had not stitched the bag together first), and then I will add stitch. A lining and a handle will finish the piece off and I have a collection of driftwood and feathers to tuck in the pockets.

There was an interesting guest  at the Guild this week, Liz Holliday - Sewing with Sequins. We had an informative talk and made some sample pieces. The history of these much used embellishments is fascinating and set me thinking about making them out of various materials. They have been made from fish scales in the past... I was thinking of the intense scarlet of the lily beetle wings. I am on the lookout for these pests on a daily basis as they love my collection of Martagon lilies and can decimate them in a few days if I'm not vigilant. It would be nice to put them to good use - watch this space!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Resolving Work

This is one of those pieces that photographs better than it is, a lot of work has gone into it so far but I am toying with the idea of taking all the top layers off and starting again. I knew It was going pear shaped when I took the scissors to it and cut in half. I couldn't face the prospect of stitching all those layers down on such a big piece. One of the grid layers is Evalon and every time I touch it it sticks to my garden worn hands. A feeling akin to chalk on a blackboard. I was also starting to throw too much at it in an attempt to redeem it, however, a little bit of free motion machine stitching crept in and I liked the effect.

So on the half that I had cut off I've started to machine into it, referring to the geological imagery I have sketched in Ullapool over the last few years.

I did these in 2011, they are about my beach and loch side walks.

This piece will have less going on, perhaps some very tiny shells and beads added or I might paint areas when I have finished stitching.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Making Pages

I'm still not quite in the zone for creating the pages to fill my book. Sometimes I have to keep sampling away until a glimmer of light comes through. I think the frame on the bottom left might be that glimmer. It's oriental without being too obvious, it links into my grids, and doesn't rely on every product in my stash being used on one page. I want to make it more delicate and to think about the placement of my design a bit more.
I've enjoyed the restfulness of working with Paula in my workroom today, just what was needed after a busy weekend.  

Friday, 19 April 2013

Pushing On

I've got my cover finished today, If I left it to the end of the project I would not take so much trouble. It has me thinking of Chinese restaurants so I must be on the right track. I intend to make a big tassel and closing mechanism for this book. I've really camped up the cover  despite the fact that I want the pages to be quite minimal and contemporary. The wrap is made of calico which I dyed, I then traced a Chinese maze pattern onto paper, pinned it to my fabric and laid it over a thin batting. It took ages to machine with a metallic thread, The next stage was to scrub the paper off. I had machined so tightly that it wouldn't come away under the stitches. I left it to dry whilst planning to start again.

By way of an experiment I delicately inked over the stitching and the paper that was still clinging to the fabric.
when it was dry I gave it  generous coat of acrylic wax. I used treasure gold on all the raised areas and another coat of wax. Success!

I used double sided carpet tape ( nothing stickier) to fix the wrap to the cover board and found a toning cover for the inside. The little cut outs on the spine I have used a tiny drill to make holes to sew the pages into later.The stitching to join the lining to the cover was heavy going (all that wax to push through), I used a curved needle and a pair of pliers. The frontispiece I made last week was then stitched on.
 As I had an hour so left this afternoon it was time to get the media out.

These are not what  I have in mind for the book but are a good warm up to set the tone (and I enjoyed making them), I need to get all the cliche's out of my mind before I start to make some special papers,

Thursday, 18 April 2013


I was pondering on grids last week and looking through the sketchbooks I had recently made. I was also lost in the quilting maze for a couple of days when I realised that all the lines were starting to have a very oriental look to them.  Painting papers is my favourite way to relax so a Chinese influenced book started to percolate in my mind. Gina's class provided a panel for the front of the book and I have  spent a day or two producing a wrap cover.

Some of the discarded papers from Dionne Swift's course had a distinctly oriental feel to them and my friend Biddy contributed some reference books and some old Chinese coins. I've just put my order in with my son in Shanghai (via Skype) for some further embellishments. So that is my main project for the next few days/weeks, as well as finishing off some more ufo's. I'll blog my process as I go along.

Monday, 15 April 2013

A Little Self Discipline.

All I wanted to do after Gina's class on Saturday was make 'pretties' for a few days, but the weight of my unfinished projects meant that I had to dig deep and restrain myself. It would have been so easy to give in and ignore everything mounting up so I made a deal with myself, to finish the biggest outstanding piece which was obviously Isla's quilt before any more play could commence. Eight hours stitching, hand and machine, and the project is finished. I started this in August last year and when I first blogged about it I assumed it would be finished in about three weeks. I keep forgetting that I can no longer free-motion quilt for hours on end, the neck and shoulders protest too much.
 Typical to finish on a day when the wind is blowing a hooly outside, that's my husband's hands holding the bottom of the quilt still whist I take piccies. What would I do without him . 

This is not the best planned quilting in the world I literally just doodled the design as I went along. The applique I am pleased with, it's vibrant and contemporary just as I wanted, worth all the hours of blanket stitching round each piece.

Now if can find the energy I want to make some Gina Ferrari style cuffs!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Guild Workshop

A day long workshop with Gina Ferrari of 'Fan my Flame' fame at the Embroiderer's Guild today was most enjoyable. Gina has a lovely relaxed way of leading a class but despite an easy going day, a lot of work was produced. The subject was soluble fabrics and most chose to produce a cuff. I knew the method would work for a book cover so that is what I chose to make.

What a great way to spend a rainy Saturday, among  like minded friends and crafting all day. 

These are a selection of some of the pieces made, lots of ideas were discussed for future projects using this technique and medium. For me it will be a wonderful way to use up some of the yards and yards of cord I made last year.
 I now have a book outstanding to add to the ever growing pile of ufo's

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Factory Line

Seeing my previous post inspired me to leave all my ufo's in separate 'work stations', yesterday was spent going from one to the other, including Isla's quilt. I'm sure many of you work in this way but I have always focused on one piece at a time even if it was part of a series.

Progress was made! This large sample may inspire something bigger, without the harsh grid lines. I have been looking at a lot of 'boro' work lately and it seems to be influencing my backgrounds, I put this piece together on the felter because the challenge was to use three suit fabrics, one other and three different cords. The cords were too vibrant for the fabrics, so I felted them which made them less strident.  After further stitching today I may promote this piece from a sample to a finished piece. It just fits a 12"x 12" block canvas and is a prime candidate for my 'melding' process.

Grids are also a big thing for me at the moment and this piece is made from stuff I had on my inspiration board, Evalon, paper napkins, brown paper,felt and samples from printing with modelling paste. This is definitely a sample but the ideas may feed into something new. I've been out stitching with my 'Trident' friends today so tomorrow may be spent fairly gently, to build up some energy for an all day workshop with Gina Ferrari on Saturday. Happy days!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Name and Shame

 My workroom this morning at 8.30am. I think I've finally spread my attention too far.


So did I start finishing off.......

As I was stripping the inspiration board (always a prelude to clearing up) I just had a notion to see what my samples would look like together, I machined them onto some batting with a simple wavy grid and laid some threads over in a further grid to couch down.
And now I have another piece of work on the go!

I've just remembered, I have a book that has been started for the John Clare exhibit, four sketchbooks I'm working into and a huge canvas to fill with a mosaic of tiny painted squares that I have been preparing for a few weeks. 
I've also remembered that none of it really matters, I'm not going to lose my job over it, the world is not going to come to an end if I take my time to get through these UFO's, it's just what I do to fill my days in the most pleasurable way I know.  

Friday, 5 April 2013

A Hanging

I've finally got these pieces on the wall displayed in the way I wanted. All it took was filling the old holes on the wall then deciding that painting over them made the rest of the dining room look tired. Two hours later I'd repainted the room and I could set to work hanging. No easy task in my house - the walls are made of the hardest substance known to man. I used the hammer drill in the end to start the hole for the picture hook. I then proceeded to waste the rest of the day trying to hang them symmetrically. I finally realised that the frames were all a different size so no chance of a perfect hang. They were bought as a pack from Hobbycraft.
Lesson to self - you get what you pay for! 

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Working through the ugly

At the early stages of any new piece of work I go through a stage of hating what I am doing and would like to consign the piece to the scrap bag. If I have learned anything during the past few years of crafting it is to carry on working through this stage. Very often the worse it looks at the beginning of a project, the better it ends up. I hope this piece of work based on the grids I've been drawing doesn't prove me wrong. My challenge to myself is to have a layer 'floating' almost free of the background. I think I am trying to control the layers too much.

I have printed the base fabric with a wavy grid design and hand and machine stitched it onto a layer of soft batting. I really liked it at this stage, I have loosely cut out grids in various sheers and nets, some of which I've stiffened and I'm currently attaching them to the background.
I've also spent some time formatting a lot of painted papers that I've made over the years, It's lovely to see them as a cohesive 'whole', rather than being tucked away in boxes and not seeing the light of day.

I love this way of layering up the pages, Dionne Swifts workshop has really made me rethink my sketchbooks.

I thought that I was a bit random in my choices of workshops and practice but I'm starting to see connections at last, maybe I'll know where all this is heading sometime soon. I would really like to concentrate on just one area, the problem is, I love it all!