One day the kitchen will be tidy…

For the last couple of weeks the kitchen has been full of boxes and folders of work and materials, wrapped work and the sewing machine. This is because last week I was in Kent, at Search Press in Tunbridge Wells, working on the photography shoot for my book The Natural World. This will be published next year.

It was quite pressured concentrated work, but that was what I expected and I really enjoyed it. Putting these books together involves so many people, and is astonishingly complex; it’s fascinating. My editor and the photographer were great to work with, and I may have to go back there if is room for another project, which I hope will happen; I think I am slightly addicted to the process.

Now that is done, the kitchen is once again filling up with work for a show I have a stand at at the NEC in Birmingham next week. It’s the Stitching and Sewing Show, and there is an attached Hobbycraft show too.

The stand isn’t just mine, I’m sharing it with my good friend Sue Bibby. We have a large gallery space so it is a great opportunity to show a good amount of work. Come to see us on stand G26.

I can’t show images of any of the work for the book, but here are some pieces I’m making at the moment. I will also be working on these at the show, as we are both demonstrating on the stand.

These zig zag artist’s books will be finished with stitch and beads, to add texture, detail, and more colour. They are made from pre-cut and folded Khadi paper, and measure 45 x 15 cm.The turtles are swimming off the pages in this initial layout, which seems fair enough. They are made from painted and printed calico, stiffened with Khadi paper. I want to add some beach glass to the piece too, so this book will be backed with another zig zag strip for strength. Below you can see the two Khadi books, painted with inks. In fact all the books will be doubled, as I like the extra thickness.

The other pieces I am using in this book are some images of fossils I took, and played with in Photoshop. They are printed on canvas paper, and already have some beads and stitch added, as they were headed for another project which didn’t happen.

This book, above, will be backed with the painted strip shown above the main piece. I have attached all the appliquéd fabrics ready to be stitched; I prefer everything to be in place before I get going.

These two books were made from an embroidery I cut up and played around with; I must admit that’s something I really enjoy, as quite a lot of the work is already done. The little lizard is going to have more beads added to bling him up, and the backs will undoubtedly be zingy greens and reds.

The show is on from Friday June 30 until Sunday July 2. There’s lots to see, from the Knitted Beach to Japanese embroidery, Kimono dressing and lots of individual artists and groups, and of course many trade stands.

Variety is the spice of…

There are many ways of approaching your creative practice. When I made ceramics, I put my creative effort into that practice, but kept up a little textile experimentation on the side, when I had time. There wasn’t a lot of time, and I became a little frustrated.

When I eventually moved into textiles full time, I concentrated on hand stitching using fabrics I painted and printed myself, bringing in machine stitching after a year or so. I loved that practice, and still enjoy these methods of making collaged pieces.

This developed into artist’s book making, using mixed media and fabrics, still with a lot of stitch. This is also ongoing, and as long as the ideas and words keep coming I will keep doing it.

Then I developed an urge to do a spot of needlepoint. This developed because I love woven textiles, but I’m not a weaver, and I met Tina Francis, whose needlepoint works I  greatly admire.

So, at the moment, I appear to be working in all these disciplines, either separately, or in combination. Whatever develops intrinsically and without forcing, that will be the way.

So, after that long preamble, a little visual mix here of what I’m up to at the moment.

I’m making some new artist’s books. These are based on some text and stories I have written. The stories are each basically a few paragraphs long, based upon my observations of life, and are autobiographical. They are just something I need to say, and making books is my way of communicating them.

Above you can see some of the materials I am collecting, mostly digital images of my work and photographs, sometimes collaged via Photoshop, sometimes collaged with scissors and glue. The results will be applied to Khadi paper pages, then stitched.

The books are part of the satchel project I mentioned in my last post. This is an imagined travelling private library; there is a large square format book in the making, and there will be a concertina book, and perhaps one other smaller book.

Above are some of the materials for the satchel, namely the front and back. The blue fabrics are joined together leftovers from a previous project, and the floral piece is a cross stitch picture my mother sewed some years ago. She wasn’t that keen on cross stitch, but gave it a go and was determined to finish it.

Initially I was going to frame it, but using it as part of the book satchel has more meaning for me; when the stories satchel has been exhibited and done its little tour, I will use the satchel, albeit carefully.

I’ve started to get another needlepoint ready to go. This is naughty, as I have 3 on the go at the moment; they will be finished, but when I have an idea I like to move it along. Moving things along with tent stitch is not recommended if you are in a hurry…

Drawn out on the canvas. It’s not too large this time, about 30 cm long. It will be colourful, as the bird is a Gouldian finch, but I haven’t yet decided on the yarns.

Lastly I have actually made something useful. Our new bed needed an end of bed quilt to tie the colours in the room together, and this is it. I made it using a lovely piece of vintage linen curtain, with appliqué squares, and some of my very old kimono. It’s hand stitched with beads, but machine stitched around the border. It is, as usual with my work, quite stiff, but lies well and doesn’t misbehave. It doesn’t so much tie the room together as totally dominate it, but that’s good enough for me.

 

Clearing the decks.

I’m quite intent upon finishing some work that’s been in a state of either transition or just languishing, and have actually succeeded in doing so this week, so it’s great to feel that I can entertain some new projects. I have no idea what the new projects are yet either, so that makes it even more fun.

I do know I have need for some good thumping colour. I was going to enter a black and white piece I have into Art Quilt Masters at the Festival of Quilts; I must point out this is selected, so it’s inclusion was never assured. However, it just doesn’t seem to be me, in terms of colour,  or the way I want my work to be at the moment, so it’s not going to happen. I quite surprised myself with that decision.

Having said that, of course the first finished piece, here below, is in rather quiet blues.

 

It’s Into the Blue Forest, 100 x 40 cm. This is the version without the haiku I have written which sparked the whole idea. They are still brewing in a book form; this too has been revised since my last post and I am tempted to make it into a smaller, compact and somehow more personal book. I can’t believe I’m thinking of going smaller, everything with me usually grows and grows to fill all available space.

I’m thinking a small collection of books to fit into a little satchel may be interesting, to take on your journeys. I have more stories that need a home, so this could be something to think about.

On a spare canvas I mounted this already existing piece of work from a series I made called Natural Histories. It’s 100 x 40 cm too, and is called Shooting Stars. The background is painted Khadi paper.

I’ve decided that I am going to augment new work with existing work which is basically just in storage, to give it a new life and get it out in the world.

And below here are a few small pieces ready to be finished. They are all about 18 cm square, appliqué on painted calico.

I’ve been browsing my small collection of interior design books lately. I admit I love books on this subject in equal measure to art books.

These are two of my favourites, both bought second hand. I have a book token from a friend that’s burning a hole in my pocket at the moment, and I bet I’ll spend it on a lifestyle/interior design book; trouble is, there are hundreds of them out there – which to choose?

 

A necessary break.

It’s been a while since I blogged and indeed a while since I’ve done any work, apart from the faithful, ever waiting and ready to be completed needlepoints I have on the go.

This is because my mum died at the end of February. She had been ill for a few years but over the last year had been continually in various hospitals and care facilities. It’s a common story, and one feels helpless, but you do your best to make everyday life as good for the person as possible.

Close family and some really good friends were beyond helpful, merely saying thank you doesn’t seem quite enough.

So there we are, and now it’s time to get back to the sanctuary of work. I’ve been moving on with a couple of projects, albeit slowly.

I started to make a large piece, ‘In the Blue Forest’, some time ago, but decided it wasn’t quite right. It’s been cut into portions and has now become one largish picture and an artist’s book. The piece is based on some haiku I wrote last year.

Above are some of the fabric portions I’m using in the projects, and two birds that will be in the mounted on the canvas version.

You can see the painted canvas here at the top of the image, and some Khadi paper I painted below, for the book pages.

I used indigo dye and Graphitint pencils to achieve the washes and brush marks.

I’ve printed the haiku out in rough here to plan the progression of the pages. It may be a bound or a concertina book, I haven’t decided yet. I am tending towards concertina, as the whole book can be seen at the same time and therefore will describe the walk through the Blue Forest along with the haiku.

The canvas is 100 x 40 cm; the layout of the piece is shown below. I’ll finish stitching the pieces individually and then attach them to the canvas.

 

Some pieces are already machine stitched from the original piece, and I’ll add hand stitch and beads.

I must get back to my plan of posting inspirational books; next post, hopefully.

 

 

Moving things along.

In my last post I gathered some images and ideas together with the intention of starting a new piece of work. So here is its progress, so far.

I started by making a patterned design from my image of the mystery king shown in my last post, using Photoshop. I printed this and one or two other images onto calico and linen, to make some interesting fabric to use in the piece.

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This image shows a mix of photographs, screen printed fabric, metallic fabric and the digitally printed fabric. The digital prints are the kings, the fine black lines on white are actually a Photoshopped image of our magnolia in bloom, then there’s the mosaic floor of the V&A and the library, and a winter tree in a local field. The open book is a print on Khadi paper, which I couldn’t quite squeeze into the piece.

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A close up of the kings fabric.

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Two fabric pieces and two photographs that influenced the colour scheme. I knew it would involve black and white, but the stark branches, and the blue and yellow of the apples image inspired me to base the whole piece upon this particular photograph. The blue wasn’t right for the piece however, but the apples and branches worked with the long landscape format.

I usually find that I gather too much stuff, both visual resources and materials, and whittle it down as the piece progresses. I think we are so enthusiastic at the start of a project that we want to put all our favourite things in. Making a truly huge piece along the lines of some of the enormous tapestries I saw in the V&A would be amazing.

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I decided to use the three largest pieces of fabric in a sort of triptych arrangement; simple is always best, and it meant I didn’t have to cut into them either. They are A4 sized. Then it was thread decision time, and after that, time to machine stitch the piece.

I was going to stitch the piece entirely by hand, but I like the drawn stitched line, and this is quite a large piece that could absorb more detail with ease.

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A few close ups of the machine stitching.

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Choosing threads for hand stitching and beads.

And below, the whole piece,  which is about 90 x 39 cm.dsc_0051-1

Back soon with another favourite book and also some related small pieces I am making.

Inspired.

I’ve been inspired to make some new work this week, mainly due to a trip to the V&A to see Opus Anglicanum, the exhibition of English Medieval embroidery that finishes this weekend.

It’s a truly marvellous exhibition, and it will be interesting for me to see how it will directly relate to my work, with its 21st century approach.

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The design and stitching of the pieces in that show is stunning. I enjoyed too the large ‘lantern’ made by the V&A and suspended over some showcases. This lantern featured the illuminated cut out names of some of the known embroiderers from the period, a touching and deserved tribute to these artists whose work is still thrilling us today.

I imagine, for me, it will be the colours, the metallic stitching, the flora and fauna in the pieces and the layout and design of the work, those floating orderly elements, that will influence me most. I won’t be attempting the tiny, tiny stitches though, I’ll be going for the XXL approach.

There were also some illuminated manuscripts in the show, which I love anyway, for the gorgeous jewelled colours of the painting, the dense handwritten text, and the sheer presence of those books. What particularly grabbed me too were the gilded edges of the pages, so vividly metallic and lustrous; that will make an appearance in a piece of work somewhere in the future, I’m sure.

But, as usual when I am in an interesting building, I do like to note other random things that attract me. The way I pick up these images is so relaxed and serendipitous that almost without exception I know they will feature in my work in some way.

I didn’t record too many on this occasion, but have added to them at home from images already on my computer, thus building a creative towering cumulus of delight. Sorry about that, it came into my head, so I used it.

Here are a few images for the first of the pieces, which I think I may call my Place project. These are for the winter piece; I can never resist a seasonal format.

The first three are sort of blurry as I took them on my ancient ‘phone, but I don’t mind, as I love this look, especially if I decide to digitally print some fabric or paper to use in the new work.

They show the library at the V&A, a view of the mosaic floor and a statue of a Medieval king; sorry to be vague about the latter, but even the V&A are not entirely sure which one, and I admit I neglected to note down the alternatives. I’ll check when I’m next there, just in case anyone needs to know…

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And below, other images that may be brought into play.

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Basically then it’s trees and a door, which made from trees. So far we have wood, stone and paper. And leaves and berries/fruit too. So there is quite a lot to work with, so I better get on with it.

Keeping up my new practice of showing some of the books I enjoy, here are this posts selection. Piper’s use of space and perspective, his shapes, the placing of chosen elements, his mixed media approach using ink, paint and collage, the broader painterly areas against finer inked detail and more graphic areas, the deeply satisfying colours he chose; amazing. When I see them in real life it’s difficult to leave the gallery.

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Hitchens intense atmospheric paintings never fail to excite me; I just want to absorb them. If you are ever in a tight corner, have a look at these two artists’ work.

 

 

 

Decisions, decisions.

I’m finding it’s time for a rethink of my working practices, most notably sorting out that which I don’t want to do, and also that which I have started, and don’t want to finish.

I have a habit of enthusiastically blogging projects when I start them, and in most cases the work is finished in due course. There are always some things that have to be let go, even though I generally will keep them for a while, get them out every so often, convince myself that of course I want to finish them, and then put them away again.

Two such things are the piece ‘In the blue forest’, my last blog entry, which was ages ago. I used to blog very regularly, but as we all know life has a way of stepping in and using our energies in other ways. I like blogging, so will be more persistent in bringing it back into my life.

‘In the blue forest’ then, started, much fondled, happily discarded. Too big and too draining. Like wise my old pal the  stuffed 3 d raven, from an older post. I loved the idea of him being finished, but came to one day and realised that it wasn’t going to be me who would finish him. He’s unstuffed now, but I still have two flat raven shaped pieces of him.

One or two other pieces have gone a similar route, and I would recommend it if you are bogged down with work you think you ‘should’ finish, but that leaves you slightly depressed when you actually think about doing that. I always think the work that is right for you is that which gets you out of bed in the morning at the thought of it, that you could actually start to do without doing all the things you need to do before you get to do the things you really want to; the work that really excites you.

So I’m spending a little more time sorting and clearing. It gives me brain space, I notice more is what is going on around me, it cheers. I love that people can work in what I view as chaos, who are unaffectedly surrounded by many projects in progress. I used to be more like that, but no longer; we are just all different, and sometimes we change.

I am still working on a selection of needlepoints, and loving it. This one has had a rest due to  other work having to take precedence, but I’m back with it now. This piece is about 40 cm wide.

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Unrolling it for the photograph shows I haven’t done as much of it as I thought I had…

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Much as I enjoy looking at images on the internet and reading articles, I still love books more. I’m digging out some old favourites, and enjoying a new addition here too.

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I bought the Dorothy Tucker book years ago, in a book sale. It’s a gem, with a wonderful mix of work, it just gets me every time. I’ve decluttered a few books over time, and this one has never been on the exit pile.

Celebrating the Stitch helped hugely in setting me on my textile path. It’s still relevant, absolutely full of good stuff, including D R Wagner’s amazing work, a piece of which you can see on the cover. And to further my interest in all things yarn based, Tapestry A Woven Narrative is a recently purchased luscious commentary on contemporary weaving.

More inspirational books next time perhaps.