The usefulness of winter.

Whilst I have become more of an advocate of summer, winter has its uses, in terms of getting down to some serious work. The garden and outdoors is far too enticing when the weather is decent.

So this month I’ve started a convoluted mixed media project. It’s in my head, mostly, and as I work through various aspects of it it’s becoming clearer and more resolved.

Last year I made a large metal and paper stitched nest, which was in Art Textiles: Made in Britain’s gallery at the festival of Quilts, and is now between dates on a tour of the show, which was called Wild.

I really enjoyed making this nest, and my latest project is, basically, making some more nest pieces. I’m going to try to make them a little smaller. This may not succeed.

I’ve started by making some ingredients, and I’m apparently working on several nests at the same time. This is usual as the ideas unfold. Mixed media can drive you slightly crazy, you just have to stay calm and enjoy the ride.

Below, some ingredients.

These are fabric butterflies on lutradur which will be used in a mixed media nest. I plan to use chicken wire to construct the basic nest, aluminium wire, a stitched fabric interior, and other media which will include acetate, plastic milk bottle, paper, sea glass, pebbles and who knows what else. I’m stitching the butterflies, of course, and there will be beads…

Above, moths in progress for another nest, the moth nest. This will include porcelain and sea glass, and other as yet unchosen materials.

Above, some leaves that I have preserved in glycerine, mainly as an experiment, but I’ve made the interior of another nest, to be called the golden nest, using some ginkgo leaves, which were very nicely preserved.

And above, some materials gathered for the golden nest.

Also this month, a short but jolly exhibition here in Birmingham with the Gallery 12 group of artists. Below, some of my work on the wall.

My old school friend and I had our annual pre Christmas trip to London last week. This also included a meeting with all the Art Textiles: Made in Britain bods, which was fun. It’s always great to see them. A great deal of our work is off to Japan shortly, to be shown in our own gallery at the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival in January. This is quite an honour.

My friend and I tend to concentrate on art and shopping, well, mostly browsing rather than purchasing, as we like Fortum and Mason and Liberty’s, for starters. First off, Anthony Gormley, fabulous stuff. Now there’s a mixed media chap. Love the sketchbooks.


Bread. Wonder if I should use that too?

Great piece, one stone was missing. Was that meant to be so, one wonders. The blutack remained.

At Tate Modern we went to the Olafur Eliasson exhibition. Amazing stuff, worth a visit if you enjoy a thoughtful mix of subjects, approaches and some interesting interactive pieces.

This is his piece Model Room, right up my street.

And above, me photographing How do we live together?

Below, a view from Tate Britain, no rain for the whole 3 days!

We also went to Tate Britain, to see the William Blake show. This was fascinating, and huge. He was very productive, we had to have a break halfway through, involving cake. I did particularly like his hand written and hand drawn books, interested as I am in book making and page layout.

To finish, Kara Walker’s fountain, Fons Americanus, at Tate Modern.

Nearly November.

It’s the end of the month, again, and time for a quick romp through October.

I started these pieces some time ago, and have now machine stitched them. This image, above, shows them in their unstitched state. This is quite an achievement as I can’t keep my machine out due to lack of space and I am particularly lazy about getting it from under the table and constructing it.

Here we go, a close up. Now to the hand stitching and beading part, which I like, as it’s quiet and I can listen to podcast and radio programmes without being plugged in and getting tangled up in cables.

These chaps and the following piece were also under the needle. These pieces are quite large, about 70 x 50 cm/20 x 27 inches. I’m looking forward to finishing them, but then comes the ever thorny question of what next, frame, free hanging or canvas?

I will decide later…

A piece of work ready to go into a hoop, for some evening stitching. It’s red cotton with a torn and cut lino cut print. I keep promising to put some prints on my blog but I’ve only done a couple, and I keep ripping them up for collage work. I love fine, beautiful lino cuts, but tend to do rather vigorous pieces myself.

All ready to go.

And here it is, done, but not yet stretched, so it looks a bit messy at the moment. It may be the start of a new artist book about trees.

A finished piece, above, made using some of the indigo fabric I dyed during the summer. Lovely hot sunny days of printing and dyeing in the garden…

This will be going to the RBSA Galleries Members and Associates show in November, along with the red bird piece from my last post. Just need to get them framed up, one of my grit your teeth and get on with it jobs.

Now, above, this is the start of a new rainforest piece, using more indigo fabric and some of the other fabric I dyed during the summer. The leaves were photographed in the orchid house at Winterbourne Botanic Gardens here in Birmingham, about as close to the rainforest as I will probably get.  It’s a very good place for tea and cake too, possibly comestibles that are quite difficult to come across in the actual rainforest.

The piece will also function as a teaching aid for a course I’m teaching this weekend called, predictably, Textile Rainforest. No problem with describing what the course is all about then. I am very much looking forward to seeing what we produce, the variety of work is always excellent.

And lastly, in terms of my work, another largish piece, Fossil Moon, which will go into the Art Textiles Found exhibition, which will launch at the Festival of Quilts next year at the NEC, Birmingham.

Its ingredients are photo transferred indigo fabric on cotton, and the Moon is a collection of my porcelain fossil pieces, on silk covered Khadi paper. This one will be hand stitched. It’s what it wants.

So, a couple of good exhibitions this month, both at the Midlands Arts Centre here in Birmingham, one of my very favourite places.

These drawings are enormous and amazing, that’s all I can say. The show is called The Hills are Shadows, and the work is by Jim Holyoak and Matt Shane, who work together. They are also working on a piece in situ for a few hours each day, for the first few weeks of the show.

I’ve had to keep visiting, peering and marvelling.

There’s also a great show of work there by Graham Chorlton, called Suburb. These are paintings of suburban streets familiar in every way to those I grew up and live in. Strangely, I would love to own several of these gorgeous atmospheric pieces, presumably so I could have suburbs inside as well as outside.

Briefly, from the city to the depths of the countryside; Hanbury Hall’s Apple Festival, with pumpkins. Hanbury Hall is a National Trust property, an 18th century house in lovely grounds in Worcestershire.

There were apples for sale, I bought some, all different varieties. I have no idea what they are as I eat them, but they’re very nice. The orchard there is wonderful, a place of peace, and apples. They grow many varieties; I love to smell the apples when they are on the tree, when the sun has warmed them. You may have worked out that I am a fan of apples, my only truly necessary fruit, even though the image below features pears and quinces too, and dahlias.

Book of the month time! I was buying a sort of necessary book, not about apples, when I spotted this book, below. It became purchased.

It is so beautiful, and well written, and the illustrations are glorious, and it smells fabulous, and I may even learn stuff too.

 

 

 

 

Work and light.

Ok, where’s September gone? There’s been some amazing weather this month, brilliantly lit days which show off box fresh dahlias and gloriously overgrown psychedelic Miss Haversham vegetable gardens with equal grace.

Above and below, the dahlia border at Baddesley Clinton, a National Trust property in the Midlands.

Above and below, the rampant end of the season vegetable garden also at Baddesley Clinton.

Sorry, I love squashes.

I’ve been lucky too in having seen three good exhibitions, all in Birmingham.

Two were at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Gallery, both unfortunately now finished. One was landscape artist Rob Perry’s annual show, always a joy. I love his work, and can peer for ages at his delicate drawings. This is his website robertperry-artist.co.uk

Kate Fryer was a Member of the RBSA, and died in 2017 aged 106. Life’s Journey is a meticulously curated exhibition of her work; I’ve seen her pictures over the years so it was wonderful to see so many pieces together. Her work encompassed painting, wood engraving, illustration, and fabric design.

I also visited the retrospective exhibition of Barry Flanagan’s work at the Icon Gallery in Birmingham, which includes his sculptural work using textiles and wood, a range of delicate collages, photography, and of course his famous hares. This is on until November 24.

Also at the Icon was this fascinating hand stitched silk piece by Claudia Losi. Well, actually it was made over two years by 12 non professional embroiderers, but the idea was Losi’s; I presume she added a few stitches too. It’s based upon a visionary illustration of the Antarctic by Athanasius Kircher in 1664-1665. It is very beautiful.

And now to some new pieces of my work made and in progress this month. The title of this post, Work and Light, eludes to the fact that as the days get shorter I tend to do more work; the decent weather of the summer is unsettling, in work terms. And also, of course, there has been some spectacular light this month, overwhelmingly beautiful.

I’ve been using the indigo fabrics I dyed, enjoying choosing them for use as backgrounds, but only placing elements in quite a minimal way. I don’t want to cover the fabric too much, as some of the dyed marks are so beautiful.

Above, Red bird, 40 x 40 cm/16 x 16 inches, finished. Hand stiched painted fabrics on indigo dyed cotton.

Above and below, work in progress.

I’m trying out combining the porcelain pieces with the indigo fabrics; they seem like natural partners.

And to finish, a book I couldn’t resist buying. It’s fact – dense but written with such a light and clever touch, and has a small but beautiful number of drawn illustrations.

I hope your October is as joyous as this beetles back.

 

Festival and print.

August means the Festival of Quilts, and this year I went for the full four days. It was wonderful. I was helping Sandra Meech in her amazing and very popular gallery, but naturally had a lot of time to see the show and indeed make one or two purchases. I tend to stock up on fabric and thread at this show, which then lasts all year and means I don’t need to buy much in the coming year. As if…

So, here are just a few favourites from the show, a month since it happened, but then I never really rush when it comes to social media and sharing. I think I work about as speedily as a medieval illuminator to be honest.

Sandra Meech.

Janet Twinn.

Michael James.

Leah Higgins.

Eszter Bornemisza.

Rosie James.

Lucie Summers on the left, and Suzette Smart.

Neil Bottle.

And something less contemporary, a wonderful selection of Baltimore Album quilts from the 19th century.

I took advantage of the recent hot Bank Holiday weekend to do quite a lot of printing, painting and dyeing of fabric in the garden. I’d bought some bargain Egyptian cotton bundles at the Festival of Quilts, and some silk and one or two other fabric mixes. I added a few metres of calico I already had, and spent three days building up my fabric stocks, which had gone very low indeed.

I don’t like going out and about in the sun and heat so working in the shade, but drying fabric in the sun was perfect.

I dug out my thermofax screens first of all, and printed up a good batch of fabric using acrylic paints. I particularly like metallic paints for this.

Some of the printed fabrics drying on the line. I keep some pieces undyed but dye most when the paint is dry.

Procian dyes mixed and ready to add to the dry acrylic printed fabrics.

Fossil prints thermofax screen prints on cotton. The colours are dye from the sheet below coming through. I didn’t mind this as the piece was going to be very colourful, as you can see below, and the marks added more interest to the finished piece.

Above and below, more thermofax printing followed by Procian dyeing.

Some of the finished pieces drying in the sun.

Washed screens draining and drying. Hot weather is so useful at times.

I also worked with one of my favourite techniques, painting and printing with acrylic paints. I like the stiff handle and texture this gives the fabric, even though it can gum the machine needle up at times.

Above, some of my materials for acrylic print/paint techniques.Homemade print blocks [always make your own, it’s easy and then they are properly personal] and leaves from the garden. Nature does the best leaves if you want fine detail. I paint a mix of richly coloured and plainer, paler fabrics, some of which I then dye with Procian dye.

Here are a few of the acrylic painted, printed and dyed fabrics.

Well done if you’re still with me! I thought it best to get the whole print/paint/dye caboodle all done in one enormous blogfest.

To round up the acrylic theme, before we get to the indigo, here is a piece of work I laid down a couple of weeks ago. The background fabric is black cotton painted and printed with gold acrylic paint.

So, this piece is waiting for my new table. It’s a kitchen/sewing table, we’re a little short of space here so multitasking furniture is a must. Actually it will mostly be a sewing table, let’s be honest.

So, indigo dyeing, which I have just started to dabble with. I went to a one day indigo dyeing course in July, and here are a few of the cloths and papers I dyed on the course.

This book was around as I was trying to remember a particular church I once visited in Venice. It’s a good weight so I plonked it on some indigo dyed papers to flatten them. Then I noticed the title!

Below is a piece of work laid down and ready to stitch, using some of the indigo fabric dyed during the workshop. I cut it and reversed one piece as I liked the back of about one third of it better than the front.

The first image shows a few fabrics I was thinking of using. Most colours go with indigo but I think, for me, it’s best to limit the choice to just shades and mixes of mainly one colour at a time. I imagine it all depends upon the background.

I’ve used this corvid before, and he may appear again, he’s that sort of chap.

I made up an indigo vat at home yesterday. I thought it would enjoy the heat, and having not done it before wasn’t sure what to expect. It behaved well though, and I was really pleased.

It was nothing complicated, just a kit I bought from good old Art Van Go, with some caustic soda added to 5 litres of warm [25 degrees or thereabouts] water in a lidded bucket. Just in case you don’t know you need the lid to keep as much oxygen as possible from getting into the vat, as successful dyeing relies on a process of reduction and oxidation.

I’m reading about indigo at the moment, and there are and have been vast amounts of recipes and additions to the vat tried over millennia. I may grow some next year. It would be fine in a good summer, as indigofera tinctoria, a legume, preferably likes some heat. Isatis tinctoria, woad, a brassica, would manage more easily in a less clement summer.

Below, some resist materials I used to wrap into cotton and silk fabrics to make patterns. I like a more random finished look as it fits in with my work.

Above, some of my wrapped bundles, ready to dye.

The resist materials at the end of the day. Love the blue pegs and balsa wood. Some thin porcelain sheets made some lovely fine marks on some silk, and patterned themselves with beautiful and subtle marks too.

Some of the indigo dyed fabric on the line. I’ll be trying multiple dips next time for some darker blues.

And a big pile of ironing.

I’ll undoubtedly post some of the individual fabrics in the next post or two. It gets you like that, each piece is so exciting, you can become quite a bore about it all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot.

I’m writing this blog post on the hottest day of the year so far, which means I am inside, as outside in this weather is my version of hell! I like summer in many ways though, just not these hot spots; ideally I like a nice 20 degrees, no more, please. And the hot nights are so disarming.

This month I’ve been to London on a gallery binge. We went for three days to see the Summer Exhibition, which I love, Van Gogh and Britain at Tate Britain, and Mary Quant at the V&A. We also took in the Food exhibition at the V&A, which was unusual take on what we eat, very cleverly curated.

So, a few images, starting with Mary Quant, which I very much enjoyed. I was too young to wear her clothes for the best part but hers was a name I grew up with and it was interesting to be reminded of what a creative phenomenon she was, and also incredibly successful.

I love a bit of pvc, and these paper carrier bags are fabulous. I want the lime green boots, below.

Onto the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. It was coordinated this year by Jock McFadyen, which must be a task that is both enormous and labyrinthine, and great when it’s over. There was an interesting BBC programme about it, but I think it’s now gone from iPlayer, which is a shame as the show is still on…

Here are just a few images. As you can imagine there is rather a lot on show in this exhibition; here are some general views to start with, followed by a couple of personal favourites; there were many more.

Below is the Wohl Central Hall where the theme was animal based art. I loved this as my work has always been animal orientated, I’ve rarely used a human as a subject.

Elizabeth Vicary

Melissa Scott-Miller

Michael Dean

Elizabeth Magill

Tim Shaw RA

David Mach RA

And to finish the gallery section of this post, a couple of images from the Van Gogh show. I would like to see this exhibition again, one visit wasn’t enough.

Onto what I’ve been up to creatively this month. I’m coming to the end of my hoop work, and here are three finished forest pieces, below.

25 cm/10 inch hoops, mixed media including fabric, porcelain and stitch.

I’ve finished and will soon be delivering my entry for the Art Quilt section at the Festival of Quilts, which opens on Thursday August 1st. It’s a piece on three canvases, each measuring 120 x 40 cm, and is called Three Poems.

These images show work in progress and the finished piece.

And to finish off, at long last I got to indulge my untested interest in indigo dyeing, in a class taught by Helen Lane at mac, Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham. She is a great tutor and we all turned out some great dyed fabrics and papers. Interestingly we all wore blue except one person who wore black, which was also a sensible choice. However, very little splashing and extra curricular dyeing happened; I got some blue freckles on my face and a fetching blue arm. I could become addicted to the process, and I am seriously aware that there’s still a lot to learn.

Some samples and equipment.

Some of my tied bundles ready to go into the dye vat.

A couple of my pieces and some nice new socks! Helen rather wittily gave us all a pair of socks to dye, brilliant idea.

Phew, that’s it for July, thanks for visiting! Blimey it’s boiling out there, I’m sitting in a nice draught at the moment.

Back in August, hopefully but doubtfully in cooler conditions.

A haiku for June.

A time of wellies

of lead grey clouds, rain descends:

then, see the flowers.

I couldn’t resist writing a haiku to describe June, it’s been very wet chez here, in general. The garden has just sucked it all up, making up I think for the really dry summer last year. Of course June has now finished with some very sunny weather, as seen below. This was taken in the glorious rose garden at Coughton Court, Warwickshire.

I’ve finished stitching all the hoop illustrations for Stories of the Lost and the Found, so below here are the last few.

The Yellow Birds.

Four Small Birds.

The Beach on Christmas Day.

The Snow Trees.

The Trunk and the Glasses.

Above and below, Mistletoe, a piece in four parts which includes the text. The other pieces will have the relevant text displayed next to them when they are exhibited.

Here’s some new work in progress, three forest pieces, above, and below, a raven. He’s in charge.

I’m still making porcelain pieces to add to stitched pieces, and also, I hope, to build stitch pieces around. I’m looking forward to the latter, I haven’t yet fully explored the idea. Here is the latest selection of black and white pieces. I always  tend to favour either white or black and white porcelain pieces for my work, so will need to make more.

I’m hoping to go to an indigo dyeing day at mac, the Midlands Arts Centre, in July, so I have started to make some dark blue and white porcelain pieces to go with the results of the day. Fingers crossed the day goes ahead.

I visited the Barber Institute earlier this month, just for a look around, and spotted this excellent little exhibition, the Paper Museum.

The Barber Institute is part of Birmingham University and is a wonderful free gallery, with a broad collection of work covering centuries of art. It also apparently has a large collection of textiles, which was a surprise. I must write to check and suggest they exhibit some of the collection asap.

The Paper Museum was fascinating. It is a collection of works on paper commissioned and collected by Cassiano dal Pozzo and his brother Carlo Antonio in the early 17th Century, as a visual encyclopaedia of the natural world and classical antiquities. This show exhibits just a tiny part of the collection, and its history is intriguing. It’s on until September 1.

Although I start every year determined not to buy any new books, it’s becoming clear that this is a pointless exercise. They just keep sneaking in, either second hand or new, like this one, below. I love an interior design book, and this book is brilliant.

And to finish off, below, some images taken at Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire. I’d quite like to do some pieces inspired by Baroque artefacts and art, using strong shapes and rich colours, so had an enjoyable outing recording some plants that I could base the work upon. At the same time, confusingly, but then what’s new, I’m feeling a chilled Scandi, pared back thing going on. So it may be fun combining the two…

 

 

 

 

 

May, a brief reprisal.

Monthly blogs are ok but I forget quite a lot of what I’ve done. I tend to stick to work and leisure with my blog, and this month has been quiet on the outing front, busy on the garden front and quite hefty in terms of buying fairly expensive lino cut tools. This was a worry at first, but I do love lino cuts, and you need a good sharp tool, and the blocks to keep them so. I’ll deal with the linocuts soon, when there are enough to make a decent blog post, and indeed when I’ve made enough to post.

One outing was to see the Hew Locke exhibition Here’s the Thing, at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham. I’m quite a fan of his work, having seen some at the  New Art Gallery Walsall, some years ago. This show, which finishes on June 2, is very well worth seeing, particularly the floating in space flotilla of boats, filling a whole gallery.

I’m not far off from completing my project Stories of the Lost and the Found. This was an aptly named project as for at least two years it’s bounced around from one format to another, unresolved, and irritating! It had to be taken in hand, a decision had to be made. So I coupled it with my new like of stitching in a hoop, and got on with it.

Here are some more from the series.

The light through the trees.

On the floating twigs.

Autumn, a quieter view.

A narrow indigo cloud.

Four small birds.

The trunk and the glasses.

The beach on Christmas day.

The snow trees.

The pieces include fabrics, paper, porcelain pieces, sea glass, and as you can see, quite a lot of beads.

The titles relate to words I have written; the embroideries are illustrations, basically. I hope to be able to get them altogether into a publication of some sort. There are a few more to go, then it’s the task of finishing the backs. I’m not a fan of finishing but it has to be done.

And below, a couple of images of the garden, which is not at all large but quite demanding, and has been taking up my time, mostly willingly given I must say, over the past month. I’m hoping now though that it will get on with it for a while, although to be truthful it’s always happy to get on with it without my interference. It’s quite densely planted so the main summer jobs are cutting back over enthusiastic plants, although I have noticed that one or two have suffered after the dry summer last year, not that that is particularly evident from these well leaved images.