Midsummer series.

I’m continuing with my minor obsession of stitching in hoops; actually I could do quite happily do all my work in hoops, I love a circle.

These are part of my Midsummer series, named after the subject matter and the rich dense colours in the pieces. The first three are 36 cm/10 inch hoops, the last three are 15 cm/6 inch hoops. More may follow…

Back on the blog.

Well, after having been around the block [still channelling Quincy Jones here] with blog/no blog/Instagram, here I am back again.

Many thanks to everyone who tried to follow the blog when it moved to Weebly, who proved to be particularly hopeless at blog hosting. Then I thought I’d rely on Instagram, keep it fresh and so on, but no, some idiot decided to have a go at copying my account, disappointingly badly too, I must say.

So I’ve ditched IG for the time being, quite possibly forever. It’s a shame, I liked it, but I can’t bear being messed around. No harm to any of my followers though, and thank you for all the support. Not the support from Instagram though, who are also particularly hopeless, so that puts me off too.

So, whinging aside, I hope everyone is well, as indeed there are unfortunately more important things afoot. So here’s some hopefully nice pictures, for your entertainment.

A collection of finished landscapes, all mounted and ready to go to the framers, hopefully to go in some exhibitions next year. Below, some individual pieces; they are all smaller than A3 size.

I thought it would be interesting to try out a few pieces in a mix of white and cream screen printed fabrics, and to add some porcelain pieces too, below.

I admit some black and more gold crept in, and the porcelain didn’t really want to be involved as much as I wanted it to be. It is creamy coloured and looks wrong on a strong white. Above and below, some pieces in progress.

Time now to get out the sewing machine to get going with that stage of the making. The prints are based on fossils, moths and flowers from my own thermofax screens, printed using acrylic paint. There is appliquéd fabric too.

As a complete change, I thought a touch of tropical colour would be fun to work with next. I got these two pieces of stored work out ready to chop them up and repurpose them, but it turns out I quite want to keep them as they are, and finish them, albeit with dark glasses on, especially for the chappie on the left.

I’m hoping, but not promising, to make some more colourful work. I can’t help thinking that the inevitable black and white may creep in, but I resolutely have little piles of brightly coloured fabrics around to prompt me.

For ’tis spring.

There are a lot of words being spoken, written and read at the moment, so I’m adding as few as I can. Just to say keep well and look after yourselves, observe all sensible precautions and hopefully at some point things will be back to some sort of normal.

So, some images of work, house and indeed garden, for ’tis spring. I hope you enjoy them.

A nice tidy workspace here, showing a few projects on the go and getting started. It does get messier, although I am a tidy bod.

Starting some new work based upon landscape. Mixed fabric applique, much snipping, and also showing the rough sketch which forms the basis of the piece.

Below, six landscape pieces ready to be finished, all to fit nicely into A3 frames, when done.

Above and below, choosing threads and machine stitching on the go.

Although I have plenty to do finishing these landscapes I felt the urge to start a new needlepoint. I don’t know what it is about needlepoint, it won’t let me go.

Above, the rough sketch I based the piece on. It started as a rough plan of some ideas I had for our garden, then I doodled on it, coloured some bits in, and bunged it in my sketchpad. It came out shortly afterwards when I decided I needed another needlepoint in my life.

Adding in a few other collage elements and looking at yarn colours. It’s that bird again, but he’s my favourite so why not. He likes to get into most things I make these days.

The working drawing, which has now been traced onto the canvas. Stitching has commenced! I’ll post that next time; naturally there won’t be a lot to show…

Above, lots of hexagons. I’m also making a book based on our spring garden for the areyoubookenough group on Instagram, which I’ve followed for some time. There’s a different theme each month, this month it’s Hexagon. I’ve started a little late, but hey ho.

And below, the spring garden itself. Cold and wet but lovely.

Also, I’ve been doing a bit of diy, some mosaicing around the sink and on a worktop. It’s only taken me nearly 3 years to get around to it, but it gives the kitchen a Mediterranean vibe. This is good as it’s north facing, and needs some jollity. Naturally I have a few bits to finish off, must gird myself. Also I have some tesserae left, so what to do next, one wonders…

Look after yourselves, keep on making, show us all what you’re doing.

xxx

 

 

Books.

I’m making artist’s books at the moment, which I think is probably one of my favourite activities. I love the way a theme can be explored and developed with a book, and the huge creative variety of structure you can experiment with.

This is a hanging book called Gold, based upon a poem I wrote some time ago. It’s a mixed media piece on circular Khadi paper sheets.

A digitally printed moth that I photographed in a Manchester museum, with, I think you’ll agree, rather a lot of stitches. It’s on a base of painted and printed fabric and paper, with hand and machine stitch.

This little chap is a duck billed platypus skeleton I photographed in Oxford Natural History Museum. I played around with the image on Photoshop and digitally printed it. Mixed fabrics and papers, again, with hand and machine stitch.

Hand stitched ginkgo biloba leaves, that were preserved in glycerine, porcelain ginkgo leaves, paper and machine stitch.

The poem, more porcelain leaves, paper and stitch. And a moth, also porcelain.

Three porcelain moths and a nest, mixed media with machine stitch. I do like the texture you can achieve with machine stitch on Khadi paper.

These are the components of Fossil Moon, another hanging book. It is stitched and done now but I’ll put the whole thing in my next post.

The two books above will have their components strung together, and will hang vertically. This is my least favourite part, but it must be done. I’m planning to show them in the Art Textiles: Made in Britain gallery at the Festival of Quilts at the NEC Birmingham in July-August this year.

These are some papers ready to be made into a book project that’s fairly changeable at the moment. Ha, what’s new! It started as printed papers made from a little screen of stuck down leaves [previous post] and has moved from possibly being a zig zag book, below,

to possibly being another hanging book, below.

Here are the basic components laid down as a hanging book. I stitched the butterflies last year, and there are also porcelain elements. But, the zig zag with some extra elements, such as the acetate sheets, still appeals; a good long zig zag is a wonderful thing, at least for the maker. So it’s likely back to being a zig zag, based on some words of mine, The Paths to Trees.

To save making a zig zag support, I’ve bought an A4 Seabright ready made book, which is very sturdy; some of these finished pieces, with all their additions and so on, will need something strong to hold them up. I admit to not wanting to spend my time making said necessary sturdy book; also accuracy isn’t my strength, and I do want it to stand straight.

I have a plan to finish each component with stitch, additions and so on, lay them all out on a suitable background, photograph them and have the image digitally printed professionally to finish as a hanging. I usually do my own digital printing but can’t do bigger than A3.

A couple of close ups.

And to round up, below, a couple of small pieces I’m making to fit into A4 frames, fabric applique on linocut prints, hand stitched.

Leaving sad news to the end seems to be a tradition, so here is mine. We lost our rather wonderful little dog a couple of weeks ago. He was, basically, a force of nature in a small woolly body, and has left a big gap in our family life.

He was nearly 14, we had hoped for a few more years.

Here he is, George in the night garden.

 

 

 

Decisions, decisions, part two.

I have a couple of projects on the go at the moment which seem intent upon revealing the depths of indecision I can explore. Starting with one intention but finding I actually want to do something else with the work as it progresses isn’t new for me; it became evident some years ago that my processes were fairly meandering. It can be slightly wearying as you fight against the way the idea wants to go, but this quickly turns to delight, as you realise that you are actually making something which is much more engaging, and has meaning for you. These two qualities are necessary for me in producing work that feels honest, to me at least.

I gathered a few visual references together for some new work. The zig zag book is full of small collages, and I find these little abstracts are increasingly informing my work.

As a warm up exercise I made a small piece, using the berries as a subject.

 

This didn’t excite me at all, so I cut it up.

After much snipping I had reduced it to many small but interesting pieces, and made these three wintry landscape pieces, with the addition of some black and white fabrics.

Now I quite like these, but I’m in a book mood these days, and there’s the thing. I think later on today the scissors will be out and these pieces will be manoeuvred into some sort of artist’s  book. I have found in the past that when the book mood is on me nothing gets in its way.

A textile group I am in meets monthly, and we have a little mess around with small projects during the meetings. Last week, we made some printing plates from leaves, simply stuck onto cardboard with double sided tape. Nature does it best, and I love the way simple starts can move into complex, elegant and beautiful work. Not that I’m promising that, but it’s an aim, and optimism is one of my default settings.

Here’s the plate, after being used with black acrylic paint.

Below, the resulting prints, on Khadi paper.

It was my turn to decide on the next group project so I’ve put it to everyone that they could make a zig zag book using their prints, should they choose too. I certainly will, and have gathered together some materials from my collage folder, below. I think the book will be larger, rather than sensibly smaller.

However, here’s something a little more colourful, below. These four pieces, made a couple of years ago, are going to be exhibited in Japan, with another group I am part of, namely Art Textiles: Made in Britain. They will be at Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival, Tokyo Dome, Japan, from 23 – 29 January. We have been invited there to represent British art textiles, which is all very nice, thank you.

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 new 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 another nest piece, hopefully smaller. This may not succeed.

I’ve started by making some ingredients, and from these the piece will evolve. Mixed media can drive you slightly crazy, you just have to stay calm and enjoy the ride.

 

 

Above, some leaves that I have preserved in glycerine, mainly as an experiment, but I’ve made the interior of the 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. I’ve made some porcelain ginkgo leaves too, which were still being fired when I wrote this post.

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.

 

 

April’s progress.

I’m not going to bang on too much about the passing of time, as I seem to usually, but I have noticed that these monthly blogs roll around increasingly quickly…

At the moment I am concentrating on stitched illustrations for a book project, Stories of the Lost and the Found. Most of the illustrations are in hoop format. I am enjoying this, a lot; they are easy to handle and I don’t have that sense of needing to rush them in any way, as they don’t overwhelm.

They also seem to have provided a vehicle, at last, for my interest in illustrated manuscripts. I’ve been admiring these for many years in books and exhibitions, their detail, colours, and richness, but I’ve never really worked out a way to involve their influence in my work. Then it just sort of happens; the smaller format undoubtedly is a bonus, enabling the exploration of making of many smaller pieces using a variety of colours and media.

So here are a few more in the series. It divides mainly into four seasons, although I’m not proceeding through the year in an orderly manner, as you will see.

The Paths to Trees, a spring piece.

A summer illustration, He moves through his world.

The Bluebirds and the Moon, spring.

In the Blue Forest, summer.

A summer day, summer, predictably.

A walk in winter, winter. The same bird as above, that one is a thermofax print, this one is a screen print. He’s one of my favourite birds.

Rowan I and II, autumn.

A piece in progress, A narrow indigo cloud; autumn.

And some of the latest porcelain pieces I’ve made, for mixed media work. I’m pleased that some of these are finding their way into this series of work, the hoops make a good firm support for them. I will use those above in some fossil related work too.

I’m planning and very much looking forward to a couple of printmaking sessions at the RBSA Gallery in Birmingham with a couple of friends. We aim  then to do a day long demonstration one Saturday early next year, at the gallery, followed by a joint exhibition in the lower gallery. So I’m digging out the lino cut tools, and starting to put together some collagraphs too. I’m not certain but I may be using Venice as a subject, probably in combination with flora and fauna, knowing myself as far as I do.

Below, a few earlier lino cuts. I may print a few of these off too. They are quite well used, having been printed on paper and fabric, and used with clay too, over the last few years. Plenty to get on with then!

New work and blossom, it must be spring.

March nearly at an end, what’s going on. Time, you move too fast. It’s great to have the blossom and spring flowers back again; I love a cherry tree and magnolias, particularly when they are in in bud. And there have been even more sunny days this week during which I find myself tidying the garden instead of working. Also the thing is with flowers, inside and out, is that I just can’t stop looking at them; better though than obsessively staring at screens.

So, a little update, featuring some new work, the recent Fashion and Embroidery show at the NEC in Birmingham, and some images from a couple of days in London.

First of all, a couple of images, above and below, of a piece of work called Fossil I, in progress. This was shown, when finished, in the Eclectica Textile Artists gallery at the Fashion and Embroidery Show at the NEC Birmingham, earlier this month. I’m a member of Eclectica and I also had a stand which I shared with my friend, textile artist Sue Bibby.

When finished it was strung together vertically. I forgot to photograph it…       It features some of my new porcelain pieces, which are finding their way into quite a few new pieces now.

Below are some of them. These are part of my new large piece of work called Stories of the Lost and the Found. Each piece will illustrate some of my words or poems; there are quite a few more in the pipeline.

Starting the first piece. This illustrates a spring poem called The Bridge of Branches. The text will be displayed next to each finished hoop. Below, the finished piece. It is 26cm/10 inches in diameter.

The piece below illustrates a poem about spring called A Radiance.

And below, a work in progress, a piece with no definite words as yet, I just wanted to use the porcelain moths.

Below, a hoop in its early stages, which will illustrate some words entitled Nest. All the pieces are a mix of fabric, paper, porcelain pieces, and other media, with hand stitch.

To round off the work section, here’s an image of our stand at Fashion and Embroidery earlier this month. It was a very enjoyable show, not least because we met and talked to so many people, old friends and hopefully new ones too. The two big pieces on the right are older chaps I decided to get out for an airing; it was nice to hang them again.

And now, a couple of days in London, looking at art and design and relaxing.

Firstly, the Dior show at the V&A, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, which was fabulous. It’s very, very popular, in fact fully booked until its very end in September. Here are a few images; I took a lot.

I want this one, and quite a few others too please, but this one first. Wonderful embroidery and surfaces throughout the show ensured there was something for every textile obsessive.

Below, part of the ceiling in one of the galleries, endless paper leaves and flowers, ephemeral and luscious.

We also went to see the Bonnard exhibition at Tate Modern. Loved the garden and landscape pieces, and the colours, and the to me collaged look of the work.

Whilst at Tate Modern we looked in at the Franz West exhibition, which is really interesting, covering the work of an artist who worked in a very wide variety of media, including these giant painted steel sculptures, and rather wonderful heads.

Below, I don’t usually post images of myself,  but I love this coat. Not Dior though, more M&S…

 

February news.

Phew, just in time for February news. Actually I’ve not a lot to show, having spent time getting work, fabric packs and patterns ready for an upcoming show at the NEC, Birmingham. This is Embroidery and Fashion, part of the Creative Craft Show which also includes Sewing for Pleasure. It runs from 14 – 17 March, and is a really good show, with a strong mix of textile artists, workshops, fashion shows and commercial stands. I am sharing the stand once again with my friend textile artist Sue Bibby.

So, here’s what’s been happening. I have almost completed another pattern, which will go into my Etsy shop. Here it is, below, in progress.

I’ve also been making some porcelain pieces in a ceramics class I go to weekly. I was a ceramist for over 20 years and it’s good to get back to some work with clay. Porcelain is glorious, not the kindest clay body to work with but the most beautiful, and the strongest when fired.

I’m making small pieces to incorporate with textile work at the moment, but some vessels may happen at some point. Below is some work in progress; these are black and white pieces, which should be exciting to work with when they are fired.

I’ve used some of my print blocks to print black porcelain and to impress the clay. I’m hoping to make some tiger pieces next, in orange, yellow and black.

And here are some of the finished fired pieces, a range of leaves, moths, fossil shapes, sticks, and the plain pieces at the bottom which may eventually have words written onto them. These pieces are between 2.5cm/1 inch and 10cm/4 inches.

The works in which I will use these pieces will mainly be my series Stories of the Lost and the Found, which I have started to plan and work on properly at long last. So, below is the start of the first piece, which will be stitched in a hoop, I think, as I really enjoy hoops at the moment; actually it may be that the whole piece will made and shown in 30cm/12 inch hoops.

And to celebrate the amazing last few days of sun and warmth here are a couple of images taken on a walk in a nearby country park. It’s sadly back to rain and grey now, of course, which I suppose is at least better weather for getting down to some work.

 

January news.

These days a lot of blogs generally seem to have been superseded by Instagram, but those of us who like a bit of a woffle tend to plod on regardless with the blog format as well as all the rest. I seriously think I did more actual work in the past, before all these sharing platforms took over. I do enjoy using them but think that one day I will simply stop and grow my own veg instead.

So, let’s woffle on. For the last couple of months I have been working on some patterns to sell as instant downloads from my rejuvenated Etsy shop; better not duck off social media just yet then. I really enjoy the design and the making up of the patterns, having also done this in the past and in various articles I have written for magazines.

I have spent some time recently weighing up my work and deciding whether to go completely arty or completely commercial. Many hours were taken up with these musings, until I came to the conclusion that as I enjoy and want to follow both paths, that’s what I’ll do. It is generally one thing at a time though, and the patterns have taken over while I get the shop up and running. Here are the first four, below, all designed to stitch and stay in their hoops if the maker so wishes, or to be used as framed pictures, quilt blocks, or indeed whatever the maker wants to use them for. They are nothing if not versatile little chaps.

My other work is following, in direct contrast to these jolly patterns, the usual convoluted path. I am working on a collection of mixed media work called Stories of the Lost and the Found.

This work has been featured previously on my blog, but has moved away from the original book format I was contemplating. I’m using a mix of digital print, collage, needlepoint and stitched textiles combined with porcelain in these pieces. Yes, I have managed to make it as complicated a project as I possibly could, but in my new attitude of acceptance, well, that’s the way it is.

The needlepoint part of it is great as it sits around waiting for the evening when I work away at it, completing a very small amount in a not ungenerous amount of time. The project needs to be done for summer 2020, which sounds as if I have ages, but things are at the moment very very slow moving. I think I need a few lists to clarify what I need to be up to, but, until I can present a logical and coherent statement of intent, here are a couple of images of the needlepoint that is on the go at the mo.

Below, the design and drawing out stages.

And some early stitching, below.

This piece is an autumn piece, and there is text to accompany it. In the image below you will notice that it’s been through a change or two, those giant floating berries weren’t quite right. As usual at this stage there is serious veering to the left. I love tent stitch but it’s naughty. It will look fine when blocked. It’s around 50 x 35 cm, 20.5 x 14 inches.

Lastly, I’m teaching a course, Beautiful Birds, at the RBSA Gallery in Birmingham on February 21. It’s my favourite place to teach, and the students seem to like it too!  Contact the gallery if you fancy coming, it starts at 11am and runs until 4.30pm.       www.rbsa.org.uk 

 

 

Art, nature and stitch.

That’s quite a grand title for what is basically a round up of some recent activities.

I’ve been finishing some work and starting to design, make and produce patterns and step by step instructions for some new appliqué patterns which will be available soon. I’ve been thinking about doing this for ages, having done something similar for various magazines in the past, and of course there are some projects in my book. I enjoy devising these patterns so have decided to make more. They take time though, so won’t be appearing just yet.

So no images for those yet, but here are a few images from a recent trip to London, followed by some tapestry inspiration from Coughton Court, a Tudor house in Warwickshire. Then there’s a new needlepoint, and some images from a visit to Packwood House, also in Warwickshire.

Below, the view from the London hotel room window onto Tavistock Square, followed by four images from the fantastic Oceania exhibition at the Royal Academy.

The stick charts, above, were both beautiful and useful, being accurate navigational aids made from canes and shells.

A black headed gull who posed on these railings by the Thames for some time, obviously determined to be photographed.

Next, some images from the Anni Albers exhibition at Tate Modern. Weaving is something I love and admire, but I certainly don’t think I could ever do it. This was a most inspiring exhibition.

The centre image above was my favourite piece in the show.

One of my favourite textile activities is needlepoint, and I am much inspired not only by modern weaving but also considerably older tapestries. I am lucky enough to be able to see quite a lot of these in the various National Trust houses I visit. I spend a lot of time peering at them like Mr. Magoo, and I like to photograph areas of them which then look like wonderful abstract patterns, with the obvious subject matter removed.

One day I may incorporate some of them into a needlepoint piece, but ideas for needlepoint run faster than the actual making! I need larger holes and bigger stitches, obviously.

The faded yet rich colours of these tapestries are wonderful. Pinks and blues aren’t my usual go to colours but that may change.

And now some images of my latest piece. I hope to make a series of pieces for a show in 2020. To be honest things are not moving on as quickly as they should be. Perhaps the Christmas break will afford some more hours.

And this, below, is how far I’ve managed to get after a couple of weeks. My excuse is I only work in the evening on the needlepoints. I need longer evenings. It measures 42 x 36 cm, 21 x 14 inches. No more excuses, I just need to get on with it.

Below, winter sun at Packwood House, and one of the gorgeous oak windows there, elegantly decorated by nature with rosehips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something colourful.

I’ve been making and finishing some fairly colourful pieces lately, using some newly purchased fabrics, and a mix of my own painted and printed fabrics. I have an urge every so often to break out and use a lot of colour; I’m not colour shy but have tended mostly in the past to use it more circumspectly on black or white backgrounds.

I must say it’s been fun, but, I’m ready for a bit of subtlety now! My brain keeps presenting me with white textured surfaces and esoteric subject matter, so I’d better listen I suppose.

Talking of colour, it has been a wonderfully coloured and long lasting autumn this year; todays grim rain may put an end to that, but as I write this the holly tree in our garden is as heavily berried as it’s ever been. Lots to eat for the birds, who generally strip it well before Christmas, so when I bring some holly indoors I have to augment it with some fake berries on twigs.

I do however have a new project to work on that may demand less white and more colour, one that I’m quite exited about, so that will undoubtedly appear in these pages. The esoteric white pieces may have to wait.

So, some finished pieces. These are around 45 x 45 cm.

And the piece below in progress, which is now finished but I didn’t photograph it, unfortunately. I add painted papers to the pages of the black concertina book on a regular basis. I like the act of simplifying a shape and collage is the best tool for that, I find. The shapes then find their way into other pieces of work, but I do love the way the book looks too.

I’ve also started to make some individual pieces based, vaguely, on log cabin blocks. Some are less obviously vaguely log cabin than others. These are quite colourful but I imagine I will tone them down by stitching across them with off – white thread. I’m not sure yet, but they will be displayed together in some way. They are quite addictive to construct! There are 14 so far.

I’ve used digitally printed images, on fabric, of my own drawings, work and photographs, with a mix of other fabrics. They are each about 25 x 25 cm.

Lastly, some watercolour and collage work, with no particular destination, for the moment, at least…

Enjoy whatever you are working on at the moment!