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.