Thursday, 26 April 2018

Shades of Grey

Over the last six months or so I have been working on new ideas for landscapes for the next EAST exhibition to be held in 2019.  I have continued to take photographs over the winter while out walking with my sister - we have only missed two weeks when the weather was so wet that getting soaked didn't seem to be a good idea.  We mainly stuck to our walk to Finchingfield as, having done it so often, we knew that if conditions were particularly muddy it is a distance we could manage comfortably.  However, on the odd occasion we did do the circular route from Wickham St. Paul to Castle Hedingham on which we pass the barn in the photograph below.  We had passed this barn several times before but this day was a very bright, crisp day and I particularly noticed the different shades of grey in the wood.

The colours seemed to mellow when I printed the barn onto cotton and I collaged it with some lovely scraps of fabric I had been saving.  In addition to this, late last year I visited a salvage yard in Colchester, wasn't sure what I was looking for but I think I was looking for an alternative way to present a landscape and came away with three pieces of wood panelling.  It was very distressed, paint flaking off, it had holes drilled in it and at some time I think it must have had wood worm.  I took it home and it sat in the garage until March when I had taken the photograph of the barn. 

My general idea is a grey winter landscape presented on the wood panelling - the shades of grey inspired by the barn which is made of wood, sections of the wood will show at the top and bottom of the piece. 

Below I have been dying cotton scrim in varying shades of grey - I have been careful to label each piece with how I have achieved the colour, whether I have mixed it myself or used a ready available dye mix so that I can reproduce the particular shades of grey that I want to use.  

Besides using the cotton scrim I have also been using silk organza and net.  The pieces I have dyed in the photo above are the paler shades to be used for the distance but if I need them to be lighter I can lay net over the top.  By doing this, if I tear the net, glimpses of the colour beneath peep through.

While I have been stitching this piece a poem that I discovered last year came to mind - Flocks of Words by Kate Innes which is about the words that describe a landscape, how they change for each season and imagining them flying away like birds, migrating in winter and returning in spring to dress the land like a newly laundered dress. 

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Boro ing a Book

Now the decorating is all over, for a few months anyway, I have been getting back to being creative and so far this week has been wonderful.  I have been dying fabrics for my new landscape pieces and I have also been doing some pottery.  Earlier this year I signed up to do Level 2 Pottery at Brickhouse Crafts in Silverend - what a fabulous place - it is about 15 minutes drive from where I live and yet I never knew about it even though it has been in existence for at least 17 years.  Amazing.  It's such a lovely place - you can go along as and when you can and you proceed at your own pace and you are surrounded by such talented people.  Of course, you can use textiles to make patterns in clay which is something I'm hoping to do at some point.

However, in the meantime, I am keeping a book for my notes and to record what I do at all stages as the aim is not just to learn techniques but eventually to be able to work independently.  One thing I learnt when visiting the Bernard Leach Pottery in St. Ives (an important name in the world of clay) a few years ago is that Japan is where Bernard Leach learnt about pottery and in particular the art of Raku.   Japan is also where he set up his first pottery.  So to cover the notebook I took inspiration from Japan's mended and patched textiles referred to as boro - boro textiles are made from rags of indigo dyed cotton.   The beautiful arrangements of patches, mending and stitch created utilitarian clothes for the less well off.

I added a piece of rust dying at the bottom where my name is embroidered - I didn't notice till after I had stitched it on but it looks like an arm and hand echoing my own.  The white strip with grey spots is the last remaining scrap I have left of some fabric that Gill gave me.

My pieces of fabric are a mixture of linen, muslin, cotton, some commercial fabrics on which I have used permanganate which makes things brown and the purple scraps top left in the photo below have been dyed with logwood, a natural dye.  The red stitching just sets things off.

Below are a few examples of my efforts with clay so far.  The rabbit is a pot so its head comes off, the second piece is my first tile which is cast from a mold that I made and the last is a sheep dish which I thought could be used to hold pins.  As you can see I have not got as far as colour and glazes but I have to do a lot of sampling first. 

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Yellow and Grey

It's the last day of a busy February and as we have snow and I have been meaning to update my blog for sometime, today seems like a good opportunity.  With the threat of more snow to come it is difficult to know what to do so it's probably best just to sit and sew - here is a little of what I have been doing.  

I always find this time of year depressing and it was this time last year I discovered the paintings by John F. Button - I just like whatever he does and find they translate into textiles perfectly.   

I use Kantha stitching and on the right the little grey diamond shapes are a border pattern - so running stitches back and forth (not sewing each individual diamond).

Also on this coming Saturday I am hoping to give a rolling landscape workshop in Stoke Mandeville and below is the one I have been working on.  This time I made a pot around which the landscape fits and I have pinned the backing into place ready to stitch.

Rolling landscape unrolled.

I've also been trying to do some of my EAST work - developing shapes - and I have also managed to get hold of some more metal sheep.

I plan to do more work on this in March - I love the dotty fabric below but I only have scrapes of it left - it is a block printed fabric I bought from the Cloth House a few years ago. 

While in my workroom the last couple of weeks I have been visited by two little birds who keep trying to get in my window - I think they are finches - one actually flew in when the decorator had the windows open in my husband's workroom.  The decorator was running round in circles as the bird flew in one window, out another and back in again - I had a funny picture in my head of a frantic decorator with paint brush in hand. 

But today we have snow, as forecast, whatever it intends to do I wish it would get on with it.  They promise more but will it or won't it - well I think the best thing to do is more sewing.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Fresh Start

Just before Christmas I finally thought "I have to clear out my workroom and get the decorator in" - there comes a point when it just has to be done.  I have been very drastic clearing out stuff I would not have got round to using in a hundred years and other things that I think I am passed using.  Now I just have to get those creative juices going again.

I have covered my work bench with a drop cloth from the local DIY store - it has a waterproof layer which means I can now dye fabrics in my workroom.  I think the only thing I need to do is to put some sort of splash back at the back of the table, under the shelf, maybe another piece of wood panelling.  I have a large roll of plastic to put on the floor if I want to protect the carpet but generally I don't dye vast quantities of fabric.  To the other side of the oak cupboard (that I picked up for £10 some years ago and stripped back to the bare wood) is a large wooden box which holds all that stuff like cardboard, old frames, large sheets of paper, rolls of plastic and bondaweb, etc.  

I like listening to Leonard Cohen - he's essential - and the white book cubes come from Ikea - you can build your own bookcase according to how big you want it.  Most of my books are actually in another room - I tend to keep only the books I'm currently using in my workroom.

I have been trying to finish this lampshade project for ages - the base fabric is an old whitework tablecloth and I have printed onto sari ribbon - I must finish it but I quite like it as it is.  I painted the standard lamp itself which was actually in the garage waiting to go to the local tip when I had a lightbulb moment!!

Some time late last year I went to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge - I loved all the pottery and found this little chap called "Nobody".  I printed him onto fabric and filled him with toy stuffing.  I have now signed up for a pottery course locally.

I visited the local salvage yard and bought a few planks of old wood panelling - wasn't sure what I was going to do with them but I found it handy as a shelf to keep all those bits and pieces off my work bench.  Each end of the plank is supported by a perspex box - a friend of mine had the perspex boxes made years ago and I have used them for all sorts of things.

I was looking for storage boxes that are easy to access without having to stack them which means every time you want something you have to lift them to get to the one you want.  I found this system which I got from Argos - they open like drawers and when I am giving a workshop I can just take out the drawers I want and take them with me.

The other essential thing for my workroom is a chair - I have an old, dark wood/mahogany chair that I didn't want to part with but which is old fashioned and uninspiring.  Some time ago I bought a large, coarse linen, sheet that had been dyed this lovely uneven lavender/grey.  It had been laying around for ages as I was loathe to cut into it, however, with a bit of origami I covered the chair without making a single cut!  Initially I pinned the folds and gradually I am stitching them all into place and will probably add a few features like some buttons or sari ribbon.  

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Etui - Present Making Christmas 2017

In the past couple of weeks I have been virtually housebound through having an awful cold and having the decorator in revamping my workroom.  We are nearly there now - cold on its tail end and the "stuff" all back in the workroom, new storage installed but just a few things to sort out like lighting, etc.  However, this has given me the time to make a few presents for friends - I couldn't help smiling as I was making them and I'm really pleased with the finished articles which are shown below. 

My friend Lynne has been talking about dying her hair blue for 2018 so I thought I'd give her a preview of what she might look like with blue hair!!  Lynne has long hair which she quite often wears in a plait (see picture below) and is also a very avid birdwatcher so I appliqu├ęd a gold finch on her chest (I think I have the bird identity right) and, of course, we all know women are good at multi tasking so she is also a pin cushion, thimble and scissor holder.  A few vintage cotton reels completes the whole.

I repeated the exercise for friend Ange but unfortunately I had problems with the printer but we got there in the end.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Essex Landscape as Inspiration

The world always seems to go mad on the run up to Christmas with people rushing around trying to achieve their gaols by the holiday break, the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping and what with the weather being a bit grey and hubby down with flu ..............the spirits tend to suffer.  However,  I have managed to escape to go for a few long, country walks with my sister and friends Lynne and Ange which I find really lift and restore me and also have given me the added advantage of taking some lovely photographs of the north Essex countryside for inspiration for my new textile work.

Below is a selection of the photographs - these will give me ideas for texture, shapes and colour.

The first three are views across Finchingfield - the countryside is so pretty even at this time of year.

We see a a lot of sheep on our walks - this one I snapped whilst on a walk which goes through Gestingthorpe. I included some old lead toy sheep in my previous Rolling Landscape works - I think they will be featuring again - can't resist.

Not far from the shortest day of year, darkness comes down early and we have cut it fine on a few occasions getting back before the light goes.  I love taking photographs of foliage and horizons against the sky in the fading light.  The lines that the twigs draw are like fields marked out in a landscape and the silhouettes on a horizon give a source of shapes and features which reminds me of the ceramic landscapes by Sarah Jenkins, one of my favourite ceramicists.

Hopefully, with my workroom newly decorated and organised I will have a chance to start work after Christmas!!!  Cheers and Happy Christmas to all who visit here.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Book Work

November has been a very busy month but I have had time to complete another book cover.  Over the years I have been making, altering and rescuing books but this time I obtained several blank note books from Shepherds in London which had bound pages but allowed you to make/add your own cover. 

Below is the completed front and back covers which are a collage of pages that have been transferred onto organza (top right behind the house), the house is the home where my mother lived when she was a young girl and is printed onto cotton fabric as is the figure of the girl, the little pile of fabrics top right represent a stamp, the layers of fabrics below the house are scrim overlaid with a print onto silk organza that I did from spilling dye onto a thick cartridge paper (representing spilt ink) and then I embroidered words onto the organza from one of my favourite poems.  The trees are from a print block I made which I then printed onto cream sari ribbon and overlaid onto this is a photograph I took last winter of twigs and stems, again printed onto silk organza so that the fabrics beneath (a lovely piece of linen printed with tiny blue flowers) show through.

Below is the photograph I took last winter looking up through stems and twigs against the sky.

All this was collaged onto a piece of vintage french blue dyed linen which you can see top left in the photo below and to which I have added little white running stitches and added a paper moon (actually again it was text transferred onto organza).  The striped fabric below is actually two strips of linen ribbon to which this time I have added tiny blue running stitches.  The misty effect (perhaps clouds drifting across the moon) is a randomly torn piece of net.  The final touch to the spine is the little pile of vintage linen buttons, three stitched one of top of the other.

The blue linen continues over onto the inside of the cover and I plan to add end papers that again will be a print of the spilt dye onto the cartridge paper with the ghost of a print from a lace print block.