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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

More Dye?




Surely not, I hear you holler. But I thought you might like to see What Marion Did with a piece she was given. My friend Helen Howes made this piece, but wasn't happy with it when she had finished it. So, knowing I like to play with such pieces, she passed it along.

What I usually do with pieces like this is to paint and stitch them. This one, however, seemed to want to be dyed, so dye it was. I think the next stage will be to add some fibres, and some more stitch. This is an interesting piece for me, I rarely ever use geometric patterns, and had wondered what it would be like to work with such things...but the wondering hadn't actually extended to *making* them! So this is a good way of stretching my comfort zone.

The other stretch of said zone was a return to encaustics. I had forgotten what a flexible medium it is (no pun intended!). Collage and image transfer are both quick and simple, and the paint has a wonderful translucency, combined with glorious textural possibilities. I paint in oils specifically for that textural effect...but it is much quicker with wax, it dries in seconds...so painting alla prima becomes a real possibility.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Dye Day


Today, finally, it's Dye Day. The dyes have been waving from the utility room, saying, mememe, use me now...so I did. I now have sundry buckets and bowls filled with dye and cloth, instead of the jugs of dye pictured here. As you can see, there's Not Much Room...and no sink. Dyeing without a sink is not easy. But it is possible.

And, of course, nothing in this house is ever simple.
I like dyeing...but increasingly, I find I want to make cloth With Marks On. That, of course, means resists...and I've got a new toy, ostensibly for my encaustic painting, a special palette that allows me to melt wax on it, at the right temperature, without fuss. So I played with that, today. Not entirely convinced that I got it Right...but then, getting it right isn't quite what this is about, is it?

Only problem is, now I've set up the encaustics stuff, I want to go play with that, now. So after lunch, that's what I'll do, methinks. Premixed encaustic paints are lovely things, and very quick to work with, almost too quick, sometimes. Still, if you don't like the end result, you can always melt it off and start again! So I'm off to do some prep work before lunch, sticking some watercolour paper onto hardboard as a base for the encaustics. I haven't done this in a while, and I find myself really quite excited about it. As Robin is away overnight, I can play for as long as I like without having to think about things like meals, and being sociable (arguably I don't do the latter anyway!)

Hope you have fun today, too.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Going With The Flow


Sometimes you look at what you do and think...MmmmmmMMMMMMMMMM. Other times, you look and think, Sigh. Today was one of the latter. This is one of the postcards I made at the playday. It's a definite...sigh... though it was interesting to do. I work small, as a matter of course, but I hadn't considered working quite as small as this before. And might get smaller still.

The good bit about it was playing once again with some fibres, couching on the machine, in this case, onto my handdyed linen. I have a coat made from this linen, which I'm fond of, it's hardwearing but light, a great summer coat, lined with some sari silk that someone gave me. I keep meaning to make a bag to match, but somehow never quite manage it. It's not as if I'm ever that well put together, sartorial elegance wise!

Today seems to be a quiet day, a day for finishing off things, for looking out things and possibly even photographing them...and generally poddling around. I think we all need those types of days. The downside to the gallavanting I've been doing recently, is that I pay the price in sheer exhaustion. I used to try to work through that, but I've learned that it's better to go with the flow, rest when I need to rest, work when I can. And that is not to be confused with working when I feel like it, as described in an earlier post. I can always manage to feel like it...just can't always manage to be able to actually do it!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Going Out


For many years after 'the breakdown from hell', I found it difficult to leave the house. These days, I can manage it, much of the time. Which is why yesterday, I went to play at Helen's studio, and why today, I found myself in Norwich.

I love Norwich. As a city, it is beautiful, bright and full of a positive energy, with beautiful old buildings and a plethora of churches. Good shopping, too, and lots of good places to eat. So, I went to spend my Christmas book token, and, as usual, spent rather more than I was given...well, it's a tradition. Robin would be disappointed if I didn't, and who am I to change the habits of a lifetime! I got excited when I saw a book entitled 'The New Textiles', but that waned when I realised that every picture was in black and white. Perhaps there was a good reason for this...but I didn't hang onto it long enough to find out. Instead, I bought a book on naked raku (fortunately, given the climate, this does not involve stripping off...), one on modern art, and a couple of novels. And then had lunch with a new friend, in a new cafe/bar, well, new to me, anyway. Lovely food.

I used to see the not going out thing as a problem. To a degree, it still is, inasmuch as I get very tired when I do it. But really, I'm not so sure. Lots of stuff to make...so little time... why would I want to be out when I could be dyeing, painting, sewing, reading...the list is endless.
Sometimes, all you have to do to change your life is to change your perceptions.

Meanwhile, just to show that I'm not entirely prejudiced against yellow, the painting above is called Ask Another.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Avoidance

I was out at a 'playday' today at a friend's studio. She has this huge space, great facilities, I'm quite jealous... or I would be if she wasn't so good at sharing it. We did a variety of things...starting off with making fabric postcards.

Now, I have been avoiding fabric postcards like the plague. No, no, no, I don't want to do that, I would mutter...but when someone gives you the wherewithal to do such a thing under your own nose, it's churlish to say no, right? So I made, not one, but two, playing with some of the yarns I have bought over the...emmm...years, now that I've worked out that I can couch them with a boring old free motion foot. It was FUN.

I have to wonder what other wonders I've been avoiding because I edit what I want to do and what I don't. I did that with dolls, resisted them for years. I did the same with painting. I have to say that that lasted a lot longer...nearly twenty years...and I only learned how to paint and draw because my son dragged me kicking and screaming to my first class. Now, I don't know how I lived so long without painting in my life.

What are you avoiding today, then? Oh go on, try it...you KNOW you want to!! Just think...you might even like it!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Dye, Dye, Dye.


So there I am, in the utility room, dyeing away. Why is it when you're up to your arms in coloured water, gloves and mask on, someone always either comes to the door or phones? Or both. Usually to offer you cheaper insurance, or a bank loan... sigh. As was the case today.

I didn't have all that much time to dye today, just as well that the made up dyes can go in the fridge and wait for Saturday. I found myself dyeing oranges and reds, having made some turquoise cloth the day before (which worked out quite nicely, as it happens, or it seems to have done, so far; some of it is in the queue for overdyeing. Reds and oranges, particularly yellows, are not my favourite colours. Well, red and yellow aren't. I use them, but I find them difficult to work with. Orange, though, I find to be energising, but not overly so. Yellow, though, seems hard and harsh to me...yet today, I find myself making up more yellow, planning to make some single coloured cloth.

I went through a phase of reading quite a bit about colour healing, the idea that colour can help us to face all sorts of different problems, physical and mental. And there are examples of that working, for instance, in Edinburgh, the police experimented with holding cells painted pale pink and pale blue. They became rather popular with the 'regular' inmates, apparently...oh, just take me to the pink cell, I'll be all right then... Personally, I admire houses with bold colour schemes, but wouldn't want to live in them. Light is really important to me, and I want it to reflect off the walls, rather than be soaked into them. Yet I work with dramatic colours, all the time.

But I do wonder about that yellow...why do I want to work with yellow???

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


No Man Is An Island. Still in process (see below for more detail)

Just When I Thought...

I was over the distractions of yesterday, I went to visit Val's site, and lo, I was led astray by the beautiful colours of her handdyes. So today, I thought, I'll dye (note the spelling...especially important for a depressed person... or anyone who has been described as 'dyeing in the utility room', by a child, to an unknown person over the phone...). No. Today, I dyed a wee bit. I did the teeniest bit of shibori, with clamps. I mixed a lot of dyes...not as much as when I used to dye to sell, but enough to confuse me. Did a bit of scrim, in sea colours. But mostly, I just enjoyed the colours. Tomorrow will be my dyeing day, as it were. Although the way things are going this week, who knows !!

Today, however, I did some work on the piece I started yesterday, vaguely patting the photocopies of the day before on the way past. As promised, the photo above is of the piece, which now has its top layer of lutradur, with additional stitching. I intend to try adding some more couched thread around the edges of the central motif, and then we'll see.

The piece for some reason makes me think of the poet John Donne, and his wise words:

"No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; ... any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."
—from "Meditation XVII" of Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions

So, I intend to add them to the piece, or some of them.

Am I involved in mankinde? I don't go out much, don't know many people here, though that is changing as time passes. But the magic of the internet lets me talk to you about me and my work, wherever you are in the ever shrinking world. Visitors leave (much valued) comments, for which I'm grateful. And so, often without meeting, our lives brush each other gently. And for that, I am profoundly grateful.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Distractions...


Right, I thought. Let's go play with those photocopies. Upstairs I went, took some extra copies, making sure I put aside a set to use as originals. Then further up, to the cloth studio, where...I got distracted.

Well, the first distraction was, I suppose, at least related to the photocopies! While thinking rootlike thoughts (and waiting for something or other to happen, I forget what), I drew a design of sorts onto paper with transfer crayons. So I thought I'd 'warm up', literally and metaphorically, by ironing the design onto some lutradur. So far so good.

Then I thought, well, a bit of stitching might be nice...so I looked at a piece that was on the board already. It seemed to lack A Little Something. The Something it Lacked, apparently, was some yarn couched on to the base (photos to follow). My friend and ace quilter SallyBramald has been doing some lovely work using a new couching foot for her Bernina that allows you to do free motion couching. I don't have the technology (my Bernina is ageing and wonderful, but has the wrong shank altogether), but I wondered if I could emulate her...the answer being, no!! But given that the pattern isn't structured, it's easy enough to forgive myself. Photos to follow, when I've added the lutradur. Or possibly even before!

As for the photocopies, well, there's always tomorrow...or even this evening...no, tomorrow sounds fine. Now to go switch the iron off.

ps the painting is called Norfolk Garden.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Four copies...different in texture, in feel, just about everything...and yet, somehow, the same.

The root painting. I always thought it looked as if they had all got up and gone for a walk through the forest...whimsical? Probably!

Roots Too or Why Thinking Is Not Always Enough

Well, talking about roots yesterday made me think a bit... and remember that I'd made a painting with root like shapes. It's a very early painting, I've only been making paintings for around four years. I thought it might be interesting to take some of those shapes and work with them to make a screen for my Print Gocco, which is sadly underused. So, I took it upstairs and photocopied different parts of it. Interesting stuff... I've taken a couple of pictures, and will share them if I *ever* find the cd I burned them onto (don't ask...I had it a couple of hours ago...). I thought, since I was up there, I would also photocopy a drawing, and elements of a couple of other paintings that I'd like to use in this way. So I played with the copier, made the images smaller, generally had a good time.

Funny, you know, this photocopying and looking in black and white is recommended in lots of different books. I've always nodded sagely and thought, mmm, good idea... understood the concept, but never used it. Now that I have used it, though, I can REALLY see why people recommend it. What's more, I can see a number of ways of using it that I haven't read about...though doubtless, they too are not original.

I'm a natural thinker. I learn by puzzling at things, understanding them theoretically. Always have. I forget that sometimes, thinking isn't enough. You have to DO things, to see their real value. So...enough writing, I'm off to DO something!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Roots


My husband hates going out on walks with me and my camera. He likes the walk, you understand...it's the photography he can't stand. He'll think, it has gone very quiet...only to realise that I'm waaaaaaaay behind him, still taking photos of the tree that he glanced at in passing...or worse, kneeling on the ground taking pictures of its exposed roots.

Roots are beautiful things...I think a lot of my drawing is affected by their sinuous wonder. They look deceptively frail, peeping up out of the pathway, but they spread out and hold great, old trees in their place in the earth. I seem to spend a lot of time poking about at the bottom of trees, looking for treasure, taking pictures. And eventually, those pictures turn into textiles or paintings; an organic process, just like tree leaves mulching into the earth to feed the tree. It would seem that my process, like my life, is rooted in nature.

Friday, January 20, 2006


More lovely Norfolk flint.

Location, Location, Location


When we moved from the North of Scotland to Norfolk, about eighteen months ago, the general consensus was that we would 'find it very different'. After all, people said, it's flat. And that is not something that could be said about the village we lived in in the Highlands, which was built either side of steep hills. Here, what they call a hill, we tend to think of as an incline. But that actually doesn't matter a bit.

In Scotland, the landscape is dominated by the mountains, it is true. They have a fierce beauty, standing tall, proud and changing little from year to year. They are a reminder to us of our own impermanance, of how small and insignificant we are by comparison. Here in Norfolk, it is the sky that is huge, and the land, which spreads out as far as the eye can see, disrupted only by a stand of trees here, or a church spire or two there. And that huge sky has an equal beauty to those hills, and serves as a similar reminder. If you will, Scotland has vertical scenery; Norfolk, horizontal.

When asked, but surely you miss the mountains?, the answer is, usually, not really. I love the light and the openness of the Norfolk landscape. It encourages me to be open with myself and others, to take risks with my self and my art that I might not otherwise take. The hills can be claustrophobic, encourage you to be secretive with things, about things. Dark.

The buildings are different, too, the vernacular architecture using flint to embellish its buildings. See the picture for an idea of what the flint looks like, each piece a tiny painting by itself. Truly, there is inspiration wherever you look in this lovely place, and for that, I am profoundly grateful.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Inspired?


I had a wonderful day out, yesterday, with fellow quilters and partners in crime Helen Howes and Heather Hasthorpe (and one of these days, I'll change my name by deed poll to Hermione Heaven, just to fit the pattern!!). We laughed a lot, ate a lot, and threw out an incredible amount of fabric. This had been donated for use with young quilters, had been sitting around for a long time in a garage, and was feeling very sorry for itself. It made me wheeze, made Heather's eyes run, and made Helen sneeze. So the young quilters will get some nice new fabric from our respective stashes, and All Will Be Well With The World.

I thought I'd paint, today. I had a couple of prepped canvasses just waiting upstairs, so off I went. And found myself surprised. Generally speaking, I paint in a very unstructured style...just like the illustration, Emerging. Or at least, it looks unstructured; it doesn't feel that way to me. I found myself painting something which is quite unlike that. And then realised what it was. Helen had shown us a quilt that she wasn't satisfied with...I had liked a particular part of it, which had lovely, simple curving quilted lines. And here were these lines, appearing on my canvas this morning.

Thanks, Helen.

Where is your inspiration coming from today?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

My Magnificent Obsession

Well, okay. I have a number of magnificent obsessions. But the one I'm referring to here is the book one. I used to be known at work as 'the woman who has a book on everything'. This was, I have to say, a bit of an exaggeration, but nine times out of ten, I would be able to say, yeah, I've got something about that...and the tenth time, usually my son had something suitable (hi, Andrew). I'm known both within and outwith the family for being unable to pass a bookshop, and, once in, being unable to exit without buying at least one book.

So, when I ended up in Borders before Christmas, ostensibly shopping for presents, it was inevitable that I would buy one for myself. A little pre gift...hell, a girl has to practice her gratitude!! The book I bought was 'Creating Sketchbooks for Embroiderers and Textile Artists'. I have to confess, I bought it for the pictures. Lovely pictures, at least one illustration on almost every page, a lovely, glossy reference book. I like it particularly because it shows how different artists approach their sketchbooks, with plenty of examples. I have to confess, though, that I haven't actually got round to reading the whole thing. And I may never do so.

I've been sewing for a loooong time...longer than I care to admit. When I buy an art book, these days, it seems to be for the pictures, rather than the text. I've been making up technique for so long, now, that it seems silly to worry about how something is done... I just want to admire good work, let it percolate through my own thinking, and eventually come out with something that I can probably trace, indirectly, to looking at the pictures.

And I tend to read them back to front. And quite often just dip into them, when I have a moment, just to look at an image or two, over a cup of coffee. It's a good way to rest, takes the mind of whatever that particular problem was that you took a break to get away from!

But I digress. The sketchbooks in this new book are beautiful, and hugely relevant to textile artists, as you might expect from the title. You have already seen a couple of pages of my sketchbook. My sketchbooks get carried around and drawn in at spare moments. Written in, too. Notes from an exhibit, or made in front of a particular painting, muddle in with a sketch here, a snippet of cloth there, a leaf or feather or something picked up from the ground tucked in the back. Compared to the multicoloured offerings in the book, mine look like everyday clothes, compared with someone else's Sunday Best. Know what? I don't care. It's my process. I can do what I want. And believe me, I do!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

It's amazing...


...what you can achieve when you don't feel like it.

I had a friend who used to constantly wonder out loud how I got all the stuff done that I did. And I suppose I do make a lot of art...most of it small in size, but that in itself doesn't necessarily mean I haven't taken time and care over it. When I asked her why she didn't make more herself, she would say, oh, I have to feel like it. Apparently, she very rarely did.

The reasons people give for not doing what they want to do are many and varied. Oh, well, I had to do this, that or the next thing. Oh, well, I don't have the right (whatever it is...). Oh, well, I wasn't feeling too great. Oh, well... whatever... It's funny how we never manage to do the opposite, to look at what we have, enthuse about it wholeheartedly and set to work (possibly whistling hiho, hiho...).

I'm having a hard time at the moment. The demon depression is back with a vengeance. And whilst I rarely associate my art with my illness, since I'd hate to be accused of making therapy, rather than art, I have to admit, it would be a good excuse for not working. Instead, I'm doing what I know has to be done, what I'd normally choose to do. I go in to the studio, I pat a bit of cloth, here, paint a bit of paper there...and before you know it, I have managed to get through three or four hours without weeping into my coffee, bemoaning my fate or otherwise moping.

Amazing, how easy it is to feel like it...

Monday, January 16, 2006

Collaborative Work.



For an introvert, I seem to be collaborating quite a bit with other artists, recently. A couple of the pieces I've made with June Underwood have featured on her blog. Today, the pictures on here are of a piece I've been working on with Thelma Smith.

It didn't start out, for me, as a collaborative piece. I made a top with the working title of 'Vanishing Point', which I thought was altogether too structured for me...so it lay around. Thelma had seen a photo of it, and liked it, so I sent it to her with a parcel of other bits and pieces. I didn't expect it to come back again, the top changed, sandwiched up and part quilted! I have to confess that I looked at it and thought, what am I going to do with that? So I added some paint and some stitch, and didn't feel any better about it, and put it away.

Over the last week, though, I've been working on it again. It is still sans title; poor Thelma doesn't even know that I'm writing about it here, and she will have to decide whether she might want it back to add to. You like surprises, don't you, Thelma??? It is pictured here. What was a pale coloured top with a dramatic black streak added to it, with some paint added, has become something different. I'm still not sure that it's finished, I think it might want to be foiled...or Thelma may have other ideas. As always, though, it didn't turn out the way I expected it to.

I like working collaboratively. It makes me take a step back from the piece I'm working on, and really look at what is going on in it, before I add anything. I think, when you work on a piece day in, day out over a specific period, you get too close to it. Sending it off for someone else to work on it is certainly a leap of faith; but it also encourages you to step outside of your comfort zone, gives you time to think, and to make design and other decisions in response to what's going on in the piece itself, rather than what is going on in your head at any one time on any one day. Myself, I think it slows me down, and I think that's a good thing.

I wonder who else is out there working collaboratively? Anyone? It would be good to hear a bit about your experiences.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Art of Language...

or should that be, the language of art. Either way, I find myself thinking along those lines today. It's interesting how textile artists, and perhaps all visual arts, borrow the language of writing. For instance, we talk about a 'stitch vocabulary', equating our stitches with words. Yet, for me, stitch is quite different to word. Words come with meanings pre attached...a chair is, well, a chair. A stitch is, well, a stitch...regardless of its form. I might associate cross stitch with tedium, for example (and I'm afraid I do, with apologies to anyone offended by this), but it is a personal association, not one that is likely to be shared by a cross stitch enthusiast, for instance, or someone who knows nothing about needlework in its various forms.

So what would be a good collective name for stitches? A collection? Boring. Compendium? Ditto. Needleful? Ummm. Doesn't do it for me. Sampler? Historically quite good...but perhaps its literal meaning is too strong for us to talk about a sampler of stitches. Sampling, maybe? What do you think?

My friend Helen Howes very kindly pointed out, incidentally, that a picture made of letters is called a logogram. I might have known that the work in my sketchbook I showed you wasn't original...except to me! 'There is nothing new under the sun' (except maybe lutradur!); no matter how inventive you think you've been, someone has usually already been there, done that. Isn't that wonderful...I can stop trying to be innovative, and instead concentrate on being myself. Unique. Just like you.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Glimpse, a small oil painting.

'Abundance', which hangs in my dining room. The closest I come to making representational work.

Painting

I've written, here, about my process, about discovering that I work just the same with paint or textile...come to think of it, the same way with writing, too, poetry at least. What's intruiguing me at present, though, is What Comes After. When I've finished a textile piece, it hangs around the house for a wee bit, and is then put away. I'll take them out occasionally, after a year or two, to remind me what they look like...often, they seem smaller than they did. Not as bright, or as complex. Perhaps they need a bit more stitching... but usually, it's that because I have moved on, as an artist, the piece no longer satisfies me, and I itch to change it. I usually ignore that itch. I try to remember that I was satisfied, at that moment, with the outcome, and that seeing the development of the work is more important than having each piece meet my increasingly different (higher, perhaps) standards. It's a discipline, akin to remembering that you really can't use every technique in every piece!

Paintings, though. Paintings pile up in the upstairs hall, and in the spare bedroom. Before they get there, though, they usually hang somewhere. The downstairs hall, perhaps, or the music room, the living room, even. Sometimes, like the textiles, one will say, nope, not quite...and it will return upstairs to be finished. After a few months on the wall, though, it's pretty safe. And while it's there, I look at it, look and look and look. Not critically. Just seeing what is there to be seen. And there always seems to be something new to be seen, understood. Perhaps it's because I work abstractly...I continue to find meanings, stray thoughts, odd passages in the paintings, that I didn't see earlier. Not that you can't do that with representational paintings...you can. But I work in abstract, at least in part, to encourage my mind to skip a layer of thinking, the assignation of obvious meaning, if you like, so that it can wander, thinking without thinking, in the colours, textures and forms, and draw its own conclusions.

Somehow, I don't get that depth of interest in a textile piece, much as I enjoy working in textile. Or I haven't until recently. Working with the lutradur has provided me with a way of working which is much closer to the paintings...it remains to be seen, though, if I will one day hang a textile piece and be as fascinated by it as I am by a painting.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Out and About...Again....


I lead a very quiet life, usually, focussed round making the art, being at home, playing with the cats and the occasional nap. Food plays a part, too. But this week, I've had to go out for one reason or another; today, it was to get my hair cut. Given that I haven't had my hair cut in two and a half years, this was quite a thing to be doing. I now have a cool hairstyle...least, I think it's cool...short and untidy, just like me ...and I won't have to worry about it getting in the food, or the paint.

Tomorrow, I have to go out yet again, for an hour or so, but will be in for most of the day. If I had good in my heart, I'd do housework... instead, I'm going to work with lutradur. I deserve it. I've been looking forward to it all week, painting up papers for dye transfer in stray moments. I've got a couple of pieces to quilt, and lots of lutradur to play with, and a new hairstyle...what more could I want!!

ps the picture is a closeup of the last rose of the year from my garden. It's just begging to be worked with in cloth, somehow...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I've Been Tagged...

so, in the spirit of creative playfulness, here are the questions...and the answers. If you don't like it, blame that Dijanne Cevaal !!!

Four Jobs You've Had:
Oh... writing on a local paper (lasted all of two months, the paper folded...)
Working with long term unemployed people
Teaching and tutoring foreign languages, French and Russian, mostly.
Self Development Manager for the Scottish Prison Service (my favourite title)

Four Movies You Could Watch Over and Over:

Err. Don't really watch movies. Still... Singing In The Rain, It's A Wonderful Life, White Christmas, The Snowman.

Four Places You've Lived:

Mmm. Newtongrange, a tiny village near Edinburgh in Scotland, where my mother's family comes from.
Moscow, in Russia, where I lived for six months during a student exchange
Strathpeffer, a Victorian spa village near Inverness, Scotland.
And where we live now, Longham, near Dereham, in Norfolk, England.

Four TV Shows you love to Watch:

Silent Witness. Taggart. Creature Comforts. That's about it. Not all that convinced about the last one, either... for a visual person, I really don't like tv or film...

Four Places You've Been on Vacation:

Nurnberg, Germany.
St Petersburg, Russia
Nairn, Scotland
Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Four Websites You Visit Every Day:
Yahoogroups (it's inevitable when your mail goes into the ether...or in this case, the spam catcher, before it hits your inbox!)
Other than that, not sure I do visit *anywhere* every day...

Four Of Your Favorite Foods:

Chocolate. Would be for all four places but I love...
Chili
Curry
Chicken and bacon in a cream sauce, with tagliatelle.

Four Places You'd Rather Be:

Oh, easy peasy. I'm in the right place, here.

Four Albums You Can't Live Without:
Hissing of Summer Lawns, Joni Mitchell
Hourglass, James Taylor
Remastered, the best of Steely Dan
And, John Martyn

Thanks, Dij, this kept my mind off the doctor's appointment I have later in the day! Now, who can I tag....

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Little Heavy Shopping, orGood Things In Threes.

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. That' s my excuse, and I'm sticking to it. I had to go to the doctor, and thought, well, since I'm out, I'll go visit my friends at the art shop. Deadly. I'm not buying cloth, at the moment, but somehow, a ball of wonderful rich purple yarn fell into my bag, along with some gutta, some Golden acrylics (wonderful paint...) and, well, err.... a large bit of metal.

What's with the metal? Well, it's a palette for encaustic working. You stand it above a heat source, it heats up and melts your medium and encaustic paint, and away you go...instant bliss. Encaustic painting is painting with wax, if you haven't come across it before. The effects you can get are *wonderful*. I've wanted a palette like this for ages; I've been using sundry domestic appliances, and none of them worked terribly well. There was the famous day, for instance, when I blew up the deep fat fryer I was using to heat the wax for batik... flames galore, lots of heat and a terrible smell... I do defy myself to do anything really wrong with this new palette...after all, you don't plug it in anywhere!

But this wasn't the end of my extravagance, though I can't say that the following purchase was anything other than reasonable, and serendipitous. As I crawled around the floor looking at the acrylics, a very nice lady approached the desk and asked the owner if he ever sold second hand easels in the shop. Well, no, he said, they come up occasionally but... why, were you looking for one? It turns out that she wanted to sell two wooden easels. I found myself standing up asking how much! Not much, she said, I just want to get them out of the house. To cut a long story short, I'm now the proud possessor of two beautiful, and extremely well priced, easels. No more tipping over my work...I can actually work in safety...and I'm soooooooooo pleased. And perhaps now I can get some decent photos of my work...we'll see.

And I was asked about teaching, too, today. Clearly good things come in threes, too!

How was your day? Hope it was as successful as mine.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Right? Or Wrong?


There is something very satisfying about standing back from a piece of work, and thinking, it's right. There is nothing to add, nothing to take away. The piece stands, as it is, has its own reality, is somehow separate from me as the maker, and it *works*.

The flipside of that is applying the word 'right' or, worse, 'wrong', to what we do...as opposed to applying it to the end result of our work. We're so quick to punish ourselves for what we perceive as a 'wrong' mark here, or an uneven stitch there...it becomes all that we can see. No matter if the piece is waving frantically, saying, I'm actually right, you know!!, we become hung up on that one small thing that isn't perfect...and it is usually a technical issue...and condemn the whole piece on the back of it.

When I look at art quilting, in particular, I think there is a huge hangover from The Tradition, ie, the bed cover making bit of quilting. When you make a bed quilt, it is important that everything is stitched together carefully; after all, who wants a quilt that falls apart the first time you wash it? It is important that the cloth be washed before you start working with it, and that it is all of of similar weight and, possibly, makeup; who wants a quilt that shrinks in some places, not in others, and distorts itself until it no longer lies nicely on the bed? It is important that the stitches be even; after all, who wants to catch a toenail in a big, fat, loose stitch? Where all this becomes less useful, is when we take those rules and apply them to the making of art. You don't cover your bed with an art piece. You rarely, if ever, wash it. Wear and tear is not an issue. So why worry about these things? They don't apply.

I'm not suggesting, here, that art quilters should be slapdash in their approach to technique. What I am suggesting, however, is that we don't get hung up on it. If you want to bead, then bead. Experiment until you find a way of attaching a bead to your work so that it doesn't fall off in the circumstances in which it will be shown. I have discovered, for instance, that glueing sequins to a piece that has to travel anywhere, unframed, just doesn't work. You get a gradual sequin shower that is, if nothing else, annoying!

How would it be, then, if we removed the word 'wrong' from our vocabulary. We could replace it with the word 'appropriate'...and the word 'learning'...and the word 'experimentation'. These are all good strong positive words that describe what we are doing when we make art. Perhaps then, we could stand back from our work and see it as it truly is.

ps The picture is of 'Green Girl Gets The Blues'. It took me a long time to get round to doll making...several years, in fact, of saying, but what if I get it wrong... I hope that's not a mistake I'll make again. Doll making is FUN!!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

And on the Seventh Day...

she made no art. Quiet day, it was. Except, well, I might have drawn a bit. Eaten a bit. Patted the odd cat.

I have a confession to make. I started making textile art because I couldn't paint. I know, it's not something that textile artists ever admit to, but hey... Four years ago, or so, I discovered that actually, not only could I paint, I could draw, too. In fact, at one point, I had a textile holiday, and bored all my textile friends by saying that I might never use textiles as a medium again. But here I am, back again.

I discovered, eventually, that, just as there is no difference between painting on canvas and painting on cotton/cloth, there is no difference between working in paint, and working in textile. It's all process (I know, I said it before, but it's important). It's all in what you believe. And so, I continue to make art with textiles, as well as with any damn thing I choose. Come in and join me, the water's fine!

Saturday, January 07, 2006


Another painting on cloth. With words. It differs from a painting on canvas, and yet it is the same.

Trust The Process

Annabel asked 'What's the difference, then, between painting on cloth and painting on canvas'. It's a good question. I still find myself tempted to answer, £100 (give or take a nought), since the perception of textile art in the wider market is somehow 'lower' than that of fine art. And of course, what is canvas, if not cloth? You would think there would be no difference. And yet I thought there was, at least in terms of my process.

When I approach a blank canvas, I have, to an extent, had my thinking done for me. Someone has very kindly taken a prepped piece of canvas, and stretched it to a particular size, ready for me to paint. All I have to do is turn up in front of it, and paint. I have very few concerns...the traditional oilpainting concerns, of course, like 'fat over lean' and 'thick over thin', but these are technical issues, to avoid problems with paint cracking and the like, and they refer strictly to the treatment of the medium. And whilst it is possible to experiment with shape and size, generally speaking, your average painting is rectangular, square and, more often that not, framed.

When I approach a textile piece, however, it's a different thing. I start with nothing. No structure, not even a blank page (or canvas, if you like). I have a selection of cloth pieces, some on the roll, still, some prepatterned, some dyed, some printed, and I begin to pull those together in some way...painting with cloth, if you like, rather than painting on cloth. I am likely to stitch or glue these together in some way, possibly in layers, possibly in one layer. It is closer, in a way, to mixed media or collage work, than it is to painting, except that I have complete control over the form.

In addition, there are rather broader technical considerations. Textile work requires heat for some processes; am I choosing suitable cloth for the purpose I want to put it to...or will a burn mark add meaning? If I paint this, will I be able to stitch afterwards? I also have my own assumptions to challenge. Is stitch really the most important part of a textile piece? Is it what defines it? If that is the case, how does that effect the construction of the work?

I thought this was going to be an easy wee piece to write...but it is running away with me, challenging my own assumptions. In truth, in reality, there is no difference between painting on cloth, and painting on canvas; the choices I make in each case are limitless, boundless, as are the questions that arise as a result of those choices. If I accept that I can do anything I choose, that belief opens the gates of infinite potential. There is nothing that cannot be done in art...if that is what you believe.

So, in the end, it is what we think, what we believe, that shapes our art, not the techniques we use, or the media. It's all process. Trust the process.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Yes, But Is It A Quilt? or A Rose By Any Other Name


I made this piece a while back, one of the 'Flying Dreams' series. It's roughly journal quilt sized (A4). It started off as a small, pieced and quilted piece, which I then painted on. I didn't like what I got, so I painted on it again, and it became this somewhat angel-like figure of sorts, and there I stopped.

Yes, said a friend. But what is it? Is it a quilt, or is it a painting? Err...said I. I don't know. Finally, I said it was a quilted painting. Or a painted quilt. One or the other.

But why does it matter? Of course, it does to some folks. Fine artists would probably say it's a quilt. Quilters would say it's a painting. The cynics among us would suspect that the difference between the former and the latter would be about £100.

I know one thing for sure: the piece doesn't mind. It doesn't care what you call it...and neither do I.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


a closer look at the language drawing

Sketchy Thoughts


I had two appointments in the same building, today, half an hour apart. So out came the trusty sketchbook...as it always does when I have a moment or two, or even half an hour! One of the ongoing experiments in my journals and sketchbooks is the use of text in art...mainly about the marks that we see on things, and read as text or what we think is text. I have been using the odd bit of text in my work, but today, I thought...what if you drew with letters instead of lines? What would happen?

So I started with a line drawing, adding words to it. Specifically, the words, 'it is what I say it is'. That was okay, but not startling. What became interesting, was when I started drawing with the words, without the underlying structure of the lines to hold it together. One line of text, however it is shaped, is a line of text. Lines of text combined, however, are much more than simply text. Not only do they form line, they also create texture, and a kind of meaning of their own which somehow seems to incorporate the meanings of the words, and their shape. I experimented by combining different forms of the sentence 'it is what I say it is', getting different results; isisisisisis, for instance, reads isis isis isis as well as the verb to be in the third person. So, overt and hidden meanings, line and pattern. Try it...what have you got to lose?

The picture is a section of my drawing today, a bit out of focus, but that's all to the good in a way...it lets you see the way the text works, without being distracted by the meaning. As you can perhaps see, this has nothing to do with calligraphy. I'm not interested in Making Pretty Letters in this instance, but rather, I want to use the language in a different way. After all, what is writing, and drawing, if it isn't mark making?

Stage Two : image plus gutta and (excess) paint.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


A picture of the small piece that got smothered in paint today, before the paint hit it!

Nothing Succeeds As Planned...


...according to Joseph Heller, the American writer, and boy, is he right! If you woke in the night, or were startled in the daytime (depending on where you were at 11am GMT) by a shriek that included a fair bit of foul language...it was me! I admit it!

You see, I thought, nah, not batik, not today...instead I'll go paint on some nearly complete textile pieces... so off I went. To get my hand in, I started on a small piece, used some gutta to strengthen the outlines of the image, put it aside to dry. Then I picked up the main piece I wanted to work on, put it on the table, decided on Quinacridone Violet and a tiny brush to do some outlining, picked up the (large) bottle, and squeezed... yes, you can picture it now. Off flew the lid, out flew the paint...much of it into the mixing bowl I had out for it, but not an insignificant amount onto my piece...and the piece I'd just finished...and some lutradur that I'd put out to experiment with.... Gnyarf. So, what did I do, I hear you holler? Well, I took the main piece downstairs, stuck it in the bath and poured a lot of cold water on it. That worked nicely. So now I have a piece drying in the bath, given that it's backed by wool, I truly hope that it doesn't shrink... I'm sure it won't, but given my luck today...

Then I went back upstairs and looked at the little piece...and thought...okay. It needed a little something, now it has it. I can't wash the paint off, because the gutta is still wet. So, what to do? The violet paint looked quite nice on the piece, so I thought...mmm...blotted off the big blobs with kitchen roll, and then distributed the excess around the design, blurring the gutta lines as I did so. It looks okay...so I put that down to dry. I suspect I'll need to add another colour to that, just to make it look intentional...you know, that well known phrase 'design feature', aka, that wasn't quite what I had in mind, but hey, it works!

Then, I put as much of the excess paint as I could, back into the bottle. And went on to do some lettering on another quilt, with gold paint. And finally ended up thinking, what do I do with all the remaining paint....so painted the lutradur, and made some monoprints on tissue paper, which will, eventually, be fused to cloth and stitched into. So all was not lost.

Sadly, this isn't the first time I've done such a thing. The last time I did it, though, I was at a workshop. I was sitting, minding my own business, doing collage work opposite a woman with a very nice sweater on (just as well, it was a cold day), when I tried to squeeze some glue out of the tube I wanted to use. Nothing happened. So I tried again. Nope. Then I tried clearing the nozzle...nope...again...and you know what's coming, don't you? Off flew the lid, followed by a stream of white glue...which landed on the woman opposite, and her nice sweater, not to mention her work... Oh, she said. I knew I shouldn't have worn a designer sweater to a workshop like this. At which, to my eternal shame, I started to laugh...and couldn't stop. That made her even less happy than she was. I immediately offered to have the sweater cleaned, or replaced, No, No, she said. It'll be fine. By this time, the other people at the workshop had stopped gasping and gaping, and moved on to giggling, discretely. I swear I'll never forget the moment it actually happened. That glue flew in slow motion towards the woman, and there was nothing I could do about it. If that's the speed that my life will flash in front of my eyes, it may take me a long time to expire!!

But I digress. I finally phoned my friend Sally. Guess what I did? says I. When I told her, she laughed in a heartfelt manner. That would be because I did the same to her over exactly the same situation (except her paint was blue) just before Christmas. What are the chances of both of us doing the same thing within a matter of weeks? Clearly, quite high.

I'll put up photos of the offending pieces when they're not dripping! Meantime,

you can contemplate 'Shapeshifter 2', in its current state on my worktable, made from lutradur fused onto patterned cloth, dyed and stitched into. I'm currently moving between, it's finished, and, no, it needs a little something... Sigh.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Back to Work



I like holidays, in theory. In practice, like most people, I fret, after a while, for my own routine and some space to get on with creating art, mess or mayhem, whichever comes first. So, Robin is back to work, and the house is mine again. Yet I found myself procrastinating, this morning...talking on the phone, poddling about in the kitchen... and then, I thought, Enough. So upstairs goeth I (my workrooms/studios are in the attic space). I had hoped that tidying up the space would be a good incentive to actually get down to work, but other than admire the carpet, it didn't help much. What did help, were the two pieces on the design wall left over from last year, which meant that I had something to work with, a flow to go with, if you like.

I've been working with lutradur and other man made cloth recently. 'Urban Tattoo', the picture on the right, was made for a challenge on a list I belong to. It is intended to reflect the impact we have, as humans, on our surroundings, whether natural or manmade. Intentionally or not, we leave our marks on the things around us...from a scrawl on a bench, to the darkening and changing of bricks and stones because of the pollution our industries create. Some of the cloth in this is polycotton, which has been discharged, then overdyed, there's some batik (memo to self, batik tomorrow?), and some overwriting and drawing, too. I like working with polycotton, dyeing it first with Procion dyes; the uneven uptake of the dye through the cloth is reminiscent of memory, somehow. Then I'll add depth of colour and detail with transfer dyes. Or whatever else comes to hand. I refuse to be precious about colouring cloth. I'm careful, yes; for example, I don't use oil paints on cloth without properly preparing the cloth. I have no desire for my work to eat itself (as it were)! But I do use what's to hand, without worrying about water fastness and the like. It's not an issue for me.

Whilst the left hand piece, Spring, is an experiment in using lutradur. Because it is semi transparent, marks on the cloth below the lutradur can be seen as if they were on the surface. Enhanced by stitch, they intruigue the eye. Or at least, I hope they do. Can you tell which marks lie on the surface, and which below?

Monday, January 02, 2006


What could I do with those sticks...

Defining Terms

One of the things that people ask you when they meet you first is 'So what is it you do...'. I have two options as answers. One is the long version...well, I was retired on health grounds at the tender age of 38, since when I've been at home, where I make all sorts of art... The response to that is usually a stunned silence followed by embarrassed mutterings, especially if I mention that the problem is depression, which is apparently Not Quite The Thing. The other is the short, and, in my experience, preferred answer, 'I'm an artist'. The response to that is, oh, and do you sell your stuff...gallery....that sort of thing? I usually say, well, sometimes. If I'm feeling really narky, though, I'll wonder why you're only an artist if you sell stuff.

It's a shame that nobody ever asks the interesting questions...like, why are you an artist? Or, how are you an artist?

I am an artist, because I want to be more fully myself. My version of artist is that of the explorer. I explore all the possibilities I can think of. The possibilities of materials, from paper to sticks through canvas to metal, wax and, of course paint. The possibilities of colour, line, shape and texture. The possibilities of meaning. My own possibilities...interpreting and reinterpreting who I am, how I relate to the world, what it means to be me. I reach for things, asking, what are you? How can I make everyone else see what I see in you?

My version of artist is is also an archaeologist. I poke about in memories and dreams, pulling together shards of thought and theory, reaching an understanding of what they might mean, and making images that somehow indicate that meaning, without being so explicit that I spoil it for everyone else, their dreams and memories... I imagine a life with such a thing or without it, reach for strands of meaning to link together unlikely images or colours. Ask myself endless questions...what colour would that thought be? What shape?

And after all that, I just make the work.

What kind of artist are you?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

artmixter

artmixter

Hello....

Testing...testing....one, two, ten....

Anybody out there????????

Oh, there is.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.

I wonder how many other people are starting a new blog on this, the first day of the new year...lots and lots, I would imagine. Resolution, I hear you ask? Don't be daft! I don't do resolutions. I do, though, do writing, talking, singing, painting, sewing...and sundry other things, as you will doubtless find out if you drop in to read my meanderings every now and again...

The photo was taken a while ago, when I was selling the cloth I dye, as opposed to hoarding it, using it and occasionally giving it away. It's as good a photo of me as you get (ie not that great...), but the fabrics look okay, I think. Some of them are quilts, most of them are yardage. My challenge now is to keep working with them, get better at what I do...and to share that process of improvement with you through this blog. Learning is really important to me. It's why I run the online group, Alternativequiltlist, on yahoogroups. I get to talk to lots of interesting people, learn a thing or two, and share what I learn. I hope this blog will be something the same.

Today and tomorrow are holidays for the humans in the house...the cats, all four of them, are on permanent holiday (don't think I can bear to lift the catflap, mum, could you just...oh...it's raining...don't think I'll bother...put it down, then...). And then it's back to work in my TIDY workrooms, one for paint (oils), one for cloth. The tidy bit is my answer to New Year Resolutions. I'd rather do something practical to take me forward into the new year, than think about what I might do and make silly promises about weight and health and all the rest that I know I'll never keep. Three large bags of cloth are going out to new homes, as soon as Normal Life is Resumed after the holidays.

Wonder how long it'll be before the carpet in the cloth workroom disappears under a welter of cloth....any bets, anyone???

Me and my fabrics