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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Working Things Out.

I'm currently working on a book (surprise, surprise).  It's a folded book, made from a single piece of material, and it has a secret.  Here's an image.


The paper is quite highly textured; here's a close up...


Interesting, isn't it?  I'll be adding more stitch, I suspect, to the two side areas, more horizontal lines, probably.  I like the loose ends of the thread.  I remember submitting a quilt to Hever (I think it was),  many years ago.  I had deliberately not trimmed away excess thread in several specific areas, because it represented broken connections between people; apparently, I was told later, two women had stood in front of the quilt and loudly discussed it in critical terms, including the line 'these art quilters are so lazy, they can't even be bothered trimming the thread...'.  Sigh.  The thread ends here have no particular meaning; I just like that way it looks.  I know I could add beads (for instance), but that would give the whole thing way more significance than it actually has, or than I want it to have.  

So... can you see from the image, what the book's secret might be?  Here it is.


That central section opens out, and contains rust dyed silk.  In texture terms, it both complements and contrasts with the texture of the paper.  I like rust....but of course, it can't really be neutralised, and will continue to work on the fabric.  I have had some rust dyed fabric for over ten years, and see no deterioration in it, but it's not archival in the true sense of the word.  That doesn't bother me in the slightest.  I make to create meaning; sometimes that meaning is fleeting, and the use of rust dyed fabric is important in work that explores impermanence or uncertainty.

I've written a poem as part of this book.

Metal ourubos
Consuming its host
Til nothing remains

That, to me, is the nature of rust.  It consumes and consumes, until the host is gone, and nothing remains but dust.  The poem reflects the nature of the rust, and by extension, the nature of the piece.  It is made to self destruct; it's really only a matter of time.

The question I'm debating internally is what to do with the text.  Same poem on both sides?  Or write another poem on the same theme?  Or spread the words over both sides, and make the viewer piece the poem together?  Write them, stitch them or applique them?  Write them on a luggage label and attach it somewhere (I like that one)? The jury's out.  And it may stay out for quite a while.  It's unusual for me to have no idea how to progress, but here we are...so I'll put it aside and let my unconscious do its work.  

I think the issue I have is that the book is not for the poem, or the poem for the book; they have equal weight, with the fabric, in terms of expressing meaning.  I don't want the poem to dominate the materials, or vice versa.  It's a question of finding an appropriate balance, and that may take time.




Monday, June 18, 2018

Small Stuff.



'Don't Sweat The Small Stuff' was written by Richard Carlson, one of those annoying touchy-feely management books from the 1990s or thereabouts.  The sub-title was 'And It's All Small Stuff'; now there, he has a point, but not quite the point he was trying to make.  For an ME sufferer, it is indeed all small stuff.  Every task has to be broken down into its component parts, so that at least some of it can be achieved with the energy levels available at the time.  Today, technically, it was Tidying Up, mainly because I can't get the stuff done that I want to, without clearing some space.  You would think there would be a limit to the amount of mess I can make on a table top, wouldn't you?  Apparently not.  Particularly as the energy levels from previous activities had run out before the tidy up stage...so there was transfer dye to go back in the drawer, the papers I'd printed and painted to put away (well, okay, put on the floor...haven't worked out where to put them yet), the goodies that I'd been given, to go away...you're getting the drift, right?  This pine cone needed somewhere to live too.

When I began to run out of steam,about half way through clearing the table top,  I sat down and managed to encourage my Bernina to limp through the rest of the stitching on the piece I showed you yesterday.  It started playing up as I worked, yesterday, a problem with the tension that I couldn't resolve by the usual means, so it'll be off for a service.  It would already be there, but when we drove up to drop it off, the shop was shut, despite both FB and Google assuring us it was open...sigh.  And now...I need to rest.  I might manage to clear the rest of the table this afternoon...or not.  Tomorrow, as we all know, is another day.

PS.  I don't sweat anything...I haven't got the energy...




Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Leap Of Faith.

Sometimes only stitch will do.  So much of my work is about responding to things, seeing something interesting, if only to me, and working with it, to see what can be made of it.  Way back, in the days when I was still dyeing to sell, I used a dye catcher in what I thought might be a final rinse, but proved to be otherwise.  The resultant dye catcher was interesting, so I kept it.  Then I paired it with some lutradur and forgot about it.  For some reason, it survived The Cull (probably because I still find it interesting).  So I decided to stitch into it, thinking that it might make an interesting book, if I could get it to fold well (the jury's still out on that one). 



The first image shows the cloth as it came out of the washing machine; if you look closely, you can see it has a sort of dappled construction, presumably to strengthen it to keep it intact through a wash cycle.  It also has a strange, almost greasy feel to it, not unlike a dryer sheet, but it is far more robust than that, and is slightly scented.  The second image is the reverse with the lutradur added; it immediately adds colour and visual interest. I decided to stitch in circles, respecting and supporting the blob-like way that the colour had transferred onto the cloth, and attempting to link the dark areas together. 

I then started to meander round the lighter, background areas with a matching thread (both threads used here are variegated, surprise surprise). 


You can just catch glimpses of the pale stitch in the first image; it's clearer in the detail shot that follows.  I still have a fair way to go with the pale, background stitching, but I've not been well enough to do it...perhaps today. 

Were I doing this as a flat piece of embroidery, I don't think it would be interesting enough, even with all the stitch in place.  I suspect it would be a rather ornate background for something else, perhaps an applique.  However, I want to turn this into something three dimensional.  When I do, the surface will change completely (duh...); lots of small units, juxtaposed one on the other.  I have no real way of knowing if that will be successful.  Maybe, maybe not. And I suspect I will add words, somewhere, somehow, probably printed on paper, cut out and stuck, a poem, probably, written for this book. 

Sometimes...actually, more often than not... making work in this way is a leap of faith.  I have to believe in my own ability to take something relatively unprepossessing, and turn it into something special, through the application of ideas and technique.  I have to believe that I will choose the right ideas, the right techniques for this particular piece.  And that I won't stop until the piece is resolved (well, okay, there will be rest breaks...it may take some time).  I may doubt myself (may?  probably will) as to the quality of the finished piece, but I rarely ever doubt myself during the process.  Process is just a series of choices, and I can make those choices, even in this situation, where the piece is a one off by dint of the way it came about, meaning that I can't just make another one.  And even if the book doesn't turn out the way I think it will, that will be okay, because I will have learned something, and can probably turn it into something else, instead, which will be more successful.  And at the end of the day, it's only fabric. An individual piece of fabric is much less important than process, and another interesting bit will be along in a minute.  It won't be the same (thankfully), but it will have potential...and that's really all I need.



Saturday, June 16, 2018

World Textiles Day

Went up to Bridge of Allan for the World Textiles Day, Scotland.  I seem to remember going to such an event in Norfolk, not long after we moved down.  It was a civilised event, relaxed and friendly, not overly crowded, and that's pretty much what I was expecting today.  The world, however, has moved on, and I'm sure the traders involved are delighted.  Reader, it was a feeding frenzy.  We arrived fairly early, but the room was very busy, and people continued to pile in behind us.

There was a small exhibition, which looked quite interesting, but though we could get into the room, the combination of three or four people and lots of chairs, set up for the first of two lectures, meant that the wheelchair couldn't get down the side of the room without causing a major inconvenience for everyone else, so we left that one alone. It's a long time since I went to an event like this as a participant; I've worked FOQ and KSS, but working comes with its own little oasis of clear space.  I'd spoken to people in wheelchairs at events, and they told me how difficult it was.  This was my first event in a wheelchair, and they were very, very right.  Wheelchairs have a cloak of invisibility fitted in, I suspect, or maybe people were just so focused on the fabric, and each other, that they missed the small woman in the wheelchair.  Even waving fabric and money in the air wasn't a guarantee of attention at one stall; in the end, Robin took it from me, and that seemed to work.  I can see why so many people in wheelchairs get a serious chip on their shoulders.  People didn't notice us until they walked into the chair....and then they apologised profusely, but without making eye contact.  Okay, rant over.  You want to know about the fabric, right?  Well... I couldn't see all that much of it, couldn't get close enough.  Someone had some fabulous clothing, but if they were on or near the stall, they didn't make themselves known, so I have no idea who it was.  There was some indigo dyed fabric; not my thing, really, but nicely done and presented.

What did I buy?  (Yes, of course I did). 

Some fabric from Magie Relph at The African Fabric Shop, (the package at the top), and a couple of Javanese fabric selections from Textile Traders. The selection at the bottom of the image is wedding cloth, and glitters.; it's gorgeous.  And Sashiko needles from Susan Briscoe; her stall was so busy that all I managed to get were the needles; browsing was an impossibility.  Which was a pity, because she had a great selection, and I had hoped to get some.  Never mind.

So... won't be doing that again, methinks.  It was a frustrating and mildly upsetting experience. Nice fabric, though.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Getting It Wrong?

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that I'm not fond of the word 'wrong'.  I don't think it's got much of a place in art.  However, in terms of the mechanical doing of a particular process, wrong is possible.  And did I ever get this one wrong. 

You may remember that I said I'd brought boxes in from the garage...well, in one of them, I found a small lino block (and this one is actually made of lino, not soft cut, so dates before ME).  I actually ditched most of my lino blocks, not sure how this one survived, to be honest.  I thought it might be fun to print it on one of the books.  So... first I needed a background, because I didn't want plain white.  I have a fair number of ink blocks, the kind used for stamping, and one of those was in the same box.  It happened to be green, and I wondered if it would work on Lutradur.  The answer to that was, yes, it could.  I simply dragged the ink surface across the fabric, and it worked fairly well.  Bit unfortunate that the ink pad fell off, bending itself in two as it did so, but actually, it left some interesting marks, so that was okay. 

And then it all started to go to hell in a handcart.  I decided to transfer dye the lutradur, using the block I'd found.  Firstly, I found a couple of places on the block that should have been carved away. Takes too much energy to remove them, so I sucked it up like a good little princess.  One or two of the prints I made looked okay, though, so I left them to dry.  So far so good.  Ish.

Later, I went to iron on the transfers.  And there's where things went pear shaped.  I made every single mistake in the book, all the things that I advise students not to do....yes, them.  I didn't check the iron temperature, because I always have the iron at its hottest setting, right?  Wrong.  So when I transferred, I got something that looked like a ghost print, and managed to drop the paper when I checked it, so couldn't realign the print, and ended up with a smudged, double image.  I used one of the prints I wasn't happy with, the one with lots of odd bits and pieces that shouldn't be there, and no, I have no idea how they got there, either...but they're on the book now.  And then another double image.  Things were starting to get out of hand.  The back didn't go as planned, either, and I have no idea why. 

And yet... here's the book, ready for stitch.  (I know... at last, a book that's going to include stitch as a major design feature... finally...).  And I Rather Like It.




The front has a good balance to it.  Yes, there are flaws; click on the image, have a closer look, you'll see them.  What's important, though, is that they don't dominate the piece.  They don't scream, look at me, I'm a mistake...ha ha ha.  Adding stitch will take what little attention they get, away, I think.  I rather like the double images; think I might try that again, deliberately, see what I get... some other time.

The back is more densely coloured than I wanted, but that's not the end of the world.  Boring, you say?  Meh.  Not as boring as all that, reasonable variety of both tone and mark.  What will bring it alive, though, will be the free motion machine stitch, following the shape of the flowers.  And that's what this background was designed to contain, to support.  It's not that great on its own, but once the stitch is added, it will be the perfect counterpoint to the front.  And this is an excellent example of how I think fabric books need to be conceived, designed and worked. 

I couldn't work out why I'm not keen on fabric books as a genre.  As a book lover, it ought to be a no brainer...and yet... I think it's because the examples I've seen, seem to be random collections of stuff, sometimes with a theme, sometimes without, contained in a cover.  Imagine a story book created on that basis: I find it very difficult to do.  The story is the thing, in my books, the concept.  There always is one; it's just a question of finding and expressing it.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

A Walk In The Park.

Well, okay, not a walk, exactly; I tootled about on my mobility scooter, but that doesn't have the same ring to it...  Someone told us that Grangemouth had a great play park, so we thought we'd check it out on Cara's behalf.  Zetland Park was apparently gifted to the people of Grangemouth by the Earl of Shetland in 1880.  A burn runs down one side, the park is long and thin, and the play park is indeed a good one, but I was more interested in the statuary. 

Parks aren't what they used to be.  Apparently this one has great rose gardens, but we didn't find them on this visit, though we did find begonias...eventually... I used to think of parks as having flowers and shrubs, as well as trees, but presumably cutbacks have taken that kind of thing to an absolute minimum.  I'm not that fond of begonias, but it was nice to see a touch of colour in an otherwise green landscape...


I don't normally do Victoriana, too fussy for me.  And I definitely don't do cherubs.  This fountain, though, I loved at first glance.

It has been neglected for a very long time, it's obvious from the state of the paintwork, and it's cracked, apparently ( I didn't notice, too taken by the cherubs). 


And it was the cherubs that held my attention.  They're definitely Scottish cherubs, with a hint of belligerence in all that piety...


Or perhaps it's 'I can't believe I'm doing this'.... who knows?  I thought they were beautiful. 

It was the lion that got me, though.  No, it's not a safari park.  The lion is atop the war memorial. which was designed by Sir John Burnet, architect to the Imperial /War Graves Commission, in 1923.  He made a great job of this one. 

We approached the lion from the back, and it was clear, even from here, that this is a lion that means business.  He's pouncing on 'the German eagle'...but I didn't pay the eagle much attention, to be honest, it's all about that lion.  Which, presumably, was the intention of the sculptor.  



Belligerence and pride, expressed in stone.  A beautiful thing.  

No work today, we were out for an hour and a half or so, and that has knocked me sideways.  There's always a cost to activity, and this is it.  If I'm lucky, I'll be able to do something tomorrow; if not, the blog will be back after that. 


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Unexpected Results.

You saw Merlin making himself at home on top of this book, yesterday...it has progressed a bit since then, perhaps not as much as I would like, but nonetheless.


I realised while stitching, that this is another Purple Rain book.  There's enough of that pink paper to make a series.  This is hand made paper, and it felt stiff enough to allow it to stand up as an accordion, but not so stiff as to make it unpleasant to hand stitch.  So far, so good; all true.  What I didn't appreciate, though, was the effect of the stitch itself on the nature of the paper, or, more accurately, I suspect, the amount of handling the paper is getting in order to put that stitch in place.  The paper is going all floppy (to use that well known technical term).  When you put this amount of stitch into a quilt, it stiffens it; into a single layer of fabric, and it distorts it.  This is both distorting the paper and softening it.  It's actually reminiscent of working with Evolon, which also softens if you handle it a lot. 

I got a bit perturbed.  Here's the book, standing on its edge, to let you see how it is progressing.


I've positioned it very carefully, otherwise it looked rather like a drunk propped up against a low wall.  And I fretted about it, just a bit.  But then I remembered that this is a book; books don't routinely get propped up like this for display.   They're usually seen flat, opened and read, one page at a time.  So I stopped fretting and decided I liked the book as a book, rather than as a sculpture.  It'll be fine.

You can't see it in the image, but there's still a bit of a cat shaped indentation in that front page... I suspect it will be meeting an iron, or possibly a lot of heavy hard backed books, once I've finished the stitch.  The thread, incidentally, is hand dyed variegated silk thread with an uneven texture.  The purple strips are Khadi paper, which I'd bought to make a book with...didn't quite have this in mind, but it works.