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Wednesday, July 17, 2019


...with the quilts made from the original inspiration of  Scully's paintings.  I rarely ever mark a stitch line, but I made an exception for this piece.

You can just see the marks, here, made using a Conte pencil that happened to be the right colour.  I wanted flowing, unstilted lines, and felt that drawing them, first, would make them easier to stitch.  I was right, as it happened.  Plus, any kind of drawing is good for one. So, I stitched.

And yes, it was fine, but it didn't feel right.  I didn't really want to add more stitch, though I did contemplate whipping the existing running stitch, to get a harder line.  Somehow, though, that didn't seem right.  I liked the feeling of space that the relatively limited stitch was giving, but I couldn't see a story, a meaning behind the piece.  Until I turned it over.

And somehow, it made more sense.  That seemed to suggest a real flow, from the top of the quilt, down to the bottom.  It felt like a white river, somehow.  Positioning it in this way felt somewhat counter intuitive.  It is constructed the way you would expect a landscape would be; top level, one third, bottom level, two thirds, giving a 'horizon line'. Turning it over reverses that ratio, and it feels a bit odd.  I think, though, that the flow of movement through the quilt stops the viewer seeing the piece as a landscape, and I think in part it was that line, that construction, that was getting in the way of seeing the meaning.  So this is how it will stay... it's called 'Outpouring'.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Back To The Books... least for a moment.  I had cut a few 'pages' from an accordion book, made from Lutradur XL, and because they were lying around, and a bit battered, decided to experiment on them.  So I started by giving them a coat of acrylic paint, and then stitched into them to suggest a landscape.

Not the most exciting thing you'll ever see, but a good basis for continuing.  It had been a long time since I'd machine stitched on paint, so wanted to check that this wash wasn't going to give me any problems (and it didn't).  I had intended to add more acrylic paint in each section, a mixture of colours and marks progressing down the page, with a slightly different set of colours on each page, to suggest changing weather and/or times of day.  When I got round to actually doing something with it, though, there happened to be some watercolour crayons on the table.  I wonder....I thought... and this is what happened...

I like these strong blocks of colour, though I suspect they suggest different seasons, rather than times of day.  I was quite surprised by how well the watercolour sat on the fabric, though I suspect the acrylic underpainting was the cause of that.  I was even more surprised when I turned over to work on the other side...

The colour had bled through two layers of underpainting (one on either side), and  I think they work really well.  This side has a completely different feel to the reverse, and I'm pleased.  There were a couple of sections where the paint hadn't migrated, but a bit more water on the reverse side sorted that out.  I'd like to add some text, but the words haven't suggested themselves, so we'll just have to wait until they do. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Changing My Mind...

...happens all the time, but it doesn't often happen when I've finished a piece, and twice in the same series is... interesting...  The piece I showed you here just didn't seem quite right, and a chat with my online creativity group buddies confirmed it, and helped to clarify what the problem was.  Here's the adjusted piece, with a smaller circle on the right, which somehow improved the balance and flow over the whole piece. 

This second piece also comes from the Scully series, and when I finished it I thought... no...(the blue isn't part of the quilt, it just happened to be lying on a piece of blue when I took the image). 

Oddly enough, the issue was balance, again.  I was worried about the size of the stitch in the bottom section, and whether the whole piece wasn't just overly fussy, to boot.  So I did what I tell everyone else to do in this situation : I slept on it.  No, it wasn't any better overnight.  Which was unfortunate: there's a lot of stitch in there, and unripping was the only thing I could possibly do.  Turns out I was wrong.  I'm going to leave it as it is.  Why?  I hear you ask... well, because I had laid it out on the sofa, and happened to look at it across the room...and from a distance, it looks fine.  In fact, that's something else I tell everyone else to do... usually by putting the piece on the floor and standing up to look at it.  I really should take my own advice, now and again. 

Note the circle in the bottom right: yes, you guessed it, it's the trimmed off circle from the piece at the top of the page.  Waste not, want not, and all that. 

As well as the Scully influence, I think this piece has echoes of some of the work of the Glasgow Girls, notably the shapes in the upper section, and the stitch that supports it.  This series seems to be taking me to surprising places...I'm not a huge fan of Art Nouveau, though as I get older, my taste seems to get broader.  Maybe I'm just less judgemental...who knows.  I wouldn't have expected it to appear in my work, though, which is perhaps foolish.  Everything appears in the work eventually.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Finishing Touches...

...are often easier and less than we think.  Here's the finished piece, the development of which I showed you here.  I said it needed stitch...

...and now it has it.  Much less of it than I'd thought.  I originally set out to stitch all the way round the piece.  I found a variegated hand dyed perle which had all the colours in the piece in it, including the tannin stains in the background.  The lovely curving line was complete chance, but when I looked at it, I decided there really wasn't any need for any more.  I did contemplate adding three more at the bottom, but thought it would be gilding the lily.

Knowing when to stop is essential, and often very difficult, particularly when you have more ideas.   That usually means that there's a need to explore more within a series format, rather than that you need to add more to the particular piece you're working on.  Ultimately, it's all about intention, as I've already said elsewhere, in a conversation about a piece of work made by someone else.  Part of my intention when I work is to keep things as simple as possible, while expressing whatever it is that I'm trying to say. 

I'm happy with this, now.  Yes, I could melt the lutradur a bit more, but it's a risk: if I melt too much, it'll just look silly, and as it's not distracting from anything, it's a risk I'm not prepared to take.  Perfection, as I've said before, is the best you can do on the day, and that is constantly changing as you learn more, and become more confident.  Sometimes discretion truly is the better part of valour.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Changing Direction... always a possibility, given the way I work, but sometimes it's inevitable.

I spoke here about being inspired by the work of Sean Scully.  This is the second of those pieces, which would have been three pieces of fabric set together, had I had three suitable pieces... however, these two seem to sit fairly well together, so here we are.  Nothing like the work of Mr Scully, but entirely like mine...nobody can ever accuse me of not being flexible in my approach.  The fabric itself was two pieces which were donated by a couple of kind friends, when I bemoaned my lack of scrap fabric (I'm still bemoaning my lack of hand dyes, but that's another story).  The pinky brown fabric on the right has been reversed, to tone down the patterning, while scraps of the fabric on the left have been used to create a vertical and a couple of horizontal lines, to develop the relationship between the two cloths.  Finally, there's a lutradur circle, with a shell inside it, at the top.  And it's ready to stitch. 

Which is my problem.   I spent a fruitless ten minutes looking for thread with which to hand stitch this piece.  I don't have the money to buy any, and I don't have any dye, either, so I can't make my own.  And I can't see myself hand stitching with machine thread, because it doesn't have the impact that perle and other thicker threads have.   I do have choices, though.

First off, I could just not stitch it at all.  And that's really tempting.  This piece feels like a painting, and were it a painting, it would be finished.  Fact is, though, that it isn't a painting, and it feels like it does need some stitch, albeit perhaps not as much as I might usually do.  So it looks like machine stitch is the only option.  Given the amount of machine threads I have, there's bound to be something suitable.  And if there isn't a variegated thread, I'll combine two plain threads.  I think I'll be stitching, not for pattern, but for texture, which will hopefully make those elements stand out a bit more, as well as connecting them.  For the meantime, though, I'm going to put it aside, and see how I feel after a couple of months.  Building time into design decisions is A Good Thing.  I don't think this will lead to a shift back to machine stitching in general, though, partly because it's too tiring, and partly because I've come to enjoy both the process and the result.

Thursday, July 04, 2019


...are really useful things.  When I took a closer look at the photograph of yesterday's fabric collage, I thought...there's something wrong with that...    And there was.  Plenty, as it happens.  Here's the new version : see if you can spot the changes.

Here's the first version, to compare it with.

Basically, of course, it looks the same, or very close.  So...what did I think was wrong? Firstly, the positioning of the whole thing wasn't right.  It was too low on the backing fabric, and that made it look unbalanced.  It was also closer to the right edge, than the left, so, not centred, and whilst it's not a square, it's close enough to being one, for that to feel wrong.  Then, there was nothing to connect the lutradur to the lovely Japanese Ogura paper, which is lacy and delicate, while the lutradur looked solid and straight edged. 

So... I started by removing some of the Ogura around the central motif, and then trimmed back the top and left side of the backing fabric, to achieve a better balance.  No, it's not perfect, but I don't want to overdo it...though looking at this photograph, I think I'm going to have to take a little more off the top.   While I was at it, I removed some of the edges of the Ogura beneath the constructed fabric, because it looked far too straight and orderly for this piece.  Then I took a heat gun to the Lutradur, again, removing the solid straight lines at the edges, as well as adding holes to the lutradur, reflecting the holes in the tissue paper, which are made by letting drops of water fall onto the pulp, apparently.  I also tried to heat the constructed cloth, but it didn't want to melt, so it will have to stay as it is.  It, too, has unfortunately straight edges, but there's not a lot I can do about it.  It's really too heavy for this piece, but it is what it is. 

I now have some more decisions.  It wouldn't be a bad thing to add a border, but I'm not sure that I have suitable fabric.  I will probably add some stitch, perhaps echoing those strong central colours in the background.  I'm happier with it than I was, but I'm not convinced it'll be worth having after all that... we'll see, I suppose.  It actually doesn't matter much : I've learned things, today, or at least been reminded of them, about combining fabrics and paper, about balance, and above all, about attention to detail.  I think this was done during a workshop, and probably flung together to see if it was possible.  As a learning piece, it's fine, but it is a salutary reminder that rushing is Not A Good Thing.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

To Collage...

...or not to collage, that is the question.  I've talked about this already, here.   I've done a bit more work on several of the collages, but the only one I feel is reasonable is this one...

That's something of an improvement, but I doubt I'll keep it.  I've been trying to work out what my problem is with this; there seem to be several reasons for it.  Firstly, and possibly least directly, I'm not a fan of using other peoples' work in mine.  This doesn't use images or newsprint, but several of the other collages do.  I like the theory of using newspaper and found images, but the practice is something else.  Secondly, I don't seem to have the same relationship to collage as I do with paint.  Paint is a mark, and another mark, and another mark.  Collage, though, somehow seems to be more structured, at an earlier stage, than either paint or textile...and I don't really do structure.  There's also something about meaning... if this piece has a story, I can't seem to access it.  Perhaps I'm too caught up in the techniques involved, to be able to hear it speak. 

I'm not sure much is going to be gained in pursuing this particular least, not on paper.  Intriguingly, while sorting through fabrics for a completely different project, I found this.

I don't remember making this, to be honest, but I rather like it.  The base is cotton, dyed with tea and onion skins.  Then there's a layer of Japanese paper which has been coloured with what looks like Brusho.  Then, a layer of transfer dyed lutradur, with some pieces of painted paper and a scrap of constructed cloth.   I like this.  Perhaps it's because it's much closer to my usual style than the paper based collage.  Perhaps it's the combination of elements (though, looking at it, I think I want to hit that lutradur with a heat gun, put a few holes in it, to relate more closely to the Japanese paper).  So if I do make more collages, this looks like it is the way forward.  Okay, I feel comfortable with that... glad we sorted it out.  Back to work...