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Friday, June 30, 2006

A Day of Surprises

I spent most of today in Norwich. The group that came out of the Creating Community workshop meets on a Friday informally, for coffee and conversation. Five of us had a happy time talking about all sorts of stuff, from Christmas to drum kits. Eventually, I ended up with Barbara, looking at a beautiful photography exhibition. As we left the Forum, I asked if she wanted to join me for lunch...and we went to my favourite place in Norwich, the Cafe Parisien. The food is good, the folk are friendly and the sofas are comfy. It turns out that Barbara, one of the few people I know in Norwich, knows Romain, the owner, one of the other few people I know there, really well. Quite what the chances of that happening, I don't know, but it seems remote. And there I was, in the middle of a reunion, unable to get a word in edgeways... a situation I'm not familiar with at all!

I also managed to get a couple of bargains...some cheap oil paint (hurrah!), and some interesting foam rollers, lots in a bag at a really low price. So a good day was had all round, and all the suprises were good ones. Tomorrow, though, I hope to get back to painting, if it doesn't get altogether too hot; temps in the 90s are expected over the weekend, and it's no fun painting in the attic when it's that hot. I painted yesterday, more of the 'In More Than One Language' series. I'm finding it frustrating. I usually work very quickly, often making a painting in one fell swoop (or alla prima, if you want the technical term...). This series requires me to make layer over layer, and oil paint takes a whilie to dry, so I have to wait between layers. I don't like it, much. I'm finding the process frustrating. I don't have a vision of what any given piece 'should' look like, but it's hard to have patience and wait as the images build up. Perhaps that's why I'm also struggling with QFATT: same series, different medium. It's faster, working in layer in textiles, but the same premise applies. I don't have that 'vision', but I know the piece isn't right, yet. So I need to continue the conversation I'm having with the paint and the cloth... and wait. One of the paintings I worked on yesterday is the picture looks interesting, in my opinion, but not right. Back to the if that were a hardship!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Struggling with Technology

I seem incapable of taking even a half decent photo of QFATT. It's driving me nuts. As you may, or may not, be able to see here, I've added a bit of metal mesh to the top, small pieces, that I think may be linked in some way, maybe with wire, maybe with stitch... they look okay in real life, but in the photo, they look rather lame, somehow. Grr.

The visitors have been, and gone, and were favourably impressed by the house itself, at least, if not its standard of housekeeping (though they were too polite to say...). They did, however, have a good time, and chocolate biscuits from Germany, to boot (Anne Wigfull, please note!). We went out to the local pub for a meal, the White Horse at Longham. It is a quintessential English pub; we take all our visitors there for a meal, or at least to meet the landlord, Barry, who is an experience all by himself. It's not what he says, it's the way that he says it... but he's lovely, really. Or so he tells us!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Let Us Play

Playing is underrated, in my humble opinion. Fun is underrated, too. So Heather came over, and while she played with a sewing machine, I played with transfer dyes. I have discovered the hard way that transfer dyes dripped on your floor do not wash off...which is a pity, as it has ruined a perfectly good floor. Still, the results it gives are interesting. The dye, that is, not the floor. Still, the two pictures are of some pelmet Vilene dyed with transfer dyes, and they're not bad. One is quite clearly A Background, complete with iron holes...I like that effect, or at least, I do, when I intend it, as I did here. Honest, I did! The other is less of a background, more of an image, which is unfortunate, as I don't want to mask it with lutradur, but I won't get texture unless I add some cloth, or something... Ah well. There's always tomorrow, and another set of prints to make...

ps I want Anne Wigfull to adopt Robin...then not only do I not need to tidy up so much, I get access to her stash....which is very probably bigger than mine...

Monday, June 26, 2006

Doing The Impossible.

No, I'm not Superwoman. I don't wear my knickers outside my trousers. Nor do I leap tall buildings at a single bound...or even small buildings, come to think of it. But I am a sucker for a sob story. A couple of weeks ago, a colleague of Robin's at work spilt some bleach on a skirt, all unknowing. You can guess the rest, can't you? Robin is good at volunteering me for things. So, given that the skirt was brand new, and the woman concerned was throwing it out because the stain was on the front (or lack of stain, if you see what I mean...), I said I'd try to make it wearable.

So, I've produced a reasonable colour match, and the skirt is in, soaking, as we speak. What's the chances of it working... pretty minimal, I'd say, but if the bin is the only alternative, trying dyeing seemed reasonable. And I've never been that hot on brown dyes, so I could use the practice!

I've been stitching on one of the small pieces I made a couple of weeks ago. I made the front to paint on, a smaller version of QFATT, but loved the back. So here it is again, but with some stitch added. More to come. Probably after Wednesday, Robin's mother is visiting then, and I doubt I'll get much more than this little dyeing task done, given the amount of house spit and polish that seems to be required...sigh...

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Galloping Inertia

Is there such a thing? It sounds like a rather unfortunate name for a racehorse... Either way, I'm suffering from it. I think it's a version of TO...Task Overload. I feel that there are so many things waiting for me to do them, that I might as well not do *any*. This doesn't make me feel better, of course. But I seem to have lost my focus. And that has nothing to do with having two pairs of glasses, now, one for distance, one for closeup (and what a pain in the neck *that* is). I took my eye off the ball, to use a sporting metaphor (too much World Cup in too short a time). Actually, I forgot that there was a ball, entirely, I think.

So, today, I'm houseworking (Robin's mother is visiting some time this week, and a semblance of tidyness would be good...), and remembering exactly what it is I need to be doing. And what's important. It doesn't really matter if I write up the workshop I ran earlier on in the month, so I can run it again (it won't run the same twice, anyway). But it does matter that I get the sleeve on the quilt for the Festival of Quilts...and that I order the tickets...sigh... So, a list, and some effort next week, and all will be well.

Another attempt at a photograph of That Damned Quilt, as QFATT is now known... I sat with it for a little while today, thought that it needed turning round, and some other work, too. Perhaps that will get done this week, too. It's not essential, but it soothes the soul. And I have the feeling that will be important, this week.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Slow And Steady...

wins the race, they say. I seem to have been running up and down, doing all sorts of things, without a minute to think straight. The occasional nap got in there, I admit, but that doesn't count. I found myself sitting in the car, yesterday, waiting for something. It struck me that we talk about 'killing time', but in fact, it's impossible to kill time, or to use it in anyway other than to our benefit, if we stay in the moment, and look at what's around us. Yesterday, I saw the beauty of the countryide, the way the blossom on a hedge danced in a light breeze, smelled its fragrance in the air, watched the clouds flutter by. I thought of everything, and nothing. And it felt good. I know that I have things to do for the rest of this month, the house to tidy for Robin's mother's visit, dyeing to do, correspondence to deal with, doubtless telephone calls to take and make...not to mention a bit of painting... But I do want to take time, every day, to sit still and do nothing, preferably in the garden with a cat on my lap and a cup of coffee. Yesterday, I remembered how good it feels to Just Be There...

The painting is a work in progress, another of the 'In More Than One Language' series. It's intruiguing to watch it develop...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

QFATT Resnapped

Okay, I admit it. Yesterday's photo of the Quilt Formerly Known... was lousy. So here's another one, which hopefully, does a better job. And a detail shot, to boot.

I don't always take all the photographs I should. Mainly, it is a question of patience...I want to get on to the next stage, so this stage merges into next, with no record of how it did it. So, today, since I had the camera out, I took a couple of totem doll pictures, which will go up on the other blog, as they are intended for the elementals exhibit, ultimately. Just occasionally, I can talk myself into doing the work I'm 'supposed' to be doing...not often though.

Last week was a busy one, people to see, things to do, things to think about. As a result, I'm feeling just a tad washed out. Next week, though, other than Friday, I have no commitments, other than needing to take Robin into hospital, collect him again, and keep an eye on him as he recovers from a general the week will be peaceful. That's the theory, anyway, watch this space...

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Turtle No More

The Quilt Formerly Known As Turning Turtle, or QFATT, as it's lovingly known, as discussed a couple of days ago, is turtle no more. If you can find a reference to turtle, anywhere in the photo, I'll eat my hat. Not that I have a hat, but you know what I mean! The last picture I showed of it, was in a particular orientation. That has gone, too, thanks to a conversation with a friend, who said, within minutes of seeing it, that it didn't matter which way it was hung, it looked we decided that sideways Was Better. And every reference to turtles, real or imaginary, seems to have vanished.

What I discovered instead, was that I was making a textile in a paint series. I've been working on pieces called 'In More Than One Language'. Somehow, this piece seems to fit into that series very nicely. I started making this particular quilt, if you remember, with the intention of making a piece for the 'Elemental' exhibition. Clearly, it wasn't interested in being in any exhibition... I'm discovering, increasingly often, that I can't work to order. I make what I make. And that's all there is to it! Applying discipline just means that I turn up, make the work, and it decides what it wants to be... sigh... it would be nice to be in charge, occasionally...

Meanwhile, I'm still not sure if 'In More Than One Language V' (or QFATT, if you prefer) is finished. I think a little metal is called for...

Friday, June 16, 2006

Much As I'd Love...

to be lazing in the heat, I'm buzzing about, still, trying to make myself something to eat, and write the blog, and talk on the phone...all at once... I did, however, receive a parcel today; ten linen tablecloths, slightly used, but in beautiful condition. For a dyer, they are a gift from heaven...okay, I bought them on ebay! But the plan is to paint them, probably on Monday when my friend Jill comes to play with the dyes.

It has been a happy day all round, really, no work, but I did meet friends for lunch, buy a little fabric and have an impromptu camera tutorial. And got my hair cut. So I am better educated, and no longer look like an Old English Sheepdog! What more could a girl want!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Busy, Busy, Busy

I lost yesterday to the demon hayfever. I sneezed, and then I sneezed, and then, yes, you have it, I sneezed some more. I dripped, I sniffed, I was not good company. So, other than some prep for a meeting today, and a bit of writing (for a book does not write itself, no matter how good your computer!), I did very little.

Today, though, I zoomed into Norwich for a very productive meeting of the people who volunteered to do some of the admin that's necessary if you want to have a group; writing the constitution, for instance, finding all has to be done somehow, by someone. I took cake. Well, these things go better with cake! Muffins all round (though two of my colleagues declined. I was really upset...imagine, I'll have to eat them myself, now, and they're double chocolate....). Then, off to Helen's workshop to touch base with her and Heather, and eat salad and yes, more cake! And I left my trusty Bernina in her capable hands; if she can't fix it, she'll take it to A Man Who Can, for which I'm eternally grateful.

I'm tired now, though, and think it will be an early night; the cats got me up at 5am to feed and let them out...and then Merlin did a reprise at 6.30am...Robin got up at that point in disgust. When asked why, he said, well, you woke me shouting at Merlin. Still, he's in Amsterdam til Friday late, so I'm not overly sympathetic!

Meanwhile, the picture is a work in progress, an A5 piece which I'm stitching on the Husqvarna. It's been a while since I used it, but it seems to be working Just Fine. The purplish dots on it aren't quite as pronounced in real life...but my scanner seems to think they should be more prominent than they are.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Rising To The Challenge

Not any old challenge, either! Vernon Sims, or arashi as he is known on his blog, challenged me to make something inspired by a picture on his blog. It shows a frieze from a Mayan temple in the Yucatan.

I've said before that I'm fascinated by the very concept of archaeology, much less its discoveries. It seems amazing to me that entire civilisations and ways of life can be reconstructed from very little. And I love looking at primitive art...not that much of it is really 'primitive'; most of it has a sophistication and a technical excellence that belies the word. But, of course, to produce something that looks and feels old (much less ancient), as an artist, I have to work the other way round from the methodology of an archaeologist. They have material fragments, and a theory. I have material, and an idea. The archaeologist builds up the theory round the fragments. I take the material, assemble it and then begin to disassemble it, distress it, and otherwise abuse it. Very gently, of course.

In the case of this piece, born of Vernon's photograph, layers of polycotton which had been dyed with procions and discharged, were stitched together with the kind of patterns that appear in the frieze, with more than a nod to the kind of Celtic patterns that decorate stones in my native Scotland. This piece is a fragment of a much bigger piece, torn off, distressed, overdyed with transfer dyes and finally painted with acrylic paints. Just like the archaeologist's theory, my work refers to a much earlier civilisation. Like the archaeologist, I use the materials available today to work in. And like the archaeologist, I hope that people seeing my work will be intruigued enough to wonder what it might have been like to be there, at that time...

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Quilt Formerly Known As Turning Turtle.

Further Developments

on the Turning Turtle piece. Not that it really vaguely resembles anything to do with turtles now...

You may recall that I said it wanted applique and hand stitching. The deal became, add more texture, and I'll waive the hand stitching. It turned out that most of the applique was waived, too, when I added it, I disliked it, so off it came, most of it anyway. Instead, I worked with paint and puff binder, to add a bit more texture, and added some fine black net and a piece of a sheer that I think came to me from Sally Bramald (thanks, Sally). It now has wavy edges, too. And yet somehow, it still has an unfinished feel about it. Watch this space for Even Further Developments!

Saturday, June 10, 2006


But not into know me too well. I've been talking away here for six months, and discovered today that over ten thousand people have read a bit here, and a bit there... Further exploration suggested that you come from all over the blog is much better travelled than I am, clearly! Isn't it wonderful, that we can all come together and talk about our passions, no matter where we are, or when?

A particular thank you to those of you who leave comments. I don't always remember to reply, or when I do, I discover that the email has come from Anonymouse (who gets around, really!), and my reply bounces. But I wanted to say that it thrills me every time someone responds to what I'm I will try to Do Better. Honest!

Too hot to work today, I've been reading about Scottish artist William Scott, drinking coffee and eating chocolate...and wondering which side of this little quilt to work on. The pieced side is meant to be the front...but I think I like the back, better. Perhaps the compromise is to call it double sided? Most of my textile work is...but it does mean I can't mount it on canvas...sigh. The original intention was to quilt and paint the front...but now I'm not so sure. The handdye on the back is vintage linen, of an incredible tactile softness, and wonderful colour. Perhaps a whole cloth, instead...?

Robin is off down the pub to watch the first England game in the World Cup. Did I say how much I hate football (as in soccer)? Really, yes, that much. Still, it gives me a bit of time to if I really needed more... but I'm not complaining. Of course, if they lynch him (he's a Scot, remember), I might get a bit cross...but I'm sure that if he behaves himself, he'll be fine. For those of you who don't really understand this particular bit of banter, it has been said by more than one Scot when asked, who do you want to win the world cup, that the answer is 'anyone except England'... you can see why I'm a tad concerned!

Friday, June 09, 2006

'Tis The Season...

to be sneezin', falalalalalalalalaaaaaaaaa. Or words to that effect. I start having hay fever much later than most people...and today, being warm and still, I find myself sneezing all over the place, and doubtless will be woken by a dunt in the ribs for snoring, to boot!

Today there was an informal meeting of the new group we created last week, just a few folks getting together to chat, drink coffee and...try to find a name for the group! We've found two we really like so far, but there's another three weeks before the next formal meeting, so doubtless, more will be thought of by then.

I'd like to do some outdoor dyeing, but will need to go buy some folding tables for the purpose. Ideally, I'd like to work underneath some shade of some kind, but Robin is resistant to putting up any kind of structure on the lawn, so I guess it's full sun, or nothing! This is our third summer in England, and I still haven't got used to the heat. It's not like I've moved countries...or landmasses, anyway... but summer is distinctly hotter here. Although a comment last week on the weather forecast, saying that it had been cold enough for a ground frost, must have helped to produce the painting today, 'Snow In Summer'. I can remember it snowing in Scotland in June...but only once in my lifetime, thankfully. Rain, of course, is a different kettle of fish altogether...but that's a story for another day.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Back To Work...

and today, it was painting, but a quilt, rather than a canvas. You may remember I posted a picture of a piece provisionally titled 'Turning Turtle'. Yes, the one at the top of the blog, here (which I notice, is upside down. Oops.)

It now needs a new title. I had though that it would be one of the pieces for the 'Elemental' exhibit with Helen and Heather. Water, I thought...well, it goes with the turtles. But when I started to paint, it was clear that the piece had other ideas. And stuck to them. Now, after painting, it has announced that it requires beads, applique, hand stitching (HAND STITCHING????????; fat chance!) and Dangly Bits. And that it has nothing at all to do with water, and everything to do with fetish. Or worship of some kind. Spirit.

I'd usually follow the needs of the piece to the letter. But have you ever tried hand stitching through acrylic paint? I don't think so. I might stitch bits of cloth by hand *before* applique...but after? No.

Besides...who's in charge here, anyway? Yes, you're right. Clearly not me. For a better look at the pictures, remember you can click on them, and a larger image shall appear. More when I've met the demands of the piece....

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


I suffer from underestimating just how tired I get. So, this morning, I painted, this afternoon I did a bit here, and a bit there, in between sitting down and resting. A totem doll dressed, some lutradur coloured, a small piece prepared for quilting... every little adds up. But now the Must Sleep gremlins have got me, and I'm going to go for a nap in the conservatory, my favourite place in the house, light, warm and airy. Doubtless, a cat or two will join me. It's their favourite place, too, especially when daytime naps are involved.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Given that I have a visitor today, I should be hoovering the living room floor, and washing the kitchen floor, too, come to think of it. Instead of which, I'm here with a cup of coffee, contemplating the way in which housework hangs like an albatross round the neck of anyone who is daft enough to let it... Though I do appreciate it when the house is spick, span and tidy (ish...), I don't want to spend time making it so. I'd much rather paint. Or sew. Or do pretty much anything!

Today's photograph is the piece I talked about yesterday, which needed More Stitch. When I'd added it, of course, it felt as if it was too much. But today, after a break from it, I cannot imagine it without the three circles that I added yesterday. They add interest, as well as pulling up the gentle blue and lilac colours that are present towards the centre of the piece.

The sun is shining, here, it's warm, and I'm planning to sit with my friend in the conservatory, with its view of the tidy part of the garden. And then, afterwards, I'll doubtless undo all my housework, by sewing up a storm and spreading cut threads all over the carpet...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Idling Gently By...

Today is a quiet day for me. Tomorrow, I have someone visiting, I have to be in Norwich on Friday, but today, I can laze about and do nothing much in particular, other than a bit of this, and a bit of that. I went upstairs to talk to the paintings for a minute, to see whether I'm happy with them, still, or whether more is needed...and some are indeed finished, and some are not. Which is the way of these things. I came across a stray postcard from the batch I made a couple of weeks or so ago, and thought, mmm, you need more stitch... I think it's a good thing to give plenty of time and space between the point where you stop working, and the point where you declare something is finished.

What I do find intruiguing, is that I'm able to look at an earlier painting, which, at present, is at the top of the stairs, and say, though I don't think I would paint anything like it, it is, nonetheless finished and complete in its own way. Anything I did to it would be gratuitous...a bit like Da Vinci overpainting the Mona Lisa because his style had developed...if you know what I mean?

So, paintings and humans both need time to mature, to sit and just be... and that's my plan for today. Other than maybe a bit of tidying would be nice to be able to show Juliet my studio without having to clear a pathway...sigh...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Creating Community (and Creating In General)

is what we did on Friday. Eighteen artists came together, got to know each other a bit, and planned for the future as a group. We set our own agenda, designed our own organisation, agreed, disagreed, resolved the disagreements and generally got on like a house on fire! Everyone there seemed to have similar ideas about the purpose and function of a group like ours. And next time we meet, we'll even have a name!

When the workshop closed, I said I'd probably spend Saturday asleep. Wrong. I woke up reasonably early, with a desire to paint, and paint I did, as you can see from the photo. I have been looking for a way of working with paint that met the drawings I make, and the fascination I have with language, messages, the way the eye reads marks as lettering whether or not the intention was there... and I think I've finally got my mind, and my brush, round what's required. So...the picture shows the beginnings of a series called 'In More Than One Language'. There's a bit more to it than that, perhaps, but that's between me and the paint for a while...

And then I was taken off to a football match. What? I hear you Sport? Well, yes, that would not be my preferred way of spending a Saturday afternoon...but I had got roped in to take team photos of Longham Football Club in all their glory, as they played a testimonial match for one of their number who, after twenty years with the club, had decided to emigrate to Australia... I don't think it was to get away from the team, Simon, was it? And I'm told the photo may well appear in the local paper next week...ah, fame at last! But I don't think I'll be swapping paint for lenses...I like making messes far too much for that!

And now it's Sunday...and I'm really, really tired. Robin is outside in the garden, working away but me, I think it's nap time...

Thursday, June 01, 2006


are many and varied. But, as you can see from the long list of other blogs that runs down the side of this page, one particular joy for me has been discovering other people's work. It is wonderful to see so many different people, all approaching their art in their own unique way, and sharing their process and their success. One or two of these lovely people have even sent me postcards...and one, Shirley Goodwin in New Zealand, a dyer and quilter, sent me a piece of her wonderful striped handdyed fabric. I rarely ever work with other people's cloth, but I thought I'd make an exception for this stuff, it's lovely. At the time, I said, I know what I'm going to do with that...but never quite managed it. I have now, though.

I loved the muted colours of this piece of cloth, and its simplicity. My normal style is, as you're probably aware, to stitch and stitch til I can stitch no more... But somehow, that didn't seem right. So, instead, a small circle of stitch. And nothing else. The piece is double postcard sized. I hope I've done the cloth justice; thank you, Shirley, for making such beautiful cloth, and for sending me some. You might even get your return postcard!!