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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Trying To Decide...

what to do with this cloth. It was meant for Andrew and Sarah's quilt, but I rather like it myself...sigh. I don't normally bother with that kind of dilemma; after all, handdyes are like buses, you miss one (or, in the case of a handdye, cut it up and use it for something), then another one will be along shortly/in the next dye batch, that will do just as well, if not better. I think it's that I'm creating too many opportunities. I know what I want to do with lutradur over the next wee while, and with paint...cotton cloth didn't really get a look in. But this is suggesting it might like to be Used For Something... I think it's just going to have to wait for a bit. There's a queue.

Which is why I never worry about dry patches. When I get stuck, I go dye some cloth, and the cloth talks. And then on we go!

ps I've given up looking for my camera, and ordered a new one. Sigh. Wish I knew what had happened to it, though...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Salthouse Revisited

Every year, the village of Salthouse hosts a contemporary art exhibition in their local parish church, curated each year by a different artist (this year, James Colman). I wrote about it this time last year, and popped back to see this year's show, subtitled 'Spirit of the Age'. It was well worth the trip, and I may well go back again to sit with my particular favourites. I was really struck by the work of Geoffrey Lefever; in the programme, his statement reads; 'My work is non-representational. However, place is important for me in the making process. I work, for the most part, out of doors with natural found tools and a limited range of materials. I hope to be surprised by the outcome and at that stage to be uncertain exactly how the work had evolved.' If you click on the Salthouse link in the text above, his painting 'Orchard Painting No 1' is the piece suspended behind the lamp. I loved the quirkyness of Mike Rhodes' 'Thomas', one of the few three dimensional pieces in the show, and was drawn to the power of Denis Clarke's 'Wild Head'. There are several photographs of the exhibit here; worth having a look. And definitely worth a visit. The image is of the front of the catalogue, reproduced here with permission.

On the way in, I visited Debbie Osborn's studio; Debbie wasn't there (get well soon, won't you), but her husband was around, and showed me a photograph of a skirt Debbie had added some of my nuno felt to. Apparently it was worn to Ladies Day at Ascot by its proud purchaser. Sadly, I don't have a photograph...another time, perhaps. When I've found my camera, which has disappeared without trace...anyone seen a camera?

Thursday, July 26, 2007


I have a bee in my bonnet about critique, and, inspired by the comments on Olga's blog on the topic, I thought I'd let the bee fly about a bit here, too stinging, I promise! Lots of things have been written about critique, from an artist's point of view. I see critique as something different, I think; I see it as feedback. When I had a day job, I worked in Human Resource Development for a while, and gave workshops on 'giving feedback'. They were based on a couple of very simple premises. The first, is that we actually know how we did; the second, is that we can only digest feedback that we're ready to hear. Come to think of it, there's a third; we believe what we say, but we're less likely to believe what others tell us.

So how does that add up for a model of critique? My method of critique is to ask people questions about the work. I ask big, vague questions about the piece. I ask the artist what they're happy with about it, and what they're not so happy with. We explore the piece together. I might tell him/her how a particular section of the work affects me, and ask if that was the intention. Sometimes, we talk about things that seem to have no particular connection with the work at all. In the end, though, the artist tells him/herself what s/he really thinks, I listen, ask the odd question, and the process evolves. Sometimes the artist tells me things that s/he didn't know s/he knew about the work. Usually, we both learn something we didn't know.

Why do I work that way? Partly because I feel that this way of working is profoundly respectful of the artist and the work. It doesn't impose views, attitudes or opinions on the work or the artist; the critiquer responds to the artist, not the other way round. And partly because it is a process that can, in fact, be done to some extent alone, so if there isn't a handy viewer there to give critique, the artist can at least know some of the questions that might be asked in that process, and use them. That enables you to see your own work more clearly, I think. And that is a good reminder that we are, in fact, the only experts in our own work. Other people will not see what we see; they will see what they see, and the two will always be different, somehow, at some level. And yes, I do believe it is possible to do this online, but the conversation is of necessity stilted; much preferable to do this face to face. It is kinder, gentler, on both artist and critiquer that way. I'm considering offering this as a service, though I'm not sure if there's really any demand.

The picture is a section of the piece of lutradur I brought back from France, in a slightly new incarnation. I have put an orangey red wash over it, making it even more intense than it was. I have more plans for this piece, of course, and I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


my day was full of them. A baby quilt that isn't quilting well, my fault, really, inadequate preparation and a batting that I hadn't used before (and isn't behaving well). That was so demoralising, I thought I'd go and do some dyeing. Can't get that wrong, right? Err... There I was, in my tiny space, thinking, mustn't knock anything over, mustn't knock anything over, must'nt...o damn, there goes half a litre of orange dye...all over the floor, all over me, all over the dye fridge (and the latter is still a fetching shade of orange...). So, I mopped up as much as I could, got my shoes off, so as not to spread it into the hallway and onto the carpet. Of course, the result of that was, dye on the soles of my bare feet... I ended up in the garden, washing my feet in a bowl of water, with a curious cat staring at me.

A less than perfect day. At least the cloth isn't too bad; one piece is pictured here, a cotton sateen (not a great photo, it looks much nicer In The Weave). Not what I wanted, you understand, but I like it enough to keep it and make another attempt at what I wanted. I'd asked for advice on brown dyeing, on a couple of the lists I'm on, and was given lots of hints (this lot was orange and blue, for those of you who want to know this sort of thing). Then I went upstairs and discovered that I had, previous to that, dyed a perfectly good brown cotton without must be nice to have a memory...mustn't it?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Last Night's Ironing...

turned into this evening's ironing, somehow. I remembered, amongst other things, that a friend's wife was about to produce baby number three, and that the quilt I'd decided to make for them really ought to have been started six weeks ago... So last night was a hunt for fabric. Today, once I'd woken up properly, was a creating of the quilt. Tomorrow, I'll finish the quilting (it's about 1metre by 1.5metres in size, for those of you who are interested...yes, Sally, big by my standards...). It is designed round 'Old MacDonald Had A Farm'. I rarely make utilitarian quilts, I suppose I should think of this as a warm up for Andrew and Sarah's wedding quilt; mind you, with a date of 8/8/08, it's going to be hard to forget it, even for me!

So, this evening, University Challenge and the ironing. Don't I lead an exciting life??? And, just at the end of it, the impulse to see what last night's painting would look like on lutradur (well, the iron was hot, what can I say...). And here it is, a part of it, anyway. I rather like it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Both Robin and I have been painting today. He has been painting the exterior of the house. Me, though, I've been painting paper with transfer dyes, as it was a nice day (for a change, though it looks like rain this evening). There were, of course, sundry things I should have been doing today, but I've split my time between finishing the new Harry Potter, which Robin bought for me as a surprise, and painting these papers. The tidying up and all the other bits that I'm sure I should have been doing will just have to wait... and let's face it, we all know they will...

This particular example is a monoprint. It'll be interesting to see how it turns out on the lutradur. That, though, will have to wait for another day. I think we'll have a very early supper, after which I suspect I may do the ironing (the proper ironing, that is, not tranferring dye to cloth...) in front of something uncomplicated on the telly...

Friday, July 20, 2007


There is a group of three images that hangs on the wall in the hallway near the door, that is regularly admired by visitors old and new. It's not one of mine, but is by my friend Rob Curson, whom I met through The Well, a Norwich artists' group. Some time ago, we talked about collaborating, but we lost touch. We met up recently, however, and this is the tentative first stages of a result. One of Rob's drawings, in process, made on cotton, with added stitching from me. We intend to pass this piece back and forwards until we agree it's done, and start again...

I'm having fun with this, and I do hope Rob is, too. I think that part of what a collaboration does is to allow us to understand the other person's work better, and the other part, that we understand our own better, also. I've already found myself challenging my own way of working in order to participate in this, and I think that's a good thing. We'll keep you informed of progress; sadly, Rob isn't on the web at present, but if you're interested in his work, let me know and I'll put you in contact.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


from whatever it was that laid me low (it wasn't anaemia, for once...). Yesterday, in deference to my somewhat wobbly legs, I spent the morning in front of the computer. Yes, I know, real hardship. Actually, I spend remarkably little time working with images; I take them, and then never work with them. But that was never going to be the case with the photographs I took in Lyon of the walls of the Sucriere. I have a genuine fascination with those marks, and took a lot of photographs of them. Yesterday, I worked with one image, adjusting colour and light balances to give me a range of images of the same thing (if you see what I mean), printing them out as references for the studio. And finally, I started to play with them, creating new images from the original. I like this one best, I think. I had forgotten what fun it is to work in this way, to see what there is within the range of marks and colours that make up an image, surprising myself with the juxtaposition of textures. I think there's a painting in there...or three. At least. But I find myself looking at the photograph itself as a piece of art. It would be interesting to make little books of these images...another way in to the subject matter I've seen in these marks. Hmm.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Going Away...

allows all kinds of things to happen. You meet all sorts of wonderful people. And for all that I said I didn't take any pictures of art, I did take one, this nude by French artist Sophie Furbeyre (shown with her kind permission). She kindly took me round her exhibit, talking to me about the development of her work, and listened while I did the same with mine. We speculated together about how to use Xpandaprint on lutradur without melting the lutradur. It's always a pleasure to talk art, especially with another artist with similar interests and concerns.

Of course, that's also possible on the blog. I find myself talking to people from all around the world. Sometimes, to my delight, they engage in conversation, though I often can't actually talk back, as the return address is often anonymous. Where I can, though, I will reply, more often than not. It's good to know that there is a network of people across the world engaged in similar work, with similar concerns, and that I'm a tiny part of it. And so are you, reading this...

ps just to complicate matters, the photo is by Sandy Marcoux Mine didn't turn out well enough to publish. Digital cameras are idiotproof, but only if you remember to check the settings before you click...sigh...

Sunday, July 15, 2007


This little thing is only eight inches square. Having talked about how long we can take to think things over, I thought I'd post something that took less than an hour to make, start to finish. I can hear the sharp intakes of breath from here!! But it is possible to work fast, or quick and dirty, if you like, given that much of what I used in this piece came from the floor...a good way of tidying up if ever I had one.

The piece was made as part of the 'sheep' challenge on AlternativeQuiltList a couple of years ago. There had been a spirited conversation about a poet who got a grant of several thousand pounds in order to have a flock of sheep, each with a word pinned on it, so that she could make random poems from the way the flock positioned itself. If you see what I mean... That turned into a challenge for us to make a piece from four random words. To make it a bit more interesting, the piece had to be small, and, for the diehards among us, had to be finished in no more than an hour, including design.

The words that inspired this particular piece were, 'undiscovered', 'sheep', 'glorious', and 'silence'. It is so long ago that I no longer remember how those words produced this particular piece, other than I think I focussed on the last two. It's not great art. But I'm quite fond of it, and it works for me. At the end of the day, though, I'm not actually aiming to produce Great Art...I just want to express myself. And that is undeniably what I do.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Looking Back?

Possibly. The quilts just arrived home from Lyon; there had been some confusion over postcodes, so they took their time about it. Milliecat has slept on them, so they must be the right quilts...she's a great believer, like most of her species, in welcoming anything cloth into the house by lying on it, but only sleeps on my quilts. Looking at them spread out on the dining room table, I was reminded that I had meant to tell you the story of 'Swoop'.

I had promised Lyon ten quilts, and had prepared about a dozen for quilting. However, having made nine of the ten, the last one had to be a particular size, and Swoop (which at this point was known as 'that yellow thing') was the only one of that size remaining. I looked at it again, and felt distinctly uninspired. So I did what anyone would have done; I procrastinated. I put it up on the design wall and waited. Sat with it. Let it talk. Let it talk some more.

Finally, it told me that though I could see a distinct 'e' shape at the bottom of the quilt, that e shape was not the point. Add some more marks, it said. So I did, those feathery shapes you see falling through the quilt. When I did that, it said 'Swoop'. So that was its name, and was added to the top left of the quilt, just in case anyone was in any doubt (like me, for instance). The quilting was left minimal, just enough to support the movement through the quilt. And to show the 'person like' figure to the bottom left, and the 'eye' at the top right...all of which feature in most of my work...well, ok, much of my work. And that was it. It hung reasonably well in Lyon, I thought. More importantly, I feel happy with it. Sometimes you have to hang on...and on...and on...until something says what it really is. In this case, though, I didn't have the luxury of time; there was a deadline, and it was close. Those elements combined produced the finished quilt. Sometimes, I think, we give ourselves too much time to think. It can be a good idea to short circuit that process, whether or not we have a deadline, just to focus the mind. It certainly worked for me...

Sunday, July 08, 2007


I spent a lot of time in Lyon demonstrating how to colour lutradur. For some of the time, I worked small, but this is a section of a larger piece that was added to over two days. I like working with lutradur this way, it can take a surprising number of different layers of colour. Now, though, I have to make some decisions. Do I put this onto something else, or do I use it as it is? Is it strong enough to work on its own, or does it need something else added? Decisions, decisions. Watch this space...

Thursday, July 05, 2007


if not upwards. Robin rang a minute ago to say he would be leaving work shortly; I couldn't believe that most of the day had already gone (albeit it's only half past four). I've been painting all day, with a break for lunch and a couple of telephone calls, one from an artist friend who hasn't been in touch for a while, so I was delighted to talk to him. Especially as he reminded me of a joint project we'd been talking about ages ago, and was keen to go with it. More as that progresses, I promise.

The new work is mixed media, I'm using my own handmade paper on a board support, and painting on top. I've always resisted collage like the plague, but find myself having a happy time with it, mainly, I think, because I'm only using the technique, the paper equivalent of applique, rather than trying to compose images with it. The image on today's blog is a small mixed media piece I made some time ago. The odd green dot is, I hope, on the scanner, not on the work (note to self, must clean scanner!). It's a tiny thing, really, about 7" by 5". When I get myself an Etsy shop, or selling blog, or whatever I decide to do (I used to be indecisive, now I can't make up my mind, to quote one of my friends, the redoubtable Sally), it's small pieces like that in paint and textile that I think I would offer. I'm rather fond of this small piece, Red Rains, and might well make some more on that theme.

Now to go get the paint off my hands; it is acrylic, and so isn't a problem. However, as it is warm today, it has been drying even quicker than usual, and I forget to put retarder in it, so find myself adding layer upon layer to Get It Right. I have, however, moved from the conservatory to the upstairs studio; I realised that splashing paint around near my large silk screens was Not The Most Sensible Thing To Be Doing... Yes, I did, no, it's really quite small, yes, it's in the middle. Sigh. What a twit.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Getting On With Things.

Painting today, quiet work that isn't ready to be seen, tentative, exploratory. And reminiscent of some of the early things I made when I began to paint, some seven or so years ago (how time flies...). The difference, though, is that I know what the work is about. I can remember starting out with paints, not knowing anything much, not what I wanted to say, nor yet how to say it. I at least know now what it is I want to say, and my understanding of what paint will and will not do is much improved. We will see...

Another bark drawing...Christiane was right when she said she thought the original piece of bark came from a plane tree. There is an avenue of plane trees on the way in to Norwich, or one of them, anyway, and it always catches my eye, particularly in winter, when there are no leaves to distract the eye, and it can dwell on the subtleties of the bark, the curves and shadows. It is those subtleties of line and colour that I want to capture in paint, somehow.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Back To Work?

Not quite. But tidying up a workspace, in this case, the conservatory (which isn't really supposed to be a workspace, but that's another story...), can bring one to a certain this case, a new totem doll. I haven't made one of these in a while, but now that I've started again, I can see that I'll have to take some of the designer scraps I bought in Lyon to make some very soignee dolls indeed...

Higher on the agenda, though, is to work through the ideas that I had in Lyon, which are in part a continuation of my interest in mark making and how we interpret it. I'm fascinated by old walls with marks on them, that tell a story of some kind or another, of an alteration, a removal, a change... La Sucriere, the venue for Expo Magic Quilt, is a former sugar factory, serving well as a performance and art space, but if you look, here and there are marks that show tell stories of its former life. I want to work with those marks, and see what they become in paint and cloth. And, of course, in my imagination...

Monday, July 02, 2007


Managed to persuade the puter to talk to me...

Doesn't everyone look busy? These are pictures from one of the workshops I taught, I didn't think to take pictures of the other one, sadly. We spent a while making marks on both Pelmet Vilene and Lutradur, sandwiched them together to make a postcard, and embellished with all sorts of bits and pieces that just happened to be in my suitcase! My apologies for the quality of the pictures, in some cases they're slightly lacking in focus; I suspect that that is because I spent rather a lot of time laughing (as did everyone else, I hasten to add...). I hope they show that A Good Time Was Had By All Concerned!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

There I Was...

waiting for a plane at St Exupery airport (which is a beautiful building, incidentally, Sandy has photos...), minding my own business, browsing the bookshelves...and I found THIS...a special issue of (art absolument) (absolute art), marking an exhibit by Anselm Kiefer at the Grand Palais. I couldn't possibly resist such a beautiful thing, one of my favourite artists...the magazine is full of incredible photographs of the work, an interview with the artist, and analysis of the exhibit itself. If you have to wait for a plane, there are much worse things to read than this...

I find Kiefer to be a personal inspiration, because he works in so many different media, successfully, managing to bring together all kinds of ways and means of working in a seamless whole. It is something I aspire to, but am far from achieving. Perhaps the clarity of thought I achieved in Lyon about my subject matter and how to approach it will help with this...or perhaps not. Perhaps it's a question of discipline, more than anything. I don't know. As the Russians say, we shall live on, and we shall see.