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Thursday, April 23, 2009


...this wee thing. To quote Anne, who did the awarding;

All awards are special and great fun to give. The Renee Award is relatively new and was created by Bella and Ces in honour of their friend Renee, an incredible lady who in the face of a frightening life battle is tackling each new day with great spirit and courage. Please check out the blogs of these three creative women.

Here is what Bella says of the award:"This is a brand new award and I have the pleasure and honor of spreading the seed, watching it grow. I hope it finds its way to those who are like Renee: the acorn, a small package becoming a tall and sturdy oak, giving more acorns, becoming tall and sturdy oaks, giving acorns..."

I thought about the acorns in my life ... and came up with...

Dijanne Cevaal
Sally Bramald

...all of whom I find inspirational in different ways. Yes, I know, it was meant to be eight... but I'm tired... that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it !

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Days...

are here again. Not only is it Spring, it's warm enough to work out of doors, just in time for the first workshop in The Little Green Shed. We were working with Lovely Lutradur, and you can see the feverish activity within and outwith the shed. Judging by the laughter quotient, everyone had great fun. And we worked hard; transfer dyeing, learning about using transparency, even a little side trip into using Angelina fibres. Everyone went away with several pieces of lutradur, all ready to stitch into. I did provide chairs, but nobody actually sat in them, and lunch was terminated rapidly when someone said 'But I want to get back into the shed...' in a plaintive voice. Mind you, the bowl with the chocolate in it did go out into the shed with us... no surprises there! What's a workshop without chocolate, after all! If you're interested in a tailor made workshop for four people, I'll be putting up a post on The Other Blog in the next day or so.

Meanwhile, today was the day I finished 'Finding Your Creative Focus'...hurrah! That is, until my editor is done with it; there will doubtless be a revision or two... but that leaves me free to focus on Exquisite Evolon. Hurrah for that too!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pasting Up A Storm...

I'm teaching tonight, a taster workshop at The Gallery Dereham I'm planning to take some of the things I use a lot, like Brusho and lutradur and hand made paper, and demonstrate making Artists Trading Cards. Then the participants get to play with all the stuff I've brought...sounds promising. I thought it might be a good idea to have some samples for the workshops I'll be teaching through May, and as the first of those is paste papers, I mixed up a batch of paste. I learned how to do this from Joanne B Kaar, a Scottish artist; her recipe is in her excellent book 'Paper Making And Bookbinding'. I've used it several times with no problems, but this time, when I was in a hurry and needed things to go well, the paste was far too thin. The thought of adding flour was just not very appealing; and then I thought of the small tin of thickening granules in my kitchen cupboard. Made by MacDougalls, this stuff, whatever it is, is intended for thickening soups and stews, but I'm here to say that it works very nicely on paste for paste papers.

Then, I thought, what to use to colour them? Joanne uses direct dyes, but I don't have any of those. So I thought of Brusho, and added that to the paste as it cooled. As you can see from the images, I got some great colours. And I'm very pleased with the results. So roll on the workshops!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Transfer Dyeing

I promised my friend Anne, affectionately known as 'Hopalong' as she recovers from an accident, that I would write a bit about transfer dyeing. Transfer dyes are so called because of the way you use them; they have to be painted onto paper, first, and then transferred using the heat of an iron or press onto the cloth. They were designed specifically for dyeing polyesters; that said, they will transfer faintly onto pure cotton, and more strongly onto a polyester/cotton cloth, depending on the amount of polyester in the blend. If, however, you really want to use these dyes on cotton, then you can buy a medium from ColourCraft that allows you to get the full benefit of the brightness of these dyes on a pure cotton cloth.

Transfer dyes come in three forms; one is a crayon, made by Crayola, which is quite difficult to get in the UK, as it has fallen foul of European legislation. The second is in paint form, which you paint straight on to the paper. The third is in powder form, which you mix with hot water to create the dyes, with a thickener to use if you wish, to make them more manageable. Make sure you get the correct thickener; there is a thickener made specifically for these dyes, and the kinds you use for Procions just don't work (trust me, I'm a quilter...).

You can use transfer dyes for all kinds of fibre art processes, providing you paint the design onto paper first, and iron the dry colour onto the cloth. If you are using lutradur or evolon, there's not much of a problem with heat; however, if you are using other polyester cloths, they may be more sensitive to the heat levels required for transfer dyeing. So, it's a good idea to make sample pieces with a new cloth, and to work in a very well ventilated area, following any safety precautions the manufacturers might suggest. You can usually get three prints per sheet from a design, though the print will be less distinct each time; I've been using Colourcraft's transfer paints recently, however, and find that I can get four good prints from them, occasionally five (provided I don't dilute them, of course).

Don't, incidentally, be fooled by the colours as they look on paper. They are often very dull and unimpressive. Once ironed onto cloth, though, they sing, magnificently, bright, strong, clear colours. I'm a fan! There are, of course, full directions for using transfer dyes in the Lovely Lutradur book ( you knew I was going to say that, right?), which you can find here. Today's images are all transfer dyed pieces...enjoy. And try them out, if you haven't already, they're fun to work with!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Altering Quilts...

is very straightforward with Lutradur, which is part of the reason I love it so much! I've had this quilt lying around my workshop for some time. I was happy with it, but felt something was missing, somehow. So out came the lutradur, and I dyed several pieces to use with it. The piece I show here is the finished version, with the original version below it.

For those of us who love technical detail, the original quilt is made from painted evolon. The lutradur is the lightweight version, which has been transfer dyed, stitching added around the blue motifs, and fused round the edges. I then cut round the painted motifs to expose the strong blue contrast colour underneath. I think it's a much more interesting piece now than it was, and I'd be interested to hear what you think.

I'm not just altering quilts, though. As I update the images in the Lovely Lutradur book (which will be going to the printer this month), I found that I had accidentally deleted the images for the 'altered quilts' section. I've looked everywhere, to see if I had others, but no... so images like these, showing the different options I considered, will be in the printed edition of Lovely Lutradur. The project itself won't change, of course, as the techniques are still the same. And yes, I'm more than a bit embarrassed to have to confess it all, but I won't get caught like that again!

Monday, April 06, 2009


Well, yes, I know. You followed me through the building of the Little Green Shed, and admired its size (20' by 10'). How many of you prophesied that that Would Not Be Enough? How right you were...sigh. Today, the overspill is unveiled, a large box which you can sit on, filled with things that I don't use very often, like the sculpture materials. All with the express aim of giving me a bit of room to breathe in the Little Green Shed.

It's ironic, really. In the upcoming book, 'Finding Your Creative Focus', I write about how it is possible to have too much 'stuff', as in this excerpt, below:

" Why amass so many materials? In part, I think it's a worry that if you don't buy it when you see it, you may never see it again. In some instances, of course, that is true; cloth manufacturers change their ranges on a regular basis, for example. If you need a particular amount of That Cloth for a particular project, it is essential to buy enough of it for your needs. Most of the time, though, you can be pretty sure that you will be able to find a version of what you believe you need, more or less when you need it, in shops and online stores. There is no shortage of supplies in the general market. And then, there is the magpie effect; buying whatever it is because it is pretty/shiny/attractive/unusual/new. And sometimes, art supplies are a form of consolation; you buy because you feel bad, and think that buying some art supplies will cheer you up. And the clolection of materials grows, and you become more confused about what to do with it all.

In addition, we forget that we can, in fact, make art with very little. Some wonderful art has been made using everyday things like pieces of newspaper and glue (also known as papier mache). I make totem dolls with twigs and scraps of fabric, use vegetables and leaves to print with...the list is endless. So it is at least questionable whether you really need the huge stash of materials that you believe you need. In many ways, it is easier to be creative with a minimal stash. Fewer materials limit some of your options, and force you to be more creative in using them."

So, why have I got so much stuff? I asked myself that, in a loud voice! And then I remembered The List. The List is a selection of all the different bespoke workshops I offer in the LGS. It looks like this:

Altered Art
Artists Trading Cards
Basic Batik
Basic Book Binding
Basic Decorative Hand Stitch
Basic Block Printing
Basic Screen Printing
Collage with papers
Collage with textiles
Colouring Papers
Colouring Cloth
Dyeing using Acid Dyes
Dyeing using Procion Dyes
Dyeing using Transfer Dyes
Felt Making
Finding Inspiration
Introduction to Shibori Techniques
Matchbox Shrines
Mixed Media
Machine Stitching For Line
Machine Stitching For Texture
Paper Making
Printing With Natural Materials
Rust Dyeing
Silk Paper Making

And that isn't all of them! Which is the reason why I have so many materials...or at least, that's my excuse! I do, after all, provide most of the materials for the workshops in the LGS, so I need a wider range of things than those that I currently need at the moment. I have, however, been following my own advice, and going through what I have, taking out the duplicates, getting rid of things that are dried up, broken or out of date, swapping, selling or gifting the excess. I might even sell my Print Gocco...or maybe that's a step too far.

If you are interested in the book, and would like to join the mailing list, please email me; ditto with the workshops. There is more information about the workshops on the artmixteremporium blog; just search on workshops, or coaching.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Collage Mania? Artist Mania, More Like!

Nobody but me spotted the deliberate mistake in my submission to Collage Mania... yes, if you read it carefully, Almost Four is, strictly speaking, not a collage. Oops. What a twit! So I wrote a grovelling note to Karen, who was accepting the donated pieces, and said, well...what do you want to do? She, thankfully, decided to keep the piece (which kept the peace, of course...ouch...). I did, though, offer her another collage, a PROPER collage this time, the one above. Like the other pieces, this is in honor of my lovely friend and fellow quilter, the late Lynn Bunis, and all the fabrics in it came out of her stash. The piece is called 'Like A Little Candle'. I do hope they all sell...

I just got back from our local gallery in Dereham, where I have some mixed media pieces on show; I'm fortunate enough to be one of their featured artists. I've agreed with them that I'll do regular weekly classes on their premises, one during the day, and one in the evenings; watch this space for more information tomorrow! I'm planning to mix and match textile and mixed media techniques, with a bit of painting thrown in. I may even knit... and you know I don't knit...just don't ask me to crochet, as I'm a crochet incompetent!