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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mad As It May Seem...

in the current weather, I'm off to Scotland for Christmas. House and cats will be well looked after, and I'm not away for long, so I'll pop up to annoy everyone between Christmas and New Year.

Thank you to everyone who has persevered with me and this blog over what has proved to be a much more difficult year than I anticipated, and welcome to those of you who are new to my blog and work. There'll be a lot to look forward to next year, including a blog on watch this space for more details!

Have a very joyful Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Joy of Clearing Out...

is that you find things you'd forgotten you had. The image above is a piece of cloth I made as a sample for a fabric painting evening with my regular Tuesday evening class at the gallery in the late summer. We'd discovered the joys of dyeing the week before, and they had loved it; they were, however, less enamoured of fabric paint, mostly, I think, because the most delicious bit of dyeing is the 'wow' factor when you take the cloth out of the container, and discover what it has become. With fabric paint, it grows in front of your eyes, like a painting.

As you can see, we used a variety of techniqes; I wanted them to experiment with all sorts of different ways of applying paint onto fabric. Now, I'm wondering just what to do with this piece... I'm tempted to cut it into strips of different widths, and stitch it back together with some darker green fabric in between the strips...a bit like tree trunks... it has a tree-ish feel. Or maybe I'll add more paint, first, and see what we get. Arashi shibori with very dark green paint, perhaps.

Interestingly, when we reviewed the learning the class has made this past year, one of the first comments was; I learned that if you don't put the soda ash in, you're going to be very disappointed.... clearly that was one lesson that really struck home. Some things you have to learn by experience, and I don't think any of my students will be doing that one again!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Back To Work

at last... the images are of 'Celtic Dreaming'. This piece has been lying about in my studio waiting for me to clear a path to the sewing machine for at least six months. It was made from cloth from my friend Lynn's stash. She made the rubbing that features in the centre; she and husband Don had a passion for things Celtic, to the point that they moved over to Scotland from the US on their retiral. As you know, if you read this blog regularly, I have a lot of cloth from her stash, which I 'inherited' thanks to Don's kindness. Interestingly, though the cloth is mostly her choice, the purples are all mine. When she came over from the US, I donated a lot of cloth to her stash, the kind of bits and pieces that you don't pay good money to send over from the US, the odds and sods that all of us keep just in case. All the purple is my hand dyes; the top piece is a jacquard weave, a piece of vintage cloth that I dyed. I like dyeing jacquards; the texture, as you can see, is just incredible when you do so. The narrow side borders were just ordinary cotton. The bottom piece, though, was a piece of dye catcher which had, indeed, caught rather a lot of dye! I deliberately put a piece in to the first rinse of a batch of blues/reds/purples, to see what would happen. Again, its texture is magnificent, and I'm intending to make more of these. I'm sure that I don't understand the dye chemistry of the sheets, and I'm equally sure that, for results like this, I don't care, either!

The piece is called 'Celtic Dreaming', and I've included some close ups of the quilting, either words or patterns that have a link with Scotland, such as the roses at the top, which are based on Rennie Mackintosh designs. It was his wife, I believe, who created the pattern for textiles, though Charles himself generally speaking got most, if not all, of the credit. The words read ; 'Dreaming Celtic Dreams' and 'Sleep sweetly, dreamer'. I think Lynn would approve. I miss her a lot.

I then went on to do a bit of quilting on my sister's lap quilt, which I've been working on for, oh, about two years. It's nearly done, but as she might take a squint at this blog, I'm not publishing pictures. She'll just have to wait... The quilting is interesting on this piece, too...I hope, a variety of patterns. You'll see when I eventually finish it and give it to her; I promise to add some photos here.

It was a real pleasure to work with cottons for a change; I'm not sure that they will ever replace the spun bonded polyesters in my affections, but there is something very comforting about the way in which cotton transforms as you stitch it. I'm clearing out my work rooms, ready for next year, and I'm discovering all sorts of wee bits and pieces that I'd like to play with. I've decided to work in two ways, next year. One is to work with the theme I've been working on for many years, cracks and scars, in the way that I've shown you recently. The other is to work with the theme of 'hearts and flowers'. A good friend pointed out recently that for someone whose life purpose was 'the creation of joy', I didn't make work that was, of its nature, joyful. For me, working with bad memories, and turning them into works of art that speak to people about their own stories, as well as mine, is a process that is inherently joyful, but I know what she means. Hence, the idea of 'hearts and flowers'.

Oh, and there's a third. I'm going to be making landscapes, this year, too, for an ongoing project with my lovely friend Jill Arnold. And a fourth; next year, I learn to frame properly. Hurrah! My friend Haydn has offered to teach me, and I'm going to rise to the challenge. And, as someone whose lines are never straight, I'm thinking that it might be a significant challenge! Thank goodness for the machines, which do the straight lines for you... wish me luck!

Oh, and ps. The reason for the hair on the second image was that Merlin decided in his infinite wisdom that the quilt was a kitty prayer mat, and stretched himself out accordingly. Might put that particular photo on I can haz Cheezeburger....

Saturday, December 18, 2010


is by her very essence, an artist. And then man intervenes, adding random marks, another layer of meaning onto what was inherently perfect; who said that perfection was sterile? I love this photograph, taken in the last lot of snow; there hasn't been enough snow here to make going out to photograph worth it, just a slight sprinkling, like icing sugar on a cake. Leaves trapped in a layer of frozen snow and ice, with tyre marks lying on the surface.

I'm now wondering how to use this image. Lots of different approaches are possible, and I suspect that more than one will be 'perfect' for this photograph. For me, the main thing will be to decide what it is I want to express. There are so many possibilities here; the layers, the translucence, the colour, the feel of the piece... which suggests a series to me. I'll also use it as a layer on one of the self portraits I've been doing 'about' depression. The metaphor of being 'frozen' fits depression really well; your mind and body slow down until you can't move or think straight.

I've never believed people when they say they have no original ideas. I think what they mean is that they're not looking hard enough. And I use the word looking, deliberately. Anyone can think. Artists look, first, then think. Why not try it, the next time you tell yourself you're blocked or stuck? And watch this space, to see what comes from this image, though it's not likely to happen til after the holidays; too much to do in the way of domestic trivia and travelling.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Demonstrating At Shows...

is great fun. You get to talk to all kinds of people about all kinds of things. When it's over, though, you have a great big pile of samples. Most of these reflect whatever it was I fancied doing at the time, and/or what I happen to be teaching at the show, as well as the size of the space I have to work in (not big). I do tend to work in either Evolon or Lutradur, for obvious reasons (well, okay, I'm read it here first...).

This particular piece is a combination of things. This will not surprise you; I rarely ever stick with one thing, but other than my butterfly mind, it also reflected that I was teaching two different classes, one on mono-printing, the other on mark making using Markal sticks. It started out as a mono-print using fabric paints on Evolon. I think, when I was doing it, I was talking about making cloth specifically for stitch. As you can see, there are three main areas of colour, but they sit nicely together. I then thought it would be interesting to add a motif of some kind. That brought out the Markal sticks, and has produced the finished piece you see here. I will add stitch, though, I'd like to pick up on the texture of the fabric paint on the Evolon, it has a cracked appearance. We'll'll doubtless tell me what it wants to be when I start to stitch. I can see some hand stitch on it, as well as machine...or perhaps instead of. Mmm. The latter sounds tempting. Hmmm.

Now, of course, I have to decide what to do with it, and all the other pieces I've produced at shows this year. It's tempting to make some sort of a combination piece, held together with stitch, big stitches... but I'll have to review what I've got first, before I make a final decision. It seems to be a good thing to be doing in the run up to the holidays. I don't want to start anything major or complicated, so these small things are great to play with. If I create anything worthwhile, I'll let you see.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


with Markal sticks, I discovered that it's interesting to work with lino blocks rather than commercial rubbing plates, so will be cutting some more in the next wee while... Makes me wonder what else I can use them for... This piece was made on a postcard sized piece of Evolon, using the same block repeatedly in different positions, and in different colours. Modern tartan, perhaps? And then I drew in some detail in the foreground. I intend to stitch this, but in a very minimal way, just to add more texture and visual interest.

I'm in a domestic frame of mind at present, cooking and cleaning in the vague hope that next week, I'll be able to get some art work done. Somehow, having things spick and span in the house helps to put me in a working mood. Or perhaps it's just that it means I can't procrastinate!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

What A Difference...

a day makes... and a few photographs. My lovely friend Haydn took some shots of me in depression mode today, so that I could experiment with a variety of images in addition to the distinctly cheerful photos I have of myself. Let's face it, when you're depressed, you tend not to be photogenic. Although I do have some shots of myself recovering from the first bout of illness I had, which will be interesting to use. I'm fascinated by the possibilities of this approach. The observant among you will have nodding to yourselves in recognition of the influence that Eric Smee has had on what I'm doing, even although I haven't actually met or talked to him yet (though I do intend to remedy that once the weather improves...). If you have no idea what I'm talking about, I wrote about the effect his work had on me here and showed a picture of the image I was discussing here. More of his work can be found here.

This is the beginning of a journey, a journey through and within depression. It will be interesting to see what shows up during the journey, which I suspect will be a long one. But it is wonderful to have several of the themes that have been haunting me for the last few years come together in this way. And maybe that's why I've been marking time this year. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's why I've been marking time this year... but no more. Well, not until the next time I need to assimilate ideas and concepts, anyway....which could be tomorrow. Worth it, if the secret photographer within me comes out to play!

Monday, December 06, 2010

On Reflection...

perhaps this should have been the image of the day. This is something I'm going to work on in the next few weeks...thanks, Ferret, for spurring me to do something that I wanted to do...


Literally and metaphorically. Literally, as you can see from the image, the snow still holds us in its sway, though it's nothing like as bad here as it is in Scotland. We're supposed to be going up there for Christmas, but if things continue as they are, it may not happen. That will please the cats, but probably no-one else. Mind you, we are supplying the turkey, a Norfolk Black, so at least we won't starve... Ice is such a fascinating thing to photograph, such luminescence; remember to click on the image to see it at a larger size, I think it's worth it.

Metaphorically... well, a combination of illness, bad news and exhaustion has kept me paralysed. My apologies to anyone who hoped to see me at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate; I was taken ill there, and was not able to teach and demonstrate as planned. Some sort of strange virus, apparently. I finally felt truly hungry yesterday, for the first time in about a fortnight. Though every cloud has a silver lining; I did lose seven pounds as a result... but it's a pretty drastic way to lose weight. And the demon depression has been biting, too, resulting in Marion at a standstill.

Artistically, I feel as if I've made nothing at all of note this year. Actually, I have made nothing of note this year. I've written another book, certainly, but need to redo a lot of the images, as I'm not happy with them. There is, however, a light at the end of this particular tunnel. I've been asked to manage a wonderful project, of which more next year (I promise!). I've started to consider what I want to make next year, and to plan for it, which is positive. And finally, there's no more day job. So now, I need to dig in, hibernate for a couple of weeks and decide what to focus on. My Etsy shop needs attention, my website project needs a kick start and I have another book project lined up. So I won't be lacking in a few interesting things to do... and I'll be stocking more art supplies, things like Brusho and dyes, which can be difficult to find in this neck of the woods. I thought I'd start to make kits, too, but that's another post altogether, and definitely one for a later date.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Road To Hell ... paved with good intentions. My last post said 'more of that tomorrow', but two weeks have gone by and you're still waiting. Actually, if you've got any sense, you'll have stopped waiting and gone to do something more interesting... But here it is, the frame, and its contents, too. The frame was made for my friend Kim Scrivener, to house her first ever piece of textile art. Since January, my evening class on a Tuesday night has been working with fabric. This particular piece was made over several sessions. We had been discussing fabric in general, and looking at different types of fabrics and their potential uses in fabric art. This particular piece was a response to an exercise which asked the participants to select a piece of fabric that they would never dream of working with. Kim selected the strong pink, and came up with this lovely little piece. The small green piece in the corner was made using Markal sticks to rub over a raised surface, and came from my late friend Lynn Bunis's stash. I'm sure she'd be delighted to see it put to such good use.

When we looked for a suitable moulding for the frame, though, we couldn't find anything that Kim really liked with the piece, and ditto with the mount board. So I customised a plain frame using acrylic paints and Brusho powder, and coloured the mount board a pale pink, using a Brusho spray. And with Kim's permission, the photograph is shown here, and the frame project forms one of the projects in the upcoming Brusho Book. Some of Kim's work is also included in the book; she makes beautiful greetings cards. So, mystery solved...this is what the frame looks like!

I've been struggling for time, recently, and have finally decided to give up the Day Job. I enjoy it, but trying to keep all those balls in the air has been very tiring, and I would rather give my whole time and attention to one thing. At the end of the day, the art won over the HR work... although I hope to find some creativity coaching clients in the next wee while. Check out this link for a description of what being coached by me feels like, or email me for a chat.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Out And About...

on a sunny Autumn day, I met this quilt, which is being raffled for charity during the Shipdham Quilters show. It is dedicated to the memory of Enid, one of the members of the group, who was tragically killed in an accident. The cloth came from her stash, and the quilt features blocks she had made or part made, the whole thing completed by members of the group. And 'Enid's Corner' is full of her needlework, which ranges from quilting to lace working, complete with pillow. She is much missed, but her work lives on, and her stash is being used to raise money for her favourite charities. If you are anywhere near Shipdham, in Norfolk (near Dereham), and are interested in quilting, do go along (it's in the church, all weekend). The work ranges from traditional to contemporary, the standard of workmanship is very high and there are bargains to be had on the sales table (cloth and hand made items). I forgot to buy a raffle ticket for the quilt (oops), but did buy a couple for the Bag Raffle, featuring a whole selection of hand made bags. I personally hope I win the lovely felted bag with the beaded button feature... fingers crossed!

I also popped into the Gallery to collect a frame that I had customised... but more of that tomorrow.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Working hard... finishing off the Brusho book. It doesn't have a title yet...perhaps The Brusho Book would be good? I've got a thing about alliterative titles, as evidenced by Lovely Lutradur and Exquisite Evolon, but there's definitely something about keeping things simple... besides, if I do a follow up, I can call it The Brusho Book II... If anyone has a better idea, of course, I'd be happy to hear it!

There's several interesting projects in this one, including a couple that encourage recycling. One of my favourites, though, has to be the shaving foam printing. It's fun to do, easy and, of course, distinctly messy, though the mess can be controlled in a small area. You know me, I just love making messes! The image is of some thickened Brusho in a container with the shaving foam, stirred up and ready to print from. I think that perhaps I might use that image as the basis of a print for Bertha, too, manipulated and printed on a large piece of Evolon. I'm a great believer in recycling, and that seems just a perfect way of extending the use of a piece of transient art.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

So Much...

for my declaration of intent, though I still stand by it. I wasn't accepted into the exhibiting group, which is a shame. But I think that perhaps I might form my own... anyone interested?

One of the things mentioned at length in that statement, was my passion for markmaking. The image is 'Mermaids', a mixed media piece which I made a while ago, and then revisited in May this year, using Brusho sprays to add texture, colour and interest. It has the feel of a cave painting, this, and I wondered how I would produce such an effect in fabric. Yesterday, I worked it out. I'm having to travel back and forward on the bus to work, and that time is great for thinking. I haven't tried out this idea, yet, so I'm not going to share it; it might not work! But I'm hopeful.

I'm franticly busy, what with the job, the books and preparing for teaching at all the Knitting and Stitching shows this year, including my first time at Dublin and Ally Pally... just forwarded the list of supplies needed to ColourCraft, who are making up the kits for the classes. I'm teaching three; Monoprint Magic, with transfer paints, Beautiful Brusho Backgrounds and Markal Mark Making. All three should, I hope, be lots of fun. I really enjoy teaching, I get to meet lovely people, and we usually laugh a lot. This years FOQ class had several people who had been in last year's FOQ class, and it was great to see them. If you're not coming to the workshops, come and see me if you're at either Ally Pally, Dublin or Harrogate; I'll be demonstrating on the ColourCraft stand most of the time.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Declaration of Intent

I'm applying to join a group of local artists, and needed to write an artist's statement. I realised as I did so that really, what I was doing was describing my practice, and the purpose behind it, so I thought I would share it here, as much as a reminder for myself of what it is I'm in business to do, as anything else. Sometimes, we get sidetracked. What would your declaration of intent be like?

Marion is a Scottish artist living and working in the Norfolk countryside, and the author/publisher of three books, with two more currently in production. In textiles, Marion specialises in working with non woven polyester industrial cloth; she also creates oil paintings and mixed media work. She has an interest in landscape, particularly in erosion and cracks, scars or marks on natural surfaces such as stone, and the way in which the mind attempts to impose meaning on such randomly generated marks. This has led to an exploration of rust dyeing, which generates random marks onto fabric, as well as working with natural found objects such as driftwood, bark and stones, while the purchase of a large professional quality inkjet printer last year has led to the beginnings of a series of work using manipulated images of random marks printed directly onto fabric, which will be used either as pieces in themselves or as additions to paintings and mixed media work. This interest has further led to exploring the space between textile and mixed media work, and between textiles and painting, predominately focussed on mark making. The work, regardless of medium, invites the viewer to interpret those marks, whether they be stitch, paint or ofound object, and to find their own personal meanings for each piece or series of pieces.

The image, above, is a manipulated, constructed image taken from a photograph of cracks on a wall.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

After The Ball...

or, in this case, the FOQ, I started a new job, three days a week, doing job evaluation for a local council. It's interesting work, in a friendly team, but it does mean I'm stretched and stretched, as far as time is concerned at least. So, I admit there has been no blog for a while, but Will Do Better.

FOQ was, as always, fun. Busy, busy, this year, talked to lots of lovely people, including the lovely Lynda Monk, with whom I've talked on email, but had never met. It's great to meet people who follow this blog, of course, and lots of people who are like minded. It's interesting to hear how many quilters are moving towards mixed media. I've always felt that the designation 'quilting' is too narrow for my kind of work, at least; now others seem to be shifting that way, too.

Now, I'm planning What To Do Next. I'm attending a craft fair at Reepham later on in the month, and I hope to have a selection of dyes, paints and other materials with me, as well as the usual hand dyed cloth, books and the like. It's a deviation for me, but it seems to fit nicely with the books. I'm not planning to sell things that I personally don't use, so that I can talk about their properties with real experience. And it means that I'll be able to offer kits for the books, as well as for workshops. I'm quietly excited about it. And there's a book to finish, and another two to start... so I'm not exactly lacking work! I do feel a real need to get into the studio and actually MAKE something, even if it's only a few beads. It feels like it has been a long time since I made art without needing something for a book, for instance...and I have a lot of ideas to work with.

I've always thought that this is a good time for planning. The summer isn't quite over, but we're preparing for the schools going back, and for the more indoor seasons of late autumn and winter. I might even find myself hoping for snow, to keep me inside and working. And you know how I hate snow!!!

The image is of Merlin 'helping' to photograph some fabric for Etsy. The cats are a never ending source of joy and frustration, usually simultaneously, but I wouldn't give them up, ever. Not even when they cost obscene amounts of cash at the vets (bought flea and worming stuff on Friday and nearly fainted at the cost!). They are worth every penny, of course... perhaps I need to make another small cat quilt, just for them...and for me.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Breaking Out Continued

Eric Smee has just very kindly sent me a note including this image. I thought he'd be happy for me to share it with you, so that you can see what I'm talking about, so here it is... thanks again, Eric.

I have the feeling I'll be adding to these thoughts for a while yet...

Friday, August 06, 2010

Breaking Out...

of your comfort zone is not an easy thing to do. We don't appreciate just how cocooned we are inside it, until we are forced to challenge ourselves, or create the circumstances for a challenge to come about. That's what happened to me, yesterday. I went for a second look at an exhibition, Salthouse 10 : Landmarks, with my friend Jill Arnold. I thought I knew exactly what I was going to do there; I was going to look at a piece I missed seeing the last time I was there, and I was going to sit with a particular painting that had interested me. As it turned out, I only did one of these things. I did see the piece I missed, properly, an interesting artist's book on a beatiful stand, but on the walk round to the painting, I stopped to take a second look at a mixed media piece, 'Matter Over Mind' by Eric Smee. (Sadly, I don't have an image of it, and I can't find it on the web, so I can't show you what I'm talking about...sorry). On my first visit, I had made the mistake of dismissing it as just another piece of modern mixed media... clever, but not terribly interesting. Oh, boy, was I wrong. Yesterday, I stood and looked closely at the image for about fifteen minutes, and then spent perhaps another half an hour sitting at a distance from it, thinking and writing about it.

In that time, I realised a number of things. Firstly, that Eric was doing in one medium what I do in another; creating layer upon layer of meaning. The artist's statement for the piece reads 'I interview my subjects at length. I try to understand what makes each of them into the person they are today, then re-create an essence of their life slightly offset to preserve their anonimity. I rebuild photographs, drawings and paintings into an outline of what I am trying to say, then add details and variations to show emotional ramifications, often hiding much of the original image, until I feel the viewer will be able to relate to the emotional state of my subject'.

Secondly, that this was the 'way in' to a self portrait for me. I've been tiptoeing round that idea since I turned fifty, and much earlier. I made a self portrait of myself at forty, a watercolour painting, but that didn't seem to be the way to go now... I needed to find a way to structure the many elements that seem to make up me at fifty. Or anyone, at any age, come to think of it. Eric's description of his process has formed the starting point for mine, and I realise that a single image isn't going to do it, for me. I think it's more likely that the self portrait is really a need to explain my life up to now to myself (if nobody else). It's a process that I've already begun to some extent, making books about my childhood, which I tend to refer to as 'the childhood from hell'. That work needs to be continued, with lots of images, and possibly lots of writing to go with them... You can perhaps see that this idea is developing even as I type here; it's very exciting.

Thirdly, the image reminded me very much of a piece I made about ten or so years ago. One of the 'Texture Of Memory' series, it was a large quilt, made of layer upon layer of different fabrics, all of them dark, most of them transparent. Many of the layers could either be removed completely or thrown up and away from the main body of the piece; the idea was that you could 'peel' away layers of memory, to see what was underneath. I've never felt that that particular piece was effective; I think looking at 'Matter Over Mind' has shown me why that is. It was, quite simply, too dark. Matter Over Mind has the kind of feel I wanted for the piece, in part, I think, because there is a strong light area in it. I do have a lot of dark memories, but there are a few light ones in there, too. The piece would have been much stronger if I had allowed some of those to appear.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because I suspect that the things that we dismiss as 'unimportant' or 'not our kind of thing', are in fact gems that we should be contemplating for as long as is necessary. We talk about 'blind prejudice'; certainly, the first time I saw this piece, I was blind to its story, and to its relevance for myself. I don't like the idea of blinding myself to things... so the next time I start to dismiss something out of hand, I think I'll try sitting with it for a while, and see what lessons it has for me. Thanks, Eric. And now, I've got a lot of work to do...

PS You can catch a glimpse of Eric's work here, and an image of another piece, and a little about the artist, here. Go take a look, the work is amazing. See what it shows you...

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Making Magic?

I have been known to say that 'I haven't got a magic wand'. Well, I have now. I saw it in a shop and decided that I just had to have it. I'm going to tart it up a bit, you understand, but this is the basic no frills magic wand that every girl just has to have. I have it displayed in a prominent place near my computer, as a reminder that, no matter how much I tart it up, it's not going to work UNLESS...

1. I know what I want to achieve. Whether that's cleaning the workshop out or creating a body of work, it doesn't really matter. I have to know what I want.

2. Turning up to do the work. If I don't make the time for this, I'm never going to make the work, clean out the workshop etc.

3. Being kind to myself. I need to look after myself properly, so that I can get things done.

4. Having a plan. If I want to achieve lots of different things, I need to work out what my priorities are, and use my time accordingly.

5. Turning up to do the work. Yes, it really does matter more than any of the rest of it.

So...I keep my magic wand to remind me that I don't need a magic wand. All I need to do is get on with it (whatever it is)...

ps if you need a bit of help with this, try looking at the Creative Focus works the same as my magic wand, except that it helps you to do all the things I mentioned... and it's just as pretty!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Flower Power

I said yesterday that I would show you the results of the stitch I did yesterday. True to my word, here I am. I had prepared a piece of pale pink hand dye by painting loose flower shapes onto it using thickened Brusho; then I simply stitched into it to produce the work you see above. I'm pleased with both of these pieces, for different reasons. The heavily stitched piece has enormous energy, it seems to leap from the cloth. I used three different threads, all variegated, using the blue to add definition after the textural stitching had been added to the petals and centre of the image. The distortion produced by the stitching makes the piece puff up in an interesting and organic way, very like real life. I intend to mount and possibly frame it, a simple box frame, probably, and possibly coloured using Brusho to match the piece...don't know. There again, a simple gold edge might be good...we'll see. Or possibly Haydn will tell me what to do... when you've found a good framer, you don't argue with him! Especially when he takes good photographs of textiles!

The second piece is quite different. It's simple, a thread sketch compared to a fully developed piece, using the machine as a kind of pencil. It seems to want to be combined with other pieces in a quilt of sorts. So I guess I'll be making more of these wee pieces, if only to combine them together. I like its simplicity.

I'm not usually a representational sort of a person, but recently, I find myself increasingly interested in landscapes and the natural world. That, for me, is a real shift in perspective. The work I'm doing with Bertha uses images from the natural world, some recognisable, some less so. And there's a lot of rust dyed fabric waiting to be used. I've mostly rust dyed habotai silk, and of course, there is a chapter on rust dyeing in the new Exquisite Evolon book, which I'll have with me at Festival of Quilts. This time, though, I've rust dyed some vintage French cotton, it has an amazing texture by itself, and the rust enhances it enormously. I'm looking forward to working with that, too. It'll be interesting to see what comes out of this new burst of creativity.

Monday, August 02, 2010

It's Raining, It's Pouring...

so I can't play in the garden, as I intended, but I can get on with working on the Brusho book, which is what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm at the interesting moment in writing a book when I decide it's time to rewrite it altogether. I start with a structure in my mind, but nine times out of ten, I find that it doesn't work quite as well as I thought it would, so around the half way mark, I tend to go back and restructure it. I'm also adding photographs, which slows the work down a bit. Plus, I'm looking at the photos I've already taken, and deciding which are acceptable and which not. I've written a section on making watercolour washes, for example, but I feel the photos I have to illustrate it could be a lot better, so back to the drawing board on that one. And I'm picking up on other things that could be illustrated with a small but telling photograph, so I'm building a list of what I need to do next.

The image here shows two of the effects I've been experimenting with while writing the book. I didn't really understand how versatile Brusho is until I really started to work with it. This is a small image of a tree on mountboard, which has been stamped using thickened Brusho, on a background that was produced by printing on shaving foam. I'm quite pleased with the way it has turned out; I think it has movement and energy about it. It's as if the tree is dancing...or is that too fanciful?

This afternoon, though, I'm going to take a couple of hours to sit at my sewing machine and get some work done there. It's related to the Brusho book, admittedly, as I've prepared a painted flower on some cloth, which is ready to stitch into. I'll show you the results tomorrow.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Colouring Some More...

is always fun. I've currently got some rust dyes in rinsing. The weather recently has been really good for rust dyeing, and I'm looking forward to working with some new cloth. And, of course, I'm working with my faithful Procions, too. Shirley showed me an interesting technique when she was here, and one of the results is shown in the photographs. The top image is a detail shot, the second shows more of the fabric. It's not that big a piece, but it turned out well, and I'm looking forward to using it. I'll be bringing some of my hand dyes, including some similar to this, to Festival of Quilts this year for the first time, as well as the Exquisite Evolon book (and the others, of course...), so you can see them in the flesh. I'll also be demonstrating on the ColourCraft stand, Evolon, of course...and maybe a wee bit of lutradur, too. Hope you'll stop and say hello if you're there.

I've had more or less two weeks of visitors, and whilst it's lovely to have people to stay, it's also lovely to have my house back to myself. I'm planning to get back to work on the Brusho book, and hopefully finish it this week, as well as some more dyeing and some stitch work. I figure that after the Brusho book is done, I'll have a short break from writing (a week or so, probably, knowing me...). The problem is that there are lots of books lined up to write, including one with my friend Jill. I'm beginning to think that I'm more of a writer than an artist. Or maybe it's just that they take so much time that I'm not able to make as much art as I'd like. I don't know. But I do have lots of art plans, so perhaps I just need to get a grip and take my own advice about structuring my time. Having written a book on finding creative focus, I clearly need to live up to it, too!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Colouring Up...

not from an overdose of sun, thankfully, though it has been hot here today... Dyeing is always somewhere on the agenda, and as I taught a dye class last week, and had some dye left over, I thought I'd use it up. And the time, too, yesterday, as my friend, fellow dyer Shirley Goodwin from New Zealand, wasn't feeling very well, so spent the day on the sofa in the conservatory, whilst I lurked in and around the shed. I'm particularly pleased with the results I had on some fine cotton, which the people I bought it from described as 'bandage muslin'. It has transparency, but it has a crispness to it that makes it very easy to handle. I have a thing about transparency, of course, and this just hits the spot. Not sure how I'm going to use it, or even if... I may well just pop it onto Etsy. As I keep telling people who say they can't cut into my cloth, 'there's plenty more where that came from'. The images show the finished cloth, and a snap of the green/blue one just after the dye went into the bucket.

The weather is ideal for dyeing, of course, and I've got a rust box dyeing happily in the sun, filled with Evolon. I'll be taking some of that with me to Festival of Quilts, along with my more conventional hand dyes, so that you can watch me demonstrate for ColourCraft and stroke the cloth at the same time!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Mummy's Little Helper?

There are lots of things you have to do if you run an online shop, and a blog, and are working up to a website...or even just if you want to keep a record of your work. So you take photographs... and there's lots of online advice about how to do just that. Nowhere, however, is it written that your cats will endeavour to take an active part in proceedings. This shows Merlin strolling nonchalantly over the green FQ I was photographing for Etsy. It's worse in winter, of course... then they have muddy paws, and you have to wash the cloth yet again... sigh.

I'm planning to do some dyeing next week; lets hope the little treasures will keep their paws, and noses, out of that... Wishful thinking? Yup. Andrew as small child was much easier than this...all you needed to get five minutes peace was to give him a new book. Merlin, sadly, doesn't read.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

I Was Leafing...

through the images I've taken recently, wondering what to write about, when I was struck by something. I showed you the rose petal image I'd taken; compare (and contrast, if you like!!) that with this, an image that I'm about to stitch into. It is a photograph of birch bark, which I manipulated in Photoshop. Somehow, the textures and some of the colours seem to be very related. It's often the case, of course. You do something, you forget about it, or at least put it aside for a while, then you do something else and discover that your unconscious mind hasn't forgotten it at all. It's probably why my favourite saying is 'Trust the process' (in life, as in art).

Just as well that's my mantra, as I'm about to invest in a second hand PowerBook, after what feels like a lifetime using PCs. I'm doing that for several reasons, mostly to do with Bertha. I played with it at the weekend, and managed to do bits and pieces but I've got a lot to learn (and a lot to mutter about under my breath..). Encouragement and advice from other Mac users will be frequently sought here! I am, however, looking forward to being a truly mobile computer user...Birmingham here I come!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Paying Attention

I've been trotting backwards and forwards to the Little Green Shed, down the rough concrete path beneath a long archway of rambling roses. They are amazing; they seem to start as yellow buds, but turn into pink and white beauties, lots of them. They just get on with it, seem to thrive on benign neglect (which is all a plant in my garden can hope for, really). I kept thinking that it would be good to take a photograph of them, get up a ladder and do close ups...but me and ladders? Not a good idea...and the plastic step I could have used is more stable but has a perished foot, and pitches me off at entirely the wrong moment, usually onto my nose.

And then I saw the petals, blowing about in the wind... and took several photographs, including this one. And realised that this was really what I was after; the petals themselves, scattered, delicate, wistful... And I will print them out on Big Bertha, probably on Evolon, and stitch into them... and we'll see what happens.

I wonder how many opportunities like this we miss, because we're not paying attention? Too busy worrying about what to have for the tea, when to go to the post office, how to promote the next book... Sometimes, though, the eye overtakes the brain, and photographs like this one are the result. Thank goodness!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Finishing Off...

lots of things. First, signing off on the proofs for the Evolon book (so if there are any typos, it's down to me...). Then, I thought I'd varnish a couple of mixed media pieces that I finished recently. As with much of my mixed media work, they sat around for quite a while before I worked out what they needed. What it turned out they needed, was some Brusho. I discovered that using the Brusho sprays made subtle changes to the overall colour, a bit like using a glaze, but with a textured result. I don't think I can improve them, but as always, feel that they might not quite yet be finished...but they are as finished as I think they can be. They are called Cavemark I and II. They are related in a way to the work on cracks and scars that I've been making recently.

Then on to taking a few more photos for the Brusho book. That was fine, the weather has been good, so working outside has been a pleasure. The writing process isn't finished, of course, but I'm a step closer. It's been a productive day.

Sunday, July 04, 2010


Probably. And at all kinds of different levels. On a personal basis, I have discovered that one of the touchstones of my life was a lie. So a lot of time has been spent thinking about that, redefining the past and myself, to some extent. Wondering what the other lies were, whether anything was as it seemed at the time, or seems like now. Confused.

On a professional basis, too, I'm confused. Having spent a brief spell back in the world of work, there would appear to be no opportunities around for me to rejoin it after being made redundant last year. This is on the surface, no bad thing... but it does mean I'm not actually making very much in the way of money. Nothing new there, really...except that I've had to face the fact that I'm not working very hard at anything at the moment. And I'm not really sure what it is I want. And I seem to think that it's not possible to make a living out of art (which is actually untrue; try reading Dijanne's blog, if you haven't already).

And I've been writing the Brusho book, and checking the proofs for the Evolon book. Writing is a demanding thing; it demands time, commitment and a lot of effort, much of which does involve art, thankfully, but not all of it. Because I publish my own books, I have to talk to customers, whether individuals or businesses, chase money, do the publicity (which I'm really not good at), and all the business related stuff.

Mostly, though, I've been making beads. Not an activity I ever thought I'd take up, but as you've seen from earlier posts, I've been playing with the idea for several weeks now. Fortunately, though, none of these things are the dead ends they might appear. All of them have come together to suggest new ways forward for me, and whilst I am still thinking, I'm working, too. I'm going to start selling materials, as well as my books, I'm working out a new workshop programme, and I'm setting up a website. I'm also working out the fine details of offering a printing service to textile artists with Big Bertha, my large scale professional printer (an Epson).As well as all of that, I'm writing a book with my friend Jill, on landscapes. And the work with the beads is suggesting all sorts of ways to move forward in my textile work, including the 3D work which has evaded me so far.

Not all that bad a sidetrack, really... I don't seem to have made much in the way of decisions, but I'm behaving as if I have, and starting to get things done. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

At Last...

the Evolon book is with the printer, which means that it is FINISHED...and it will be ready for FOQ. Hurrah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you to everyone who contributed, the copy will be in the mail for you as soon as I get them in my hot and sticky hands.

And yes, in case you were wondering, that IS the front cover. The background is one of my pieces, whilst the two pieces in the image in the centre are by other artists. Sally Bramald made a magnificent (and prize winning) whole cloth quilt for the book, which is the image above, while local artist Yvonne Autie made a wonderful rag rug bag, a close up of which is seen below. They both did a great job!

So what's to come in the book? Oh, two types of, make that three, or even four, as two types of rust dyeing are covered... what else? Working in series... knitting with Evolon (yes you read it right... doll making... clothing... I've tried to include something for everyone.

Now to get on with the Brusho book with a clear conscience!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Catching Up

with all the things that have been in abeyance recently. One of them was running a test print for Jill Arnold on Bertha, my lovely 24" Epson printer. As part of her MA (which she passed with distinction), she and another student collaborated on a knitting project, which involved a knitting survey. The results of that, together with a lot of knitting, form an installation, which they want to recreate for an upcoming exhibition. Bertha will be used to create five, six foot long banners with information from the questionnaires printed on it. We'll be using Lutradur 100, which has wonderful texture. That seemed really appropriate for a textile based project, though we did consider canvas, also.

I also took a couple of pictures of the gallery as I set it up...or at least, how I set the walls up; some of the ceramics and other craft works have been moved around since I did it. I tried to create a flow of colour and texture round the walls; the images show the first two sections. See what you think; notice how nicely the textile work fits in with the paintings. It's astonishing that so many galleries seem to be allergic to textile art...their loss, I think.

Tomorrow, Exquisite Evolon goes to print for the first time, and I settle into writing the Brusho book, in order to meet the deadline of 30 June...wish me luck! And I'll be lurking on Etsy, adding more items to the shop, I dare say, including some new beads. Not that I'm obsessive or anything...

Monday, June 14, 2010

I'm Back...

on Etsy, that is, and in some ways it's as if I've never been away. I belong to Boomers and Beyond Street Team (commonly known as BBEST, click the name for a view of our blog); or at least, I did, until I stopped doing Etsy, at which point I withdrew from all my Teams. Teams, for the uninitiated, are a bit like special interest groups for sellers on Etsy; people with a common interest, or location, who band together for support, to share promotions, that kind of thing. Happily, they didn't go off me in the time I was away, and I've been accepted back into the Team. It has been lovely, catching up with old friends and making new ones.

I spent today with Jill Arnold. Despite doing Open Studios together, we didn't actually see each other much, so today we did some work together. I made more of Those Beads; Jill created a gorgeous quilted picture of a vase of striking orange flowers, which she will have framed for an upcoming show with Breckland Artists. Tomorrow, we'll meet up again at the Gallery, to do some preparation and test work for a piece she wants to print on Bertha...of which more tomorrow. Meanwhile, the photos show a couple more of those Evolon beads. I'm enjoying playing around with Evolon and heat.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Several days later...

and I'm excused from gallery duty. I promised you some pictures, and then singularly failed to provide them, mea culpa...will take camera in on Tuesday, and let you see what I did. What I did discover is how easy it is to irritate a gallery person. All you have to do is provide your work to them with no labelling, so they have to work through all the paperwork to find out the title, medium (sometimes it's not obvious), artist name and price. Or fail to fill in the paperwork properly, so that the gallery person can't find the above... Or, for that matter, provide new work without the wherewithal to hang it, so that said gallery person has to take time out to string the backs of paintings. Yes, it all happened to me, and I found it really irritating. An object lesson in How To Make The Gallery Person Your Enemy. Reverse it, of course, and you'll have a friend for life.

Meanwhile, I've taken the step of reopening my Etsy shop, in a fit of...I don't know quite what. Mostly, I think, it's the recognition that the job market is super quiet at present, and the likelihood of an HR job to supplement my income is very unlikely. So, this week, the Evolon book goes to print, ready for its launch at Festival of Quilts in August, and some of my smaller pieces of work go into the Etsy shop. I'm starting to dye again, as a fair amount of hand dyed fabric sold at Open Studios (hurrah!). I'll pop some of that onto Artmixter's Emporium, if anyone is interested. And I'm completing the work on the new Brusho book, which I hope to finish by the end of the month. I've learned lots about how to work with this stuff on fabric, as well as on paper; it's been fun to do.

So, that's where I am with it all. And, of course, there's Bertha, too, the setting up of profiles so that we can provide artists with consistent quality prints that are the colours they intended, as well as getting on with my own work. I think that's probably enough to be getting on with right now, don't you?

The images are of one of the beads I made last week, using Evolon which has been coloured with Brusho... I'm really pleased with the way they have been turning out, and yes, they'll be around on Etsy very shortly, if you're interested.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

After The Show Was Over...

or, in this case, Open Studios, down it all had to come. As any artist will tell you, what took hours to put up can be taken down again far more quickly; what took four plus hours to hang, took about three quarters of an hour to dismantle. Phew. As you can see from the image above, the gallery was left looking a little forlorn ,though my fabric is still in that little alcove space, where it was during open studios, as the gallery wanted to keep it. I'm pleased about that; it gives me the excuse to dye next week!

Today, though, I spent most of my day hanging an exhibition of a different kind. The gallery owners are away, and I'm In Charge for a few days. As there hadn't been enough time for them to hang anything, most of my day was spent hanging paintings, photographs and other works of art. It has been a truly interesting experience. When you hang an exhibition, you have a certain set of ideas in mind, usually wrapped around a theme or a title. You want to give each piece the chance to sing by itself, and that means giving it space, as well as allowing it to sing in harmony with other pieces, by making sure that there is some sort of cohesion in the hanging scheme. That is easy enough in a solo show, but not so easy as the number of artists involved increases. Hanging a general exhibition for a gallery, however, is a slightly different kettle of fish. You still want cohesion, of course, but you also want to show as much of your stock as you can. You don't usually have the luxury of a theme, and the work can be considerably different in subject matter, medium and style...yet somehow, you have to pull it all together so that the viewer is charmed, at the very least.

It's an exercise that I think every artist should have the opportunity to complete. If nothing else, it reminds you that your personal tastes need to be set aside in order to appeal to a wide audience. It makes you think about how to use the available space most effectively. It's certainly a challenge in managing colour. It took me all afternoon to organise one half of the gallery to my liking, and I still have some things to move around; tomorrow will be the second half of the space, depending on how many phone calls and customers arrive.

The variety of customers is also interesting. The Gallery does photography and framing as well as selling artworks, and I've learned a lot about framing pieces to best effect over the time I've spent there in the past year or so. That has been used to good effect today to help customers choose how to frame their photographs, paintings and other artworks. Some have very strong ideas about what they want; others have none. It was certainly a busy day today; tomorrow, I'll share some images of what I've done with the space. I'm sure it's not what the owners would have done, necessarily, but I have had fun!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Working Hard...

mostly, I think, because I'm NOT in the studio. Open Studios in the Gallery has meant two unadulterated weeks of hard work, because the phone does ring, but it's rarely for me, there's no housework to do and there haven't been all that many visitors (which seems to be a common thread right across Open Studios, it's not just us, thank goodness!).

One of the things I've been able to do is to work with Bertha (and Haydn, of course...he does the technician bit). The first piece I've shown here was made using a photograph of a stone at Ely Cathedral. Cathedrals have been vandalised at various times in history; the marks here, though, whilst they look like letters, may well be natural in origin. Whether they are or are not, is moot, of course... our brains insist on trying to interpret them as letters, and seeks for meaning. This is an ongoing theme in my work, that of random marks, and the brain's struggle to make meaning. I have printed this particular image several times; I intend to leave one of them just as it is, as an interesting image on Evolon. The second, I'm stitching into by hand (dammit). Somehow, hand stitch seems appropriate for this; in fact, it seems to be more and more a feature of my work, despite me, rather than because of me, I think...I enjoy machine stitching, and draw happily with the machine. Somehow, in this case, though, and in others, such as when working with rust dyed cloth, the hard line of machine stitching does not seem appropriate. Sigh.

The second image is of the trunk of a birch tree. I'm interested in cracks and scars, so, working in Photoshop, I emphasised the cracks in the bark, and did some work with the colours of the bark itself, to produce this piece. It, too, will be hand stitched, in metallic thread; when I start working on it, I'll show you the progression of the stitching. For once, I have a particular plan in mind for the stitch. I want to suggest that the colours in the lighter parts of the image are somehow moving to encompass the cracks in the bark, producing a healing of sorts. I think it'll be an interesting thing to stitch.

I'm busy trying out different mediums to improve the way in which the printer prints on the fabric. Without medium, the ink sinks into the cloth, giving muted results; with medium, the colours and patterning are brighter and clearer. When I've finished the testing process, I'll share the results here.

Tomorrow is the last day of Open Studios, so if you'd like to see us at work, it's your last chance to visit. That said, I always welcome studio visits; if you will be in Norfolk this summer, and would like to visit the studio, just send me an email, and we'll arrange it!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Open Studios... more than half way through its lifespan, and, whilst there have not been as many visitors as we might have hoped, it has been an interesting and lovely experience talking to lots of different textile people. A shot of part of the exhibit is above, though we have had a bit of a rehang since then; we were sharing space with an exhibition of work by local schoolchildren, which has since been taken down, and we have filled the gallery with textiles and mixed media work. The photo, though, should give you a taste of what it's like.

I've been working in the gallery every day, mostly working with Brusho for the new book I'm writing, but today, I'm going to have a change, and do some stitching, both machine and hand. I've got a couple of new pieces from Bertha, which I'm very excited about, and some small Lutradur and Evolon pieces that have been waiting for stitch for a while. And I want to prep some more cloth for Bertha, so that we can make even more magic together!

If you're in the Dereham area, the gallery is open from 10am til 4.30pm (or 5pm if there are people around); pop in, see me at work, and have a look at what I'm doing with Bertha...I'll even let you meet her! (Address : @The Gallery, Georges Road, Dereham NR19 2DA). Jill Arnold, with whom I'm sharing the space, will be in Friday, Saturday and Sunday; Sunday is the final day of the show, so do come along if you can!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Splish, splash, splosh

I've been playing with Brusho today, making cards for Open Studio and experimenting with the new shimmer sprays that ColourCraft have produced...and I've been having a lot of fun. I started out doing some shaving foam dyeing, then thickened some Brusho and did some printing, and finally ended up doing a bit of experimental mark making on some Evolon. That, as you can imagine, took up a fair amount of time, probably the most time I've spent in the Little Green Shed for a while, now.

I was particularly interested by the combination of printing and spray you can probably guess from the pictures, above. It's amazing how different the images look, yet they are clearly all based on the same print from a linocut I made some time ago. All that variety, just by carefully spraying. I did discover that it's a good idea to let one layer dry before the next layer gets added; otherwise, you end up with little pools of mica, which is pretty, but not quite the effect I was looking for. Fortunately, none of the pooling was too dramatic, and I'm intending to mount these prints, so some less painterly marks will disappear. I like the way you can vary the intensity of the spray, by moving it different distances away from the surface of the paper. I've never been a fan of glitter (glitz, yes, glitter, no), but this gives a lovely, subtle shine to the piece. I've already tried it on Evolon, and it looks good on that, too.

I was struck by the comment Dave made, about it being interesting that cutting pieces down doesn't change the meaning, for me at least. Thinking about it some more, I realised that for me, it's like a final distillation of the piece... I take out areas which seem in some way superfluous to the needs of the piece. So it says what I want it to say, only more intensely. As the Scots say, 'Guid gear, sma' buk', or good things come in little packages.