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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.