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Friday, February 28, 2014

Things As They Are...

are beautiful.  People talk about portraits as 'warts and all', as if warts were not fascinating little things in themselves.  Scars are not blemishes, but rather signs of healing and change.

I found this piece along with the others.  It was the trigger for all the macro photography I've done over the last few years, the very first image I took and stitched into.

I didn't go out meaning to take pictures of flowers.  I went to a graveyard in Dereham, to take pictures of lichen (some of them were used in the depression photographs I showed you last time, manipulated).  There are always flowers in this particular graveyard, which is right in the centre of the town; they are usually in a little area beside the church door.  This tulip, and some of its companions, had obviously been kicked around a bit, before being abandoned where they fell, one or two in a nearby tree.  They were slightly bruised, and turning slightly limp.  This one was on the ground underneath the tree, covered in dirt.  I thought it was important to record it as it was, because despite all these things, it remained beautiful.

So, that's why there are little black speckles over the piece, and some interesting colours.  I do, however, still believe that it is beautiful as it is.  I could have removed the blemishes and the specks of dirt, but I really don't think that would add anything to the image... if anything, it would compromise its meaning.

A detail shot shows the specks of dirt...war wounds, or  medals.  Beauty spots.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I Love It...

...when things come together.  A creativity prompt from Myfanwy Hart's 'Be Creative' project on Facebook and Wordpress, a piece of fabric I didn't know what to do with and a software package.
Myfanwy's prompt was to draw a self portrait with your non dominant hand.  Not being terribly good with other peoples' suggestions, I thought I'd take it a stage further, and draw with my sewing machine (look, mom, no hands!...or should that be, both hands?).  I took a piece of Evolon I'd  transfer dyed in layers, which has heavy diagonals, which I felt interrupted the piece.  I cut a section off, and started stitching.

I've never drawn a face with a sewing machine, before, just out of my head, no .  I showed Robin the reverse, and his first comment was, your face, on a bit of it can't be all that bad...he did say he wasn't sure if anyone else would see a likeness, however.  You can always rely on your relatives to tell it like it is...

As with everything, i see all the flaws... but it's okay, I guess... looks better with colour.  And so, I played a little with it in PSP, to see what was possible...

Now, this has potential.  Years ago, when I started working with Bertha the large scale printer, I wondered about working digitally into images of my own work, but never actually did anything with the idea.  I think this piece suggests that it's definitely working.

I had been working with photographs of myself, exploring depression and what it means, what it might look like if you could see it.  I wasn't happy with the results of that, and stopped, because the images felt static, somehow, like these images;

The one on the top is early depression, the stage where you are sad, but not yet immobilised; the lower image is late depression, when you are frozen in place, and pain is almost unbearable.  I think perhaps that some combination of images, photographs and stitch, might be the way forward.

Back to the sewing machine...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

More Finds...

It's interesting, this little cache of work I've found.  It varies from manipulated and stitched photographs, like this one,
which I've stitched in two versions...
When I showed it on FB, almost everyone preferred the one on the top, the one with more stitch.  I agreed...but now, I'm not so sure.  Both are stitched with a dark variegated metallic thread.

And then, I| found this.

It's called Norfolk Fields, and it's a combination of monoprint and painting.  I love the Norfolk landscape, the huge flatness of it all, the long avenues of trees and the enormous skies.  It's stunning.  I'm reminded that landscape and things natural are really where my art is rooted, though it's not always immediately apparent.  It's just that I'm as fascinated by the inner landscape as by the external landscape that surrounds us.

Just to give you a closer look at Norfolk Fields, here are a couple of details...

My work has always been diverse, and I think these two pieces epitomise it.  Fortunately, I don't feel I have to choose between mediums, between methods; it's all expression, in the end, all creativity.  It is as it is.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Things I Forget...

...are many and varied.  I blame the breakdown from hell, myself.  My memory was pretty good up til then, but now it's appalling.  I forget names, faces, places, visits, keys, handbags...the list is endless.  Someone says, have you been to such and such a place, I say no, Robin says, yes you have, and tries to get me to remember by describing the landmarks.  Nope.  Doesn't work.

I don't often forget making work though... so how did I forget this piece?  It's bright enough... but not only have I forgotten making it, I can't remember where I took the picture, or even what it was of, originally (yeah, yeah, it's a flower...just don't know which!).  I do try to write things down, but I'm really not very good at it.  The only reason I found it is that a friend has offered to help me set up a website, so I'm sorting through my work, deciding what to put on it.  This will certainly feature... I love the richness of the colour.  Must hunt through my images, see if I can work out what it is... meanwhile, I'll just enjoy it for how it looks.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Working With Pain.

I have a lot to do today.  I need to make up packs of textile and transfer paints for the local gallery, and to sell on my upcoming website.  And I need to put together a set of samples for the new class I'm offering at the gallery, on working with fabric paint.

Today is also the day I hit a wall of pain.  It happens, every so often.  Usually, what happens is that I knock my head against that wall until I weep copiously and then go to sleep.  The definition of madness,of course, is doing the same thing time and time again, but expecting a different outcome.  Today, I want and need a different outcome.

So, in the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil for my second cup of the day, I asked myself, what does the pain look like?  And in my head, I saw a wasteland of stones, pebbles, rocks.  Surely, I thought, nothing creative could be done there; it's barren.

And then I looked harder.  Each stone is beautiful in its own right.  Could make the beginnings of a piece of work, all by itself.  Combined, they are overwhelming, but beautiful.  Lonely, but beautiful.  Sad, but beautiful.  And surely, they will be the basis of some interesting work.

Pain.  You can lie down underneath it, or you can ask it what it has to give you.  You might be surprised.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Finishing 'FInding The Mermaid'

...well, I knew that it needed something, and for preference, something that affected the whole piece.  I tried net, and lutradur, and it just wasn't working.  Finally, though, I took the bull by the horns and sprayed it with metallic Brusho.

And that, dear reader, was that.  It looks much better, integrated, somehow.  The colours are still very strong, but the lilac no longer looks quite so separate from the red and yellow.  I'm delighted that I took what felt like a Very Big Risk.

When a piece is finished, or almost finished, it can be a great temptation not to do anything further, even when you know it needs it.  I did have a test piece in similar colours (though not the same, and not stitched), which allowed me to try out the spray before attacking the piece.  That helped, but I think I would have taken the risk anyway.

Someone once said to me that you know that a piece is finished when you think, I really shouldn't have done that, it was a step too much.  And sometimes, that rule applies.  More often, though, I find that a piece will tell you when it is finished.  And this one definitely is.  Hurrah!

See what you think.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Finding The Mermaid

Thank you for the comments yesterday.  I thought today I'd show you how I finished this off.  Here's what it looked like when I left it...

...and this is what it looks like now... so what has changed?

I started by adding a little more stitch to the bottom and to the top right.  I didn't want to completely feel the areas, but it felt somehow unbalanced as it was.  Then, I took a blue coloured pencil and worked my way round the edges of what I finally worked out is an abstract mermaid.  When that became clear, I then made a series of marks over the lilac with the same pencil, to suggest scales.  If you click on the image, you should be able to see them. I've since gone over some of them again, to make them more obvious.  I did contemplate stitch in some places, but felt it would be too much.

From the outset, I've had difficulty photographing this piece.  This time, I've deliberately increased the tone to let you see that one of the results of drawing round the edges of the lilac, was to introduce some green.  I knew the piece needed green, though it didn't seem to be logical or sensible.  Using the pencil, produced green where it hit the yellow areas.  It works. it finished?  I'm not sure.  But it is moving in the right direction, and I do feel a lot better about it.  I'll keep you updated if I do decide to add more.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Stop Me...

...if I've said this before...I don't think I have, but hey, my memory is not what it was.  I taught a workshop at FOQ  last year, entitled Two Shapes And A Line, intended to help people to loosen up when it came to Applique design (I'm sure I've mentioned it before).  This piece is ongoing, and is a direct result of some of the thinking behind that workshop, but taken down to using a single shape.  Here it is, at the beginning, two layers of evolon, the first layered with transfer paint and fabric paint, the second acid dyed.  I combined them as an experiment... even I haven't layered lilac over yellow/red/orange before. was to hand and I wanted a strong contrast...I think you could safely say that I got that, if nothing else.

Hand stitch seemed the only way to go.  First, I tried hand stitching round the shapes, in a metallic purple.  Yuk.  That has now been taken out.  So, I decided that I would mark make, and selected a burgundy hand dyed perle thread with the odd bit of purple in it, to try to begin to pull the two areas together, focusing on the pinkish areas.

That helped, but it wasn't enough.  So, more perle, this time in indigo, but with hints of green and turquoise in the mix (though it reads predominately as indigo).

I just finished the hand stitch.

It was tempting to cover the whole piece with stitch, but I wanted to suggest some space and movement.  I see the piece as an abstract fish, complete with dorsal fin.  Robin isn't so convinced, though he seems to quite like it; he sees it as a carved egg.  I don't think it matters how you interpret it...but I do think it needs a little more work.  As the lilac top layer is fused down, I really don't want to try to hand stitch it... so I'm contemplating working with paint, crayons or pencils to add some visual interest.  I think perhaps stippling with some burgundy paint might add some visual interest and texture to the lilac sections.

There are, in truth, lots of options.  I could machine stitch the purple, though I really don't feel that would be appropriate.   I did contemplate beading, but that would be as problematic as hand stitching, and I'm not keen on glue for beads though I know it would work.  Perhaps some painted bondaweb might be a good idea...either on the lilac, or across the whole piece... hmm...  Or some lutradur 30.  I don't know why I think adding green would be a good idea, I'm pretty sure it isn't, really, but in the interests of experimentation, I might give it a go...I'm off to think.  One thing I am sure of, though, is that despite cursing myself for the original colour combination, it has proved to be an interesting exercise, and worth the time I've spent on it.  The temptation was to throw it away or cut it up... but I'm glad I've persevered.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Like Most Artists...

I love making the work, but hate selling it.  And yet the balance probably should be less making, more promoting and selling.  In fact, there's no probably about it.  The world seems to be full of people telling you how to sell your work, these days. You could spend all day reading and thinking about it.  Why am I talking about this?  Mainly because I'm planning a new website, and as a result, have been looking around the internet at artists' websites.  Some of them are fabulous; others are Not So Great.  What do you think makes a great artist website?  I'd love to go look at any examples you think are exceptional, or even just good!

The stuff I am making, though, is enjoyable.  I had fun at the Hub this week, making shopping bags from fabric, and red rose corsages for Valentine's Day.  But the real fun is in the jewellery.  It has given me ideas for larger pieces, which would be part jewellery, part wall piece.  Not quite got there yet, but Watch This Space.  Meanwhile, above is what I'm working on now, all of it in process.  The top left hand one doesn't look terribly prepossessing in a photograph, but is better in Real Time.  If you look at it closely, you'll see that it is mixed media, rather than strictly textile, the base is shredded paper, and it is wrapped in yarn.  I think the ones I like best, though, look to me like abstract landscapes, like the ones in the bottom  row.  Despite their small size (they are no larger than about two and a half inches in any one direction), they seem to me to have space in them, for imagining. I'm still exploring to see what I think works, and what doesn't.

Please do let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Knowing Where To Stop.

Sometimes, it's tempting to gild the lily.  Have a look at this...

I went into my software, intending to edit this  image.  And then I realised that there really wasn't anything I wanted to do to it.  It's got the right look and feel to it.  I really like it.  So... I thought, don't do anything.  And so, dear reader, I didn't.  I feel some stitch coming on, when it gets printed out onto Evolon.

And then I thought... oh my, that's a short blog post.  So I thought I'd use one of my favourite techniques.  I cropped it.  And here it is...

This has a completely different feel to it, somehow.  I don't like it as much.  The contrast of light and shade and colour, is much less, and I feel that the delicate feeling of the first image is lost in the second.  So...I'll not be keeping this one.  Nor will I be keeping the next one, where the colour has been intensified.

Yuck.  I think what I'm trying to say is, when in doubt, don't.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Learning At The Hub

I volunteer twice a week at the Hub, a centre for adults with learning difficulties.  I thought it would be fun, and I was right.  What I didn't allow for, was how much I was going to learn from the people I was working with.  I'd like to show you something.

This is a wheelchair quilt, made by a very determined lady who loves sewing, but who doesn't get to do it very often.  She used the sewing machine, with a bit of help, to put it together.  She made all the fabric choices, and put it all together, and decided that the hearts would look great on there, too, so she added them.  Technically, this is not the greatest quilt in the world.  But it was made with joy, unfailing enthusiasm and passion, and it is fit for this case, keeping her legs warm when she goes out.  And she is incredibly pleased and proud of her achievement, as she should be.  She's already planning her next quilt, this time for a baby who is due to arrive later this year.

I love teaching at the Hub.  Everyone I work with really has a go at things to the full extent of their abilities.  They hold nothing back.  They work fast, and with enthusiasm.  They don't self censor; the inner critic is a myth at the Hub, and so we get through at least twice as much work as I would expect a class to get through in an hour...which means I have to think on my feet, and improvise.  It's good for me.  This week we made badges.  I expected us to make maybe half a dozen... we must have made at least twice that in the time available.

What I love most of all, though, is watching what people do with the materials when left to their own devices.  They combine the most unexpected things in wonderful ways.  I think it's an extreme version of beginner's mind, that Zen concept that is so important to creative people.  The key, though, I think, is what I said earlier.  Everyone I work with has a go at things to the full extent of their abilities, no matter how limited those abilities might be.  All I have to do, is meet them where they are, and help them to express that inherent creativity.  Just imagine what it might be like if you did the same... have a go at things to the full extent of your abilities.  What might change?

Why not give it a go?  Think less, make more.  Do unexpected things, and don't worry about it.  Be proud of  what you achieve and accept it for what it is.  Above all...have fun.  I know we do.

Friday, February 07, 2014

The Birth Of The Brooch.

  I've been playing with lutradur and evolon, particularly with Lutradur XL, mainly to make journal covers. and found myself making this with some of the scraps I had left over.  Predominately I was thinking about Ben Nicholson, and his painted reliefs, like this one.  The XL is chunky enough to give the same sort of look as board does; it is, of course, transfer dyed in layers, rather than painted, though it has been done in a painterly way.  It needs stitch, but I haven't yet found the right this space.

Playing on this scale, though, made me wonder what it would be like to work on a much smaller scale...and that led to these :

I see them as miniature abstracts, but they are also brooches.  I like the idea of being able to take art wherever you go, and enjoy it with others, rather than have it hung static on the wall.  The middle piece is an aberration; I have been playing about with needlefelting, and this was the result.  The rest, though, I'm pleased with. I've always liked working small, but this is smaller than I've done before at about two inches square; certainly no more than two inches in any one direction.

I've now made about forty of these, and they're going into my Etsy shop, slowly, together with some earrings, and more of them can be found in the Gallery, Dereham (next to the Memorial Hall).  I've got an idea for some that are a bit different to these... as you know, one thing always leads to another... I'll show you when I've worked it out.

I've got several favourites so far, but I do like this one; most of my buttons come from Incomparable Buttons these days, but this didn't.  I'd love to make my own, but there are limits (and I don't have a kiln).  So, I think I'll just continue to use the wonderful work of ceramicists.