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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Step Back, Part Three.

Flowers, all the way...

I became interested in macro photography.  I'm fortunate enough to own Big Bertha, a large scale Epson printer, which allows me to print things out, either small, in duplicate or large scale. This lets me focus on abstract work, rather than flowers themselves.  It's not a new idea...Georgia O'Keefe made wonderful flower images (click here for her museum).  I wanted to explore these things in textile, with stitch...and can often be seen crawling around other peoples' gardens, taking photographs of their flowers.  I have even gone as far as tidying up my own garden, and growing my own.

Most of the images are manipulated in PSP, printed out and stitched, like this one.

A tulip, it was printed out more than once; since I don't like to do the same thing twice, the stitching is different between the two.

More complex images followed ;
I like the idea of being able to repeat a print, but differentiating each one by the amount and design of the stitch.

Mark making, of course, had to get in there somewhere, rather than just as stitch.  I have large numbers of photographs of walls, wooden beams, pavements, all waiting to be worked on.  This one I think is one of the best things I've made.  It is an image of a wall in Norwich, and I have made it several times.  This one has intensive stitching in the dark areas.

Here is a detail shot;
Click on the image for a closer look.  This one is in Evolon, and so is hugely tactile.  My favourite version, however, doesn't have a stitch in it.  It was made from Lutradur XL, and has the darker areas carved out, and is framed with a light behind it.  That is spectacular, but I'm yet to get a decent photograph.

And that about covers it.  What have I learned?  Firstly, that it all holds together.  I've felt overwhelmed, recently, by all the things I do, but in fact, they all have similarities.  My passion for mark making and texture run through the work, and a passion for landscapes, both observed and internal, as well as the natural world.  

I can also see how the work has changed.  I worry less about what people might think about me and the work, and make what I need to make, without hiding anything.  I can also see that the colours I use are changing, from intense darkness early on, to increasingly bright palettes more recently.  

Now that it's coherent, clear in my mind, I feel I can move forward.  That, I think, will involve lots more mark making, lots more exploration and lots more hand stitch.  That feels right.  I'm glad I paused, and took stock.    If you have read all three posts...thank you for keeping me company!  If you have any comments, I'd be glad to hear them.  Perhaps you, too, might benefit from looking at what you have achieved in your work so far.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Step Back, part two

I've always been interested in meaning, the creation of meaning, and in particular, how the brain interprets marks, whether man made or natural, to try to fit them into some sort of structure of meaning, to reach an understanding of them.  The Texture Of Memory has work in it that relates to that mark making/mark interpreting interest, but there are a number of quilts that fit very nicely into the 'mark making' theme, such as this one.

It's called 'Unrequited', and has three abstract figures in it, the eternal triangle, each looking at a different 'other' with unrequited affection.  At least, that's what's going on in my head, when I look at it.  Some of my stitched photographic work fits into this category too, like this piece ;

It is an image taken of a section of wall in Ely Cathedral...and there are all sorts of things happening in it.  I struggle to reach any kind of true understanding of it, other than that I think that it is beautiful.

Markmaking with fabric, also, as in this piece ;
Lutradur base, with fabric felted into it.  To me, this reads as a landscape, and leads very nicely into the fourth category, that of landscape, or landscape inspired work.  There are a number of landscape pieces, and landscape references pop up in titles all over the place in my work.  Landscape was what drew me to art in the first place (no pun intended...).  I wanted to be able to record what I saw...and then realised that actually, I wanted to record what I felt, about what I saw, and that rarely meant reproducing 'real life'.

The first of the landscape quilts were 'Flying Dreams' (if you search on that title, you'll come across several images and some writing about the work).  This was the first of several, including one in the shape of a flying body, which now lives with Thelma Smith.
I think this has to be one of my personal favourites, it has such a feeling of space and joy in it, at least for me.

While this, Norfolk Landscape, is the most recent, a dye painted and stitched piece.  I want to make more in this vein, it feels 'right' to me, somehow.

Some of hte landscape quilts included quite a bit of mark making; I made a series of them for the Evolon book.  I find myself still playing with that idea in Norfolk Landscape, though it moved from a horizon based image, to a view from the air (in part at least).

Enough eye candy for one day, methinks... more next time.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Taking A Step Back.

Yet another one.  It seems my life is composed of lots of steps backward, followed by a few forwards, and then back again.  Interestingly, this seems to have led to the creation of Rather A Lot Of Work.  I'm going through it now, as you know, partly because I'm working towards a new website. That has meant trawling through the work to see what there is to photograph.  To my surprise, I've found that most of the work is related, even when it didn't feel that way at the time.  There are several main headings for the work I've done over the past fifteen or so years.  Most of it is abstract, or semi abstract, much of it it textile, but the paintings and mixed media also seem to fit fairly well into these categories, also.  A lot of it could sit in more than one category; I'll talk about that as we go along.  I'm still working in all five categories, I've discovered, to my surprise.  If there is an underlying theme, I think it is change, and the creation of meaning within constant change.

It started with work 'about' gardens, all abstract, with incredibly simple structures, but packed with meaning.  There is a complete series, unrecorded, called 'Dawn In The Healer's Garden', which is still ongoing.  Each piece has been made for a friend who was struggling with something at a particular point in their lives.  I continue to make and release these pieces, as a response to what they are going through.  I have no photographs of them, and mention them here for completeness. Here is an image of a small piece in the gardens series; I see from the blog post that it was made for a trade, but I still have it... so it clearly didn't happen...

Most of the garden quilts take a similar format to this, though the Healer's Garden quilts vary enormously.  The garden paintings, though are more like this ;

This is Spring Garden, oil on canvas.  I think that what the series has in common, regardless of medium, is the concept of a riot of colour.  When I think about gardens, I always imagine a gentle breeze through flower beds, making them move and intertwine... a riot of colour.  

Chronologically, the next work to be made is the 'Texture Of Memory' series.  These are almost all quilts, and they are 'about' depression.  This was the first of them, made about sixteen years ago, just after the breakdown from hell, recording the process of burnout which resulted in my illness.  

In a similar vein, this mixed media piece is called 'Losing My Religion', and is also about that time of my life.  

So...that gives you a feeling for the first couple of themes in my work; more tomorrow.

Sunday, March 02, 2014


is the spice of life, it is said.  |Perhaps it is.  I never make the same thing twice, there is always a twist in there somewhere, that makes whatever it is different to whatever it was.  Low boredom threshold?  Perhaps.  I prefer to look at it as curiosity, plain and simple.  So... you saw the seeds yesterday; here is another version.

The print itself is identical, but this time, it has been printed onto Lutradur XL.  That immediately makes  it almost impossible to create the kind of depth through stitch that working into Evolon with batting produced in the previous version.  To add texture and colour, I put a sheet of green florists wrap (similar to fine Lutradur) over the whole piece.  That, however, removed most of the contrast from the piece, so I cut it back to expose the dark background.

Oddly, the Evolon piece looked well balanced; this one did not.  So, out came the rotary cutter, as you can see from the bottom.  I cut a chunk off, and then cut the chunk into two unequal parts.  My original intention had been to cut the smaller up for jewellery, but decided I liked it as it was.

I also felt that, like the previous piece, there was a need for the dark, metallic stitch that enhanced the contrast.  So, I stitched the two pieces in different ways, to see what would happen.

This is the smaller of the two pieces, with fairly intense stitching similar to the previous piece in the dark areas.  I then went on to stitch quite intensively in the rest of the quilt.  The florist's wrap had obscured some of the detail of the photograph, and I wanted to reinstate it.

I then went on to work on the larger of the two pieces.

This time, the stitch in the dark areas is simply echoing the shape of the negative space; again, I've added quite a bit of stitch in the rest of the piece.

In writing, I realise that I have decided not to add further stitch to the larger piece.  It seems to work nicely as it is; perhaps it is because of its size.  Or perhaps there is more detail visible.  Either way, looking at it this morning, I find I like it as it is...and so will leave it alone.  Nor had I considered cropping the other, quilted piece; it is fine as it is.

I found myself tagging this with 'free motion quilting'.  In fact, it would be closer to the truth to say free motion embroidery; most of this piece has just one thick layer.  It does contrast nicely, I think, the difference between working with quilt, and working with embroidery.  Personally, I don't think the label matters much.  I just appreciate the pieces for what they are.  If they have to have a label, I prefer to think of them as art.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Yet More...

...forgotten work; this is a stitched photograph, printed out on Evolon.
I love the richness of this piece, and some of the unexpected details, such as the area in the left with the interesting blue marks (try clicking on the image to get a good look).  That combined with the texture of the stitch, and the feel of the cloth, makes it a really tactile piece.  It's not all that big, but packed with detail,

This wasn't the only piece I looked at today; I worked on another version of it, this one printed on Lutradur XL; I'll show you tomorrow.  It had a different feel to it altogether...and a different fate, too.  I added quite a bit of stitch to it, though... but did not do so here.  The stitch in the dark areas is very intense, black metallic thread with little bits of colour shot through it.  It makes the background incredibly rich, somehow.

The temptation was to use stitch to emphasise the textures of the seeds in the image.  It was an easy decision not to; I think the photograph shows that so well, that it's really not needed.  Also, the dense stitching pulls the background down, giving the seeds a slightly puffy look, though not as much as the use of trapunto would have done.  I didn't want to lose that by stitching into these areas.  In this case, I firmly believe that less is more.