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Monday, July 28, 2014

Facing Facts...

is a helpful, focus-inducing thing to do.  Fact.  I have too much fabric.  No, don't give me the whole, need a stash, nonsense; it's just not true.  Or at least, it's not true for me.  I have fabric for a number of different reasons.  Some I have, because I like it, some because it is Useful Fabric, the kind of thing that if you do make a traditional(ish) quilt, it makes good borders or backing.  Some I have because I dyed it, or dyed and painted it, intending to use it, and didn't; some because I dyed and/or painted it to sell, and didn't.  Some because it feels good (velvet and silk, in particular); some because I've written about it and am still exploring (lutradur and evolon).  Some, because it's fun; some because someone special gave it to me.  Like many of us, I have more fabric than I could use in three lifetimes.  And that's fine.

Except, it isn't.  It is getting in my way (fact).  When you can't see the wood for the trees, it's time to either go to the optician, or deal with the issue.  What I have realised is that, whilst I am great at finding focus, I'm dreadful at sustaining it, for a number of reasons.  I don't sell my fabric because I didn't persevere in doing just that, and because I find it difficult to believe that anyone else might want it, an inherent lack of self confidence that I thought I'd kicked into touch, but clearly haven't (it gets in my way, too, but it's not so easy to deal with).  So... I thought I would begin with my excess of fabric, decide what to keep, what to sell and what to donate, and I made a start today.  The image gives you an idea of what's what..and that's just the fat quarters...haven't looked at yardage yet... or hand dyes.  There is a hand dye mountain, and it is good... and it's also excessive.  So that too will go.  But wait a minute, I hear you holler... there's some hand dyes at the back, there.  And indeed there are, some muslin that I bought to cut up and sell in packs for embroiderers... you can see that didn't happen.  Sigh.  But I only brought that down so I could iron it and cut it up, honest.

There's some lovely fabric here, but I'm never going to use it in a million years, so sell it I shall.  Two stuffed bin bags are going to the Hub, so that the guys can enjoy it.  And once the stash is whittled down, the interesting work will begin, whittling down the ideas, being honest with myself about what I really want to make, and getting down to doing it.  And maybe after all that effort, I'll be able to walk in and out of the fabric studios without tripping up on piles of stuff (yes, when I've finished with the cloth, I'll be starting on the rest of it...).  It is going to take some time, but I think it will be worth it.

In the first instance, I'm going to set up a Facebook page to sell this stuff... and any that doesn't sell that way, will either go on ebay or etsy.  Email me if you want details.  And when I've done with the materials, I'll be going through the work, and either selling or donating it, too.  Time to take charge.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Changing Things Around...

is always an interesting thing to do.  I found some scraps from a jacket I made, years ago, cotton which had been hand dyed, then discharge dyed, and then painted, using freezer paper shapes as a resist.  It looked a bit like this...

I wanted a lot more detail on it... so started in with a silver pen... and ended up with this...

 In terms of contrast, not that big a change...that will come later, but I've certainly added a lot of detail...

It looks a lot bigger in the photographs, than in real life; it's three quarters the width, and slightly longer, than an A4 piece of paper...that makes it a contender for a small Linescape... so watch this space...

Up in the top studios today, I found a little quilt...

It is made from transfer dyed lutradur, which was then embellished with cotton fabrics, backed and stitched into.  It lacked something, so has lain around for ages.  I tried adding buttons, and got this result...

Starting to be a bit more interesting.  What I think it needs, though, is some mark making in pen on the surface...not sure quite what, perhaps.  Or some hand stitch.  I'm leaning towards the pen, but I can imagine that both will eventually occur...  As I have to go into Dereham today, I may well pop into the bead shop, and see if they have a large purple bead to use as a focal point...

Two pieces, both changed, neither finished.  I'll let you know how I get on.

Friday, July 25, 2014

I Take A Lot...

of photographs.  A couple of days ago, Clare and I went to Burnam Overy Staithe, for a walk on the marshes.  I thought I'd give you a few snapshots of what we saw...pure eye candy, quintessential Norfolk.


We are, we agreed, privileged to live here.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Look What I Found!

As a rule, I'm not a great fan of galleries...which may seem like an odd thing for an artist to say.   A lot of them are Very Serious.  Some of them are really crowded, so you can't see stuff clearly.  And then...occasionally... you find one that is None Of Those Things.  Here are a couple of pictures of one of the best galleries I've been in for a long time.  It's tiny; I've been to Burnham Market before, and not realised it was there, tucked away as it is.  It features the work of one (very friendly) artist, Andrew Ruffhead, and it is called 'Fish And Ships Coastal Art Gallery'.... it's a wee gem.

What struck me first was the colour; the work glows against pure white walls.  There's a great range of work, much of it quirky, or just plain fun... I had to buy a whale fridge magnet (it's okay, Andrew, it got home in one piece, thanks to the careful bubblewrap).  This is how he sums up what he does (from his beautifully designed leaflet):

'Andrew opened his Studio/Gallery 'Fish And Ships Coastal Art' in 2006, producing prints, coastal maps, cyanotype photography, pen, ink and gouache drawings and paintings, and lobsters, crabs, whales, prawns and fish made from driftwood and pieces of old marsh and beach-found boats.'

Trust me, the work's amazing; if you're in Norfolk, run, don't walk... I had a whale of a time! And if you're not...check out his website.

Monday, July 21, 2014

... And The Heat Goes On...

and on... and on... and I do know it's unreasonable to complain about it... but hey.  The Shed remains oven like... though it wasn't too bad yesterday, when I managed to get a reasonable amount done.  I spent the day painting, something I haven't done in a while, and finishing off most of the prep work on some altered books; there are still two remaining that need finished, but the other three are ready to be worked in.

I'm still exploring the 'Linescapes' idea, as you can see from the images that follow;

This is an A5 image, mixed media.  I like the energy in it; if they could move, those curves look as if they would be travelling at speed...   Robin calls it the desert piece.  Which was followed up by this;
This is a small board book, with its pages sealed together, giving the piece a three dimensional feel.  I'm not so keen on this one...these lines feel too thick, and too far away from each other, too regularly spaced.  Interesting, though.

And finally, this one, the best of the three, I think, Strata.

This is on a canvas board, and I think it shows some potential.  Again, it's mixed media; acrylic paint and oil sticks.  I like the texture of the overall piece, and I need to think some more about how to use textures in this series.  I had initially wanted the lines to be raised in some way, which is fairly easy to achieve in textile, but needs a bit more thought in paint.  Looking at this, though, I like the overall texture.  It's reminiscent of one of the first trial pieces I made in paint, which I didn't photograph, unfortunately.

Finally, I did some work on a small piece that I was not happy with, and it has ended up like this;

About six or so inches square, on board, it's called 'Dawn In The Summer Garden'.  Very gentle..and possibly not quite finished... oh well...back to the drawing board...

Saturday, July 19, 2014


another day at 30 deg plus, and the shed is like an oven, even with the fan going full pelt.  Nonetheless, I have managed to get some work done... though I've left my brush in cling film, intending to go out and do some more in the evening when it cools down a bit.  I started off with this; you saw it in yesterday's washing line photo, looking like this...

It has changed a bit... I started adding lines with a pen, and when I realised I liked the results, started playing with a Markal or two.  It's a lousy photo, it shouldn't have that fuzziness about it, but I don't have the energy to go back out and take another one.

Originally, this was a manipulated image, which I stitched into, but wasn't happy with the results, so I painted it, left it for a while, and then added the blue moon and lines.  I'm still not happy with that heavy blue line on the right, but there's nothing I can do about it, so it'll just have to stay as it is.  I think adding the colour differentiation has helped it a lot, though.  It's quite a small piece, relatively speaking; it would be interesting to try that sort of design on a larger scale.  Not today, though...

And while I was at it, I added more paint and Markal to a piece I also worked on yesterday.  I've blogged about it before, here ; here's the piece as it was when I finished it then.

...and here it is, now...

I like this a lot more than I did the previous version.  Again, sorry for the lousy photo, but there wasn't enough room to put it flat on the table... why?  Well... the good side of this warm weather, is that things dry I decided to gesso some altered books and canvasses that have been lying around for a while in a semi-prepped state.

As you can see, that didn't leave much room for anything else...there are two canvasses and five books, as well as some printing blocks and paint  Given that I started to drip, however, I thought I would wait til later to continue.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Making The Most...

of the weather.

I freely admit to being a creature of emotional extremes, though, as I get older, these seem to be calming down somewhat... I think that has more to do with top notch psychotherapy than age, sadly. But I admit that when it comes to the weather, I am a conservative wee soul.  When they threaten me with temps of 30 deg, and even above, I whimper.  But I thought I might as well make the best of it by drying some fabric painted work on the line (and it's not even 11am...smug, me?  Hell, yes.).  

I actually went out to add another layer of varnish to this floor cloth, made by members of the Hub...
...that is the third layer of polyurethane varnish... one more and I think it will do.  I think they made a great job of it. There is another piece to varnish, too, but it is for a wall, so I may use a spray instead of laboriously painting on the varnish (though it really doesn't take all that long).

I'm working on a rug for myself, though Milliecat thinks that it is Just Perfect As It Is...

I reckon these fabric painted pieces won't take long to dry, which is great, as I want to work on them today...but before I do, I better go rescue and clean the brushes I used this morning.  My new motto is... 'It ain't over til the fat lady cleans up'...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Surprising Myself.

Well... life is full of surprises... I decided to apply for membership in Prism, a well known exhibiting group.  As part of the process, I was required to submit up to six images of work over the past five years.  And that was what was surprising... first, that I'd made as much work as I had. Although given the lack of space in the house, that really should not have been a surprise at all...sigh.  The second, though, was the underlying theme running through my work.  I had always thought that it was 'about' emotions...and, of course, it is.  But it's predominately 'about' landscape...inner and outer.  I thought I would show you the images I have sent to them, to see if you agree with me.

Norfolk Flint.

This is a  manipulated photograph, taken of an old flint wall, and printed onto Lutradur XL.  Instead of stitch, there are places where I have burned away the fabric; the frame has lighting built into it, so that you can choose to light it or not.  I had never seen a flint wall before coming to Norfolk, and took a lot of photographs... the best of them are like paintings featuring different sections of beautiful stone.

Norfolk Landscape.

This piece celebrates the endless skies and fields of Norfolk, broken up, on occasion, by rows of trees... This is a monoprint with additional details painted in, then stitched.

Inner Landscapes IV

Pieced cloth, mainly hand dyes, edged with commercial cloth and sari ribbon.  A thin layer of Lutradur, transfer dyed and hand stitched, partially obscures the piece, but can be moved, a metaphor for depression.  The colours are of the Highlands, while the stitching is reminiscent of the flints of Norfolk.


Another Norfolk/Highland composite; this time, the colours are Norfolk in autumn and winter, while the found objects that decorate it come mainly from the Highlands.

Linescapes I : Rewriting The Landscape

I wrote about this piece a couple of days ago.

Visual Haiku.

Small, hand stitched pieces made to specific rules; I have written about them in several posts, with a summary of the 'rules' here.  In their way, they too seem to be landscapes...

This is the first part of the application process, and I have my fingers crossed.  If I don't get through, though, I have to say that this has been a very useful process to go through.  I had thought that I was quite clear about the way my work was going; this has been a useful refocussing of my attention onto the really important bits.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014


almost to warm to work.  Well, I'm a Scot, I'm just not used to these high temps... and am very grateful I'm not in Arizona or anywhere else that's far hotter, for that matter.  I thought I'd go and do some work in the shed, but despite the fan, it was just Too Warm, so I've come back in to fiddle with photos in the relative cool of the living room, which, as it doesn't get much sun, is one of the coolest places in the house.  Sadly, it's also one of the darkest, too... but you can't have everything, and it is quite snug in winter.  But I digress...

I went into the shed to put a couple of layers of varnish on a floor cloth that has been painted by members of the Dereham Hub; I'll show you pictures when it's finished.  Since I was on a bit of a roll, I then started working on some cloth.  I started by trying to discharge dye some cloth...but either the cloth won't discharge, or the bleach pen I found is too old, no luck...

Then, I started playing with some hand dyes.  I had intended painting onto the cloth, but instead, started working with some lino blocks.  The first piece is tentatively entitled Flowers In The Fields, and is cotton sateen, hand dyed and then printed with two blocks.
Then, I remembered explaining printing with bubble wrap to someone this morning, and, since I had some big bubble wrap, proceeded to do just that... this piece features it, 'Ferns And Flints'.

This was a section of an old cotton sheet, dyed, and then printed, bubble wrap first, then printed with a fern shaped linocut (as if the title didn't give it away...).  I think the ferns piece is simply a background, I have Plans for it... but I think Flowers In The Field might become a poem.  We shall see...  first they will wait for a while, to see if my ideas change.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Those Of You...

who follow me on Facebook will know that I've been writing a lot of poetry, recently.  And that I've been experimenting for a series called 'Linescapes'.  Here, though, the two meet.

The poem was written specifically for the piece, an accordian book made from transfer dyed Lutradur XL.  The front and back both represent Highland landscapes in Spring and Autumn, respectively (you are looking at autumn).  I stitched the yarn onto it to suggest the mountains...and then got stuck in an almighty fashion, for about three weeks.  I couldn't decide what to do next.  Then came the poem.

Rewriting The Landscape.

It might be somewhere, it might be nowhere,
A marriage of memory and imagination
A composite landscape, distilled
Like finest malt, from the high places, the colour
and the light.  A moment in spring,
Another in autumn.  A rush of names;
Strathpeffer.  Skye.  Lochinver.  Oban. Nairn.
Strathcarron.  Plockton.  Dornoch.  Cromarty.
Captured in colour, held in cloth, a fragment,
An amalgam,  aide memoire.  As if
I needed one; as if I could forget
The majesty of it, the grandeur of the high lands.
I lived there once; it lives within me still.
Unforgettable, burned into the bone.

I considered collageing the words onto the book, but it seemed fiddly to do, and not really suitable for a small I wrote them on in a toning pen.  My husband grumbles that he can't read my writing...but I figure it's fairly straightforward to decipher.  I plan to do more work like this, combining the two disciplines; it seems somehow fitting.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Watching The Baby : Lessons From Cara

Work wise, it hasn't been a terribly productive week... which is, of course, the point of holidays.  That doesn't mean I haven't learned something...or been reminded of things... and by my baby grand daughter, too.  I've spent most of the week just watching Cara.  This is partly because she is the most beautiful little girl (I'm her granny, I would say that...).   But it was also because she showed me some stuff, and I think it's very pertinent to artists everywhere.

1. Look at things as if you had never seen them before.  Cara, of course, has never seen all sorts of things before, but she looks at everything in the same way, an intense stare that takes everything in.  Her focus is admirable.  Artists need to look at things in this way, taking them all in, seeing something fresh and new in them.  Of course, Cara's first step after looking is to try tasting...I don't recommend that with paint.

2. Keep trying.  If you don't crawl today, you might crawl tomorrow.  Similarly, if you don't make a masterpiece today... well, I'm sure you can join up your own dots.

3. Be joyful; the world is full of opportunity.  You can learn from everything, no matter how small or commonplace, if you just take a bit of time to contemplate it. And, of course, enjoy it.

4. Ask for what you want.  In Cara's case, that involves a lot of screeching; in our case, it might be a request for honest feedback.  If you don't ask, you're not likely to get.

5. Sleep when you're tired, and don't worry about it.  I like this one.  Better work gets done after a nap than when in need of one.

6. Love everyone and everything.  Cara does that naturally... dislike comes later.  Being positively disposed to self and others leads to better work, I think.  And you certainly get more cuddles that way...

7. Wriggle a lot.  Get out of your comfort zone, and into the new stuff.  It's fun!

8. Keep asking questions.  What if I just do this... In Cara's case, what if I press that button...brings lots of music from her toy phone.  Which she loves (the music and the phone, not to mention the bright flashing lights).  Try it; it might even work!

9. Above all...enjoy what you're doing.  If you aren't... then either apply rules one and three, or do something you do enjoy.  Life is definitely too short.

With love from Cara and me x

Saturday, July 12, 2014

I Confess...

I have indeed had a holiday.  My son and his family have been here for a week and I have done nothing other than watch my lovely six month old grand daughter try to make sense of the world.  It has been wonderful.  Just to assure you that regular posting will resume as soon as possible, have some lovely flowers to look at... thank you for your patience!